It’s been a whole year!! When I first started this site I don’t think I fully understood what my goals were. I knew I wanted a place to put more thought out reviews for all the books I read. Mostly, I think I just needed a project.
My main focus at the start was to challenge myself with building a website. I’ve never been a very tech savvy person and this simple task was going to be a whole new frontier for me. Well I accomplished that and a whole lot more in one year and I’m very excited to keep it going!
So what did I actually learn?
How to Build a Small Website
This was the main challenge that brought me away from posting reviews only to Goodreads. I still post spoiler free reviews there as well but the platform isn’t great for discussing books.
I decided to give myself what at the time seemed like an extraordinary challenge. Turns out, WordPress makes it really easy to set up your own website. You can also do it for free. Full disclosure, I opted for the business plan in order to own my domain as well as have access to a lot of tools they offer with the plan. But you really don’t need any money at all to start one up.
Nor do you need a lot of know-how. Anything I was having trouble with, Google or WordPress had the answer. So mission accomplished basically. I still feel proud of myself for learning something new and stepping out of my comfort zone. Even if it turned out to be relatively easy.
How to Manage a Focused Instagram
The social media presence is mandatory for anything anymore. I kept reading blogging advice that said Pinterest was the platform to focus on. I tried it, it’s not my favorite. I am still very half-assedly running my Amanja Reads too Much Pinterest but I don’t find it as rewarding or fun as Instagram. You can find me @amanjareads
Instagram has an incredible community of readers. And more comic book fans than any of the other social media platforms I’ve tried. I’ve found my people!
But the key to running a successful social media presence is to keep it focused. I try to only post pictures relevant to books and comic books. If I want to post a particularly cute selfie I keep it to my stories. Consistency is key in posts, timing, responding, and syncing with the main site.
I got off of Twitter years ago and do not plan on returning. I found Twitter to be a toxic cesspool of rotting hatred. Trolls, bots, harassment, and rampant bigotry way worse than I even see on Reddit.
The Instagram community I’ve found has been nothing but positive and on topic. I have only had to block 1 racist and that’s pretty impressive in this world.
At the time of writing this I have close to 3,000 followers on my Instagram and hope to expand that greatly in the next year. It’s a great place for finding people with similar interests and for networking.
How to Find Even More Reading Time
I already knew I read more than the average person. It’s my past time. I really don’t watch a lot of TV any more so I fill that downtime with books. But I got even more motivated to read when I started accepting book review requests from authors.
Suddenly there are people waiting on me to finish their books! I’m so far behind, I bit off more than I can chew in this aspect of the blog. I’m dozens of requests deep and have to keep asking for people’s patience. But reading does take time.
I have found time in hidden pockets of the day though. Also, it obviously doesn’t hurt that 2020 has been completely bizarre and I no longer go to movie theaters twice a week. Honestly, with this many good books and my new 4K TV who needs theaters? My system is better and more comfortable at home now anyway.
The time for reading is available if you’re willing to make it. You don’t get more time without cutting something else. The big one is usually mindless scrolling. When I feel like my productivity has gone down I take Facebook and Reddit off my homescreen and ask myself if there’s something I’d rather be doing. Usually, the answer is reading.
How to Write a Summary
This is an odd one. I think most people think they know how to write a good book summary. Seems so simple. You just lay out what happened in the book, right?
I’ve written dozens of summaries this year in addition to reviews. Which I’m sure seems like a very boring hobby to many people but it turns out I love it. And it isn’t just as simple as saying A B C happened in a book The End.
I take notes while reading so I make sure not to forget anything. But I also want to enjoy reading the book so I’ve learned what needs to be noted for the summary and what doesn’t.
You don’t need every single detail but sometimes small details come back in big ways. Sometimes a character you think will be important disappears. Learning the nuance of storytelling and what needs to be recapped for comprehension has made me a much more engaged reader. I think it might also just be helping my memory in general!
There are of course books that would make for very boring summaries. Turns out there are a lot of books where very little actually happens. If I can’t write 1,000 words on what happened in a book it’s very unlikely that book will get a 5 star rating from me.
Summaries also shouldn’t spoil every single thing. There is still so much to find in a book in between plot points. Spoilers shouldn’t get you down, they should entice you to read the whole thing!
How to Choose What Books to Read
When I first started this site I had absolutely no idea how many authors would find me and want me to read their books. I set up the email contact just as a formality but it didn’t take long to be receiving review requests daily.
At the beginning I was accepting a lot more indiscriminately. I thought I needed to take all the opportunities I could. I was wrong.
I’ve started to look into books and authors more carefully to make sure I’m getting a good match. I don’t like some genres, I know that about myself and I don’t need to accept those books.
Authors who take the time to write a well thought out email are much more likely to have a well thought out book. The biggest factor I use for choosing books now is how the author represents themselves. No matter how much a book is fiction it will still reflect the author who wrote it. If I don’t like how an author writes directly to me I most likely wont like how they write a novel.
And I definitely don’t accept books from sexist idiots who insult me. You can’t neg me into writing a book review! (Yes this has happened more than once now)
That Independent Books Can Be Phenomenal
This is THE most important lesson I’ve learned through this year of blogging.
I was worried about accepting review requests. I thought it was neat to get asked and honestly it felt special. But I was worried that I’d end up reading a bunch of amateurish crap and it would put me off the whole thing. I originally intended to only read an independent novel every 5th book or so. I bumped it up to every other book and might even do more than that soon.
I’ve been incredibly lucky and privileged to have such wonderful books shipped to me from all around the world. I’ve been flabbergasted by how good some of these indie books are!
Alter Ego: The Other Me, has jumped up to one of my favorite series of all time of any genre. The Purest Form of Chaos taught me to enjoy a dystopian adventure novel for how great they can be. And Questions of Perspective had me pausing to ruminate on the meaning of life and everything in this universe.
There are so many more examples. I get so excited to check my mail and find new and exciting books that you can’t yet find in stores. My main mission for my second year of blogging is to do everything I can to help these amazing authors find their audience. I know now why I run this blog, and it’s for them.
Where to Find These Great Books
in order to keep me up to my ears in books please consider using the following amazon affiliate links to purchase these products. it’s at no extra cost to you and would really help me out, thank you and happy reading!
Some of the books shown in any of the pictures or mentioned in the article above can be found here. I strongly recommend all of them.