Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How to Keep a Sustainable Blog

Posts about how to have a "successful" book blog are all the rage. They pop up here and there and everywhere. My only problem with those posts is the subjectivity of them, and the fact that many "successful blog" posts hinge on stats and ARCs.

I left most ARCs behind long ago, and I take stats with a mighty big grain of salt, so I'm here with my experience writing a SUSTAINABLE blog. Also subjective, surely, but after 9 years (in February), I want to share and encourage.



1. Make your blog work for you. 
This is a big one. There are no "have to" rules in the book blogging community. No matter what genres you like, whether you prefer backlist or frontlist, you have to make your blog your own. Your voice. Your tastes. Your happy place. 

2. Be as consistent as possible but don't be afraid to take a break. 
You might post once per week. You might post every day. Again, see #1 and "make your blog work for you." But it seems to be the case that some consistency can help us stay interested and motivated to keep a blog. For years. There will be blips. There will be slumps. But it comes with the territory. You'll find your way every time. Even if what constitutes "consistency" changes over time.

3. Read!
It's easy to run out of stuff to say if you're not reading! That's why you started your blog (probably, if your'e reading this). Don't get overwhelmed to the point that your reading suffers. I know many of us have fallen into this at some point. Don't be afraid to hit the reset button on your reading. That stuff makes great blog post fodder, too!

4. Write your passion.
Whatever you're passionate about writing is what you should write. For me, it's mostly books. However, there have been many times over the years that I've chosen to write about family, my profession, weight loss, cooking, decorating, and a host of other topics. They key to sustaining a blog is being passionate, so give yourself some wiggle room.

5. Accept that things change. 
Your schedule will change. Your lifestyle might change. Jobs change, families grow, even reading tastes and amplitude change. Go with the flow because if you blog for an extended period of time, you will experience periods of "new normal." It's ok!

6. Engage with the community. 
Not only does engaging with the community grow your readership--which in turn can help motivate you to read and write--it's fun! I can't tell you how many friends I've made through blogging. Some of them I've known for more than 12 years. And one of them will be my matron of honor in March!

I'd love to know any tips you have for maintaining a sustainable blog. Let 'er rip!





97 comments:

  1. Perfect post! I agree with all your points - especially the one about engaging. It is wonderful to discover like-minded people and I have made lots of great new friends (it is just a shame we don't all live in the same town and can meet up for coffee every week!) I gave up on the stats a long time ago after realising that increased stats = more trolls. It is far better to have a smaller number of fantastic people than the angst of abuse.

    I also agree about consistency. I used to post every day, but now only post about twice a week. I think it helps to have rough goals to keep motivation up. There are some weeks when I'm really motivated and feel like posting every day, but I just use those weeks to write a few extra posts that I can use in the future as I know there will be a point when I become so busy I don't have the time to write them. I hope your post helps people to create a more sustainable blog. Far too many of my favourite bloggers are quitting :-(

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    1. Thanks, Jackie! Community is so key. I've met a few bloggers, but I definitely wish we could just all get together for coffee sometime!

      Consistency exists on a wide spectrum as well. While I know readers need consistency, I think we as blog owners do too, even if it changes over time. And you're so right about having a small backlog of available posts for those slow times. That's a trick I use, too.

      And I know what you mean. There seems to have been a wave of folks leaving in the last year or so. It makes me sad.

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  2. Nine years!! Congratulations. You are one of the veterans at this. I've only been at it a year, but i agree with everything you say. So far my blog is my happy place and it has become a bigger part of my life as I have become more involved with the blogging community. One thing that i don't think will ever change is my love of books, so i keep that as the kind of guiding principle of my blog. Thanks for the post.

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    1. Thank you! I can't really believe it's been that long! You're so right to keep your love of books as your guiding principal. And never be afraid to share a little more of the personal. As readers get to know us, those personal posts can become quite magical. Cheers to continued blogging!

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  3. This is a great post. I do feel most post forget about the person behind a blog and just give advice how to make other people happy about your blog.
    I guess if I follow these guidelines I would be able to make it to 2 years ;)

    Big party in February (and even bigger one in March)

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    1. Thank you, Ciska! Yes, I agree with you that many of those "successful blog" posts focus largely on mechanization and a bulletproof list of "must dos" though that's really not true at all. Your must-dos should align with your personal goals. It's always about the person.

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  4. Yup. Why blog if you hate it? Your voice is so authentic, everyone can discern you at your most joyful -- and not so joyful. Good post. I cat n't the consistency down, but I guess I have to be okay with that too.

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    1. Thank you, Barbara! As long as you're ok with it, it's a-ok. :)

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  5. Great post. All your tips makes perfect sense and are good advice!

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  6. You are absolultely right, Andi!
    I don't post very often (I'm the one per week blogger, hehe), but I write only because I feel like doing it.
    I would also want to write more personal posts; for the moment I'm very shy, but I think I will try sooner or later :))

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    1. Exactly, Isi! When it becomes a huge, continual chore, it's much easier for the burn-out to kick in. Personal posts can become a lot of fun. People get curiouser and curiouser (Alice' Adventures in Wonderland!) about us as people the longer we blog. Sharing a bit of life from outside the blog is a treat to read and to share. :)

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  7. Brilliant article :D Great advice that is very timely for me!

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  8. Love your blog! Love your blog! So freakin' true. I have to imagine that feeling the pressure of all those ARCs doesn't make anyone happy. And checking stats constantly definitely doesn't make anyone happy. It makes you CRAZY. But making friends - that's worth the price of admission.

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    1. Yeah, buddy! I could not handle the ARC pressure. I am honest about that. And it was largely self-imposed pressure, but pressure nonetheless. CRAZY about stats is right. So glad to have you as one of my bestest blogging buddies, Brooke!

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  9. While I like all of these, I think number six should also be number one. It's very difficult to keep typing away year after year, even with double tall mocha after double tall mocha, if you're not getting comments from readers. And the only way to get comments is to leave them. I'm not trolling for comments hear, either, really, but it's just so much more fun to have fun blogging with readers than it is without.

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    1. James, I totally agree that engagement is a key factor to maintaining the excitement and willingness to blog. However, I didn't want to make it #1 simply because there tends to be a "Get all the followers!" tone to some "successful blog" posts that I didn't want to nurture here. Community is the #1 thing that's kept me going all these years. Friends!

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  10. All of this is so true, especially consistency. It's important to keep your goals in mind too.

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    1. Amen! Excellent advice, Kathy. You've been around as long or longer than I have. How many years is it?

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  11. I could hug you right now. I'm so at the place where I'm wondering if four years is long enough. Thank you for putting it into perspective for me.

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    1. HUGS! Hugs to you, Teresa. Four years was a bit of a slow-down for me, too, but it picked back up. I hope this post has helped you feel good about moving forward, on your own terms!

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  12. Wonderful tips. I've felt the first real burst of blog exhaustion this winter, and I'm grateful for the reminders about how to keep on the things I love about blogging.

    Your #4 is very resonant for me: I used to be very strict about not mentioning too much about my personal life, but once I started doing a weekly post with personal tidbits, those became some of my most commented upon/interactive posts. That's the lure for me and for other readers -- the chance to gush with people we like. Blogs with personality always charm me.

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    1. Thank you, Audra! I think that burst of the blogging blues happens for everyone, and it can be incredibly disconcerting. Keep it on your own terms, and hopefully you can avoid the dreaded burn out.

      I'm so glad #4 hits on your own experience. I have also found that sharing personal posts can be really fun and actually provokes a ton of feedback. "the chance to gush with people we like" is so true! Cheers to personality!

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  13. Great post! 2014 is going to have my 9th anniversary of blogging, too. I can't believe it! No one will ever be able to tell me I can't keep things up again. That is not to say I am always very consistent... I hardly blogged last year and I had a similar problem with that in 2008. It was because life kept getting in the way of my reading and then I had nothing to talk about... But, when I reappear my readership usually does, too, so I must be doing something right. :)

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    1. Thanks, Kelly! Where did 9 years go, right? And I think you're right...I've disappeared or laid off the blogging for long periods, and the audience does come back. That's another great thing about being tapped into the community.

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  14. One of these days, Andi, there will be a madwoman on your doorstep tackling you with hugs. That will be me. Just FYI. Love this post, love your face, love love lovety love.

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    1. Hahaha! You crack me up! I'm LOLing in my empty office.

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  15. I try to blog once a week, but don't always meet that goal. So many blog experts say you must blog x amount of times per week or it's not worth it. It's true that after 3 years, I still have very few followers. But hey, slow and steady wins the race, right? Thanks for your post.

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    1. Exactly! And I think building a readership is AS dependent, if not MORE dependent on commenting on others' blogs. If you post once or twice per week and also comment (maybe a few times a week), you'll end up with quite a few. Twitter and Facebook also help, but it all depends on what you have the time for.

