It took me a while to figure out what to title this post, if I’m being honest. It’s hard to capture that feeling of what once was and where I am now. If you didn’t know, I started in this community as a teen book blogger. It was the summer before my junior year of high school when I stumbled upon this community and halfway through that year I created my blog and started reviewing.
Things were… different then. This was the very beginning of 2011, mind you, and bloggers didn’t have the same place in the community that they do now. There were fewer of us, ARCs weren’t as freely given, and what worked then in terms of content (other than book reviews) isn’t necessarily the same as what works now.
As a teen, I was wary about getting involved in the community. How could I compare to all the adults who had these massive accounts and seemed to know how to do everything? What if my personal information got out there? What if an author didn’t like my review because it wasn’t 5-stars and all positive?
What if, what if, what if.
I had a lot of self doubt. I never thought I’d be able to be like the other bloggers, to have a place in the community. And it sucked.
I used to receive a lot of review requests in those early years, from people twice my age who looked to me for a review of their novel. A lot of indie authors, especially. You see, I didn’t realize that bloggers could request books from publishers, at the time (in fact I didn’t start requesting until about a year and a half ago). And I loved working with these authors. For starters, the majority of them actually read my review policy (which now is, more often than not, not the case).
But I wasn’t involved with social media. To be honest, I was scared to put myself out there. It’s hard making yourself available to the public like that, to feel exposed, to be criticized and judged based on every single thing you posted. On the blog, I had more freedom because the only people that regularly stopped by were my readers and they seemed to like what I posted so I kept doing it.
As a teen blogger, I didn’t feel comfortable in the book community. That was over 6 years ago and from what I’ve seen, nothing has really changed on that front for teen bloggers now.
Fast forward a few years. I’m in my early twenties now. Still a blogger, but much more involved. I learned that to be successful at what I do, to not just shout into the internet void on my blog, I had to put myself out there. I had to keep up with things, at least a little so I wasn’t completely in the dark.
It was like I had to be a part of the community or risk drowning in the sea of book bloggers.
As someone who has been on both sides of the teen/adult blogger situation, I feel for the teens trying to make it in this community. I’ve been there and it’s not easy. There are a lot of things you might be worrying about and a lot of questions you may have.
I don’t think being a teen (or an adult, for that matter) excuses bad behavior and being awful to others online, nor do I think being a part of one age group entitles certain bloggers over others because we all work hard. But I do think that adult bloggers have some advantages.
As a teen blogger, I didn’t have the money to put into my own domain or a pretty website theme. I made my own graphics (which, looking back, were pretty terrible) and used Google extensively to figure out how to do things, change bits of code, format a post in a certain way, and so on. As I got older, I had more options. A job that afforded me a bit of play money to invest in the blog, time and experience to market my content. The means to put myself out there.
I remember I used to go to all the “big” blogs, at the time, and read their tutorial posts about how to write better content or to organize a blog better, and so on. But reflecting back, none of those posts ever helped me beyond the superficial, as if no one wanted to give up the “trade secret,” as if there was one.
Book blogging isn’t a solo hobby. There is an entire community here and I would hope that we all want each other to succeed, instead of dividing us up into little groups.
This post wasn’t inspired by any particular event so much as tidbits of conversations I’ve witnessed over the last several months. So I want to put this out there:
If you are a teen/new blogger and you need help with something, please don’t be afraid to ask.
I can’t help you get books. I can’t help you write interesting posts. I can’t help you with the outcomes of blogging. But I can try to help you get to those points. There are some things that are out of your control but don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re unsure or want to learn something new.
We are a community, first and foremost. Let’s not forget that.