Jo Talks Books: On My Blogging Journey So Far

Hi all! I really did not plan on making you wait this long for my December discussion post, in fact I had hoped to have time for two before Christmas, but the run up to Christmas is always super busy and I have had so much to catch up on with the blog after my incredibly busy November of deadlines, so I just didn’t have the chance to sit down and write this until today. I had intended to write something different for you guys today, but that idea felt a little ranty for just before Christmas and I wanted something a little more light and joyful to finish the year on, so I decided to talk about my past three years as a blogger instead, a little look back seemed appropriate for the end of the year.

This year marked my third year of blogging, I celebrated (quietly) my blogiversary back in February. It seems crazy to me that I’ve been doing this for three years already, it seems like only yesterday I started this little blog and it’s grown to so much more than I ever imagined it would be.

I was 17 (though it was the year I turned 18), in my first year of sixth form, when I came up with the idea that would eventually become BookLoversBlog. I can’t remember exactly why I had the idea, I think I had seen someone else on Tumblr do it and I decided that I wanted to put up book reviews. That didn’t go particularly well, I wasn’t even sure anyone else on Tumblr was reading my reviews, but I enjoyed doing it, so I kept going.

Obviously in my second term of lower sixth, the teachers were starting to get us to think about what we wanted to do for University. I wasn’t really sure (I’m still not really sure!) but I had always loved writing, and so I figured that Journalism might be a good idea, as a job that involves a lot of writing. I was looking on websites, to see what sorts of things were recommended to get you into University to study Journalism (which I am now doing, alongside History as part of a combined degree) or to get a job in Journalism and one thing that came up again and again was having a blog.

There was never really much question of what I would blog about. I had always loved books, ever since I was a child, and I had been reading Jamie’s (who is a part of The Broke and The Bookish, the team who currently run the Top Ten Tuesday meme until January 2018 when it transfers over to its new home at The Artsy Reader Girl, as TBTB is shutting down) blog, The Perpetual Page Turner and really loving it, so I figured that I might be able to do something like that. Set up my own little corner of the Internet.

I’ve never been the biggest computer whiz, I mean I can do Word, Powerpoint and all that, but I’d never done web design before, and I didn’t have a clue where to start. So I did what everyone does when they don’t have a clue how to do something: I googled. That googling then led me to WordPress and it was surprisingly easy to actually set up the blog, within a matter of minutes, I had my blog up and running and had transferred my Tumblr reviews over.

That’s not to say that starting BookLoversBlog was by any means easy. I look back at some of my early reviews and I absolutely cringe at how bad they were! When I first started reviewing, I didn’t take notes at all, and simply relied on other’s Goodreads reviews to help me remember what had happened in a book. Luckily I learned from my mistakes and in 2016, I started my first review notebook, where I now note down in minute detail all my thoughts on a book (I am now on notebook number two and will make it to number three in 2018!). I have definitely found that my reviews have improved tenfold since I started keeping notes, though my 2015 reviews aren’t bad and actually past my very, very early reviews of 2014, they’re relatively decent. Still I have definitely noticed an upturn in comments on my reviews since 2016 and I think that’s in part due to their improved qualities.

I also found it difficult interacting with the community at first. I didn’t really know how to, I was a 17 year old girl in what seemed to be a sea of twenty and thirty somethings, and could find no one my own age to talk to (so believe me teen bloggers, I know how you feel when you say it feels like this community is overrun by adults, I’ve been there. There definitely seems to be a lot more teens around now than when I started in 2014, though I didn’t use Twitter much back then, so I don’t know exactly how many other teens started blogging in 2014. But still I know we can do much better! Reader teens, start a book blog, it’s the most fun you’ll ever have). So for my first year, I was incredibly quiet on the blogosphere, barely interacting on Twitter, simply posting reviews on my blog every few months. No wonder I didn’t get many views in my first year. Still I was determined to carry on and do better in 2015.

