Why I Blog… Honestly

Two other blogs I have read recently have made me write this post. I saw that on Saturday C.B James had discussed on his blog about good and bad reviews, reviewing unfinished books and also whether people should review advance copies. It makes for interesting reading so do take a look. Then on Sunday Jackie at Farmlanebooks also blogged about reviews and the fact that sadly she had received some rather harsh and upsetting comments and asking, as I read it, is that what comes from saying negative things about books you don’t like or reviewing books you haven’t finished.

I suddenly realised I have never really stated why I blog, what my personal blogging and reviewing rules are etc and maybe it was time to do so. Please, before I go on, let me state that this is about my personal feelings not how I feel anyone else blogs should be written as that is down to the individual and there is no gospel on ‘how to blog’ and no blogger should be enforcing any other blogger on what they choose to write about. I think , for the record, you need to be honest when blogging and if you don’t like a book say so and explain why rather than just say ‘I hated it’ I return to blogs with negative reviews because I know the person is talking for them not for everyone and does it in a construtive way explaining why they didn’t like it… I might still buy it though.

I blog because I love books and I love having a soundboard where I can discuss books to my hearts content and stop boring most of my non reading/book addicted friends and family. When I started I had hopes people would read the blog and like it but for almost a year I hardly had a comment. This didn’t deter me as, some of you may say selfishly, I blogged for me – a journal where my reading and thoughts it gave to me could be left and I could look back on. I didn’t want to become a professional reviewer or get famous I just wanted to let all my book musings out. My rules were that;

  • Give honest thoughts rather than “reviews” even if I tag them as reviews (I am not a literary expert I just love a good book), no one likes every book they read, though the more I read the better I become at judging what book is a “me book”.
  • Have fun with blogging, after all you don’t get paid unless you have links to books you are selling, are an affiliate (which takes a long long time to earn anything) or are just bloody lucky, so you should enjoy it.
  • Be honest with publishers if they approach you; say that you may not read it, may not like it and only agree to reading what you think you will enjoy or what they think you will.
  • Don’t review a book I haven’t actually finished but collate my thoughts on why I didn’t finish it and what it was that didn’t appeal to me.
  • Try and be positive rather than negative as I may put off someone reading a book I didn’t like but they might love, also an author has taken years to write a book and that should be respected.
  • Remember that if I read a book blog that doesn’t like a book I really want to read realistically it wont stop me and I wouldn’t be arrogant enough to say that I think my reviews would do vice versa.
  • If people buy a book because I raved about it fabulous, we all love enthusiasm and can get caught up in it.
  • If I have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all. A blog filled with negative reviews will eventually start to read as a negative blog unless you make it constructive.
  • Don’t feel pressured to blog everyday it shouldn’t be a chore.
  • Never believe my opinion is the right or only opinion.
  • Stop blogging if reading stops being fun because you blog (it makes sense in my head).
  • Don’t take offense if someone criticizes me or what I write, I am after all putting a blog out there into the world of the internet and some people may not agree with me.

The latter is easier said than done however. Though recently I did ask for feedback be it good bad or indifferent. I am happy for people to tell me their thoughts whatever they are as it can be really beneficial when it’s constructive. In fact  I am going to put up an email I received and my response (unedited) as hopefully it will illustrate this post all the more. So starting with the one I received…

Dear Mr. Savidge,

I am a regular reader of your book blog, because (a) I’m an avid reader myself and (b) I like to see what others are reading. However, I would like to make a couple of points:

1. I am getting really annoyed by the spelling and punctuation mistakes in your blog. For example, on the Book Group page is this sentence: That doesn’t sound to scary does it? There should be an apostrophe in doesn’t and ‘to scary’ should be ‘too scary’. And there are lots of examples in other blog entries (e.g. Preferences of July 23, Frank McCourt of July 20).

I know you probably type fast and, as I do, occasionally mistype, but it doesn’t look good that a person who reads so much and obviously is well educated should allow the blog to be peppered with these mistakes. Please proofread your blog entries before launching them on the web. 

2. It seems to me that your reading is a chore. You want to read all the Man Booker titles, you want to read all the Orange Prize titles – this seems to me too much like ‘homework’.  My own TBR titles comprise a very great number of books, some of which I purchased years ago. The fact that I borrow from my local library and also like buying books means that my TBR doesn’t reduce in size. But: when I want to choose a book to read from my own shelves, I have often found great pleasure in reading the older purchases. For example, I’m reading Paul Burston’s ‘Queen’s country’, which I purchased in 1999, and have just finished Robert Hugh Benson’s ‘King of the World’, which was an even older purchase. The latter was an immensely readable and prescient tale first published in 1907 and republished in 1970.

