Monday, August 8, 2011

Four Years of Blogging, and Maybe It's Time to Change It Up

This week marks the start of my fifth year as a blogger. Over the past four years a lot has changed about my blog, but a lot has stayed the same. While I've flirted with other areas of blogging (crafting and movies being the most recent) I'm still primarily a book blogger, and I still blog about more or less the same kinds of books I always have. And I blog about as often as I ever have.

But lately I've been feeling a little antsy and have been wondering if I ought to make some changes. Over the past two weeks I've been rigorously weeding my TBR piles and I culled lots of books- old books, new books, ARCs, paperbacks, hardcovers, things I bought, things I picked up at shows, things I asked for, things I received unsolicited, things I've read, things I haven't read, things I may yet read from the library or in another medium. If there is a category of books in my house, there is something from that category in the discard pile.

I started weeding because the piles were overrunning my den and because there's no way I can possibly read them all, and because over the past year or two I feel like my reading has lost its focus. Sometimes I hear a lot of hype, and I get caught up in it. I want the new "it" books, and I end up drowning in them.

Meanwhile, all those cool little books I pick up at used bookstores and from small presses get left in the dust. I started the Europa Challenge (along with my friend Liberty) in part to address this problem, since I collect Europa books kind of obsessively but haven't been reading them at the pace I'd like.  And reading them, I'm reminded of all the other idiosyncratic choices I've left aside for the past couple of years in favor of the hot new book-of-the-week or review obligation. And I'm tired of doing that. Which is not to say I'm abandoning current fiction or review requests but I need to steel myself to be choosier.

I've also been wondering if it's time to change up the look of my blog- get some new logo art and reformat it. What do you think? Keep my redhead woman up there, or get something different? You take a chance when you mix it up with your brand image; that's how a lot of people recognize my online persona these days, and I've worked hard to make it recognizable. Is it too late to change it?

And maybe alongside the visuals, maybe I should change the topical focus to emphasize the things I've been neglecting- the older books I ferret out, the personal choices I find on my own, the books no one's told me about but that I want to read because they just look so interesting. But ignoring new releases would be like closing the door on a lot of great conversations; blogging is like belonging to a big book club sometimes, and I don't want to lose that camaraderie.

All of this leads me to ask what is it that you expect of Boston Bibliophile? Hot new releases? Random stuff? What is that you're hoping to find when you come here? Do I deliver on that? What am I doing that you wish I wouldn't? What can I do better? The blog is by me but it wouldn't exist without you, so I want to know what you think.

Who knows how this will turn out. I've said many times that I'm tired of hype and books-of-the-moment but I can't help but feel the pull of the New Releases table, and I'll always want to know from my friends what they're excited about and what they're reading. I have more or less stopped buying hardcovers unless it's by a favorite author (handy, since I'm unemployed and my book budget is almost nil at the moment) but there always seems to be a reason to make an exception. Wherever I end up going- the new release table or the used shelves- I want to thank every single person who's come along with me in my blogging adventures, and I hope you'll stick around for another four years, or longer.

33 comments:

Carrie said...

Congratulations on four years of blogging! I know what you mean about wondering if you should change things up - I go through that about once a year. Should I stop accepting review copies? Should I focus on one genre and become more of a "niche" blog? Etc. In the end, I always figure out that I blog the way I do because I read the way I do - and I can't see that changing. I will always read multiple genres, be drawn to new books as well as the older one on my shelves, and that's just the way it is!

Anyway, I enjoy your reviews and like your blog just the way it is - and if you decide to change it because you want to, then I'm sure I'll like that, too. I guess what I'm saying is, I'll stick around. :)

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

There are a few bloggers I visit constantly and it includes you. I have enjoyed your blog very much and I've been inspired by your pithy and spot-on reviews. Your book diction has also inspired me to learn more. And though I want to concentrate on my academics and move forward, knowing that my 'pleasure-reading' would decline, I still will stick to you.

Perhaps, the advantage (and of course, disadvantage) I have is to live in a place where new releases aren't common or even the usual household authors like Ian McEwan, Martin Armis, Umberto Eco, etc. Thus, I am able to focus only on books in my shelf. Some friends in the blogging community have, over time sent me such books to read. Thus, I am not bogged down by such wide-range of must-reads. However, I believe you can solve the problem by keeping two sets of books: your TBR and Others. Every month you read, say 60% from TBR and 40% of Others. This is how I work on my blog. Though I use it mainly to promote African Literature, I once in a while (at least once a month) throw in a non-African-authored books to draw in more readers. These readers would then get the chance to skim through all my other reviews and perhaps be attracted by the African Books.

When I visit BB, I want something unique. I've enjoyed your eccentric books the most. Things I wouldn't have read from other places.

And another thing. I take reviews of books I'd never get here (easily), seriously. So that after one or two readings (of reviews) I feel like I've read the book.

Congrats Marie, and you are doing great.

