Back to Basics – a blog review

Apologies if this turns into a bit of a rambling post, but I’ve got lots of different thoughts I’m trying to process and I’m not sure I’m likely to present them coherently, but here goes anyway.

When I started this blog it was primarily a place to keep my reviews together. As my confidence grew I added other posts and features, it became more personal and hopefully it became a reflection of me and my bookish interests. However recently I’ve started to feel that something is amiss. My stats (for what they’re worth) show more visits than ever, but it’s not about the stats, it’s about the feel of the blog and more importantly about how I feel about it. How do I feel about it? If I’m honest I suppose I’m a bit ambivalent. There are features I love and others that have become more labour than love, and that’s not how it should be.

Part of the problem goes back to when I was ill and how I started to move the blog away from reviews (for various previously recorded reasons) and towards other bookish features. For the most part I was happy with the posts and the features I had. But more recently that’s changed. As all of the features are of my own creation, anything I’m not happy with is down to me, so I suspect I’ve changed as well.

For the past year, I’ve been trying to get a better work/life balance. I worked throughout my cancer treatment for the most part, and because I work from home, I could be flexible. What I found was that my part-time hours instead of being worked over 2-3 days were being spread over 4-5 days with lazy morning start as I could cope with that better. The problem was once I was through treatment, that pattern largely persisted and I was struggling to find the time to blog and to cope with the things that needed doing at home. While I’m more Quentin Crisp than Mrs Hinch when it comes to cleaning, even I was reaching the stage where I couldn’t ignore the dust and cobwebs. So I looked at how I was working and started to put in a more structured week at work to leave me with more time free. Though, it came as no surprise to me, that a large percentage of the newly released free time seems to have been spent on the blog, enlarging existing features such as my “Published This Week” feature and introducing new ones such as my “Indie Publishers” listings.

The realisation that I really needed to think again about balancing things was brought home to me in the past month. Before I went away I struggled to get all my regular posts done in advance and even took extra time off to try and get them done. But then while I was away I was surprised (if not shocked) by the stats for the two ‘Published This Week’ posts. The stats showed that approximately the usual number of people clicked on the post, but because I’d added a link to the actual title list I was able to see how many people actually clicked through. With the first post, where I’d explained how I go about choosing titles, only 14% clicked through, and the following week where I placed the link nearer the top, 30% followed through. I’d been blithely carrying on with this feature thinking that it served a useful purpose, based on the number of visits, now I’m not so sure. Maybe people weren’t that interested if they couldn’t be bothered clicking through to see what was being published – the whole purpose of the post. If my blog was attracting thousands of visits, maybe 14% would still be lots of people and therefore worth the effort, but it doesn’t and now I’m asking myself whether it merits losing my weekends to get the post together. So, with apologies to those lovely people who do use the list, I’m sorry, but this is one of the features which will be seeing changes.

The way I feel about the blog is also partly linked to something I read earlier this year, regarding book blogs. Before I go any further with this point I want to stress quite clearly I am not taking a pop at the author, I made my comments at the time and the author amended the post. I also fully appreciate that the point being made was aimed at the growing culture of posting images to promote books instead of a review. It was just a poorly chosen, repeated phrase that was used namely “how can you call yourself a book blogger if you don’t review any books?” I know it wasn’t aimed at blogs like mine, but it stung and I’ll admit I got quite upset. Maybe because it hit a nerve as since I stopped reviewing I’ve felt I’m not a ‘real’ book blogger. I think all the new features and extra work has been my way of trying to compensate, and possibly over compensate for something I don’t actually need to compensate for in the first place – if that makes sense. Maybe it was a wake up call for me, a reminder that blogging isn’t a competition and my blog is my blog, for posting what I want and not what I think other people want.

So if you’ve waded through all that waffle, thank you. I guess what it’s all leading up to is a decision to go back to basics. To pull back from features that drain my time, and enthusiasm, so that I have time for the things I have ideas about but no time for, bookish or otherwise. I’d also like more time to actually read, just on the off chance I might fancy attempting the odd review. I want the blog to get back to being an extension of me, I think it has lost its way and its personality to some degree. I also want to use more of my free time at home for family as they need more quality time too. So going forward if I’m a bit quieter than usual, or missing from social media I’m just balancing!

