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January 18, 2019

Girl Who Reads is 8!

by Donna Huber

This week Girl Who Reads marked its 8th anniversary. I'm not exactly sure what I thought Girl Who Reads would turn into when I started this experiment in 2011. But I have enjoyed every minute of it.

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When I started Girl Who Reads, I had been working with a publishing house for a couple of months and as part of that position I was reaching out to blogs. I found this wonderful community built around the love of books. I had read a book in the fall while traveling to Europe, and though I was telling my friends about it, no one really seemed interested. I wanted to be part of a group that really enjoyed talking about books. So on the evening of January 15, I decided to tell the world about Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalin.

I went with the name Girl Who Reads as I was using it in an online writing group where I was reading stories others wrote, but I was not a writer. I thought it was a good name for a book blog. I did worry that I would be limiting myself to female readers, but as this was just an experiment to better understand blogging for the authors I was working with I didn't worry too much.

Back in 2011, I hoped to publish one review a week. I'm not sure how I really thought I was going to accomplish that since I was maybe reading a couple of books a month. Looking back I see I reviewed books I had already read. The first new book I read for review was FridayReads Modern Love Anthology for Book Lovers that Shelf Media Group published in February 2011 to help promote the FridayReads hashtag.

My first real excitement came when author K. B. Hoyle emailed me about reviewing her fantasy series The Gateway Chronicles. I was all "Oh my gosh! Someone wants my opinion!". I loved The Six and all the books that followed. This past summer, I got to meet Hoyle for the first time.

I spent the next few months reviewing books from the publishing house, the library, and the occasional review copy. I participated in my first book blogging community event - ArmchairBEA. I started writing a weekly tips post based on a conversation I had on Twitter with bloggers I met through the event. Little did I know that it would lead me to write my first (and so far only) book - Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

That first year I also bought my first eReader - a Nook - and signed up for a Netgalley account. Through Netgalley I discovered a new favorite author - JB Lynn. I loved her thriller The First Victim. It was the first time I sought out an author I didn't know and let her know I loved her book. She was disappointed that it only earned 4 stars (because I didn't like the sex scene). It has led to a great friendship and many hours of wonderful reading with her (so far) 19 book series Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman.

I tried a bunch of stuff that first year including video (it was before the term BookTuber had been coined). I had my first author write a guest post - Aine Greaney. I covered my first author event - Tayari Jones. I bought the book, Silver Sparrow, but I have yet to read it. I blogged with my nephew. I attended the Grand Opening of our local indie bookstore. Another highlight of that first year of blogging was landing a guest post from New York Time's bestselling author Douglas Kennedy.

Funny enough, my first anniversary came and went without a mention on the blog. But I had the blogging bug and I wasn't stopping.

During the second year, I started blogging every day. I did have a lot of guest posts during that time so that really helped to keep it up. In addition to my Tips on Thursday series, I also ran the features Meet the Author, Writer Wednesday, and Friday Fun. I did mark the 2nd anniversary of Girl Who Reads.

During the third year, I played with posting twice a day - the afternoon post featured ebook freebies and sales. And while my overall traffic numbers did go up, I couldn't keep up. I published my book!

After two years of blogging daily (sometimes twice a day) I realized I couldn't maintain the pace on my own. Guest posts were also becoming harder to come by so I enlisted the help of a reviewer. Claire Rees joined the staff in March of 2014 and stayed with us until June of 2016 when she decided to focus more on her writing career. In May 2014, author Alison DeLuca started as a features writer, and she continues to write a monthly column that appears on the 2nd Wednesday of every month. Then in June of 2014, Heather Kirchoff joined as a staff interviewer. She continued to introduce readers to authors once a month until she left in October 2015 to pursue her own writing career. By the end of 2014, I was ready to expand again.

In my 5th year of book blogging I won an award - Indies Unlimited Excellence Award. Author Ross M. Kitson joined the Girl Who Reads team writing a column every other month. (I guess those early worries about excluding guys with the title Girl Who Reads were unfounded). Author C. M. North joined us in March with a monthly column that appears the first Friday of every month. Author Kathleen Barker started writing a feature column on the months opposite of Ross. Elisabeth Scherer joined us as a reviewer. I surpassed 1 million page views this year. Just days before celebrating our 5th anniversary, Elisa Hordon from Australia joined the team as a reviewer.

At the beginning of our 6th year, Susan Roberts joined us a reviewer. After guest posting with us, Irish author Byddi Lee signed on to do a series of posts for writers. MK French joined the review team in August of 2016. We did our first charity fundraiser for Athens, GA-based literacy organization Books for Keeps. We also did our first A to Z Challenge as a group. It was a lot of fun and I think it stretched us in how we think and write about books.

Not much changed in our 7th year. I think we really found our groove after all the staffing changes. We again did the April A to Z Challenge. And we reviewed a ton of books.

2018 mustered along mostly the same. Guest posts and interviews seemed to drop off even more, but with the way MK and Susan read, we were easily able to maintain a daily posting schedule. I even started posting twice a day a few times to help clear out the backlog of reviews. I realized I was missing the blogging community that drew me to start Girl Who Reads in the first place, so I started participating in memes again, namely, It's Monday! What are you reading?; First Chapter, First Paragraph; and Monthly Wrap-up.

Now we are here celebrating 8 years. It's been a while since I took the trip down memory lane of how all of this got started. Somewhere along the way, it became less of an experiment and more of a permanent fixture. Around the second year, I decided I wanted Girl Who Reads to be more of an e-zine than just a blog. However, I love the book blogging community too much to fully give up some blog habits, but I've encouraged the staff to consider doing more than just reviewing books. I would like to see more discussion this year, which I hope will lead to more interaction with you the readers of Girl Who Reads. It is because of you that I have kept Girl Who Reads going for 8 years.

Thank you for reading the 2,816 reviews, interviews, guest posts, tips, discussions, articles, and more that have posted at Girl Who Reads over the last 8 years.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour

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  1. Happy Blogoversary! Congrats on all the awards and team of bloggers you put together! :)

  2. Congratulations on a wonderful accomplishment! And thank you, Donna, and everyone at Girl Who Reads for all of the thoughtful reviews!

  3. Happy blogaversary! You've had quite the journey blogging!

  4. Congratulations, it's a crowded field. You exceeded.