Tag «seriesous tips»

SERIESous Tips: My Favourite WordPress Plugins

One of the biggest draws to being a self-hosted blog (besides the graphics freedom) was the ability to add plugins. Plugins are these great little add-ins or apps you can use to make your site easier to run and/or have really cool features. While a lot of the plugins I use are the basic foundations of keeping my site running (like Jetpack and Akismet), there are a few that make my blogging experience super efficient and save me a lot of blog maintenance time.

Below you’ll find some of my favourite plugins, what they do, what I love and what I dislike. When you click on the title, you will be taken to the Plugin homepage where you can learn more.

**These links and comments are not affiliated with the respective plugin creators/companies! It is simply my take on using the services over the last year! I found posts like this extremely helpful for finding plugins for my blog in the past and wanted to contribute in my own way.**

My Favourite WordPress.org Plugins

(in alphabetical order)

CommentLuv

What it Does: Allows comment-ers to link-back to their most recent posts when they enter their URL when commenting.

What I Love: I totally thought you had to pay for this plugin and so it was always on the back-burn for what to add next. But it is free for a basic version with minimal features. It’s great for a blogger like me who comments back on blogs who comment on mine so I can immediately jump to their most recent post.

What I Dislike: I get a ton of spam in my comment spam folder now. Which isn’t a huge deal because it is easy to clear but it’s a little annoying.

Featured Image from URL

What it Does: Instead of uploading an image to your own site for your featured image (what appears in the blog roll page), you can use a URL from another site (like Goodreads).

What I Love: Now that my blog theme actually requires me to set a featured image for my blog roll page, I had to find a plugin that would save me time and not require me to upload a ton of cover images daily. I know that there are a lot of reasons why you should upload book covers yourself instead of using the image URL from another site but I find it tedious! Because I already add the image in my review post, it’s so easy to paste it in the side widget on my post creation page.

What I Dislike: I have noticed that the image I set as my featured doesn’t show up when I view my blog on the WordPress Reader. I’m not sure if that is just WordPress itself picking an image at random but I find my featured image varies on my out-sourcing platforms. It also doesn’t format nicely on my blog roll page once I did an update but I think I just have to play with the code a little more.

Hello Bar

What it Does: Creates a pop-up link bar on your blog.

What I Love: One of the biggest learning curves to my self-hosted blog was trying to figure out ways to make it easy for people to follow. Eventually I got a WordPress widget but when you go into the world of self-hosted, email subscribers are your main “follower” crew. But I find few people actually use emails to follow blogs, especially when you have sites like Bloglovin that create a nice feed for you to scroll through. The Hello Bar is created for email subscriptions but it does let you customize it for whatever link you like and so I choose Bloglovin! And since I started using it, I’ve noticed an increase in my Bloglovin’ followers.

What I Dislike: Not much really. It’s super customizable, they send me weekly updates on my stats (which you can unsubscribe to) and it’s FREE!

Revive Old Post

What it Does: Reposts old posts on Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, etc. with hashtags.

What I Love: I’m all for a little self-promotion on social media but I don’t want to bombard my followers with old posts every hour on the hour. I love Revive Old Post because you can set how many tweets (what I use it for) go out and how many hours between them. You can add hashtags, select what categories get sent out and more.

What I Dislike: You gotta play around with it a bit to get what you want but it’s very easy to customize.

Smooth Slider

What it Does: Creates an image slide show that can be a widget or a feature on your site.

What I Love: I originally had this on my old theme as a way to feature my recent posts on my homepage. Now, it’s a widget on my site for the same thing. I really like it that I can set it up when I create the post and it lets me set a date when it will automatically expire from the slider so my most recent content is always on display. It also works really well with my Feature Image from a URL plugin which I worried about at the start as some plugins clash.

What I Dislike: I was having some issues with the expiry aspect but it just took some playing around. I also had to play around with the image sizing but the code is pretty easy to figure out.

Post Index

What it Does: Creates an archive of posts for a particular category on a page.

What I Love: I’m not sure how many people used my old post archive back in the day but it was something I did manually using both cover images and text. It was so tedious to update and one of the first plugins I looked for was an archiving one. This one does everything itself, creating a beautiful list with anchored links throughout the page.

What I Dislike: I title my posts with a “Series Review” or “Fresh Fridays”, etc heading, and in an ideal world, the plugin I use would be able to omit that and sort on whatever follows the colon. I did find one that did that but it was more of a search result listing order than an actual page with the full list of my posts.

404 Page

What it Does: Creates a “broken link” page where readers can learn why that page is unavailable.

What I Love: My old theme had the ability to create my own 404 page but my new one doesn’t. I do keep an eye on broken links but they happen. Especially when you move post scheduling dates around a lot like I do. I think it’s just a nice way to tell people what’s up and why something they want to read may not be available right away.

What I Dislike: This is super easy to use and set up so no complaints.


What plugins do you love?

