The highs and lows of a ginger book blogger (and the lessons she learned)
I am one in a million. Two million? Three?! Let’s settle it by saying the community is huge and always active! Three years ago, I did not know what ‘book blogging’ was. I didn’t know it existed. What a dull life I had!
542 published posts later, I am still here. This itself is a miracle. Because there are things you should know before jumping into the world of book blogging. Good things, bad things, ‘Oh my God I had no idea!!!’ things that will forge your path in this wonderfully bookish world. Today, I have decided to share some of the highs and lows I have experienced since I gave birth to Chocolate’n’Waffles!
Pressing the ‘Publish’ button for the first time
What an exciting and scary day! I remember I was awfully nervous but determined to go through with my idea to talk all things bookish. I needed a hobby, I wanted to rekindle my love life with books, and I had a laptop. The basics were covered. Still, I had read so many fabulous reviews filled with clever words and deep analyses of novels that I dreaded I would never live up to the standards.
Don’t go look up for my first review, it is awful. I’m not being modest, I’m being realistic here! But I was, and I still am, proud to have made the jump and dared share my thoughts, my ideas, and my crazy words with others. I felt accomplished, happy, and… totally exhausted!!!
Discovering NetGalley, ARCs, and blog tours
January 2016. I was innocent, unaware of the behind-the-scenes of the book industry, having no idea what an uncorrected proof was, and totally clueless about reviews and their power! Shadowing my favourite bloggers, I remember gingerly checking publishers’ Twitter and websites, searching for book news, and fate should have it, I stumbled across NetGalley. ARCs??? Books that were not out yet… Ready for bloggers? PARADISE!
I will always remember the first publisher who approved my request. I remember the review. I remember the thrill of posting on NG about a book which hadn’t hit the shelves yet. I remember the feeling of discovering a new author.
The Sister, Louise Jensen. Bookouture. Review sent on 12 May 2016.
My eyes had been opened. I realized that apart from rambling about books I loved, I could promote upcoming releases, help authors get the word out on their novels, and create a particular relation with publishers. I believe this is the day I figured out I wanted in. I needed to be part of this big machine expanding horizons, filling the world with stories, fictional or not, exploring cultures, giving readers the chills.
My toxic relationship with NetGalley started the same day my reader’s life changed. Then came blog tours. To this day, I still have issues saying no… Which leads me to my next high…
The TBR high…
I was a ‘casual reader’ in another lifetime. I would get a book, read it, and then get the next one. But one of the many joys of a book blogger is this lesson: you can’t have too many books (especially at the same time!) I mean, when you read posts about books every single day, when you Twitter feed is flooded with beautiful covers, ebook deals, and recommendations, how can you expect a human being to resist the Power of the Books? I get high when I see my TBR high and proud! There is something so soothing about knowing you will not run out of material to read. I love checking my TBR shelves (yes, I stroke the books and talk to them too) and its promises. I am never alone! Then I panic…
…The TBR Pressure.
There’s a downside to getting lots of books to read. I swear! Bear with me, keep reading!
When you need more than one shelf to put away your unread books, you might not think anything of it, but this is the Beginning.
The more books I have, the guiltier I feel about not reading them! And not just about proofs or ARCs! Books I’ve chosen, paid for, and lovingly brought home look at me in the dark and casting spells for me to choose them next! Books are my best friends, but they don’t like dust, nor being kept waiting for too long!
My first auto-approval
I wish I had a gif of myself doing a happy dance while making waffles (with Rum in them, of course) because no word can explain how happy I was when I got approved on NetGalley (that website, AGAIN! Me, obsessed much???) by a publisher I loved to read any of their book without having to request. I felt like a proper blogger. This was a recognition of my work, of my dedication to shout as loud as possible about book. And down went my ratio!!! (if you’re a NG user, you know what I mean!)
Stats: The Blogger’s worst enemy
When I started blogging, I kept in mind I was writing for myself first. I wanted to practice English and have fun. I was ecstatic whenever WordPress informed me I had a new follower or I’d reached a peak in views. So, I kept an eye on my stats, watching them grow, stabilize, go down, rise from the ashes… It’s an evil circle. For some people, being a successful blogger means having big numbers. Well, I disagree. Being a successful blogger means being happy with what I post.
