Reflections On 9 Years Of Book Blogging

Sometimes it feels like only yesterday that I hit the “publish” for the very first post on this blog. In fact it’s been nine years since the day BookerTalk was launched upon the unsuspecting world.

Since day one there have been 1292 posts, adding up to just over a million words. It’s astonishing to think that there is still life in a project plucked out of nowhere all those years ago and based on very flimsy ideas.

BookerTalk celebrates reaching 9 years as a book blog

I broke all the “rules” that blogging experts tell us are fundamental to a successful book blog.

I never thought about who my ‘ideal’ reader and what value they might get from the blog. I gave no thought at all about how I would find these readers or how they would find me. And I never got further with a content plan beyond the basic concept that I’d write reviews about the books I was reading for the Booker Prize project.

As a strategy it was abysmal. And it didn’t take me very long to discover the gaping holes in my approach. For one thing I couldn’t read fast enough to write more than one post a week. Even with my basic knowledge I realised that wouldn’t be enough. Nor did readers materialise as if by magic. If I wanted to have more than a handful of readers, I soon saw that I’d have to work at it.

That’s the very first lesson I learned: book blogging takes far more effort and energy than most new bloggers anticipate. It’s not surprising that so many fall by the wayside after only a year. I reflected on this in my 8th anniversary post last year where I shared three lessons I‘d learned over the years. At the time I concluded that:.

You have to choose what works for you – only you know how much time you have available and how much you have to say. And – more crucially – how important blogging is to you. If it’s important, then you’ll put the effort into it, just like you would any other hobby or interest.

Reading that piece of advice afresh has given me pause for thought in recent days. My brain has been buzzing with questions.

I’ve thought about how important this blog is to me and how it stacks up against my other interests. Asked myself whether I want to post more frequently. Whether I have the time or inclination to write all the new content that would require. Do I even have enough ideas for a more active blog? Would it be better to spend the time on having good quality content rather than just upping the quantity? Can I/should I do more to connect with other bloggers, authors and publishers on social media?

Some of those questions are easier to answer than others.

Realistically it would be tough to carve out more time to write posts. At the moment I post a new topic every two days, sometimes it slips to three days. I’m in awe of book blogs where there is new content every day. I tried that when I took on the A-Z challenge which involved writing and posting 26 new pieces, almost one a day. It was exhausting; some days I was scrambling to get the post done before midnight. I’m not in a hurry to repeat that experience.

I’m also reluctant to give myself the stress of having to think up so many more topics. There’s a danger that I’d be posting just for the sake of posting rather than because I have something to say of interest to people who follow me. It would be all too easy to fall into the trap of writing multiple list posts and memes. Now and again they’re fun but the enjoyment does wear off quickly. Not just for me but also I suspect for readers.

Quality Trumps Quantity

I think I’ll keep my current mix of book reviews with the occasional meme like Six Degrees of Separation; virtual visits to author’s homes, literary news from Wales and quirky topics like the one about the bizarre ways in which some writers died. Readers seem to like the articles on the craft of book blogging and the technical side of using WordPress that I introduced last year, so I’ll keep doing those periodically too.

The one area I know needs more attention is interaction with other bloggers whether that’s on their book blog site or via Twitter. It’s something I’ve let slip this past few months and I miss it. Ultimately it’s the connection to other people who share my love of reading that makes all the hours of writing worthwhile. Without those connections, blogging can be a lonely activity.

Which is why I am immensely grateful to everyone who takes the time to read my posts and leave a comment. Whether you were with me on day 1 or have only recently found your way to BookerTalk, thanks for being part of my journey.

I hope you’ll still be around this time next year so we can celebrate together when I mature into double figures.

 

BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

74 thoughts on “Reflections On 9 Years Of Book Blogging

  • February 21, 2021 at 11:48 pm
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    Congratulations on your blogging anniversary, Karen. I admit that I don’t often stop and think about what I’m doing on my blog and why I’m doing it, but your post has prompted me to make some time to sit down and have a good long think. And let me add my “me, too” to the appreciation list for all your technical articles. I’ve learned a lot from you.

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    • February 22, 2021 at 9:21 pm
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      I’m so pleased to know the technical tips are helpful Mary – it’s encouraged me to keep them going now.

