Battling the Blogging Blues

blogging blues.jpgThe last few months have been a bit odd for me, reading-wise. Even though my page count hasn’t dropped off, I have felt like I’m in a reading slump. Don’t get me wrong, I have read some books that I’ve really loved, but I’ve also struggled through a few books that I couldn’t quite get into. Objectively, I can tell that these are very good books, and yet… reading them feels like a chore.

Despite my reading resolution at the beginning of the year, review copies have taken over nearly half of my reading, and it’s kind of bringing me down. I have so many books on my shelf that I want to read, backlist titles and classics I want to buy, and new releases that I didn’t review but that I’ve heard great things about… and I don’t have time to read them. My reading is scheduled through May, and I miss the serendipity of browsing in a bookstore, buying a book, and reading it immediately.

I love being in a position to receive review copies, and I’m honored that publishers think sending me free books is worth their time and money… but I’m having trouble balancing these books with my regular reading. I get so much joy from cracking open a crisp galley and diving into a book that won’t be on shelves for a month, and I have read so many incredible books this way. But lately, the feeling that I’m reading a book because I need to get a review out in a timely manner, and not because it’s the book I’m craving at the moment, has been putting a damper on my reading style.

Balancing purchased/library books with review copies has always been important to me. I’ve been successful in keeping my review-copy reading under 50% of my total reading, but it still seems like too much sometimes. At these moments, I want to swear off galleys for a while — just stop requesting them and read only books from my shelf or my local indie for a few months. Oh the joy it would bring to finally read books that have been on my TBR list for months and years! And then I see someone mention an upcoming book on Facebook or Twitter that I simply MUST read, and I dive back into Edelweiss. Before I know it, three hours have gone by, and I have a list of dozens of titles I want to request.

It doesn’t help that books show up unannounced from time to time. I try to plan on reading two review copies per month, and I send out review requests accordingly. But if a few weeks go by and I haven’t heard back from a publisher, I assume I’ve been denied, and I’ll send out an email requesting the next book on my list. Of course, sometimes the first book will show up a month later, and I’ll have three books to review. Publicists, I love you, and I know you’re super busy, but it would be wonderful if you’d take 30 seconds to reply, “Yep, I’ll put a copy in the mail,” or “Sure, I’ll add you to the list.” It would greatly reduce my stress level. (Most of you do reply, and I give you many internet hugs.)

Bloggers, how do you balance your reading to keep from feeling overwhelmed or keep reading from feeling like work? Do you stick to a percentage of ARC vs. non-ARC books? If so, what percentage works for you? Do you have better strategies for working with publicists? Do you ignore pub. dates and simply read galleys when you feel like it? Do you plan breaks from review copies? Let me know in the comments!

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45 thoughts on “Battling the Blogging Blues

  1. I read mostly ARCs, but I try have myself set on a schedule so that I’m reading at least a month ahead of publication, that way I don’t feel like I have to read in a specific order and can throw in a backlist title or two when I want (though I did overwhelm myself a little bit this April, which could be why you’re feeling this – the month is bananas with good books).

    And I totally know what you mean about random books showing up a week or so before publication without ever getting confirmation. I’ve recently given myself permission to let those slide (I think it was Jenn from Jenn’s Bookshelves talking about it on Twitter who really made it make sense). If we’re planning our reading (and I know I even schedule tentative posts that far ahead, too), throwing a random book in a week before it’s published just isn’t fair. I’ll try my best to get to it at some point, but I’m not going to ruin my reading mojo over it.

    • That’s a good idea; I usually try to read about a month in advance, but I still stick to release order. Maybe I’ll loosen it up. You might be onto something there with the April releases; both of my April books were so enticing that I read them in February, before my March books! Then things piled up a little bit.

      I let the random appearances slide, too. No way am I giving priority to a book I didn’t even know was coming; I usually just try to read it within the month.

