How The Write Reads Has Helped Me OR How I joined a Book Blogging Cult and I Regret Nothing

Hello Bookworms!

Today, I want to talk about a Twitter phenomenon, a celebrity amongst the book blogging community, our most exalted leader… Dave. All hail Dave!

 

 

Dave is amazing for a number of reasons, not least because he set up The Write Reads – a super fun, super awesome group of book bloggers who are just the best, most supportive, loveliest people EVER!!! If you want to be part of the cult gang, all you have to do is follow @thewritereads on Twitter and agree to read and retweet (and if possible, like and comment on) the two featured blogs of the day – one is a book review and one is more of a discussion post. When it’s your turn, Dave will contact you and you get to choose your content to be Blog/Review of the Day. That’s right bookworms – this one weird trick will see you evolve into a better blogger!

However, I feel it is my responsibility to warn you that there is a downside to joining the cult gang. Possible side effects may include:

  1. Awkwardness – the gang members are very friendly and supportive. Positivity about your own work doesn’t come naturally to the common-or-garden introvert book blogger so may result in unexpectedly warm and fuzzy feelings.
  2. Increased workload – guys, you have to do TWO blog hops PER DAY. That’s right – TWO!!! That extra ten minutes that you spend reading relevant, interesting content is going to have to come from somewhere, Karen!
  3. Increased workload – The Write Reads gave me a huge stats boost which means even more people now know about my blog (and now I have to interact with them all, sigh 😉)
  4. INCREASED WORKLOAD – you’ll pick up so many blogging tips and so much advice and knowledge that it’s genuinely difficult not to try them all out IMMEDIATELY, thus leaving your house in a state, your career in tatters and your love life non-existent. Or maybe that’s just my inability to multi-task. Either way, Canva has stolen too many of my Sunday afternoons (the multiple windowed little minx).
  5. Shock – you might feel like you’re so cool and misunderstood with your alternative theories about the ending of Harry Potter but then you realise that YOU’VE FOUND YOUR TRIBE and suddenly, you’re not a special little snowflake anymore 😯.
  6. Injury – I’ve added sooo many new books to my TBR since joining up that my virtual one gives me anxiety and my physical pile is threatening to topple over and squish me.
  7. Stress – being part of the gang gives you access to competitions, giveaways etc. which may result in you needing to find somewhere to home yet another book or decide which novel from your massively increased TBR you’d like to purchase with your free voucher. Another book simply will not fit on my shelves I CAN’T BEND THE LAWS OF PHYSICS DAVE.
  8. Obesity – we all know that reading is a pretty sedentary hobby and being part of The Write Reads gang will only encourage your lazy ass to avoid the gym and pick up a book instead. The horror!
  9. Ostracisation – your friends are gonna hate you for all of the cool new opportunities that you get from being a member of the gang, like access to the biggest and best blog tour going, or your shiny new free virtual badge (this alone can induce murderous intent amongst your peers).
  10. Guilt – you’re meant to be a word-loving free spirit, not a corporate drone! Doing those two retweets every day may provide your life with a level of structure that you’re just not comfortable with. You’ve sold out, man!

Joking aside, I really do love being part of The Write Reads. I’d like to say a personal thank you to Dave for everything that he’s done for us gang members – he’s a top bloke and he’s put so much effort into making this thing a real community. I don’t know how he finds the time to keep The Write Reads running successfully (Dave, do you actually live on Twitter?) but he does and it’s thanks to him that the group is as brilliant as it is.

Cheers Dave!

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Viewpoint – Are We Having Fun Yet?

Hello Bookworms!

