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Random Thoughts

    Random Thoughts: Seven More Reasons Not to Lend


    Way back when I first started blogging I’d written a Random Thoughts post listing “Ten Reasons Not to Lend.” I shared my horror stories of ten books I’d lent that met with great misfortune, which caused a permanent fear of lending in me.

    I am someone who is very particular about my books. I don’t break spines, I don’t eat while reading. I remove the dust jacket on my hardcovers. I wash my hands before even picking up my current read. I never, ever, leave it open and face down to hold my place. And I don’t just use any bookmark to keep my spot in case that gum wrapper, receipt, ticket stub or other placeholder leaves a mark.

    But in addition to losing a favorite book, finding out it has been left in less than sanitary places or being used as a pillow, there are a few other reasons why it might not be the best idea to lend out a book from your collection.

    And so here are seven more reasons why I hesitate before agreeing to lend.

    7. Dog Ears are for Dogs.

    Whenever I see a book that has been dog-eared I die a little on the inside. I know for some it is a sign that the book is a well-loved book, but for me it’s criminal. Bookmarks were made for a reason.

    Aside from the fact that most dog-earers don’t create perfectly matched dog-ears in their book, which brings out a whole other compulsive issue I suffer from, a book can’t recover from such a heinous act. Even straightening a bent page will never return a book to its original state. A dog-eared book to me is a ruined book.

    Which is why it drives me absolutely batty when a book I’ve lent returns with bent pages. Or even worse, straightened pages that had once been dog-eared.

    6. Finger Lickin’ Good.

    Not all pages turn easily. I get that. It frustrates me to no end when I think I might end up wrinkling a page when it won’t turn to the next quickly enough. And I know, for some, it is an unconscious act when they lick their finger to get that next page to turn. Especially when they’re so caught up in the story.

    But I love my pristine books. I don’t want my saliva coating the page corners. I certainly don’t want someone else’s, no matter how much I might adore them. And I definitely don’t want any saliva that may have remnants of the borrower’s snack or coffee beverage left behind.

    As it’s not cool to ask friends or family if they happen to be finger lickers, I imagine the worst and opt to give the book away versus ever having it returned.

    5. The Re-lender.

    Sometimes a book is just so good that the person you lend the book to wants to share that book with others. Many times they do this on the sly. And while they may be willing to abide by all of your rules and quirks for how a book is to be treated, they may not pass on that message to their friends.

    In those instances you’re lucky if you ever see the book again. But if, perchance, you do, the likelihood of it coming back without it requiring you to wear a Hazmat suit is slim. Very, very slim.

    4. The Coffee Table Book.

    It’s common practice to leave a book on one’s coffee table when reading, or when finished. But a book left in such a highly trafficked place is all but doomed. When you lend a book to someone who has a strict policy about not putting glasses or dishes on their coffee table, the book is the most likely choice on which to set something down if a coaster or placemat is not available.

    Many a book has returned with a coffee ring, cup sweat ring, or warped from the heat of a hot dish all because it was left on a coffee table.

    3. All in the Family.

    I adore my friends whose households are filled with family. I really do. But lending a book to someone in a household with young children is all but begging for that book to be destroyed.

    Small children do not have the understanding or capability most times to treat a book as it should be treated. Sticky fingers, grabby hands, accidental spills, hide and seek all bode poorly for a book left within reach.

    As much as I’d love to lend a book to a friend looking to escape said crowded house, I just can’t bring myself to do so knowing that my book may get swept up in the tornado that is their daily life.

    2. Bedtime Stories.

    Most of my reading is done late at night or very early in the morning. I love to read in bed. Well, with my Kindle, anyway. I’m terrified when I read a physical book in bed. I have fallen asleep and woken up atop my Kindle or Nook. I could never forgive myself for mistreating a print book in such a manner.

    And while I have that same fear about lending books to friends who are bedtime readers, that’s not my biggest hesitation when lending to this type of reader. It’s  been known that some readers like to set books down on their chest to pause briefly to converse with their spouse or significant other while in bed. Heck, my mother was one such reader.

    But it’s also come to my attention that some readers like to sleep in the nude. Putting two and two together, plus the idea that the book may spend all night in bed tumbling around with said friend, makes me more than wary about the idea of my book spending the night away from me.

    1. After Dark Reads.

    While I’m not currently a big reader of steamy, sexy romance and I don’t typically pick books up of a more erotic nature, I’m not too keen on the idea of lending out any book that makes me blush.

