Weekly Geeks: Improving my Blog

WG Book Pile URL_thumb[3]Two conversations inspired this Weekly Geeks. First, during Book Bloggers Appreciation Week, Amy asked us to write about our blogging goals. I noticed many people’s goal was to acquire a larger readership*. Then during a Twitter conversation Natasha from Maw Books said she was told by a non-book blogger that book blogs were confusing. Which brings me to our topic.

Take a look at your blog as if you were someone who has never seen a blog before. Imagine they are looking for something specific. Could they find it? Could they find YOU again? Be able to contact you? Would they understand your jargon?

With these questions in mind, start making your blog more reader friendly. You can do as much as upload a new template to adding a subscription button. Here are some ideas:

*Add meta tags to help people find your blog.
*Add a RSS feed button.
*Add a contact page.
*Make sure as many people as possible can comment on your posts.
*Make your blog searchable.
*Check your links.
*Explain your rating system, if you have one.
*Create a glossary if you use a lot of blogger acronyms ie- BBAW, BTT, ARC.

These are just suggestions. There are probably a million more. Check out Blogging Tips on the Book Blogger’s Ning for more ideas and advice.

After you’ve accomplished all you can, write a post telling us what you did or even what you plan to do down the road on your blog to help your readers.

Now if you haven’t thought about your goals, it’s a good time to do so. Maybe you haven’t thought about readership, maybe you could care less! Then where do you see your blog in a year. How do you plan to accomplish that? Write a post about it.
I have no idea how user friendly my blog is.  I have practically zero technical knowledge, so my blog is pretty simple when compared with others.  I hope by just immersing myself in the book blogging sphere will help me to gain at least some of that knowledge, and so far it’s working.  Perhaps a little slowly, but I’m getting there.  Honestly, I don’t even know what a meta tag is!

I would have said when I started this blog that readership wasn’t all that important to me, but at this point that is not true.  I would love to have a lot of readers, so gaining readership is an important goal for me.  I attempt to network as much as possible by commenting on other blogs and participating in memes.

Really though, I don’t have an concrete plans for improving my blog.  I just plan on continuing on with what I’m doing and picking up some tips and ideas along the way.

Weekly Geeks: Burnt Out

WG Book Pile URL_thumb[3]This past week wrapped up Book Blogger Appreciation Week, in which I’m sure many of you participated. In two weeks will be Banned Books Week, in which I’m sure some of you also will participate. I’m also sure that many of you participated, and will participate, with at least a post per day, if not more, on your respective blogs.

Personally, after such weeks, I feel almost burnt out and think, “Why am I doing this? I’m not getting paid for this.” Do you ever feel the same way after weeks like the ones mentioned above? If you do, what do you to counter it? How do you keep going? Do you take a break from posts after that, or do you just “soldier on”?

Or if you don’t feel burnt out after such weeks, why not? Also why are you a book blogger? From what I’ve seen and experienced, it’s certainly not the fame or the glory that you get. So what is it? Why? Why? Why?

I would say I’m the opposite of burnt out.  BBAW was such a fun and action packed week and now that its over, it’s like . . . what now?  I absolutely loved posting once, or even a few times, a day.  Of course that’s not as feasible in normal weeks, so I’m kind of feeling sad now that things will be back to normal.  Of course there is a lot more fun in store–there always is in the book blogging world.  I’ll be doing the Fall Into Reading challenge as well as wrapping up the RIP IV challenge.  Dewie’s 24 hour read-a-thon is next month (can you tell I’m dying of anticipation over here!!) plus banned book week, so there’s always something on the horizon to look forward to.

As for why I’m doing this, obviously its not for the fame and glory, as pointed out. Reading is one of my passions, if not my biggest passion, so sharing that with others is such a joy.  I’m sure there are times when I will get burnt out–I assume every blogger goes through that at some point or another, but so far I’ve had nothing but great experiences and I hope to keep that up.

