Tuesday 18 June 2019

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How I Approach Blogging to Reduce Stress and Pressure

How I Approach Blogging to Reduce Stress and Pressure

How I Approach Blogging to Reduce Stress and Pressure

Inspired by Cerys at Browsing For Books' post Feeling Pressured to Read - Why the YA Community Can Be Toxic and Isla of Whisper of Ink's Do You Genuinely Love the Content You're Creating and Consuming?, today I want to talk about how I approach book blogging. I've had this conversation before on Twitter and in the comments of other people's blogs, but I've never written about it here. I've been book blogging for ten years now, and the main reason I'm still here is because I've found a way of blogging that works for me.

The Rules, the Stress, and the Pressure

Photo taken from above on a woman sitting on a grey run in front of her laptop, with her hand on the mouse pad, and her mobile nearby on the rightThe first few years of blogging, after the initial joy of being part of this community simmered down, I started to find it quite stressful. It felt like there were unspoken rules to book blogging, especially if you were working with publishers. Back then, I would be sent something like eight ARCs a week, most of which were unsolicited (this was before blogger newsletters from publishers where they send out a list of what they have available, and we get to request what we want), most which weren't my cup of tea. That's around 32 books a month, from different publishers, some of which had the same publication date. I'd feel so much pressure to read all these books - again, most of which I knew I wouldn't like - and have my reviews ready to go live on publication date. Even for the books I had requested, or those that were unsolicited that I did like the sound of, as a mood reader, I was likely to not enjoy them as much if I read them before I wanted to - I'm not going to enjoy reading a great contemporary when I'm in the mood for a fantasy.

And then there were the blog stats. Because while I was getting sent the 32 books a month, I might not be sent any if my stats are low and no-one reads my reviews, and are you even a proper blogger if you're not being sent ARCs from publishers? So there would be memes and link-ups I would take part in, not necessarily because I liked them or wanted to, but because taking part brings readers to your blog, as everyone who takes part is encouraged to visit the posts of other participants, read, and comment. So I'd write my posts for the memes/link-ups, I would visit these other bloggers who had very little in common with my own blog, because they focused on completely different books, and read and comment on posts I had no interest in. But you need to get your numbers up, you need people engaging with your blog and your posts. You also need those readers to stick around and read your other content. So you need to create other content that is fresh(!) and interesting(!) and different from other blogs(!).

Read all the books. Review all the books. Take part in link-ups you have no interest in. Create unique content. You must write and read, write and read, and write and read. And I found that blogging, that was meant to be fun, suddenly felt like a chore. It was something I wasn't enjoying. There was so much damn pressure, so much stress. And I didn't want to do it anymore. And yet... I really enjoyed in the beginning. While I love my readers and commenters, and I love having relationships with publicists and receiving review copies, what I had to remind myself in the first few years of blogging is that I started doing this for me. I started because I wanted to talk about my love of books, and share my opinions, and because I genuinely love putting fingers to keyboard and writing. So after the first few years of book blogging, I decided to ignore the so-called rules, and decided to do things my way. Now there's very little pressure and very little stress.

How I Now Approach Blogging

A blond woman sitting on a rock in a park, facing left, reading an book that's on her lap, with trees in the backgroundSo what do I do now, then? Well, I've accepted that I am a mood reader, and will only read books I fancy. This may mean that a book I receive to review today - one I really like the sound, but just not in the mood for right now - may not get read for several months. I updated my Review Policy, and I let the publicists I was in contact with know, and they were fine with it. Because, really, it works for both of us. While I read what I want, when I want, and enjoy reading, doing so also means that I'm not reviewing the same books as every other reviewer at the same time. My content is different. And for the publishers? Several months after publication, when the initial buzz has died down, their book is being highlighted again, and maybe catching the eye of readers who missed it the first time round, or those who couldn't afford to buy it back then, and forgot about it, but can buy it now.

It happens very rarely now, but if I do get sent unsolicited review copies? If I don't like the sound of them, they won't be read. There was a time for a while where I had to send emails to publishers asking them, if possible, to send an email before sending out books, so I could accept of decline, so I don't end up with books taking up space that I won't read, and publishers aren't wasting expensive ARCs on me. If the changes weren't made, I'd ask to be removed from their blogging mailing lists, but most kind of changed the way they operated around the same time, by sending out emails or creating blogger newsletters.

I also no longer have an issue with DNF'ing (did not finish) a book. I used to have a real issue with this, because, as I was growing up, my dad drilled into me that you don't know that you don't like a book until you've read the whole thing, because it might get better. (He swears that he said this only counts if you've read past the first 100 pages, that you can DNF if it's not grabbed you by then, but he's telling porkies.) But now? Life is just too short, and while I may not be sent eight books a week, there are still other books on my TBR waiting to be read. If I'm not enjoying it, I won't read it.

