Organization and Avoiding Burn Out
Recently I have witnessed a huge wave of bloggers going on hiatus or simply walking away from their book blog. Those that leave an update all share a similar theme; This started out as fun and its become a job, I am overwhelmed, this has become a chore, I am in a funk etc, etc. So I wanted to put together some tips, tricks and recommendations for starting 2014 on the positive side of blogging. Let’s get organized, reassess and get back to doing what we love.
1. Organization– This is perhaps the hardest and most necessary of all the advice I can give you. As your blog grows, scheduling is a necessity. If you are blogging by the seat of your pants, sitting up till 2 am to finish reading and writing a review because it needs to be live for a tour in the morning – you are quickly going to burn out. Here are some tips to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Use a calendar -My blog, reading habits and scheduling depend on my calendar. When stalking NetGalley, Edelweiss, or sending a publisher a letter requesting a book, the first thing I do is look at the release date and check my calendar. Can I schedule a review post during the two weeks before or after the release date? If the answer is yes, I hit request or send off my email. I then add it to my calendar on the release date. I use color codes as well and mark this as grey since I don’t yet have the ARC. If It is No, I add the book to my wishlist for purchase. When I am approved, receive a book in the mail or agree to a tour, guest post etc the first thing I do is open my calendar. If the book is listed in grey on the release date, I change the color to yellow. (yellow indicates I have not yet reviewed it and written my post) When I read a book, and schedule my review, I change the color to blue on my calendar. If a new book arrives with the same release date, I add it to the date before. Once a week has the allotted amount of reviews scheduled, I add books in other weeks, until my month is full. Keep in mind I add weekly memes & features to my calendar as well. If a book review is also a scheduled tour date, I mark those as red when they first get entered into the calendar. (this tells me the date cannot be changed) After I have read book and written post for a scheduled tour date I change it to blue and add a star next to the event title, indicated date is set and cannot be changed) It sounds complicated, but really it isn’t. Make a color code chart and symbols. Stick with it. Write it down, after a while you won’t even think about. I can hear some of you eye rolling me and going, “I am an impulse reader, I cannot lock myself in. What if I am not in the mood for that book? The beauty of the calendar and not accepting any additional dates once it is full is simple. With the exception of the set dates, you can move those reviews around for the entire month…since most publisher want a review to post within the first month after publishing. This creates flexibility and allows for mood reads. Have a book that will release that is a must read for you? Schedule it in!!! I do it all the time. My reads are just as important as ARCS. So I add them to my calendar.
- Create a cushion– this is the only way I can deliver the amount of reviews that I share each month. I have a three-week cushion to work with. As I write this it is December 5 and I have three weeks of my posts scheduled from memes to reviews and only four books to read to see me into the first week of January. By the time you see this post I will be almost done January’s post. I tend to write my tips post and confession post whenever the mood hits me, and I a keep little memos with ideas. So when I pick up a book this afternoon it will be for a review set to post the last week of December. This allows me the freedom to juggle books around based on my mood, sneak in my own reads and accept an unexpected review, tour etc. It also allows me to spend time commenting, socializing and best of all READING 🙂 If you don’t have a Cushion make one! You can either write reviews of pre-blog reads, and set up memes in advance, or take a mini break and build up a reserve. I promise it will seriously change your blogging experience. (if you need some ideas, or extra help creating it, email me. I will be happy to share some ideas)
- Schedule– Plan times for socializing, blogging, maintenance etc. I will be the first in line to tell you it is easy to get lost for hours working on your blog and socializing. It makes it very easy to mismanage your time. I set aside a few times during the day for these activities. What I do during those times depends on my list. Say for example I have a review to write. The first thing I do is write my review and share my current post by uplifting it to social media sites. Then I proof read my scheduled post for the next day. For socializing I usually pop on twice a day and depending on my “life schedule” I can spend 20 mins to two hours flitting around. Once or twice a month when the mood strikes I prep my scheduled reviews. (meaning I set up the top part of my posts; title, cover, links, synopsis etc) I also do research to learn about WordPress, explore widgets, look for new books etc.