    I am not one to judge what turns someone on or what they opt to do when that happens. Most of the time I really don’t want to know. I’m sure many of my friends feel the same. (I, for one, am not nosy enough to browse through someone’s Kindle library for that very reason. I’d hate to discover that my co-worker, friend, relative was into sexy stories about Bigfoot, for example. I’d never be able to look at them the same.)


    Just the thought that someone might be using my book to achieve a goal makes me cringe.  The thought that they might continue to keep turning those pages after turns that cringe into a shudder.

    On that note…

    So, those are seven other reasons why I don’t opt to lend out books. I used to lend books fairly regularly and got burned almost every single time. Nowadays, once a book leaves my hands I don’t want to see it again. I have a hard enough time reading borrowed books as my imagination goes wild as to what the book has already been through in its short life. Especially the library book.

    And while I could have included ten reasons on this list, versus the seven I opted to share, as I’ve only had one or two books returned with writing or erase marks in the margins, I didn’t include notetakers on my list. And as it’s been years since a lent book was used for a game of catch, a game of frisbee, a game of monkey in the middle/keep away, I wasn’t sure it was relevant anymore.

    Of course I could have listed the fact that even when I get back a book in what seems to be the condition in which it was lent, I typically give it away and buy myself a fresh copy. But that would have made me look weird.

    What about you?

    What horror stories do you have about books that you’ve lent? Or has every lending experience been fab?

    Do you have any paranoia/fear about what’s going on with your book when its away from you like I do? Do you imagine the worst about its treatment? Or are you a worry-free lender?

    Do you have any reasons not to lend? I’d love to know!


    Random Thoughts: On Making a Difference


    Each year it seems that more and more marketing is done online and the “value” of the book blogger as a marketing tool is becoming more apparent. And while that may be true, what hasn’t seemed to change since I started blogging way back in 2010 is that a book blogger’s worth isn’t tied to how much of an asset they can be to a publisher or for a book’s promotion. What gives book bloggers their drive to keep blogging day after day, month after month, year after year, is the idea that what they’re doing makes a difference.

    As most bloggers make little more than enough to purchase the occasional book to read or for giveaway, the drive doesn’t come from the money generated from their efforts. The drive to produce fresh content each week comes from the interaction they have and the feedback they get on their blogs and other social media outlets. A single comment stating that their review prompted someone to either purchase or walk away from a particular title will give most bloggers enough motivation to keep blogging for weeks. Feedback from an author telling them that they loved the review or that it made their day will keep them smiling for months.

    Even though most bloggers blog for themselves or for their readers and not for publishers, not for authors, not for “free” books, it’s always a boost to know that their opinion is valued, their participation makes a difference, that they matter.

    In this crowded landscape, that’s getting more crowded every day, it’s getting harder and harder to stand out, to get noticed, to even be discovered. It’s getting harder to find an audience that will continue to visit a particular blog when there are so many to choose from. It’s getting harder to come up with original content. It’s getting harder to be that “go to” blogger for publishers, authors and blog tour companies.

    It’s getting harder to feel like what we do makes a difference.

    When we’re one of any number of bloggers participating in a blast, blitz, reveal or promotional spotlight, as individuals we don’t matter. And while we may be excited to participate, to help an author with their book’s promotion, it does little for us in the way of making us feel invested in our blogs. Without content that fulfills that desire to make a difference, we are, in essence, phoning it in, becoming disconnected from our blog, our blog’s readers. We’re not doing something that brings us joy or makes us feel like we’re contributing anything of value.

    If we were to miss that scheduled generic blast post, our absence would go unnoticed. It is only collectively that our participation matters.

    So how are we supposed to stand out? How can we try to find meaning in what we’re doing? How can we make a difference with so very many other bloggers trying to do the same?

    Be persistent. Be consistent. Speak in our own voice every chance we get.

    Even if we aren’t getting the feedback we need to make us feel better about our blogs, we have to keep blogging. They say that persistence pays and it does… eventually. Even if eventually is a far way down the road, it will happen. Someone will stop by and leave a comment. Someone will opt to follow. Until then we just have to keep in mind that we’re doing this for ourselves, that we’re accomplishing something by just putting it out there every week.

    Even if it’s hard to come up with something new or interesting to say, write reviews or share our thoughts about all things books, we have continue to do so. Posting erratically gives us the appearance that we’re unreliable. And being seen as such will make those publishers, authors and tour hosts less willing to take a gamble on us. Disappearing for weeks and months at a time will cause our audience to disappear, drive traffic to our sites down, and thus make us less “valuable” as a resource. And if our goal is to make a difference by being a valued resource, our less than consistent behavior will destroy that.

