Jan 21, 2014

10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Blogging

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.


  1. Truth. So, so true. I don't even know what to add to this but, yeah, blogging is a full-time job. It's exhausting; it's awesome. (And what is up with those mean girls?!? They so need to get over themselves. I try to avoid all that mess like the plague.) It's taken me quite a while to find my voice but, now that I have, I'm enjoying it more than I did before (like you, I tried to be a "serious" writer. Well, I'm not. So there.).

  2. Hit the nail on the head - again. With a sledgehammer. :D

  3. So many great points made in this post! Wish I could have read it before I started blogging! I have almost hit the one year mark and can't believe how much work it is... or how crazy some people are! The good outweighs the bad for sure, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into!

  4. I love this post!!! You are so right on so many levels:)

  5. Great post and absolutely true. I used to change my layout on a monthly basis so I didn't get bored. I have now come to the conclusion that I shall leave alone for 2014 anyway :)

  6. I love this post, and I wish I could have read it before I started blogging! There's so much great insight here.

    One thing I am resolved to do in 2014 is learn to do some coding. Every time I want to make some minor tweak to my blog design/layout, I have to get help (and spend money). Part of the problem is that I use Typepad, which I sometimes think is extra hard to navigate. But I really need to put some time into this!

  7. Sorry for the double comment, I got cut off!

    Just wanted to say that the warning about requesting too many books is hugely valuable. It is sooo easy to fall into that trap. Also you can easily get to a place where you find yourself with zero time to read what you feel like reading at the time, because you are so buried in review books! I bought a day planner to use to schedule my blog posts this year, and I'm hoping that seeing my month physically laid out on paper will keep me organized (and restrained!)

  8. Love it! It's all true and all there. I still love this world, but it's a LOT of work to read, review, request, plan, write, meet, etc..

  9. I love this! Every single one of these is true. I laughed out loud reading a lot of this. But the last one is true. I don't even feel like I've found my niche yet, but I have met some really sweet people that I love interacting with. Hopefully I will get to meet a bunch of you at ALA this weekend or BEA this summer. Are you going to ALA?

  10. I really enjoyed this post! Honest book blogging opinions are hard to come by. Stay strong! Your voice is unique and deserves to be heard.

  11. I'm so glad I already follow your blog, and have followed it for quite awhile now, because if I didn't I'm not sure I would've stumbled across this post. I am a baby blogger of nearly twenty days, and this post was just so helpful to me. I have read COUNTLESS times that blogging is like having another job, but I guess that's just something you don't really understand until you actually begin blogging for yourself! I haven't even begun to receive review copies of books and my office already looks like an edition of book hoarders. My parents can't believe how many books I refuse to part with. I have a feeling I will be the type of reader who begins hoarding books in any and every place I can fit them. I just can't bear to resell my books. I have gotten a tinge of book envy at other blogger's book hauls, but I just go look at all the books I already have and the ones I have yet to sit down and read, and that really helps me realize that I need to read those books before I get jealous over what everyone else is getting! Besides, I can buy it when it officially releases anyways like I always have done. Luckily I haven't been in any blogging drama, but over my years of blog following I have seen quite a few dramatic fights over stupid things. This isn't high school, and I agree that it shouldn't be that way at all. But even though, I have only been blogging an extremely short while, I have met so many really amazing and friendly people. I have been snubbed and ignored a few times when I try to jump into book conversations on twitter, but for the most part, everyone I have talked to has been very welcoming! I already enjoy blogging so much, and the wonderful conversations that I have gotten to be apart of just by putting myself out there and trying to connect with people!! I really just love this post, and without a doubt, it has given me quite a few things to consider for the future!! For instance, becoming more involved with twitter! Thanks for posting this! I can't wait to see where blogging takes me in the future! My only wish is that I would've had the gumption to start doing this earlier! Lovely post :)

    -Becca @Pivot Book Reviews

  12. I wish I wouldve known all these things too.

    I wrote a whole post on jealousy becuase that's just the kind of person I am. I always strive to be better and with that comes me comparing myself to someone else. So because of that, it makes me really jealous and it got really bad.

    I'm currently at 6 months and I feel like I've come so far as a blogger. I don't have a following or anything, but with the number of friends I have on twitter, I think I'm doing amazing.

    And you are also doing swimmingly! :D

  13. Such great advice, Hannah. I don't think most new bloggers realize how much time it takes, and you described it perfectly. <3 you tons! xxxx, Liza

  14. Really great advice Hannah. It takes a lot of time and dedication and really becomes a job more than a hobby- albeit a job that I really, really love.

  15. Hannah, why are you so brilliant? I swear, your posts are brilliant. The jealousy thing...nailed it. It's happened to us all and like you said, anyone who says it hasn't is lying (or literally just started blogging). I've been blogging for over two years and this post just says so much about the hard work people put in to their blogs, their reviews, their passion for reading. For a lot of my time as a blogger, I hadn't found a 'nitch' with the community, I had some I talked to but none I could count on as friends and I'm so glad I've finally found that. It's taken time but it's totally worth the journey.

    You are awesome and your blog has deserved every bit of success it's gotten. You work damn hard, girl. <3

  16. Bless this post. It's so true and it's why I've stopped reviewing ARCs for the first half of 2014. It's gotten way too stressful trying to keep up with everything and I don't even request books anymore. Well, very rarely.

