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    Random Thoughts: Looking Back and Looking Ahead #3

    2013-Goals

    It is that time again. Time to set goals for the year, to look back at the year behind and see if I reached any of those goals that I set, and to jump-start the new year with enthusiasm, excitement and a game plan.

    I am excited to start the new year. I am enthusiastic about the opportunities ahead. I am proud of some of my accomplishments from this past year and disappointed in myself with regard to a few other things.

    I do have goals, which I realize now may be more akin to wishes. But that’s okay. I’m not much of a goal-oriented person. As long as I aim for something in the direction of those goals, I consider that a win.

    But a game plan? That I do not have.

    I’ve come to accept the fact that in blogging, as in writing, I’m a bit of a pantster. If I have an idea, I’m usually up and running with it within a day or two. If I decide I want to stop doing something I end that just as quickly. I don’t think about these things, mull them over. I just run with them. Well, after bouncing them off my sounding board – a.k.a. Jaime of Two Chicks on Books. I learned my lesson about going it alone with the SSRC.

    I just took a peek at my past two end-of-year posts – 2010 and 2011 – and I’m a little bit intrigued by the fact that as the year 2011 dawned I was full of energy, hope and excitement about blogging and as 2012 approached I was exhausted.

    For some reason this year I’m not quite as worn down. Even with umpteen blogs and a million and one tours scheduled, being a co-owner of a tour company and being a co-host of a year-long reading challenge, I’m still not as drained as I was at the start of 2012. Which is a good thing, I think.

    Clearly it’s all about state of mind. Because I am more overloaded than ever, and yet I don’t feel half as run down as I did at this time last year. Maybe it’s having a fresh new look for my blog? Or maybe it’s that I’ve learned that it’s not the end of the world if I just read a book without reviewing it.

    But whatever the reason, I’m happy to be here to start this third full calendar year on the blog and to see just what develops.

    05

    Looking Back…

    While I feel I just wrote this post, and am still shocked that 365 days have passed since the last one, here I am. Last year I set forth ten goals, almost all of which I failed at. Epically.

    It’s almost as if I decide to call something a goal it will definitely not get done. At least that’s what I’m assuming happened in 2012. But I still plan on setting forth goals for this year, because without them, without direction, I will just be aimless. And that, for me, is not a good thing.

    But here’s how I did with this past year’s goals.

    How I did with last year’s New Year’s Resolutions

    1. To write more reviews. FAIL. I had hoped to have two reviews per week posted on the blog. That didn’t happen. Some weeks I had none. I found that writing reviews just got harder and harder for me and I ended up filled with dread when I had to sit down for six or more hours to write one. I’ve changed my style so I hope this will be different in 2013.

    2. To be more timely with reviews. FAIL. (Sort of.) I was fairly timely with my reviews, in that they’d be posted on or around release date. When I wrote them, that is. I ended up skipping reviews for a number of books, which is why I’m calling this a fail. Sort of.

    3. To be more responsive to emails. EPIC FAIL. It’s gotten worse than ever. If I see an email I’ll look at it or respond to it. If I’m expecting an email I definitely will. But if it doesn’t fall into either category my response is hit or miss. And according to my inbox – the not filed, not deleted email – I have 24,233 messages to be dealt with, of which 6,604 are currently unread. Yeah. Fail.

    4. To respond to comments. FAIL. I was worse than ever in 2012. I read them all but didn’t get the chance to respond to hardly any of them. This is something I plan on remedying in the new year as I’d mentioned in my most recent Random Thoughts post.

    5. To conduct more interviews. FAIL. (Sort of.) For blog tours and for the Authors Are Rockstars event last August I did write a decent number of interviews. But I never actually reached out to any authors this year to interview them or their characters for this blog. Though I did reach out to one blogger.