2. Take Care of You – It is very important to take care of yourself, and the life outside of blogging. If you are stressed, overworked and feeling like you can never read or socialize ..then you need to reassess.
- Unplug and Unwind– Everyone needs a break, whether it is for vacation or just to have a movie-thon filled weekend. If you follow the first two tips I mentioned, then breaks are stress free. I love socializing, so I am on all the time, but I schedule at least one weekend a month to unplug.
- Choose books that interest you– It is exciting when an author, tour or publisher offers you an opportunity to share a book, and it is very easy to fall into the “YES TRAP” We all do it as rookie bloggers, we don’t want to offend or worse yet make them stop asking. We find ourselves scheduled with books that are OK, but not what we typically read. Or we become so bogged down with tours that we can’t find time to read. Decide if the book, tour etc are a good match for you. Check your calendar!! Learn to say, No! Trust me, they will still come knocking.
- Have fun– join read-a-thons, challenges, and book of the month group reads. These allow you to indulge and enjoy all the wonderful perks of the book blogging world. There are some amazing uplifting peeps out there. Get off line, and engage with readers in your community. There are tons of book clubs from those organized by book stores to private ones. Goodreads can help you find local clubs.
- Join a Blogger Support/Friendship Group– I belong to a small private group made up of bloggers. We have become friends and offer each other support. Ironically we all blog about different genres and have our unique styles. We vent concerns, ask for help with ideas and uplift each others posts when traffic is low or a special post needs attention. It is a safe zone where anything said there, stays there. Don’t have a group? Start one and slowly fill it with peeps you trust, and admire.
3. Shake Things Up– don’t be afraid to try new things, and break out from routine
- Read something different -Reading the same genre, series or author can cause the book blues..shake it up!
- Mix up your review style– using the same format for reviews? Do something different. A different format keep things fresh, and can help you avoid slumps. Write some mini reviews, take your book on a date, write a poem about the book…be creative.
- Slow down– on spotlights, blog tours, and promo pieces, these are time-consuming and overbooked. Only post those you really have an interest in, and add your own input. These can be fun, easy posts if you are truly passionate about the author or book mentioned. If the tour group won’t allow you to select a date that works for you, skip it. When I sign up for a tour, I usually let them know what day I can work with. I respond promptly, and since my calendar shows a clear picture of the next 5 months, I know what will work, and most of them will accommodate me. If a tour, or publisher is regularly late providing info skip them the next time around and avoid the stress.
4. Misconceptions – Preconceived ideas of what makes a book blog successful, comparing yourself to others and thinking its a numbers game can eat up the joy of blogging. Let Go, and really look at why you are a book blogger. Be honest, and then decide how you want to rate your success. Here are some misconceptions that way too many bloggers focus on.
- You have to post daily to be successful. – False! Filling your blog with fluff pieces and scrambling to write x amount of reviews isn’t going to make your blog wildly successful or rewarding. Posting consistently is important. I know very popular bloggers who post 2 or 3 times a week. They post quality reviews, an occasional meme and discussion posts.
- Stats are Important. Maybe but not really. If you are blogging to share your love of books, then quality and socializing are the areas you should focus on and forget the numbers.
a. For Advanced Reading Copies, Publisher Tours – Some publishers look at your total number of followers, posts, and comments but that is only a small part of it. I recently saw a four-month old blog. She has less than 50 followers. She started with arcs from NetGalley. When she was approved, she read and wrote her reviews in a timely manner. she did this consistently for three months. She then wrote to publishers asking for coveted books, along with a passionate letter about why she writes reviews and shares them. Guess what books are arriving at her door? When you visit her blog her passion and enthusiasm for the book she reads shines. She doesn’t do memes, or tours or even post daily. She just does what she is passionate about.
b. When Stats Matter– Some tours, publishers, advertisers and conventions (for elusive invites) look for specific page views, followers etc. If you have specific goals you want to obtain for these or monetary gain, then yes these numbers are important. This will require not only high quality posts, but an equal amount of time uplifting those posts, and socializing. This is more than a hobby and will require time and sweat.