  2. I am so glad I am not the only one who feels this way! I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed lately and I know it’s mostly my own fault, but it’s still not a good feeling. I’ve never directly requested a review copy through a publicist, but I’ve gone a bit overboard entering the giveaways & request forms from the Shelf Awareness newsletters. So I truly never know if or when I might get a review copy until it arrives, and usually I end up with a cluster all coming out around the same time without really meaning to since I can never predict which ones I might luck out on and which ones I won’t. I feel like I’ve been doing OK in 2014 so far, but my neglected older ARCs where I feel I’ve missed the window completely are a big source of guilt. I think I do need to swear them off altogether, but like you, I hear about great new books and my resolve is gone. It’s a vicious cycle — a wonderful opportunity that I’m lucky to have, but also a vicious cycle!

  3. One of the things I had to come to terms with as a blogger was that even if I request a galley, I’m under no obligation to 1) write a review or even read the book, 2) post a review by release date, or 3) promise anything to anyone. You started blogging because you love to read. You don’t work for the publisher or the author and you don’t owe them anything. If you’re not loving a book, you don’t have to finish it or write a review. In addition, one of the best things a publicist for a major publisher told me was that even if I don’t read and review a book until months after the publication date, that’s totally fine. The average book buyer isn’t paying attention to release dates and will continue to buy books well after a release date. There’s a reason “frontlist” is considered anything within a year of release date. So don’t kill yourself to get reviews done “in time” or “at all.” Publishers will still send galleys and you’ll be a whole lot happier with your reading life.

    • I’m really loving everyone else’s input here & hearing the advice that publicist gave you Rachel has been really helpful. I’ve always felt guilty if I review an ARC “late” but it is so true that an average reader doesn’t pay attention to release dates. I recently had a bunch of people tell me they actually hate when a review is too early and they can’t get their hands on a book yet, so that definitely wouldn’t be a problem in these cases! There is just SO much advice out there from bloggers saying that you really must keep up, and you have to review in a certain time period to stay in publishers’ good graces, etc. etc. that it’s hard to not take it to heart. Even if I review an ARC “late” chances are very good I got to it waaaaaay sooner than if I didn’t have an ARC in the first place, considering I may not have bought, read, or reviewed it at all. I guess the lesson here is to do our best, cut ourselves some slack, and give ourselves some more freedom when we choose what to read.

      I also didn’t know “frontlist” is anything within the last year, that’s another good thing to keep in mind — being so saturated in the book and blogging world, books sometimes don’t feel new anymore after a month or two (especially if you’ve already been seeing reviews since pre-publication), but for the rest of the world, that is simply not the case!

      • That’s true; before I started blogging, I had no idea what was coming out. And you have a great point about even late ARC reviews being earlier than they would have been if you had to purchase the book or wait for a copy from the library. I think it’s good to set goals, but we also need to remind ourselves that this is a hobby and cut ourselves some slack!

      • I’m so happy my advice was helpful! I’ve been doing this blog thing for a while now, and I couldn’t have made it such a long time without giving myself a break. I’ve even had a publicist tell me that if I don’t get around to posting a review until a year after release, that’s fine, because the paperback is probably coming out soon and pb releases rarely get much attention.

    • Hearing this is such a relief! I have an amazing amount of anxiety over this, even though I’m really just a number to these publishers (in netgalley, at least). I took a long, impromptu break from book blogging a while back and I still have galleys from back then that I haven’t reviewed yet. But I’m working on them, because I figure the ratio of things requested and published is what they’ll look at when deciding!

