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Observations from four years of book blogging…

Observations from four years of book blogging…

…on the eve of my blogoversary.

You don’t have to accept review books to be a book blogger

Some of my favourite bloggers don’t accept review books. It’s OK to read old books, new books, borrowed books (but not stolen books). A lot of new bloggers see getting review copies as a goal or a sign you have made it. Of course it’s a real treat to get some of your most anticipated books in advance. However once you’ve been around a while it might seem like a double-edged sword. Where do you find the time to read your own books? It can be hard choosing what to read and wanting to be accommodating to debut authors or your favourite publicists. So make your own mind up, it’s OK to say no. If you want to say yes, make sure you don’t overload yourself, and don’t get to the point where you feel entitled to them.

You’re not under any contractual obligation

I see so many people stressing about getting reviews out “on time” or not feeling like they want to read a specific book they have accepted. Unless you have signed a contract otherwise, you are not under any obligation to review to a schedule, or review a book at all if you’re not feeling it. You’re not getting paid and this should be an enjoyable hobby. There’s a big different in requesting loads of books and never reviewing any, to a blogger who just gets round to stuff in their own time. If you get worried about this, check with publicists what their expectations are before you accept. I generally won’t accept anything where there’s a deadline, especially if that deadline is next week!

A week away from your blog won’t ruin everything

If you’re going to be blogging long term, you have to accept that sometimes life will get in the way. The world moves so fast, your readers will barely notice you’ve stepped out for a week. And if you need longer, take it. Anyone that stops following you because you take a break isn’t worth it. People will worry if you’re a regular poster and disappear for over 2 weeks, so a sticky at the top of your blog is a great idea. But don’t stress about having to explain yourself.

You don’t have to read all the time

This is connected to the previous point. Sometimes your reading mojo will leave you. Forcing it generally doesn’t help but often doing other things does. Binge on Netflix, go outside and see new places, write, or just lie around doing nothing for a bit. If the lack of blog content scares you, why not blog about what you’re watching and doing? I love hearing about bloggers’ lives outside of reading!

Don’t assume you know the whole story

This kinda relates to internet Drama with a capital D but also to the general bitchiness that sneaks out on social media when people assume a blogger is stuck up or greedy. Maybe they are busy. Maybe they are socially awkward. Maybe they didn’t ask for all those books they get sent. Don’t pile onto drama without stopping to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. A little bit of empathy can go a long way. We all say and do stupid things now and again.

There’s plenty of bad advice on the internet

You might think this is all a load of rubbish advice and that’s fine. I do think the worst kind is when someone says “this is the only way to do things”, especially when that person is someone you admire. That just makes you feel bad for doing things your way. Stay within the bounds of the law and common decency and go ahead and do want you want!

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  1. Anonymous

    I've just passed four years myself and I concur with your points. Though I would say even two weeks… nah, no one's gonna notice. I mean, other than people you are actually friends with, whether IRL or online, and presumably you can talk to them through other means. I've been on an unplanned, life-got-in-the-way hiatus for a month and it's fine. I actually get annoyed at big dramatic "I'M TAKING A BREAK" posts.

    Review books, I don't take any with a deadline. I don't even see how that's appropriate for a blogger. I have in the past and just ended up scratching my head – am I working for this publishing house? No? then…. I'll do it when I get to it. Or not!

    Congrats on four year. Any plans for 5 years? I've never acknowledged my anniversary dates but 5 years feels big!

    1. Ellie

      I think there are far too many I'm taking a break posts! I guess 2 weeks of complete silence would be when I would notice, but you're right, I would have other ways to contact those I worry about.

      As for year 5, I'll have to think of something. Would be nice to get a few authors or publishers involved if I get prepared early enough!


    I'm just coming up to a year, and thank you! Great advice! I do sometimes end up in a faff, thinking, "God this came out three weeks ago I should've reviewed it everyone else has but I'm not in the mood for this right now…" etc, so a wee reminder from you that it should be fun is really helpful! I hope I'm still blogging in four years – good luck with the next four! One question you might be able to help me with – I'm incredibly useless with technology. I bought The Dummies Guide To WordPress, but it assumed prior technological knowledge! (That made me feel really stupid!) Any hints as to where to get tips on such things? I know you're not on WordPress, but thought I'd ask as your blog looks great!

    1. Ellie

      Hi Linda! there's loads of great advice on the internet. It's probably easier to set yourself small goals and google how-tos for the specific thing you're trying to do. I think those Dummies books can be a bit of an overload.

      I would just say back up your blog regularly, then if you do something that really messes it up, you can get back to where you started!

  3. Unknown

    Thank you for your great advice and congrats on four years! I just started book blogging so this is very useful. You are right about it being easy to get stressed over book blogging.

    I've found it helpful to give myself a four book allocation for each month, as I read about a book a week, and pick the reading for that month at the beginning. I have one book for the classics club, one for a challenge, an audiobook and one spare for whatever I choose. (I admit I read 2-3 books at the same time, so maybe this isn't helpful for those who are indecisive.) Anything else after that is on the 'It Can Wait' list.