- I need to review top books and coveted ones to be noticed – False! You can read old books, new books, published books, and indie books. You do not need books that make the top one hundred list. Read what you are passionate about, and network to share those with like-minded folks. There are successful blogs who only blog cozy mysteries, romance, indie authors, middle grade, and fantasy. Read for you, and share it. Liked minded readers will find you.
- I have to be on WordPress to be Successful or Taken Seriously – False! While location is important when selling real estate, where you blog isn’t a big factor on success. In fact, many blogs are popular on blogger, tumblr, and other sites. I do recommend you buy your own domain name wherever you choose to set up shop. Be sure it is one you can take with you and is well researched. If you are happy on another platform, and can live with the TOS then focus on content and be at peace. Each platform has it’s positive and negative aspects.
5. Procrastination & Comparing Yourself – sometimes you can be your own killjoy
- Allowing reviews to go unwritten– Nothing can be more daunting than having eleven, twenty, or six reviews you still need to write. They become an impossibly, time-consuming chore. Always, unless there is an emergency (sorry wine, or a shoe sale does not constitute an actual emergency) you should be writing at minimum a rough draft of your thoughts on the book you have just finished within 24-48 hrs. I try to write my review the next day while my thoughts are fresh. I usually write it out, run it through Grammerly and get it scheduled. Then I forget about it, till a few days before it goes live. At this point I read it with fresh eyes, and make changes if needed
- Waiting till the week of- to read books for tours, review etc. – Unless this is a book I am dying to read, and I squeezed it in because an opportunity came up, reading like this will most likely suck the blog fun right out of you. Plan and schedule.
- Stop Comparing Yourself – Worrying and comparing yourself to other bloggers can suck the fun out of blogging. Focus on delivering good, fun, content that you enjoy creating. Look to other bloggers to inspire you and set your own goals and bars. If you are wasting your time constantly comparing, and competing you will quickly burn out. Drive is good, but keep your eyes on your own path. “If you build it, they will come”
6. Use Tools to Simplify Blogging -create templates for memes and the top of your post. Remember I said I prep my posts ahead of schedule. (usually two weeks at a time) These tips help simplify that chore.
- If you have WordPress the best time saving investment you can make is the UBB tool created by Ashley @ Nose Graze. I know I often sound like a personal spokeswoman for this blogging tool. While I follow and chat with Ashley, she doesn’t follow or comment on my blog. This endorsement comes straight from MY OWN personal experience. The tool costs 35.00 and Ashley offers unbelievable support. Explore my blog for a minute. Check out the Archive tab…that is all done automatically by UBB. The giveaway in sidebar..automatically handled. The January reviews? Yep all I do is write my post and it generates those widgets for me. At the top of my review posts there is information and links- click them, go ahead. When I write a post I copy and past the information and links into post and UBB formats it exactly like I want. Check out all of the unique features it offers. When I set up two or three weeks worth of posts in advance, it takes me a hour instead of twenty to thirty minutes to format just one. Later I insert my review and I am done. Brilly right.
- If you are on Blogger try these tips to create post templates: Independent Fashion Blogger shows you how to create a custom template on Blogger, and you can see it here. The only draw back to this method is that it doesn’t allow for memes. When I was on blogger I would create a new Waiting on Wednesday Post, or Sunday Post by copying the html code from a previously published one into a new post under HTML. Then I would remove elements and add new ones. This saved me lots of time formatting. Use a Cheat sheet– I have a saved doc with all of my most used html/CSS codes, the Goodreads add button etc. When creating a post I simply copy and paste the needed info from this cheat sheet. I even keep a copy of it in my email folder. It has everything from my signature html link to centering codes.
I hope you found some of these blogger tips & tricks helpful. What tips would you offer for organization and avoiding blogger burn-out?