Today marks 8 years since Novel Novice first went live – though I’ve been blogging for more like 10 years, since I started on our now-retired sister site, Novel Novice Twilight sometime in 2008! It’s hard to believe that I’ve spent so many years of my life working on this little book blog, and yet it’s not hard to believe, considering how much it is impacted me and become a part of who I am.
I didn’t really prepare any big spectacular celebration for this year’s anniversary – no big contest or anything like in years past; I just didn’t have the mental capacity to figure it out this year – but I did want to take a little time to reflect back on 8+ years of blogging, and share some thoughts on my bookish goals for the year ahead and ponderings on the future of Novel Novice.
Book blogging is definitely something that has had its ups and downs – there is no end, it seems, to the drama that comes along in the bookish community – but here’s a quick peek at some of the things that book blogging has brought to me that I’m most grateful for.
This will always be the #1 thing I can take away from my book blogging experience. This blog has brought me some of the most amazing friends – both near and far. I have met an amazing group of women in my area through blogging, and they have truly become my tribe. But I have also made friends all across the globe – and even if I don’t see those people regularly, and even if we’ve never met in person, I still consider them true friends.
2) Sharing Great Books
Perhaps the biggest passion that has emerged as a result of my blogging is the sharing of great books. I have been a voracious reader since I was a child, so my love of books and reading has been long-established. But through blogging, I discovered how much I LOVE giving book recommendations and helping both friends and strangers alike discover their next great read. One of the greatest compliments you can give me is to ask for a book recommendation.
It’s true, blogging has brought me to some amazing experiences. The ones that really stand out are:
- Moderating Author Events: This has become something I’ve done more and more of in the last couple years, and I have discovered that I LOVE it. Being in conversation with an author or moderating a group of authors has truly become a passion, and I just wish there were more opportunities to do so!
- Book Expo America (BEA): In the last 8 years, I’ve been fortunate to attend BEA three times (and ALA Midwinter once) — and it’s always been an incredibly rewarding experience. Also exhausting and sometimes frustrating, given that there are jerks who attend these events and take away some of the fun for the rest of us due to their bad behavior. But the general experience has always been positive: meeting my publishing contacts in person, meeting other bloggers and bookish friends in person (finally!), meeting authors who may not ever come to Portland for events, and of course, discovering amazing new books.
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower Set Visit: This is one of my all-time favorite books, and it still seems surreal that I was invited to visit the set and interview the cast and author/director Stephen Chbosky. Did that really happen? Yes. Yes, it did.
I’m sure I would have found a lot of great books on my own, but being a blogger and involved in the book blogging world has definitely helped me discover some amazing reads that might have otherwise slipped past my radar.
My book blogging habits have changed SO MUCH in the last 8 years. For starters, I was single when I started blogging and working a graveyard shift at the local TV station. (Graveyard shift = lots of free alone time during the day, when your other friends are all at work.) I’m now married, own a home with my husband, and run a business with my dad. My free hours are far more limited than they used to be, and the free time I do have is now often spent with my husband and/or working on our home, running errands, or the myriad other things that occupy the day.
So that means I’ve got a lot less time and energy to dedicate to blogging — and even to reading itself. (I still do pretty well; I read over 100 books last year, so don’t worry about that too much!) So the amount and type of content you see on the blog these days is much less and quite different than what it used to be.
I think the book blogging world itself has changed a lot, too. Social media has grown and different trends have popped up. It almost seems like traditional blogs are fading in popularity, and instead it’s all about BookTube or Bookstagram or something I probably haven’t heard of yet.
With the changes in my life and the community continuing to evolve, I’m also trying to focus back on what brings me the most joy: and that’s reading for pleasure. So with that in mind, I put together a small list of bookish “resolutions” for myself in 2018:
- Accept Fewer Review Books: I need fewer reading obligations on my plate, period. And I’ve been getting majorly burned out writing reviews.
- Read More For Myself: This ties into accepting fewer review books, so I’ve got more time to read the other books I want to get to — including both new releases that I haven’t received review copies for, and other unread books that have been languishing on my shelves for years.
- DNF More Easily: If a book isn’t working for me, stop reading it and move onto another. There are too many unread books on my shelves to waste time reading a book that I’m not enjoying.
- Review Less & Differently: I used to put so much pressure on myself to review every book I received, and before it’s release date. And as a result, reviewing has become a chore and I kind of hate it. Every once in a while, a review will come to me easily – but most of the time, I can barely muster up the words to say something about a book I’ve read, even if I loved it. So I both want to (a) find a new style of reviewing that works better for me and (b) remember that I don’t have to review everything. There are other ways to feature books I’ve been provided by publishers, AND when I do accept review books, it’s for review consideration. There’s no obligation to review everything. This isn’t a job, and I’m not being paid for it.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, blogging-wise. I mean, this can’t go on forever, right? I’ll be here for at least another year, since I just renewed my WordPress hosting. For now, here’s what I do know:
1) Passion is Key. If I don’t love what I’m doing, what’s the point of doing it? I’ve deliberately never monetized my blog because I never wanted to feel obligated to it as a source of income. I wanted this to be a project of love, and that meant the freedom to post (or not post) as I see fit.
But I’ve still struggled with feelings of obligation, both to the publishers & authors who provide me books to feature, and to the readers who come to me as a resource. It’s an on-going battle to remind myself that I am free to post whatever and however I want, because this is my little space of the Internet to do with as I please. So popular features like the weekly new releases posts that were the bane of my existence? I did away with them a couple years ago. Those reviews that I’ve grown to hate writing? I’m trying to find new ways to “review” books that I don’t loathe.
2) Creative Outlets. I find the more I am inspired creatively, the more excited and enthusiastic I am about what I post. For example, I love coming up with Styled by Books posts — planning the outfits and photoshoots is fun, and it usually means I get to spend some time with either my husband or a friend to take the pictures. I know not everyone is a fan of these features, but I don’t care. I love them.
Bookstagram is another place where I’ve found a happy little niche for myself. Apparently, I love taking pictures of books! While my following on Instagram continues to grow, I’m hoping I can find more ways to incorporate my Bookstagram photography into the blog.
3) What’s next? I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep blogging forever. There’s a part of me that thinks it would be a relief to retire Novel Novice, and just move past it – especially as I think about the life my husband & I are trying to carve out for ourselves. But there’s a part of me that knows I would miss it, and all the great things that come with blogging: the excitement of a new book, the spark of creativity when I get a particularly juicy new blog post idea, and the enthusiasm of having an outlet for shouting about my latest favorite read.
So is the end in sight for Novel Novice? I honestly don’t know. There are days when I think it’s time to let it go, and other days when I can’t even imagine not blogging anymore. I guess I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing: taking it one day, and one book at a time.
For now, I’m not going anywhere – and I want to thank everyone who’s followed the blog over the years, whether you’ve been with me from the start or come along more recently. Thank you. It’s much nicer knowing there are readers here to share in what I do, and that I’m not just shouting into a void.