Lately, I’ve been doing some thinking about the way I blog, choose books to read and interact with other readers. And over the past two years of blogging at Cuddlebuggery (OMG, CB will be two next month!), I’ve noticed a pattern: we’ve been mostly catering to other blogger readers. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy interacting with other bloggers, because I REALLY do. But there was a time when I was not a blogger and I reviewed exclusively on Goodreads. I only wrote reviews solely for my own amusement first and my Goodreads friends second. I purchased most of the books I read or visited my library almost every week. I actually read a LOT more books than I do now, because I didn’t feel pressured to have a review or post up everyday.
Since becoming a blogger, I engage far less on Goodreads with other readers (aside from the fact that Goodreads has personally burned me in more ways that one, but that’s besides the point >_>), I don’t read as many of the books I REALLY want to read because I’m always reading ARCs, I always feel behind in reading (which is weird because this isn’t my job and it shouldn’t feel like that), I don’t go to the library for me anymore, I don’t buy that many books and when I do, I almost never have time to read them, I don’t read as much because I spend so much time blogging. I’ve even stopped writing Muser posts because I have to read, review, do a blog tour post and still have time for Real Life. I take more blogging/reviewing breaks than I used to, but blogging is supposed to be my escapism. If I’m feeling the need to escape my escapism, something is not right.
When I look back at the “before” versus where I am today, I think I was a happier reader.
Okay, so let’s back up and get this out the way: This is not a goodbye post. I love blogging, I love the relationships I’ve developed because of it, I love this community filled with people who just get me and I love talking about books. But if I’m really being honest, sometimes blogging can be stressful. Of course, it’s fun at first getting ARCs in the mail, publishers asking you to be on blog tours, etc. But after a while, it starts to feel less like a hobby and more like a responsibility you have to do. Remember when you were in high school and your English teacher gave you the dreaded Required Reading List? That’s how it’s starting to feel. And it shouldn’t because I love doing this, right?
So what’s the solution here? How do I get back to that Happy Reading Place and still enjoy this blogging community? More importantly, what does my angst-filled post have to do with you? Well, I was on twitter today and I was talking with a blogger pal about 2014 and what we planned on doing differently ARC wise. I mentioned that I was barely going to request any this year because I’m finally at a place where I wouldn’t mind if I don’t get the latest and greatest (also, I’m a slow reader and backed up as it is). That’s hard to admit, because a lot of bloggers will tell you that it doesn’t matter, but it feels good to get ARCs or be one of the first people to read a new book. Here’s the thing though, the other day I order Winger by Andrew Smith and I felt just as happy, maybe even more so, than if an ARC came in the mail. So, hey, you know what? I know I would be just fine if publishers were to cut me off tomorrow.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is, I started thinking about why it is that I wanted ARCs in the first place? Obviously, because I’m impatient and I hate waiting, but why else? I know as a new blogger it was a status thing for me. I wanted to get a review up early so that people would notice my blog. It’s that urge to stay ahead or relevant because there are so many blogs out there. But that’s crap, because it won’t really get your blog noticed that much. That, instead, depends on the quality of your content. I also thought that’s just what bloggers did. We review ARCs, right? But that’s crap too. A blogger can be just as awesome or more without reviewing any ARCs. Plus, I’m kinda over that and I just want to read what I want. I realized don’t mind waiting for what I want.
But then I really started thinking, “Wait a hot darn minute! Have I been isolating my readership by mostly reviewing ARCs?”
I mean, it’s no secret that the blogging community caters mostly to its own. Just think about it: Memes, hauls, ARC reviews. Who mostly benefits from those posts? (Again, there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s one thing I love about the community and how welcoming it is. I love you all.) So I posed a question on twitter:
Question for non-bloggers: do you guys like reading reviews of arcs months before they come out?
— Steph, Kat & Meg (@Cuddlebuggery) January 6, 2014
And I was surprised to see how most of the responses indicated that early reviews aren’t really that helpful to non-bloggers. When I think about it, that actually makes sense considering not everyone has access to ARCs. Sure early reviews build buzz for titles and they encourage other reviewers to review their ARCs, which is awesome. I’m not here saying anyone is doing anything wrong. But then someone mentioned this and it gave me pause:
— Sarah (@EscapingSarah) January 6, 2014
I’ve literally never looked at early buzz as having any negative point until now. Do we as a community sometimes over-hype books? Absolutely, but that’s mostly with really popular titles like books from Cassandra Clare, John Green, Richelle Mead or Veronica Roth. Regardless, it’s an interesting perspective that I never really gave much thought to and I really would hate to potentially alienate readers because the blog seems to be mostly geared to other bloggers. As much as I love other bloggers, I don’t want them to be our sole audience. After all, non-bloggers out number us all anyway.
There are other bloggers who have come up with solutions for this. I love Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner‘s feature Save The Date and we’ve done pre-reviews in the past here on Cuddlebuggery, but that requires for me to write two different posts on the same book. The goal for me is to lessen my blogging load and to sit back and enjoy every aspect. I can’t do that if I’m adding more to my plate. I already review for Cuddlebuggery, YA Books Central and soon-to-be somewhere else. Not to mention, I’m such a mood reader and spontaneous poster that I can’t see myself keeping up with that. I’m likely to forget to actually write the review.
So here’s the deal:
I’m going to do a little experiment. For the first half of 2014, I’m not going to do any early reviews. I’m going to read and review books that are already out or that have just came out. I’m not even going to request ARCs for myself. Now, if an ARC shows up unsolicited, awesome. I’ll review it around release date, otherwise it’s the library for me, folks. I’m not signing up for any blog tours, interviews or extra posts unless it’s a book I really, really loved or an author I love and want to help promote. Disclaimer: interviews and blog tours I’ve already promised will still go up as planned.
Of course, this doesn’t mean there will never be early reviews on the blog. Cuddlebuggery has three other reviewers besides me and they are totally free to review however they want!
I really want to go back to my roots. I just want to sit around and talk about books I loved and books I hated without all the extra blogging politics and stress involved in the process. I want to be able to chat with everyone about a book that I read and not just bloggers. I don’t want to have to wait months later. I miss the feeling of holding a hardcover in my hand. I want to do more giveaways for our non-blogger readers. I want to do more discussion posts where non-bloggers can join in and relate to what I’m talking about. I want to have more time to visit other blogs. In six months, I’ll come back and re-evaluate everything, but for now? Guys, I just want to sit around and talk about books.