      Reply
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  • February 19, 2021 at 1:16 am
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    Congratulations!! I can relate to your post very well. I always say to myself – I dont go by the definitions of blogging 🙂 👏👏

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    • February 19, 2021 at 6:59 pm
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      I think when youve been blogging for a while you know what advice you can ignore

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  • February 18, 2021 at 9:00 pm
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    Happy blogoversary Karen!
    I think we all go various phases of wondering what we’re doing with our blogs. I for one, was VERY grateful for the effort you put into your 26 A-Z posts – they were very helpful with my recent move to WP.

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    • February 19, 2021 at 7:02 pm
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      I’m thrilled to hear that Brona. Moving to WP must seem like a daunting task when you are so comfortable with another platform

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  • February 18, 2021 at 8:13 pm
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    Let me add my congratulations to the throng!

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    • February 19, 2021 at 7:02 pm
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      Lovely to hear from you Flora, and thanks for your continuing support

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      • February 24, 2021 at 7:35 pm
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        Aww, you’re welcome, Karen. Here’s to the next 9!

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  • February 18, 2021 at 8:52 am
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    Congratulations on nine years!

    Like you, I started with no clear strategies or plans…. not sure I’ve progressed beyond that but I have appreciated your technical posts. And yes, still holding out on Block Editor 😀

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    • February 18, 2021 at 5:07 pm
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      Good to hear the technical stuff is of interest even if you are proving resistant to all the wonderful things I’m telling you about block editor

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  • February 18, 2021 at 5:07 am
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    Congratulations, nine years is a lot of work, especially with the effort that you put into it. I think the best aspects of your blog are the variety of content and that it is clear that you really do care about the quality of the output.

    I did not realize unitl I wrote my comment that I am coming up on 9 years of blogging at the end of this month. I never thought about what I wanted out of the blog, except an outlet for reading and reviewing after retirement… and then it was 8 long years before I retired. Before and after retiring a year ago, blogging has been my main focus and contact with other bloggers and learning from them is still very rewarding.

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  • February 18, 2021 at 1:03 am
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    Congratulations on 9 fabulous years!

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  • February 17, 2021 at 10:10 pm
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    You and I must have started at close to the same time, Karen — I first started blogging in April 2012 — and with similar goals, to blog about books and connect with like-minded readers. Like you I too found one had to work hard but with genuine enthusiasm to make connections and establish conversations; and, as others have also confirmed, where posts are concerned it really is about quality and not quantity, consistency over merely posting for the sake of it. And finding bloggers of your calibre is always the icing on the cake, or even the cherry on the top! Long may our conversations continue. 😊

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  • February 17, 2021 at 9:36 pm
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    Congratulations on your 9 years! I enjoy your posts and I personally find blogs that have two or three posts a week fine, every day and I can never keep up reading them. I just do mine for myself really but love the community that has built up and enjoy running my challenges and having people join in. I’ve made some friends via my blog and the ones I read, and I have friends who were friends already who blog. All fun!

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    • February 17, 2021 at 10:17 pm
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      I too struggle to keep up with some of the more prolific bloggers – there are a few who almost exclusively post reviews which is even more remarkable.

      The book blogosphere is certainly a friendly place, there are lots of people I’ve come to know (including yourself) just through the interactions we have in this space. I’ve managed to meet three of them in person too which was just wonderful

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    • February 17, 2021 at 10:14 pm
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      Thanks Stu. I don’t know how you manage to blog as frequently as you do considering you are also in work. I can only just do 4 posts a week even though I am now retired

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      • February 17, 2021 at 10:16 pm
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        lockdown has pushed me into a routine as i do long shifts so work three days and off four a week but have blogged more this year than normal

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        • February 18, 2021 at 5:05 pm
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          It’s been interesting to see how people have reacted and found ways to deal with this awful situation.

  • February 17, 2021 at 8:49 pm
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    Congratulations! 9 years and 1292 posts – that is so impressive! I am all for quality over quantity (except I am not you’ll find either on my blog 😉). Also, I try to avoid any goals or strategies for my blog. Many of us have more than enough of that stuff in our professional lives. Looking forward to more great posts from you in the future and I hope I will still be around to congratulate you on your 10th anniversary.