I realised that I haven’t bashed out a discussion piece in ages, due to the inevitable end of year wrap ups, challenge completion and resolution posts so I thought I’d write about something that’s been on my mind for a little while now. So, grab yourself what looks like a horrible instant coffee, slip on some unattractive slippers, find a fire hazard of a carpeted hearth (is that even legal?) and lets have a chat about blogging and pressure.

adult beverage breakfast celebration
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I really enjoy blogging (and obviously reading) but there seems to be a darker side to running a blog that I’m just becoming aware of (hilariously, after three years of doing it). I’ve only just joined Twitter (THAT’S where you’ve all been hanging out!) and, well, I’m addicted. It’s far more interactive and faster than blogging, you can find out the latest happenings within the bookish community, you can engage with authors and famous people. That’s all super-smashing-great but the thing is, all of this checking of social media takes time and effort and what with writing posts, blog hopping, responding to comments etc., it’s taking up a lot of my day.

facebook instagram network notebook
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve seen super organised bloggers who have content scheduled months in advance and I’ve seen bloggers who bash posts out and publish them immediately (guess which one I am) but we all seem to be saying the same thing – sometimes, we just don’t have the time and/or capacity to keep up with it all. And when that happens, most of us beat ourselves up for it.

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Why?

Because there’s a lot of pressure on bloggers to meet various deadlines (ARC’s, blog tours etc.), complete reading challenges, engage in the latest debates… but the thing is, this is meant to be FUN. What started as a nerdy little hobby for most of us can easily get out of hand and turn into a full time job. That’s a lot to take on, so no wonder we frequently hear the terms “burnout”, “blogging hiatus”, “reading slump”… if we didn’t run book blogs, would we even notice that we were in a slump? Would we tone down our use of social media without feeling the need to announce it to the world? Would we have “scheduled reading”? Would we be keeping detailed spreadsheets of any other aspects of our lives?

The best, most addictive thing about social media is the external validation that you get from seeing the number of people who have responded to your content. It’s the most instant, obvious way to see how unambiguously “popular” you are – and when those stats are going up, it feels great. However, what happens when you publish a post that only a few people interact with – or when you realise that someone started a blog three months ago and has ten times the number of followers that you do? It doesn’t feel great, does it – but what can you do?

Look at this awful, shameful display of self promotion…😉

Well, there’s two ways of looking at this. The first is to chase those stats – review popular books, write content that you think other people will find interesting, blog SEVERAL TIMES A DAY, tweet ALL OF THE TIME, read some novellas to hit that Goodreads target, even pay another blogger to promote you. But really, who has the time? And how long can you realistically keep it up for? The instant gratification wears off pretty quickly and you’re left chasing even greater numbers, with a mountain of self-generated work to do in the meantime. Over the years, I’ve seen bloggers explode onto the scene with tons of posts, an immediate number of followers and constant engagement but then the shine wears off and they disappear, never to be heard from again. You have to wonder, what was the point?

The second way is to actively try to manage your expectations. Review what you want, limit your time on social media, try to follow a few blogs consistently instead of checking out random posts based on what pops up on your Twitter feed. You won’t get the numbers in terms of your own stats (although, consistently following a handful of blogs is arguably more beneficial as people tend to reciprocate) but you’ll be setting up a realistic blogging habit that works for you long-term. It can be hard when you’re three years in and still aiming for 500 followers but I really treasure the few proper blogging friends that I have – and isn’t that what this whole blogging thing is all about really? Making human connections with like-minded people?

I know that for most of us, we keep ourselves in check and mostly manage to balance our actual lives with our blogging activities – and that for the majority of the time, blogging is fun – even with all of the additional admin. But it can easily get out of control and I think we (myself included) need to step away from the stats and celebrate what we’ve achieved – content that we love, blogs that reflect our individuality and creativity and a positive, supportive community – regardless of how many people have clicked that follow button.

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So, be honest – how often do you check your stats? Do you do anything to actively increase your number of followers/page views etc.? Do you agree that blogging is about far more than metrics? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Viewpoint: I Don’t Like YA, Please Don’t Hurt Me


I’m going to come right out and say it – I’m not a fan of Young Adult (YA) literature. That’s not to say that I don’t read it at all – I do; or that I hate every YA book ever written – I don’t. However, I find that overall, YA isn’t my bag. Am I just too old to relate? 
You see, I view all novels through my world weary, cynical adult eyes and I find that a lot of YA books are too perfect, too cute, too schmaltzy for my tastes (looking at you, John Green). From what I remember, teenagers do not talk like that. There’s far more swearing, boasting, lewd references and aggression than is ever portrayed. A lot of the YA books that I’ve read have teenagers talking like characters from Dawson’s Creek whereas I remember boys only being able to communicate in grunts, mumbles and the occasional “my mate wants to go out with you, yeah?”. 

