Thoughts

Thoughts #63: I Am A Bad Blogger!

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I am officially a bad blogger.

Not only have I been really awful at keeping things updated and writing new posts, but I’ve also let my review copy pile get a little bit out of control. This has always been a problem – when I started blogging I went a bit crazy on Netgalley, and it was only at the end of last year (after four and a half years of blogging) that I reached the recommended 80% requested books reviewed.

Now it’s my physical review copy pile that’s the problem – I have about five books read and still waiting to be reviewed, and AT LEAST 20 other books waiting for me. I try to decline all review requests now because the guilt is really building up, but I still get a lot of unsolicited copies, and sometimes I just can’t pass up the chance when something amazing comes along, or I’m offered a book I’ve had my eye on for a while.

I think my main problem is that I am a mood reader. If I piled up the review copies and told myself that they were all I could read until I was done, I would either really start to resent those books and read veeeerrrry slowly, or do anything else but read. I need to pick and choose what I want to read in that moment. Maybe my best solution is to look at those books first, and if nothing takes my fancy at that point then choose from all the others.

How do you deal with a review copy backlog?

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Misc.

The Book Blogger Toolkit

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This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time: a comprehensive look into the tools that are super useful for any book blogger. All of these have been invaluable in running my blog and creating new posts, and I want to share them with others. I would also love to hear if you have any recommendations too! 🙂

Websites

  • Tweetdeck – I wish the desktop version still existed but I find this a lot more awkward to use in my browser, but it is still 100 times better than doing everything via the Twitter website. Much much easier for scheduling Tweets, following hashtags and controlling several accounts at once.
  • Goodreads – Well, duh. I’m pretty sure every book blogger uses this website for all their book information, as well as hunting down new releases and meeting fellow-minded people.
  • Pixabay – A really great stock image site that’s completely free to use. Perhaps not the biggest variety of images out there, but again, it’s free and the images can be edited.
  • Creative Market – I love this website so much. It’s a marketplace for designers to sell images, vectors, fonts etc – but if you sign up to their newsletter, you get six free goodies every Monday. Totally worth it.
  • Trello – A ‘to do list’ type website that lets you create ‘boards’. I have different boards for each of my features, and ideas pinned underneath, plus one for general blog admin. A great place to list ideas for future posts.
  • DaFont – I have been using this website for years and years, goodness knows how many different fonts I’ve downloaded from here.

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Software & Applications

  • Ultimate Book Blogger Plug-in – AN ABSOLUTE GODSEND. This was created by my wonderful host, Ashley, and makes the organisation of book blogs so much easier. Once you set up your system, so much is automatic. I don’t know how I managed without it before, and it is absolutely worth your money.
  • Google Keep – Handy for noting down blog ideas on my phone whilst I’m on the go. I’ve tried a couple of ‘to do list’ apps, and this has been my favourite so far.
  • Google Drive – I love Google Drive a lot for being so easy to share documents with others. I’ve used it to write several collaborative posts in the past, and it makes organisation for Sci-Fi Month so much easier.
  • Evernote – I am actually using Evernote to write this post right now… I don’t particularly like writing in the HTML editor in WordPress, it’s rather uninspiring. But the Text Editor is worse. So I like to write things in Evernote, then copy them over and add in the HTML where needed. It’s also handy for when I want to write posts in bed – I’m a bit odd in that I don’t particularly like using my laptop for things like writing posts, because I really need a bigger screen. So I’ll write them in Evernote on my laptop, which then syncs to my desktop, and I can format them from there later.
  • Image editing software – I use an old version of Paint Shop Pro (8), which I’ve had for years, but you could use anything. Paint Shop Pro, Photoshop, Picmonkey… got to make those pretty graphics and headers somehow! 🙂

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Offline

  • Several notebooks – One for review notes, one for general planning purposes. I like to keep them separate so it’s easier to find certain things.
  • A paper planner – I blogged about my paper planner before, but I really prefer to use a paper planner over a digital one for planning out my posts. It’s always there when I need it and somehow much easier to read, at least for me.

