One Year of Blogging: Reflections

One year.  What does that bring us?  Two hundred forty five books reviewed, several of them multiple times.  Not a bad start I would say, ya?

I can only give my perspective of this year; I don’t speak for the other two on the site.  Hell, I have never even met them (We live on three separate land masses in this great big world).  A strange little site we have here so I just wanted to lay down how we got here, how things have changed, and just generally ramble a bit.  So if you’re interested in how our joint review blog got started and what I have learned in the process, hang around.  There is nothing real unique about our story, but I wanted to get it down before the details get too lost in my mind.

The Beginning-

I started off just tracking books on Goodreads, occasionally writing short reviews.  I have no idea what possessed me to move into a blogger blog, but off I went, solo.  I lasted about three months.  For some reason I just couldn’t do it.  So I quit.  Short story huh?

Then around late October of last year I had the itch again.  I wanted to do this.  Lesson learned though, I knew I could never post enough content to keep it current on my own.  The idea of a joint blog came to my head (not a novel idea, I know) and I posted a request for someone to join me.  To my surprise it took two weeks.

It all started with Glenda Larke.  Specifically The Last Stormlord, a book I picked up on a whim at the used book store.  I wrote a rough review, posted it on Goodreads with a link to my old blog, and the only other person on my Goodreads friends list that had listed the book followed over.  I have no idea what possessed Pauline to offer to join me, she was already running her own blog, but there it was.  Nathan’s Fantasy Reviews was born.

Wait, what?  What the hell kind of name is that for a joint blog?  We got started quickly and that all important name was kind of ignored.  Took us all of a month to realize that mistake, so we fixed it.  Finally, Fantasy Review Barn was born… Well, not quite.  We had a name but were missing the final piece.

Originally I envisioned the blog having around four reviewers.  Not sure why.  We had a request up for more to join us, specifically someone who focused more in urban fantasy or sci-fi, genres at the time that neither Pauline nor I dabbled in much.  But when mid-December hit we got lucky.   Once again, I have no idea what I did to get such quality talent to surround me, but Anachronist responded to the call.  Again, a veteran with her own blog.   NOW we could call the site complete.  (And if you haven’t visited their sites, you should.  Pauline also reads mysteries that don’t get posted here, and we only get a hint of Anachronist’ great content).

Early Memories-

From here I am afraid the post is going to be a bit ME specific.  After all, I can’t really speak for my fellow bloggers.  I don’t know if they have specific memories of its growth, favorite reviews or milestones, or what they are particularly proud of.  But I wanted to get some of these down on paper before they leave my memory completely, so forgive the indulgence.

It’s funny how those early milestones stick with you.  I still remember several of my personal ‘firsts.’  I know the first author to retweet on of my reviews, Martin Millar on Thraxas.  As an added bonus he is on twitter so rarely that the ‘tweet feed’ on his site had my review up for weeks.  For almost a month that review was the most clicked review, it was top five for several more.

I still remember my first comment on a review, though I almost don’t know if it counts.  Anachronist, who then promptly offered her services to the site.  (And on a side note, probably because of her European e-mail address, her offer was promptly sent into my spam folder to be lost for about a week).  I remember my first digital ARC (Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman).  Shoot, I still remember when I discovered Linda Nagata had used a blurb of my review on her site for The Dread Hammer.  This is a Nebula winner!  Pure excitement for me I don’t mind saying.

But by far the best early memory comes from author Juliet McKenna.  After reading my little review she actually took the time to write a post about it.  Though my review was mostly complementary she was amused that I said it had a ‘generic fantasy feel,’ pointing out in turn that when it was first published reviewers called it (and specifically its heady female lead) a breath of fresh air in a stale genre.

Obviously I loved the spike in traffic like nothing we had seen at that point.  And I loved the comments; it was my first review to gather multiple comments.  But mostly I loved realizing that my heroes, the people writing the books I love, were actually willing to take the time to respond to a two bit reviewer with a new site.  It was the point when I really knew the blog was going to last this time, that it was worth the time and frustration that sometimes goes with it.

The Rest of the Story

From there I can’t really say much exciting happened.  I had found my legs (something that the two more experienced reviewers of the site already had) and we provided a lot of new content over the year.  At some point we even started adding book covers.  I have some reviews I am particularly proud of, a few that I hate, and a whole lot that have faded out of memory.

Our audience remained very small but grew every month it seemed.  We recently moved to WordPress at which point it seems our reach grew instantly.  Certainly it helped that we got a few plugs from more established bloggers, either through Twitter or blogrolls.  I also learned that blogger itself turns off some people completely, and certainly keeps people from commenting (I recently had a blogger blog eat my comment twice, no wonder we seemed so slow!).

At first we stuck to pure reviews, and though I have stretched into a few lists and discussion type posts reviews will always be our focus (though I do like lists, and they seem very popular).  Someday I would like to get them all archived a bit better, but I doubt there are many that have a bigger variety of reviews in such a short time as us.  Pauline has pulled some great indie books out of the pile; someday she should see how many of them later got picked up by publishers (I know she was on the Sullivan train before Orbit found him; Blood Song and Dance of Cloaks was also reviewed on this site before getting deals).  Ana is the person first I would go to if I want a Urban Fantasy recommendation (and i have picked up a couple from her reviews).  And while I have started focusing more on new reviews, I still dig through bookstores and libraries constantly looking for that old hidden gem.

I could write a whole post on what I have learned, and what I wish I had known sooner.  But the most important thing I wish I had done early on was visit more blogs regularly.  The networking that I have done since blogging is really the best part; I have so many new friends, so many great conversations, and have just had a blast.  I even get to converse with authors regularly, and not always about books!

To everyone who takes the time to read our blog, thank you.  To everyone who has supported us I say the same.  Of course I have to say thank you to my wife for listening to me type every night when the kiddo goes to bed and allowing me more than my share of the computer time.  But most of all thanks to Pauline and Anachronist for helping me along and keeping this site wonderful.

I look forward to another year of this, and we will see how long this keeps going.


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