I’ve been a book blogger for 18 months now and this week I hit a wall. My blogging mojo has disappeared and I’m taking a break for a while to see if I can find it again.
This is why…
Book blogging is a wonderful thing. It provides real readers access to the world of publishing: to preview copies of the latest books, to authors and editors, and to a real and digital community of fellow bookworms. It’s been a great comfort and creative lifeline to me, and has given me the chance to experience some brilliant things.
However, it’s also very hard. Here are the five reasons why I’m struggling:
No.1: Reality bites
You might see me posting glossy pictures of books and tea cups on Instagram or heading off to London to attend bookish events. What you don’t see is me lying on the kitchen floor (the vinyl makes a great backdrop for a flat lay) to get the best angle for the picture. You don’t see the bags under my eyes as I arrive at Newcastle Central Station at 5am to catch the train to the capital. You don’t see me getting up at 6am to write and schedule a book review before I leave the house because I didn’t get the chance to do it after being kept late at work the previous night.
No.2: Under pressure
As my profile as a blogger has grown, I’ve been given access to more and more ARCs by a wide range of big name and indie publishers. That’s an amazing opportunity but it’s equally a huge burden. Like many book bloggers, I have an extensive waiting list of digital titles on NetGalley that I struggle to get through by publication day, and a growing mountain of book post waiting to be read. The pressure to read everything is immense.
No.3: Value for money
Working with publishers and bookish organisations has been a highlight of my blogging experience. I had the chance to collaborate with some fabulous organisations and events and I love it. However, I’m increasingly feeling that bloggers are taken for granted by an industry that fails to recognise their full value. Book bloggers rarely get paid for what they do – only on one occasion have I received funds for providing a package of articles. Most of the time, a copy of the book is reimbursement for a review and that’s fine. But when bloggers are asked to contribute much more than that, I feel they should be compensated appropriately.
I recently got asked at short notice to blog at a literary event one Saturday. I would have to give up my entire day (I work full time so weekends are my only days off – in which I have to squeeze in cleaning my flat, food shopping, housework, visiting family, a social life and seeing my husband). I would have to attend four lectures, write about them and then post the articles on my blog. For free. To hire a freelance writer to do this level of work would cost hundreds of pounds. Not only do bloggers provide content of equal quality, they bring with them strong brands and avid followers that perfectly match the profile the commissioning organisation wants to reach. So why is that not worth paying for?
No. 4: Live and let live
I’m finding the book blogging community to be a frustrating place to be right now. I’m part of a number of online blogging groups that have been a real source of help and support when finding my feet as a newbie. Lately, though, those communities have become rather negative and the ongoing debates (some of them more polite than others) about how bloggers should operate are wearing me down.
I have always thought – and maintain the idea – that you need to find your own way in blogging. What works for you might not work for someone else, and someone else’s blogging schedule might not fit with your lifestyle. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing (in fact, I actively discourage it) and you must find your own path in order to sustain your blogging activity.
No.5: The joy of reading
When I left university, I’d spent five years (if you include my preceding A-Levels) studying literature. I was a speed reader who could whizz through a novel and then knock up a literary criticism essay by sundown. By the time the mortar board was on my head at graduation, I couldn’t bear the thought of reading a book again. I had to put myself on a summer diet of chick lit and Dan Brown novels to reboot my brain.
I’m starting to feel like that again. I have so much to read that I end up skimming through it and not appreciating the lovingly crafted words of the author. Yes, I can turn down opportunities to review books (and I have recently) but knowing you have to review a book after reading does affect your enjoyment of it. Always having one eye on your notebook instead of two on the page is not a productive or pleasurable way to read a book.
I appreciate that this may seem like I’m complaining about my diamond shoes being too tight. I’m not. I have a lot of love for the whole book blogging community but am feeling disillusioned with its practice right now.
My reading brain needs another reboot so I’m going to remove myself from the blogging world for a while. I will be finishing the back catalogue of Lindsey Kelk’s I Heart… series (books that have always helped me dive into distant places and glamorous lifestyles) until I can read a book simply for the sake of it again.