I ran my blog, Booksagogo.co.uk, for over four years until last October. And then I stopped. For four years I reviewed many gorgeous children’s books, promoting them mostly to an audience of primary school educators. I learnt about and wrote on the tricky and very subjective issue of reading for pleasure, sharing ideas I’d come up with in the hope that they might help at least one child to love reading the way I always had. I created free resources to help get the most from class readers and thought long and hard about the books I reviewed: ways they could be incorporated into the primary curriculum and ideas of activities teachers could do. There were list posts, blog tours, twitter updates and giveaways. I began an MA in Children’s Literature in order to learn more and be able to apply that to my teaching and my writing. Everything was categorised meticulously by appropriate age (never an upper age limit of course), subject and reading personality. I loved the buzz of the thought and planning that went into a post and even now after five months away it’s a great feeling to be tapping away into WordPress again. But somehow it’s not the same.
Blogging began to feel a bit like a relationship that had run its course. Plus, I was cheating. Spending my blogging time doing artwork or writing my own stories rather than reading or writing reviews. I decided to take a breather until the new year. It’s March and I’m still on that break.
It’s always been my aim to keep Booksagogo honest, useful and a force for good, so in the spirit of sharing the debatable wisdom of my years of blogging I’ve put together a final (for now) list post.
How to be an Introvert Blogger, and All That Jazz
1. Change Your Content, But Don’t Change Yourself
Blogs are great. They run to your own set of moveable rules and you can make changes to suit yourself. Booksagogo developed along the way, starting as a more general review site back in 2013 but quickly becoming all about kids’ books. For the first two years two of us ran it which felt really different to doing it alone. That’s one of the things about blogs- change often happens regardless and that’s fine, but don’t expect to change yourself to fit it. Being fairly shy and introverted, I felt I let the blog down by being a bit rubbish at promoting it on social media. I struggled to get involved in conversations or to push the content I’d written. It turns out that doesn’t really matter. Looking now at the stats for views over the last five months, despite there being no new posts and certainly no attempts at promotion, they remain pretty good and consistently not that different to before. Good content will keep working for you and people will read it. Maybe not straight away or in the swathes of admiring retweets you’d hoped for, but keep heart- if you share it, they will read. Eventually.
2. (Quiet) Self Belief is Everything
Write the best you can at the time you write it. And once you press publish, believe that you have filled one tiny corner of the internet with something good and worthwhile. Be proud of it and share it, at least a couple of times in case people missed it. If other people tell you they like it, that’s great, but don’t count on it as a verification that what you do is worthwhile. Take time to visit your own site and enjoy it. Definitely compare your early work to current writing and see how you’ve come on. If you’ve just started out, look- you made that! You are indeed a marvel!
3. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Ooh, this is hard. Don’t go down this road- green doesn’t suit you much and besides it’s a giant waste of time. We’re all different and it’s much more rewarding and achievable to do your own thing in your own way. Sure, I know it can be tough to see a fellow more gregarious book blogger’s photo of grilled halloumi receive more twitter likes than your last five lovingly honed blog posts put together, but you are better than that. Rise above the halloumi, fellow introverts. Parading squeaky cheese is not your style.
4. Don’t be Scared to Make Friends
I’ve come into contact with so many wonderful people through my blog and through Twitter. I do find it hard however to ‘chat’ much on social media as if you’re shy in real life, sometimes finding the right thing to type to someone else can be daunting. That’s who I am, which is fine, but I do wish I’d gone to more events and said hello to more people at the ones I went to as I’m much more comfortable with making friends in real life than I am through a computer. Find those good people, make friends and build a support network and do it in the way that suits you best, but…
5. Don’t Beat Yourself Up if You Don’t Make Friends
And if you really are just much better doing your own thing and not networking, or socialising online or elsewhere, that’s lovely too. Remember- your blog, your rules.
6. Free Books Are Not Guaranteed
I have received many things through blogging but free books were not at the top of the pile. In four years I came to receive books from a small amount of publishers but for the most part I bought my own. It’s lovely to be sent books but don’t count on it, even if you try really hard (in a non-pushy and polite way) to make it happen. On the plus side, when you buy your own books you choose your own reading list entirely. Unfortunately this can be expensive. This is one of those occasions when might need to speak up a bit or alternatively let the blog adapt to suit your means- write more think pieces and list posts alongside reviews.
7. Remember Who You are Doing it For
You made the rules remember? I started blogging because my teaching job had become very challenging and I needed something more fun in my life. It was a typical introvert move: retreating from a difficult situation and escaping into a book. I then wrote about that book, and then another. Share the joy, but keep some back for yourself.
8. Beccy Who? Getting Left Out Isn’t Always Bad
Social media can be forthright. The week I stopped blogging coincided with a well-meaning hashtag created to show appreciation to book bloggers. The name checks rolled in on my timeline, but not to me. It wasn’t a great feeling to see authors I’d championed many times miss me out of their lists of blogger appreciation and if I’m honest it did take any remaining wind out of my sails for a while. With hindsight I can see that this was because I was relying on the input of others to keep me writing when I lost my share of the joy.
Being quiet has its benefits and its drawbacks and being overlooked occasionally is one of them. Think of Serafina Pekkala- the witch from His Dark Materials who can be unseen when she wants to be. When it gets hard, remember those times when you managed to pull a Serafina Pekkala and happily avoided being the centre of attention. Sometimes we want to remain unseen, and sometimes it just happens when we don’t want it. Them’s the breaks.
9. Good Things Will Come From Blogging
Things you won’t have planned for and can’t possibly predict. For me, that was having the opportunity to be on the Brum Radio Book Show a few times and talk about children’s books. Working alongside Blake, Mike, Stuart and Catherine was just wonderful. Nerve wracking but wonderful! The whole experience shaped my writing for the better, made me more confident and improved Booksagogo no end. It was such an unexpected honour and an all round joy for me.
Thoughtful comments from authors always meant a lot. I’ve received cards and once even a poem, which was a very special moment. The children I’ve taught over the last four years have been a constant driving force behind Booksagogo. They’ve shown such enthusiasm for the books I’ve shared with them and enjoyed greatly hearing from authors. I’m not sure it’s created ‘a lifelong love of reading’ for each and every one of them as that’s not for me to say, but it did create excitement around books and gave a positive experience of reading that they will, I hope, remember and carry with them.
Good luck fellow quiet readers, keep sharing the joy xxx
Blogging about children’s books was really good for a really long time, but there are a lot of teachers out there now ably banging the reading for pleasure drum. I can’t shout as loudly as them, and nor do I want to. I don’t think I can make any sort of impact in this field now by quietly blogging, and I had always hoped to make an impact by now. Quiet reading and writing doesn’t stir things up. I can’t demand my fellow teachers become ‘reading teachers’ but would hope instead that they choose class reading books (new or otherwise) that they know and love and that they make sure they read them right to the end. And then go home and do their own thing. In part I blogged to save other teachers time in finding the right book. I’m not sure I managed to do that, but my reviews remains out there just in case.
I’ll continue to read children’s books because I always have, and I’ll probably tell you about them on Twitter. For now, I will draw and read and write and maybe spend a tiny part of each day thinking about Booksagogo and where if anywhere I might take it next. Time will tell.
* For now, at least.