54 comments

  1. I do like your shorter book list for book due to be published. It tends to feature books that I don’t generally see. I do like your blog features and as far as I am concerned you are definitely a book blogger. You champion authors and their books, your Five on Friday is brilliant and it has often led me over to amazon to look up authors.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think this is a great step, Jill. Sometimes we get so caught up in what people ‘expect,’ that we forget this isn’t a job (although it can feel like one at times!) but a hobby that we do for fun. If it stops being fun, it’s is definitely time to reassess!

    Good luck, hope you find your way back to ‘your’ blog and I for one look forward to seeing what changes you make.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well said, Jill. Your blog is your blog, end of. Quentin Crisp is my housekeeping hero too, though I don’t feel able to take it quite to his extremes… Good luck with the balance finding! x

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    • He really had the right idea didn’t he? My mother would be appalled at my slovenly ways, but life really is to short to spent it all cleaning – though I might have swung the balance a little too far the other way! xx

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  4. I think you have articulated exactly what I feel. I’m taking on fewer tours etc so I can read at my leisure, get a bit of blog life balance and regain ownership of my blog. Well said 😍

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  5. Blogging takes up so much of our precious time doesn’t it, but when it starts to feel like a chore then it’s time to make changes. I’ve done that over the years and dropped a few features. I hope you find your happy balance.

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  6. Please do go back to your reviews and your ‘doings’. I do read what is being published but am not buying at the moment. I like knowing your choices too. I don’t read author interviews as they’re mostly unfamiliar. Daphne
    Ps Don’t give up.

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  7. I’m sorry to hear about your cancer, Jill, and hope you are doing well. Your post wasn’t waffly at all and I found it interesting to read. It sounds like you’ve absolutely come to the right decision. I’ve blogged for years and had 3 different ones at one point – my own writing journey, one as part of a collective of ten authors, and another about my experiences doing a beach-based bootcamp in an attempt to get fit. I only have my own writing one now but one of the things I decided early on for my two personal ones was that it wasn’t about the stats. It wasn’t about building a huge following or even selling books although those things are a nice bonus. I did it for me and it sounds like that was your starting point. I saw blogging as being a bit like keeping a diary; something I could look back on during low points to remind myself of the highs or to see how far I’d come. The hope is that there are people who will read and enjoy the posts, but ultimately I blog because I enjoy doing it. I look forward to seeing your changes and hope you find the enjoyment again in focusing on what you want to do with it xx

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  8. Dear Jill,
    Happy 1st of July 🙂

    Blogging can steal so much of one’s time, isn’t it? Like a baby who doesn’t nap more than minutes at a time 🙂
    You are not alone. I read a similar thought lately, and it crossed my mind too – although I am not a book blogger.

    I think that finding that balance, and then enjoying blogging again is what matters most. We need sun, and we need our family time to fuel us to blog. Or write. 🙂

    The Indie Publishers list did matter, I know now where to look when I’m ready to submit my MS 🙂
    And Five on a Friday was a great way to discover the humanity behind a name on a book cover 🙂

    Blessings, Jill.
    Oh, hear? the birds are calling 😉
    Best wishes and see you soon-soon.

    Pat xx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think we all go through stages of wondering where our blog is going and if it’s going in the direction we want it to. And as you say, it can take over and we can find ourselves spending far longer than is perhaps necessary on something that we may not be that happy with. I hope whatever direction you go in you are comfortable and happy. Like you say, it’s sometimes best to go back to basics. And reviews or not, blogging is varied and vast and you are a blogger whether you post reviews on here or not 🙂

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  10. This all sounds really sensible, Jill. If some bits are becoming a chore than don’t feel bad about ditching them. Whatever you blog about, I know it will be worth reading. And speaking as an author, the fact that you flag up new titles and show covers is great – there are more ways of spreading the love than doing a review! So don’t let pushy writers make you feel that you’re not a book blogger – you’re one of my favourites! x

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  11. It’s all about balancing life, Jill. Do whatever you’re able to; do what you enjoy. It’s so easy to get trapped into ‘must/should do’. Guilt is one of the downsides of blogging. Look after yourself. x

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  12. Jill if you find that magical balance please do let me know! It definitely eats up so much time that sometimes I feel like a hamster on a wheel. I just have no idea what to do myself. I want to continue blogging but I need to figure out why I keep having feelings of being overwhelmed too often. Great post as always Jill x

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    • I think it’s a case of just being strict. It’s too easy to get drawn in. I don’t even review so God knows how you manage. I’m just going to focus on what I enjoy and reign back trying to cover things I think other people want, rather than what I choose. So probably the same posts, but smaller and more select. I’m not a shop, I’m not selling the books I don’t have to try and feature a large range. We’ll see how it goes, but something has to give. xx

