Three years ago, around 5:30 pm I started The Mad Reviewer. I was half asleep and exhausted after work but had been planning to start a blog for a solid two weeks or so. I had all of my first posts typed up to post right away and my first review was The Iron King by Julie Kagawa. It was rough and not very well written I must admit, but I like to think I’ve gotten better after three years and 600 more reviews as practice.
So here I am, three years, 600 reviews and 200,000+ views later. On my first day ever, my blog got 18 views whereas now I average anywhere from 150-200 views per day, depending on what I post that week and any holidays that are currently going on. It’s been an incredible journey. I’ve made so many friends and met so many interesting people (as much as one can make friends and ‘meet’ people online) and I’ve learned a lot. Here are just some of the things I’ve learned in three years of writing nearly daily:
1. Even though not everyone sticks around for long, you do build up a core section of regular commenters.
People follow and then unfollow your blog; that’s just the way the internet works. But over time, blogs build up communities of sorts where a few people will comment pretty regularly on your posts. It’s gratifying to see that community build and change over the years and although I love all of the comments I get, the comments from you regulars always mean so much to me. It shows me that even when my writing is not necessarily my best, you’re still willing to give it a read and leave your thoughts behind. That’s a pretty incredible feeling and I like to think we’ve had some pretty interesting conversations and debates over the years.
2. Blogging can be exhausting and that’s normal.
You will eventually get burned out. That’s just the way blogging goes, like so many other creative pursuits. You’ll be posting daily and regularly and all of a sudden something awful will happen in your real life that completely throws everything off. Or maybe something happens that isn’t all that dramatic and you just lose the ‘shiny new’ feeling you get when you blog. Either way, every blogger will hit a slump. Mine was just recently after my beloved boss/mentor/role model died in May. It was really bad in July and August but this January my resolution has been to move on and write daily like I used it. So far so good and it’s such a relief to get back on a schedule. It just makes me feel better about the whole thing.
That’s why my main advice for new bloggers is this: you will burn out eventually. But when you do, take a break and get back on that horse.
3. Some posts will be surprisingly popular; others will not.
If you write articles with popular internet buzzwords like ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘nude’ (preferably in the same sentence), you’re going to get a lot of views. 42% of my traffic last year came from a post with just those words and most of those views were from search engines. Rants like the aforementioned rebuttal are satisfying to write if only to let off some steam and it’s also satisfying to look back on those rants and see that they’re still popular.
But I’ve got some bad news for new bloggers: the articles that you generally will care the most about and put the most effort into will not be the most popular. (Especially if you’re a book blogger.) In general, what you like to write about and what your core group of loyal readers loves will not be as popular with the general public. I love to write about obscure historical figures in my Forgotten Figures series but the problem with writing about obscure historical figures is that they’re obscure. Not many people search them out.
Of course you can love to rant about popular topics and get views from those, but don’t be surprised when articles you put your heart and soul into don’t get the number of views that are proportional to the effort put into them.
4. There are some bad times, but there are mostly good times to be had.
Sometimes, just like in real life, people can be assholes online. This shouldn’t be news to anyone who has ever been online. Sometimes those assholes will attack you. It’s just a fact of life on the internet, particularly if you’re female (then you get all of the bonus sexual harassment in addition to regular harassment!). And if you’re a book blogger like me, it’s inevitable that an author will go ballistic at you for doing something ‘wrong’. Whether it’s rejecting a review request because your requests are closed or not being totally 100% happy and completely positive in your review of their work, you’re going to get attacked by an author. You need to develop a thick skin and deal with it, unfortunately. They’re not going anywhere.
Those are the low points of being a book blogger. They’re rare, but they are there. Fortunately, most of the times will be good. Your posts will be read by at least a couple loyal readers a day and you’ll meet some amazing people in the publishing industry, be they editors, bloggers or writers. You’ll get to share your love of books and that’s really what book blogging is all about, at least for me. The good times have definitely outweighed the bad here on The Mad Reviewer.