Maybe it’s because I’m British and a lot of the YA I’ve read is written by Americans. My senior (high) school was all girls and was light years away from anything I’ve ever read about. We were all rolled up skirts, smoking on the school bus, mascara clad brats who obsessed over our weight, our favourite boy band member and who might be a lesbian (which was total social suicide). I’d like to think that the morals of teenagers (not to mention societal attitudes) have improved somewhat but that still leaves me with a feeling of disconnect. Where are the boys driving their girlfriends round too fast in shit cars with terrible music blasting out? Where’s the terrible snogging and awkward groping? Why isn’t anyone drunk? 

It seems like I’m in the minority. A five minute bit of “research” (googling) brought me to a survey which found that the largest age range of YA readers (28%) was between 30-44 years old. I’m 35. So what is it I’m not getting?

I tend to find that many YA stories lack the complexities of adult fiction. Sure, lots of the characters have issues -sometimes huge, life changing issues – but often they’re dealt with in a very black and white fashion. Many characters tend to be stereotypes (One of Us is Lying) and are either good, bad or misunderstood with little scope for moral ambiguity. And oh God, the morals. Just for once, I want to see a character do something ethically questionable and get away with it – without the author shoving their political/ideological viewpoint forwards to explain why THIS IS WRONG (Beartown anyone?) Isn’t it better to allow teenagers – not to mention all the other readers – the space to make their own minds up?

In defense of the genre, I will say that I enjoy the diversity that many YA authors include in their stories. The sheer scope of experiences covered – everything from disability to gender expression to racism – is often talked about in a way that you just don’t get in adult fiction books. Many of the novels are own voices, meaning that the author has personal experience of the topic that they’re writing about which again is great. However, as much as I’ve seen complex issues done well (Juno Dawson with Clean) there are some topics that get oversimplified to the point of being totally unrealistic or even end up becoming glamorized (Thirteen Reasons Why) which I think is frankly dangerous. 

I’m not claiming to be an expert on YA and I’m sure there’s lots of good examples within the genre of well written, interesting, thoughtful novels (The Hate U Give looks pretty good, as does Dumplin’) but so far I’ve really struggled to find them. I find it hard to relate to a high school experience that was so different to my own, I don’t like the trope-heavy writing (oh look, more insta-love) and I can make my own mind up about right and wrong without having it spelled out to me. If you like YA – whatever age you are – then that’s great for you but it’s just not for me. 

So, what do you think? Am I bring overly critical? Have I missed any nuanced, brilliantly written YA novels? Let me know in the comments!


Viewpoint: Overused Phrases in Book Blogging

Hello bookworms!

I saw a discussion recently about well used phrases in book blogging and it got me thinking. I’m well aware that a lot of the time, I use the same descriptors over and over in my reviews (I also use far too many dashes like a poor man’s Emily Dickinson, but that’s another story). I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing – after all, there’s only so many creative ways to say “I couldn’t put this book down” or “it was a hard read” but I know there’s certain phrases that I try to avoid because for some irrational reason, they really annoy me. Is that weird?

1. Gaiman-esque


As though Neil Gaiman is the only fantasy writer out there. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love most of Gaiman’s work but he seems to be the go-to descriptor for a huge number of books. The annoying thing about this phrase is that Gaiman’s work is so varied that this label gets slapped on pretty much anything that’s a tiny bit sinister but also involves fairies/angels/pantomime villains. Please stop getting my hopes up.

2. Absolutely unputdownable


I said page-turner, not Paige Turner adult actress – honestly, the things you see when you forget to put safe search on.

