Blogging milestones

Reading Matters turns 18

DRUM ROLL, PLEASE.

Reading Matters is now 18. 

Yea, I can’t believe it either. If this blog was a person, she’d be old enough to vote, drive a car, buy alcohol and get into nightclubs. Where did the time go?

I’ve been doing this malarkey for so long, usually on top of a busy day job (of which I have had many over the years), that I can’t really remember what I used to do in my spare time before it.

Blogging about books has been a much-cherished creative outlet. It’s taught me discipline, helped hone my online skills, improved my writing and editing, and made me a more critical reader. And it’s also introduced me to a supportive community of fellow bloggers, readers, writers and publishers I might not otherwise have met.

I recently had to explain a point of difference about my blog from the millions that now exist, and I summed it up as being “one of the world’s first blogs about books”.

When I started Reading Matters back in early 2004, blogging was a new form of media, the first step in the democratisation of publishing.

Everything about it was amateur. There was no such thing as an “influencer”. Social media didn’t exist. The release of the first iPhone was still three years away. The book industry didn’t know about blogging or hadn’t yet cottoned on to how they could use bloggers to help them spread the word about their wares.

It was a brilliant time of discovery and fun and it was relatively free from commercial agendas, external forces and self-promotion. We were all just figuring it out as we went along.

As a print journalist, I found it a practical way to teach myself new skills that might help me break into the digital world. But back then the print media hated new media, which it viewed as a threat — rightly as it turns out — but I was excited to have a foot in both camps.

Over the years people have occasionally asked me to share tips or expertise on book blogging and I’ve always shied away from it. I don’t see myself as an expert. I’m just a passionate reader who found an outlet for sharing that passion online. I don’t, for instance, have an Arts degree, have never studied English literature and am not well-read in the Classics. And everything I know about blogging (and reviewing books), I just learned along the way, mainly through trial and error.

But the beauty of blogging is that there are no “rules” — except the ones you set yourself.

I’ve always tried to espouse the same kinds of values here in the online world that I do in my real offline life: I do my own thing; I don’t follow fashions or fads; I try to be respectful of other people’s points of view even if I don’t agree with them; I am always aware that any work I review here has taken hours of hard graft by a real person so any criticism should be constructive and non-personal; I am transparent and don’t push agendas because integrity is important; I try to be kind and courteous but I call out bullshit when I see it; I like to encourage and help others and spread the love wherever possible; and I always aim to be fair and balanced.

A few key things I have learned, but which are probably obvious to others, include:

  • it’s not quantity (of content) but the quality that counts;
  • stats don’t make the world go round;
  • having a set schedule isn’t important — you can take a year off if you like, in the grand scheme of things it’s not going to matter — and there’s no need to apologise for an online absence, you don’t owe anyone anything;
  • there’s no need to post every day because some “expert” claims you will lose “traffic” if you don’t, just do it when you feel like it, it’s a hobby NOT a job;
  • if you’re struggling to write a review take a rest, come back later or just quit, you don’t get points for being a masochist;
  • you don’t need to review everything that is sent to you (provided you haven’t made any promises) — feeling guilty about this just eats up energy better devoted elsewhere and genuine publishers understand that real life gets in the way and they’ll just be happy if a certain percentage of books that they send out get reviewed, they’re not expecting a 100 per cent strike-rate;

and *finally*

  • don’t get hung up about how many books are in the TBR or how much money you have spent on books — you could have a far worse habit, like scoring crack cocaine!

I’m sure there are loads more “lessons”, but this post has gone on way too long already. And if you are still reading, thanks for hanging in there.

Thanks, too, to everyone who has followed this blog (and the associated Facebook page), left a comment, sent me an email or a book, invited me to bookish things on the basis of what I do here, or told others about my reviews. It’s all appreciated — and makes the solitary process of tapping out words on a laptop, on the evening or weekend, that little bit more communal.

Finally, I love this quote by American academic Charles W. Eliot, which sums up why I do what I do:

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.

You could say the same about book blogging, right?

55 thoughts on “Reading Matters turns 18”

  1. Happy Blogiversary, Kim 😊 This is so awesome! 18 years is a very long time in the blogging world! I don’t know anyone who has blogged about books (or even just blogged) for so long! Congratulations! You are so inspiring! I love your blog and your reviews and your recommendations! Here’s to many more years of reading and blogging! Happy reading and Happy blogging 😊

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  2. Congratulations! You how much I was thrilled to meet you on that trip to London years ago… there is much to love about book blogging, (and I agree with everything you say about avoiding the guilt trips) but the thing I love best is meeting the booklovers who you never knew were out there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lisa. Our friendship is certainly one of the best things to come out of blogging. I’ve met lots of bloggers, mainly UK-based ones, of course, many of whom became good friends, both on and offline, but having an Australian connection to have coffee with on returns home was always great! Am hoping I might actually get to come to Melbourne at some point this year so perhaps we will catch up again in person before 2022 is out.

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      1. Yes indeed. I am still faintly hoping to get to WA for Nathan’s launch of the KSP bio, but at the moment it still seems there is a risk of getting stranded or having to pay for quarantine, so I may be going to miss out.
        Wouldn’t it be nice if he got a gig at the MWF!!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve arrived to reading this blog more recently and truly value it. I’m always struck by how open-minded it is. For books set in or written by Australians especially, I couldn’t do better than to read yours. That review of the Michelle de Kretser is an example of how this blog provided additional angles that I didn’t see in regard to the same book elsewhere. Congratulations on 18 years, and if I ever decide to blog, I’ll take ever word of your advice to heart!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for all your support & enthusiasm, Jennifer, especially on Twitter, which I have taken a step back from. Interesting that you have noticed the open-mindedness… think that comes from being on one side of political spectrum but worked largely on magazines from the other side of the spectrum and coming to see that every story has two sides, that nothing is black and white (but usually grey) and that if you come at things without prejudice you just might learn something! I guess that’s why conspiracy theorists wind me up so much!

