But now, on to this year's older, wiser answers (snort):
When did you start your blog?
December 3, 2010. I can't believe it's been over a year already!
Do you ever still feel like a newbie?
Only all the freaking time! I don't think any of us will ever feel like we've finally figured out all of the answers. As soon as we think we learn how to get ARCs or the best way to format our blogs, something changes on us and we're back at square one. Whether it's moving to ebooks for ARC requests, or losing GFC, technology has a huge impact on the blog world. I find that most of the times I'm feeling like a newbie are because I haven't quite figured out how to use tech stuff to my advantage.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? Did you make any mistakes new bloggers can learn from?
Time management has been key. I tried writing reviews for every single book I read last year, and this pressure on top of the volume of books read really got to me. I kept up pretty well until the end of the year, when it all got to be too much and I had to take a giant leap back and recharge my batteries. Burnout will sneak up on you awfully hard unless you take the time to get organized and figure out how to keep the pressure off.
I think the biggest mistake I made was letting my lust for new releases get the best of me. I signed up for three or four different ARC tour sites, which led to a large influx of new books to read (that I really wanted to read!), but on a schedule over which I had no control. Books would just show up and I had to drop everything and read them RIGHT THEN, which eventually got to be too much. I now try to keep my requests under control, and think long and hard about how much I want to read a book ahead of time versus just waiting to see what other bloggers think before making my choice to read a book. I've found that a lot of times I'm just fine waiting and I don't need to read so many books as ARCs.
What did you find most discouraging about being a new blogger? How did you deal with this?
Not getting comments is always discouraging, no matter how long you've been in the game, but it can be particularly frustrating as a newbie. I always felt like I was an outsider trying to get into something that people had been doing for years and I'd never be able to carve my own niche or audience. The nice thing about Small's event is that it gave me a group of bloggers to mesh with that were on equal footing. I liked being around fellow newbies so we could share tips as we went along.
What do you find most encouraging?
My fellow bloggers! Just when you think no one is listening to what you have to say, someone will pop over and leave a comment that's just what you need to hear. This community is so supportive and fun and full of people who really love books. I wouldn't still be doing this if it weren't for the awesome friends I've made.
If you could go back in time and speak with your newbie self, what five bits of wisdom would you tell yourself?
1) When people don't respond to your comments, it's not because they don't like you. They just don't have time. Someday soon, you'll understand this.
2) Custom blog designs are worth the expense.
3) One meaningful follower is worth a hundred non-participating ones. Build those relationships!
4) Buy at least one new bookshelf. You're going to be getting a lot more books now.
5) Practice those HTML/CSS skills. Posting is a lot more fun the more creative you can be.
What do you like best about the blogs you read? Have you tried to replicate this in your blog?
I like blogs with interesting features and content. Don't get me wrong - I love memes. They're great for sharing quick bits of info with lots of others, and I rely on them for book recommendations. But the blogs I love reading are the ones that have unique viewpoints or entertaining thoughts about books and publishing. I'm not always the greatest at this, but I do try, and one of my goals for this year is to do more of it with more regular Writing Wednesday and discussion posts.
What do you dislike about blogs you’ve seen? Do you try to avoid this?
Short, one paragraph reviews rarely give me enough information and come across at times like they were written by someone who didn't care. When I started reviewing, my posts were only a couple of paragraphs broken out among my various "impressions" and now my overall impressions are a few paragraphs in that category alone. I've learned the value of well thought out reviews and that as a reader I want more than just a brief overview. A review is personal, yes, but it should also communicate something about the book to the audience. Otherwise, why write and publish it on a blog?
How did you bring your blog to the attention of so many people?
Networking through memes, mostly. Follow Friday is a great way to meet new people, and giveaway hops will draw a lot of new viewers to your blog, too. I don't ever make following a requirement for my giveaways, and you'd be surprised how many people will follow anyway. Try to do guest posts and events with high traffic blog and commenting always helps. I make a point to visit the blog of anyone who comments (even if it takes me a while to do so *gulp*), and I'm sure others do the same.
When and how did you get your first ARC (or first few ARCs)?
I'm pretty sure it was through NetGalley, which is the greatest thing ever. I love it, and the variety of books available on that site has kept me from needing to request paper copies. My first paper ARCs came from Shelf Awareness requests (click on the ads in the daily newsletter), and tour sites are other biggies for me. I was never crazy about needing ARCs, though. I really wanted them at first because I thought it was a status thing, but now I'm content filling my bookshelves with books I want to read rather than with books I need to review.
Thank you Small Review for hosting this fabulous event again this year! I can't wait to check out the other answers. If you'd like to get involved, or want to check out other folks' responses, Small has a post explaining it all.