This blog is six months old now (wow!) and I've learnt so much from my blogging experience. When I started this blog I had no idea how it would go and I'm so proud of the little blog I've built up. I've decided to share a few of those things I've learnt in this post - enjoy!
1. Blogging will take over your life. I started this blog as a hobby because I love sharing recommendations with my friends and I was reading so much and then doing nothing will all the feelings I had after finishing books. When I first started out I didn't envision posting daily but blogging, it turns out, is quite addictive! There was a lot of pressure to keep up with other blogs out there as well, but mainly I just couldn't stop. I spend so much time drafting posts, posting reviews, coming up with ideas for opinion posts, designing logos and blog backgrounds, tweeting and then of course there's all that reading! Free time? What free time?
2. Memes are awesome, and a great way to meet new bloggers! I had no idea what memes were before starting my blog, or that they existed in the book blogging world at all. I soon discovered a few weekly events which are now part of my blogging routine. The main ones I take part in are Teaser Tuesdays and Friday Finds hosted over at ShouldBeReading, but I dabble in a few others from time to time! They're good fun and brilliant for discovering new books. So much of my to-read list comes from browsing other book blogs during weekly memes. It's always great visiting other blogs and reading the comments on my own posts on meme days. (And pick the ones which suit you - I've stayed away from Sunday memes for a while because they all revolve around ARCs - see next point!)
3. I can live without ARCs. When I first started blogging is I'd never heard of ARCs (advance reader copies) a so when I realised what they were I went through a sort of rollercoaster of feelings. Confusion - what are they? Jealousy - I want them! Apathy - wait, no. I can live without them. Yes it would be pretty awesome to read the books you're super excited about before they're released, but I've come to the conclusion that I'm not too fussed about getting them. Publishers want a ton of page views/subscribers and a regularly updated, long established blog. Sure that might be my little blog one day but I'm doing this for fun. I have fun reviewing my own books and library books. ARCs sound cool but my to-read list is long enough! So I've got over that jealousy of seeing people reading books I'm eagerly anticipating months before their release and learnt to find peace with the books I read and love.
4. Don't let review books dominate your life. I don't receive ARCs from publishers but I accept indie/self-published books from time to time, often directly from the author. I know not everyone does this but for me it's a great way to discover new books and support up and coming authors. Typically I either go months with no review requests and then a whole load come along at once. This means I often get a backlog and take forever to get round to reading them. But my priority will always be the books I choose for myself rather than the ones given to me. I started putting off books I really wanted to read in favour of review books and it put me in a reading slump. Now I mix it up and read what makes me happy! So it may take me a while to get round to reviewing review copies but I'd rather that than end up missing out on reading my own books.
5. Find out how many reviews you can post comfortably and don't push it. When I first started the blog I posted reviews of books I'd read before I started blogging. This meant I had loads of reviews to post and I got to churn them out! After I ran out of those I was posting reviews as soon as I finished reading the books. I tried to post 3 reviews a week but I'd ending up finishing a book and heading straight to a computer which was no fun. Now I just post 2 reviews a week maximum. It may not be as many as other blogs but it means I'm not rushing to finish books and I'm often ahead with reviews and can save them up as drafts. It also gives me time to read non-YA books for a bit of a break and not get behind. (I love YA but sometimes I just need to read and not have to write a review at the end of it!))
6. Prepare drafts! I mentioned this briefly above but it deserves its own paragraph. Having posts prepared in advance is invaluable. Have a basic template for your reviews so you can add in the details easily (my template includes the list of info at the start of the interview and at the end). Have the cover, title, book links and things ready so that when you finish the book all you have to do is add in the review. It's a lifesaver having it all prepared! I also have a few backup posts that are ready to go if I can't think of anything to post.
7. Goodreads is more valuable than ever. I loved Goodreads before I started blogging but I'd be lost without it now. It's how I keep track of books I want to read, books I've read and where I make a lot of my discoveries of new things to read.
8. Posting every day is not essential and holidays are good! I've seen a lot of bloggers saying they're taking a break recently. Every time I see one of those posts I feel a little relieved! It feels like a lot of the time there's pressure to post daily and that can get stressful. I still manage to post daily most of the time because I always have posts drafted so all I have to do is hit publish. This is another reason why I'm not pursuing the ARC line more. Publishers want blogs updated daily and I don't want the pressure of that just to get ARCs. I've had a few occasions where life has got in the way of blogging and honestly it feels great to have a week off sometimes. Plus it means I'm raring to get back into it again once I come back because I've missed it!
9. Never compare yourself to other blogs. Some of my favourite book blogs are those with small follower counts, but it's easy to be intimidated by the big guys! Just remember that everyone is blogging because they share your love of reading. I've found my own comfort zone with my blog and given it its own identity, so I don't feel the need to compare myself to other blogs.
10. The bookish world is even bigger and more amazing that I could ever have guessed. I'd had Twitter for ages but when I started my blog I decided to set up a separate account purely to tweet about books and tweet my blog posts. Through that account I've found Twitter users such as authors, fellow bloggers and general bookish awesome people I never would have found on my personal Twitter account! Since I started my blog I've learnt about book conventions I didn't know existed and found out about the newest, latest YA releases that I wouldn't have heard about for months otherwise as well as discovering new authors and readers. Finding other people who get as excited as I am has been the greatest pleasure!
I'm sure there's so much more I've learnt so in six months I'll probably be doing another of these! Thank you so much to everyone who's stuck by the blog and read and commented <3