Yet… I am guilty of checking numbers every week. I have to stop myself from doing it every day. Yes, it’s fantastic to see a review or a discussion post get amazing views, but it can be crushing to see your favourite post, something you’ve worked hard on, not get the attention you think it deserves. It can lead to blogging for the wrong reasons…
My advice: A weekly checkup is more than enough. Focus on the books!
Finding my tribe
Remember when you were young and people would spot you with a book? ‘Oh, you should go up and play with the others. You must be lonely!’ What? I’ve never felt lonely! I have more friends than popular people on Facebooks thanks to all the characters I have met through the years!
The cliché of people choosing to read because they are alone, not because they choose it, is still here, and I want to kick its bottom.
Actually, the book community is doing a great job at proving that books and a social life are not incompatible! I have met the most amazing people online thanks to our shared love for books. Take my friend Abbie. Oh my. We have so much in common. She makes me laugh, she supports me, she is the reason why I added many books to my wish list.
The numbers of book bloggers on social media is another perfect example of how many of us are around, and how we want to create something, interact, share, and just enjoy our hobby. I began blogging when I was in a bad place in my life, and I found people just like me, ready to discuss plots for hours, happy to chat about bookish pet peeves, always around to have a laugh or drool over a cover. My biggest reward is that I never feel alone in the book blogging sphere. Bloggers, authors, publishers, all our voices can be heard, and we matter!
Books and me, the first break-up
A low many of us have been through. July 2017. My first reading slump. After months of reading and reviewing every week, giving it my best, staying on top of date releases, new and old names publishing books to feed my brain, and having the best time devouring words as if they were Haribo sweets, it came to an abrupt stop. I would look at a book and frown. No, I don’t want to read you. I’d rather watch telly instead. I felt I was cheating on my baby books, but there was no more joy in my heart at the sight of a title, no star in my eye when I thought about a new adventure to have.
I went with the flow. I waited. I kept busy. And you know what? I came back. One day, I woke up, I stumbled on a book (literally, as I had piles around my bed) and I felt the urge to open it. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. The right book at the right time.
If you find yourself in a reading slump. Take some me-time. It’s okay. You’ll get back when you are ready. If you force it, you’ll lose it forever.
My first Book Festival
Or how it dawned on me that authors were real people, as were social media friends I’d been talking to, and the best way to check book people are the best! I think my book blogging journey’s highest high will forever be Bloody Scotland 2018. Food, book talks, selfies, laughs. I learned how to smuggle more books than I was allowed back to my country (very handy). No, you don’t need to attend every event to be a book blogger. But if you feel like it, you can experience something extraordinary just dancing with Katerina Diamond and Angela Clark (I will never stop mentioning this moment!!!) or waiting in line to meet Chris Brookmyre. I even walked up to Mark Billingham to say ‘hi!’. Me! Adrenaline ran in my veins for three days and I hope every blogger can live this at least once. There’s nothing more special than a fangirling moment in the hall of a hotel because you’ve just met Helen Fields or Will Dean and his fabulous hair. When life meet books…
What is time and why is it disappearing?
My biggest issue with book blogging… As Coldplay would sing, nobody said it would be easy, nobody said it would be so hard… AND TIME-CONSUMING! I had a terrible time dealing with the hours needed to write blog posts, schedule social media posts, blog-hop, keep track of book news, and keep breathing. With tme (haha!) I found a rhythm, but I still get anxious once in a while when a month is over-filled with book commitments. Take it easy, they say… But book bloggers go big, they don’t go home!
Those are only a few of the things that make my journey on the book blogging back amazing and crazy. Can you relate?
Thank you to Meggy for this AMAZING blog. Meggy is the owner and founder of Chocolate ‘n’ Waffles a phenomenal book blogging site that will give you insight into all the books you just must have on your shelf.
She reads and reviews all genres except Romance, Erotica and Horror.
She is French and oh so hilarious, and has become my Twitter friend ever since we had our very first Twitter pity party session.
You can find out more about Meggy and her blog here :
Go on and check it out!
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Taryn Leigh is the Author of Perfect Imperfections, which is currently available from Amazon,Waterstones, Barnes&Noble, Exclusive Books and where all good books are sold.