I see you’ve started Antonia Byatt’s ‘The Children’s Book’, which I believe is a fairly thick tome. I wouldn’t like to think you’re going to get bored with it, but have to read it, just so that you can blog about it.

I don’t know how you find the time to read and blog; I know which of those tasks I’d prefer to do: read, take pleasure in what I’m reading, and absorb what I’ve read – and keep the pleasure all to myself! I have recommended titles to other people, and they’ve not liked them – so I keep my treasures to myself. 

My response was…

Thank you for your email. It’s always good to be in touch with my readers and always welcome feedback. In fact you may have noticed that I wrote a blog asking for just that not long ago.

I hadn’t spotted the mistakes on any of these blogs you had mentioned and I do proof read them I assure you. However in particular of late, as I have mentioned on my blog I have swine flu at the moment and no internet and therefore am doing everything on my tiny blackberry screen. I have been consciously trying to carry on putting daily blogs out to my daily readers rather than simply go silent for quite sometime. I think we all have glitches with type-o’s now and again and as a writer by trade and having an editor I can be a true grammar and spelling offender, but hey am human.

As for your second point you actually said it yourself “you want to read all the Man Booker titles, you want to read all the Orange Prize titles” I do want to read them which is why I do. I do read a mixture of stuff but for me part of loving books is getting excited about the awards and guessing what will win and a huge proportion of my readers feel the same. In the same vein I will also be reviewing books by the Bronte’s, Georgette Heyer etc I try to do a mix of all the books I like.

If I felt I was being forced to read I would stop and I don’t. I am incredibly lucky to be in a position where I get sent many, many books by publishers which they all know I will read when I can and when it matches my mood. Generally I ask for titles I want as I don’t like to get books I won’t ever read or review.

As for why I read and blog, I enjoy it. I don’t get paid for it and do it alongside two other jobs so it’s simply because I love it and the book blogging community.I hope this answers your questions? I wonder if I could use these emails for a blog… Your details taken out of course. It’s raised some very interesting questions.

I had the response that I could and so here you are. The main reason I blog is that I love books and that’s that. If you like it that’s wonderful, if you don’t then what would make you like it more? I know I will never please every book lover out there as there are too many books and differing opinions (which I love as it makes blogging so interesting and creates great discussion) to make everyone happy and enjoy doing it. 

So if you blog why do you blog? If you are a reader of blogs, why do you read them? What are your thoughts on negative reviews or reviews of books a blogger hasn’t finished? Would you be put off a book because of a review? Do you buy books because of glowing reviews? Do let me know as I love your thoughts and find everyone’s take fascinating, as its individual opinions don’t feel there is any right or wrong answer, just let me know your thoughts.

29 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts

29 responses to “Why I Blog… Honestly

  1. It looks as though you are suffering from criticisms similar to me. Once you get to be in the public eye some people assume that you will have the same standards as professional print reviewers, when this is not what we are trying to be at all. We just want to be able to share our thoughts on books with other book lovers and hopefully generate a bit of discussion about the books we love.

    It is almost impossible to proof read your own writing, which is why the professionals have someone else to do it. We don’t have the luxury of having a team of editors working behind the scenes, let alone the time to go over every word with a fine toothcomb. It is more important to spend time reading rather than checking our posts for hours each day for the chance we’ve missed the odd spelling mistake.

    My post wasn’t trying to tell other people how to blog, but I feel that criticism some bloggers have received recently is forcing some bloggers to hide their true feelings and conform to what is expected, rather than doing what they want to do, which is what I feel blogging is all about.

    I hope that people continue blogging in the way they feel happiest and critics will slowly learn that blogging is very different from print media.

    • I didn’t say your post was trying to make people blog in a particular way as I said this is simply my opinion on how I feel about blogs and blogging.

      I don’t mind critisism at all after all and though I wouldnt say we were in the public eye we do put our thoughts and words out into the ether and we have to understand some people won’t like what they read and some people are just mean for the sake of it.