    But the best hope we have of making our mark in the blogging community is speaking in our own voice on our blogs. It’s our thoughts about books, about authors, about the industry and about the bookish community that will help us to achieve that goal. Posting generic content, or content that doesn’t allow our voice, our thoughts, our personality to come through will never let us differentiate ourselves. It will never give us that sense of accomplishment. If we want to make a difference we can’t just be a number.

    Now, this is not to say that our contributions always have to be masterful or meaningful or wholly unique. Sometimes just a silly, gif-filled post can make a difference. Or creating a “Team” banner for a bookish boyfriend, or a countdown widget to show our support for an upcoming book. Or sharing a particular book-related experience, or photos from a book signing.

    We don’t have to be wordsmiths, coding experts or social media mavens to be valuable assets to the book community. We only have to be ourselves – book lovers who love sharing our thoughts about the books we adore.

    And by doing just that we are making a difference.


    Random Thoughts: Reviews or Page Views


    For almost as long as I’ve been a book blogger I’ve heard bloggers lament about how few page views reviews get as compared with other posts. They talk about how much effort goes into those posts and how they don’t pay off in the form of views or comments.

    And I agree, at least in my experience, that they don’t generate a high number of views or interactions on the blog. Not typically, anyway.

    But the reason I haven’t added my voice to the mix, bemoaning how few views and comments I get on reviews I labor over, is because I try to remind myself that there are benefits to writing and posting reviews. Even if they aren’t readily apparent.

    And while it’s not always easy to see the positives, when site traffic dips to an all-time low on review posting days, these reminders of said benefits do help… most of the time.

    So I thought I’d share a few of them here. And since I’m all about nice, round numbers, I thought I’d share ten.

    1. Writing reviews allows me to share my thoughts about the books I read. Isn’t that why I’m blogging in the first place?

    2. Writing reviews allows me to challenge myself to organize my thoughts, improve my writing, think about books in a different way. I love a challenge!

    3. Writing reviews allows me to request (or grab) other eGalleys for review without feeling too guilty for doing so. Yes, I still feel guilty when I don’t review them all, but I don’t feel as guilty.

    4. Writing reviews gives my blog a legitimacy it might not have if all I posted were promotional marketing materials that don’t allow my voice to be heard. How would my blog be different from any other blog if my voice wasn’t a part of it?

    5. Writing reviews gives my blog some variety so that it’s not just one thing all the time. Who wants to hear my random rambling thoughts all the time? Not me!

    6. One single “nice review” comment makes me a million times happier than thirty comments attached to a blog tour post with giveaway.

    7. Writing reviews keeps me focused and away from the television for just a few hours. Yes this is a benefit. I watch way too much TV.

    8. Writing reviews let’s me stop and think about a book before moving past it and diving into another. Devouring book after book without pause doesn’t let me appreciate them as much as I could/should.

    9. Every so often a review I’ve written gets read by the author, who then might tweet it, thank me for my thoughts, or reach out to me to review another book they’ve written. This allows me to secretly fangirl. Oops… cat’s out of the bag on that one.

    10. And the obvious benefit: Writing reviews allows me to call myself a reviewer. It lets me describe my blog in ways that others, who don’t know what blogging is, can understand. “No, my blog is not simply a promotional vehicle, it’s a platform where I share my thoughts and opinions, as well as help spread the word, about books I adore.”

    There are a ton of reasons why writing reviews is beneficial. I’ve just named a few.

    It’s possible that by writing reviews you’ll get approved to review more books, you’ll be sent books for review without having to ask for them, you’ll receive review requests from authors to read their work, and you might even get blurbed in the praise section.

    I don’t like to list those as benefits as they aren’t guaranteed and they are likely to make you feel worse if your reviews don’t produce those hoped-for results. But maybe the chance that they could happen is enough to make writing reviews worth the sacrifice of views.

    But if none of those seem like benefits and you’re still unsure about the costs (page views, time, effort) versus the benefits, just ask yourself the following two questions:

    When you write a review and post it do you feel a sense of accomplishment for doing so? Do you feel the same sense of accomplishment when formatting a promotional post, participating in a meme, participating in a blog tour?

    If the answer to the first is “yes” and the answer to the second is “no,” then I’d say sacrificing page views to write and post reviews is definitely worth it.

