Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why I Started Blogging

Wendy the Super Librarian had an interesting post a while back that got me thinking. The part of that post I am going to focus on is where Wendy talks about how blogging has changed over the last five years and not necessarily in a good way. With the explosion of the blogging community and blogs playing a more important role in book marketing, more and more blogs have taken a more businesslike approach to blogging. Things like "page visits", "ARC reviews" and "author interviews" are becoming more and more prevalent.

At the end of the rant post, Wendy asks the question: Just step back and think for a moment. Think back to why you started blogging. Think back to a time when blogging and the online romance community made you happy. Think back and remember. Hold on to it.

So Wendy, this one is for you. I liked the question you posed and I chose to ponder it. Why DID I start blogging?

My discovery of the romance community went a little something like this:

Romantic Times - reviews and message board
All About Romance - reviews and message board
From the message boards found bloggers - Sybil, KristiJ, Jace
Those bloggers led to other bloggers - Wendy, Lori, Nath, etc.

The online romance community fills a void in my life. No one I know spends a lot of time reading books, let alone romance books. So when I discovered message boards that had literally hundreds of people who read the same kind of books I did, I was in sheer heaven. Problem was, when someone recommended a book, if you weren't aware of their taste in reading, you might end up with a less than stellar book. That was where blogs were helpful. After reading an individual person's blog, you could get a feel for the type of books they liked and know if you would like the same books they liked based on their past reviews.

Many times if a blogger recommended a book, I would look back in their archives to see how they felt about a book that I really loved. If they gave it a good grade, then I knew we would have similar tastes. If they hated everything I loved, then I would know which recommendations to steer clear of. Sometimes, I would look up a book in the bloggers archives only to see that the book hadn't been reviewed.

Eventually, this led me to want to start my own blog. I wanted to be able to do for others what these bloggers were doing for me, giving me a place to recommend and talk about romance books. When I started my blog, my goal was to review every book I read. Yes, you read that right. I did say EVERY book I read. So far, for close to two years I have been able to achieve my goal. The main goal for my blog was to be a review database so romance readers would be able to decided for themselves which of my recommendations would work for them, based on my own preferences and dislikes. Hopefully, they would have enough background information to make an informed decision.

That in a nutshell was the reason why I started blogging and until I get tired of it or run out of things to say, I will continue to do it. I love statistics and numbers and seeing my database of reviews growing every week makes me giddy. I am a complete dork that way. Believe me, it is very easy to get side-tracked when other bloggers start talking about ARC's and site traffic. I start getting worried that maybe I am not as exciting as other blogs. Maybe people want to read author interviews or maybe I should be giving away books left and right. Then I slap myself around and tell myself, "Stop it, damn it! You don't have to do what everybody else is doing. Just stick to what you know, and what you wanted to do. Don't worry about everybody else!" I usually come to my senses after that.

Now you know.


SarahT said...

"Stop it, damn it! You don't have to do what everybody else is doing. Just stick to what you know, and what you wanted to do. Don't worry about everybody else!"

So true. It's easy to start obsessing about stats and stuff like that. I went through a brief phase of that but realized I'd kill my blogging mojo if I started worrying about pleasing an audience.

Sometimes there's no rhyme or reason to which posts prove the most popular. And if my stats are anything to go by, the number of comments a post generates means nothing in terms of its popularity or lack thereof. I've had posts with one or two comments which had massive (for me) hits and ones with many comments whereby the only people reading and returning were the people involved in the debate.

I use my blog as a personal reading journal and a venue to post the odd rant or rave about reading, publishing and blogging. I'm beyond thrilled that people stop by and take the time to read and comment. But if I started blogging with a view to attracting more visitors, I think it would turn into a chore.

I love your blog and your reviewing style. Please keep doing what you're doing and remain true to yourself. You're certainly pleasing this visitor!

Leontine said...

Sometimes a period of reflection is good and gets you focus again on what you feel is important with your blog.

I must admit that when all these blogposts about the "giveaway/author interview/promo" culture where posted I took a step back too because hey; I was giving away books, I was doing author interview, I like to talk covers and new releases which pique my interest. Was I becoming some promo hussy? Well, I enjoy doing interviews with authors who interest me, I like to do an occasional giveaway because I like to share and I like to show some cover love and series discoveries. I get a personal pleasure out of doing these things.

I strongly believe one should do with his/her blog what they love to do, because isn't blogging supposed to be fun? Sharing the passion for something? To rant and rave about issues you care about? Do the things that matter to you? I enjoy stopping by your blog and comment when I feel I have something to add to the post or conversation.

You are don't need to change anything and the peeps who like and enjoy your blogpost will keep coming!!

Jill D. said...

Sarah - Wow. Thank you for your kind words! I usually don't get a lot of comments on my posts. Two or three is typical. If I judged popularity by number of comments, I would be at the bottom of the list. Thankfully, I check my statcounter to keep me from feeling like I am just talking to air, LOL.