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    • February 17, 2021 at 10:13 pm
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      Hey don’t do yourself down when you have achieved so much. You are blogging regularly – looks like its every five days – and the site looks clean and attractive and is easy to navigate. Clearly people like the content because you’re getting good level of interaction. I’ve just been reading your latest review (will comment on it shortly) and I don’t think you need to have any worries about quality

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      • February 19, 2021 at 8:19 pm
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        Aww thanks, that is nice of you to say. Ever since starting out, I’ve found the book blogging community very supportive. Also, I do love the interaction. Probably, that is what will keep me going in the long run, rather than my urge to write. I didn’t mean it too seriously about not having quality or quantity, but I do sometimes write some very light posts. Of course, they are the ones which seem to get the most likes and comments! 😆

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  • February 17, 2021 at 7:56 pm
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    When did you find your followers number really took off – or was it incremental? Asking for a friend….

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    • February 17, 2021 at 10:08 pm
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      It was slow for the first five years – it really only began to slowly increase when I began interacting a lot more with other bloggers on their sites.

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  • February 17, 2021 at 7:12 pm
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    Your blog is one of my favorites and I’m in awe at how much you manage to do! Hope you can have fun with it and not stress. We get enough of that from other sources.

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    • February 17, 2021 at 10:07 pm
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      Wow, thank you for those lovely words Lory. I don’t know how I managed to keep it going when I was working – it’s hard enough now that I’m retired 🙂

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  • February 17, 2021 at 6:54 pm
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    Congratulations! I think we all made the rules then broke them. I would go for quality over quantity any day though. Daily blogging would soon become a slog, and thoughtful book reviews and articles just don’t really work on instagram whatever they say! Here’s to your 10th next year. x

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    • February 17, 2021 at 9:45 pm
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      I can’t see Instagram as a valid replacement for blogging at all. I don’t really ‘get’ IG to be honest.

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  • February 17, 2021 at 6:35 pm
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    Whoop! Whoop! 9 years is a big accomplishment! Congratulations! Happy Happy Blogiversary!

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    • February 17, 2021 at 9:44 pm
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      I’ve astonished myself Stefanie. I keep thinking about whether I should jump to a self hosted platform as you’ve done recently and then I get cold feet

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    • February 17, 2021 at 9:42 pm
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      Thank you Jill. I do read your blog regularly even though I haven’t been commenting – just don’t want you to think I’ve fallen out of love with you 🙂

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  • February 17, 2021 at 5:02 pm
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    My stance hasn’t really changed from last year’s post/comments apart from the years quoted! I read and reviewed even less last year (2020) than I did the year before, but oddly, my blog numbers increased overall. By, like, 1000+ views. I dont care how or why, my numbers look better, man :)).

    Just keeping your stuff relevant seems to work somehow, I’m not sure…..Someone will tell me, surely!

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    • February 17, 2021 at 5:06 pm
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      Being relevant is absolutely critical. I mean if you start off with a blog that is predominantly focused on crime fiction then you build a following of people who love that kind of book. If you suddenly started writing a lot of about science fiction, a number of those people will get confused and lose interest and just go elsewhere.

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  • February 17, 2021 at 4:12 pm
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    Congratulations to one of my favourite bloggers! Long may you continue x

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    • February 17, 2021 at 5:00 pm
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      Ah that’s so sweet of you Cathy. On a grey, wet day that comment has brought me a reason to smile

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  • February 17, 2021 at 3:59 pm
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    Congratulations on another Blogoversary. Quality over quantity works for me, and that’s why I’m a faithful follower/reader.

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    • February 17, 2021 at 5:01 pm
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      So good to hear this Alison. You have indeed been a very loyal supporter. If at any time you think I’m not offering what you’re interested in, feel free to let me know

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    • February 17, 2021 at 5:01 pm
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      Thank you so much. It’s been quite a journey !

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  • February 17, 2021 at 3:04 pm
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    Congratulations and here’s to another nine successful years! (I’m coming up on 8 myself.)

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    • February 17, 2021 at 5:03 pm
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      There are people who keep forecasting that blogs are on their way out and I do indeed see many that were once very active but are now dormant. But there are still hundreds being launched every year.

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      • February 18, 2021 at 7:19 am
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        I don’t see blogs disappearing anytime soon… or later. They’re here to stay!

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        • February 18, 2021 at 5:03 pm
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          I certainly hope so Davida

  • February 17, 2021 at 1:13 pm
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    Congratulations! I will be catching you up in June! And very definitely agree about rules – if there are blogging rules I don’t know what they are so I guess I’ll just keep on doing what I do!

