Thoughts on Blogging Classics (Post-Book Blogger Convention)

Book bloggers come in all shapes and sizes — with blogs of all shapes and sizes. While nothing I heard at the Book Blogger Convention was amazingly original, I found it gave me lots of motivation to keep blogging my own way, and to try to think out of the box a little bit. Plus, I loved meeting fellow bloggers!

The Sessions

In the keynote, Sarah from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books discussed the importance of authenticity (“your opinion is needed”); generosity (“linking, talking, sharing”); and consistency (“don’t be afraid to be honest and be yourself”).  From my notes, here are some quotables that may help classics bloggers:

Everyone’s next level is different. What do you want? What is your classification of success? What is your goal?

How do you create a relationship beyond the internet community?

Our role makes small changes.

These things got me thinking – and wondering, as I posted about last week. I still don’t know for sure what my “classification of success” is, or what my “goals” are any more. Although I definitely want to stick with being a mostly classics blogger, I’m not sure what my blog purpose is besides journaling my many, many reads and suggesting which ones are the best. Maybe that is enough. Why does it feel unsatisfying after 3+ years?

The Practical Challenges of Blogging” panel likewise got me jotting down bits of wisdom, things like “don’t overdo it or you lose the passion [for blogging]” and “make a personal connection to the story in your reviews” as well as the very insightful “What tone do you use? We are not the New York Times” (an appropriate comment given the BEA session I mentioned before). I also liked the idea to “be blurb-able.” I’m not sure how to do that. Although I do agonize over my posts before I click “publish,” I do tend to write long rambling paragraphs.

The Grey Areas of Blogging” panel had lots of good information about professionalism and the author or publisher relationship with the blogger. The main thing that stood out to me in terms of classics blogging was this comment by one of the panelists (I did not note who said it):

Did the book achieve its purpose? Each book has its own intended audience.

This is what I like about classics blogging: that books may achieve their purpose, even when I finish it and dislike it.

My Panel on Niche Blogging

My panel at the book blogger convention focused on issues specific to niche bloggers. I mostly will share some thoughts about my own experience, since I didn’t take notes on the other panelists’ answers.

  • What drew you to your particular niche?

I started my blog to record what I read, to share suggestions, and to have a place to ask for suggestions for my next read. As I’ve progressed on my reading journey, I’ve found myself more and more interested in classics. I just love them: the depth, the classic storylines, the variety of writing styles, and the variety of genres.

  • Do you make efforts to reach readers outside your niche, and if so, what have you tried that’s worked? Or are you just as happy “preaching to the choir,” as it were, directing your content to those who already share your interest?

I write to all different kinds of people. Sometimes I write posts for those who have already read the book: I want to discuss themes or some other aspect and compare notes. Other times, I really do want to simply recommend a wonderful book, and I’ll post a more general review. I also try to keep in mind the non-commenting audience: the 87% of blog visitors who find my blog via Google search. Also, via the Classics Circuit I promote various classics authors via blog tours. I like promoting the classics in that way, and meeting all different kinds of bloggers who want to join in by giving classics a try.

  • What do you consider the one or two most critical things bloggers in your particular niche need to know/do to stand out – that is, to make yours one of the first blogs people think of when they think of blogs that cover that specific genre or topic?

To stand out in blogging classics, just as in any genre of blogging, one must be sincere and true to your own voice. For example, I love the funny and sarcastic classics bloggers out there, but I know that I cannot come across as funny when I’m typing a blog post. I’m just not a funny person. I like reading sarcastic and funny classics blogs, though, and I love to read them because of their sincere voice. I feel the same way about other styles of classics blogs: I love to read them. I blog in my own style, with my own voice, and I think it works.

Blogging about classics is not a race to first place. There is room in the blogosphere for all different types of voices.

Questions Classics Bloggers May Have

In our session, we also had a small group breakout session, where we were to consider some issues that are specific to blogging in our niche. I found this difficult because classics bloggers are so varied, and one need not be simply a “classics blogger.” People who blog about classics also blog about modern fiction in any number of genres. Here are some questions that I thought classics bloggers might have. (By the way, I feel a little silly posting this. This is “preaching to the choir” to some extent. Maybe it will help someone, though.)

  • Who is your blog audience, and what detail one should write (for fear of spoilers)?

Many blog readers may know the plots of classic novels, stories, and plays from having seen movie adaptations, reading the work in school, and otherwise knowing the literature because it is a part of the Western heritage. When one writes a blog post about a classic, one doesn’t know which type of audience one is writing to; do the blog readers know the story already, or is this a new work for them?

For this issue, one should realize that just as there are all different types of bloggers out there, there are all different types of blog readers. To determine your blogging audience (the “who”), you may want to check an analytics program. As I mentioned, my blog receives 87% new hits every day. They aren’t all commenting. So I know through that that my blog has different readers beyond the regular commenters. By searching through key word hits on an analytics site, I can see just what my blog readers are looking for. I know, for example, that I get students looking for homework answers, and moms looking for picture books online. Do I want to write my posts for them as well as my regular blog readers?

