Do you ever go “way back” to when you first started blogging and look at your old review posts? Do you see any differences from then to now?
Way Back When
My first 27 out of 29 posts, between October 2010 and December 2011, were categorised in Dear Diary. They mapped my journey through from author wannabe to published author. It covers all the same stuff that everyone goes through: the self-conscious first-time blogger who’s been told she should have one; the learning to edit; the setting up the manuscript, query letters, grasping at straws, and the pain of rejection, or just hearing nothing at all. The turning point comes after I went to a one-day conference, and learned that this self-publishing stuff was the coming thing. I had my first book out by the end of the same month.
The first of those that weren’t in Dear Diary was a Book Blast: a piece on the BBC book list of 100 books everyone should have read. I saw this doing the rounds last week on Facebook, and did it again – I haven’t read any more of them. The other was a Special Offer on The Princelings of the East, half-price on Smashwords. It’s been permafree for a couple of years now, I think.
Old Review Posts
I went back to reading Middle Grade books when they told us – at that same conference – we should read our own genre. Whether the Princelings series is middle grade is a moot point. I deliberately pitched it for advanced readers age 10 and up; depending on where you live, 8 and up is fine, although Talent Seekers sometimes gets a 13 tag. I’ve learnt enough to understand different countries have severe cultural differences over a number of topics.
My first book review was 27 December 2011: Floodland by Marcus Sedgwick. This had been recommended at the writers’ conference, and was a brilliant book, ticking all my boxes – climate change, East Anglia, boating, dystopian fantasy… Looking at the review, I don’t think my reviewing style has changed at all, although I’m maybe a little less sharp, especially with books I liked. The presentation is pretty poor, though. Just go straight in and say what you think, Jemima!
The next ones followed on closely: 30th and 31st. This looks like Christmas reading. I had a new Kindle, and was in a hurry to catch up with what everybody else at the conference already knew. Sally Gardner’s The Silver Blade was brilliant, and I wish I had time to read more of her output – and she’s prodigious. Again, my style in the review is much as today. But it’s just diving straight in – wham, I’m reviewing a book I’ve read. I obviously didn’t take long over the third book,The Third Pig Detective Agency by Bob Burke, and the review is very short. I said I’d look out for the next in the series, but I haven’t. Then four days later, I’m reviewing The Dragonfly Pool, by Eva Ibbotson (must read more of hers), and a week later comes War Horse by Michael Morpurgo.
Between Third Pig and Dragonfly Pool there are about six posts – sometimes two a day. Between Dragonfly Pool and War Horse there are none. I had not yet settled down to a regular existence. I was still trying to work out how to let people know about the Princelings of the East. But I was working hard – getting the second book in the series ready to publish at the end of January. I don’t think I settled down to my regular posting schedule, featuring Book Reviews on Saturdays, for at least another two years.
I think the way I do them now is a more reader-friendly approach, and one many blogger-readers use.
- Copy the blurb from somewhere rather than recreate it yourself.
- Include the book cover.
- Whether you include meta-data like genre, number of pages etc, well, that’s a variable even now. Unless they come with a book blast or blog tour, I tend to skip them.
- Write a fair review: praise what you like, make constructive comments as appropriate. Include some ‘key quotables’ and a summary.
- Do links to take people to Goodreads to add it to their lists, if you think they might like it.
- I don’t do buying links; I’m sure their Goodreads link will do that better for an international audience than I can. That will only change if I become an affiliate.
I would like to change the eclectic nature of what I review. Does reviewing murder mysteries help promote me as a scifi and fantasy author (the latter for children)? Would I get more followers if I reviewed mainly in the genres I write? That is a slight problem: for scifi, I am concerned about the possibility of unintentional plagiarism, even of an idea for a neat bit of space hardware. I know Lindsay Buroker’s space series prompted an idea, but it was only a prompt for my own development, not a development of her own idea. Having said that, I think every scifi writer has major influences from those who preceded us, especially Anne McCaffrey‘s Ship Who Sang (and the rest of the Brainship series).
On the other hand, I know many of my blog followers like murder mysteries. So maybe I’ll just stick to what I like reading, and keep an eye on the balance.
What about you? How has your blog grown?