      They guy who emailed me wasnt being horrible I don’t think (or try not to think) he was just expressing a reaction to what I had written and so I politely answered him and that was that. I am glad he emailed and glad you and CB blogged as its a very interesting discussion.

      • I didn’t mean to imply that you said I was trying to tell people how to blog – sorry! Another example of how easy it is to mis-understand people when writing things.

        I don’t mind critisism either – along as it isn’t abusive. I think a polite response is the best we can do – hopefully they will accept that and realise that we just want to discuss books in an informal manner.

  2. I agree with Jackie. As to why I blog, it’s to journal my reads. I used to do it in a notebook, but as one of my friends abroad wanted to take a peek at my reading notes, I blogged about it mainly for her and me. I found that typing is a lot faster to do than handwriting, so I decided to continue. Then I found a host of book bloggers who are so supportive of my “hobby” or passion. I don’t have many friends who read. Actually, none who reads as passionately as I do. So having bookish friends online are just so wonderful, it makes me happy. My book reviews are not book reviews at all, they’re just journal entries.

    What some people don’t understand is that we don’t see reading as a chore at all, even if it appears that way to them. Why torture ourselves? We read because we love to, we blog because we get to discuss and share our reads with other book lovers.

    Simon, there’s nothing I want you to change about your blog. I keep coming back because I enjoy the way you talk about your reads. 😀

    • Claire like with you my blog is mainly a journal for me and if people come along, like you for example, for the ride then that is fantastic.

      I don’t do it for any fame or expecting praise and gratitude and I do feel there was a wave of that not long ago, but those blogs die out and the true people who write because they love to stick around which is nice to see.

  3. I have felt prompted to try and clarify my position on blogging but I’m not sure whether I will or not as I am still figuring out my stance on some things (like will I emblazon across a blog post that it was a review copy but that doesn’t mean I love it any more or less than had I borrowed the same book from the library?) My “about me” and “why do I blog?” sections are works in progress and I’ve put off posting them because I am eventually moving over the wordpress and I don’t want double the amount of work to do!

    Personally I have no problems reading or writing a negative “review” (expressing thoughts) as long as it is constructive; what isn’t enjoyable to me may be wonderful to someone else. I can understand where people who don’t post negative reviews are coming from but I think it is counter-productive: I am more likely to respond to a blog post that says they don’t like a book by buying it to see what I think (often negative reviews intrigue me) but a post that says to me “I didn’t like it and I’m not telling you why” is more likely to put me off the book or off the blogger. I relish in the opportunity to make up my own mind, either by reading it myself or a variety of opinions and judging whether I will like it from those and making an informed decision.

    I have noticed recently with one book (I’ll leave the book a mystery until I review it) that before publication I was really looking forward to it; I read a glowing, complimentary blog review that actually put me off the book because of the excerpts chosen; I read another blog review that found the book average and that put me off even more; the last (at the moment) review I read raved about it and presented it a completely different light and reminded me why I wanted to read it in the first place. Whether I will end up loving it or not remains to be seen but it brought home to me that I need to stay true to my gut instincts when it comes to books; that reading blogs are fun and informative and I can allow myself to be swayed but at the end of the day I make up my own mind.

    • I held back on blogging about why I blog fr a while but with seeing those two posts and then the email last week i just thought it was a sign that I should. I do think the danger is that you can come across being preachy and I really hope I didnt do that I just wanted to voice my thoughts. Its a dangerous game blogging as so many people can take the written word so many ways, like of course with books.

      I don’t mind reading or writing negative reviews I just back up what i say and I think there was a phase where some bloggers write cruel things to get noticed a while back, though thankfully their blogs ended up being defunct.

      A blog is personal to someone and should be their thoughts and their rules and thats that. If people don’t like it don’t read it is my opinion as harsh as it sounds. I know which blogs I love and visit and comment on them and thats the way it will stay.

      Am in total agreement that if someone writes a bad review I will take it into account but realisitically it won’t stop me buying a book I want to.

  4. I was pretty blown away by the nastiness thrown at Jackie, and am equally distressed that someone is writing you and correcting your punctuation! People really need to get. a. life. What it always boils down to is self-esteem. There are those that need to cut others down to make themselves feel better about who they are. We are introduced to them in grade school, and the funny thing is, they never grow up and stop their bullying. Listen. Most of us don’t get paid for this, we do it because we have a passion. We love sharing ideas, and we love to talk books. And we can do it any way we damn please. If we don’t like a book, it is our right to say so (and even when you don’t like a book, Simon, you are pretty nice about it). If we find a book that sends us over the moon, for whatever reason, good for us. If we want to write a post about why we hate Mondays, we can do that. And if others don’t like it, it is a free country…they can go somewhere else. You won’t find me going anywhere though; I like what you do. Keep up the good work, missing commas and all.