But maybe you don’t want to write to the unknown masses; that’s okay too. Decide who you want to write to. If you are writing solely for yourself, don’t stress about audience and just write what you want to write. If you want to include plot spoilers in your posts, for example, you are free to do so. Keep in mind that some blogger readers won’t like reading regular spoilers of books they might want to read, but others won’t mind and might even like it. Choosing what to include in your blog posts will affect who comes to read; regular spoilers may cause some bloggers to decide not to read your blog. Don’t take it personally: it is okay if that is the case. If you don’t want to worry about the unknown masses, then don’t. Write in your way. When you have great content in your own distinct voice, readers looking for your content will keep reading.

  • Why read and blog about the classics?

There is no free ARC, there is no author interview or blog tour, and there is a pretty big chance some bloggers will skim over a blog post of a classic they haven’t heard of. Why go to the trouble of reviewing a challenging book with little blogging rewards?

I’d like to respond with why not? You may not receive a free copy of a classic, but many classics are free to read already via online sites like Project Gutenberg. If you feel like reading a classic (and I personally hope people do), why not write something about it. A group like The Classics Circuit, a book club, or an organized online readalong may help you gain confidence to read a classic and then write about it, besides making the reading and writing experience fun.

As I mentioned above, there are all different kinds of blog readers; someone may just be looking for a classic to read and you’ve recently read it. Blog about it so they will know.

  • How does one write about an intimidating and/or lengthy work?

Many classics are a long read, and by the time one finishes reading them, one doesn’t know just which direction to go in writing a blog post. Sometimes a blog post feels inadequate. Sometimes a blog post feels overwhelming. Classics can do that to us.

The final issue is the one I think many readers of classics literature struggle with: How does one respond to classic literature? As I mentioned earlier, I think bloggers should write according to their own style, whether it is classics or modern fiction or children’s fiction.  The wonderful thing about classic literature is that is does have layers of depth, meaning, and enjoyment. If you want to read a classic novel simply for the superficial aspects (such as plot), it is normally easy to do so. But if you want to dive down under the surface, classics also give you the opportunity to do that too.

Just as a submarine can choose its depth, so can a classics blogger choose as it pleases the depth with which he or she will approach literature. Just because the submarine can go to the bottom of the ocean does not mean it need do so. Or that it need do so every day.

Further, beyond depth in a blog post, classics bloggers have the wonderful opportunity to decide which direction to go in writing about a classic novel. Some classics blogger react on a strictly personal level. Some react to classic literature on an analytical level. I personally think a majority of classics bloggers approach classic literature in a mixture of those two directions, and some classics bloggers probably write in a completely different direction that I don’t know about.

The Wonderful Side of Blogging about Classic Literature

I don’t know that my panel insights were any more helpful than the other insights at Book Blogger Convention. In some respects, I feel we were all saying the same thing: be yourself. Do it your own way. Define your own success.

But I do want to add that the wonderful thing about classic literature is that it has layers of enjoyment. Classics can be approached from any level and any depth. One may write a superficial blog post, summarizing plot and character, or one may split a book in to multiple posts, writing in depth about various issues and themes in the book. No matter at what level one writes about the classics, there is reward in reading and writing about them.

In short, blogging about the classics gives you many options. You don’t have to write about each book the same way because each book has different depth and prompts you to go in different directions. You personally will want to respond in your own personal way: that’s the great thing about blogging, and the classics give you plenty of room to be yourself.

Comments

  1. says

    Wow this is an incredibly helpful post. While I don’t blog about classics, primarily, I have sort of an offbeat take on books and reading which doesn’t seem to be as buzzworthy as the next-best-thing blogs. Thanks for posting this!

  2. says

    That was a great post! (I’m not disappointed at all!)

    Every time I write a review of a classic book, I take a different approach because each one affects me differently. Thinking about audience and non-classics readers is interesting. I don’t know if I consider that or not.

    I love your answer to Why blog about the classics? I think we can get caught up in getting new books for review that we lose sight of why we do what we do. I hope people keep blogging about the classics because I love to talk about them!

    • says

      Chrisbookarama, I’m glad it was a good post. I felt so rambly as I tried to pull thoughts together. Isn’t it great how we have so many options in writing about books? It makes blogging so fun.

  3. says

    Great answers here to your questions. I don’t read many classics but enjoy reading posts on them. And I think most of your points are valid for whatever kind of books one blogs about!

    • says

      Amy » oh definitely, it’s any books too. I was trying to think about classics but really, I felt what I had to say could be applicable to anyone.

