Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why Keep Blogging?

I've struggled with what to call this post because a) I'll be covering a lot of topics b) it is only partially in response to the larger bloggy world c) It is in part just a maintenance post about where I am and where I want to go.

Ever so often--almost like a wave--there will be a sprinkling of posts popping up about why people blog, why they want to blog, why they need to blog, if they have the right to blog, what respect they deserve as bloggers, what they want from blogging, some tend to be more about what other bloggers are doing wrong, (and sometimes justifiably so) etc.

Here are the posts I've read in the past few days: Presenting Lenore's Discussion Topic: Authors Requesting Reviews; Justine Larbalestier's Stop Asking me for ARCs; Story Siren's It's Past My Bedtime; Books are Life Reviews' How This Blog Works; The Fictionistas: Email to Authors and Author Myths; B&b Ex Libris' Cool and Not Cool!? Talk to Me. Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?'s This Blogging Thing Reminds Me of High School.

There may be more. But these are the ones I've read.

I've posted about this again and again. (To Blog or Not To Blog, Becky's 5 W's, Reflections on Blogging). And I think it is important to keep asking yourself hard questions. That's why I think every blogger needs to have this type of post at least once so they can learn about themselves and explore the issue. I don't know about you, but I know that I learn by typing, by writing. Sometimes the act of writing clarifies exactly how I think and feel about something. This is just one of the reasons I love to blog. I blog so I can learn more about myself. My blog makes me think, not just about books, not just about authors, not just about reading or libraries or literacy and education but about life itself.

One question I walk away with is this: Does reviewing justify requesting books? Can bloggers who review books on a consistent basis legitimately (but respectfully) request books without it being rude, unclassy, unethical?

I struggle with this. I do. You can look at it in one or two ways. You can say "Wow, look at all the books I was able to review this month!" Or you can say, "Oh crap, look at all the books I didn't get reviewed." If you're like me, the stack of books you didn't get read will always be larger than the stack you did get to. But I try to focus on the positive at the same time. I am doing the best I can. I can't give any more than what I'm giving. I am doing something. Just because I can't do everything doesn't mean I should feel awful and beat myself up about it. I review what I can, when I can. To get every book off my tbr pile, I'd need to clone myself three or four times. One person can't do everything, can't please everyone. My hope at least, is that authors and publishers realize this that I'm doing my best but I'm human. Should I feel guilty that there are a handful of 2006 books, heaping stacks from 2007 and 2008 and the ever-growing 2009 pile? Yes and no. Yes in that I'm aware that I agreed to consider each of those books for review. And yes, the authors especially are probably disappointed that it's been too long. But also no in a way. Because while they may have given up on me, I haven't given up on myself. I still *plan* on picking up each and every book in my stack. Of course, I may have to adopt a stricter policy on myself--maybe restrict the library books, or the books I read for challenges--but I haven't given up on my impossible quest. One thing that I might consider--just toying with the idea right now--is being easier on myself when it comes to books. That is if a book isn't grabbing me by page fifty to allow myself to abandon it. Part of me wants to give each and every book the benefit of the doubt. So what that I haven't liked the first two hundred pages? What's a hundred more? But the other part of me is saying it's time to get real and make priorities. I wonder what is the most fair in this situation?

In regards to author-blogger relations...

I can see how authors can be frustrated by requests for ARCs. Especially if they don't have ARCs to begin with. I can see how bloggers could be seen as abrasive to authors. Some probably are--not knowing what their requests looked like I can't say for sure, for sure--but others are probably very nicely written with good intentions. But good intentions or not, I can see how authors might get frustrated as one request after another comes in. An author who receives five requests in a two or three month period might feel differently about it than say one who gets a hundred requests a week.

Personally, I almost always only contact authors to see if they are interested in being interviewed. (This happens after I've read their book. And even then, I don't always get favored with a response. I don't always expect a yes, or assume a yes. But it sure is fun when authors do agree!) I say almost always because I have contacted authors--within the past year--to ask them to pass along my name/email to their publicist. I will express my interest in reviewing their work, tell them that I don't have contact information on their publicist, and let them know that I would appreciate any help they can give me in reaching/contacting the publicist. But I stress the I-don't-expect-you-to-buy-me-a-book-and-ship-it-to-me side of it. Now when I was a relatively new blogger, about nine or ten months in, then I don't think I realized how authors don't really have ARCs to send out. So in my first year, I probably contacted a dozen authors asking for an ARC. And a few said yes, to which I was grateful. A few didn't, and that was fine too.

But as I grew as a blogger, as I learned, I did change how I go about things. I'm sure I'll know more a year from now then I do today. I never claimed--in any way whatsoever--to know everything there is to know about blogging and the right way to interact with authors, publicists, publishers, and other bloggers. I learn new things all the time. And I think it's also important to understand that things DO change all the time. Things on the publishing side can and do change. And things on the blogging side change as well. I think people are constantly evaluating and reevaluating the purpose of blogging, the benefits of it. It sounds like some authors/publishers approach it more positively than others. I've read comments here and there--sometimes by anonymous folks--that state that blogs are useless and that publishers shouldn't waste their time with bloggers because a book being reviewed on blogs doesn't really have an impact on how it sells. Then you'll hear people say otherwise. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Everyone has the right to voice their answer to the question "Do book bloggers make a difference when it comes to selling books increasing author/book recognition?"

Topic Change--A Big Topic Change--

I don't know if there is a bloggers' creed out there or not. One of my rules I'd adopt is: To strive to be the kind of blog you would want to read. If that makes sense. It's a spin on the if you want to find a friend--make a friend--you've got to be a friend. People will want to be your friend if you know how to treat others. So essentially, if you want to grow your blog, you've got to put some thought into it. Think about what your readers would like to see, hope to see. Don't become a slave to them--your blog is yours after all. But always be open to feedback. Be welcoming. Be friendly. Be receptive. Be kind and treat others with dignity and kindness and respect.

Right now I'm struggling with comments. Do I leave enough comments on other blogs? Do I have to leave comments to show I've been off reading others blogs? How do I balance writing posts for my own blogs with leaving comments on others blogs? What should comments look like anyway? Do they have to be in-depth and thoughtful? Should they be personal? Should I expect a response? Are they invitations to start a conversation? Are comments an opportunity to dialogue back and forth with others?

There are two sides to the comment issue.

First, what is my "policy" on leaving comments on other sites? Do I need to set a goal to comment on each post I read? Should I only feel obligated to leave a comment if I *want* to leave a comment. If I have something to say. Or should I feel obligated to leave a comment just so the blogger will know I've been by. Because it's the polite thing to do. Because it can be encouraging to others to see people leaving comments. Is it okay to just lurk?

Second, what is my "policy" on comments left on my blog. Should I respond to each and every comment left on each and every post? Should I respond only if the comment is engaging in conversation or asking a question? If I'm not consistent in replying to comments, then isn't that a problem? People will assume that I never reply at all...to any of my comments. They won't know when/if to check back. It's a wasted opportunity in a way. Right now, I'm inconsistent. Some days I'm good. I reply to all the comments I receive. Other days, not so much. I might be good a day or two in a row. But it hasn't become a firm habit yet. Not really. So this is something I need to work on.

This comes back to expectations. Do you expect other bloggers to reply to your comments that you leave them? Do you check back at their blogs to follow the conversation to see if they do? Or is it out of sight out of mind? I think people are different. I think many bloggers don't reply consistently at least to comments. And I think many are used to doing the same. But I think there are always some bloggers--bloggers who I appreciate and respect--who go out of their way to have conversations in their comments with others. And I love seeing this. I admire the time they put into it. Now it's just time to see if I can do it, if I can commit to being a better blogger.

As always, please share your thoughts.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
If you're reading this post on another site, or another feed, the content has been stolen.

41 comments:

Nymeth 4:47 PM  

First of all, when it comes to reviewing, I don't think it's humanly possible to do more than you do, Becky. You read and review so much, you get the word out about so many books that I know I (and many others) would probably not hear of otherwise. You do a wonderful job. Plus, you have a clear review policy, so anyone who sends you review copies does it knowing that does not 100% guarantee a review.

As for comments: I love it when people respond to the ones I leave, but I don't expect them to, and don't resent them if they don't. I do tend to check back, though. But I know that not everyone has the time to reply, and that's totally fine. I think lurking is fine too. We all have days we don't feel talkative, or we reads posts but can't think of anything to say.

Even if you're inconsistent when it comes to responding, you DO treat your readers with kindness and respect. You come across as approachable and you make people feel welcomed. And that's one of the things I love about your blog.

The Story Siren 4:56 PM  

Great post Becky, I really enjoyed your insight!

I have to say I struggle with many of the same things as you, it's nice to know I'm not the only one. I try to stay on the "wow, lock at all the books i was able to review this month spectrum"

thanks again for the post.

sophisticateddorkiness.com 5:00 PM  

I don't have any comments re: reviews and authors because I don't do those on my blog (personal choice), but I do want to comment on the other stuff.

I love the idea of be the kind of blog you want to read -- I'd never thought of it that way before which seems silly, but it's true. A blogger should do with their blog what they like to read in other blogs... that makes so much sense to me!

I don't leave comments on all the posts I read, I just don't have time and I don't really like to just leave "hey awesome!" sorts of comments. But, I do try and make sure I'm commenting "evenly" if that's possible; I have my blogs divided into categories in my reader, and I try to comment equally across the categories. I'm not sure if that is enough, but I guess if people get frustrated I'm not commenting on their blog they won't read mine and we'll all just go about our business.

I try to reply to all comments, but sometimes I just let some of the "hey awesome" kind go because I don't have anything to add. I go back to comments I left on other blogs where I asked a question or thought the conversation was interesting. This is something I wish that I was better at, but I haven't found a convenient way to keep track of comments left to follow conversation. If there was a good online tool for that, I'd be all over it.

Wow, this got really long! Anyway, I thought this was a great post and I think it's cool you're thinking and I'm glad you're making me think (even though with school being so nuts I'm not sure how much thinking my brain can take!).

Kim

Bellezza 5:06 PM  

I know that I appreciate the comments you leave, Becky. It's hard to find the time to read books, and blogs, and leave comments. But, it's always nice to know that what one has written elicits a response from one's readers.

You've raised a plethora of questions here: I never even thought of asking for an ARC! I thought they were just sent to bloggers. I know that I would feel buried under a pile of obligatory reads; I prefer to read the few that are sent my way rather than have a towering pile staring me in the face.

Most importantly, to me, is the relationships that blogging brings with fellow bibliophiles, or those with a common faith, or those who are just fun to read period.

Stephanie 5:20 PM  

Hey Becky!! Great post!! I think you are absolutely right, and each of us should spend a little time figuring out WHY we blog. I posted about this myself a couple of weeks ago. The post I originally planned actually morphed into something completely different. I think that's what you meant by writing.

Anyway, I personally have never asked an author for an ARC. Maybe it's me, but it just seems kind of rude. I have requested a few from publishers and only those that I have built some sort of relationship with, but never from an author directly. I mean, they are in the business to SELL books. If they think I could help by reviewing a book they offer me, I try to help. But that's about it.

As far as comments...I would love to spend all day just reading and commenting on blogs. But I don't have the luxary of that kind of time. There are a few blogs I comment on daily (or as close as I can get) but these are one I consider friends. Others, I comment on when I think I can add to a conversation or just agree with what was written. I try to comment back on my own blog, but I'm not really good about that either. I need to make a conscious effort to try harder at that!!

Thanks for posting this!

Jennsbookshelf 5:25 PM  

Great post, Becky. You've covered a lot of topics! I think many of us are unable to read all of the ARCs we received, especially when/if those ARCs are unsolicited. Luckily, many of the publicists/authors I work with are very understanding and do realize that blogging isn't my full-time job :).

Re: Asking authors for books. I admit, I do some cold requests. But they are few and far between. I understand that authors get overwhelmed with the requests they get and don't feel put off if I don't receive a response.

Re: Commenting on other blogs. I do my best to comment on all the blogs in my Google Reader, but this is a feat that I will never be able to accomplish. I try to comment on at least 8-10 a day. And I'm trying to get better and commenting on comments left on my blog. Usually, though,if they have a question I just email them directly.

So thanks again for this great post. You do an amazing job! Kudos to you!

Anonymous,  5:43 PM  

This is a lovely post and touches on some of the reasons I keep blogging. Thank you.

There's not a reviewer in the world---old media or new media---who reads every book they're sent, let alone reads them. I sure don't. I think you do amazingly well.

Justine Larbalestier

Zibilee 5:45 PM  

I think you expressed yourself very well in this post, and I often ask myself many of the same questions. I agree that running a blog can be harder than it looks, and much of the reason for this is because we strive to maintain friendships with other bloggers by leaving the appropriate amount of comments on their reviews, and feel like we have to be timely and relevant in our reviews, and sometimes may appear rude when we ask an author for a book we are just dying to get our hands on. I think it takes a special kind of blogger to try to balance all of these elements, while still having the kind of blog that others want to read, and I think that you really do a great job with all of these things. I think you give a really fair assessment of your blogging goals. Thanks for including links to other articles relating to this topic as well

Melissa 5:54 PM  

I've been asking myself this question a lot lately (though I'm not sure it's in the same way)... especially in regards to comments. I love it when people leave comments on my blog, but I have terrible follow-through. I'm bad at keeping a comments thread going, and I'm really bad about putting comments up on blogs I'm not "comfortable" with. (I guess it's because I rarely have anything new to say besides "I liked this post", and I want to be able to have something to add.) I know I should be better, but I'm limited by time and energy and, yes, desire. I just can't (and don't want to) comment on every blog post I read.

That said, I think you do admirably. And thanks for voicing the questions.

Debi 5:55 PM  

Can I just say "ditto to what Nymeth said"? Seriously, she brought up so many things I planned to say. Like about how you should never feel bad about accepting review copies even if you can't get to each and ever one in a timely manner. Good heavens, girl, you review sooooo many books. And your reviews are meaningful. Again, like Nymeth said, I couldn't possibly count how many books I've first heard of here. You have a review policy that doesn't promise a review, but promises you'll consider a review. I don't see how anyone can argue with what you do.

Personally, I was thrilled the first time an author sent me an e-mail offering me a review copy. But then as I kept getting offers, even though I would be selective about what I accepted, I started feeling like reading and reviewing them was just one more obligation on top of so many other obligations in my life. So I quit accepting any. Even if I had loved the book, I didn't feel I was being fair to an author when I had this feeling in the back of my mind. Much better to leave those review copies to the people who will do them justice, right? Besides, as I can only manage to get 8 or 10 books read a month, I didn't want to have which ones they are dictated to me. I do that enough with all the challenges I join. :) Of course, if I don't finish a challenge, I'm not letting anyone else down. And then on top of that, I can't imagine why anyone wanted to give me review copies anyway...I can write a decent review to save my life! And that's okay. I just love books, and I like to talk about books.

So in all these regards, you and I are very different sorts of bloggers. But where I hope we're not different is in the way we treat people. I have never once seen you be anything but kind, welcoming, and respectful to your readers. You don't treat people like they're just "another stat" if you know what I mean. Blogs like that are the blogs I avoid!

And I understand what you mean about comments and responding to comments. Some people are so very good about both those things. And I try my best, I really do. But sometimes I just can't keep up no matter how hard I try! And that not only makes me sad, it stresses me out. And I don't want blogging to be stressful! But just so you know, I have never felt you were a bad blogger because you don't comment on my every post and respond to my every comment. Never. I've adored you from Day 1. Yes, you write truckloads of wonderful reviews, and I love reading them. But it's the woman behind the blog that really keeps me coming back. Because you're genuine, Becky. Because you're you.

(I sincerely apologize for the novella length of this comment.)

L. Diane Wolfe 5:56 PM  

Very reflective, and you echo some of my sentiment as well. I currently regard my blog as a monster that I must feed...

Can't believe authors would turn down the opportunity for an interview. Or a review - they can pass along a request to the publisher!

And with all those books awaiting your attention, let me just say - I have not given up on you, either!

L. Diane Wolfe
www.circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com
www.spunkonastick.net
www.thecircleoffriends.net

Wendy 6:25 PM  

Terrific post, Becky. You said a lot of things I agree with. My TBR review book pile is always larger than my already read and reviewed pile...but like you, I intend to read them all and I do the best I can given that I am not a full time reviewer, but also work full time as a Physical Therapist, volunteer for my community and try to sustain a marriage!

I have not once written to an author to request one of their books. Perhaps I am too shy to do so, or it felt awkward. I HAVE contacted publishers or publicists directly to ask for books...usually after I've established a working relationship with them (although I have blind emailed a couple) and only if a book looks really interesting to me and I know I will read and review it.

Re: comments - I try to leave comments on posts or reviews that really grab me...but I don't have time to comment on every blog I read. I just don't...and I think most people understand that. I DO try to respond to comments left on my own blog. I'm pretty religious about doing that because I like when people respond to MY comment on THEIR blog *laughs*

Thanks for making us all think about what we're doing out there, Becky!

Becky 9:08 PM  

Nymeth, thank you for your kind words. I do try my best. I just have to tell myself that I can't do everything that I want no matter how much I want to be wonder woman. I did go through my review policy one more time last night after reading some of these posts. I think it's a good idea to keep going over it through the years. And I think your right about comments. :)

The Story Siren, it is good to feel not alone. Sometimes I'm shy about admitting how overwhelmed I feel at times. But you've got to come clean now and then so people see you as human :)

Kim, I just thought of that over the weekend. I'm glad you like it. It was sort of a light bulb moment for me. So I'm going to try to take that into account in everything I do from now on! I too find it hard to respond to "hey awesome" comments. Though I'm guilty of leaving those kinds on other blogs when I can't think of anything deep to say. :)

Bellezza, I love your blog and I try to comment when I can :) I think news that you accept review copies spreads, and this is a good thing in some ways. Though it can be overwhelming. Once your name gets put on the various lists then watch out your inbox and mailbox get some action :) I agree with you completely, it's the relationships you build with others that make blogging worth it. If you were to just blog for the free books and remain disconnected from the community, I'd imagine burn out would happen much quicker. I can't speak for every single blogger out there, but I know that I get energy from other bloggers. I get inspired and encouraged and motivated and just plain old happy at times being part of something larger. Without the community aspect, I think I would just feel overwhelmed and isolated.

Stephanie, that is exactly what I meant ;) I think it can work both ways. I think in my newbie days I would approach debut authors to see if they wanted me to review their book. I figured that they would be open the most (as opposed to those established authors) to having their book buzzed about. I know that some reviewers are snobbish about new authors--they don't want to "waste" their time on authors they've never heard of. I've always tended to be the opposite. The newer the author, the more excited I am to give them a chance. That being said, I hope I never came across as rude. If I did, I didn't mean it that way.

Jennsbookshelf, it's good to know I'm not alone :) And I agree with what you've said about authors. When I contact an author, I don't feel slighted if they don't respond. I am a stranger after all. And they don't owe me their time. It's great if they want to do an interview, but if they don't want to, that's their choice. And I'll love their books all the same. And especially when it comes to the few occasions where I ask them to do me a favor by putting me in touch with their publicists. It's a favor, a request, not a demand :)

Justine, thanks for visiting my blog! That makes me feel better having that reaffirmed. :)

Zibilee, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. It is easy to feel unbalanced and out of sorts at times. I think blogging only looks easy. It's not always easy to tell how much work goes on behind the scenes to keep a blog going.

Melissa, I know what you mean! I am often reading on your blog and I think "OH, I liked that book too." Or "I want to read that now." But I don't always say it in a comment. I guess I feel that I should be saying something smarter and deeper than that.

Debi, thanks for your kind words too :) I always love reading your comments. Well, I love reading your blog posts too :) You can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned :) I can understand your policy, especially since you're doing so much with homeschooling and raising kids and all. I love how you make reading a priority :) And how you've raised your kids to love books too :) No blogging should NEVER be stressful. Never let catching up on blog posts and leaving comments burden you down. You've just got to take care of yourself. After all, you can always catch up in the archives later on :)

L. Diane Wolfe, blogs can turn monsterish. (Especially when they start influencing your dreams. If you're dreaming that you're writing blog posts...then it's time to take a step back. I really hate dreams where I'm working.) I know I owe you a review. I promise I know where your book is--which isn't something I can say about every book. *heads hang in shame* And knowing where a book is is key to getting it read. :)

Wendy, thanks for stopping by! I know you're busy :) I do appreciate the fact that folks are busy. I appreciate the comments I receive, but know that if I post something that doesn't get love, I shouldn't be crushed. My happiness is not based on the comment-love I receive. I'm grateful when people take time, but I don't expect people to take time.

I think part of it, and I forgot to touch on it in the post itself, is writing in such a way that invites comments from the readers. And that isn't something easy that you can do on every single post. Especially with reviews. But I'm going to try to be more inviting and we'll see how that goes :)

Florinda 9:58 PM  

Very thoughtful - and wide-ranging - post.

I love the idea of "be the kind of blog you would want to read." I hadn't framed it that way, but I think that's what I try to do. I guess it's just lucky that it's the kind of blog other people like to read too.

I'm pretty good about responding to just about all the comments on my blog, but I read FAR too many blogs to comment on all of them, all the time, and I don't like to leave comments that basically just say "I was here." (I don't mind NOT getting those comments on my blog either, to be honest.)

As far as asking for ARCs or books directly from authors - I've never done it, and it's hard to imagine that I would unless I had previous dealings with the author. I was blogging for almost a year before I was even offered my first book for review - it wouldn't have even occurred to me to ask. But I can tell you that book bloggers are definitely having an impact on MY book-buying habits!

So much here to respond to, but I've gone on long enough already. Great food for thought - and discussion - here, Becky!

Ti 10:12 PM  

Hi there... I was over at B&b ex libris and saw a link to this post and thought I'd stop by.

You brought up a lot of good points. I may not have the most popular blog but the folks that visit regularly, are near and dear to me. They post thoughtful comments and they seem to care about me and what I have to say.

I'd rather have 12 of those comments that 40 others that are not as sincere. With that said, I make sure to do my part by posting thoughtful comments as well.

I scratch my head sometimes at some of the more popular blogs. Sure, their blogs looks great and they've paid their dues so to speak but a return comment once in awhile would be nice. You know, just once in awhile.

I went off topic. Anyway, thanks for posting this topic. I am going to check out some of your other posts now.

Becky 10:30 PM  

Florinda, thanks for stopping by! And you do make a good point, yes, it's good to try to meet people's needs while meeting your own. :) And you bring up a good point about comments. I think sometimes I feel bad about leaving "I was here" type comments. I do it at times. I think there's a balance to everything. I don't mind getting these types of comments though. The only comments I *mind* getting are the spam ones :)

Welcome, Ti, good to have you drop by! I agree it's better to be embraced by a small number of loyal readers--folks you consider your friends--than to have a large number of followers that you don't know and don't care about.

I've tried to be--and I hope I am--always people-oriented. Numbers don't matter to me. I like getting to know my readers, interacting with them, getting to be friends.

Alan 10:55 PM  

Your post was timely for me. I seem to have lost my regular readers and am feeling like I put too much effort into my site when I no longer get many comments and most of my traffic seems to be heading to a handful of posts that proved popular in search engines. I am thinking of taking a month off to review, re-think and re-fresh. And I do agree that you can only do what you can do.

Becky 11:12 PM  

Welcome, Alan. I think time off can be healthy for bloggers. Time for yourself. Time to re-energize. Time to think through what you really want to get out of this whole blogging thing.

Amy 11:42 PM  

Interesting post. I have to say, I see you as a sort of super star blogger and I feel so blessed everytime you leave a comment! :)

I don't know if I've thought of be the blog you want to read, but I definitely try to apply "treat other bloggers as you want to be treated"

I really try to respond to comments, but I'm not very good at it. I haven't been able to do it from work, making everything so much worse!

sally apokedak 11:54 PM  

Thought provoking stuff.

When I was getting a lot of books for review--unsolicited books, I mean, that would show up in the mail every week. I would read what I could and review them, but I would save my reviews until the week of the book's release. Then I would post my reviews.

If I hadn't reviewed a book by the release date, I moved on to other books.

I don't think we are obligated to review unsolicited books.

If we ask for the books, which I now do for the blog tour, then I think we are obligated to review the books.

I love that you sometimes post reviews early because you are like the first blogger to give me the scoop on books.

Do blog reviews work? I buy probably thirty books a year off of blog reviews. I never buy a book without reading blog reviews. And I have decided against buying books I thought I wanted after reading blog reviews. I've changed and bought different books than what I was going to buy.

I have had friends tell me they've bought their Christmas present books off of my reviews on my site. Plus I have people go straight from my site to Amazon and buy books. When I reviewed The Year the Swallows Came Early, I had several people tell me they bought the book. And I wonder, then how many people bought it who didn't tell me.

Natasha @ Maw Books 11:57 PM  

Becky, can I just say that we could be mind twins. I just want to say YES to everything that you said especially the review pile guilt and leaving comments. I feel the exact same way.

Chris 12:45 AM  

Can I cop out and just say "what Nymeth and Debi said"? LOL..that really is exactly how I feel. You're one of my favorite book bloggers out there Becky. you really are..always have been. You're such a genuine person and that comes through in your blog posts. And I still get excited every time I have a comment from you :) I struggle with the comment thing too. Most of the time, I reply back to my comments...and I've gotten better at it. I really WANT to reply to every comment because I love the conversation with other bloggers. And I usually get really down on myself when I don't have the time to. With that being said, I think everyone understands not always being able to reply to every comment! Though Nymeth may prove differently ;) But when I come home from a long day of work and have 20 comments that need responding to, sometimes I just don't have it in me :/ Love ya Becky!

Lenore 2:06 AM  

I always think of you as the "super-human" reviewer. So if you can't get to all your books, there is NO hope for the rest of us ;)

DesLily 6:30 AM  

I do a lot of lurking. I think most people comment simply when the post being read strikes a cord with them... that and when they feel relaxed enough to have the time...

Kimberly @ lectitans 7:57 AM  

Thank you for this excellent post. I'm looking forward to exploring all the posts you linked from other blogs.

For a very brief time, I struggled with how to deal with deciding what books to read and which ones to review and how long to wait until I put a book down. You are much more prolific than I am, writing many more reviews and participating in what seem to be innumerable challenges. I have stopped requesting ARCs, which has eliminated a lot of my guilt, but also cut off my supply of thrilling new books. Because keeping up lectitans is not my day job, I decided that the point at which it stopped being fun was the point at which I needed to change how I did things. I do regret my slow trickle of posts but it is far preferable to guilt over not meeting obligations which, really, were probably only in my mind anyway.

As for ARCs from authors, I never have requested one directly. If I see an article (say in PW Children's Bookshelf) that says ARCs are available, I will contact the publicist to request them. If I get an email from a publisher offering ARCs (like Candlewick's Books Worth Blogging About) then I sometimes request those. The only times I've gotten copies from authors have been when they've sent them as a thank you for an interview or if they publicized on a list that they were giving some away. The notion of contacting the author directly to request a copy of a book does seem overly forward to me, but I can see how it might not to someone who didn't know how publishing works and thought authors just had rooms full of their books lying around waiting to be given away. (I used to believe this about my favorite author.)

Regarding comments: I feel like commenting on other blogs and commenting on your own are very different things. I think a comment on another's blog is only valuable if you have something to add to the conversation or if you want to say thank you (as I did at the beginning of this comment) for an especially good post. It also can be nice if someone has just commented on your blog to pop by theirs and leave a comment. I do think (though I'm not practicing this myself yet) that it is best to reply to as many comments on your own blog as possible, if only just to say "Thanks for your input!" This is only practical up to a point. Someone like Darren of problogger.net, whose every post generates upwards of 300 comments, can't reasonably be expected to reply to all of them. But when you can, I think it's good to do so. It fosters community and keeps blogging a conversation, which is, I think, its ideal state. (I'm bad about forgetting to go back to a comment conversation and check for new responses, which is why I love the services that allow you to receive follow-up comments to your inbox.)

Thanks again for such a thought-provoking post. It may inspire me to write one ore more of my own on similar topics.

Amanda 9:41 AM  

I know exactly what you mean about having those huge review piles, but still wanting to read library books or other titles we just haven't had a chance to get to yet. Last year and the year before, I almost only read review copies and this year I was determined to do more "me" reading. So, I try to read and review books that were sent by publishers/authors 5 days a week and "my" books 2 days. It's seemed to have worked for me.

And I definitely hold the 50 page rule. 50 pages to grab my attention or I'm done with that title.

I can also understand what you mean about wanting to be a blog that people like to read. I try to infuse bits of my life into my review posts, as I know that's what I personally like to read on other blogs. I love book reviews and read blogs mainly to get ideas or compare thoughts, but it's nice to get a little bit of someone's personality and life out of their blog too...thus that's what I try to do in mine.

If any of that makes sense I'll be surprised, I've only had one cup of coffee so far. :)

Aubrey 10:35 AM  

Great post and great comments!

I have been struggling with this issue coming up so much lately. It seems like all of a sudden we are putting a negative spin on each other and what we do.

We need to ask the hard questions sometimes to keep us in check but my theory is..
1) if you have a good relationship with a publicist then it's okay to ask for books that you REALLY want and that you will review within a few months.
2) don't request too many books so you can't review them all.
3) As you said be extremely careful and respectful of authors, but also of publicists. They don't have to send you anything, and they are sending you stuff in good faith.

Thanks so much for your thoughts! As always, your blog is a pleasure to read!

Becky 1:15 PM  

Amy, thank you! I must admit I feel the same way about you. I always am at your blog and thinking no one could be more popular and beloved than you!

Sally, that's an idea I hadn't thought of. It would take a lot of planning and organizing. But it's something to think about. Blog tours are completely different, in my opinion, if I agree to do a blog tour then I'm committed to it no matter what.

Natasha :) I thought we might be :)

Thanks, Chris! It means a lot coming from you :) And you do motivate me...not only to read books like The Bone Doll's Twin...but to be better about commenting. I like that you take the time to do it. And I'm going to try to do the same over here.

Lenore, nope, not super-human. Just really really obsessive.

Deslily: I agree. That's when I do most of my commenting as well.

Kimberly: It's a definite struggle we as bloggers all face at one point or another. There may come a day when I *can't* do challenges and all the "extra" stuff. But I'll keep going as long as I can :)

And I think you make a good point, if authors talk about receiving boxes of ARCs and has several giveaways on their blog and such, I don't feel it is *as forward* as if they didn't bring it up.

Amanda, I like it. "Me" Reading. :) Yes, I find that "me" reading nourishes my heart, mind, and soul. So I *can't* give up my me-reading. Not an option. :) But I can try to get to as much of the other stuff as I can. I think I'll try to be stricter about the fifty page rule. Try it out anyway.

Aubrey, welcome! I think the struggle--if you're as passionate as I am--is that you REALLY want lots of titles. Not because you're greedy. Not because you're selfish. Not because you're spoiled. But because your tastes are genuinely diverse. And you are equally as passionate about various genres. I don't have a favorite. I don't. I love it all. Well, that's not exactly true. I won't be requesting horse books. Or mysteries. My blog is more than just me loving one or two genres.
I do try to rein it in a bit.
And you do make a good point about publicists. I hope my initial post didn't offend anyone and make me sound flippant about publicists. I am so very grateful for anything that I receive. I don't assume that they can and will send me whatever I ask for. I just ask for consideration, if it is available, and if they want to send it my way. Obviously, they don't *have* to send me anything.

Deanna 4:29 PM  

Becky,

I admit that I lurk on your blog often, but don't comment very often. I generally try to comment on topics that I can be helpful with or that spark an interest in me.

I haven't been blogging long so many of your questions really made me stop and think about the future. As for receiving comments, I'd prefer to have comments that really keep the conversation going, but I know it's not always possible. I think I'd occasionally like to have comments that just say things like "just stopping in to say hi" or whatever. Just a way to know that people actually read what I write.

trish 4:42 PM  

Gosh, I've got so many thoughts floating around, let's see what I can make into coherent sentences.

As far as reviewing ARCs, I've made it so I get *maybe* 1 or 2 books a month, if that. I'm making sure I don't request any books until I've caught up on the books I've already committed to read. The unfortunate thing is that there's a neverending supply of books I'd like to read, especially books that are already published! I'm glad to know other bloggers don't read every single book they receive, because now I don't feel quite so guilty.

