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Simon Savidge on book blogging

Written by Simon Savidge

Simon Savidge writes about his journey to being a book blogger, his blog, Savidge Reads and offers tips.

simon-savidgeIt 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.

Simon’s top 5 tips for bloggers

Do it because you enjoy it.

I think genuine enjoyment shines through on blogs, well those I love and read regularly. A blog will not make you a celebrity. It will likely make you rich in new readers/friends which is amazing, but it is unlikely to make you rich and quit your day job. Though it may help with the dream job you want unintentionally and may lead to some gigs in the field you love, if you are very lucky.

Be yourself.

In the business world you always hear people wanging on about a products ‘point of difference’ being its best asset, they are right. The joy with a blog is that you are that point of difference; your voice, your writing, your opinion are what make it unique. Don’t try to be anyone else, or have an ulterior motive, people can spot these traits a mile off. Ooh, that is two extra tips for free.

It is just opinions.

I have seen some bloggers/vloggers become somewhat ‘I am the authoritative voice on…’. No you aren’t. I found it very difficult to internalise the screams of ‘are you mad?’ when people didn’t like a book I loved at first, but that is the joy of blogs they start discussion and debate hopefully. Your opinion is right to you, just as Donald Trump’s is right to him – and he is crazy! Also people will have opinions on your opinions; remember that.

Make content you would like to read.

I am not saying I sit daily in a Bond villain chair with my cat on my knee reading my own blog back to myself – honest! What I mean is write things that you feel you would want to stumble across on the internet or you aren’t seeing anywhere else. Don’t write what you think people want; it all comes across in the words.

It takes time.

I don’t just mean it takes time to become established or to get visitors, hit and comments which it does. It takes a long time to blog. I rarely just bang a blog out and post it. I like to go over it a few times first – some reviews take an hour here or there over a few weeks. A tip I should also use more myself is to read it back aloud afterwards; you will find most of your grammatical errors and spelling mistakes thay way – I still get emails about these.

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