    Personally, I don't think it should make much difference where the book comes from. A review should be honest and not about the price of a book. I've been given a three books to review and I just got my first follower today (thank you to the follower!) so I doubt that being allowed to copies of books is such a big deal either. I just take 'free books disclaimers' with a pinch of salt. I think if people blog just for free books then they end up just talking *at* someone rather than sharing experience, inviting conversation and (hopefully) making friends. Even with a free book they are still loosing out. I do think some things come too soon though, like book tours. I don't think I know enough about blogging/have enough experience to join one yet.

    1. Ellie

      I think bloggers who are after free books and only that fizzle out very quickly. It's not very cost effective when you consider the time that goes into it all πŸ™‚

      Generally the disclosures are there to satisfy ASA/FTC conditions, rather than bragging about the books being free.

  4. Nose_in_a_book

    Great advice, I wholly concur. But I do tend to miss most of the bitchy drama. I must not follow those people on social media!

    1. Ellie

      I don't follow many people that get involved in book drama but I see it a lot in general, some of it even makes the news when people pile on a stupid comment.

  5. kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews

    Amen to that, Ellie! πŸ™‚

  6. Birgit

    First of all I must say, it's awesome how consistent you are with your blogging and heck, didn't we start around the same time? Me, I'm in a strange loop of hiatusing half a year and then suddenly being back in full swing. Of course that means I also posted *gasp* a short note to let everyone know my blog is in hibernation (honesty, I don't get why some people do that when only taking off for a weekend) and that the lack of new posts isn't due to me getting hit by a truck. Anyway. I must agree with what you stated about reviews – thankfully I learned early on to take on only "so much" because an avalanche of review copies can be more than overwhelming and blogging should be fun and not a chore. And it's true that reviews alone don't make a book blog. Obviously a bookish focus is important, but other than that? Your blog, your decision, I say.

    1. Ellie

      It's amazing how many of the bloggers I interact with a lot now started around the same time as me. Someone on Twitter said it's like you have your year at school.

  7. Mel u

    I am closing in on six years as a book blogger. I admit openly I love free books. There are no libraries in the Asian mega city where I reside so free books are my best source for new books. I only accept E books so little expense is involved in giving me a book. I am offered lots of review books, for ever ten I accept maybe I read two. I tell submitters I will be happy to look at their book and I do look at everything I am sent. I would say on average I accept 100 books a month for consideration. It might take me a week to review a book or a year and likely never. I am giving the publisher and author free publicity. I feel no obligation to provide this in exchange for an E book. There are publishers and authors I have been posting on for years so they must see value in it. Bottom line, don't feel any guilt about free books, especially e books, you are giving away a free add plus your time and the years of reading and blogging to make your opinion of value.

    1. Ellie

      Kudos to you for managing those kind of volumes, I'd probably just be overwhelmed with all the emails πŸ™‚ I think the important thing is to be open with people about how you work, which it sounds like you're doing.

  8. Unknown

    Congratulations on 4 years! Some great advice there. I think one of the best things to do is build up several posts in advance, that way you can take several weeks away from blogging if you like – posting those you already have written while you are away. It reduces the stress of feeling like you have to write a post (even though you know you don't really). Unfortunately I don't follow my own wisdom and always end up running out of posts to put up! Hope you enjoy your 5th year!

    1. Ellie

      I know loads of people swear by pre-writing posts but I have never managed to have more than a couple in reserve and they get used far too quickly! I just have to resign myself to have a few blank spots now and then πŸ™‚

  9. Marina Sofia

    Congratulations – that's an impressive amount of time! And very sane, sensible advice there. I have to admit I do sometimes get greedy with review copies (especially on Netgally and Edelweiss, they are soooo easy to request and many of them do get approved), but I have an excuse up my sleeve, namely that it's hard to get hold of English books here in France at the library (and I can't afford to buy everything I want to read).
    However, I'm trying to be a bit more sensible about what I can physically read, what I enjoy reading and reviewing and also allowing myself time to write, think and reread.

    1. Ellie

      I was so lucky with NetGalley that they put the new site in and it reset all those old requests from when I went mad. So my ratio looks quite healthy now. It is oh so tempting though.

  10. Jillian

    Great advice, I agree with all of these, especially the 'you don't have to read all the time!'

  11. Anonymous

    Happy blogoversary. It's my fifth very soon!

    I could have written this – totally agree. I guess I would add: Don't expect something for nothing. If you don't keep up your blog and put some work into it, you shouldn't feel entitled to 'free' books.

  12. Lindsey

    These are great points. Accepting review books definitely seem amazing at first, but less exciting when it seems like you will never catch up with them (much less the books you actually own!). I think too that when everyone seems to be reviewing the same book, it makes it less interesting. I'm always intrigued when I see someone is reviewing an older title or one I've never heard of!

  13. Anonymous

    It's funny, when I first started blogging I really wanted 'free' books. I even accepted some real shockers- just because of the thrill that people wanted me to read and review their book. Now I barely accept any, and I get at least 1 request everyday.

    It's almost 6 years for me (yeah, can't quite believe it!), I agree with what you've said.

  14. Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings

    So agreed! My draw to ARCs was wanting to feel validated by publishers I think; I wanted them to tell me that they thought my blog was good enough for them to invest in. But I got over that once I got more confident with my blog and realized that I don't really care if someone doesn't like how I run it!

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