    How about you?


    Random Thoughts: I’ll Never Understand…


    I have been on this earth for a lot of years and I don’t think I’ll ever understand why we feel the need to take away someone’s happiness. I get that we have thoughts and opinions. I understand that we feel strongly about what we think is right and what we think is wrong.

    And we’re entitled to those thoughts and opinions. But why do we feel the need to share those opinions in a way that takes away someone’s happiness. Or if not taking away their happiness in its entirety, taking it away in part, making it less.

    Shouldn’t we rejoice in the fact that something good is happening for someone else? Just because it’s not happening for us right now, doesn’t mean that it won’t. And when that time comes for us, wouldn’t we want others to be happy for us? Wouldn’t we want to feel like we can share our joy without having it crushed, reduced or diminished in any way?

    I get feeling jealous. I get feeling like it’s not fair. I get feeling why not me. But just because we have those negative feelings, do we have to share them? Do we have to spread the negativity around? Does that statement “misery loves company” have to be true?

    I’ve been a part of this bookish community for a number of years now. And I’ve found that for the most part bloggers and readers and authors are wonderful, generous, kind and helpful. They are enthusiastic about the books they love. They want to share their excitement for upcoming titles, they want to help their blogger or author friends succeed.

    They are there for each other. As friends. As sounding boards. As support.

    I’ll never understand why someone else’s success can’t be used as a push to achieve the same rather than used to wallow in self pity. I’ll never understand why those who are friends when the going is tough can’t be friends when the going is not so tough for one of them.

    Shouldn’t a friend be happy when another friend achieves their dreams? Shouldn’t a fellow author rejoice when one of their colleagues or friends gets their work published, because it means there’s a chance for them, too? And even when it doesn’t, shouldn’t they be happy that someone who is striving for the same thing they are gets a chance at happiness because they know what it’s like all those other times?

    Why do we need to inject our negativity into something positive? Does it make us feel that much better to make someone feel that much worse? Do we feel better because what we’ve said makes someone else angry, upset, hurt?

    Maybe for the moment? But for the long-term?

    Rejection sucks. Being ignored sucks. Being left out sucks. Being left behind sucks.

    But just because we’ve been sucking on some major sour grapes, does that mean we should tear apart someone who isn’t?

    We seem to talk a lot about fairness in this community. Is it fair that Author X got published and Author Y didn’t? Is it fair that Author X’s series got picked up when Author Y’s less known but exquisitely written one didn’t? Is it fair that Blogger A gets 5,000 hits per day on their site but Blogger B only gets 50? Is it fair that bloggers in New York have easy access to more bookish events than those than bloggers in Arizona?

    Maybe. Maybe not.

    But is it fair to take someone’s happiness and dump all over it? Is it fair to put someone down just because you’re feeling jealous? Is it fair to share your opinion when your opinion is only meant to upset someone else?

    If fairness is the big concern, then maybe we should be thinking about the ways in which we’re not being fair before we talk about how unfair things are.

    Is it fair that I have the luxury of being a book blogger, getting the occasional “free” book for review, live in a country where I can buy almost any book I want? Is it fair that I have a platform where I can share my thoughts freely without repercussions? Is it fair that I can go to sleep at night and not worry about my safety and the safety of those I love? Is it fair that I can earn money and have the freedom to spend it as I choose?

    I suppose it’s not. It’s not fair. But it is what it is and I wouldn’t change it.

    But is it fair that you have a site that’s more heavily trafficked than mine? Is it fair that you have more followers on social media than I do? Is it fair that you’re a better writer, reviewer, blogger than I am? Is it fair that you get more comments on each of your posts than I do on mine? Is it fair that you get to attend conferences that I don’t? Is it fair that your mailbox is filled with bookish mailings when mine isn’t? Is it fair that you’re more friendly or social or smarter or prettier or younger than I am?

    Maybe. Maybe not. But it is what it is and I wouldn’t change it.

    I can be sad that I don’t get approved for a title I very much wanted and still be happy for every single person that did. I can feel jealous that they got to take pictures at a conference with their favorite authors who now know them by name and still be excited that they got to meet them.

    I can feel sad that I didn’t get a ginormous mailing from a publisher and still be thrilled for those that did and be excited for the authors that each of their books are getting put into the spotlight.

    I don’t have to let the feeling of being left out take center stage. I don’t have to let it take hold and make me miserable. I don’t have to then let that misery out in the form of a blog post or comment. I don’t have to destroy someone else’s happiness. I can share it.