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SERIESous Tips: How to Start Scheduling Your Posts

Last year, I posted a Tips Post about Scheduling Posts. I’ll admit, it wasn’t the most helpful post ever: I mostly focused on why scheduling works for me and how I keep track of my schedule. Not a lot of sage advice.

I schedule everything well in advance–months usually–and I love it! It makes everything so much easier for me as a blogger. And when I tell people that, I get a lot of questions of “how do you schedule so far in advance”?

So I wanted to create a post with some tips/ideas on how I think you can get started. You don’t need to do all of these but I think one or two can get you on the right track!

Tip #1: Not Posting Everyday

This is just a personal preference for me but there is no way I could create enough content to post everyday (props to those that do!). Part of the reason has to do with Tip #2 below but the other reason is that I like time between my posts. I try to have at least 1 day between posts, ideally two.

One reason is that I don’t check my blog everyday for some reason or another. In turn, that means I only get to browse my subscription feed a couple times a week. When I do browse the feed, I see posts from the last 2-3 days anyways so I don’t see the need for me to post everyday to make sure people see my posts. Again, this is just a personal preference and I know everyone has a different thought of this!

Idea: Keep a calendar of when you plan to post! That way you can see what you are posting and when.

Tip #2: Schedule Certain Posts on Specific Days

This is the main reason why I’m able to schedule so many posts in advance. When I created my blog 4 years ago, I knew I wanted to focus mainly on book series. But I also knew that I wanted to post standalone and new series reviews–just not all the time. And so, I created Single Sundays & Fresh Fridays respectively. That means I only post standalone reviews on Sundays (unless it’s a promotional post) and I try to alternate them every other week. So, if I write 4 standalone reviews in a month, I have posts for almost 2 months (4 posts for 8 weeks). Pretty Sweet!

Idea: Weekly memes are a great way to get some day-specific posts or create your own feature that is weekday specific!

Tip #3: Spend a Day Writing Posts

I know that’s hard to do for some people but one of the reasons I schedule so many posts is that I get these spurts of inspiration and just churn out the posts. I then use my don’t-post-everyday & day-specific guidelines to schedule them throughout the upcoming weeks. I consider it an investment of sorts that pays off later when I go away on vacation (like I did with this post) or am going through a reading slump and I don’t have to worry about posting.

Idea: If you are a lengthy writer, try breaking the post up into segments or separate posts  (and post over a couple of days) to get more content!

Tip #4: Write Posts on Your Hiatus

People go on hiatuses for many reasons. I went on a lengthy one my first year of blogging simply because I didn’t have enough material to be posting consistently. So while on hiatus, I would write posts and schedule them for after my slated return. My reasoning: no one was expecting new posts during that time I was away so I didn’t need to use my newly crafted post immediately.

I know that this can be hard to do depending on your motivation for the hiatus, but this could even be a week randomly in a month where you focus solely on writing posts and not publishing them right away.

Tip #5: Draft, Draft Draft!

The drafting feature on WordPress is my favourite! Rarely do I have enough time to compose a post from start to finish. But I can often spare an hour or less everyday working on something for my blog.

I also like having those drafts started so when I do feel inspired to blog/write, I can just finish something I already started instead of creating something from scratch.

Pro-Tip: Make sure you leave notes to yourself so you can pick up where you left off! It’s easy to forget your train of thought if you write something over days instead of in one setting.

Tip #6: Get Comfortable with Blogging a Week (or more) Ahead

One of the downsides to scheduling posts is that you don’t get that instant gratification from publishing something you just wrote. That post you were so excited to share won’t be out there for days (or more) and it’s hard to contain your excitement sometimes.

For me, it doesn’t help that I have such a crappy memory either. So when that post I wrote two months ago finally publishes, I’m not entirely sure what I wrote. BUT, that gives me a great excuse to read over my post with a fresh set of eyes. I catch a TON of typos and mistakes when I do. Sure, it sucks that I already shared it but I like revisiting those posts and reliving the idea all over again.

My point though with this tip is that you have to focus on the week(s) ahead and not just the current week. That can be a hard change to get used to but it’s worth it. Especially when you can’t guarantee that you will have the time to create fresh content that week.

Pro-Tip: Instead of focusing on my posts for the current week (because they are already done), I instead get to spend more time blog hopping and doing site maintenance when I check on my blog.


Scheduling blog posts is an adjustment that needs to happen over time. Like any habit, you have to do what works best for you and that can mean you have to try a few techniques out before you find one that is perfect for you.

I hope that you find some of these tips helpful 🙂

Anything I Missed? Do You Schedule Your Posts?

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SERIESous Tips: So You Wanna Try New Adult?

Two years ago, I created a Top Ten Tuesday list for people who wanted to try New Adult reads but were reluctant to do so. It was a long list of some of my favourites, but I’ve read a lot more great books in the last 2 years. So, I’ve decided to update that list, get a little more specific and provide some tips on making the transition.

