10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Blogging
1. Who Am I?
I’ve said this frequently, but it bears repeated repeating: One of the best decisions I made before I started blogging was to figure out my blog name and not just that, but research it extensively. I went through dozens of possible names before I hit The Irish Banana Review.
Go for original – I still get people who message, tweet, email me about how much they love the originality of my blog name. It stands out in a sea of Readings, Shelves, Books, etc. I've seen a lot of people decide later on to change their blog name, but by then they've picked a site name and gone with it for so long that it's like starting over and rebranding yourself. I knew I didn't want to do that, so I planned and plotted my blog for a month before I actually went live.
The one thing I didn’t do was figure out my style. The way I wanted the blog to look, the colors I wanted people to associate with me. I wish I had taken as much time to plan all of that as I did my name. I adore my current layout, and this is what I want people to associate me with. I even have business cards to match. Originally I had a couple cheap boxes of Vistaprint cards that kinda sorta matched my old layout.
This is much cleaner and more professional.
2. Social Media Isn’t Optional
So before I started blogging I had a personal Facebook account, MySpace page with 2 entries and a LiveJournal I lived at like it was going out of style. Which, OK, it was. I didn’t have a Pinterest or Twitter or Instagram ... None of it. I knew the first thing I needed was a Twitter account and I quickly made one.
Where I dropped the ball was making a Facebook page. I didn't do this until I had been blogging for well over a year and I feel like those stats never quite matched the ones on my blog and twitter feed because those two had almost a twenty month jump on the Facebook page.
3. It’s More Work Than a Full Time Job
Yes, blogging is my hobby, but it's so much more than that. Factor in the hours spent reading, the time writing a review that doesn't make you sound like a five year old who can't use their words, trying to come up with some original content, signing up for blog tours, tweeting about new posts, commenting on other blogger's posts, emailing publicists, going to signings and events...
And let's not forget scheduling and creating these posts. I would like to say it's smooth sailing, but I swear Blogger has a time of the month where it gets all PMS-y and refuses to do anything. I wish I would have known the time commitment going in. I love what I do, but it does suck up a lot of time.
I was talking to someone a few weeks ago about ways to improve stats and followers and she said something to the effect of I "make it look easy."
It's not easy. I've earned every follower. Every comment, every like. I have worked my butt off to get to where I am and I'm still working.
4. Find Your Voice
Go look at some of my reviews from when I first started blogging. Go on. I can wait a second.
Are you cringing yet?
I read those and wonder, "Who is that girl?!" Because that girl isn't me. For some reason I thought I had to write these brilliant, objective, insightful posts that made me a "serious" blogger.
I finally got sick of trying to sound mature and responsible when sometimes I girl just needs to flail about over an awesome book. So I started changing the tone of my reviews. I made them sound like me. My reviews are written as if I was sitting in front of you, verbally telling you what I thought. That works best for me. It made everything feel more natural and flow better.
I'm not saying there's anything wrong or bad about an objective, well-written review. I'm just saying that this is my blog and I'm going to write how I want. And you should, too.
5. ARC = Another Reading Commitment
Oh, the ARC. That magical, beautiful book that makes bloggers feel so validated. And so overwhelmed.
I used to just request book after book, both digital and physical. Most of the time I didn't get them, but then, after a few years and working with the same publicists and publishers, I actually started getting more and more books. And then this fantabulous thing called "BEA" happened and I got more. And then publishers sent me more. Sometimes I didn't even have to request a book--it just showed up! My mailbox was getting more action than Ana Steele.
And then I realized, "Holy crap ... I actually have to read and review 150 books in 6
There's no way. There isn't. Unless I quit my job, forget my family and friends. And showering and sleeping. I worked myself into a hole because I forgot that ARCs weren't pretty little jewels I could show off on twitter and facebook ... these were actually books that had actual people expecting actual reviews.
I've become much more selective now, but I still get a little click happy on NetGalley and Edelweiss. Which I still pay for. Bottom line is, I wish I had been more realistic about what I could read and review instead of being so greedy.
6. Hoarders: Extreme Book Edition
I re-read books. Yes, I'm one of those people. I love reliving my favorite romances, fights, drama, worlds ... All of it.
So obviously I keep a lot of books. Which is cool ... If you own a library. But when you have 6 under the bed boxes of books, two massive book shelves, the top of shelf of your closet and even your dresser full of book (let's not even mention those 3 boxes chillin' in the basement), it goes from being fun to a hassle.
I wish I had been more diligent about the books I was bringing in and buying and saving. Because now I'm faced with a Herculean task of clearing out a good amount of books. And these things weigh a lot.
7. Exhaustion Guaranteed
I just got done a 10 hour work day, have been up since before 6 am and have been sitting here writing this post for over an hour when all I want to do is curl up in bed and watch TV on my DVR. And this is a good day for me.
Blogging is fun, but it is also one of the most tiring endeavors.
8. Green-Eyed Monsters Abound
I guarantee that when I mentioned getting ARCs above, someone gritted their teeth and hissed. Was it you? It's cool.
Blogger jealousy is a very real thing. It's why I stopped doing the In My Mailbox/Stacking the Shelves posts. I had to avoid blogs on Sunday because I would see bloggers who got books I craved like oxygen (and I'm an asthmatic, so I know all about craving air, mmmkay?) and it would make me so bitter and jealous. It still happens when a friend gets a book I wanted, or gets to hang out with an author I want to meet.
We all go through it. Every single blogger is jealous of someone else and those who say they aren't are flat out lying. It may not be the same level of intensity as my jealous--we all know I have issues--but the jealousy is there and I have seen it erode and destroy a lot of bloggers. I got caught up in that for years, constantly seeing these posts that made me constantly wonder what I was doing wrong and how could I always be better.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to be better, but it's wrong when you get angry about it. And I was fast hitting bitter shrew territory, so I cut myself off.
9. More Drama Than High School & Middle School Combined
I really just don't even know if I need to expound on that any more. But I will.
I've been blogging for nearly 3 years now and I have seen to ridiculous, knock-down, drag out fights on twitter that would make Muhammed Ali step out of the ring. I have seen author on reviewer fights that exploded Goodreads, insults hurled, people ripped to shreds and more stones thrown than I can count. Sometimes it's amusing, but more often than not it's frustrating and childish. And needs to stop.
When I started blogging I was told that bloggers were an open, accepting community and those of us who have been blogging for more than a week know the total BS of the statement.
Yeah. I totally just admitted that blogging makes Mean Girls look like The Sound of Music. There are a ridiculous amount of cliques and groups in blogging. Inner circles and groups of friends that are not accepting new members, so don't even apply or you'll be met with blank stares. I truly thought if I was me--happy, bubbly, energetic me--that people would like me.
But this isn't kindergarten. There isn't a teacher that will make us give out Valentine's to everyone like we're all besties. I spent the better part of a year trying to find my niche in this world. And then ... I did.
10. The Truth About BFFs (Book Friends Forever)
A lot of what I've said sounds like so much gloom and doom. Like blogging is a bitch, so why bother?
Because aside from the books and the authors and the amazing conferences and signings I've been able to go to, I have truly met some of my best friends. People that I would not know had I never put up that first post nearly 3 long years ago.
Blogging is a crazy, often time hellish roller coaster without a safety strap, but then one day you look around and realize that all your friends are right there with you, keeping you going when you just want to curl up and go to sleep watching the DVR, believing in you when you can't.
All the heartache and heartburn I've suffered from blogging is completely worth it every time my phone lights up with a text or phone call from these people. You guys know who you are, and I hope you know how much I love each of you.