    And in doing so make myself feel better. Make the sting of rejection feel that much less.

    I am not a Pollyanna. I am no one’s ray of sunshine. I am snarky and judge-y and opinionated. I have lots and lots and lots of opinions.

    But I try to put myself in someone else’s shoes before opening my big mouth.

    I try to think of how it would feel if someone told me I was mean for posting pictures of the books I receive on my blog, when I know my reason for doing so is to put them in the spotlight for the author and publisher and not to create the jealous feels. I’d feel awful.

    I try to think of how it would feel if someone told me I was just “lucky” to have my review blurbed in a book or “lucky” to have made a publisher’s mailing list or “lucky” to have gotten a story published instead of being deserving of it. I’d feel unworthy.

    I try to think of how it would feel if someone said the way I wrote my reviews was wrong, the opinion I had of a book was wrong, the promotional posts I chose to include on my blog showed that I was lazy or a suck-up. I’d feel upset. I’d doubt myself. I’d feel like something was wrong with me.

    I try to remember how it feels when someone has come along and taken away my excitement, enthusiasm, love for something. When someone has made me upset when they didn’t have to. When someone has made me question myself.

    It sucks. Big time.

    So I choose to only share those opinions that aren’t meant to bring someone down. I choose to share in someone’s happiness so that I can feel a little bit happy, too. I choose to think about how I phrase things when I’m in a particularly grumpy mood so as not to offend.

    And it’s really not that hard to do. It’s not difficult to be happy for someone. It’s not difficult to choose to be excited instead of a buzzkill. It’s actually way easier than trying to find ways to make others miserable.

    So I’ll never understand why there are those that choose animosity over kindness in this community. This is an amazing community filled with such incredibly talented writers and enthusiastic readers.

    We may be far from perfect, but we all have one thing in common – we love books.

    So I’ll never understand those who choose to taint it, to bring it down, instead of support it, lift it up.


    Random Thoughts: Looking Back and Looking Ahead #4


    For the past three years I’ve taken a look back at the year that passed, sharing both my accomplishments and my failures in blogging, and looked forward to the year ahead, by setting New Year’s Resolutions for myself. But as I am participating in Parajunkee’s Book Blogger New Year’s Challenge this year, the first day of which involves listing resolutions, I’m going to say goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014 just a little bit differently than I did in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

    Saying Goodbye to 2013…

    This past year in blogging has been filled with highs and lows. It started off quite rocky and drama-filled, which made me question whether blogging was worth it, but after the difficult start things settled down and I found my way back to my happy place, which entailed reading lots and lots of ahhh-mazing books.

    I spent much of the year struggling with my ability – or lack thereof – to write reviews, rethinking the number of blogs I actively blog on, and redesigning some of my sites. I also found that after all that early drama I was happier being a quieter, less social, blogger.

    On a more positive note, I dipped my foot into the New Adult waters and found that the few books that I did read in that genre I seriously loved. It expanded my reading and blogging universe and I can’t wait to see where it leads.

    I participated on a surprisingly large number of tours throughout the year – not all of them hosted by Rockstar Book Tours if you can believe it. It’s something I hope will continue throughout 2014 as I love helping to promote books I adore and love chiming in with my thoughts about the posts and books I am promoting.

    I decided to say goodbye to Triberr, which didn’t seem to affect my site’s traffic in any significant way, though it did reduce both the amount of time I spent on Twitter and the number of new followers received. It also made it that much more difficult for me to discover new posts and blogs of interest.

    But I have met some wonderful new bloggers this past year and participated in a few awesome online events.

    I met my reading – if not reviewing – goal for 2013, though I clearly didn’t properly update my Goodreads shelves to reflect my reads.

    And I finally participated in Bloggiesta. Even though it was last minute, I made it! It only took three years. Better late than never, I suppose.

    While not directly related to blogging, in 2013 I had my first short story published in an anthology, I self-published a few others, I finished writing a story I began during NaNoWriMo 2011 and I started a completely new story that’s so far out of my comfort zone it’s completely ridic.

    I think I finally came to realize in 2013 that I can’t keep up with the breakneck pace I’ve had for the past few years of blogging. I am only one person and with work, some new IRL interests and writing, I am not capable of doing it all.

    But I also came to realize that blogging is an important part of my life, and while it doesn’t always serve as my escape or my creative outlet it’s something that I love doing and hope to do for a long, long while.