    6. To try something new on the blog. WIN. I did both things I’d set forth as goals. I started a reading challenge, which went fairly well – the SSRC. And I did work with another blogger and put together the Authors Are Rockstars event, which went really, really well. I’m not sure what to do this year….

    7. To read more books for me. WIN. I requested only one printed ARC in 2012 – SPELLCASTER. While I accepted others for review and couldn’t resist the lure of the eARC, most of the books I read in 2012 were books that I wanted to read. Which was wonderful.

    8. To attend more bookish events. FAIL. I’d registered and paid to attend BEA but due to the drama that surround THAT event I didn’t go. And I have until February to use my non-refundable airline ticket. Not gonna happen, sadly. I also didn’t attend any signings or conferences. I’m not sure this should be a goal if it means by listing it I will automatically not attend.

    And here’s how I did with my two non-blogger goals from last year….

    9. To write. WIN. (Sort of.) I participated in NaNoWriMo for a second year and this time I won. But I did not yet finish that WIP and I really wanted to. I wrote a few short stories but not as many as I’d have liked to. But I say sort of because I haven’t done nearly as much writing as I had hoped to.

    10. To stop talking only about books. FAIL. (Sort of.) I did stop talking all about books. But I found myself talking more about my blog, the blogging community, blogging drama, and blogging frustrations. The fact that more people than ever wondered why the heck I was doing this made me realize I talk WAY too much about it. Must. Stop. Doing. That.

    So, overall it was a big FAIL. But I refuse to let that discourage me. I have set goals for 2013 and I am still going to try to aim for them. I don’t think last year’s goals were unrealistic and neither are my new goals. All I can do is try. Right?

    Last year I decided not to take a long look back. And I’m still of that mindset. Looking back can be helpful to see what needs to change in order to better oneself, but it’s all about looking forward. Spending too much time fondly reminiscing just keeps one stuck in the past.

    But I thought a quick peek at some of the highlight and lowlights of my year wouldn’t be a bad thing.

    2012 Highlights

    The SSRC. A lot of work but so worth it. I got to fall in love with this series all over again. I got to meet some amazing readers and bloggers who were just as enthusiastic about this series as I am. I got to know the author behind the series just a little bit better.

    The AARS event. Also a LOT of work, but overall worth it. I got to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone by reaching out to authors to ask for their participation. I got to write a few interviews for the tour which also made me realize that coming up with interview questions is not as scary as I always thought it was.

    Milestone posts. I reached the 1,000 mark in published posts this year. I reached the 100 mark for my Book Watch Releasing This Week feature. While I don’t number them, I know I hit the 100 mark for my Book Watch feature posts as I started those long before the RTW ones.

    Blog designs. I got some amazing designs, redesigns and re-redesigns by Parajunkee Design. Here on Fiktshun, I think I’ve finally settled in to one that I plan on living with for a long while. It helps that I have a few swappable headers, but I don’t think I could love any design more than this one.

    Reading. I’ve read some amazing books this year. I am always pleasantly surprised by the fact that I can still be wowed by books where I am so jaded by film. And discovering new stories from the authors I love that will transport me and finding new authors who will do the same, is why I continue to do this blogging thing and will always list reading as my number one favorite way to spend my “me” time.

    Writing. “Winning” NaNoWriMo was huge for me. Having failed the year before made me feel like… well… a failure. Having a WIP that is now around 250 pages long is an accomplishment I never thought I’d achieve. Now if I can just finish the darn thing and start on that other idea….

    2012 Lowlights

    Drama. Drama will always top the list of all things low. But I won’t talk about drama here because it isn’t how I want to start off the new year, I don’t want to bring negativity to the blog, and it’s not worth my time and energy to think about.

    Self-doubt. By not reaching out to publishers for ARCs and playing that head-game this past year I thought I’d be able to avoid this one. But alas, no. I question everything. I worry about everything. And I found myself on more than one occasion wondering whether my blog was good enough, my content was entertaining enough, my reviews were well-written enough. While the doubt wasn’t all-encompassing, it was there.