Weekly Geeks: Negative Reviews

WG Book Pile URL_thumb[3]Shannon Hale (author of Austenland and The Actor and the Housewife, as well as many other books) recently posted on her blog about reviewing books. Take a moment to go read her post, in which she talks about going beyond saying simply whether or not you liked a book when writing a review.

For this week’s Weekly Geeks, we challenge you to respond to the questions Ms. Hale asks in one of three ways.

1. Find a negative review that you have written. In your post, link to or include the original review and then rewrite it to answer these questions:

  • Why did you react negatively to the book?
  • What was it about the story or characters or style that hit you so strongly?
  • Are you reacting to any fears or insecurities?

2. Write a new review about a book you loved, keeping in mind these questions:

  • What was it about the story that resonated?
  • Would you have loved this book as much ten years ago? Five years ago?
  • Will you keep loving it in the future?
  • Where are you in your life that this is the story you wanted and needed?

3. At the end of her post, Ms. Hale posed six questions for those who review books on their blogs or other sites. Write a letter to Ms. Hale explaining your position on each of these questions, then return to her post and leave a comment with a link to your post. And remember her request to speak freely, but kindly and respectfully!

  • Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing the book has changed your reading experience?
  • Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?
  • Does knowing you’ll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?
  • Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?
  • What is your motivation to assign a rating to a book and declare it to the world?
  • If you review a book but don’t rate, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer?

I decided to go with option #1.  I haven’t really posted any negative reviews on this blog, but the most recent bad review I gave a book was Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser.  It was a book that I anticipated enjoying because the subject matter was right up my alley and the book itself has gotten good reception.  Alas, I just kept hoping for the end and felt a big sense of relief once I finally made it.  Here is what I wrote about the book once I finished it.

I expected to enjoy this book–unfortunately my expectations were too high. Perhaps I had it coming, because I shouldn’t anticipate liking a book before I read it. I just wanted an rr1(fast food nation)expose on the fast food industry–all the disgusting tidbits they don’t want you to know. Instead it was mostly expounding on the issues of politics in the fast food industry, as well as an in depth look at raising cattle and chickens.

There were some portions that I found interesting–such as the chapter on flavor–but those were few and far between. I would recommend watching Supersize Me as opposed to reading this book.

  • Why did you react negatively to the book? Truthfully, I just found it boring.  I guess I expected more anecdotes.  I think in a non-fiction book, it is imperative the the author use literary tools to draw a reader in.  In Fast Food Nation, I think Schlosser failed at making the cold, hard facts come alive and grab the readers attention.
  • What was it about the story or characters or style that hit you so strongly? Since this book was non-fiction, there were no characters or plot.  This, in itself, is not a problem for me as I enjoy non-fiction a lot of the time.  However, I do think it is important for authors of non-fiction to create some sort of story to interest the reader, because a lot of non-fiction can be dry.  I think that there will be a much larger audience for non-fiction if the author is successful in creating an intriguing story.
  • Are you reacting to any fears or insecurities? That is a great question, considering the subject matter.  I LOVE fast food, despite a full knowledge of the negative side effects.  I began this book knowing full well that it would expose some truths to me that maybe I don’t want to know.  However, by the time I finished the book, my love for fast food hadn’t changed and I wasn’t really enlightened in any way compared to my mindset before I started the book, so I would have to say that fear didn’t have anything to do with my distaste for this book.

I’m interested to see how other weekly geekers chose to answer these questions.  Feel free to leave a comment with your link or an answer to any of the above questions!

Weekly Geeks

WG Book Pile URL_thumb[3]So, Weekly Geeksters, tell us, do you have a collection, (or are you starting a collection,) of one particular book title? If so, what’s your story? Why that book, and how many do you have, and what editions are they? Share pictures and give us all the details.

Or perhaps you dream about starting such a collection. What title would it be and what would it take for you to get motivated to start collecting?

Or maybe it’s the works of a particular author you collect (or want to collect) instead a certain book title?