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What tools would you recommend to help other bloggers? Do you use many of these yourself? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

Thoughts

Thoughts #53: The Problem with Reading Slumps

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This post was written at the beginning of April, and doesn’t apply to me so much now – but I still wanted to share it!

As well as struggling with a blogging slump lately, I’ve been having a bit of a reading slump. I’ve decided that this comes down to my most recent reads being nothing special, and also feeling a little bit pressured to read certain books because of review requests and other commitments.

The Fantasy Book of the Month in March for my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks, was The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. I was really excited to read this one, having never read any Mitchell before. He is an author that a lot of people seem to love or hate, and I was convinced I’d be one of the former. Sadly, I was wrong. What sounded like a fantastic premise (and was accompanied by a lovely cover) turned into a big ol’ mess that, quite frankly, had me bored for at least one third of the book.

This was then followed by attempts to read various Marvel comic books that had been sat on my shelves for a while, all borrowed from the library. Needless to say I couldn’t get into any of them but one, despite having read and loved many before. The one I did manage to finish was the second Guardians of the Galaxy book, Angela, and it just didn’t live up to the first volume. I’m just a bit bored of skimpy female superheroes. And don’t even get me started on female chest armour (or lack thereof…).

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And then, most recently, The Vagrant by Peter Newman. A book that had sat on my Goodreads ‘to read’ shelf since before release, one that immediately drew me in via its cover and blurb. But oh, what a disappointment. I couldn’t concentrate on it at all, meaning I missed important plot points, and was pretty confused when I did actually tune in. I don’t think I deal well with silent protagonists…

My current read is a similar story. Sounded great, is actually boring me quite a bit. I’ve started reading another book alongside it that I’ve been waiting for since it was announced (albeit another review copy), and I’m actually now only reading the first book at work during lunch, if I get a chance.

So okay, maybe only one of these books was a ‘commitment’. But it took so long for me to read because I just wasn’t interested that I feel I could have read so many more interesting books in that time. It’s time to crack down and finally read those books that I’ve been waiting for, instead of feeling pressured into reading ones that I’m not hugely interested in!

Note: After writing this post in April, I decided to read what I WANTED, instead of what I thought I should read. This has worked really well for me so far!

Do you ever feel pressured to put off the books you really want to read just because of other reading ‘commitments’?

Thoughts

Thoughts #51: It’s Not All About The Numbers

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Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit down about blogging. I’ve had plenty of ideas for posts, but when it comes to sitting down and writing them, I just get stuck. I haven’t seen a big increase in my blog stats for a little while, and that was making me think ‘Why bother?’.

Well, that’s probably the worst thing I could think.

I’m not blogging for others, I’m blogging because I enjoy it and like having blogging as part of my identity. My stats are good – they’re just not ‘top of the league’ type good. But does that matter? People still visit my blog, read my posts and leave comments. I have an active base of lovely followers who regularly comment, and the smaller following means I can actually comment back and interact more easily with my followers. I can’t really imagine running a blog where I couldn’t respond to everyone who took the time to leave their thoughts on my posts.

I have considered perhaps starting some vlogs on Youtube just to mix things up, and maybe gain some more followers that way. I’ve been inspired by some of my favourite YouTubers, and it is something I’d love to do. It
seemed like a GREAT idea – until I actually filmed myself, and nope. No. Not happening.

If you are struggling with something similar, the best solution here seems to be to consider what has been successful about your blogging. Make a list of the things you are proud of, and remember numbers do not mean success. It’s much better to have a smaller number of people who actively comment than thousands of followers who don’t actually read your blog. Focus on producing content that YOU love, rather than mass producing posts to please mass audiences.

Have you ever faced this problem whilst blogging? What did you do to change it?

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Misc.

My Bookish New Year’s Resolutions 2016

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Last year I shared my bookish New Year’s Resolutions for 2015, so I thought I’d do the same this year! Let me know if you have any resolutions, bookish or not, in the comments below.