Of course, you can always check out that old list for some more inspiration 😉

What is New Adult (NA)?

No, it isn’t “new” adult fiction novels. It’s a genre of novels that bridges those years between young adult and adult fiction. I think the New Adult Book Club explains it best:

New Adult books focus on the period in life where you are becoming a proper adult. The characters are usually between about 18 – 25 and are generally either at college or starting their first job.

The category fits in-between YA and Adult books. It has a similar coming of age feel as YA books but rather than people experiencing their first kisses the content and issues used are more mature such as first serious relationships and heartbreak.

Tips on making the jump:

  • Pick the right novel!
    • If you are someone who doesn’t like a lot of sexy times in their novels, find novels that don’t have as much sex! Don’t like dark/sad stories, find a lighter one? This genre is so diverse there is definitely something for everyone.
  • See if an author you like has a NA novel.
  • Don’t jump for the contemporaries right away!
    • If you are hit or miss with the YA contemporaries, try a non-contemporary pick. That way, you can get used to the slightly older characters and get accustomed to some of the more common plot themes of the genre as a whole.
  • Look for a trope you like.
    • A lot of the contemporary tropes (like falling in love with the BFF’s brother or fake relationships) you find in adult or YA make appearances in NA. Stick with what makes you comfortable.
  • Find a bridging novel.
    • There are some YA and NA reads that straddle the line. These might be high school characters (what I classify as YA) that deal with more mature themes like mental health or tragedy. Others might start as YA but the sequels may be NA as the characters age and mature.

Recommendations:

If you like coming of age stories, try Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

This is often classified as YA but in my mind, it’s the definition of New Adult. A college freshmen trying to orient herself in life and in the world. Throw in first love, new friendships and some family drama, and you’ve got yourself a true coming of age NA novel.

If you like YA paranormal stories, try Queen of Blood by Jill Myles

Queen of Blood

I love a good vampire story and this one meets the grade. It’s got a great plot, a solid romance and a touch of maturity that is often lacking in YA paranormal stories.

If you like YA science fiction stories, try Soulless (Immortal Gene Series) by Jacinta Maree

Soulless (The Immortal Gene, #1)

If you are looking for a great adventure and don’t mind some violence, pick up this series! The plot is thrilling, with twists abound and the world is super cool. Add to it a kickass heroine in Nadia and you’ve got a winner!

If you like YA fantasy stories, try A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR Series #1) by Sarah J Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)

Again, another novel that is often classified YA but the age of the characters and the subject matter is more NA to me. It’s grittier and has a mature vibe to it that takes it to the next level.

If you like stories involving mental illness, try Spiral by Mila Ferrera

Spiral

Characters dealing with a mental illness are becoming more prevalent in YA and that is also the case in NA. This one is a personal favourite for how it realistically handles mental illness in a romantic relationship.

If you like stories that deal with tragedy, try Ten Tiny Breaths (Ten Tiny Breaths Series #1) by K A Tucker

Ten Tiny Breaths (Ten Tiny Breaths, #1)

I’ll admit, I was worried Kacey was going to be an overly angsty given her past but she is so likeable. This story does a great job of showing the effects drunk driving can have on an individual and family. It’s gritty and real and has a strong plot that readers will enjoy.

If you like dark love romances, try Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Black Iris

This story isn’t for everyone! It definitely has mature subject mature in its revenge plot that will make people uncomfortable. But, it is such a unique story that readers will appreciate if they invest the time.

If you like sport romance stories, try The Deal (Off-Campus Series #1) by Elle Kennedy

The Deal (Off-Campus, #1)

There are a ton I could have picked for this but 1) I have a soft spot for hockey players (I’m Canadian, it’s in my blood) and 2) it’s just a really well done NA romance. It has everything: a fantastically likeable characters, a strong plot and a swoon worthy romance. It’s a winner!

If you like fake dating relationship stories, try Charade (Games Trilogy #1) by Nyrae Dawn

Charade (Games, #1)

What drew me to this story was the fake boyfriend angle but there is SO MUCH more to this story! These two have such great individual stories but together, their relationship is AMAZING! You’ll laugh, you’ll swoon and you will most definitely cry. And Nyrae Dawn writes some of the best New Adult stories around.

If you like stories with strong character growth, try Crushed (Redemption Trilogy #1) by Lauren Layne

Crushed (Redemption, #2)

I’ll admit, I didn’t like either of these leads when I first started the book but their individual growth was fantastic. By the end, not only was I rooting for them but I could actually respect them as characters.

If you want a high school-new adult bridging novel, try Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits Series #1) by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits, #1)

Ok, I tried really hard not to repeat any titles from my previous list but I just HAD to include this one. It reads like a NA novel in terms of the maturity but features high schoolers; an unlikely combination. But this story is so compelling and will definitely tug on your heart strings. Warning though, it is a darker read so be sure you are in the right mood!