Stats, Blog Visiting, and Commenting

A silver laptop on a white desk, open to a blog, in front of textual wall art. There's a vase if pink roses on the right, with a mobile on top of a book in front of the vaseAnd with regards to stats? Mate, I really couldn't give a damn. I really don't care. I know they're important for publicists - and the stats I have are obviously good enough, because when publicists send an email out every few years asking for updates on links and stats, I've not been removed from mailing lists - but I just don't stress over them. With all the pressure I've already mentioned, I got to the point where I didn't want to be posting all the things I was, and with the exception of a couple of memes/link-ups I didn't mind that I would take part in infrequently, I would only post reviews of books. As a blog reader, I know it's kind of boring to only have reviews, but as a blogger, that's all I wanted to write about at the time, and later, I just struggled to come up with ideas for other posts. I did lose a lot of blog readers because of it, and because of my computer going kaput twice and I wasn't able to post for months. As blog that's been going for ten years, Once Upon a Bookcase is a really small blog. But that's ok. I don't mind that. I may not get huge amounts of comments, and most of my readers may be lurkers, but I don't need to be getting hundreds of comments a week to enjoy doing what I do.

I'm not going to read other blogs I don't like or have no interest in. I don't blog hop on memes or link-ups - I only take part in Top Ten Tuesday now, and very infrequently - and nor am I a fan of those Twitter follow/comment trains. I read the blogs I enjoy, and if I stumble across a new-to-me blog through RTs on Twitter, where there's a specific post that sounds interesting, I'll read it and check the rest of their blog out, but that's it. I, myself, am more of a lurker. I'm not going to comment when I don't feel like I have anything real to say, and especially not just in order to get that blogger to return the comment here. I'm more likely to engage through comment-RTs on or replying to tweets about posts on Twitter. I support and engage in a way that works for me. That isn't stressful, that's low on pressure, that doesn't feel like a chore.

Still Experience Pressure?

A photo taken from above of a mobile open on the Instagram app Insights page. In the background is an out of focus plantI do still feel pressure sometimes though. I can't tell you how many times I've started and quit bookstagram. It's something I feel like I should be doing, but my god, the time and effort it takes to do photo shoots and create the perfect photo... props to those who do it and enjoy it, there are some incredible photos out there, but I, personally, find it so boring. I started up again a couple of months ago, simply because there were some low-key photo challenges that sounded fun that I wanted to take part in, and my photos are so simple and probably boring to most, but I don't care! Again, I do things that work for me. I get involved on my terms. I don't do it religiously, I don't have a schedule, I'm not doing it for the purpose of gaining more followers or blog readers. And as soon as I start losing interest, I'll drop it again.

And as vlogging and booktubing has become quite popular, I know that I could increase traffic and readers by creating my own videos, but that's just not going to happen. Because writing is what I love, and I am better able to express myself in writing than verbally. Because I'm not the biggest fan of my own voice. Because I have no idea how to edit a video. Because I have zero interest in it. I don't even watch booktubers, because it's not a medium that holds any interest for me. I prefer to read. And I can read quicker than booktubers can talk.

There's other forms of social media, too. Snapchat. I know publishers and authors use Snapchat now, and I think some bloggers do, too, but I just don't see the point in it, both in regards to blogging and in general (Seriously, is it not just like instagram, but the photos/videos are only available fo seconds rather than always?). I'm sure there are other things, too, and there's an aspect of pressure in regards to, "this is the new thing you should be doing now, to progress and move with the times", but I'm happy blogging the way I do, and feel no need to change it.

It Works for Me

I may not review new releases as soon as they come out. I may not read hyped up books at all if I don't like the sound of them. I may not have a huge blog following. I may not create content most people would prefer to read. I may not read and comment on all the blogs. I may not be doing all the things I'm expected to do as a book blogger. But I've found a way that works for me, that's stress, hassle and pressure low, if not free. And I'm still here, still loving it, ten years on.

Over to you graphic

Do you feel pressure when it comes to book blogging? Do any aspects of book blogging stress you out? How do you cope with it? Have you found a way of approaching book blogging that works for you? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. I needed to say thank you for this post! So much of it rings true for me too, only I'm much less established so even though I'm genuinely not that bothered about stats etc, I do worry that I'm sabotaging myself somewhat. It's good to know publishers still appreciate a review if it's "late"!

  2. I guess because WLABB was always a low-key kind of blog, I never felt too much pressure. Initially, I thought I needed to read across genres, and I was reading books that I liked, but didn't love. Now, I pretty much stay in my contemporary corner, and am really thrilled with my reading. Other than that, I accept that my blog is small, and I sort of do what I want.

  3. I used to worry a lot about stats and building up followers and reading all of the most popular ARCs. It didn't feel like a hardship at first---in fact, it was sort of fun. But once it wasn't fun anymore, I knew I needed to change things up. I don't really stress about that stuff anymore. I did build up a readership back then, but now I just go with the flow. :-)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction