Hello everyone! I hope you’re having a wonderful time welcoming in Fall if you live in the northern hemisphere, and I hope you’re not melting if you’re down in the southern parts of the world with me! Today we’re going to look at something different to the usual: things I’ve learnt blogging.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and this week’s prompt is:
I’ve been here at Upside-Down Books for four years now which is crazy. It feels like it’s going by in a flash. So I thought it would be fun today to take a look back and see what I’ve learnt (and how grateful I am I’ve had this learning curve), what I’ve changed and how things have progressed since the beginning! I’m going to be look at all manner of changes here, from the behind the scenes of blogging to the how I actually read my books.
Reviews have and always will be the backbone to my blogging life. I enjoy writing them immensely. To begin with, I reviewed only on Goodreads and it was always just a big chunk of text. I moved to my blog to gain a bit more freedom of style and flexibility. I think my first review here EVER was Frankenstein and since then gifs became my best friends and slowly made their way more and more into my reviews. I have tweaked my template over the years for formatting and styles, and when I became an affiliate with companies to include links out to web pages and eventually to recommendations.
This is probably something I will continue to change, too. I hate being too stale and love to find new things, big or small, to add in and make things a little more fun. I usually do this now by learning new coding to do fun things with, though that can be quite limited within what WordPress allows.
2. Advance Reader Copies
Ah, the gold dust of the reading world. Or at least, it’s gold dust until you have it. Then it quickly becomes lead. Yikes. One of my big goals starting my blog was to become ‘big enough’ or ‘successful enough’ to be sent ARCs. Honestly, I’m so terrible at networking my social media accounts live up to my namesake and grow as fast as a snail’s pace. Yet, somehow, I have managed to get in contact with publicists and be sent ARCs.
I told myself, many moons ago, that if I could reach this point where I was sent books for free, it would be a great achievement because then I wouldn’t have to buy books anymore! HAH! THE LIES. Now I just have a hoarding problem twice as big as it used to be. But all that being said, I have taken on advice from those who have gone before and not gone ham requesting things.
I’ve always known and understood that I have a much slower reading pace and often a too busy life to fit in as much reading as I would like. AND, I learnt from my first mad dash on NetGalley not to request more than I can actually read. But ARCs are now a big part of my TBRs, making up nearly 50% of my yearly reading material – which is heaps! This is a big change from how things looked four years ago. My advice to anyone wanting ARCs is to really take on board the advice to not ask for more than you can read. One, it doesn’t look great if you have millions of unread copies from publishers. But two, (and more importantly), it stresses you
the fuck out. AVOID AVOID AVOID.
Holy mackerel, has my bookstagram game changed or WHAT? If you’re ever bored enough to scroll back to the beginning, you’ll be amazed. I CONSTANTLY revise and try to vamp up my pictures. I always take inspiration from accounts I admire and I’ve probably spent an embarrassing amount on props. But ho-hum. I love it.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from Instagram, it’s to do something because you love it. Unlike many accounts out there, despite much time and effort, I have (relatively speaking) very few instagram followers and it’s so hard to not let the numbers get you down. But I do love taking photos and I have so much fun putting them altogether. I love having a photographic index of what books I have on my bookshelf and I really enjoy using the photos I take in graphics for my blog.
I used to never put down books, and in all honesty I could probably still do better at this. But I think it goes hand in hand that I know I don’t like putting books down, and find it hard to do so, so I’m much more picky and knowledgeable about what books I know I’ll love. Thus avoiding the problem altogether.
However, I’ve learnt to be more honest with myself and say: Kirstie, there are a lot of awesome books on your bookshelf, you’re allowed to put this one down. Often I tell myself I’ll try again another day, to make myself feel better. But the hardest lesson for anymore to learn is to understand that not every book will be for you and that it’s not a sin to not finish books you aren’t enjoying!
5. How to Motivate Myself to Read
This is an important one to know. Over the years I’ve sat back and looked at what has worked and what hasn’t worked for me. I know that if I set myself a goal I will move mountains to try and meet it and if I can’t reach that goal, I get really stressed. But I love having goals to work towards. So, I set myself highly realistic goals.