  4. It’s odd, because of the nature of my blog, I am not in a position to request review copies of books and I think, for me, that’s probably a good thing. I’ve been doing March Madness and trying to read 10 books this month and I’ve been starting to feel like reading is a chore. And reading for pleasure should never be a chore! I can imagine it must be tough to read books and write reviews to a timetable, so I hope you get your reading mojo back soon…

    • Holy cats! I think goals like that take the fun out of reading; just read at your own pace, and you might be surprised how much you accomplish! But don’t stress about numbers 🙂

  5. I struggle with this. Jen from Jenn’s Bookshelves says she reads 2 or 3 review books, then a personal book. And I try, I try, I TRY. But, I somehow just seem to read now mainly review books (and I’m not complaining) but I do sometimes miss how I used to read.
    For me, mainly, though- Netgalley has been my problem. Paper ARC’s I have a fair amount of- but not an unreasonable amount. Once I get caught up on Netgalley (finally am above the 80% mark!) I’m taking a break from NG. And I’m not even looking at EW (even though I know most of ya’ll prefer EW to NG- got to cool my jets a bit before I tackle EW. )

    • Oh man, avoiding Netgalley stress is one of the main reasons I don’t own an ereader! (I’m not even joking.) I hope you can get caught up soon! I use Edelweiss, but just to browse books; I email publishers for physical copies. I think limiting myself this way helps keep the number down!

      • My brother bought me the el-cheapo Kindle for my b-day a couple of years ago and when I met Netgalley, I knew it was going to be a dangerous relationship. Happily, I’m ALMOST caught up with NG and I have hit the over 80% review ratio ( the supposed golden ticket!)
        Oh, so I’m trying to not sound like a blogging newbie when I ask this: You email publicists asking for specific books? I’ve never done that. I just wait till I hear from them. Never even thought of that!

  6. When something stops being fun for me, and starts feeling like an obligation I simply stop and start from the beginning. In this case, if you are feeling obliged to read books before a deadline, stop and read them at your own pace. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t review a book before certain date. You are the one doing them a favor. 😉
    If reading is your passion, make sure it stays that way. It’s YOUR passion, don’t let others take over it and decide how or if you should enjoy it or not. 😉

  7. Feeling you have to read something takes all the fun out of reading and given that I have such a chaotic approach to reading anyway I tend to rarely request review copies. Reading and blogging has to be fun first, for me anyway.

  8. I started feeling that this week as well when I started reading a review book. It wasn’t pulling me in at all and I was dreading reading. So, I just went to NetGalley and sent a message in the review spot saying I really couldn’t get into the book, etc. I instantly felt better and was reading away at my next one.

    So I say shake off that feeling of having to have it read by a certain date. Put off review books long enough to get rid of that feeling. Read stuff you want to read in between the review books maybe.

    • It’s good that you were able to do that! I just feel bad about DNFing physical copies — especially when I know the book deserves a positive review, that it’s just me having trouble getting into it. For now, I’m taking a break from that book, and I’ll return to it when I’m ready.

  9. I have started with a “Just Say No” policy, meaning I just say no to every author pitch I receive. I also TRY to “just say no” to publisher books that I’m not interested in. I want to keep a relationship with certain people and publishers, so I say yes to those, but yeah, it’s getting overwhelming. I need to cut back for sure!

  10. I can relate to everything in this post (obviously). I can also relate to wanting to request “just one more book” because you have the power to, and everyone makes everything sound so good. It comes down to will power, I think.

    I made a resolution this year that I wasn’t going to request many review copies because I have a TBR Pile I had every intention of getting to (East of Eden, Portrait of a Lady…!) and yet I’ve run into the same problem you have: I haven’t stopped requesting (too many) books.

    What if you made a “read your own books” month, where you swore off review copies for the month and just read backlist? I’m thinking of doing one soon and I think that’ll make me feel better about all the books I “want” to read.

    • I like the idea of “read your own books month!” Last year, I had all of December free from review copies, and I used it to re-read the whole Harry Potter series 😛 I think I’ll try to do that again this year — except I’ll read from my TBR shelf instead of Harry 😛

  11. This is how I felt a few months back Leah. I requested too many Netgalley books and accepted too many book review requests, because at the time I felt bad just saying NO. I had similar feelings. I wanted to pick up a book from my shelves (some I bought a YEAR ago and just don’t find the time to read it, even though I wanted too) and not feel like I HAVE to read another book first. Working through a list of books and having to read the one after the other that I didn’t feel like reading made me not enjoy the book as much as I would have if I were to pick it out myself.