As far as commenting goes and responding to comments...I've found that I go through waves when I have time to read other blogs and comments and times when I just can't get to the blogs I love. I try, I really do! I certainly don't expect a blogger to respond to my comment when I leave a comment, but I think it's nice when they do.

Treating people the way I would want to be treated is my motto in blogging. I think it's fascinating when a blogger responds to me! So I do my best to respond to *some* comments. First time commenters, absolutely I respond probably 99% of the time. I prefer to respond via email because I think it lets them know that they can reach me at any time. But because of time constraints, I can't respond to all comments. But any comment left gives me a little thrill that hasn't gone away after well over a year of blogging and many many comments!

Becky 5:50 PM  

Deanna, always glad to have you come by! I think there is room for both kinds of comments :) I always welcome *real* comments short or long ;) (Real as opposed to spam!)

Trish, you can stop feeling guilty :) I have a long list of already-published books that I want to read, and the list keeps growing and growing and growing. :)

I hadn't thought of responding with emails to comments. I don't know that blogger is set up that way. But it's an idea. And for the record, I like getting comments on the blog, but I also like receiving emails from readers. So both are welcome!

MissDaisyAnne---Annette 6:09 PM  

Great post Becky!
I too constantly critique my blogs, also wondering if I spend enough time at my blogger friends sites reading their posts and making comments. I also wonder sometimes if anyone is reading my blogs, or if what I post goes off into blogosphere. I wonder if maybe I am worrying to much about my blogs, and if I am being manic about them.
I absolutely cannot read every blog and post everyday, I have other things in my life that must be done.
Book reviewing is a huge responsibility. I worry that I'm not reading the books fast enough, and that I am not getting the review out in a timely manner.
I don't want to get to the point that in reviewing books for authors, I loose the joy of reading. The review process can become mechanical and a pressure to get the job done.
In addition to your post I would add, that we should put our own creativity and work into our own blogs. We should not feel pressured by the popularity of other blogs. I feel we should focus on our own work and more importantly what we feel "led to create."

Becky 6:15 PM  

MissDaisyAnne, You make several great points. I think it is important that your blog serve you and your needs--specifically creative needs--first. It should never be about pleasing everyone else and putting their needs above your own! I don't champion that idea at all. A blog is personal. And it should reflect and express the individual. So trying to copy other people's blogs isn't going to be satisfying.

And I do think you can over-think things. I'm guilty of over-thinking at times :)

What I was going to say is this, blogging isn't a competition. It's okay to judge and compare blogs--in moderation. Say if you want to judge how you're doing now by looking at where you were six months ago or a year ago or whatever. To see what progress you've made. To see the positives. To think about changes you might want to make in the future. But judging your blog based on other people's blog...not really healthy in my opinion.

Paula Krapf 6:28 PM  

Becky,

A very thoughtful and thorough post. As a publicist, I couldn't resist responding. :)

I think the blogger-publicist relationship is a two-way street. You are providing us with a service when you agree to review a book, and hopefully, we've offered you something that truly interests you. I do feel publicists should not take a "spray and pray" approach to pitches and book mailings, but rather learn about the book blogosphere, the bloggers and their policies/preferences. Then pitches and mailings can be conducted in an informed fashion and be relevant.

There are no guarantees on either side. For instance, I can pitch you on a fabulous sounding book in one of your favorite genres but you turn down the request simply due to the load of books you already have. Or, perhaps given the books you already have, this book doesn't excite you as much. That's the way it goes, and we understand that.

In addition, even if you agree to accept a review copy, that does not guarantee a review. We hope it will lead to a review, but again, it may not happen. Maybe the book just doesn't work for you, and after reading 50 to 100 pages you can't go on. Or the book keeps moving to the bottom of your pile (although that leads to the hope that there's still a chance down the road for a review). We've had occasions when review copies were not reviewed.

I do like to know if a reviewer is not going to review one of our books so perhaps we can work something out, or ensure someone else can have a shot at the book. This happened recently, and before I could even think of ideas for the blogger, she had initiated a giveaway and the book found a great home with another blogger who loved the book. The reality is that once the book leaves us, we don't have control, and that's part of the job for us.

However, we've been very pleased with how things have worked out for our books and authors, and we try to be careful to pitch the appropriate bloggers at the approriate time. We realize that all of you are juggling a lot beyond your blogs and that this is primarily a labor of love, and we really appreciate what you're doing.

Becky 7:47 PM  

Paula, welcome. I appreciate your insight. You bring up some important points, and your comment really got me to thinking.

ANovelMenagerie 1:54 AM  

Becky,

What a wonderful post.

I just want to tell you that I love Operation Read Bible (just finished Acts) and I subscribe to your blog here as well.

I always think of you kindly and your monkeys! Remember?

I hope that no matter what "hot topic" is circling the blogsphere that you always continue to blog. You're a favorite of mine.