If you like small towns stories, try the Sea Breeze Series by Abbi Glines

Breathe (Sea Breeze, #1)

The appeal of a small town is that you get to know all the characters in the subsequent novels and that things also move at a different pace. I could have easily picked Glines’ Rosemary Beach series (it was on my previous list) but this one doesn’t have the often soap-opera-esque drama that is in Rosemary Beach. It’s just a really cute series that you will devour as soon as you start.

If you like “loved you since high school” romances, try Just a Little Crush (Crush Trilogy #1) by Renita Pizzitola

Just a Little Crush (Crush, #1)

I love the idea that the person you secretly crushed on in high school was crushing on you at the same time. Now, maybe years later, you meet again and your crushes are revealed. It’s just an adorable premise to me. This one is your typical NA romance, the bad boy player meets his match in an innocent girl. Yes, some aspects were predictable but they characters are likeable and the formula simply works to make an enjoyable read.

If you want a story that starts as YA but ends as NA, try Slammed (Slammed Trilogy #1) by Colleen Hoover

Slammed (Slammed, #1)

To be clear, Slammed is YA and it’s sequel Point of Retreat is NA. But Slammed is a fabulous story about family and first love. It reads like YA but it’s just so well done. Not a surprise, since Colleen Hoover is the queen of fantastically heart-wrenching stories (in my opinion).

If you like stories that are sweet not sexy, try For Everly by Raine Thomas

For Everly

I could have easily picked this for the sports rec, but I thought it worked better for the slow burn, sweet romance. It’s all about the connection for these two and learning to trust. It also has a bit of a suspense element to the plot which rounds out this fantastic novel.

If you just want a really good book, try Until It’s Right by Jamie Howard

Until It's Right

Without a doubt, any of Jamie Howard‘s titles are fantastic for those who want to dip their toes into the NA genre. Her Love Unplugged series is one of my favourites! But this was the first novel of hers I read and I LOVED it. The characters are so real; the romance just melts you heart and the story is just so good. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll feel every emotion. It’s just a beautiful story and one that I consider to be NA at its finest.


Honestly, it was hard to stop this post after 16 recommendations! I have so many lists of my favourite tropes and what novels have them. So if you are looking for something specific, feel free to ask.

Are you a New Adult fan? Why or why not?

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Self-Hosting: A 6 Month Reflection

tipsSELFHOST

In February 2016, I made the decision to move my blog to a self-hosted site. It was a big decision for me and one that came with a lot of learning curves.

Which is why I thought it would be a good idea to do a 6-month reflection and see if I am happy with my choice.

What I Love

–Manipulating my Theme–

One of the biggest reasons I switched was the desire to have full control over my theme. I really wanted to be able to customize it however I wanted and after a lot of searching I found the theme that works.

I’m not sure if I totally love it but it’s pretty close to what I want. Over the last few months, I’ve had to work out some kinks (like a grid system that cuts off images or why my images weren’t lining up straight) but I think I’ve got a good handle on it all now.

–The Plug-ins–

There are SO MANY PLUG-INS! It’s a little overwhelming! And trying to find what I’m looking for exactly can be difficult. I’ve tested out quite a few until I found the ones that work best but sometimes, it’s touch and go.

I don’t really have any plug-ins that help with my actual blog-posts though. One reason is the fact that the good ones cost money that I don’t really want to spend. The other is that I enjoy inputting the meta data for my posts and because I follow a pretty specific format, the ones currently out there don’t meet my needs.

–I can have HTML Sliding Galleries!!!–

You might have seen it on my home page but I am super excited I have more freedom with embedded features like video, slideshows and the like!

The Bummers

–Getting Followers–

One thing I wish I thought a little more about was “follow” buttons. I really took for granted the fact that as a blog on WordPress.com, it automatically pops up for users when they view my blog.

Yeah–not so much on a self-hosted blog!

I learned how to get a WordPress.com follow widget and now I have that. I’ve also promoted following my blog on Bloglovin’ more.

Since I made the switch, my follower numbers have stayed the same. Honestly, it sucks. However, I’ve seen growth on my Bloglovin’ followers which is great. But my main concern is that my blog lacks the options for people to follow.

–I Forgot my WordPress.com Blog Still Exists!–

My domain was originally purchased through WordPress.com where domain mapping (essentially rerouted people from my wordpress.com address to my .com address) was a part of my package. So in April (when it expired), my old wordpress.com blog was popping up! What really sucked was that I had a form for contacts and people had contacted me on that and I didn’t know!

So I scrambled to make sure everything was rerouted so people weren’t following a “dead” blog!

–Issues with CommentLUV–

While CommentLUV seems to work on my blog for commenters, I’ve run into issues while commenting on other blogs because of how my blog feed is set on my page. Because my blog opens on a home page and not my feed, sometimes CommentLUV struggles to find my latest post.

Am I Sticking With It?