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    • February 17, 2021 at 5:03 pm
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      I broke the rules because I never knew they existed either.

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  • February 17, 2021 at 9:52 am
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    Happy blogiversary! It is indeed time consuming and if we try to do more than we have spare time for, it can very quickly begin to feel like work, and where’s the fun in that? Plus it eats into the time available for visiting other people’s blogs which, as you point out, is an important part of blogging. Keep up the good work! 😀

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    • February 17, 2021 at 5:09 pm
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      There is certainly no fun in doing something that feels like a burden. The minute the blog begins to feel like that, I know will be the time to quit. Until then I shall aim for a relaxed approach and if that means I miss a post here and there, well there is no great harm done

      Reply
  • February 17, 2021 at 9:05 am
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    Firstly, many congratulations, Karen! Just picking up on one thing in your post. As a regular reader, I prefer quality over quantity and I think you’ve hit that right. Engaging with other bloggers is one of the most enjoyable aspects of blogging but it takes time and thought which would be spread too thinly over a daily post for me.

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    • February 17, 2021 at 11:55 am
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      Thank you Susan for endorsing my thought on the quality and quantity issue. You make a good point about leaving meaningful comments. It would be so easy just to visit a blog and leave a few words along the lines of “loved this book” on almost every one. But there’s not a lot of value in that.

      Reply
  • February 17, 2021 at 7:05 am
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    Of the thirty blogs on my sidebar about 15 post regularly, and unless I’m home all day – which I am about half the time – that’s already more than I can keep up with, which is to say, read each post properly and make an informed comment. I wouldn’t drop anyone off but I sure am glad the other 15 are taking it easy. I wondered at one stage whether I’d have more followers at 4 posts per week, but to be honest I don’t think it makes any difference.

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    • February 17, 2021 at 5:12 pm
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      That’s a great point Bill about the capacity of your readers to absorb content. I don’t have enough hours in the day to keep up with every blog I follow so I have learned to prioritise. Some posts don’t interest me greatly – like extracts from a book – so I give myself the freedom to skip them and pay more attention to what I AM interested in

      Reply
  • February 17, 2021 at 7:04 am
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    Congratulations, I love the bit about breaking all the rules.

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    • February 17, 2021 at 5:13 pm
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      That makes me sound such a rebel Rosie but honestly I didn’t break the rules deliberately – I just didn’t know there were any rules. But now I do know, I feel more confident in breaking those that make no sense for me in terms of what I want my blog to be about

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  • February 17, 2021 at 5:12 am
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    I hope I’ll still be around in one year as well. I only started taking blogging seriously at the beginning of the COVID crisis. Thanks for sharing your perspectives. I enjoy visiting.

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    • February 17, 2021 at 5:15 pm
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      For a relatively new blogger you are doing a fabulous job with high quality content Carol

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  • February 17, 2021 at 1:34 am
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    Congrats! I enjoy the quality of your blog and your thoughtful discussions! I’m happy to have found you in the big blogging world! Maybe I found you when another blogger ((maybe Nicki?) linked to you? I remember I had a difficult time leaving comments for a while until I discovered I needed to access your blog through the WP reader (and not my email) for my comment to register. I certainly commiserate with your blog beginnings. It took me a couple of years to develop some strategies, identify my purpose, and hit my stride. I love your A-Z series and recognize how much work that entailed! I posted for 8 days in a row once and thought I’d die! I think We share our biggest surprise…..the amount of social media presence involved for promotion and the time that takes. Yes, we create content for our enjoyment but it’s so nice when others read it! I have gradually added more content over the last couple of years in the form of lists and memes. Those posts generate the most engagement and discussion. I love engaging in the comment section! Great post Karen! I’ll be here to celebrate the big 10 with you! 🎉🎉🎉

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    • February 17, 2021 at 5:22 pm
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      If we could be together I’d give you a big hug for being such a wonderful supporter Carol.

      I bet most of us struggle at the beginning. Sure there will be some people who have everything clear from day one but I suspect most of us fumble our way through. Some of course just give up because it takes too much time and effort or they decide that blogging is not a priority. I reckon those of us who last 5 years or more should get be given a badge for long service!