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  13. I read it all and I completely understand. I’ve neglected my blog and blogging recently because of a lack of time mostly, but also because I have found I am getting more fun from Instagram, but I do not wish to rekindle the debate 🙂 What I mean is FUN should be what blogging is, and reading time should come first 🙂 xx

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    • It should definitely be fun, whatever media you prefer to use. I’m rubbish at Instagram, I keep popping on then give up again for weeks 😂 We all need to do what makes us happy xx

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      • I left my Instagram account dead for years until Covid happened, and then got bored so decided to take pics of my books and my dogs, haha! Still not good at it but having a really good time! I love your reviews, your posts, your blog, and you, so whatever you do, I’m with you! xx

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      • I suspect it’s also an age/culture thing. I’m still old school and not one of the selfie generation. That said I have finally got a smart phone and do actually use it, apps and all! 🙂 One of the things I love about blogging is that age isn’t a barrier as we’re all bonded by our love of books. I’d miss my my lovely blogging friends if I decided to stop (which isn’t on my agenda) xx

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  14. Great post, Jill. As you know I’m on a blogging break but I had to read your post, which resonated with me. I’ll come back to blogging soon but the break has been good (necessary) and I’m hoping when I do come back I’ll be able to create a better balance. I feel if I blog and people comment I should also read and comment on their blog posts and time vanishes and I haven’t done any of my own writing. I agree with those who have said blogging should be fun. Someone once told me reading and commenting on other blogs shouldn’t feel like homework.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you’re feeling the benefit of a break, it’ll probably help you get a better balance when you decide to blog again. It’s very easy to get caught up in reading and commenting. Hope you’re doing well xx

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  15. You nailed it when you said “my blog is my blog, for posting what I want and not what I think other people want.” Every blogger has a different reason for blogging – some people blog because they want to encourage people to read certain books, others do it so they can get interest from publishers and free copies; Some just want to use the blog as a reading journal. That’s what you’ve decided your blog will be and anyone who tells you that you can’t be a book blogger unless you post reviews, is frankly talking utter rubbish. Do what you like doing and stuff what anyone else thinks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Karen, hopefully I’ll get back on track and back to being more me. I can categorically say that the one thing I don’t get is interest from publishers and free copies so I can sleep easy on that score!

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  16. I hear you and agree altho I’ve never been able to come up with a feature I stuck with for long. It’s a huge time sink and especially this time of the year needs to be spread out a little. I had a goal in mind but my stats are pretty slow and uninspiring. Labor of love, or just labor?

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    • Time sink describes it very well. When I started the feature it didn’t take as long, but I got sidetracked and made it something I’d never intended – hence ‘back to basics’. I’m often good at the ideas – I don’t always think through the long term implications! x

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  17. I found out that the best way to approach blogging is to see it as a medium that helps you to order your own thoughts and eventually getting some feedback on it. When you’re blogging with a constant eye on your statistics, there is a big chance that you will start to produce content that is meant to satisfy other people’s interest. There are people out here who see this medium as a vehicle to become rich and famous. If that’s not your case, then you should do with your blog whatever pleases you. That way it doesn’t become a burden and you can spend as much time and energy on it as you feel like. I know some pretty good bloggers who have only 250 followers, but they don’t seem to bother. They feel good with what they’re doing and seem to have found a good balance between their daily life and their blogging. On the other hand , I know bloggers who have more than 20,000 followers who’re running an absolute boring blog, but who got their followers because they gained some notoriety as writers.

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    • Thanks for your thoughts Shaharee. As a book blogger fame and riches certainly don’t enter the equation. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m after stats either, I think I was using them as an example that while the blog was as ‘popular’ as ever, I wasn’t happy with it. Though it’s easy to be swayed by stats and that is a danger. I think I’d moved away from the blog being for me and was feeling the need to compete. This was a hit the re-set button moment for me to go back to doing it for me. Many of the posts will possibly be the same, but more reigned in and less trying too hard. It’s not a job, it’s a hobby and I want to get that back.

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  18. I remember reading that post and I would never have thought your blog fit wat she was alluding to. You are a book blogger to me. I like finding different things on people’s blogs. I agree with you, our blogs are ours. We need to do what makes us happy and what works for us. You do you and it will make you happy and those of us who visit will feel that in your content.

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