For example, this year I’ve worked full time and had a lot of extra stuff on my plate, so I worked out what would be the best and most reasonable goal to aim for. I decided to say let’s look at longer books and slow down the pace. I set myself a goal of 50 books, despite knowing I can hit nearly 90 on a good year, in the hopes of inspiring myself to slow down and tackle the bigger reads. And I have! I can proudly say I’ve not stressed myself out even once this year over whether or not I would reach my reading goal. And, mid-November, I hit 50 so I feel like I am over-achieving because I will surpass this goal. It’s all about the mind tricks, guys.
6. Blog Content
The bane of all bloggers’ lives: actually coming up with content. Well, my friends, I have secrets to share with you. Whilst in the first flurry of excitement when I joined the blogging game in 2015 I was filled with many ideas and excited to try tags and other interactive posts, that well seems to quickly run dry.
Yet, I’ve never felt particularly pressured to create content. My schedule for blogging has wildly varied. From being a university student with honestly quite a lot of time on my hands, to working full time and having ZERO TIME, to travelling abroad and not being arsed to blog, and now to going back to uni and having no idea what to expect. It’s a lot and trying to plan engaging content on top of that is daunting.
I do the usual wrap-ups and book hauls at the end of each month as well as as many book reviews as I can muster the bother for. This is the bread and butter of my blog. On bad/busy months this is probably the only content you will see from me. In the beginning I would post 5 out of 7 days a week, I can no longer manage this on a regular basis (aside from anything I would stay up so late into the night blogging it was ridiculous).
This is why now, I don’t expect more than 2 posts from myself a week (and try really hard to make sure AT LEAST 2 happen) but I join in on regular content prompts like this, Top Ten Tuesday (it’s so helpful to have a structure like this to stick to) and if I want to write something random but am running dry, I either look up fun tags to do – or I look at a website called Days of the Year. This website says what is being celebrated that day, from Christmas, to brownies to earlobes: you name. And I create a themed bookish list from that! Easy!
If there’s one thing for sure that I’m grateful for having discovered, it’s audiobooks. I’ve really had to blindly find my way with this format of reading because I had at least two false starts before I really got hooked and eventually ended up completely addicted to them, as I am now.
I would say that audiobooks are now my holy grail. I don’t know where I’d be without them. I listened to so many snippets to start with and just wasn’t convinced. I didn’t understand how listening to books (a slower way to read) actually meant you read more. Like WHAT? HoW?
But eventually I found Stephen Fry’s narrations of Harry Potter and I was in love. I listened to these whilst I was travelling/working holiday-ing for six months and I found them perfect for being on the go and busy. I soon realised that I particularly enjoyed audiobooks with British narrators. So I’m very careful now to listen to samples before I start. Funnily enough, I cannot stand Australian narrators and cringed my way through Finnikin of the Rock, neither can I stand some (okay most) American narrators. But certain ones, like They Both Die at the End and Scythe are fine. Go figure.
8. HTML Templates
Oh boy, where would I be without THESE? In the beginning, I’d waste so much time typing things anew EvERy TiME. It was exhausting. And opened up loads more room for typographical errors and the like. And I’m damn good when it comes to peppering posts with typos.
One thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is how much I enjoy the behind the scenes: HTML. Whilst I won’t claim to be any good as CSS coding (which we really don’t need on WordPress because the platform does all of the basic fancy stuff for us), learning HTML has made my life so much easier when it comes to fixing errors and getting things to do exactly what I want them to do.
I now use templates like there’s no tomorrow. If you use WordPress, I believe the new version can save templates or something akin to that but I really don’t like the new version and much prefer having more control over things myself, so I use the original version.
I have an app called aText for my Mac and Phrase Express for Windows. On here, I save my HTML shortcuts and simply expand what I’ve got saved in these text expanding applications into the HTML window on my blog. Okay that was confusing. Basically, I write a blog post and if it’s something I’ll use again, I save the bare bones of it into these apps. That way, I have a quick easy way where I can type a shortcut like “RT” for “review template” and POP: everything I need appears and I just have to fill in the blanks. Which is everything but the formatting. But gee, formatting takes forever so it’s a real time saver!!
That’s a wrap!
I’m sure there are probably many more things I’ve learnt about how to blog and about myself but these are the ones that stick out for me at the moment. Every day is a new experience and every post is a new adventure. It’s all fun and I love slowly building up how I do things to transform it into a well-oiled machine!
What lessons have you learnt through blogging?