Well, I paid for a year so yes 😛

Honestly, I’m a little on the fence. We’ll see how the last half of my year goes (I’m going to adulting soon by joining the workforce) and how much of my time I can allot to blogging and reading.

I know I don’t use self-hosting to its max in terms of the tools available for book bloggers so that influences my experience. I’m also really cheap and would rather spend my money on books (especially once I lose my library card for where I go to school).

But at this time it’s a wait and see.


I’m happy to say, I’ve (finally) launched my mini-guide to self-hosting complete with help links!

Check it out here:

selfhost


What are your thoughts on Self-Hosting?

What problems have you run into?

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SERIESous Tips: Avoiding the “Chore” of Reading

tipsCHORE

I would categorize myself as a “mood reader”. While what I actually read varies, the cycle I follow is pretty much YA non-contemporary, NA contemporary then back to YA. Sometimes I throw in an Adult Contemporary along the way and if I feel brave enough, I might risk a YA contemporary but I’m a creature of habit.

Still, last year I went through more reading slumps that I ever had before.

While it wasn’t one of those slumps that turned me off of reading completely, it was one of those slumps where I just wanted a book to take me away; to get me so absorbed in its story and characters I would drop everything and read it all day long. Eventually I would find it, but it took longer than I thought and I hated the infrequency in which it would happen.

movies man question frustration taio cruz

So last year, I took a good hard look at my reading practices. I came to the conclusion that I was requesting too many books. Whether these books were from the library or through review programs, I was asking for too many.

It was draining.

Instead of being excited to finally get that book in my hands, I felt obligated to read it and finish it before I had to return it or publish a post. And because I am of the mentality that you should “seize every opportunity”, I had a huge list of books I had to get through on a regular basis. So while the books I had were ones I wanted to read at some point, I felt like I was forcing that “point” to be now.

I wanted to change that.

First, I started by telling myself that it was OK that I didn’t read every book that I could get my hands on. Books will always be there and just because I don’t read it now, doesn’t mean I can’t read it later.

I think that is the most important lesson a book blogger and book addict can learn.

It’s OK to say “no” to requests if you aren’t interested or don’t have the time. It’s OK to not grab that book from the library even though it is staring you in the face and you think it is a sign that you have to read it because why-else-would-it-be-there-right-now-in-this-moment…

Hey, I said it’s OK–not that it was easy!

Next, I did a series of posts called “Tackling The TBR” where I came up with specific goals I wanted to accomplish every two months. Overall, I thought it went really well. I was at the place I wanted to be heading into January this year. I had limited the number of books out from the library, controlled the need to hit the “request” button on Netgalley and shifted my focus to reading more books I had purchased instead of the ones I borrow or get for reviews.

And I needed a new way of keeping track of what I was reading in order to do that.

When I was creating my tracking sheet, I had to have a way to keep track of TBR items for Rock My TBR, my 365 Days of YA Challenge, the Netgalley requests I received and what books I was going to put on hold at the library (as per my 2016 resolutions). I played around with Excel cells until I got what I currently use.

Now, this is how I keep track of what I plan to read on a monthly basis:

readinglist

By having a limited number of books that I can take out from the library or request, I find that I have more time to read those TBRs I’ve been putting off PLUS I have the freedom to be a “mood reader” and grab what I want to read, when I want to read it and not simply because it is expiring soon.

But by no means is this a perfect plan or system!

January this year went really well but February hit and I seemed to go a little off course. Part of the problem was I signed up to be a Blog Tour Host which meant more deadlines and books to read. School also became a lot busier than I anticipated so my reading time diminished. As a result, my challenges for this year took a bit of a nose dive.

Luckily, the challenges I set or signed up for are pretty flexible and so I planned to have some lull months. Honestly, my summer semester was/is so much lighter (I only have class 3 days a week) that it was easy to make up a lot of my reading.

In Short: What do to if Reading Becomes a Chore?

  • Look at your reading patterns:
    • Are you reading too many ARCs or Library Books?
      • Maybe tone-down the number of requests.
    • Are you only reading a particular genre?
      • Try changing it up!
  • Learn to say “No” or “Not Right Now”
    • Reduce the number of Review Copies or deadlines you request
  • Plan out those reads with a deadline in advance
    • Be sure to include some books you really want to read in that list to keep you satisfied
  • Read multiple books at once or read a set amount of pages/chapters a day
    • If you have a book you can’t get through, set mini-goals for each day

 

Share Your Thoughts!

How do you beat the “chore” or reading? Do you wing what books you read or are you a planner? How have you tried to avoid reading slumps?

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SERIESous Tips: Scheduling Blog Posts

tipsSCHED

Why Schedule Posts?

When I see another blogger mention that one of their goals is to schedule their posts, I’m always a little taken aback. I’ve been scheduling posts since I started blogging 3 years ago and have never looked back–it’s just routine for me now!