You are so right, it's definitely best to not try and please everybody. There is no way you can do that anyway. You would just be setting yourself up for failure. I will have to remember that advice if I ever find myself straying from my path :)

Jill D. said...

Leontine - Well, it's not that I find anything wrong with those blogs who are actively promoting authors. They fill a niche that is sure to please some people and at certain times, I am that person. It's just that is not my main purpose and I shouldn't feel the need to compete with those sites. Actually, the word "compete" or being in "competion" with other bloggers, should not be an issue. Sometimes it's easy to forget that. I did this post to remind me and to keep me honest.

I might just have to steal your phrase "promo hussy", LOL. Too funny :)

Maija P. said...

Your blog rocks! I like that you keep it nice and simple. It's easy to read and you write all the right details. I check it twice a day and sometimes even write a comment (I'd comment more but English isn't my native language so that holds me back a bit).
I think if I had to choose only one blog to follow for the rest of my life, it would be yours :)

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

If someone can make their blog into a go to site for review or whatever else they want, more power to them.

But there are no rules to blogging. Do what makes you happy and what you enjoy. When you start to worry about stats and all that business type stuff, that is when you can lose your love for it.

I have no clue what I am doing on my blog. I just post things I find interested and want to get the word out about great books and authors.

Tracy said...

Well, whatever the reason you started blogging, I'm glad you did. I love your reviews!

Wendy said...

I've often said that people tend to over thinking blogging. If you have a "plan" great. If you don't? Don't let it hold you back. Blogging can be, and often is, an evolution. Lord knows if you go tip-toeing through my archives, my blog back in 2003 looks very different from what my blog "is" in 2009. People grow and change, so it stands to reason that so will their blogs.

That being said, when you blog it is YOURS. Own it. Revel in it. And always keep in the back of your mind WHY. Why are you blogging? I know your answer is very similar to mine. I started blogging because I was reaching out. There were no romance readers in my "real life" I could talk to, so I went looking for them virtually. And boy howdy! Did I ever find them!

Thanks for the linkage. I've gotten more mileage out of that post. I must have hit a nerve...or something. If I could figure out how to duplicate the magic, I would. My wee little corner of cyberspace was all the rage for like, 3 days :-) Now, we're back to our regularly scheduled programming......

Jill D. said...

Maija - Wow, thank you so much you just totally made my day!! I am very flattered by your kind words. Really. I am speechless :)

Katie - I agree that blogging is very versatile and I like that it is. I like knowing that I can go to one site and find out about urban fantasy or head to another site for the latest on the book industry, or head over to so-in-so's site to see what is happening in their life. I think it is totally fine that you don't have a plan. It fits with your personality. A lot of times a blog is a reflection of the person maintaining it. When it loses that personality and becomes more like a corporation, that is when it goes wrong.

Tracy - Thank you, I am glad you enjoy my reviews. It helps that we have similar taste :)

Wendy - I loved that post. You totally rocked my socks with that post. I wish I had the cajones to say what you did, but mine are like little corn nuggets :)

Kristie (J) said...

And I'm so glad you started blogging too!! The main focus of why I started was to share books I love so much 'cause there isn't a whole lot of people in my day to day life who are interested. And that's one of the reasons I'm a frequest visitor here - 'cause of your love of romance books.

Jill D. said...

Kristi - You were one of my inspirations for starting a blog. I met you over at AAR and you had a really dominant presence on their message boards. I was wondering what that link you had on your signature was and low and behold it took me to a website devoted to just your recommendations. Ta da! My love for blog hopping was born :) I met so many other bloggers through the links on your sidebar. Thank you for many happy hours. Truly.

Lori said...

Awwww, we were one of the first blogs you went to? How cool! (I realize we've been around for 4 years!) Although I've become less of a commenter lately, it's only because I'm so darned busy. Yours is still a daily stop for me. I love your reviews. And am still stunned that you review EVERYTHING you read! Wowza.

And I still blog on IJFR for the same reasons we started it. Not for ARCs, or for site traffic (cause frankly, I don't think we get all that much), or to blab about how great we are compared to anyone else, but because we love books, and because we love sharing thoughts about books with other romance lovers. To see if anyone else agrees with us, and if not, why the heck not? LOL.

I also met many bloggers through the links on Kristie's sidebar. That sidebar linkage is definitely the best!

Leontine said...

Quote Jill: Actually, the word "compete" or being in "competion" with other bloggers, should not be an issue.

I second that whole heartedly! I didn't want to come across as someone with guns blazing ;) Like you I don't feel the need or the drive, and I certainly don't want to feel the pressure, to compete with other blogs. I just love going all around blogoshpere just to share the passion for the (in my case) romance genre and books. Almost a year ago I started blogging to give my reviews a home, to have an outlet for my creativity and to voice that passion for the genre. I like that your blog reflects you, that's why I come here regularly, to see how you are doing :D

SarahT said...

