It is hard to tell anyone about my ‘journey’ to being a book blogger. In part this is because when anyone tells me they have been on ‘a journey’ I want to roll my eyes to infinity. Mainly though it is because, for me, it all seemed to happen like some lovely accident. Initially when people asked me why I started blogging at Savidge Reads I would say ‘because I was boring most of my friends silly talking about books all the time’. That is true. I also wanted to create some kind of reading diary for myself. Deeper down I also think that I have always liked to have an opinion, on everything not just literature, and have always liked to scribble notes and thoughts in endless (half filled, because there is always a lovely new one around the corner) notebooks. Blogging combined the two, it could also be done sneakily when I used to have a job that bored me 50% of the time.
For the first two years I don’t think anyone read it or commented and when my first one arrived I backed away from the computer in fear. Who was reading this and why? Yet soon enough, once I too had discovered other book bloggers – it wasn’t really a thing when I first started – a community formed and I could pop here, there and everywhere talking about books. Slowly my audience built up as this ‘blogging’ thing caught on and became bigger and then publishers started contacting me whereupon, after a year or so, it turned into a slight monster and so did I.
When you love something be it books, music, chocolates, kittens, you can’t get enough. Well I can’t anyway. So when publishers were offering to send me free books I was accepting anything on the off chance, plus I was being sent things I didn’t even ask for. This was a bad move. Suddenly I had over 200 books in the space of mere months and then it was ‘well how do I have time to read all that?’ Plus by this point I was in the (unadvised) habit of blogging daily and really enjoying getting the comments and, shamefully, the hits on the site. I was in a whirl of addiction between the books arriving, the writing of the blog and the engagement with it from others. My blog was flying, and so was my ego a little if I am honest, but something started to get lost: the books. Reading suddenly wasn’t something I was doing for fun anymore. This is not what a blog should be and so, timed with personal stuff going on in the real world, I stopped. Well slowed down, the idea of stopping was unthinkable.
It was only after a month or so that I realised what a weird old whirl I had gotten myself into. The fact that I was itching to blog every day – partly because it was routine and I was escaping the bad stuff going on off-blog and partly because my ego had become addicted to validation – showed me something was wrong. I had a small bloggers rehab, aka moving my life from London back to the good old north, and came back refreshed. I would read what I liked, when I liked and blog about it if I liked. The rule was ‘no rules and no routine’, just be myself and share my love of books: the good, the bad and the indifferent. I made my intentions clear with new guidelines and a review policy and started afresh. I no longer feel guilty about recycling unsolicited proofs, I don’t check my stats often if at all, I don’t worry about authors or publishers not liking my reviews (though I would worry if they thought it was a personal vendetta) and am also writing more about random bookish thoughts and random parts of my life in the mix to.
So really in short, I never did it with the intention of becoming a ‘key influencer’ even if that is now what I am labelled by the industry; maybe that is why it worked. I didn’t want to become some famous critic (though I did also have a personal one for a while, thinking I was going to be the new Carrie Bradshaw) or to get a book deal. I did it, and this would my strongest advice to anyone, for myself and for my love of books. That is the long and short of it.
All in all, be yourself, give it time, genuine enthusiasm and dedication – you will enjoy it and so will people who find it. That is what I am reminding myself as I plan to venture into the world of vlogging…but that is for another time.