When I learned that this class was going to be me creating a blog and making posts each week, I immediately knew I was going to do a book blog, and specifically that I wanted to do a book review blog, though this did change over the course of taking this class. I’ve always played with the idea of making a book blog, Bookstagram, or BookTube, but I never actually did it until now. Though I watch a lot of BookTube and look at a lot of Bookstagram accounts, I was mainly inspired by two booktube accounts: Hailey in Bookland, and A Clockwork Reader. Hannah (A Clockwork Reader) and Hailey come up with such fun video prompts, and they are my go-to booktubers for getting the latest scoop on new releases, or just for some fun videos about books. There’s just something about listening to people talk about books that makes me really happy, and this is what I hoped to do for others with my blog.
When I started to set up my blog, I realized I wasn’t too invested in making posts, which were strictly book reviews at the beginning. Instead, I surprisingly found myself to be extremely invested in designing my blog and finding my aesthetic. I enjoyed creating a colour scheme, making fancy titles and fonts for my posts, creating an animated logo, and trying to give my blog an overall – as perfectly and kindly said by my peer reviewer Jackie Liao – “ethereal and fairy-like ambience” (Liao). However, my enthusiasm for designing was not echoed in my feelings for writing blog posts, which often were really rushed, and it took me a long time to decide on what kind of post to make. The article “How to Survive the Digital Apocalypse” states, “If design is the expression of content, and the content is worthless, what is the point of good design?” (Gertz). I really resonated with this because at this point my blog was solely based around book reviews, and I wasn’t enjoying it in the way that I enjoyed watching Hailey and Hannah’s videos. This line actually helped me change the focus of my blog, and make it a little less constricted.
As mentioned, I initially claimed that Musings of a Middle Child was a book review blog because of my interest in Goodreads, a book review site where you can manage all of your books, but I kept thinking back to these two booktube accounts and all the fun videos they posted that went beyond only book reviews. I would see videos that featured lists of books to read in 2020 (“20 books to read in 2020”), problems that readers have (“Reader Problems Tag”), rankings of books (“Ranking Every Fantasy Book I’ve Ever Read”), fun challenges (“First Sentence Challenge!”), and more. I just wanted my blog to be a space where I could talk about anything book related, and make my posts really casual and funny in a sense, and I felt like a book review blog wouldn’t really allow me to get creative with posts. I shifted my focus because I felt like having my blog consist of only reviews with lots of text could be intimidating for readers, and I thought these creative posts would be a fun way to expand my audience.
On the topic of audience, I knew I was likely writing to a different group than the majority of people who were actually reading my blog. Ideally, my intended audience was other people with book blogs, or the general public of people interested in books, but I knew that most of the people viewing my blog were likely going to be people from the PUB 101 course. In the early weeks of the course, I was introduced to an article called “How to Talk to Strangers”, and this made me realize that this blog is also an opportunity to talk to strangers in a way – since COVID-19 hasn’t really allowed for this in person. This article, which explains that talking to strangers is always going to be a unique experience and something people need to do more often (Hamblin), is part of the reason why I decided to allow comments on my site, despite that online comments do often feature quite a bit of hate. I had a really pleasant experience with another book blogger who happened to see my site after I credited them as the inspiration for one particular post, and it was really great to interact with someone who runs a successful book blog. This interaction really made me want to speak to more people, and so I decided to add a link to my Goodreads on my blog, and also start posting general updates on Goodreads each time I made a post on my blog, and this really started to switch up my site statistics and audience.
I learned quite a bit about my audience from Google Analytics, and after using Goodreads to reach more readers, I started noticing more and more people reading my blog from different countries such as Finland, China, United States, and India. Despite that Google Analytics gave me this great insight, it also subconsciously changed the way I was approaching my blog topics. I wasn’t really focused on my blog as a creative outlet for one of my fondest passions, but instead I was getting caught up in how to change the statistics on Google Analytics. Do I put more keywords? Do I add a subscription button? Should I start allowing ads on my page? I realized I was getting caught up again in something that was outlined by the Gertz article: “We don’t actually care about content. We only care about what content can do for us” (Gertz). I understood that reaching readers was – and still is – important and an essential part of advancing my blog, but I didn’t want to start thinking of the people who see my blog as statistics. I would rather just have fun with my blog and interact with the few readers I do have, even if they’re just my PUB 101 classmates.
I never expected to be in a class that allowed me to learn and grow in a way that worked for me through creating my own assignments and content. I was definitely influenced by the article “The Web We Need To Give Students”, because the notion that “Students have little agency when it comes to education technology — much like they have little agency in education itself” (Watters), is something I have always reflected on through my years of school. Not everyone is able to sit in a classroom silently for hours and learn in the same way, and I think this blog really gave me the opportunity to learn more about myself and how I work best, and I really think more education needs to be centred around allowing students to have this kind of learning experience.
The process of creating my blog was not something I expected to be so intricate, but it is something I learned a lot from and really enjoyed. I definitely want to continue on with this blog, even if after this class I lose a lot of readers. In the future, I would love to start reading other book blogs and engaging with other book bloggers, because I think this will really allow me to make some great connections and friendships, as well as really gain a sense of community online.
Thanks for reading my blog this semester!
“First Sentence Challenge!” YouTube, uploaded by A Clockwork Reader, 20 Feb 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THtKW5hy3u4
Gertz, Travis “How to Survive the Digital Apocalypse.” Louder Than Ten, 10 July 2015, louderthanten.com/coax/design-machines
Hamblin, James. “How to Talk to Strangers.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 25 Aug. 2016, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/08/civil-inattention/497183/
Liao, Jackie. “Peer Review #2: Musings of a Middle Child.” jackieliao, 27 Oct. 2020, jackieliao.net/peer-review-2-musings-of-a-middle-child/
“Ranking Every Fantasy Book I’ve Ever Read” YouTube, uploaded by Hailey in Bookland, 16 May 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mf_sSnBMS20
“Reader Problems Tag” YouTube, uploaded by Hailey in Bookland, 19 Nov 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzfubmw7iEw
Watters, Audrey. “The Web We Need To Give Students.” Medium, BRIGHT Magazine, 25 June 2019, brightthemag.com/the-web-we-need-to-give-students-311d97713713#.4d7j8rs6x