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  4. That is amazing and wonderful. Eighteen years and so much has changed in the meantime. I liked your list of points that you have learned over the years.

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  5. Marvellous. Congratulations,and I agree with your wise words. Blogging isn’t an imposition unless we make it one, and 18 years on, you’ve definitely been engaging your readers for a long time. I’m a baby in comparison. 15 years.

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  6. Happy Blogversary Kim! Reading Matters was one of the first blogs I started to follow when I entered this great world and is still one of my favourites. Great advice too.

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    1. Thank-you, Cathy. This is a mutual appreciation society, because your blog is one of my favourites, too. And receiving that signed Jennifer Johnston book from you is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me xx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Another recent reader of your blog here, and I enjoy the level headedness I find in your writing. I enjoyed finding out a little more about you, too, with this post.

    And congratulations on keeping things going, Kim. I’m in awe of your consistency! I, too, started blogging back in the early days with a Live Journal blog about music, gigs and books. As in life, though, I chopped and changed – I think I’m on my 9th blog incarnation and 3rd platform 😆. And I agree with your tips, to which I’d add “If you feel like having twelvety million different blogs, do it!”

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  8. Many congratulations, Kim! Like Cathy, yours was one of the first blogs I came across when I thought about setting up one of my own. Couldn’t agree more with your key points.

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  9. Yours was one of the first blogs I found and a great inspiration to starting my own. Being one of the first, it meant you had a killer name for your blog, that I couldn’t emulate five years later. It was lovely to meet you loads of times too at bookish events back in the day when they happened live and you were still in London! I’ve always loved the consistency to your blog, and your advice is totally sound. Long live Reading Matters! x

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    1. Thank you, Annabel, glad you found some inspiration here… your blog is one of my favourites, even if I don’t comment all that often. I used to enjoy our bookish meet-ups, too. I have met some great people through blogging, including you, but in Australia, there’s only a teeny handful of us focusing on lit fiction and most are on the east coast.

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  10. Well done on sticking at it all these years. I gave up computing in 1998 after 15 years of creating text based systems and transmitting data via landlines and dial-up modems. By the time I dipped my toes in again, in 2015, it was a whole new universe.

    I enjoy interacting with you, and I especially enjoy your emphasis on your new home state.

    It’s hard to work out what is the ‘best’ frequency to blog at, but as you say, the most important thing is to be comfortable.

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    1. Thanks, Bill. I can only imagine how hard it would be to come back to computing after such a long absence. The speed of tech change is phenomenal. I laugh to think that when I first started out at a journo on The Star in Leongatha they had only just replaced the electric typewriters for new-fangled computers. There was no internet, of course, no email and no mobile phones. We all got enormously excited when our boss bought one of the first professional digital cameras – and we would argue over who got to use it. Press releases came via the post, slipped under the door or on the fax machine! LOL.

      I’m enjoying my Western Australia reading focus… it really does help that Elizabeth’s book warehouse is a few doors down and Fremantle Press across the road! Both have been good suppliers of new and used fiction!

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  11. Woohoo! Congrats! Say, did you know that 18 is a lucky number in Jewish numerology? Yes, because the letters that make up the number 18 are the letter that spell the Hebrew word for LIFE! So, happy LIFE happy 18th!

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  12. You are a trailblazer! And I agree with all the blogging wisdom, especially not apologizing for inconsistency and absences. If I want pressure and deadlines, I have a real job for that! 🙂

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    1. Cheers, Laura! Yes, I have a real job that stresses me out… I don’t need my blog to add to the pressure. Over the years and I have seen so many bloggers moan about their reading commitments and schedules and taking part in publisher-led initiatives, and I’m like, don’t do it then, no one is paying you. Lol.

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  13. Congratulations Kim on reaching such a remarkable milestone! Bravo!

    I’ve often wondered who was the ‘oldest’ blogger, or perhaps a better way of saying that would be which blog has been posting the longest…and I think I can now safely say it is YOU 🙂
    Nearly all of the experienced bloggers when I first started 12 years ago have moved on.

    I particularly like the tips about letting go the idea of set schedules and not having to review everything you read. I have been a bit caught up in both of those the past few years This year I have been trying to move away from that mindset and have found it very freeing. As you say this is a hobby and should be something we enjoy doing, even if it is the only thing we may now do in our free time 😀

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    1. LOL. Well, there are blogs of a similar vintage… but I think all (bar Dannielle from A Work in Progress) have long gone or got proper paid jobs in the industry. I’m definitely not the first book blogger… I think that honour goes to Steve Mitchelmore in the UK (@Twitchelmore on Twitter)… but def “one” of the first.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Amanda, I’ll be 70 in 18 years’ time… I wonder if we’ll still even need to type things… there’s probably someone already inventing a microchip to transmit our thoughts direct to our screens. LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. You are my very favourite blogger. Your first comment is one of the main reasons I love reading your blogs: your reviews are always beautifully incisive yet brilliantly insightful and constructive Sheer quality… I frequently base my reading choices on your writings; (and I also really like Irish fiction!) Congratualtions, and thank you

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  15. Wow!! Congratulations! I started my blog in 2013, but didn’t start seriously blogging until early 2016. To be honest, I’m not sure I even knew blogs existed back in 2004. LOL

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  16. Congratulations for getting to such a significant milestone and for being a book blogging pioneer. We get to benefit so much from all the effort you put in to learning what this blogging mularky is all about and how it works. I’ve learned a lot from you – every time I see one of my old posts with the long paragraphs and little white space. “Kim would not approve” I tell myself.!
    By the way I love your USP.

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