The Art of Being Genuine on My Blog

Posted June 1, 2018 by Amber in Blogging, Memes / 21 Comments

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One of the challenges most bloggers are faced it throughout their blogging career is the presentation of their blog.  Your blog layout is your face to your readers, and your content bares your soul.  For any of my followers who joined this merry band of renegades last spring, you’ll know I’ve gone through three or four layout changes in that time.  It was so bad that I actually made it one of my 2018 goals not to change my layout again.  And I’ve been good, for the most part.

Making sure your blog is everything you want it to be is trickier than it looks.  Being true to yourself and maintaining followers is difficult.  Writing great content and balancing your life properly is especially difficult, and I will be one of the first to confess I often fail at that aspect.  Fortunately, being alive is all about learning and growing, even in the blogging world, so I try not to be too hard on myself, and you shouldn’t either.

Point and fact, all we can do is our best.  I do feel like I’ve had some small successes, and I want to share those with you.

One of the greatest compliments I’ve had about my writing here on the blog came from a longtime friend, who said, “You write exactly the way you talk, so it’s like talking to you.

I try so so hard to do this.  I know that I can sound more polished and professional, but working in Finance, I get to be poised and proper all week.  I love coming on here and writing and just having faith that someone out there likes the same things I do, and wants to talk about books and movies and writing and beautiful things.  I have tried to make the way I write on this blog very genuine, and be true to myself, and it feels so good to hear that is coming across.

Every once and a while, I write a post where I really nail it with GIFs.  I’m not a bookstagrammer – I don’t have the time and the patience for those lovely, elaborate setups.  I think they’re beautiful, but between my own impatience and a duo of curious, meddling cats… bookstagram is not something I’m interested in.  I rely on GIFs primarily for the image features in my blog (other than featured images, which have been a constant struggle to find something crisp and nice).  Whenever I hear I’ve killed it that day re: GIFs, it’s awesome.

Not every day will be like that.  I actually don’t think this post will be!  But one of my secrets is that I will not use GIFs just because they fit.  It has to fit to me.  So far in this post, I’ve got Supernatural, Chris Pratt, and Emma Watson.  All things/people I adore.  Even if I could have chosen a different one that fit the content a little better, I spend the extra time trying to find ones that fit both the content and myself.  Every once and a while, it works!

Color and layout, as I said above, have been challenges as well.  I look at some of these other gorgeous blogs and wonder how they manage to make it so wonderful.  I love NovelKnight Book Reviews – even when she changes it up, it’s so sleek and clean.  I followed Bookmark Lit for the longest time even though we didn’t read the same books (she’s romance heavy), just because I loved her layout.  And Laughing Listener is gorgeous too. Have you seen the pure gorgeous that is The Bandar Blog? I want to emulate some many of these beautiful blogs, and completely lack the time and skill.

I am so, so glad when I decided to go self-hosted, I went with Book Host.  At some point, I really must do a whole post on Ashley and Book Host, but this package comes with so much help and support, and with it I got a bunch of free templates, including Tweak Me 2 which is what I’m using now.  It’s so customizable and lets me look a lot more professional and organized than I feel.  Plus, all this is run by Ashley @ Nose Graze, who is part of our community. <3

Supporting within the community – whether it’s a book blogging community or the small town I live in – is super important to me.

As far as content goes – in the book blogging community, there is a huge expectation to follow and read and talk about hyped books.  All the time.  Doing this is more likely to get you visitors.  Visitors means stats!  Stats mean  you are more successful!  And you have to be active on all the social media!  And take amazing pictures.  And LOVE THAT ONE BOOK EVERYONE LOVES.

I’ve tried to go with the flow and read the books others are reading and be excited about them but honestly?  If I’m not into them… I’m just not into them.  I felt this way about Caraval and everything I’ve read by Cassandra Clare and I still haven’t read much Leigh Bardugo.  The YA book bloggers all seem to love the same things, but in the last year I’ve learned that I can read what I want to read and talk about it and still have followers.  Sometimes, these are books by hugely popular authors and appearing in a timely manner (LIFEL1K3) and other times, I’m just re-reading The Gunslinger again.  And that’s okay too.

Same goes for memes and readathons.