    That is why I’ve decided to stay away from Netgalley for at least 6 months and I’m only accepting 1 book review request a month (apart from the books that I personally pick from publishers that sends me a list). I think I’m much happier now, because I get to read whatever I want to in between the book review request reads. I hope you get out of your reading slump soon!

  12. I got that way at the end of last year. I don’t request arcs from publishers, usually I get email requests to review the book. I always tell them if they aren’t on a time deadline, I will review it at my leisure. Reading is my hobby, I don’t need to put stress on myself about it. My IRL book club is reading through Harry Potter so that takes up much of my reading time. Good luck getting out ofyour blogging blues.

  13. Yup. I started the year taking more ARCs than usual (it’s usually none), and now I feel like my reading is full of slumptitude. Even when I am reading, I’m not getting the WOW feeling from the books I read. I find this happens more when I accept ARCs but far less when I’m reading from my own time-tested and vetted shelves. I can’t give you advice on balance, but I can tell you to read “free range” for a while to help feel lighter. 🙂

    • I wonder the lack of wow-factor is also because when choosing ARCs, we don’t have the benefit of reading reviews beforehand. I think I’m more likely to love a book that I’ve seen recommended by people I trust than a book I’m randomly choosing from a catalog. An ARC’s quality is harder to gauge because it hasn’t been tested yet.

  14. I’ve actually severely cut my review copies back and only request those I think will be fun and light. In general I don’t ignore the dates, but I do have one that I haven’t read or responded to yet which I’ve had for over a year and I need to just do it because I know it’ll be a fascinating book!

  15. You are absolutely not alone in feeling this way! I was determined at the start of this year to put my purchased books ahead of my review copies, because I worked out that last year I read most of my review copies, but barely any of the books I’d bought or borrowed.

    NetGalley is definitely my problem, so I’ve tried to stop requesting (which in reality means I’ve just reduced requesting!) until I get things more under control. I’m also pretty much ignoring release dates. If I fancy an upcoming release I’ll go ahead and read it, but if I don’t fancy a book I won’t pick it up just because it’s being released soon. I find if I do, I feel like I’m reading because I ‘have’ to, rather than want to, and I don’t enjoy the book as much. I blog because I love books, and so reading a book when I’ll enjoy it less seems a bit pointless, plus I don’t feel like it gives the book a fair chance either.

    • I’m so glad I don’t have a en e-reader! Limiting myself to physical books helps a little bit, I think. I think you have a good approach: reading the books you request when you want to read them. I think maybe reading them when I get them, when I’m really excited, might be better than waiting until closer to publication, when I feel like I have to read them.

  16. This balance is definitely something I’m still working on. I’ve only gotten to the point where I’m being approved often enough to get overwhelmed by ARCs recently, so I still tend to request books like I’m not going to get most of them. I’m also very, very bad at saying no to review requests. Personally, I think I just need the self-discipline to say no to ARCs more often and request fewer books, but it’s just so hard when there are so many wonderful books out there!

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  18. I definitely suffer from ARC-related stress every now and again. Recently I’ve been much more lax about it, though, because dealing with too many ARCs always makes me overwhelmed and kind of cranky. I make sure to put a good serving of “me” books in my schedule every month and only read a few ARCs. There are a lot of bloggers who read ARCs for the majority of their books, but I could just never do that! I think that you should just put less pressure on yourself…if they don’t get back to you in a timely manner, don’t feel like you need to finish the book right at that very second. You deserve to not feel stressed out about it. Who cares if your reviews come a little bit late? You’re blogging for YOU not for publishers. And, hey, it’s better than not reading them at all!

    • I couldn’t read a majority of ARCs either. What would I do when I got a craving to read a particular backlist book! I like having the flexibility to follow my whims.

      Great advice, thanks 🙂

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