Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Why book blogging must come from the heart by Mélanie McGilloway of Library Mice

I had always loved reading obviously but only really became particularly interested in children’s literature as I trained to become a librarian. Rediscovering children’s literature at that time was what turned a love of books into a passion for books. So it was natural for me, eventually, to find a channel to express that passion.

When I started blogging about six years ago, I was first and foremost looking for somewhere to keep a record on my thoughts about what I was reading.  I was writing for myself mostly, not even really thinking about an audience.  Of course there were always the occasional comments and discussion, but until I got into Twitter a few years later, I did not really connect with fellow enthusiasts.

It therefore came as a total surprise when a publisher first approached me after a post mentioning a book I really wanted to read and asked me if I would like to review it. I didn’t really think that many people read my blog, let alone publishers. I felt hugely flattered that they thought me worthy of this, and I still do, every time I receive books for review.

But as Library Mice gradually grew, so did the amount of review copies landing in my letter box. I am not writing this to brag or to moan about it, and certainly I have never taken any of it for granted. But with this came a new responsibility, a new set of problems.  How was I supposed to find the time to review all those books? What if I didn’t really like the book? Reviewing each book sent would have totally changed the dynamics of my blog.

Therefore I had to think long and hard about what I wanted Library Mice to become, and what I didn’t want it to be. For me, for a review to be credible and enjoyable to write and read, I need to have loved the book that I am reviewing. It needs to come from the heart, not as a result of pressures I have set myself. So I decided that I would only write reviews about books that I had enjoyed, and ignore the others. After all, I spend my waking hours campaigning for reading for pleasure and that is definitely the message I want to convey through Library Mice.

I think this approach works. I am happy with my blog, readers hopefully are happy with my blog and the authors, illustrators and publishers featured are, I think, satisfied with the coverage I give them. Library Mice is a labour of love. Like all loving relationships, we have our ups and downs, and sometimes I do feeling like abandoning it.  But again, like all loving relationships, we kiss and make up and off I go back to sharing my love and enthusiasm of children’s books again.

Library Mice has brought me some great opportunities and allowed me to meet and collaborate with some amazing people and for that, I am very grateful. So share your love and enthusiasm and you never know where it might take you ...

My three tips on book blogging:

1. Write the blog you would like to read: But don’t try to emulate others. Find your voice – only then can you really convey enthusiasm in your reviews.

2. Have a review policy: State what you will and won’t review, making it easier to say “thank you but no thank you” when you decline an offer.

3. Don’t be afraid to take a break: I love my blog, but I do have a life outside of it, and sometimes the two collide big time. When that’s the case, life always has to take priority. I’d rather take a break than write rushed and half-hearted reviews on books that deserve more than that. I know a lot of people will say a good blogger should post regularly, but personally, I’d rather go for quality than quantity.

Mélanie McGilloway is children’s book enthusiast and reading for pleasure specialist (aka a school librarian) who blogs at Follow Melanie on Twitter @librarymice


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