I am guilty of using this one A LOT (also it’s cousin “an absolute page-turner!) although every time I read it I think “urgh, I sound like a Grazia quote” . Aside from the fact that this is factually incorrect, it just seems like a lazy way of summarising a full on fangirl paragraph about why you loved the book. 

3. The next Harry Potter/Handmaid’s Tale/Hunger Games etc.



I mean, it’s not is it. If it’s so similar to one of the biggest books of a generation it’s just going to be a poor imitation. “The potential to be as big as Harry Potter” is a far more interesting sentence. Top marks if it’s also “Gaiman-esque”.

4. An instant classic



Really? I’m pretty certain that only time will tell what becomes a classic and what falls by the wayside. I see this one far too often for it to have any kind of clout. 

5. I totally shipped the relationship between (insert ridiculously named characters)



…or any other phrases that I’m simply too old to understand. I actually had to ask another blogger what the word “ship” meant in that context and I’m too scared to use it in case I look like someone’s Mum trying to be down with the kids. High five guys…no?

What phrases are you guilty of over-using? What phrase really annoys you? Do you feel like you repeat yourself a lot in your reviews? Let me know in the comments!

Viewpoint: Top Bookish Podcasts

Hello Bookworms! 

Despite the fact that I recently heard someone say “I know they’re old fashioned but I like listening to podcasts” (to which I replied “they’ve literally just been invented”) I thought I’d share the love of my favourite bookish/book based shows. Podcasts have been a complete revelation to me – I listen to them every day and unlike an audiobook they require far less concentration, so I often tune in when I’m pottering round the house, getting ready in the mornings or cooking. I’m always on the lookout for new recommendations so let me know what I’m missing out on in the comments!

In no particular order, my extra special bookish faves are…

1. The Mortified Podcast

This is a brilliant NSFW show where participants read out diary entries from their youth to a live audience – with predictably hilarious results. The diary entries are just SO teenage and feature all of the expected drama, angst and terrible emo poetry that you’d expect. If you ever want to have a good nostalgic laugh then this is the podcast for you.

2. Susan Calman’s Mrs Brightside

Susan Calan is a stand up comedian and wrote the book Cheer up Love about living with depression. In Mrs Brightside, she expands on her own experiences to talk to other comedians about their issues with mental health and discusses their thoughts with warmth and humour. Super interesting, honest and funny (despite the subject matter) I’d highly recommend it. 

3. The Baby-Sitters Club Club

If you were a child of the 80’s and 90’s then you would have been hard pushed to have missed the books of Stoneybrook’s own Ann M Martin. Her ridiculously long running series The Baby Sitters Club had over 200 volumes published between 1986 – 2000 and this podcast aims to discuss each book in turn. That sounds quite dull but the presenters apply a ludicrous amount of clinical dissection to every novel, finding everything from crazy conspiracy theories to religious overtones. My favourite segment is “b-b-b-burn of the weeeek” where the hosts choose the sickest burn they can find. Hilarious!

4. My Dad Wrote a Porno

You’d need to have been living under a rock if you haven’t heard about this podcast but the reputation it’s gained is well deserved. Honestly, I’ve never laughed so hard at something so bad. The basic premise is that James’ dad has written a series of books called Belinda Blinked which are the WORST pieces of erotic fiction ever – that he then reads out to his friends. Cringey, ridiculous and anatomically impossible, the show is definitely NSFW and will make you laugh, exclaim and recoil in horror in equal measure. 

5. Books and Authors

This is the bookish podcast from BBC Radio Four and incorporates the shows A Good Read and Open Book. Depending on which show is featured, it’s either a general chit-chat about all things bookish or a book club style discussion with two celebrity guests about their favourite novels. Highly informative and interesting (even if it can be a bit high brow) this is a great short show to listen to.

What are your favourite bookish podcasts? Do you have any recommendations?  Do you listen to any of the shows that I’ve chosen? Let me know in the comments!