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  16. Awesome post - I think the main reason I'm still blogging 7 and a half years later is that I have never let it feel like work. I don't have a huge subscriber count but I've met some great friends along the way. My reading choices and blogging choices have adapted and changed over the years. I've tried new things thanks to some of the great bloggers I've met. Some I've continued (graphic novels) others I've discarded (focusing on new releases). Mostly I enjoy the people and talking about books or whatever else I want to talk about.

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    1. Thank youuuu! If it ever feels like work, I'm out. I speak from experience because it has felt like work a few times, and those are the times I had to reboot.

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  17. I think you hit the nail on the head, Andi. All very good, valid points. Lately, many people have been discussing if blogging is "relevant" anymore. Well, my response to that would be: if your aim is to make money, than no, blogging is probably not as relevant as it used to be, in terms of marketing; however, if your in it for fun, relevance has nothing to do with it.

    Two thumbs up.

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    1. Thank you, Lydia! I actually have a post stewing on "relevance," and it's directly tied to motivation and goals as you've mentioned here. I can feel that post winding up. Maybe next week. lol

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  18. I've toyed with posting less but I feel like if I only post once a week, commenters with forget about me and not come back (unless, as in the Books Are my BFs blog, it was known that there be a new post every Tuesday).

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    1. Whenever I'm deciding if I can/should decrease my posting, I usually think in terms of my own habits. I check my Feedly nearly every day, even if I don't post that day. Even if I don't check my reader every day, I tend to go through it every couple of days. So it stands to reason that most of your visitors will probably still "catch" your post...even if there are fewer of them. Making your blogging habits known is not a bad idea. I'm thinking of a very popular BookTuber, in fact, who posts specifically on Tuesday and Thursday and on Fridays if/when she feels like it. Her audience knows it, it's in her footer, so she's good. It hasn't seemed to hurt. And I think as long as you're visiting your readers it won't matter as much if you lessen the amount you post.

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  19. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Especially #1. It really does all boil down to oneself and finding one's happy place.

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    1. Thanks, doll! You've been around longer than I have (on this blog, anyway). Will be using your words to reiterate this post soon!

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  20. My blog will be 8 this coming July, and it's gone through a few changes over the years. My following has decreased considerably since my heyday, so to speak, but I'm okay with that. I am a quiet person who has discovered I also prefer a quiet blog--I can more easily keep up this way. The stress isn't there. I don't feel as overwhelmed. I can't tell you the last time I checked my stats. I still do review books for publishers and the like, but I'm okay with that. I'm doing what works for me, and I think that is the key to keeping your heart in it. And interacting with other bloggers and being a part of the community is definitely what keeps the passion going. At least for me.

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    1. I knew you'd had yours going for almost as long as I have, Wendy. I'm so glad you're still here! :) And I totally know what you mean about being OK with a quiet blog. It's nice to have a core group of commenters/friends and go from there. Community rocks!

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  21. Fantastic post, love all of your points!! ((hug))

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    1. Thank you, Monika! Hugs right back at ya!

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  22. Oh, Andi...this is the best. Even though all of your tips are great, I love the idea of consistency, regardless of how often you blog. For me, it makes it easier to handle when I know how my weeks will usually be planned out on the blog. Can't wait to share this, I think it's such an important post.

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    1. Amen sister! It really is about consistency at whatever level one can maintain. It helps us as content creators and it helps readers stay invested.

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  23. Love this Wonder Woman! Thanks for reminding why we do this!

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  24. I have been blogging for 5 years this month. Seems like yesterday and yet seems like for-ever ago. I have definitely taken breaks (gone back to school, had health issues) but I always come back because I feel passionate about it. I love sharing about reading and I love the community. I shared your post on the Discussion Group. I think it will be great for everyone to read this!

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    1. It's amazing. There's some sort of blogging time warp that makes it go super fast and feel like forever, too. lol Thank you so much for sharing!

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  25. Excellent post, Andi! I have nothing to add at all, as you covered everything that keeps me blogging after five years through moves, lost jobs, grad school, professional certification, and so much more.

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    1. Thank you so much, Michelle! Cheers to keeping on keeping on.

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  26. Great post, Andi! I agree, you've covered just about everything. And it most definitely isn't about ARCs and stats.