Overall, I like to think that my blog is true to myself, even with its ups and downs, and that it’s a safe place for people to learn about the things I am passionate about and share their opinions, too.

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This week’s Book Blogger Hop asks:

What do you think your blog says about you?

Short answer:  Realistically, I think that my blog says I like pretty things, but am not as organized as I want to be, and that my life is a never-ending project.  Erm, also that I like to read?  I hope that’s quite obvious.

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What does your blog say about you?

Would you change anything about your blog to give yourself a fresh image?

What is something you want to change about your blogging style, but haven’t yet?
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21 responses to “The Art of Being Genuine on My Blog

  1. It can be so hard to stay yourself and be genuine on your blog while also trying to keep your followers and gain new ones. I try very hard to be myself, although maybe a less shy version of myself. XD So I’m actually more my real self online than offline so there’s that?? We’re with Book Host too (on both my blogs!) and YES it’s so good and all the stuff that comes with it is just amazing. I love the Tweak Me 2 theme. And your blog looks gooooorgeous, just saying.

    Bee (Quite The Novel Idea / Novel Ink) recently posted: Monthly Novel Rewind: May 2018
    • Amber

      Haha, I was actually JUST over at QtNI commenting on Leah’s LIFEL1K3 review and noticed the familiar coding the sidebar! Isn’t the Tweak Me theme fantastic? All the stars.

      I’m in a place right now where I’m trying NOT to look at my follower count because then I stress myself out and the blog becomes work instead of fun. I flux by about 5 in either direction day by day, but overall I’m finding a happy niche. I’m not a very aggressive person, either, so I sort of have to accept that I will either do things I won’t like for followers, or accept being a small blog. 🙂

      Small blogs are the best, though, for sure. 🙂

  2. I completely, completely know what you mean when you said that being true to yourself and maintaining followers/a specific niche for your blog is difficult. That’s one of the biggest reasons as to why I’m hesitant to expand my blog and make it more inclusive of my other interests, because I feel like people will lose interest in it.

    I think it’s lovely how you make sure that the content and the gifs that you portray through your posts represent you as well. For example, I also adore Supernatural, and as soon as I saw your use of the gif, I wanted to read more.

    I also know what you mean about changing the layout and theme of your blog and wanting it to look as good as those that you compare it to. I’m often somebody who compares all elements of my work to that of somebody else’s and, in turn, I feel like my blog doesn’t look as good as it should or it doesn’t cover the right topics. It’s sometimes hard to remember that our blogs are our own platforms to speak out for ourselves and share our own thoughts, and we don’t have to try to abide to the expectations of others.

    I think that this answer alone showcases that your blog does an excellent job of showcasing that you’re true to yourself and able to speak your mind, which is excellent.

    This was a wonderful, in-depth answer – thank you for sharing, and for inadvertently reminding me that I can use my blog as my own platform instead of trying to fit in with a specific ‘topic’ or ‘community’.

    Feel free to check out my own answer if you wish!

    – Charlotte (InkBlottings)

    Charlotte MG recently posted: Book Blogger Hop: June 1st | The Blogger
    • Amber

      I always find that my non-book posts don’t perform as well stats-wise on my blog, and I’m just letting myself be okay with it. 🙂 I don’t schedule book posts on weekends on a regular basis, so I allow myself those days if I want to post something different. That way, it’s just bonus content. 🙂 Giving myself permission to do that is really nice.

      I have been very fortunate over the last year that I can count on one hand the number of rude comments I have received, and even though they have bothered me for a little while, they’re so rare that I’ve never felt like TLP have been anything but *my* place. And I really am grateful for the lovely folks who are here several days a week to cheer me on!

