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!