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  27. Andi, what a great post! This encompasses the key points we all need for long term blogging. I'll be 6 this June, and my blog didn't begin as a book blog. I've been up and down with everything, and I'm working on my consistency...a work in progress. I'm still chasing or being chased by ARCs and currently mostly in love with that perk. Above all the friends I've made via blogging have made all of it worthwhile. Thank you again for this post!!

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    1. Thank you, Anita! How have I not been reading your blog for all 6 years? Seriously? lol And mine didn't begin as a book blog either. In fact, I had another blog before this one, so it's been more like 10 years all told. As long as you're in love with ARCs and it doesn't take over your brain, motivation, and subsequently burn you out...rock on! :)

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  28. Some great tips in there. I've only been blogging reviews for a year, but I've been reviewing for longer than that. It's why my blog has expanded beyond books - I enjoy lots of different stuff, so I enjoy reviewing lots of different stuff. I'm sure that will hurt my readership in some parts, but I enjoy it, and that motivates me to keep going.

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    1. I think once readers get to know us as bloggers they're more likely to enjoy whatever we want to throw out into the world. I'm definitely not opposed to a well-rounded approach to blogging about various topics. It's fun! And I was never good at compartmentalizing and keeping multiple blogs for multiple topics.

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    2. Multiple blogs? I shudder at the thought of just trying to keep them all straight.

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  29. I love #4 and it’s why I incorporated politics into mine. I just loved it too much NOT to include it and it makes it so much easier to stay on top of things without burning out. Variety is the spice of life, right?

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    1. Amen sister! And it's why I can't keep home decor and food out of mine. :)

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  30. Thanks for these excellent words of advice! I've been blogging for about four and a half years, and haven't thought seriously about stopping yet, but I've had periods where it seemed as though I may have gotten out of the blogging habit. Commenting more on other blogs and receiving more comments in return -- starting a few years in -- really helped make blogging a sustainable project for me. That sense of community really is important!

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    1. Thanks, Laurie! It is definitely easy to go through those lulls, especially over the span of so many years blogging. Going out and commenting is probably the key to readership. I still go out hunting for new-to-me blogs from time to time because it's just so much fun to meet new people.

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  31. These are such great tips! Especially the part about engaging with the blog community.. this is so important to stay sustainable, to grow, and to make new friendships! Thanks for a great post :)

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    1. Thanks, Caitlin! You really hit the nail on the head about growing and forging new friendships. It makes it so much FUN!

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  32. Thanks! I need to reminded every now and then that I started the blog for me and not for anyone else. I am happy that I have readers, maybe not as many as I used to, but I still have some. I post for myself and for them.

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    1. Mari, same here re: for myself and for them. I still go out and try to meet new people quite often, and I find that fun groups like Book Bloggers Do It Better on Google+ also help facilitate meeting new bookish friends.

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  33. Very good! #3 is just what I needed to hear. Get back to just reading already! I feel like I've been spending lots of time doing book related things, but not reading as much.

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    1. Haha! I have to force myself to do that sometimes, Jennine. It really does help that I don't open my laptop at home during the week. Forces me to read!

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  34. When I started blogging, I was really trying to blog six days a week. But then there was no time to read. There are only so many memes you can post!

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    1. Right on! I usually post four days per week with some miscellany on Fridays-Sundays IF I have something to say. It also helps a lot that I pre-schedule most of my posts. I write when I'm in the mood and it carries me through.

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  35. What excellent advice! I've thought about closing up shop a few times, but keep returning and each time it reminds me that I need to adjust and blog on my own terms. Not having time to read is the worst, but when that happens it's probably best to take a bit of a break and recharge anyway!

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    1. Thank you, Christine! That's what I do when I'm not reading enough to satisfy my reading urges. Hit that "reset" button! It can be hard to blog on our terms when there's such a range of ways to approach it. With time and adjustment it works out, though. :)

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  36. Preach! "Write Your Passion" this statement sums up my book blogging approach in the new year. I'm so glad to hear you affirm that there are no wrong or right ways to blog about books. Last year I got completely burned out on writing long form reviews, so this year I'm focusing on featuring books in new ways.
    Thanks for writing this post.

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    1. LOL, thanks, Mandy, and also for sharing this post. I've also noticed that my reviews have shortened up. And I'm not opposed to lumping several together for mins if I don't have tons to say.

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  37. Wonderful advice! And just something simple, like remembering to read books that we love, really does need to be said from time to time. Congrats on 9 years!

