New year, new books… and more

So, somehow, it’s now 2022. Today feels like the actual start of the new year because it’s the first day I’m back in my usual weekly routine with my husband at work and my son at nursery, and I’m alone in the house (with the dog) for the first time in like three weeks. And I have some time to sit and write this, which is EXCELLENT. And hugely needed. The Christmas period is wonderful but overwhelming at times and tiring all the time, so there is some relief in getting back into the usual routine, I think for most people, definitely for me. I also got some great books for Christmas and my birthday, which I am very excited to get stuck into. I’m currently reading Matrix by Lauren Groff, and liking it so far.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about blogging, social media, reviewing, reading, and how I want to do all these things in the year ahead.

The role of blogs is definitely changing, in the book world and also with lifestyle bloggers and influencers. Many people who started out as lifestyle bloggers with an Instagram account have now sort of morphed into Instagram influencers, with fewer and fewer people actually reading their blogs (she says in a blog post…), and I have seen this in the book world too. I feel like I’m coming across more and more people who are ostensibly book bloggers, or who use the term ‘book reviewer’, who use Twitter to promote themselves etc, and only post reviews on Instagram, with no actual blog at all. Like anything there are pros and cons to this – Instagram reviews are bitesize and digestible, easy to browse and read on your phone quickly, and come with a beautifully crafted image (bonus points for flowers, sunlight, other books in shot, a cup of coffee, all that crap). And when does anyone have the time to sit down and read a blog post? I have often wondered who really reads book blogs beyond other book bloggers, some authors, and some publishers and booksellers. They probably get shared more than they are actually read – or am I just being cynical? I’m not sure anyone who is not a blogger and is not in the book world actually reads them. Apart from maybe sympathetic family members. Is this fair?

Recently a lifestyle blogger/influencer that I like and respect, and have followed for some time, did a little AMA on Instagram. Someone asked her the best way to go about setting up a blog, and she basically advised them not to, because hardly anyone reads them anymore (at least in the lifestyle arena). Her advice was to look into a newsletter instead, alongside social media. This struck me. I’ve been intrigued by the success and potential of Substack for a while, especially after reading about the historian Heather Cox Richardson‘s remarkable use of it in an FT article a while ago, and I found this response from the influencer so interesting. I’ve also been enjoying the format used by Gia Salvaggio, where she has a very aesthetically pleasing Instagram based around books (and knitwear) and then sends out a monthly newsletter via email. She has 83,000 followers on Instagram, and I’m sure most of these people subscribe to the newsletter (I hope). Her newsletter is a summary of her monthly reading with short reviews, and then a small list of upcoming reads. It’s easily digestible and its succinctness means you can read it quickly on your phone.

I clearly need to learn to be more succinct. But I do often just have a lot of thoughts about the books I read, and as a reader I get frustrated by book reviews or posts that are just too brief and don’t really tell you anything about the book and the issues/topics/etc within it. Especially on Instagram people get too fixated on aesthetics and producing content rather than actually talking about books. Which is really all I want to do. I think you need a bit of both. I love an attractive Instagram post as much as the next person, but there has to be more to it than that.

All this to say I have been considering changing the format of my writing about books, partially because of this shift with blogs and social media and partly because I now read fewer books than I used to. I have a two-year-old (goodbye reading time, am I right), and a few months ago I also gave up my job so my whole routine has changed and I can’t read 50 to 70 books a year like I used to. I managed nine in 2021. Nine.

So I’m considering a monthly post as my new format, along with more Instagram posts (undecided about Twitter…). I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this, and the formats you prefer for book reviews, roundups, and general book-based content. Oh, and happy new year!

8 responses to “New year, new books… and more”

  1. Whether to blog, tweet or insta depends on why you do it and how much free time you have, I guess. Given that, unlike lifestyle influencers, none of us is likely to make an income from this, I’ve come to conclusion that it’s what suits you and your readers. I blog partly because I’ve written about books for so long I don’t know how to stop, partly because it makes me think and partly because I enjoy the exchanges with other readers. Incidentally, I’ve noticed a slight delcline in traffic on my blog – although I try not to look at stats often – but not in comments which is what matters to me. And I know what you mean about long blog posts. I try to keep reviews to below 500 words. Anyway, very happy new year to you, Lizzi, and apologies for wittering on at such length!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your input, Susan. I think setting a word limit for blog posts would help me, as well as considering what I enjoy most about creating and consuming books stuff online. Perhaps it’s a case of balancing that and keeping up with how people use social media and blogs together. All the best to you!

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  2. I read blogs. I rarely read the words under Instagram posts if longer than a few sentences. I don’t watch reels / videos or any Booktube type content.
    I prefer quality blog reviews (must be well thought out and carefully written) to those in newspapers as they tend to be more reflective. The practice of commissioning authors to review books in various media too often reeks of cronyism – although this can also be a problem when bloggers get ‘big’ and too close to authors / publishers.
    My own blog gets more hits from search engine hits over time than on post publication day – presumably from potential readers looking for info on a book.
    Having said all that, you should do what you enjoy and what works for you. We’re not paid to post so it has to be what we want to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your input Jackie, this is really helpful. I also find long Instagram captions difficult, even if it’s a review I might want to read. I also always prefer blog posts/reviews where I can tell the writer has really considered the subject and is sharing genuine insight (like yours!) rather than just ‘loved this book, 5 stars’, which can be reductive. The cronyism is also definitely an issue as you say – sometimes you just get soundbites and it can be a bit of an echo chamber. I definitely still want to blog in some form, as well as make effective use of social media. Lots to think about! Thanks again for the comment, much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s lovely to hear from you, Lizzi, and to catch up with you a bit! I hope you had a lovely Christmas, and that you’re adjusting well to this new year. I do hope you’ll carry on with book blogging – at least sometimes! – as it’s the only social media I really use nowadays. I deleted my Twitter account a few years ago now, and haven’t even loaded Instagram since September. I completely agree that things have shifted in the blogging world, but I do hope, if you move permanently to reviews on Instagram, that you might still consider doing a wrap-up of sorts here, whenever you have the time to. I’d love to keep in the loop with what you’re reading, and considering. Wishing you and yours all the best for this year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kirsty, that’s lovely to hear! I will definitely still post on here, but maybe in a slightly new way… still planning that out. Still love to read your blog too. Hope you are also well! 🙂

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  4. Gah, and here I was hating my reading figure of 13 in 2021. Glad to hear that someone shares my paucity of books for the past year, and yeah, it involves a lot of life changes as well. My thoughts are that you should do whatever it is you want to do, which you’ll know deep inside. Wishing you all the best, Lizzi!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, and you

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