      I hope you feel able to take a chance on an “off topic” post soon! It can be incredibly liberating. <3

  3. first of all, girlll your blog is actually the most gorgeous ever? believe me, it looks 10000% more organized (and aesthetic!) than mine <3 i honestly admire anyone who goes self-hosted because i personally find it so intimidating.

    overall, i definitely agree that conveying your own unique voice through your blog-writing is incredibly important. lots of people follow bloggers just because of their creative blogging voice (i know i do!) as well as their super pretty design. i totally get you—i mean, i guess i can also write super formally if i wanted to?? but since i already have the opportunity to write formally for those dozens of essays i have to churn out every month, i feel pretty good about just letting loose with all those pent-up grammatical errors/ramblings on my blog :')

    overall, such a lovely post!! (side note: my shift key jammed and i'm seriously not used to using caps lock which explains my complete lack of capitalization 🙈)

    • Amber

      Aw but Hannah yours is SO. PRETTY. Never think it is cluttered! <3

      Self-hosting was intimidating BEFORE Book Host. I tried it once before (different blog, food blog, it was a bad idea) and it was all sorts of bits and pieces and not as easy to use and I was totally on my own. This time, I did loads of research first and found Book Host really recommended in this community, and it's just this one amazing bundle. Plus, Ashley is great. Sometimes I email her when I can't figure out a silly little thing (legit have sent her links to other blogs and asked "can I do that thing?") and she has worked it out for me. In 24 hours. AMAZING.

      Some blogs are sooo formal and others are like... all links and book covers? In which case, thanks I can go to Amazon or Goodreads instead but good try? I don't type... properly or professionally on my blog. But that's cool, whatever. 🙂 I like to think we all have more personality that way!

      Ack no on your shift key! What happened?! Was it a spill? You may be able to pop the key off with a butter knife and clean it and fix it! Not that the lowercase is a problem, lol, but a sticky key would drive me mental. 😛

  4. I love your blog design and layout. I would love to have a professional do my blog layout/design for me but I don’t have the budget yet so I settle in doing it by myself. And I know the stress of changing layouts a lot of times because somehow it doesn’t seem right. Honestlly I got tired and just picked out my favorite color as the starting point and just put the bare essntials in my sidebar so it does not look cluttered.

    I think it’s my first time to visit here in your blog and I can already feel the genuineness and your passion for your book blog. Same here in the bookstagramming aspect, I don’t have the necessary energy and creative juice for it so when everybody is doing it, I feel a bit left out. I don’t do hyped books that much either. I only read if I am really interested with the premise. I read what I want and when I want to read it (except of course if its for review copies and blog tours which I don’t do a lot) so I got backlist reviews in my blog because of that.

    • Amber

      Thank you so much, I’m glad you like it! :). This is only a professional design in as far as it came with the bundle with my web hosting. It’s super customizable – a lot of people use it, but we all add our own flair, so you can’t really tell unless you know what to look for! 😀

      Welcome!

      I hear you in regards to backlist reviews and blog tours. I was on one promo team and it took SO MUCH of my time and didn’t get many views. On top of that, I get tired of reading ARCs on a time limit, too. I request many fewer than I used to because of that – I have a HUGE TBR and want to get through that, too! :D. It’s hard, but we all make do in our way, right?

  5. I totally get you! ❤️ I feel like my gifs have to click with the ideas I am presenting and sometimes even though certain ones fit the text better they don’t click. And I think that it partially aesthetics and partially what fits me. I also feel pulled between reading what I want and the popular books. I mostly read books that I want… I really love Asian fusion… but I do also pick up popular books if I like the sound of them. And I’ve had to cut back on ARCs because it was swamping my blog. So there certainly a balance that fits every blogger individually.

    BTW I love your logo banner at the top and the gold and purple. And the font is gorgeous! 😀

    • Amber

      I do think there are those blogs that are all ARCs and that’s where you go if you want to know what’s new… but then on the other end there are the blogs that you go to hang out like a library and see what’s there, but also WHO is there. :D. You’re right – it’s all about the blogger and finding your own rhythm!

      Aww, thanks on the logo! The font is called “Loveline” – I got it in a discount monthly bundle from Creative Market. I love Creative Market so much – I have to stay away or I overload my computer with free and inexpensive goodies.

  6. This was a very eloquent personal post. I know I haven’t been reading your blog for that long but I’ve noticed that you always have something thoughtful to say. I love how you don’t always read the popular stuff (I don’t either lol) but when you do, it’s different. Good different! It’s not completely out of the norm but it’s always interesting. 🙂 Also I love how you have your own voice, like with that comment about writing how you talk. I’m still on that journey with my writing too.

    • Amber

      🙂 Thank you Danielle, I’m glad you feel I come across that way.