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  38. Thank you so much for those amazing tips! I think that being such an experienced blogger as you are, you really know your stuff and the information is great to hear. I also think that the whole reading thing is so crazy - because so many of us are like waaah I'm busy and not reading. But it's like your book blog and what you love is the book, and the blog can take a break if you need reading time.

    Fabulous post, Andi.

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca! Exactly re: reading! It's easy to get swept up in the blogging and step away from the reading. But I think for most of us it's a very fluid process based on our moods. It is for me, anyway. :)

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  39. I particularly agree with the "engage with the community" part. One thing that's been crucial for me is to keep on adding to my blogroll. I love getting to know new bloggers and finding new people whose recommendations I trust, and it keeps me feeling rejuvenated as a blogger.

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    1. Amen sister! And I really try to take advantage of bloggy events...Bloggiesta, Readathon, and things like that to seek out new blogs to read and follow. And I creap on my bloggy friends' blogrolls!

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  40. Yes, yes, yes!! I agree with each and every one of these posts. I'm spreading this one far and wide because I love it so much! Thank you!

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  41. Great post and congrats on 9 years! I like the point about consistency not for the readers per se but for your own motivation. Maybe that is my issue - going to try again with consistency and see if it helps me out of a recent slump.

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    1. Thank you! I've found that consistency helps me get into the groove of blogging and it actually helps fire my ideas for content. I used to run out of things to say, but since I try to be more consistent...even going so far as to pre-schedule some posts...I don't lose track of ideas and I have more ideas pop up.

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  42. Not to add a "me, too" comment, but I completely agree with the above (as does everyone else). I am also about 9 years into blogging, and while it can feel like a chore, I'm glad I still do it. And I agree - the longer you blog, the less you want those ARCs. I feel now that I accept only a few, and even those, I often just don't want to get around to reviewing... so many other books out there!

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    1. Thank you, Aarti! I'm very picky with my ARCs generally accepting very few and actually requesting the ones I want IF I really want them. Like you, they can be very hard to get around to. A deadline of any kind can suck the life out of my reading.

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  43. Awesome list! I keep trying to remember to just be me and not worry about comments or stats or having all the pretty new books. I started my blog to talk about books so that's what it will be....even if I'm just talking to myself :-)

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    1. Thanks, Dana! And you will not be talking to yourself! I was really curious how my blog would "do" when I switched to reading a large amount of backlist books. Truthfully, I've never read a ton of super new books, but with a focus on backlist I was curious if I'd see a change. I really don't think it has a lot to do with what we talk about as much as how much we get out there and connect with people. It certainly takes a lot of time, but you'll always have a readership if you're posting and talking back. :)

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  44. #4. It's why I have music and food incorporated into mine. I try to make sure I'm not stretching myself too thin in any direction (and if something was to go it would be food), but it's much easier to write about thing you actually enjoy talking about.

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  45. Thank you for this! I totally agree with all of these. And I like that you measure your "success" as a blogger by your sustainability. Because I never really thought that writing a blog would make me famous or popular. I feel lucky if even one person actually looks at my blog. But I remember when I started, I was worried about that. And sometimes, I still wonder: who looks at this? But then I remember that I started writing more for myself than for anyone else. But having that community is also such an allure for me. I love getting comments and then rushing out to see what other bloggers are out there with similar interests and life struggles.

    Blogging is invigorating but can also very quickly burn a person out especially when its not being done for the right reasons.

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  46. Awesome post! I totally agree with write what you love and engage with those who read and comment. I love my blog conversations and love having met a lot of the great bloggers that I chat with. Its like a whole other group of friends that all love one of my favorite subjects - BOOKS!

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  47. Since I'm a newbie book blogger I can't help but compare my blog to other's and I end up hating my blog because it's not popular enough, it doesn't get many followers, I don't receive that many ARCs etc etc but through your post I realized that it really doesn't matter, as long as I make my blog mine. It should be about me, my thoughts on reading and the books I read.
    "Successful Blog" posts has a way of you hating your blog when you realize it's not "geared" for "success".
    - Farzy @ Books Keep Me Sana

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  48. I've been blogging for just over a year now and I'm in a slump myself. I committed myself to too many ARC's last month and blog tours and now I don't feel like by blog is my own and it's getting me down. This post is one of the best that I've found for idea's to get out of a slump, I guess that comes with experience and thanks for sharing your advice.
    Sharon
    Sharon's Book Nook!

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