    …Saying Hello to 2014

    I am looking forward to the year ahead in blogging and reading. There are an endless number of titles releasing this year that I am incredibly excited about. I already have over one hundred books pre-ordered and have at least a couple dozen review books on my Kindle and on my book towers.

    I am excited about reading more YA contemporary novels, both contemporary and PNR/UF New Adult novels, and even a few PNR/UF novels from some amazing authors I’ve been wanting to discover or have recently discovered.

    I am excited about discovering many new debut YA authors, their stories and their characters this year.

    I am excited – and sad – to say goodbye to some amazing series I’ve loved for the past several years.

    I hope to continue some of the newer features I’d started here on this blog or on one of my satellite blogs and maybe start a few more. Though I’m also hopeful that there won’t be too many more “epic fail moments in blogging” as the number of fails I have had is more than a little bit embarrassing.

    While I don’t know how social I’ll be this year, I hope to be an active participant in as many challenges and events as I can. And maybe, just maybe, join a tourney again. I am also slated to attend the RT Convention in New Orleans this May which is something I’m really looking forward to.

    I plan on taking things a little less seriously in 2014, which means being okay with the fact that I might not get to review all the books I read. But which also means that I will likely end up reading more books without the stress of feeling obligated to review them.

    I also plan on taking more time away from the blog to write the stories I’ve been wanting to write. While I may never be a good writer or a successful one, I enjoy writing, I (mostly) like my characters and I don’t want to use blogging as an excuse to not write.

    And, finally, I plan on being a more well-rounded blogger by doing things other than blogging and reading. Like sailing – my newest passion. Watching massive amounts of television – Supernatural, Reign, The Vampire Diaries, Suits, The Originals. Going to the movies – Divergent looks awesome. Attending concerts and theatre and going bike riding and for walks along the beach.


    While I didn’t list resolutions or discuss my failure to meet last year’s resolutions or goals, it was interesting to take a look back at the last year in blogging after-the-fact. When caught up in the moment and the day-to-day it’s hard to see things for what they really are, how much of a blip they are, how unimportant in the scheme of things they can be.

    Drama dies down and what remains is the good stuff. The books. The amazing authors. The awesome bloggers. The characters. The friends. The shared interests and passion for books.

    And while there have been quite a few changes in the blogosphere this past year – different players, a different landscape, a different approach – change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what changes there are in 2014.

    How about you?


    Random Thoughts: Who do you blog for?

    Chances are when you first started blogging it was because you wanted to share your thoughts on the books you read with someone – anyone – who might have enjoyed them as much as you did. You came up with a name, figured out how to get a blog – whether free or paid – added your personal touch to the design, wrote your first post and pressed publish.

    Then you anxiously waited for someone to come along and find it.

    Perhaps you had a bit of knowledge about the book blogosphere before you created your blog and wrote your first post. Perhaps you already had your social media accounts lined up in order to spread the word about what you just posted. But maybe you didn’t.

    Eventually, whether you were tapped into the social sphere or not, someone will have discovered your site, read your post – or posts – and commented.

    Maybe they agreed and cheered you on, maybe they didn’t and questioned whether you had any brain cells, common sense, taste, or intellect. Maybe they loved your enthusiasm and the passion you put into your review or post. Maybe they thought you were dishonest and pandering to the publisher, author, your audience, the book’s fandom.

    Maybe they liked your snark, your animated gifs, your negative feedback. Maybe they found it distasteful, juvenile, offensive or rude.

    Maybe they liked you and came back again. Maybe they clicked away never to return.

    Maybe, maybe, maybe.

    Does it really matter what “they” think?

    It depends on who you’re blogging for.

    If you’re blogging for you, it doesn’t matter if they like you (or your blog) or dislike you, love you or despise you. It doesn’t matter if they agree with your views on what you’ve read. It doesn’t matter if they approve of your approach to blogging. It doesn’t matter if they think you’re dishonest or motivated by some purpose other than a love of what you’re doing.

    It doesn’t matter if they think you’re a super fan, an attention-seeker, a drama queen.

    It doesn’t matter because you’re blogging for you. You’re sharing your thoughts, whatever they may be, in the way you want to share them. While it may feel hurtful if someone calls you a name, questions your integrity, dismisses you as if you have no value, as long as you’re doing what makes you happy, what gives you a sense of personal accomplishment, that’s all that matters in the end. Those naysayers and doubters do not matter.