I get it though. There is something so satisfying about writing a post and immediately sharing it with the world. Your thoughts and feelings are still fresh on your mind and you get that satisfaction of unleashing them on the world.

But sometimes, I don’t have that luxury. School eats up a lot of my time so I don’t always have the chance to write something the same day I would ideally like to publish it. Scheduling posts has saved my ass quite a few times when it comes to making sure I have content regularly on my blog. Especially if I go through a “blogging spree” where I just churn out posts like a boss. (Ironically, this is always around exam time :P)

I don’t like posting something everyday simply for the sake that I couldn’t possibly write that many posts in a year (props to those that do!). I like spacing out my reviews and my features. I don’t like having 5 discussion posts in a row nor do I like scheduling two brand new series reviews on the same day or week. I also have features that I only do on a monthly or seasonal basis so I need to make sure I stay on top of those. It’s also really helpful to know when I can squeeze in a blog tour or two 😉

Basically, I like having a posting schedule to make sure I have a decent number of posts on a weekly (and therefore, monthly) basis. It helps me stay organized and makes me feel better and less frazzled when it comes to my blogging (especially when I know I won’t be able to create new posts during the week).

How I Schedule My Posts:

I know lots of people use a pen and paper method to keep track of posts and books to read, but I found that too hard to maintain. Partly because I always lose my planner somewhere on my desk and mostly because I change my posting dates all. the. time. Since I schedule posts well in advance (usually 2 months later), I often move those posting dates around when I get new requests and the like. My planner becomes a disaster of crossed-out or heavily erased marks and the neat-freak in me can’t handle it.  I needed something that was easy to change when I needed to change it.

And so, I created a Word Document that uses a calendar template:

monthlyagenda

At first, I just used it to keep track of posts and library due dates. Then, when I started requesting from NetGalley, I had to keep track of those dates as well (see my post on tracking ARCs). So it has definitely become more colourful over the last few months.

Different colours mean different things (ex. purple means it is a post I have to finish writing whereas black means it is good to go) as does the position of the title (ex. centred at the top means a library/request title whereas bottom left is blog post).

I also really like that I can see things as a whole month. It makes scheduling posts so much easier because I can see the bigger picture and not just what I have posting later in the week. AND, it makes meeting reading deadlines a lot easier too. Now that I’ve reduced the number of books I get from the library and my ARCs, I can take a glance at my calendar and see what books I need to read in the next week or so. If you follow me on Goodreads, you might see that my “Currently Reading Shelf” has at least 3 books on it. Normally, I’m not reading 3 books at a time; rather, these are the books that are next on my reading schedule as per my Word calendar.

It’s probably complicated for someone who isn’t me (trust me, it took me a while to get use to it all too) but it really has become a part of my everyday blogging routine. Like I said earlier, I have other methods of keeping track of the particulars (like Trello) but this Word Document is definitely my master list of what is happening for my blog.

 

Do you schedule your posts?

How do you keep track of everything for your blog?

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SERIESous Tips: Keeping Organized Part 3 – Purchases

When I participate in Twitter chats, a common question people ask each other is “how do you stay organized” and so I decided to share my methods with everyone (not that anyone asked me specifically). Normally, I post this sort of thing as a guide but I wanted more interaction and felt like a post would be better.

I’ve separated this post into the various sources I use: library (Part 1), ARCs/requests (Part 2) and purchases (Part 3–today) as well as scheduling posts (Part 4–tomorrow). Each part will be posted over the next four days.


 Part 3: Purchases

Since 2011 when I purchased my first Kobo eReader (RIP my purple Kobo Touch), I’ve really only bought eBooks. Part of it was the fact that they were so much cheaper and the other part was that they don’t take up any physical space so it was a win-win. I do buy the occasional hardback book but that’s really only for series that I plan on sharing with my hypothetical children one day…

But when books are cheap and they don’t take up space, it’s hard to stop yourself from buying them all the time. I’ve definitely curbed my book buying addiction over the years but I’ve accumulated a TON of books over the years between freebies and bulk coupon purchases.

Besides the actual libraries on my Kobo and Kindle devices, I keep track of everything via an Excel spreadsheet.

purchases

Of course I have colour coded everything (as you can see from my legend) as I break down books based on their source (purchased or free), the books I have and whether they are series or standalone. Not seen here, but I also keep track of the books that are for my Kindle and Kobo.

 

You might have noticed that I have “Hearts” and “Clubs” are beside the categories and this because I used to use a random card generator to decide where my next book should come from. Now, I have a nifty TBR Jar:

IMG_1948

Now I have all my books on paper stars that I use to decide what purchased books I should read next. Every two months, I create new stars for my purchases and add them to the jar. This jar is mainly how I choose what TBR items are going to count towards my Rock My TBR challenge as well as when I need a new book to read for fun.

Once a book is read, I remove it from the list and my jar (hopefully, if I actually pulled it out in the first place) and continue on. Compared to my other lists, this one is pretty chill and not as regularly updated because I’ve been successful in curing my eBook spending habits.

