It took me a few tries to write this post. I even considered trashing the idea altogether, but a part of me just really needs to write this— for my own sake, and for any other bloggers that can potentially relate to my experiences.
The title is a bit vague, but instead of prefacing this post like I usually do with my discussions, I’m just going to dive right in!
Sometimes—often times—I worry too much about the numbers. I go through periods where all I can think about, instead of what posts to write or what pictures to take, is when I’m going to hit the next milestone in my follower count. I would be lying if I said I weren’t in the midst of one of those periods right now. It’s why I felt inspired to write this post, along with the fact that I finally realized how stats—page views, followers, likes, reblogs, comments, anything you can think of—were sucking the fun out of a hobby that’s completely altered my life for the better.
A few weeks ago, I began to feel so bad about myself and my accounts, I asked absurd questions like, what am I doing wrong? What do I need to change? Am I simply not as good as everyone else that seem to be able to get followers? Does the universe just not want me to be a successful book blogger?
I feel ridiculous even typing out those questions, because I know that the only thing you need to be a “successful” blogger, is a blog and some posts. And it might take some people longer to gain followers than others, but that says nothing about the quality of your posts, photos, or account as a whole.
Yet I couldn’t stop spiraling down into that dark mental cavity. I know this post may seem whiny or superficial, but I’m making it brutally honest for a reason: it’s time that I start being more honest with myself.
When I first realized how toxic my thoughts were becoming, I did some necessary soul-searching. I recently sent my first-ever formal ARC requests, to (so far) no avail. My immediate thoughts were of the fact that my stats are too low, and I had no chance of being approved. I should probably point out that I sent those requests just a week ago, so YES I’M BEING RIDICULOUS! There is still, I think, a chance of me receiving one of the ARCs. But at one point in my negativity the last few days, I even felt embarrassed, like the publicist probably opened the email and showed it to all their publisher friends because it’s just so funny that a blogger with a low following would even bother to send a request.
I asked myself why I even sent the requests in the first place. Was I disappointed because it seemed unlikely that I would get to read those books in advance? Partially, I suppose, but considering my humongous TBR filled with beautiful books waiting to be read, on top of the small mountain of YALLFest ARCs I already have, that didn’t seem to be the issue.
The ARCs themselves were not at the center of my troubled thoughts—but the publishers were. So I realized what I really craved above all else, even the books, was the approval of a publisher.
What I’ve been dying for is not the next big 2018 release, but validation. Validation from publishers that my online presence is worthy of their attention and time. That they care enough about my opinion to send me a book to review.
I also wanted validation from the numbers: from the follower counts at the top of my Instagram and Twitter feeds, from the bar graph of visitors and views on my blog’s stat page. I wanted to see in concrete proof that people are interested in my ideas and creativity.
But seeking solid evidence like that is nearly impossible, and never satisfactory enough. I know that even if I had 100,000 followers, or a million followers, I would always be striving to reach the next goal. In the end, I don’t really need validation from anyone, or any numbers. I’m truly proud of my blog and my bookstagram photos, of my ability to spread a love for reading. After all, it’s the greatest love I have in life.
Taken as a whole, this reflection gave me a chance to see how our community has become centered around one thing:
Publishers realize that book bloggers and influencers are a priceless form of advertising that they can’t buy anywhere else. Of course, they don’t attempt to buy “ads” from us, but they do send us payment in other obvious forms. Thus, bookstagram and other platforms over the years have become flooded with sponsored ARC giveaways, unboxings, rep searches. Publishing is an industry, therefore it’s incredibly monetized like anything else in this world.
Don’t get me wrong though—I LOVE unboxings! And pretty ARC pictures! I have zero problem with members of the book community receiving free stuff (compensation for our work is nice)! But I think it’s important to remind ourselves that the book community is not all about free stuff and publishers. It’s not all about the numbers. It’s about the books that don’t get a lot of hype, or the late-night conversations with friends we never would’ve had if not for the YA community. It’s about the voices we don’t get to hear in everyday life, about the kids that are awkward and bookish and able to find a home in this congregation of fabulous nerds. It’s about debut authors experiencing the joy of holding their first published novel, and the hours of stressful, head-pounding work that go into producing an entire book.
It’s about stories, and the power they possess to change us all.
So, I’m making myself a promise: every time I catch myself staring at my follower count, I’m not going to worry about how high the number is. Instead, I will see how many people have taken the time to share in such a profound part of human existence—our ability to tell stories.
Wow, I know that was a little dense, but hopefully some of you out there have also felt discouraged by your stats and reacted similarly. I hope that I was able to help you remember that the only validation you need is from the inside!
Have any of you ever felt the same way I did this past month? What are some ways you’d recommend to overcome that attitude? Thanks for reading!