  17. I loooooove this post. <3 Everything you've said here is so true.

    I've been blogging for almost a year now, and could never have expected how much of a real job it can be. And the ARC = Another Reading Commitment! Love that. ARCs are great and all, but the responsibility that comes along with them can end up just being added pressure.

    And ARC jealousy - yes! How is it possible to *not* be a little jealous of people who've already gotten their hands on a book you're DYING to read? I guess it's just a matter of whether you let that affect you and get you down... which can be a struggle!

    But like you said, it's all worth it when you find your little corner of the blogging community, and those people who you can always count on to encourage your, or laugh with you, or flail with you, or whatever. There's something awesome about sharing your love of books with people -- and really, after all the stress of schedules and general blogging frustrations -- isn't *that* what we're here to do in the first place? :)

  18. Thank you so much for sharing with us, your insight is definitely appreciated :)

  19. This post is absolutely spot-on. Had I known then what I know now, I would have done things a lot differently. I mean, I like where I'm at now, but it was a struggle getting here. Blogging is stressful but it can still be fun, too. It's what you ultimately make of the experience. And I wouldn't trade mine for the world because you're right, I've made some of the best friends ever through this endeavor.

  20. Sage advice, as always. I am so glad you said something about jealousy. I am not afraid to admit that I hate Stacking The Shelves posts because to me, it's just a reason to show off, which it completely uncool. I don't read them anymore.

  21. I definitely wish I knew about social media pre-blogging. It took me FOREVER to get on Twitter, make a Facebook page, etc. I didn't have a plan for my blog's look either (and it's still changing, honestly, though I think I've found a template I love).

  22. Wow this is amazing and truly useful to a new blogger like me I really appreciate it and can't help but admit you couldn't be more right about the jealousy

  23. Fabulous post (and hilarious, too)! I definitely agree, I took a year off from blogging because the drama got to be a bit much. It has calmed down quite a bit since I've been back. I've also noticed that my IMM/Stacking the Shelves jealous has died down a bit. I think it was the fact that I've got 11 million old books to read (my book buying addiction is out of control), and eventually I will end up buying those books!

  24. I have seen a couple posts like this around recently and I wish I had found them all pre blogging. I think finding your voice is imposable until you have blogged for six months, minimum. I almost stalled out because I was tiring of writing,then found a style that was just more fun for me.

    And if I had known, when those first ARC's came in, how many would start flooding the area later? Geez,I was always a book hoarder but it is going to hit the fan soon. Especially since I reread old favorites less and less due to blogging.

  25. This post makes me really sad because it is all true but not the way things were done when I started blogging in 2008.

    Back then book bloggers all stuck together. We linked to each other, we shared each other's content, often more than we shared our own. We commented on each other's reviews, not just discussions. We shared advice. We cheered for each other's good fortune when they landed that coveted ARC.

    I miss it.

    I had to stop blogging for a few years due to lack of internet access. Even now all I have is dialup but I eagerly returned. First thing I did was see who was still around, update my blog rolls, create a Facebook page, follow everybody I could find. I worked tirelessly to reconnect. I started sharing everybody's reviews, discussions, tweets, giveaways etc...

    And in return I got.... nothing.

    Nobody followed back, nobody linked to my site, nobody shared my content. Nobody commented on anything except one loyal fan of my blog from way back.

    It hurt me so bad I had a mini-fit one night and unfollowed every book blogger on twitter that wasn't following me back. Was several hundred.

    I don't know what happened. Maybe the community got too big. Like the difference between being a faceless employee in a huge corporation and a key and beloved employee in a small business.

    I know it is more work. Have to spend time on Twitter, I've given up on Facebook, I spend far too much time on Pinterest, Tumblr is a nightmare for me to load and omg, the cross posting. Not to mention SEO, mobile optimization, and I am avoiding learning how to code for dynamic views. Honestly there are not enough hours in the day.

    Barely leaves time to read and review, much less make the rounds and comment.

    But I'm not going to stop just because all my former "friends" did. I am still going to share, retweet, pin, tumble and link to original blogs and content. At the end of the day it is not, and never was, about me. It is about my readers, both silent and vocal.

    But it still makes me sad...

  26. Love this post! It really is sooo true! I've been blogging for a little over a year now and there are definitely a few things here that I wish I would have figured out before I launched. There are even some things that i'm still figuring out as I go along. Then there are the ones that I still haven't figured out yet (eeeppp!)

    But i'm getting there...slowly but surely. Posts like this really help me. Thanks for sharing your knowledge :)

    Xoxo. Alexis @ Lexi Swoons

  27. I ADORE THIS POST. Finally, someone understands that blogging is the best thing in the world but can be really tiring, and posts take a hell of a lot of time to write! Nice writing style too, I often feel like my writing is too mature but my blog is mainly directed towards teenagers! I've got to start writing with that in mind again :)

  28. I'm going to comment on a year old post because you spoke to my guts and I appreciate that! I had to stop looking at book haul posts for a while too and still go back and forth. I don't want to be angry and bitter so sometimes I just have to step back and it's so good to know I'm not the only one!


I hope you know that every time you comment, an angel gets its wings.

OK, not really, but thanks for popping by!