And I did. My blog views were unrecognisable from that first slow year. They were in the hundreds by the end of 2014, in the thousands by the end of 2015. My followers also slowly but steadily increased, first into the double figures, then triple and now, just over a week till the end of 2017, I have 711 followers. Yes it’s a relatively modest number, but I am so proud of it. I never even thought that 10 people would follow my blog, let alone numbers into the hundreds.

In 2015, I started doing memes on my blog. I did a few too many at first, wanting to do one for every day, but it became clear early on that was far too much. The one I have kept up on is the meme I credit for helping me get more involved in the community. Top Ten Tuesday is such fun, and a great way to get to know other bloggers without too much pressure, you just visit their blogs, leave a comment, they come back and visit yours and voila! Without even realising it, I had finally managed to make a foothold for myself in the blogging community and really started to feel that I was a part of this family of internet bookworms. Doing this got me more views, more comments and more followers than ever before and really built my confidence as a blogger after that first year.

The teacher who helped with our student newspaper at sixth form really helped me out too. I said I had a blog, and she asked to look at it and then gave me all these tips about how it could look better and be easier to navigate. After talking with her, I decided on the theme that I currently have, I think it was something a little different when I first started blogging and created the menu in the header of my blog so it would be easier to find things. It definitely seems to have paid off!

Becoming more active on Twitter is something that has also helped me in the last few years of blogging. I had originally only got Twitter because my sixth form wanted us to have it in order to follow their Twitter feed to get updates about events, but I quickly learned it was a good way to publicise my blog. I wasn’t very active about actually talking to people on there to start off with though, I’m quite a shy person, so even talking to strangers on the internet is intimidating! Still over the past few years having got to know other bloggers through their blogs, I have felt more confident speaking to people on Twitter and joining in things like Armchair BEA and #ukyachat has only been a good thing for my blog. It has also allowed me to do discussion posts like the ones I have done this year where I have talked to other bloggers about their blogging experiences, which have been some of my favourites to do.

One of the biggest changes in the past two years has been my Netgalley reviewing. When I first started blogging, I was pretty oblivious to ARCs, as I didn’t really visit others’ blogs back then, aside from to get kind of an idea as to how a book review was set out. I only really became aware of ARCs in 2015 and even then, I never thought I’d get any as there was no way I’d be confident enough to email publishers for them and even then, my blog was pretty small, I didn’t think I’d get accepted.

Then in 2016, I found out about Netgalley, and figured maybe I would have a better chance with online reviewing. As with all Netgalley newbs, I got a bit overexcited on requesting at first, and was accepted for way more than I thought, so I got kind of overwhelmed! I reviewed 8 books on there that first year, and I don’t want to say that ARCs are everything to blogging, because they aren’t, but I definitely noticed a difference in the number of comments and views on my reviews of ARCs as compared to finished and published books. Joining Netgalley has only enhanced my blog, and I hope to keep requesting and reviewing books from there for years to come.

I have also in the last year or so, been approached to do posts on my blog for a couple of different companies (Arhaus this year and Eventbrite last year) and have actually been approached by publishers and asked to review their books, something I never thought would happen when I first started blogging, which I just think shows how much my blog has grown in quality in three years.

I started doing these discussion posts last year and have been thrilled with the response they have received, you guys have all been so positive and willing to interact that I wish I had started doing these years ago! It’s so nice to have a space on my blog to talk about any and all things bookish without the constraints of a review or a meme and it’s another thing that I feel has increased the quality of my blog in the last two years.

I’ve also started talking a little bit more openly about my personal life than I did when I first started blogging, through different tags and awards as well as my Quarterly Rewind posts that I’ve been doing since 2015. I wasn’t sure about sharing much when I first started, I didn’t even share my real name (though those who found me through Twitter would know it as I kept it on there), since you never know who can find you through the Internet and a lot of that was due to the fact that I was only 17, now I’m an adult (well kind of anyway!), I’m less wary to share things. But having got to know so many bloggers through Twitter and their blogs, I found I wanted to share more of myself on here and whilst there are some things I will always want to keep private, I quite like getting to share little tidbits from my life and pictures of me and my friends and family (with their permission of course) with you guys, it makes my blog feel a little bit more personal and I think it has improved for that.