    • Hahahaha thats lovely and really made me laugh. In fairness my punctuation is appauling as is some of my spelling at time but thats two jobs and going out lots for you lol.

      I don’t know of any bloggers that get paid, my paynment if you like is free books on the odd occasion and that is just a bonus to me. The real treat of the blogging experience has been being in touch with so many lovely people and discussing books endlessly!

      • I do know a few bloggers that get paid – they are paid to write ariticles for professional blogs and other publications and are then able to post their articles on their own blog. Great job if you can get it!

  5. Well, Simon, I was going to have a quiet word with you about your punctuation and spelling… I’m joking! 😉

    • Hahahaha, serioulsy Kim mine is awful but I am aware of it and sorting it out… well on the whole ha!

      • Because I do an enormous amount of sub-editing at work I am always paranoid that I’ll have errors in posts of my own. Some of my reviews take days to craft – no exaggeration – and even then I’m never entirely happy with what I’ve written. I want to edit and tinker and tweak forever. This is why I’d never be able to write a novel I was happy with me: it would probably take me 20 years!

  6. I blog because I love books and I love to think I can help others find books they will love. I admittedly have a thin skin and sometimes worry about sending my personal thoughts out there into the wild blue yonder, but I’ve been lucky not to have had any harsh criticism as of yet. (Knock on wood!) I also don’t write “reviews” so much as just record my thoughts about a book I read, and I like it that way. It works for me and I hope it provides entertainment and useful information for those who stop by.

    Lezlie

    • Thanks for your thoughts Lezlie, I often wonder whether I should stop tagging my thoughts on books as ‘reviews’ but then its never in the title fo the blog just in the tags so people can find me in a way.

      Entertainment for yourself and others is a brilliant reason to blog too!

  7. “So if you blog why do you blog? If you are a reader of blogs, why do you read them? What are your thoughts on negative reviews or reviews of books a blogger hasn’t finished? Would you be put off a book because of a review? Do you buy books because of glowing reviews?”

    I started blogging about a year ago…although I did have an LJ group where I talked about books (but then I decided I wanted to separate book-thoughts from other fannish pursuits). I don’t really have any regular readers…okay, occasionally someone drops by, but I don’t have a following per se…and I’m actually okay with that. I sort of think of my blog as my personal reading diary…a place to keep track of what I’ve read and what I think about those books. A couple weeks ago I finished a book, wrote a glowing review (the book was fantastic) and the author left a comment so yay!

    I read blogs because I love to find new books…not that I actually *need* to add anymore books to my tbr list, but I can’t resist. It’s like- how do you eat just one chip? (Crisp for you Brits *g*)

    Negative reviews don’t deter me from reading a book I really, really want to read…although sometimes I’d be better off taking them to heart. I suppose that if I consistently read someone’s blog and their reviews seem to match my own opinions on books we have in common, I might be more likely to take their views on board when it comes to negative reviews.

    Mostly I just like the book chat, the links to interesting info and the opportunity to discover new authors/books. I’d do it anyway, so why not blog?

    • Whats an LJ group sorry thats probably a really silly question?

      I like your attitude that a blog is just for you and for your thoughts and that is exactly why I started and why I continue to write. It’s lovely having people coming and commenting and reading every day. I would still do it if they didnt though. Not that I mean I want you all to stop hahaha.

  8. I blog because I too love books. I can’t imagine being in a world where we don’t have books available in any form (though I am partial myself to the old-fashioned printed type instead of e-books/Kindles). My TBR pile is never ending. I read books from them, get books from the library, swap with friends, buy books. I don’t think you can have too many books. And I want to (in some small way) share my love of books with others. I humbly hope that my blog in some small way contributes.

    I love reading about books that others are reading. Positive or negative reviews, I don’t care. A negative review on a book might not dissuade me from reading that particular book. In fact, it might prompt me to read it, or at the very least to check it out.

    Your blog is one of the more interesting and entertaining blogs I follow. Thanks for the taking the time to do what you do. Keep it up!