  4. says

    I’ve found the whole different depths to be very true. Twice now I’ve been inspired to write extra posts on certain books, where I had more to say than was appropriate to my review, and both of those times were for classics. There is often so much more to talk about and I think it helps that we’ve had years of academic research and regular reader research and ideas to give us new insight – of course with modern literature we’ve much less to go on.

    • says

      Charlie » I should write more extra posts. So many books demand it of me but I find I don’t have time. I do like how classics give the option of referencing academic research — but I never do approach it from that way! That’s the bonus of no longer being in school. I don’t have to approach it in that way anymore…

  5. says

    This post makes me think about my own blogging style–my reading choices are mostly classics, which I find easiest to write about, but my blog posts usually end up pretty “unliterary.” It’s just whatever randomness comes out of my head, and like you said, it has to be your own sincere voice. I just wonder sometimes if other classics bloggers might tend to turn there noses up at it.
    All in all, I’m just so excited when I find others who love classics! I also love the variety of styles within the classics blogging community. Because there are often so many layers in literature, the more viewpoints, the better. I love the readalongs for this very reason.

    • says

      Shelley » I studied English in school and I think my posts are rather un-literary too. I don’t think it really matters. I definitely don’t think classics bloggers stick up their noses at different styles. Some bloggers like one way, others the other. If someone doesn’t like my blogging, they don’t have to read it! there are options for all of us.

  6. says

    I agree that we shouldn’t try to adapt our blog based on analyzing search terms or whatever. The most common search term/hit on my blog is “Dominic Cooper” and all I did was mention the movie that he was in (“The Duchess”) that was loosely based on a book I read (Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire)!

    I read a variety of niche blogs, including yours (of course :-) ), and the ones I follow regularly interest me for different reasons. And non-niche book blogs interest me, too. It’s hard to explain excactly why certain blogs/bloggers I feel more connected to than others (even if I don’t always comment on all these blogs), but I suppose it is for the same reason that you connect to certain people in real life. For example I’ve met people who technically I should feel a connection to — because they love books or have similiar interests — but personality-wise, don’t “click”.

    • says

      Valerie » I do point out that sometimes it’s nice to know who is reading our blog — I like to look at stats personally because it shows me that 87% of my visitors are those not commenting! I like knowing that because it gives purpose to those posts that never get any comments…. But if people don’t care, it doesn’t matter either. I like knowing my audience is bigger than just those commenting.

      I think you’re right: personality is a huge aspect of which blogs we read/comment on. It isn’t just what people read.

  7. says

    >>But I do want to add that the wonderful thing about classic literature is that it has layers of enjoyment. Classics can be approached from any level and any depth. One may write a superficial blog post, summarizing plot and character, or one may split a book in to multiple posts, writing in depth about various issues and themes in the book. No matter at what level one writes about the classics, there is reward in reading and writing about them.

    I agree, but I don’t think that’s just classics! A lot of the modern lit I read can be discussed on lots of levels. :) For me, the fascinating thing about classics is the extra dimension of their interaction with our culture over time.

    • says

      Eva » Oh I agree too about the depth in lots of modern lit too. I think you make a great point: “interaction with our culture over time.” What a great thing to look at in more depth…

  8. says

    This is a fantastic post, Rebecca! the first part gave me some good points to consider regarding blogging in general and my blog. Even after blogging for a considerable amount of time i still get intimidated by other blogs and bloggers and sometimes feel my blog or posts inadequate although most of the time I know that’s silly and I’m doing what works for me. But it doesn’t hurt to hear read what other bloggers and individuals with more experience think.

    I also enjoyed the part of your post about blogging about classics. I’ve read many calssics but haven’t blogged about any…yet. When I do, I will definitely be thinking of some of the points you’ve made here.

    Thank you for such an insightful post!

    • says

      Amy, I think you’ll find that there is no reason to be intimidated by book bloggers; we’re pretty nice! I do think blogging about any books, classics or not, one should write their own perspective and voice. I am glad this helps you!

    • Jillian says

      I hope you do start blogging about classics, Amy — when you’re comfortable. It’s so rewarding. :-)

  9. Jillian says

    Rebecca, this is an awesome post.

    I really like the way you stress throughout that voice and personality and depth of reading/discussion can and should change with the author of the blog. I 100% support the casual classics online journals — as surely as I support the deep analysis of literature. I like to read both kinds of reviews (as well as the funny, sarcastic, quiet, etc).

    I’ve seen a close-reading wave going through the blogosphere, too. (A whole post devoted to the first sentence of a novel, taking it apart, seeing why it works.)

    I love that!!

    And I agree — blogging classics offers all kids of options. Literature should makes us think and contemplate at different levels, up to and including the casual, read for entertainment, comment that you liked it, and move on kind of journaling. Books are not about proving you can react well to stories or outthink the last blogger. They are about the experience — whatever experience. :-)

    • says

      Jillian » “Books are not about proving you can react well to stories or outthink the last blogger” I completely agree. I think some miss that in the bloggosphere, unfortunately.