 

 


There you have it! Join me tomorrow when I explain how I schedule my blog posts.

Do you have a specific way for keeping track of your purchases?

Let me know below!

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SERIESous Tips: Keeping Organized Part 2 – ARC/Requests

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When I participate in Twitter chats, a common question people ask each other is “how do you stay organized” and so I decided to share my methods with everyone (not that anyone asked me specifically). Normally, I post this sort of thing as a guide but I wanted more interaction and felt like a post would be better.

I’ve separated this post into the various sources I use: library (Part 1), ARCs/requests (Part 2-today) and purchases (Part 3–tomorrow) as well as scheduling posts (Part 4–day after). Each part will be posted over the course of four days.


 Part 2: ARCs & Request Copies

*I want to be clear that this post isn’t affiliated with Trello in any way, this is just my personal experience!*

To keep track of my ARC requests and reviews, I use Trello first and foremost. For those who don’t know, Trello is basically a virtual to-do list board that allows you to create different categories and cards to put under those categories. In addition to tracking ARCs and reviews, I also use a Trello board for site maintenance and reminders.

My first board is the one I use to track all NetGalley Requests, Blog Tours and Other ARC Requests:

trellonetgalley

As you can see, I use it to keep track of books I want to request from NetGalley (don’t you wish NetGalley had a wishlist feature?), books I have placed a request for (this is really helpful when thinking about signing up for blog tours and the like), books I have received for review as well as books I have reviewed. The “no longer available one” is basically for me to remember what books I saw on NetGalley and want to read now that they are published/removed.

I have different coloured labels that mean different things (mainly the source of the book) and I note the publishing date or the date I have to have the review published. That last part is what is helpful when trying to sign-up for Blog Tours or ARCs because it gives me a rough idea of how many review posts I have for that week/time-frame.

Once I get approved for a review copy, I move that title over to my “Review” Board:

trelloreviews

This is where I keep track of all my posts for my blog. I write down various ideas in my “To-Do”column, note the ARCs I have to review, what reviews/posts are in development, cross-posting and a few other boards.

What I really like about Trello is that each card can have mini checklists, a due date, a place to write notes and of course, coloured labels.

trellochecklist

The checklists feature is really, really helpful when it comes to cross posting my reviews on other sites or making sure I hit all the requirements of a blog tour post. It’s also super easy to copy checklists from previous cards so I don’t have to rewrite all my checklists every time I add a new card.

Because it is a web-based system, I can access Trello anywhere so long as I have internet. I can get it for my phone and tablet so that makes it super easy to add cards while on the go.

I also keep track of all my review posting dates on my master list which I will be talking about in Part 4 of my series.


 

There you have it! Join me tomorrow when I explain how I track my eBook purchases.

Do you have a specific way for keeping track of your ARCs/requests?

Let me know below!

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SERIESous Tips: Keeping Organized Part 1 – Library

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Nowadays, there are so many places that you can get books! Whether it is through your library, ARC programs or purchases, book bloggers and book readers have many avenues to explore.

When I’m not blogging, reading or watching TV, I’m making lists or creating some other organizational tool for these activities. I love organizing things–which may surprise you if you ever enter my messy room.

This is not my room but sometimes it sure feels like it!

When I participate in Twitter chats, a common question people ask each other is “how do you stay organized” and so I decided to share my methods with everyone (not that anyone asked me specifically). Normally, I post this sort of thing as a guide but I wanted more interaction and felt like a post would be better.

I’ve separated this post into the various sources I use: library (Part 1–today), ARCs/requests (Part 2–tomorrow) and purchases (Part 3) as well as scheduling posts (Part 4). Each part will be posted over the next four days.


 Part 1: The Library

I am actually a member of two different libraries (my hometown’s and the one where I live for school) AND I read eBooks; so all in all, I have 4 sources for library books.

Early last year, I had almost 30 books on hold across all four places and to make things worse, they each had a different hold line and/or checkout time. What I wanted to know was: “which place will get me the book faster?” and “when can I expect it?”

I was able to find a formula for an Excel document that helped me estimate when books I put on hold would come in based on where I was in the holds line. While it wasn’t always 100% accurate (it didn’t factor in people returning books early for example), it did help me determine the best location for placing a hold or when I needed to suspend my holds to prevent all the books from coming in at once (Murphy’s Law at its finest).

 This is what my Library Hold Excel sheet looks like currently:

libraryholds

What I Keep Track of:

  • # of books I have out
  • # of books I have on hold
  • # of books on hold that are pre-release
  • # of audiobooks
  • # of novellas
  • # of suspended
  • Where I have books on hold
  • What books I have on hold
  • How long it will take (approx) to receive

I love organizing things, so I think this is definitely more extreme than most people need or want to do. I’ve got it to a point now where everything pretty much calculates itself thanks to various formulas (ah, the beauty of Excel) so it doesn’t require too much input or work. I then update my place in the holds queue on a weekly basis.