I have also liked having goals, both for my reading and my blog over the past few years as it gives me a real sense of accomplishment when at the end of the year, I see how many of those goals I’ve achieved and how much I’ve done, both with my reading, my blog and my life.

It’s crazy to think how much has changed since I first started blogging. I was a 17 year old who hadn’t even done my AS Levels yet and had barely even started thinking about University. Now I’m 21, I’m in my third year of my University degree and about a year and a half from now will be graduating (that’s crazy frickin’ scary!). I started with barely any views and just a handful of followers and now I get thousands of views and hundreds of follows a year and have made some great friends and read some great books because of blogging. It has been hard, it has been stressful at times, it has taken up more hours of my life than I ever thought it would and it has become so much more than a mere hobby to get me into Journalism school! I would never have said when I started this blog, that I would be here, writing this post three years later, but I’m so glad that I am.

So to finish off this incredibly sappy and nostalgic post (perfect for Christmas, am I right?), I want to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who has followed this blog, read this blog, supported this blog and me over the past few years. Thank you to everyone who was so welcoming when I made my first foray out into this community and who are so lovely to me on Twitter. Thanks to all those who leave lovely supportive comments on my blog, to Netgalley and all the publishers who have given me the chance to review their books. And most of all thanks to the wonderful authors and their beautiful books that I have read, both for this blog and prior to it, without you, I would not be doing this now.

That sounded way too much like an awards speech didn’t it? I will probably look back and cringe at the above paragraph, but ah well, I have a lot of thanks to give. One last one and I swear then I’m done: Thanks for an amazing three years of blogging so far and here’s to many more to come!

I want to know fellow bloggers: How did your blogging journey start? Do you still marvel in amazement by how far you’ve come since you started? Let me know in the comments!

I don’t plan on having any more discussion posts for you this December as I will be incredibly busy in the run up to Christmas and then New Year and I feel like this is the perfect way to end my year of Jo Talks, so I will back with new content for this feature in 2018 (which is in under two weeks? How did this happen?). In the meantime however, I will have my final review of 2017 and various wrap up posts coming in the next few weeks leading up to 2018, so stay tuned! I’m not done for the year yet!

7 thoughts on “Jo Talks Books: On My Blogging Journey So Far

  1. Shealea 26/12/2017 / 4:47 am

    Hey, congratulations on three years of blogging! I just recently celebrated my second blog anniversary, and it’s always great to encounter posts like this. There’s still definitely a lot to learn in blogging, and I can’t wait to discover them! I wish the same for you.

    Cheers,
    Shealea @ That Bookshelf Bitch

    P.S. As promised, I’m leaving 🎄💖✨🎄💖✨ in my wake. Happy holidays!

    • iloveheartlandx 26/12/2017 / 11:03 am

      Aww thank you! Yeah I thought after three years it was time for something like this, so I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yes there really is, it’s amazing even after this long how much there is to learn! Thanks, I hope you had a great Christmas also 🙂

  2. Maraia 03/01/2018 / 5:37 pm

    It’s definitely hard to break into the community, even as an adult! I did it without having a blog myself, and that took months and months of faithful commenting. In the end, I realized that there were some people who already had friends and weren’t interested in making more. But the majority of people here are wonderful, welcoming people. It wasn’t until last year that I finally took the plunge and started (co-)blogging. I’m glad we’re both a part of this community!

    I know it’s hard to be open online. I’m still not 100% comfortable with it myself. But I connect the most with the people who do share! 😊

    • iloveheartlandx 04/01/2018 / 12:47 pm

      Yes it is! I think because book blogging is a relatively small community, you feel like everyone already knows each other, so it’s quite difficult to find a space for yourself. You’re right though, for the most part, people in the community are lovely. Me too!
      Yes, I think I’ve finally reached a place that I’m comfortable with, sharing enough that I feel like the people reading my blog can get to know but not so much that I feel I’m telling strangers things I don’t want them to know!

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