    Stress. Ahhh, stress. I am someone who overanalyzes everything. I over-think everything. I over-worry about everything. So stress is a part of my life. Always. But it doesn’t mean I want it to be there. And it doesn’t mean it isn’t a low.

    Saying goodbye to My Reading Pile. I hate giving something up. On anything blog-related. But especially that blog, as it was just so fun and pretty. But it didn’t make sense to keep it going when I could have all those posts on my other blog. I thought about giving up The Annex, but after a revamped design and a rebranding it didn’t make sense to keep both. And The Annex won out as it was more versatile.

    So….

    That’s about it. There are things I wish I’d done more of, things I wish I hadn’t gotten involved in at all, things I wish I’d done differently, things I wish I’d never said. But the past can’t be changed… unless time travel really does become possible and I’m somehow the guinea pig for the world’s first time machine.

    But until then, I’m done with looking back unless it will help me to improve my present and future.

    ***

    …Looking Ahead

    Okay, this post is getting OOC long, so I’ll try to keep this intro to my goals/resolutions fairly brief and not ramble on and on and on like I normally would. But I will ramble just a little.

    I am looking forward to the new year here on this blog and my other blogs. I am hopeful that I’ll be able to continue blogging as I have been, for this year and many to come. I hope to find a better blog-life balance this year. And I hope to discover so many more amazing books and authors.

    I would love to find a level of confidence I don’t yet have so I can improve my blog in ways I’ve been heretofore too timid to do. And I would love, love, love to attend the RT Convention this year for the entire week, because that would be amazing. But those aren’t goals, just wishes.

    My New Year’s Resolutions

    1. To read more books. I read fewer books last year than I have since before I started reading again. Which is not good. And while I don’t count most of my re-read books in my totals, even with the re-reads I still fall way short. This MUST change this year. If I don’t read 125 books this year, I will have to re-think this blogging thing. Because it should never be something that prevents me from reading the books I love.

    2. To write more – but less time-intensive – reviews. Reviewing got to be so stressful this past year. Trying to find new ways to convey similar thoughts was a challenge that I did not overcome easily. By making my reviews more personal and less formal I think I’ll be able to do that more easily. And therefore I’ll be able to write more reviews.

    3. To do more outreach. To both authors and bloggers. I’m terribly shy and the idea of sending an email to an author still terrifies me. As does emailing a blogger. But I’m going to try and reach out more. I can’t bring change to the blog if I don’t do something different. And having more interviews is different. Maybe even making it a monthly feature. Hmmm….

    4. To try something new. It’s always a challenge to find something new to do on the blog. There are only so many things that one can do on a book blog. So, perhaps it’s more accurate to say find something new to me and my blog, rather than something altogether new. I’m not sure what that “new” thing will be, but I’m going to try and find it.

    5. To bring back something old. As I mentioned in my Random Thoughts post I want to try and bring back a few features I had here on the blog that have fallen by the wayside. Features like “Book Buzz” and “The Extras.” While they might not be weekly in nature, I’d certainly like to have them back.

    6. To simplify a.k.a. to reduce stress and avoid drama. I spend way too much time worrying about minutiae – are my posts formatted perfectly, are the colors I chose the exact shades I want them to be, have I researched every last place to make sure I didn’t miss any detail, any book, any link – and it’s not necessary. It’s just stressful. Perfection isn’t one of my goals so I shouldn’t let it be a stressor. And while I can’t stop drama from heading my way, I can certainly step away when it has or make sure to avoid those that like to create it in the first place.

    7. Take a break. Or a few. Missing a few days of posting here and there isn’t the end of the world. Sure, it killed my traffic when I took a brief break. And sure it took awhile to get it back. But I’ve been doing this thing for over two years now and taking breaks is the key to longevity. If I can only get ahead with my post schedule (not a goal!) I could even take a stress-free break.