      I’ve never been a big fan of using the internet to build a new identity. Even back in my forum roleplaying day (#embarassing) I never let myself build a persona. I want my blog to be open and honest like that, too. It makes us more vulnerable… but it’s also more rewarding. 🙂

      You have such a sweet, kind, excited voice when you write. 🙂 Just so you know.

  7. I work in Finance too!! That’s probably a rare quality in this world, so I got ridiculously excited to read that. I’ve also had someone (ok it was my mom) tell me I write the same way I talk. It was such a sweet comment because I also use my blog as a break from my day job and I want it to sound inviting and genuine.

    Sometimes I get way too caught up in trying to do all the social media, stat tracking, wondering how other bloggers get sponsorships/ARCs and realize whoa, I’m just doing this for fun. Calm down haha.

    Rachel @ Never Enough Novels recently posted: Stitch Fix Review – June 2018
    • Amber

      There aren’t a lot! I see a lot of writers, teachers and librarian… there’s at least one graphic designer and looooooads of students! The author Amanda Foody is also an accountant #funfact.

      That last paragraph says it all! Make sure you’re having fun FIRST, then worry about the rest. 😀

  8. Ali

    I agree about the genuine voice part of this. I try to keep my posts in my real voice and my reviews sounding like i’m just telling them to you! It’s more fun for me, and I think in the end it’s more fun for the readers. I love your posts so between that and your GIFs, keep it up!!

    • Amber

      It is much more fun! You can always tell when the blogger is struggling to write on a topic too… because it break their voice. It’s most important for reviews because it’s really easy to make those into giant bubbles of summary and boredom. 🙂 Which is no fun for anyone involved.

  9. I find all your posts incredibly genuine and I love your unique voice. It does feel like you’re just chatting with your readers like friends. I guess that’s part of what keeps me coming back to read more. I think I’m too formal in some of my posts, I end up reverting to ‘essay mode’ when I write book reviews. I love the Tweak Me 2 theme and your blog has one of my favourite designs and colour schemes. I’m always changing mine, I want it to be perfect and I always get frustrated when I can’t get it to look how I imagine it in my head! Still, I’ve learned a lot about coding and design from this process. The main thing I want to change about my blog at the moment is to write more discussion posts and share more of my creative writing. It’s become quite meme-heavy at the moment so I feel there’s not much unique content to appeal to my readers. I just wish I had more time to write interesting posts.

    • Amber

      I think a lot of people are looking more to write discussion posts. Actually, I came across the 2018 Discussion Challenge the other day, which is a good group opportunity for discussion posts. 😀 Just in case you haven’t run across it yet. I use the Book Blogger Hop meme as inspiration for discussions anditworksreally well for me – I write those faster than the Top Ten Tuesday (though TTTs bring in a lot more traffic….).

      For what it’s worth, I think that your layout is really lovely! It feels so clean and sharp. 🙂 Wouldn’t change a thing. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • Thanks for the link, I will check it out. I like the Book Blogger Hop too, the prompts are always really interesting. Thanks! Glad you like it.

  10. I love this post so, so much. I find it hard to juggle between what I really want and what the audience and the rest of the bookish community wants, as well. I’m always trying to be as genuine as I can in every single one of my blog posts and I try to chat about the things close to my heart and what matters the most to me, but sometimes it is so hard to get into that mindset and not think about what my followers really want.
    I am so glad your change of theme and self-hosting and everything has worked wonders for you – I would love to take that leap and Ashley’s services for book bloggers sound incredible as well 😀
    Lovely post x Also, keep on doing what you do – I always love your blog and blog posts <3

    • Amber

      <3 Thanks, Marie. <3

      I think that the community has strong trends, but I've also seen that the most popular bloggers have a few things - consistency and their own voice. I think Cait (Paperfury), for example, drives a lot of new teen bloggers to emulate her energetic and passionate voice, but so many who aren't writing for themselves fade away or take 3 months on/1 month off etc. Not to say that they don't have good content - they're just still finding their place.

      I think that the publishers and marketing of netbooks shape a lotto the direction as well. One of our biggest perks in what we do is freeboots, so of course we want to be attractive to the publishers as well. :)