    • Baba The Bookaholic quite clearly hahaha which is brilliant at blogging introduces us, though not in the real world, to each other which is great. And thank you for the lovely comments.

  9. I’ve followed this particular debate here and on Jackie’s blog with great interest. It is perhaps the case that there are two issues overlapping here. One is the more general issue of people who live viscious comments on websites or blogs of any kind, be they book blogs or blogs about garden knomes (a quick search reveals that there is at least one gnome blog but I’ve not checked to see if it has any nasty comments on it). The other is the more specific issue of whether book bloggers should post unfavourable “reviews”.

    As far as the book-centric debate is concerned, it is interesting to see the reverence with which the term “review” is held by so many of those who have expressed an opinion. I have no choice but to describe my “reviews” on LibraryThing as “reviews” because someone else created the site and that is the term they decided to use. Hardly anything I have posted in those review boxes lives up to the lofty standards which many seem to associate with the term. I’m not going to worry too much about that, although you may be interested to read that after following the discussion on Farm Lane Books, I spent yesterday evening cleansing my LibraryThing account, getting rid of low ratings and editing the small number of less favourable comments I had posted. Why did I do that? I am already beginning to wonder if I might have over-reacted, but for now at least I am glad I did it because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. There is too much hostility and sniping in the world as it is. The general issue of online abuse concerns me greatly. I think Sandy is spot on with her comments about bullies.

    I am also struck by the common expectation of higher standards from professional reviewers. We seem to have great faith that the pros will always finish a book before reviewing it, but I doubt whether that will always be true? The pressure of deadlines forces even the best of us to cut corners from time to time. I sincerely hope that those responsible for the safety of nuclear power plants do not do this, but I would be very surprised if the occasional book reviewer does not.

    Ideally I like to see correct grammar and spelling, but if I had to choose between error free and abuse free I know which I would go for every time.

    Thanks as always for your thoughtful and friendly blog, Simon.

    • Thanks David thats very kind of you and I do think you have hit the nail on the head with the whole ‘bullying’ thing. Sadly there are people out there that no matter what you write will write something back thats cruel.

      I do want to say that the guy who emailed me I dont put in that catagory at all, he said his peace, some valid and I said mine and I took it on the chin and then got this post out of it along with a few other changes. I think had I not had hardened skin that whole thing could have been very, very different.

      • I would not put your emailer in the nasty category either. On the whole, he demonstrates a good example of how to discuss differences of view, proving that it is possible to be critical without being abusive.

  10. According to style guide I own, your critic was missing a comma after his use of “e.g.” Unless that was just you making another of your mistakes.

    I blog because I needed some kind of creative outlet and because meeting like-minded people here in Washington DC, where it is politics and policy all the time, is like trying to find needles in a haystack.

    • And, may I add, your blog and Stuck-In-A-Book are fabulous have introduced me to a whole network of wonderful bloggers I didn’t know existed until recently.

      • Hahahaha Thomas that made me laugh, I do make mistakes, many both on the blog and in life ha!

        I like your blogging reasons, its nice having the book group here as now some of us like minded London bloggers are all meeting in the flesh!

        Stuck-in-a-Book is a brilliant blog and the fact we are both Simon’s is even better ha.

  11. Wow, the email you received was incredible! You are right, a great thing about blogging is that you get to “meet” other book lovers and thus share your thoughts and passion with them! Keep up the good work and don’t listen to people who have no idea what they are talking about!

    • Like I said I don’t think it was meant nastily and some of the email was asking valid questions maybe I hadnt clarified, but you have to be so careful with the written word as I could have taken it various ways I just chose to be positive.

  12. I appreciate your honesty. I have often had a few questions about writing negative reviews, and I’m still conflicted. I do try to present both sides of the question, but I think that it’s ultimately my blog, I am the one reading the book, and I should be free to express my opinion as long as I don’t say anything denigrating

  13. I blog for nearly all the reasons you give and agree with every word. I am not a critic I am somebody who loves books. I don’t review all the latest books because I read a mixture – for instance I am not a Booker person and no point pretending I am – I leave that to other bloggers much more au fait with modern literature to write about them. I have recently written about LM Montgomery and FH Burnett and have recieved a lot of comments and people saying they will now have a go at their works and that is wonderful.

    I blog because I simply love it – no other reason. They day I don’t love it is the day I stop.

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