On Thursdays I usually make a Spotlight post (click for previous Spotlight posts) where I pick a theme and highlight a bunch of books that fall within that theme. This week I’ve decided to shift focus a little and turn the spotlight onto me by participating in my event Busting the Newbie Blues. Everyone is invited to participate in this event! You can find out about this event and how you too can participate by clicking the link or the picture. I hope my answers are as helpful as all of yours have been!
When did you start your blog?
I officially started late October 2010, but I only really got up and running in November.
Why did you start your blog?
I stumbled across a few YA book blogs (The Story Siren and Need_Tea's blog in particular) and started reading them regularly. They helped me out so much with finding new books that I decided I wanted to give back a little to the community by sort of paying it forward. Without going into a big long ramble (which I tend to do), you can read more about why I started this blog in my About section.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
The technical aspects, getting my name out there, and time management. I'm not very computer literate when it comes to these sorts of things, so this was all a very learn as you go experience. Creating my banner and background were my first real attempts at using Photoshop, but I think they turned out ok. They're far from perfect, but once I shove the overly self-critical part of my brain away I'm pretty proud. Google was my best friend throughout this process, as I was constantly typing in "How to..." every time I ran up against a wall (which was often).
Getting my name out there has been a mixed bag. It's been really time consuming, but I think my efforts have been rewarded. I've met some really awesome people in the process, so that's made it a lot of fun.
Time management is the biggest hurdle now that most of the technical things are out of the way. I'm still struggling with this one. I spend hours trying to respond to all of the comments on my own blog, visit and comment on a ton of blogs (I think I have over 100 bookmarked), plus then there's also finding time to write the content for my blog and actually read books. Running this event is also very time consuming because I try to explore every blog that signs up and leave meaningful comments. I'm working on putting together a schedule for myself and then sticking to it.
What do you find most discouraging about being a new blogger?
At first I was kind of discouraged when I didn't have a lot of followers or comments. I had just started out, and I knew it takes time, but I wondered if it would ever happen.
Then I looked at some of the blogs I admire and did a little math. (I'm a bit of a nerd with math). My math told me that those bloggers who have super impressive follower numbers averaged anywhere from 30-80 followers a month. I figure the more established they became, the more followers they had each day, and when they were starting out they probably weren't even getting that many a month.
That put things in perspective a lot and I realized I wasn't doing badly at all. That was the "hard proof" I needed to believe what I knew all along: It takes time. I haven't worried about it since.
What do you find most encouraging?
The people. In particular, getting to know everyone through comments and their blogs. If nothing changed from how they are now, at this point I would be completely satisfied. I've met some really kind and wonderful people here, I feel like I'm a part of an up-beat and welcoming community, I can chat to my heart's content about YA books with people who are as passionate about them as I am, and I've actually managed to meet my goal by helping some people. This community has brought me so much joy.
What do you like best about the blogs you read? Have you tried to replicate this in your blog?
I like the blogs that have helped me by putting new books on my radar or providing thoughtful reviews for books I've read or want to read. I'm usually a step or two behind most news (my middle name is "Lives Under Rock"), so I'm not sure how good I've been at bringing new books to people's attention. I do try to highlight older books I think may be less popular but deserve recognition, so I might have accomplished my goal in this way.
As far as thoughtful reviews are concerned, well, I hope I have. I am still trying to find my voice and I'm not quite sure yet what works best. I started out writing reviews on Amazon where I went for a drier approach. Blogging is completely different and you're actually encouraged to let your voice and personality shine through your review. I'm a really shy person, so I often think I sound pretty silly when I write in a manner closer to how I would speak. I've been sort of posting, hiding behind my hands, and then peeking out between my fingers thinking, "Oh gosh, I hope that doesn't sound too stupid."
I really like blogs where the blogger interacts with people who leave thoughtful comments. I feel a lot more connected to the blog that way and that the blogger really cares about their blog. I understand not being able to reply to every comment, especially when a blogger gets 50 different comments saying "Nice mailbox!" but when a person takes the time to write a thoughtful comment I like it when the blogger takes the time to respond. I try to do this on my blog and those interactions have become one of the most rewarding parts of blogging.
I also like blogs that are really well designed. Danny from Bewitched Bookworms has designed some of my favorite sites. She's really amazing. In that regard I've decided to just accept my limitations for now.
What do you dislike about blogs you’ve read? Do you try to avoid this?
My vision is pretty poor, so I have trouble reading blogs that have tiny font, white font on a dark background, or colored font on a colored background. I didn't do this on my site both for anyone reading my blog and so I could actually read my own blog.
The captcha codes you have to type in before commenting can also be irritating. Most of the established bloggers don't have them and it doesn't look like they have to deal with spam. I imagine if anyone is going to be targeted, it would be them.
The only other thing is negativity. Meanness really turns me off and I don't want to read it or write it. I like being happy, so I want to spend my time around people who are happy and who make me happy. I'm relieved to say that the vast majority of the YA book blogging world seems to be filled with the nicest, most up-beat people around. I love it!
Any advice for other new bloggers?
Not much considering I'm very new myself. I'm still finding my footing here, but what seems to work the best is just putting yourself out there. I was so nervous about commenting on people's blogs at first. I was so impressed with their blogs and wondered who am I to post on their blog? Like I was the new girl butting into a conversation at the popular table. But then I just realized I have to just jump in. When I did, I realized how nice and welcoming everyone is and how unfounded my fears were.
What I did find helpful for a shy person like myself was to start talking to other newer bloggers. They seemed a lot more approachable and less intimidating. We also had common ground beyond our shared interest for YA books. It was through those conversations that the idea for this event began to percolate in my head.
A final piece of advice, but take it with a grain of salt because it's just my opinion: Don't follow someone just so they will follow you. I feel uncomfortable when I get out of the blue follow requests from people, especially since I try to check out the blog of every person who comments on my posts anyway. I try to follow blogs I actually read, and I only have so much time to read blogs. I feel a little false when I follow a blog that I don't actually read. This is why I don't participate in the Follow Friday meme (not bashing it at all, Parajunkee is an awesome blogger. That meme is just not for me).
Anything else you’d like to share about your experience?
If you have a question, don't be afraid to ask! Everyone I have asked has been super helpful and nice. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I know when I've been asked questions it has totally made my day.
Is there anything you’d like to tell us about your blog?
I'm alwys looking for feedback. A large part of why I started this blog was to help other people, so I would love feedback on how I can do that better. What do you want to see? What do you like that I'm already doing? What do you dislike? I can't guarantee I'll make every change suggested because I have to make the blog work for me as well, but I will consider everything said.