Viewpoint: I’m a Book Blogger, not a Publicist

Some of you may have seen the recent furore on Twitter regarding some negative coments about the efficacy of book bloggers and their impact on book sales.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the debate (if you can call it that) and whilst I think it’s pretty obvious that book bloggers ARE a huge part of the PR and marketing plan for many new books – I don’t think that’s not really the point of book blogging. 

At the end of the day, my blog is my little corner of the internet where I witter on about whatever I want. I usually talk about books because I have a deep, undying love for reading and have done ever since I was little. I devote hours of my time to book blogging, for free, purely because I love it. 

But – and I’m going to say this in an outdoor voice *deep breath* I’M NOT HERE TO PROVIDE FREE PUBLICITY. That’s called MARKETING –  showing off whatever you’re trying to flog in it’s most favourable light, highlighting the positives and wilfully ignoring the negatives. If I were, I’d be writing biased reviews about all of the good points of a novel and expecting to get paid for it as some kind of freelance book promoter. And you’d all see through it in about five seconds flat and stop following me.

I hate the idea that giving out an ARC or creating a blog tour is going to generate loads of publicity. That suggests that publishers expect positive responses to the books they’ve given out, purely because the blogger has received them for free. Sorry but that’s not how it works. I’ve received many ARC’s that I’ve been highly critical of (hopefully in a constructive way) because that’s the chance you take. Again – I’ll say it louder for the people at the back – I’M NOT HERE TO PROVIDE FREE PUBLICITY. All of my reviews – every single one – are my own honest opinions. And if you’ve sent me a book that I haven’t enjoyed, I’m going to tell you that. In detail. I’ll be fair and I’ll make it clear if I think I’m just not the target demographic but I won’t be anything other than honest. 

That’s not to say that I won’t help out with promoting a book if my already written, honestly positive review can help the author/publisher. Sure, they can use it for quotes; I’ll happily post it on Goodreads, Amazon etc. I’ll send out a tweet and I’ll include any hashtags or links that they want. I think it’s important to remember though that I’ll do this for any book – whether it’s an ARC, as part of a blog tour, a library book, a borrowed book, a second-hand book, a book I’ve bought myself – regardless of when it was published or how much praise it’s already received. They all get treated in exactly the same way because I’m talking about something that I love. If that’s useful to a publisher then great – if not, it doesn’t matter to me because I DON’T WORK IN P.R. This is my hobby, not my job. 

So, do I want everyone who reads one of my positive reviews to rush out and buy the book? No, I don’t. At the end of the day, it’s just an opinion. My reviews are solely written from my own viwepoint, so of course they’re biased – otherwise I’d be trying to collate everyone’s thoughts and creating some kind of meta-data overview. At the end of the day, I want my readers to think about what I’ve said and make their own judgements. I’ve read loads of fabulous, entertaining, five star reviews where I’ve known that the book in question isn’t something I’d enjoy. Like all readers over the age of ten I know my own preferences and tolerances, so for example if a reviewer goes overboard about the cute romance between two characters that’s a personal red flag for me but if they slate a book for use of profanity – meh, I won’t count that as a negative. 

Now, I could go on for hours about the intangible benefits to publishers of brand recognition, the difficulty of measuring return on investment when your sales could be impacted by a myriad of variables or the fact that you can’t attribute any profit to one specific strand of your marketing strategy if you’re not collecting customer feedback but I’ll leave my business degree knowledge alone because a) it’s boring b) it’s not my job to think about this stuff and c) IT’S NOT MY JOB TO THINK ABOUT THIS STUFF. Does it matter that my blog is tiny and statistically won’t have much reach? No. Because, for the third and final time:

I’M NOT HERE TO PROVIDE FREE PUBLICITY. 

I blog for the friendship, the discussions and the entertainment.

I blog to “meet” likeminded individuals.

I blog because I enjoy talking about books.

If my blog can help to promote a book that I love then that’s great but that’s a by-product of my primary aims. We’re all here, diligently bashing away at our keyboards because we want to share our enthusiasm, our passion and our love for reading. For free. It would be lovely if everyone could be a bit more respectful towards us – after all, without us readers the publishing industry wouldn’t exist.

Lucinda x