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      • February 17, 2021 at 6:21 pm
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        Returning your socially distanced {{{{{hug}}}}} Karen! You definitely have earned that badge by year 10! I’m barely approaching year 4.

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        • February 17, 2021 at 9:43 pm
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          you’ve come a long way in that short a time. I was still paddling around in circles at that point 🙂

        • February 17, 2021 at 9:46 pm
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          😂😂😂 thanks! It helped that I retired so blogging filled that void and I could devote lots of time!

  • February 16, 2021 at 11:42 pm
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    Congrats! I’m coming up for my 17th blogoversary. If there’s anything I’ve learnt it’s this: just do your own thing, carve your own path and do what makes you happy. I post once a week, sometimes once a fortnight, and my stats have never dropped. Quality always trumps quantity. If people like what you do, they will keep coming back.

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    • February 17, 2021 at 5:27 pm
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      You must have been one of the pioneers Kim because 17 years ago blogging was very new. I remember one of the web team members in work trying to get the communications team interested but it was so early on that the way content was created and published looked very cumbersome. You must have seen huge changes since your first post.

      Absolutely agree with you that doing what makes you happy is more important than slavishly following the rules It’s taken me a while but I’m more comfortable now in my blogging skin than I was about two years ago.

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      • February 18, 2021 at 2:55 am
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        Yes, I was one of the world’s first book bloggers. There was only a handful of us. There were no rules and we were all making it up as we went along. I was the first to push for transparency in reviewing and it still delights me when I see new bloggers putting review policies in place: you have no idea about the grief and trolling I received from suggesting this circa 2005/6! You are right; I’ve seen it all. I’m amazed at how professional a lot of it has become, but I also detest how bloggers are used to do free marketing for publishers, which is why I stepped back from everything in 2016. For me, it was always supposed to be a relaxing hobby / creative outlet / way to learn digital skills NOT a job with additional stress and pressure.

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        • February 18, 2021 at 4:48 pm
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          You’re even more of a pioneer than I thought! Good for you in pushing for those standards. There’s are some things I’m seeing via Twitter which are disturbing – bloggers complaining about much blogging is costing them because of all the books they need to buy and even more worrying people arguing that they should be getting money from publishers for promoting their books. I think they’ve lost the plot

  • February 16, 2021 at 10:46 pm
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    Congratulations, and to many more! I visit every post, sometimes I don’t comment, if I don’t think my comment would add anything important. But I always read your posts with great interest

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    • February 17, 2021 at 5:29 pm
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      Such a good point Emma about making worthwhile comments. I was reading another blog post about this last week which asked whether there is any point in commenting if all you are going to say is “enjoyed the article”. I try to say something relevant when I comment (don’t always succeed) but it does take a lot more time.

      Dont worry at all about reading but not commenting – I do the same with your blog too!

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  • February 16, 2021 at 10:42 pm
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    Congratulations on your blogoversary.
    But… I want to take you up on what those ‘blogging experts’ say. When I started my blog in 2007, I was exactly the same as you, and I bet most of us in the LitBlog world were. How could we have set goals or identified an audience when it was all so new and nobody knew where it would take us? How could we even have found each other? How could we then or even now have identified an audience when there are literally thousands of readers who faithfully read everything we write but never comment?
    It’s been a serendipitous journey, and we are still evolving. Lately, experts are telling us that blogging is on the route to extinction because people have moved on to Instagram or whatever. That’s turning out not to be true, not for our niche in the online world.
    My simple goal, if it even counts as one, is this: to enjoy myself doing what I do.

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    • February 17, 2021 at 5:45 pm
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      Great question Lisa. Much of the advice about setting goals, identifying an audience plays to people who intend to monetise their site or use it to support a business. For the “non professionals” as it were, if you have a niche blog then it’s easier to identify an audience. If you plan to blog about YA fiction for example, then your audience is going to be people who enjoy that genre; if you intend to blog about Australian fiction, then your audience could be Australian readers plus anyone around the world who enjoys Australian authors. But the majority of blogs don’t have a single focus so it makes it harder.

      As for goals, well my blog started more or less as a journal of what I was reading so the idea of a goal never entered my head.

      I do love your goal and its a good mantra to live by, not just in the blogging world.

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    • February 17, 2021 at 5:45 pm
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      Thank you my friend. If I ever get to Hobart I’m going to come and say hi…

      Reply

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