    If you’re blogging to make a name for yourself, to build a brand, to get your foot in the door in the industry, to make friends, to get those “free” books, then it does matter.

    If you have a goal, you have to keep your audience in mind in order to achieve that goal. Or if you don’t have one yet, but want a specific audience, then you have to plan accordingly. You have to get to know your audience – or the audience you want – and find out what they like and dislike. If they like substantive posts, then be sure to make them substantive. If they like a review with a side of snark, then be sure to include that snark. If they want to see a broad spectrum of review ratings, then make sure to read books that you love, like, dislike, despise.

    And if they want to see certain types of books reviewed then only read and review those books for your blog.

    If you’re looking to get back something from your blog other than the reward of doing something you love, getting the occasional word of praise, making a few friends, then you have to think strategically about what your audience responds to, what the publishers want to see in order to include you on a tour or send you a book, what the authors want to see in order to respond to your request for an interview.

    And if you’re looking to monetize, you’ll have to dig a little deeper to find out how to maximize income from advertisements and affiliate links and work a little harder to get those numbers up.

    If you are an outsider looking in and are not familiar with the industry, are uncertain about what works and what doesn’t, are unclear on how to market yourself, then you have to do your research. Study blogs that have good numbers, a large following and try to apply what works for them to your blog. This does not mean copy them. You need to be original. You need to find something that works for you.

    Blogging for anyone – or anything – other than yourself requires time – to learn about the industry, to find out what works and what doesn’t, to come up with new ideas, to learn about your audience. It requires dedication – to keep working toward building your persona/brand, to keep living up to your readers’ expectations, to keep improving on what you’ve built, to keep moving forward even when there have been setbacks. It requires hard work – to be consistent, to be professional, to be this person you’ve created when you just feel like being yourself.

    And sometimes it may require a level of dishonesty. You may be required to pretend to like something you didn’t and sing its praises on a tour or in a review. You may have to say you didn’t like something that secretly you loved because your fan-base/audience thought it was all kinds of dreadful. You may have to pretend to like someone you don’t, you may have to pretend to be someone you’re not. You may have to write about things that don’t interest you. You may have to promote something you don’t stand behind, advertise a product you don’t believe in, or stay silent about something you do.

    When you’re running your blog like a business there are concessions you have to make or your business will suffer. You just need to decide what’s most important to you.

    If you’re unsure just who you’re blogging for, then ask yourself the following questions:

    • Would I change my review style if it would mean I’d get more readers?
    • Would I change the types of books I read if it would draw in a bigger crowd?
    • Would I write more positive/negative reviews if it meant that people would stop saying negative things about me?
    • Would I alter my rating in order to appease the author, publisher, my audience?
    • Would I promote a book I wasn’t interested in or didn’t care for if it meant that I’d have a better shot at being included on future tours or receive more books from the publisher?
    • Would I be friendly with a blogger or author I didn’t like just because they were more “popular” than me?
    • Would I join an event, participate in a meme, write about topics that didn’t interest me because it/they would result in more pageviews or keep me connected with the community?
    • Would I ask my audience what works and what doesn’t and change the types of things I post about based upon their feedback?
    • Would I post an ad for a book I hated if I was being paid for the ad space?
    • Would I refrain from posting a review for a book I didn’t like if I was being paid to advertise that very book?
    • Would I keep my opinion to myself about anything if it could have a negative impact on my brand, my blog’s readership/traffic, my standing with authors, publishers, the community?

    If you’ve said yes to any one of those questions then at least in part you are blogging for someone other than yourself – not that it’s wrong, or a bad thing. It just means that you need to factor other things into your decision-making process before pressing publish or going on a mini-rant on Twitter or Facebook.

    So… who do you blog for? Do you blog for yourself or someone – or something – other than you?

    Or is it a little bit of both? Do you blog mostly for you but take into consideration your readers, followers, advertisers, the authors and publishers you interact with?

    Whoever you blog for, what has been your experience? Would you change anything about the way you blog, or who you blog for?

    And if you’re not blogging just for you and you had it all to do over again, would you do anything differently?


    Random Thoughts: Can a Writer Ever Really Retire?


    Setting aside writing slumps, writer’s block and other things that get in the way of an author’s ability to write, is it really possible for a writer to just stop writing? Can someone who creates worlds and characters and stories in their head just one day decide that they’re done?

    When a writer’s career is at an end, does a creative mind just all of a sudden stop creating? Or do those ideas still clamor loudly in the writer’s head, demanding their release?

