Becoming a Better Blogger: Discussing Development
Today’s Armchair BEA topic is all about developing one’s blog. “Developing” and “becoming better” can carry different meanings, depending on who is asking and who is answering. It might mean reaching a wider audience or becoming an expert in a chosen field. It could also mean learning more about technology and building one’s skills to enhance the look, feel, and functionality of one’s own blog (which would likely come with the added benefits of ease-of-reading, which might naturally grow one’s readership).
But, in answer to the specific question of my approach to blogging and how I have tried to develop, personally and professionally, I have just a few thoughts:
1) Honesty. My book blog is more about me than it is about any book, author, genre, etc. I read because I love it. I engage with this community because I love it. It would be doing myself and this community a great disservice, then, to be dishonest in my reviews. Whether I have received a book from a publisher, picked it out on my own, won it in a contest, or been gifted it by a friend, I follow the same standard criteria when reviewing and am honest, though, hopefully, comprehensive and fair, in my posts. I believe if I stay committed to fairness and quality and that if my readers can continue to trust that I will do this, then I am succeeding.
2) Community. I really do enjoy the book blogging community, and I respect it and the people involved. For this reason, I do my best to engage on Twitter and Facebook (and sometimes Tumblr), to visit other blogs and leave comments so writers know that I’m reading, and also to reply to comments here on my blog. I am a full-time doctoral student, an academic advisor, and a college English instructor, so I don’t have a whole lot of free time – but I do my best!
3) Income and Events. These two go hand-in-hand with the above topics. I never accept payment for reviews because I believe that, however honest and diligent I am, when money is involved, expectations change. I do, however, certainly partner with publishers, authors, publicists, and other bloggers in joining and creating events that will spotlight new books (or classics to be rediscovered). I do this because it is a fun way to engage with others who have similar interests and it also adds some spice and variety to my blog. I love to give my readers options, such as my annual Austen in August event and the upcoming Beats of Summer event. I’ve also hosted events for Andrew Smith, had authors interviewed and guest posting, and have helped to publicize new audiobook collections of Hemingway and others.
On Genre Fiction
Although I read primarily literary fiction and the Classics (thanks for yesterday’s topic!), I do also read plenty of genre fiction. I’m an eclectic reader, I guess, though I do tend to veer towards timeless works.
Some of my favorite genres include Fantasy, LGBT fiction, and Young Adult (particularly dystopian). I’m very picky about my YA books (I tend to enjoy YA that also appeals to older readers, such as the works of John Green, Andrew Smith, and David Levithan tend to do). I do also read some horror, on occasion (I love Stephen King) and intellectual thrillers/puzzlers (Yes, I’m a fan of Dan Brown – it’s a guilty pleasure!).
Out of all genre fiction, though, and, to be honest, of all books, my favorite all time reads are the books in the Harry Potter series. I know, I know – that’s the most incredibly unique opinion, right? But, seriously – the books are fantastic. The world J.K. Rowling created, the history (factual and mythological) that she put into it, and the themes she explores, are all incredible. Not only do the themes from book to book become deeper, darker, more complex and adult, but so does the narrative. The difficulty level of the prose, the intricacy of the subplots, and the characters’ growth and development all allow the reader to grow along with the series. It’s brilliant and, in my opinion, unmatched.
Here are some of my favorite works of genre fiction, by category:
- Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja
- A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
- I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip by John Donovan
- Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
- Beautiful Children by Charles Bock
- And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
- The Dark Towers Series by Stephen King
- Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
- The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
- Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
So, there you have it! My thoughts on developing and a blogger and on genre fiction. Now, I’m off to explore other blogs and other thoughts!