A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

Looks a Little Different Around Here

on November 10, 2014

I’ve removed the grade categories from this blog. I may also remove the “reviews” category, though I’m still pondering. Perhaps I’ll rename it… suggestions?

This is a move several of my blogging friends have made, and it resonates with me. It’s a way of moving past formats and expectations that came from outside forces — Amazon, GoodReads, NetGalley — and focusing on what we really want to say.

RRR Jessica wrote a piece some time ago about how blogging had changed in recent years, and one of the things she pointed out was the uniformity of review format. At the time, I didn’t really grasp what was wrong with this, but I think now that it’s an expression of review bloggers becoming cogs in the industry. Nothing intentional or sinister about it… but I know that when I receive an ARC, it makes me feel like I need to take a more “professional” approach to the review. And that inevitably changes my voice.

I’m not entirely giving up ARCs or professional reviews, because I get a lot out of it. I appreciate the people I get to work with, the opportunity to reach a wider audience, and that I earn a little money, even if it’s more symbolic than anything else. (I bought my husband’s birthday present with money I earned! It’s really from me!) But I’m cutting way, way back on ARCs. There’s nothing like realizing that a book you really wanted to read has become homework to make you see the downside of them. And as I think someone else pointed out — Sirius? — that defeats the purpose of getting them early, because the anticipation is gone. I can totally see getting a book read and reviewed sooner than I otherwise would have because I waited for it to be released. And even if I don’t, it will be done with much more enjoyment.

And that is, after all, what this is supposed to be about. Our love for books and reading and the fun of sharing our opinions.

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7 responses to “Looks a Little Different Around Here

  1. Kelly says:

    I’ve been thinking about changing my review tag to something like ‘book discussion,’ because that’s a much better description of what I actually do on my blog. But take “I’ve been thinking” with a grain of salt: I haven’t yet bothered to research how to make that change.

    But I like the idea of book bloggers moving away from ‘review’ and towards discussion or reflection (or analysis, which is what I set out to do two and a half years ago and so rarely achieve) or even just reaction. I don’t blog because I want to promote books, even when it’s arguable that promotion is a side effect of my blog. (Obviously, when I love a book to pieces, I want other people to read it, too — but not because I want the book to do well in the marketplace; I want them to read it so that I have someone to talk to about the book. I am always a book consumer, even when it can be argued that I’m serving the function of a promoter.) Language matters; it impacts intentionality in subtle ways.

    I blog about books because I want to share my thoughts about the book, to engage with other readers; because I miss writing book reports; because there are so few people in my actual face-to-face circle that will ever read the books I love; because these books encapsulate a huge part of my identity that I otherwise cannot share. I don’t think I’m an anomaly in my reasons for persisting with book blogging. I also don’t think it’s accurate for me to claim (as I have done) that I’m ‘reviewing’ books. In all truth, I’m living with them.

  2. willaful says:

    Ah, that’s a lovely way of putting it.

    Maybe I’ll change reviews to “book thoughts.” Though that has a weird, late night television vibe to it. 😉

  3. Removing the need for a grade, removes the pressure about the review and allows you to focus on the book and talk about it, rather than having the content justify the grade. Good change. BTW, I use the phrase “book commentary.”

  4. Miss Bates says:

    Hear, hear! I’ve been thinking about this a lot and have, like you, made some decisions about ARCs and reviewing and what I enjoy writing about on my blog. I think that out of a scary and miserable situation, which I’ll no longer name b/c really sick of it, so much good and interesting thoughts about what bloggers want to do and how to do it to bring the joy back has been an unexpected boon.

    The most important is the idea that we don’t want to be part of the marketing of books, though indirectly because I love a book, someone who reads my blog may buy and read it. But that is not my purpose: like Kelly, I like to gab and share and articulate my thoughts (my blog is MY creative outlet) because it’s the only space where I can do so. I like the idea of the “essay” in its etymological sense of the French “essayer” … to try, to attempt … to write about something. And I also like the idea of “response” because it’s personal and can be interwoven with the blogger’s mood, or life, or whatever else she wants to share, or experienced when reading this book in this place and at this moment.

  5. Thumbs up for dropping the grading, Willaful. Book thoughts, rather than book reviews, are definitely what blogging is all about…

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