Personally, I don’t have one single title that I collect.  I don’t really see the point in that, truthfull.  It’s just not me.  For one, I admit I’m not much of a re-reader, even when it comes to my favorite books.  There are just so many titles I want to read that I can’t bear to go back and read something over again.  Secondly, why more than one copy, even if you do read a book numerous times?
There are some subjects that I collect books on, like the subject of Charles Manson.  I have 5-6 books on the Manson murders, all stemming from my reading of Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi.  I just find the Manson family to be intriguing, as well as creepy, for obvious reasons.
I also have quite a few books that have to do with Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, possibly my favorite book ever, if I could only pick just one.  I have a few biographies on Margaret Mitchell, as well as the two sequels Rhett Butler’s People and Scarlett.  The only one I declined to add to my library was Alice Randall’s The Wind Done Gone, which I had to put down midway through because I found it both confusing and atrocious.  I also have a really cool book with tons of pictures and descriptions of the lifestyles during that time period.
Please feel free to add a comment regarding any collections you might own!

Weekly Geeks: week of August 22, 2009

WG Book Pile URL_thumb[3]I think just about every reader has a least one book that they’ve been meaning to read for awhile (months or even years) but, for one reason or another, they just haven’t gotten around to it. Maybe it’s a book a friend recommended last year, or a title you’ve flirted with in a bookstore on more than one occasion, or maybe it’s a book that’s sitting right there on your bookshelf, patiently waiting for you to pick it up — but the thought is always there, in the back of your mind: Why haven’t I read this yet?

This week, tell us about a book (or books) you have been meaning to read. What is it? How long have you wanted to read it? And, why haven’t you read it yet?

Considering my TBR pile is hundreds of books long, there are numerous books that I could mention in this post.  The one book I have that I really want to read and seems to be glaring at me from my shelves is Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy.  It’s not only that it’s one of those books I feel that I just HAVE to read (although that is a factor)–I also really anticipate that it’s a book I’ll enjoy.  One of the biggest issues in regards to why I haven’t read it is it’s size.  I can be sort of put off by large books.  Sometimes the time and effort is more than I’m willing to spare.   Plus books that heavy are such a pain to prop up and hold in the bathtub or in bed, which is why I downloaded Anna Karenina onto my Amazon Kindle.  Therefore, I am checking one of the reasons for not reading it off my list.  I promise, it will happen soon!  Maybe reading this book should be one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2010.

Weekly Geeks

Week of August 15, 2009

There have been times in my life where I reread a book (or author) I hated–or thought I hated–but the second time around ended up loving. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever changed your mind about a book or author the second time around? Have you ever given a book or author a second chance?

If you have, I’d love to hear your stories. Blog about your experience(s) in giving second chances.

If you haven’t, I’d like you to consider giving a book or an author a second chance. You can blog about your intentions to do so–or if you’re a quick reader, maybe you can even squeeze something in!

Can’t think of a single book or author? Don’t worry, you can stretch this one to include movies or music if you prefer.

It is just very interesting to me how time can change tastes and perceptions. How subjective the reading experience is and always will be.

Leave your answers (links) in the comments!

One author that comes to mind right away is Joyce Carol Oates.  In high school (we’re probably talking about ten years ago), I read We Were the Mulvaneys.  I’m not kidding when I say I absolutely loathed it.  I’m fairly certain I tried numerous times to get through it and just never could.  I can’t pinpoint what my problem was, since it was quite a long time ago, but I think I found it boring.  Since then, I have read a handful of books by Oates and loved them all.  Mulvaneys could have just been a fluke on the part of the author, but I’m pretty convinced that I just wasn’t mature enough at that point in my life to appreciate her prose.  Everyone’s reading tastes evolve, and I’m no exception.  I purchased We Were the Mulvaneys within the past few months and plan on rereading it sometime soon to see if my feelings have changed.

The situation described above though is virtually a one-time circumstance.  I rarely reread books because there are so many new titles I want to read, so they chances of me rereading a book a didn’t like the first time around are slim to none.