Yes, it’s a little complicated. So you can understand why I needed a change.

Last year, I made it a mission to Tackle My TBR and came up with a set of rules to limit myself from over requesting library books and ARCs. It’s been pretty successful so far.

Now, I can only put 5 books on hold at a time as per my 2016 Resolutions. In an effort to finish previously started series, 3 of these holds must be a continuing series and the other 2 can be new releases. I keep track of these books and what I want to put on hold next on a separate Excel table (I will be showing that one off later this summer for a different Tips post).

Why bother with all of this? It seems like a lot of work.

It can be at times, but I actually find it very stress-relieving! When I’m bothered by school, doing menial tasks like this helps me calm down and get my focus back.

And by doing this, I am also getting more time to read. That may seem counter intuitive so I’ll explain. I’d say about 85% of the books I read are from the library and so I’m at their mercy when it comes to availability. By having a better grasp on when I may or may not get a book, I can plan my other reads accordingly. And now that I limit how many books I have out or on hold at a time, I have more time to dedicate to my other book sources.

Wishlists

I just want to make a quick note about library Wishlists options. My eCatalogues use the Overdrive system which has a great wishlist feature. You can put any book on your wishlist and it tells you how many are available for instant download. I’m starting to use this a lot more so I can keep track of what books my library has and what to put on hold next. Highly recommend it!


There you have it! Join me tomorrow when I explain how I track review copies and the like.

Do you have a specific way for keeping track of your library reads?

Let me know below!

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Service Review: Audible

**This is in no way affiliated with Audible! It is simply my take on using the service!**

I’m a newbie when it comes to audiobooks. They never really interested me before because I am such a visual person and need to have the words before me in order to keep my interest. But when inspiration hit that I should read some celebrity memoirs via an audiobook, I was sold on the idea and immediately picked some up. Turns out, I love listening to non-fiction, comedic audiobooks…

And so does everyone else at my library apparently.

Waiting times at my library can range from zilch to weeks to months depending on what book it is and waiting sucks. I like having an audiobook out for when I do errands or chores around the house; so when I don’t have one out, it’s a little boring.  Therefore, Audible seemed like the perfect solution thanks to its sole focus on audiobooks.

How Does it Work?

Audible is a monthly subscription service of sorts from Amazon for audiobooks. Here is the schematic of how it works:

So basically, you pay $15 a month (CAD) to get one audiobook of your choice via a credit. There doesn’t seem to be any restrictions on this book so it’s pretty great if the book you want is over $15. They do have a great selection of older bestsellers and newer releases so you aren’t getting less than premium picks when it comes to decision time. You can also carry over credits (max 6) if you want to wait another month.

If you go through more than one book a month, you can always buy another book or two and add them to your library at a discounted rate. There is also a gifting option where you can gift an audiobook or a membership to a friend via email. They also launched Audible Channels which seem to be like podcasts but I never really explored them (they seem to be free without a membership).

They also have some other plans to note (all are in CAD):

audible

My Experience:

–Signing-Up–

I was lucky enough to win a free Audible audiobook through a Twitter contest thanks to the awesome Tonyalee @Lily Bloom Books but needed to get my Audible account activated. Swagbucks (the site I use to get free gift cards) had a great promotion where you get to join Audible for 2 months for only $2. That meant I would get 2 books for $2!!! (Well, technically, I got a month free as a part of the trial. So 1 book for $2 is more accurate). Plus the one I got from Tonyalee–SCORE! I already had an Amazon.ca account so all I had to do was activate it for Audible.

–Listening Experience–

While I could listen to the audiobook via my computer, I opted to use the app for my iPhone. This was super easy to set-up. I would download the book when I was at home, connected to my WiFi and then listen to it whenever (it doesn’t need a connection to listen to the book once it is downloaded). What I really liked was that I could download the book and listen to it at the same time once a certain percentage was downloaded.

The app itself has all the features I want. It tells me how much time is left in the book, how long the book is, a 30 second fast-forward and reverse AND a sleep timer. You can rate the book once you finished based on your Overall, Performance and Story and leave any comments you want as well.

So, Am I Keeping It?

Right now, I don’t have $15 a month to drop on an audiobook I will only listen to once. If there was another promotion in the future, I would definitely consider it. But right now, I’m going to stick with the really long waiting lists at my library.

But, if you do listen to a lot of audiobooks, this is a fantastic service for you! I’m not sure where else you can get audiobooks or what other places have deals, but these seem to be reasonably priced where I am from in Canada. The cloud system makes it easy to transfer books to your devices but if you prefer to hold the audiobook CD in your hands, spend the extra money to get the physical copy. $15 for an audiobook seems great, especially for those newer books and you never have to leave the house to get them!

Do you use Audible? Any tips or feedback on the service?

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