    8. To be more responsive to comments. And this time I am going to make this a priority. No more excuses. I miss interacting with the commentators on my blog.

    9. To be less fluffy. While I won’t say my blog is all fluff – as I do try to inject my thoughts into every single post I write, which includes guest posts, interviews and cover reveals – I do tend to have quite a few promotional posts on the blog. And Parajunkee’s post on the matter got me thinking. While I do love to promote the books I adore, maybe if I had a few more reviews or discussion posts in the mix I wouldn’t feel like my blog is all fluff, no substance.

    10. To write more. This is my one non-blogger goal this year. I want to finish my WIP. I want to start writing that other idea I have. And I want to write more short stories. Because I found writing shorts is a lot of fun. They’re quick to write, they don’t require me to be trapped in my head for days and weeks at a time, and they allow me to be creative.

    So that’s ten. If I tried to list any more than ten it would result in total failure across the board. Ten is a reachable goal. And I don’t think I’ve aimed for anything too “pie-in-the-sky.”

    And no, I didn’t list things like improving SEO, increasing blog traffic and page views or finding ways to gain new followers or unique visitors. While all those things would be awesome, they’re not what drive me to blog. This isn’t a money-making endeavor for me. It isn’t a popularity contest. I’m not trying to be the next celebrity blogger. So my goals don’t fall along those lines.

    Of course I’d love it if 500 or more unique visitors stopped by every day, rather than just some days, to read my posts. That would be a huge ego boost. But I’m just as happy to have the viewers I do have.

    And while having the goal of monetizing my blog would be a great way to drive me to keep going year-after-year, it’s not the kind of blogger I want to be. For me, this is mostly a creative outlet. A place to share my thoughts and to “pimp” those books I adore. It gives me the excuse to create fun badges and buttons and buy the ones I am not skilled enough to create on my own.

    My blog will always be a mid-tier blog and I’ve discovered that’s exactly where I’m happy. Right in the middle. Nestled in between those awesome blogs I look up to and those new blogs I’m so excited for.

    04

    Anyway….

    No I didn’t set a goal of reducing the number of times I use ellipses or I segue to a new topic by saying “anyway.”

    I’m really excited about heading into 2013 and reaching new milestones this year – 300,000 page views, which should happen in the next few weeks, 200,000 visitors, which should happen shortly thereafter, reaching the three-year mark on this blog in November, and possibly having 1,500 published posts by year-end.

    And whether you’re a new blogger or an established one, I hope that your year in blogging past was everything you hoped it would be and your year in blogging ahead is everything you dream it will be.

    Welcome to 2013 and I hope to see you around the blogosphere!

    Rachel Sig for Fiktshun

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    My One Year Blogoversary: Goals

    Well, it’s official. Today is my one year blogoversary. It’s hard to imagine that I’ve been doing this for an entire year, but it seems I have. I do not count the false start back in May 2010, which wasn’t really a start at all, just a test run.

    But on November 9, 2010 I posted my very first official post on Fiktshun.com and it was my review for Torn by Amanda Hocking. Since then I’ve posted 151 reviews and have had a total of 524 posts. Wow. I would have liked to have a few more reviews than that, but I didn’t quite realize just how much more to blogging there was than reading and reviewing.

    When I started blogging back in November 2010 I had no real goals. My only goal at the time was to have a blog to post the review of Torn so that I could get an eARC to beta read for the author.

    It was the catalyst I needed to get my blog up and running. I was so thrilled when I was chosen that I decided I’d like to keep it going and see what could happen. Maybe I could beta read a few more books? I had no idea at the time that there were things called ARCs. I also didn’t even know what a beta reader was until I Googled it. I was just a stalker-y fan of the author and the idea of reading her book early sounded enormously exciting.

    I had no idea what I was doing in those early days, but I did know that I couldn’t possibly write a review every single day. My guy told me that bloggers needed to update their content regularly. And to me, regularly meant daily.