    These are the questions I’ve asked myself every time I’ve seen a writer announce their retirement from the craft. I wonder how it can be possible, after years of turning those thoughts into words on a page that form stories, to simply stem the flow of ideas or stifle them altogether.

    And I don’t know that it’s possible. But I haven’t spoken with a writer who has decided to relinquish their title of “author” and take on the title of “retiree” to find out if, in fact, it is.

    When Stephen King talked of retirement I never really imagined it to be true. With a mind like his, I didn’t think his characters would allow him to stop telling their stories. And it seems they haven’t. Not yet. But if the day ever comes where they decide to give him some peace, I know I’ll be brokenhearted. Of course, knowing his characters as well as I do, I don’t think that will happen any time soon.

    It’s one thing for a successful novelist to step away from the demands of a fan-base or the rigors of writing to meet contractual deadlines. But to say that they’re done with writing is a statement I find hard to believe. As someone who has been making up stories, daydreaming them to life, and has been bossed around by my characters for as long as I can remember, I couldn’t even fathom a way to erase them without destroying a part of myself.

    Even during what I call my non-creative period I still found myself daydreaming stories. They just weren’t stories that wanted to be written down. But they were always there. Always writing themselves, if only in my mind.

    So how does one go about retiring from one’s mind purposefully? How does a writer find ways to escape their creativity? If that’s not possible, then how does a writer ignore the push to create, to write, to develop?

    Perhaps there is another avenue in which to channel a writer’s creativity. Perhaps photography or sculpting or painting can serve that purpose. Perhaps creating a different story, a story with images as opposed to words, will do the trick. But I’m still in doubt.

    Because it’s the writer’s words that build those stories, those faraway lands, those characters that we, as readers, get lost in, become connected to. It’s their words that paint the landscape, not merely a brush. So unless the writer is adept at transforming those words into brush strokes, they will still be there as insistent as ever.

    The need to take a break, to escape from one’s thoughts is understandable. But is proclaiming one’s retirement really the way to do that? Unless one’s mind has broken down to the point that ideas no longer form, words no longer string themselves together into stories, characters no longer introduce themselves, stating that one is retiring doesn’t amount to much more than saying one is no longer writing on a schedule.

    But the stories don’t really stop, do they?

    These days we’re told that to live longer and healthier lives we need to keep our minds sharp and engaged. If a writer tries to shut down the part of their lives that keeps those wheels spinning, does it mean that once a writer retires they’re facing an early demise?

    Perhaps I’m being overly fatalistic. Or perhaps I’m being a bit too naive.

    Maybe a writer announces their retirement because their creativity has reached its limits. Perhaps there is a day that comes when every story in an author’s arsenal has been told. Maybe with age creativity diminishes. Or maybe it’s the writer’s imagination that decreases in direct correlation with their age.

    A narrow mind does not lend itself well to building worlds of fantasy. As we age our tolerance, our open-mindedness, tends to shrink. So perhaps when a writer says sayonara they’ve reached a point in their lives where their mind is so closed off there is no room for the stories to squeeze through.

    But again, I’m in doubt.

    While the lens we look through the world at may change as we age, without something more, our changed perspective wouldn’t be radical enough for us to lose every last bit of who we once were. It’s not likely to have caused us to lose every last ounce of creativity we had.

    So I highly doubt that a writer whose career spans decades will suddenly become a completely different person once their time left on this earth is less than the time they’ve already spent here.

    Being a writer is not a choice. Well, I suppose one can be forced to write to put food on their tables, especially if they’re good at it. But I doubt that those who write novels, who create characters that have elaborate backstories, complicated relationships and live in worlds that don’t always resemble our own, have much say as to whether those characters are born, whether those relationships are formed or torn apart, whether those cities, those wastelands, those distant planets come to be.

    They say that writers are the gods of their worlds. They decide their characters’ fates, the directions their lives will take, the time their lives will end. But as much as this may be true, they’re also slaves to their minds, their characters, their worlds. When an idea forms they have no choice but to write it down or at the very least acknowledge it before deciding to pass it up as an idea not worth pursuing. As much as they are in control of their creation, it holds sway over them.

    Retirement, to me, evokes the idea of relaxation, of getting away, of escape. But since what makes a writer a writer is their mind, there can be no lengthy escape without the use of a mind-altering substance, injury or prolonged periods of sleep.

    And, to me, none of those sound like viable options. Which brings me back to my question, which I have no sure answer for – can a writer ever really retire?

    What do you think?



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