  • Finally get round to the books I’ve been meaning to re-read. I’ve already taken a step towards this by announcing some planned read-alongs.
  • Get my Netgalley ratio over 80% – or even to 100%… It’s currently sat at 77%, so I’m close!
  • Do not worry about quantity of books read, but focus on quality. I always aim to read at least 100 books a year, but that shouldn’t be the most important thing. Instead, I should aim to read books that truly appeal, rather than picking up shorter/quicker reads just to up the number.
  • Although… I would also like to reach 1000 books marked as ‘read’ on Goodreads. However, this should be pretty easy as I’ve only got 20 or so to go.
  • Make more use of the Goodreads recommendations feature. Because, you know, I already don’t have ENOUGH books to read. But I’ve noticed that Goodreads chooses some really fantastic books for me based on my shelves, so why not use it more?
  • Make some progress with my Classics Challenge. This is a lifelong challenge so there’s no rush, but I’ve barely made a dent in it since starting.
  • Get back into the swing of commenting on other blogs. I was really dedicated during Sci-Fi Month, but other than that I’ve been slacking on comments.
  • Keep blogging!

What are your resolutions for 2016?

Thoughts

Thoughts #42: Chasing Inspiration

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So I’m finally back at the point where I was just over a year ago – working a full time job, rather than studying, and finding that I have plenty more time for blogging.

However, it’s not quite all going to plan.

The funny thing is, I have TONNES of ideas of what to blog about. Probably a good six month’s worth of blog posts. But my main issue is not the themes or ideas, but writing the posts themselves. I’m so exhausted by work that when I get home I just want to switch my brain off. And when I do have the energy to blog, I find that I’ve lost some of my eloquence and just don’t know how to write or phrase things! It’s frustrating.

I’m also trying to concentrate all my blog-related energies on Sci-Fi Month, making sure that tweets are scheduled and that I have plenty of content for November. So if October is a little quiet post-wise, it’s because I’m working hard on making sure November is chock-a-block with content! 🙂 Hopefully, working on SFM will get me used to keeping up a regular blogging pattern once again.

I guess what I really want to ask is if this has happened to any of you – you have some great ideas but you have no idea how to execute them. If so, what do you do to get through the ‘writer’s block’?

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Thoughts

Thoughts #41: Tips For New Bloggers

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I think this is something that has been done on many blogs before, but it’s always nice to get individual perspectives. I wanted to share my tips for new book bloggers, or maybe even useful tips for those who have been blogging for a bit longer!

  • Social media is your friend. Twitter might be terrifying at first, but do not underestimate it! You can get the latest news and updates from authors and publishers, or even interact with them. Not to mention it’s the perfect way to get to know fellow bloggers – don’t be afraid to join in with conversations.
  • Take part in memes like Feature and Follow Friday – but not all the time. Memes like this are a great way to meet fellow bloggers and gain followers, but they’re not a long term solution in my eyes. Be aware that many of the people who follow you through this will probably leave some pretty frustrating/vague comments, BUT you will also get to know some really great bloggers.
  • Think up some exciting, original features, or make your own event. Original features really make a blog stand out. Combine your other interests with books to create something – or even have a feature that doesn’t involve books so you can blog about something else every so often. Even if you just share what you’ve been up to in the past month, films you’ve watched, etc.
  • Don’t be afraid to be negative in reviews. After all, bloggers are there to share their honest opinion. Sure, of course the author and publisher want positive reviews, but they’re going to expect some negative ones too. Don’t lie just to please them!
  • Beware of Netgalley! As a new blogger, Netgalley was HEAVEN. All these books! I requested SO MANY, and I still haven’t read every one. Although my Netgalley ratio is now between 70-80%, I have some books that I requested in 2012 and still haven’t gotten round to. Instead of requesting everything because FREE BOOKS, just request the ones you think you’ll definitely be interested in. You’ll save yourself a lot of stress later on (and three years posting about/worrying about your Netgalley ratio…).
  • If blogging gets too much, or is taking up too much of your time, take a break or post less regularly. No-one is going to think any less of you for it. Blogging is supposed to be a fun hobby, so if it’s becoming the opposite then you need to re-think things. I’ve taken a few breaks myself, and always come back feeling much more positive and rejuvenated.
  • And finally… blog for yourself. If you’re passionate about something, share it. Don’t avoid posting something because you think it won’t be popular. If you want it on your blog, put it there! 🙂

I hope these tips help, fellow bloggers!