    So, I enlisted my friend Nic to help me out with a few guest reviews. I also thought about what I could add to the site to sort of fill in on those days when I didn’t have a written review and my very first thought was creating a post called “Book Watch” in which I mention a book coming out soon that I was excited for. Of course I posted it the same day as my Torn review, rather than on the 10th, because I didn’t know much about scheduling posts… I didn’t really know much about anything back in those days.

    And without going into the day-by-day details of how my blog evolved, because this would be a really, really, really long and boring post, I will just say that it was a learning process. And a slow one. I didn’t know enough about the book blogosphere at the time and so I had to fight for every little thing I got. I did not have hundreds of followers in my first weeks or months. I did not have site traffic in the hundreds for my first months. And I did not have a clue about what I was actually doing for at least the first few months.

    But I did it. And slowly I figured out some of the goals I had for my blog, and slowly I achieved a steady following on my site, for which I am eternally grateful.

    What I’ve been up to this past year on the blog(s)…

    I’ve created a few features – all of which I’ve done without knowing if they were already in existence – so I think they’re unique, but if not, I’ve tried to make them my own. And the one (My Reading Pile) that evolved from where I intended it to include a discussion of what arrived in the post, I’ve given credit to the blogger who started it all.

    I’ve also participated in a few blog tours, conducted a few author interviews and had a few author guest posts. I’ve had a few guest reviewers visit the site. And I’ve interviewed one blogger.

    I took part in a few community events like Armchair BEA and BBAW, took part in the 2011 Debut Author Challenge, and participated in an epic a tournament over the summer which turned me into a crazed Soul Screamers fan and semi-stalker-y fan of the author.

    Oh, and I’ve been known to have a giveaway or two.

    I’ve enlisted the help of a designer to create business cards and bookmarks, and also asked for her help to create some custom elements for my site – new header, new sidebar headers, new blog button, post headers, buttons – like my blogoverary button above – and avatars.

    And I ended up creating a few other blogs because one just wasn’t enough. (All those were designed by Parajunkee, too.)

    I joined a few social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Klout, and Google + and I took my existing Goodreads account which I’d started in 2007, with my six real life friends, and switched it over to one I use for my blog’s reviews.

    And my very favorite thing that happened over the past year is that I met some of the most amazing online people with interests similar to mine, a few of whom I consider very good friends.

    I’m sure I’ve been up to a bit more than that, none of which I can recall at the moment. I may be a YA blogger, but that doesn’t meant I’m the Y part of A and my memory tends to fail me now and again.

    So, before I forget the point of this post… I thought I’d share some of the goals I’ve had during this first year of my blog’s existence – many of which still stand – and share a few of my goals for this next year.

    To post content daily – I believe I’ve met this goal aside from the November 10, 2010 scheduling mishap.

    To read and review as many books as humanly possible – I’ve changed this goal a bit. It’s now to read and review as many books as a blogger can possibly read and review. Very different.

    To create content that is interesting and informative – Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that. I’m way too self-critical.

    To write original, helpful and sometimes fun to read reviews – Again, I’ll let you decide.

    To share my love of books with my blog’s readers – I like to think I do this, through my reviews, featured posts and giveaways and my over-excited Tweets and FB status updates.

    To promote the books and authors that I love – Again, as above, I like to think that I do this as much (and as often) as I can.

    To discover new authors, books and genres – I definitely try to keep an open mind and keep expanding my world of books. I may not have reached out as far as I’d like to, but it’s only because of time constraints and not limits I’ve set.

    To learn as much as I can about the community – It’s a huge community and I don’t have nearly as much time as I’d like, but I have tried to participate in events which will allow me to be an active participant in this community.

    To learn as much as I can about the industry – I think this will have to be a goal for year two, because I haven’t had time to attend events like BEA or really learn as much about the publishers as I’d have liked.