R. J. said...

I like your blog the way it is but I recognize the urge to do a makeover in my neck of the woods also. I like your book reviews and find some new stuff that I might not have read otherwise. Keep up the good work.

bookspersonally said...

Wow, four years- that's so awesome! I'm probably the wrong one to ask, but the reading and the blogging take a lot of love and a lot of time -I firmly believe that in the end you should make sure you are reading what you really want to read!

unfinishedperson.com said...

Initial thought: Do not change your header. That is your brand and it's perfect. I still remember receiving a book from you in the mail and having your card with it...and being jealous.

That said, on a personal note, I have considered changing my header...or not having a header at all on my blog. However, I don't think mine is as personal -- and identifying as yours is -- mainly because I don't have my avatar in the header.

But I digress...As for the rest, do what makes you feel comfortable...without losing your voice, which I don't see happening. You have a distinctive voice here in the blogosphere and it's why we readers keep returning to listen to what it has (and you have) to say.

bermudaonion said...

I like the header you have now. I expect a mix of books on your blog - new stuff and old, but always smart. I'm sure your blog will be great, whatever you decide to do.

Eva said...

Of course I don't 'expect' anything but you want to write, but with that caveat...

I remember stumbling across your blog and decided to subscribe because you were talking about books I hadn't heard of before. Particularly your focus on Russian and Jewish titles, but in general I enjoy seeing books mentioned that are under-the-radar, even if they're just in a Friday Finds. :) Funnily enough, I haven't noticed a flood of 'it' books, but I haven't been reading since the beginning (I think we've known each other for what, about a year?), so I can't compare.

I stopped accepting review copies a couple years ago, except for maybe a new release by a v favourite author and Netgalley (although I tend to seek out the more under-the-radar NG stuff too), and it's made my reading a lot better. But I know others who love having stacks of review copies! So maybe try out not accepting any for awhile and see which makes you happier. :)

As for the redesign, maybe you could try playing w your blog background colour/heading font colours/column layout and content/etc. before you change the header? I don't think it's too late to change if it's not doing anything for you anymore, but it is a fun one! I' mnot good at personal branding, so I don't much advice on that. But I'm mulling over a bit of a blog redesign myself, so I understand the feeling!

Man of la Book said...

Congratulations again on your four years of blogging.

Yes, I think you should change. No reason, just to spice things up for yourself.

ttp://www.ManOfLaBook.com

Kristi (booksNyarn) said...

Happy Anniversary!

I think that reflecting on what you do on your blog is natural. I am a firm believer of keeping true to yourself, and at times that means a change. I know that whether you change it up or not, I will be reading!

drey said...

Congrats on 4 years!! I don't ever comment, but wanted to let you know that whatever you need to do, is going to be fine with us. Or, most of us.

If your reading habits change, then the books reviewed here will change--but that's all up to you, not us...

I guess what I want to say is we'll still be here. As to the header/logo question, if you REALLY want to do it, go ahead. Just post a LOT about the coming change... Good luck, and happy blogging!

Anna said...

These thoughts run through my mind sometimes, too. Particularly about whether or not to continue accepting review copies. I don't think you're alone. I will say that I enjoy your blog as is, but it's your blog and it should be something you enjoy, so you need to do what you feel in your heart is right for you. :)

Karen Harrington said...

Seems like this kind of rumination is going around the blogosphere. As for me, I do like your blog style as it is. I also like that when I visit your blog (not as much as I wish), I find a mix of current books and classics. That's comforting to me, somehow. That's my 2 cents. :) Congrats on a new year of blogging.

Zibilee said...

I think you are not alone in pondering these types of things. One of the reasons I love your blog is that I see books discussed here that nobody else is featuring, so everything is always refreshing. I also like that you have themed months, and that they expose me to new genres and publishing houses as well. I think that the look of the blog is something that I have come to associate with you, so I don't know if I'd like to see that changed, but as far as content goes, I love what goes on here, and your blog, to me, is like an oasis of fresh and new ideas that I have come to really look forward to reading everyday.

I know it's hard when you have so many books, and when you get all caught up in the hype, but I don't think that what you are posting is at all derivative, so to me, it's not something that I think needs all that much readjustment!

Nan said...

I think you should write about whatever you want to write about. It is your own heart and soul that make a blog individual and appealing. Congrats on your anniversary!

caite said...

I think you blog, anyone's blog, should be about what interests you, what makes you happy..and hopefully it is something others like.

JoAnn said...

Congratulations of four years of blogging! I keep coming back for your consistently thoughtful reviews on a wide variety of books. I seldom read current 'hot' books, but still enjoy reading the occasional review. Older books. personal choices, and books I might not hear about anywhere else interest me even more.

I'd also enjoy posts about crafts and movies. All of us do much more than read and, especially with blogs I've read for a long time like yours, it's like getting to know the blogger even better. Plus, as I've found out, trying to maintain a separate blog is difficult.