One more thing about the number of comments not necessarily reflecting the number of hits a post gets: I find my reviews usually generate fewer comments than my rants/raves. When I check my stats, though, they're getting around the same number of hits. Sometimes reviews get significantly more traffic, especially if they're of a bestselling author's new release. As you post a lot of reviews, I don’t find it surprising that you don’t get so many comments. I wouldn’t see that adversely affecting your overall blog traffic, though.

After commenting here yesterday, I went and checked my stats. Last week was uncharacteristically busy with 8 new posts. One was an opinion piece which got 53 comments. Impressive, right? Um...not really. If I was relying on that to boost my ego, it would have deflated like a whooppee cushion upon checking my stats. Of the 8 posts, it was ranked in place 5 in terms of popularity. Many of those 53 comments were me responding to others, and many who commented did so more than once. In other words, it was a discussion among a few people which attracted little traffic beyond us. The runaway hit of the week was a post with 3 mini reviews, one of which was of J.R. Ward's 'Covet'. That got a lot of traffic via Google, and probably not from people who are likely to return to the blog.

So if my experience is anything to go by, a high number of comments on a post can give a false impression of its popularity. I’d be curious to know how other bloggers find their comment:hit ratio. Do you also notice a significant difference in the number of responses to reviews in comparison to opinion pieces/other stuff?

Christine said...

I love your blog, Jill and actually experienced a very similar process to starting my own blog. I think it's really neat that we have all "found" each other in romance blogging the way we did. We're our own niche in this huge cyber world.

I love your reviewing style!! Sometimes other reviewers--myself included--tend to write almost too much in their reviews. When I read a review I want a brief summary or description and a paragraph or two about the quality of the writing, what was amazing and what fell short. No more, no less and that's exactly what you do. I always read your reviews and feel I got JUST the right amount of info I was looking for. So definitely keep doing your own thing. It works! :)

I also want to add that I, too, loved Wendy's post you refer to.

Wendy, that post was really, really wonderful. I wholeheartedly agree with what you said in that post AND what you said here in your comment, ". . . when you blog it is YOURS. Own it. Revel in it. And always keep in the back of your mind WHY." Very good advice.

nath said...

A bit late to the party, but I want to comment since this is a very good topic :D

Basically, I started blogging for the same reasons as you, Jill. I was looking for reviews of romance books, stumbled across Kristie's blog... Went through her whole sidebar... and decided I'd want to blog as well. I want to help other people decide whether this book would be a good choice for them... and that's what I've been doing ever since.

I do check my blogs traffic... simply to be sure that there's some people that are interested in what I'm saying (especially when the number of comments are low... yes, I'm a comment ho). I think it's rewarding. I mean, that's why I review right, to help people...

I have to admit, I was a bit jealous of people who got ARC at first... simply because they got the books so much earlier... but then, with ARC comes lots of responsibilities and yeah, me and pressure reading, we don't go hand in hand.

I like having giveaways and authors interviews from time to time, but yeah, I keep it to a minimum... because that's just not who I am. It's fun from time to time, but to always do it? Takes the fun away in my opinion.

I also keep the numbers of blogs I follow to a minimum. People whose blogs I read is because I find them interesting or share their reading tastes. When I follow a blog, I commit to blog hopping and commenting :)

Seriously, I'm in awe that you manage to review all the books you read, Jill. That is very awesome :D

Jill D. said...

Lori - It's funny because before I had a blog I rarely ever commented on blogs. Then I started blogging and it was like I wanted to talk to someone, LOL. I wanted to participate. Sometimes though I don't get a chance to comment as much as I would like too. It's hard with all the great blogs out there now.

Leontine - I think that is the most important aspect of a blog - that it reflect accurately the personality of the blogger. That is what keeps people engaged and keep coming back.

Sarah - LOL, it seems that you enjoy statistics about as much as me! I am always checking my stat pages. I don't really keep track of page views for certain posts though, but I do get more comments on non-review posts. Posts that engage people to have an opinion usually garner more comments.

Also certain reviews are more popular and people find me through searches. Dreamfever was especially popular and right up before the release of that book I had about twice the number of visits than I normally do.

Christine - Thank you for your kind words. I swear when I wrote this post I wasn't fishing for compliments, although they are appreciated, LOL. I just wanted to explain myself, I guess.

It's funny because sometimes I worry that my reviews are too short. I have difficulty expounding on a concept, so I am usually brief with my explanation. I am glad to hear that my style works for you :)

Nath - I imagine most people start out blogging for similar reasons - wanting to connect to people. LOL, I know your a comment ho because you comment on almost all my posts. When you don't stop by and comment I get worried, LOL.

I felt the same way that you did about ARCs. I was feeling left out when someone had one and I didn't, but then I realized that I don't like the added pressure of having to read a book. Takes all the fun out of it. So now I am picky about what books I'll take as an ARC.

You commit to commenting and I commit to reviewing. We make a good team, LOL!