    To develop, and grow, a steady readership of my blog – I haven’t been such a success at the “growing” part of this, I stalled out at around the six month mark, but I feel like I have some really amazing and loyal readers of my blog that I absolutely adore.

    ***

    My goals have never been (and hopefully never will be) to reach a certain follow count or get as many free books as possible from publishers. While I’d love to create relationships with publishers – which I’m going to try and do by attending industry events in year two – it has never been about the free books for me. And while I love getting books early, what I’ve learned is that the pressure to read them before release date is sometimes more stressful than just buying a copy and reading it on my own.

    And while I love seeing that my “follow” count says nine hundred some-odd followers, the most important followers I have are those that interact with me out there in the blogosphere. They make me feel connected to something and make this feel a lot less like a girl sitting alone at home in front of her computer. As I said on The Annex, I’d much rather have fifty followers that read my content, that leave comments or say “hi” on Facebook and Twitter, rather than one thousand listed on GFC that visit my site once and never return.

    My Goals in a Nutshell

    To me this has never been about it being a popularity contest. I’ve never envied anyone their success. It’s always been about me doing the best possible job I can with my blog, being happy with the content I write, being proud of the product I create, spreading the excitement I have for books and authors as far and wide as I can, and meeting as many amazing people who love books as much as I do.

    To continue to post content daily – Though I might want to take a brief vacation at some point. Doubt that will happen.

    To create a cache of posts that keep me ahead of the game – Being a last minute blogger is stressful!

    To improve on how I write my reviews – I believe that there is always room for improvement in this world.

    To continue to create content that is interesting and informative – And maybe come up with a few new features.

    To learn more about the technical side of blogging – After my first few months I’d stopped learning new things. I need to learn more.

    To share my love of books with my blog’s readers – A forever goal.

    To promote the books and authors that I love – A forever goal.

    To discover new authors, books and genres – A forever goal.

    To learn more about the community – I know there are other community-wide events and I’d like to be a more active participant and meet new bloggers.

    To learn as much as I can about the industry – A priority for me in year two.

    To develop relationships with the publishers – I haven’t done much outreach and as a blog that’s been around for a year, I feel that maybe I should. And again, it’s not for the freebies, but to be in the know about upcoming books and new authors.

    To grow the readership of my blog – More senior bloggers talk about SEO as part of increasing traffic to their site. I have to research this a bit, because unless people can find my blog, they won’t be able to read it.

    Take stock – I need to take a look around my site and see what works and what doesn’t. See what features aren’t of interest or what I can do to improve them.

    Limit my giveaways – This will be hard. I am an enthusiastic book buyer and book pusher. I like to give things to other people. But apparently giving away tons of books gets expensive, and I’m not made of money, though I’d love it if I were.

    ***

    Well, there you have it. And I’d be impressed if you actually made it to the end of this really long post. I have heard that blog readers generally like things short and sweet when reading online or on their mobile devices.

    So, maybe as part of that “taking stock” idea for year two, it would be to decrease the amount of blathering I do in each of my posts.

    Well, I also imagine you’ve scrolled down this far in hopes of finding my giveaways, but I’ve decided to post them separately, and if you wait for just a few more minutes, the Giveaway Extravaganza post will be up shortly.

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All content - except for guest posts and guest reviews - has been written by me and can not be copied or used without permission. All graphics and images used on my site – aside from book covers used for purposes of discussion – have either been given to me by authors, publishers or bloggers for guest posts, blog tours, interviews or promotion, have been sourced, have been designed by me or have been purchased for my exclusive use. Aside from images with a “grab code” beneath, no images can be used or displayed without permission.

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All reviews on this website are unbiased and reviewers are in no way compensated for their reviews by the author, publisher, or any other agencies. While some reviews may be based on receipt of ARC copies of an authors work, a fair and impartial review is always given by the reviewer. Most of the reviews, however, are based upon books purchased after publication date.