I have the memory of a goldfish so I annotate while reading

I am not joking when I say that I have the memory of a goldfish. I don’t remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday or whether or not I actually liked The Night Circus when I read it in 2015. Every summer, I always struggle to remember exactly what I watched the night before on Big Brother when having my gossip sessions with Paul at work. So it goes without saying that taking notes while reading is a must for me.

As I’ve settled into my role of Book Reviewer, I have fine tuned my annotation process quite a bit to help facilitate the review process. It now involves a color-coded system based on the things that heavily influence my reading experience. CW @ The Quiet Pond expressed an interest in my process a couple of months ago, and I thought this would make for an interesting discussion post – so here is my annotation process!

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Things that Make Me Pick Up a Book

If you’ve ever looked through the upcoming releases on Edwelweiss, chances are that you’ve been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of books being released in your preferred genres. According to a 2013 Forbes article, there are anywhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published each year in the United States alone. Which is exciting because there will be a book for every reading, but it’s also way more books than we can read in a lifetime!

With so many books to choose from, how do you choose which books to look at? Which ones to read? I thought I would make a list of the things that draw me to a book, as well as some of the themes and tropes I can’t get enough of.

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Why I’ve done away with Star Ratings for Reviews on my blog

This month’s topic is about our thoughts on rating systems. You can follow along on the discussion by checking #DiscussionAttic and #DAApril for our monthly topic on Twitter.

This is a really timely discussion topic for me because the subjectivity of star ratings has been on my mind a lot over the past few months. My approach to reviewing has always been rooted in my experience as a scholar in the humanities: I have an Overly Verbose Brand and a lot of feelings. I am much more of a qualitative thinker and have such a hard time distilling that into a simple rating.

It also doesn’t help that there isn’t a guideline provided to standardize the rating system, so it is open for a lot of interpretation. Back when I first started my blog, I put together a Ratings scale so that my readers (and the publishers I work with) understood my own personal scale. But over time I came to realize that rather than adapting to my rating system, readers defaulted to their own.

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Bookish Banter: Should Stats Dictate Your Posts?

We all know that I am an analytical kind of person that thinks in charts and data. I love looking at information to identify patterns and ways that I can improve. I think that is a big reason that I prefer running to other sports: you can easily track your progress (pace) and ways to improve (proper hydration, run in a tailwind). So it surprised literally nobody last week when I talked about all the lessons that I learned from diving deep into my blog’s statistics.

Even though I think it is incredibly important to normalize conversations about statistics within the book blogging community, I also feel strongly that we shouldn’t let statistics rule our lives. I know what you are saying, “sure, that’s easy for you to say, Kal!” and I hear you. But that is why I wanted to follow up last week’s post with this discussion on whether or not we should let the posts we make be dictated by our statistics. The short answer is no, but of course I have more to say than just that!

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Stats Transparency Post & Lessons Learned from One Year of Blogging

Last fall when Vicky @ Vicky Who Reads wrote her own Stats Transparency Post, I was inspired. When it comes to blogging, it seems that statistics is a dirty word, and no one really talks about them as a result. (The one exception I am aware of is Kristi @ Confessions of a YA Reader, who posts her stats every month.)

Friends, I have been working on this post for almost five months and finally have enough courage to will press the publish button. I didn’t realize how personal this post would be until I sat down to write it. And I am really nervous. I don’t want this post to come across as bragging or like I am shoving success in everyone’s faces (and I actually had a nightmare about this recently). It’s okay if you do not want to read this post, and no one should feel obligated to do so. This is merely here as a resource if you want it.

I think it is important to normalize talking about statistics within our blogging niche, as well as remove the stigma surrounding sharing statistics, and agree with what Vicky put in her post:

But ultimately, I believe that the book community is a community in need of a lot more transparency. For authors and publishers, I know this is a lot more difficult, but for bloggers–we control our platforms. Not anyone else. In the end, my blog is my blog and I can give insight to other bloggers by sharing this information (even if it feels so awkward).

The side effect of no one really talking about their blog’s statistics is that we build up unrealistic expectations of what it means to be a “successful book blogger,” and feel bad for not reaching those benchmarks we create in our mind based on those assumptions. Data pulled by Pages Unbound last year shows that 60 out of 103 respondents to their survey indicated that their average daily page views is 0-50. This is why I think it is crucial that we talk about this, because unlike other blogging niches our audience is other bloggers. So it is important that we normalize these conversations and discuss ways that we can meaningfully support one another in the community. Everyone’s blogging journey is different and statistics do not measure a blogger’s worth. 

I know how very fortunate I am to have the platform that I do and how anomalous it is within the community. In looking at my own data, I have some insights on how my platform grew and I want to share it with the community. I genuinely love the book blogging community and enjoy sharing tips and resources to help others, and in that regard this feels very on brand. I am sorry if this post comes across as bragging, it isn’t my intent but I know that I cannot dictate how people react to this or any post.

This post is full of tables and graphs, and wherever possible I provided the insight I’ve gleaned from the statistics. This post isn’t meant to be a “How to Grow Your Blog” guide, but rather a deep dive into how my blog’s grown over the year and how you can apply similar methodologies to your statistics. But I’ve rambled enough, let’s get to the data! 📊

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