Sheri

A Hazra 8:27 AM  

Hey,really great post. You've brought up a lot of questions I've been thinking about as well. Like the comments issue. Being a new blogger, I usually surf people's blogrolls to find new blogs. Sometimes I find posts that I like and comment on them, but most of the time, I have nothing much to say, but I feel I should leave a comment (after all, I would like people to do the same when they visit my blog). So I'm a little confused.
And about ARCs, I've got a few questions. Though I'm new and probably publishers won't pay attention if I contact them, I'd love to have some info for later use. I can't really buy all the books I want to read, and also many books are not available in India, so ARCs seem an enticing reading prospect to discover new books. But most of the bloggers I frequent, who receive ARCs, are US or Canada-based, so I was wondering about the prospects of a blogger like me getting books which are mostly published in the US.
I'd be glad to know what you think.

samantha.1020 4:11 PM  

I honestly don't know how to answer all of the different points that you brought up. First of all, what a great post! The main thing that stuck with me were the comments...I like to leave comments and no I don't expect you to respond back to me. I do leave comments to show that I was at your blog and enjoyed reading the review that you wrote. But I don't comment on every post...just the ones that I really feel compelled to.

libritouches 2:58 AM  

First off, I think I should apologise for leaving the comment this late, but a post as thoughtful as this deserves a truly thoughtful response. (Not that you haven't had plenty of those already!)

I think it was Debi who described blogs as a 'home', though it might have been someone else (either way, I'm sorry! I fail at names.) and I think that's a very apt description of what a blog is to me. It combines with your comment on being the kind of blog that you'd personally want to read. I wouldn't know how else to do it! Sometimes you'll come across a blog that does something that seems a lot of fun, though, and you can try to fit that into your own comments. Or you can ask readers whether they think the addition if fun. That's something I do occasionally: ask readers if there's anything they'd particularly like to see. At the same time I try to make it clear that if it's something I'm uncomfortable doing I probably won't do it. All part and parcel of 'feeling at home' in one's blog such things. And I feel like I'm drifting a little (or a lot), but... I hope it helps in some way.

Personally, I enjoy seeing your blog, even if I don't comment often, and think you're a wonderful blogger just the way you are. There's only so much you can do as a person. Part of it might be simply knowing your limitations. Some days are better than others for comments. (See me leaving this three days late.) And that's absolutely fine. I think not being consistent in commenting is fine too, because of that. Sometimes one has nothing to say. Sometimes one has lots to say and no time to say it in at that moment. Sometimes one forgets to comment on something they wanted to comment. Lots of things can happen to keep a person from responding to or leaving comments. I'd like to think that most people can, and do, respect that. If only because they know the feeling from their own blogs.

I think, what I'm trying to say (in a very convoluted and confused manner) is that what's important is that you look at yourself too. If you notice something you're doing doesn't work for you, or make you unhappy, stop doing it. And I think you know that, or you wouldn't be writing such a post as this.

And that's my two cents. Althought it might be more of a quarter, by now.

Becky 3:02 PM  

Sheri, Thank you so much for your kind words about Operation Actually Read Bible. It's nice to hear that it has readers too. And yes, I remember the monkeys :)

A Hazra, thanks for visiting! And it's good to hear that you use blogrolls for discovering new blogs. I try to keep mine up to date because I think it is important to always be including new blogs. And I think it is a great way of welcoming new folks into the circle :)

I'm not sure quite honestly what the ARC situation is outside the US/Canada. Do know that not every blogger is swimming in ARCs and that 9 times out of 10 it is publishers who need to be the ones reaching out to bloggers and not the other way around. You can write up a review policy saying that you're open to authors and publishers contacting you. You can write about your policy on reviewing books--do you review every book? does accepting a book mean you guarantee a review? do you write negative reviews and positive reviews? Or do you just write positive reviews? Writing a review policy doesn't guarantee that ARCs will come your way. But it is one small thing you can do that might just pay off in the long run. Really the best advice is to do what you can with what you have. What I'd tell new bloggers or about-to-be-bloggers is to start with what you have--books you own, books you can borrow from friends, books you can borrow from the library, books you can buy. Don't see this negatively. Think of it as your growing time. You can really begin to experiment with blogging. Develop your style and technique. Gain readers. Put your heart and soul into your blog. See what works for you. Are you the type of blogger that wants to post once a week? once a month? twice a month? or are you wanting to post more frequently? There are all sorts of bloggers out there. Blogs that only update three to six times a month. Blogs that update each and every day. Quantity isn't always better. Quality counts. But you don't know if you don't try. Find what works best for you. There is no *one way* to get publishers attention. To make your blog one of the lucky ones that publishers are willing and able to send ARCs too. Yes, I'd imagine it would be more difficult to get US publishers to send their books outside the U.S. Focus on what you can do. Work up the blog as best you can and maybe after you put a lot of hard work into then maybe publishers will seek you out.

Samantha, thanks for visiting! I think we're similar on the comments. That's been my philosophy all along.

Libritouches, thanks for your comment. I appreciate the time you put into it! I always enjoy getting feedback from readers. And I do mention in these posts at times that while I consider feedback, I make no promises! There's a balance between making a blog be yours and having a blog be everything to everybody! You can't please everyone all the time. And you have to do what feels right and best to you. I do hope that through it all folks feel welcomed here.

I think you're definitely onto something. Seriously. I need to take lessons somehow on how to set limitations and boundaries. :) I want to do too much, give too much, that I lose focus at times on keeping myself sane. So keeping grace in mind, I do need to seek a healthy balance between being an involved blogger and being a healthy individual.

I think I do need to consider every now and then evaluating what is and isn't working for me. I hope to post more about this soon. Thanks again for your comment!

Beth Kephart 6:16 AM  

Adding an alto voice to the chorus of beautiful voices here.... You are incredible, respected, thorough, great at what you do. Begin with that. No guilt should be allowed where you live.

In terms of comments — I used to respond to every single comment I received. I began to think that put a burden on the original commenter—a sense that he or she had to check back in for the continuing dialogue. Now I simply try to acknowledge all comments at the end of the day. I appreciate them so much; I also don't expect these busy folks to return for more.

And balance—reading/writing—is the toughest thing of all.

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