I love your header/logo, etc, but certainly understand the need to change things up. Although my photos of the lake are much less professional, I get to change with the seasons.

This is all just a long-winded way to say you should do what makes you happy... and know I'll keep visiting!

Denise said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Denise said...

I really enjoy your blog, primarily because of the way you write about the books you read. So, if you decide to read books that you feel like reading "right now", I believe I would enjoy the reviews more than if you review simply because you feel obligated to pick that particular book. When I look for a new read, it doesn't need to be brand new on the shelves, it just needs to be something I haven't already read. (That's not even true, as I love to re-read favorites.)

My vote is to change it up however interests you most. There are other blogs that will always cover the newest buzz books, and I would rather hear about what tickled your fancy.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I'm new here but I'll give you my two cents. Love the red-headed lady, and I do associate it with you. I wouldn't change that, although you could have the red-headed lady doing something different? As far as the books you read, read what makes you happy! This year, I cut off almost ALL ARCs and challenges, and am reading what the hell I want. Also, I do a little movie thing on Mondays just to change things up, and that is fun. I can't wait to see what you're going to do!

Marce said...

Congratulations on 4 years, looking forward to many more with you.

I say keep the header, I love knowing who the blogger is that way, if you change keep the red head at least.

I understand allowing the newest to take over. My goal is to always read another book by the same author if they have impressed me once.

We read different books but I enjoy your discussions.

pinkflipflops said...

I love the red head at the top! And I love reading what you've always done and would read what you do in the future. You always introduce me to new books that I add to my never ending tbr pile!

wordsandpeace said...

Congratulations, and please keep book blogging! I enjoy your blog very much. don't change too much the Template, it's like your signature now, and it's nice and clean.
Thanks for all your reviews.
Emma @ Words And Peace

Audra said...

I have to echo a lot of what other folks have said; I was initially drawn to your blog because of your reviews of Jewish and Russian literature that I wasn't seeing elsewhere. That, combined with your highlight Europa Editions, put you back on my radar again. I appreciate the value of reviewing new releases (and certainly, I'd love to hear your thoughts on many of them) but at the same time, I really love how you lift up books that are new to me (whether new or old).

That said, I suspect I'll enjoy what you write. I aspire to be a blogger like you!

Jennie said...

Happy blogaversary! :) I think you should make this blog what makes you happy!

Beth Hoffman said...

Huge Congratulations! I'm sure whatever you do will be fabulous!

Literate Housewife said...

Happy Blogiversary! We started the same year and I know what you're going through. My blogiversary wish to you is that you find the focus that you're looking for. What I, as a reader, am looking for is you and your perspective. Do what you want. I'll still be here.

Aths said...

Happy blogaversary!! 4 years is amazing! I know what you mean about wanting to shake things a little bit and I think that by all means, you should do that if you want to, else it's easy to get stuck in a rut. I've changed my design a few times this year and I'm trying not to feel married to a design. I love to change things around, and redefine my focus at least once a year and sometimes twice. It helps me rejuvenate the whole blogging activity. If you think it'll help you, you should probably try it. That said, I love your blog the way it is and if you choose to change it, I'll still be visiting. I think ultimately it's the blogger's voice that matters and you have an amazing one here!

Booksnyc said...

Congratulations on 4 years of blogging! Your blog is one of the first I started reading when I started blogging and I have come to rely on it for thoughtful reviews and an interesting mix of books.

Here's to many more great years!

ND said...

Congratulations from Sydney, Australia. This is a beautifully balanced blog, satisfying from many perpectives.Thank you.

Florinda said...

Happy blogiversary, fellow four-year-old! I don't think I've read your blog for that entire time, but I still appreciate the things I learned about LibraryThing through your old "Tuesday Thingers" meme, so thanks for that :-).

Count mine as one more vote for not changing your header - it IS a branding thing. As for the rest of it, my feeling is that you should feel free to make whatever changes keep your blog fresh and interesting for you, the blogger - your readers will most likely come along for the ride (although they may skip over a post now and then).

stacybuckeye said...

I like your image, but sometimes a woman feels like she needs a new hiar color or hair cut ;)
I like reading about new books but older books too. Older books can also start a conversation.
Good luck on the weeding!

avisannschild said...

Congrats on four years of blogging, Marie! I somehow managed to miss my anniversary this year (though I'm only at 3).

I also vote for keeping the header! I like your mix of reviews of old and new books, though I feel like I haven't been commenting very much on them lately! (Sorry about that!)

I look forward to seeing what you decide to change (or not)!

kinnareads said...

Congrats on the four years. You've done very well. BTW, don't change your header! What you have achieve here is no small feat. But I also understand the urge to change. Which is okay by me, as long as you retain your voice :). I would be interested in whatever you are reading and reviewing. Having said that, please keep on reviewing Jewish titles. Used vs new, it really doesn't matter as long as you remain part of the conversation.