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Book Blogging 101 - Managing Your TBR

Spawned from the Big Sis, Little Blog program, Book Blogging 101 was born. Do you have a question? Leave it in the comments section or email me parajunkee at gmail dot com

Q. I have a serious problem. My TBR is out of control, what do I do?

Book Blogging 101: It is time to get organized.

We all have the same problem. Here let me start.

My name is Parajunkee. And I am a bookaholic. I am not trying to be cured. I love my addiction. I just want to say "Hi, here I am."

Even if we have 20 books piled up on the TO READ shelf, if we end up on the book aisle at Target, or sneak in through the B&N doors...we are going to buy a book. I've had $20 left in my budget and spent $15 on books...and only put $5 in my car for gas.

So, compound the compulsive book buying with the fact that we now have people actually sending us books to in the world are we supposed to manage this growing stack of books?

First, the getting organized part. I put all my books on, I've heard that some put theirs in spreadsheets, I make special shelves, and email mailbox folders, there are numerous things to do, the main thing is - make it work for you.

For the physical printed books.  I have a little book shelf that I use as my "present" (past, present, future) shelf. It has 8 cubbies. Two are taken up by baskets that house swag, envelopes that I can recycle and other things that come with my books. Shelf 1 is for books won in contests that I have yet to read. Shelf 2 is for books that came in from pubs & authors that weren't "approved" meaning that they didn't send me an email to confirm, they just sent the book over. Shelf 3 is my real TBR, this is the books that I have deadlines on, book groups, tours, etc. I know I have to read these books and I know I have to read them soon. Shelf 4 is for books that I read that I have to either write a review on, or I want to give away. Shelf 5 & 6 is overflow from Shelves 2 & 3.  When I finish a book, I know I have to go to those shelves and select my next one.

Managing eBooks. I make folders in my inbox. I have folders labeled:

When I get one in, I move it to REQUESTS. After I've done the research and see if it is a book that I would like, I move it to REVIEWS TO-DO, or if it is for a TOUR I move it to TOUR folder. Then I go through those in order, of either Tour date, or received date.  When I am done, I delete the file. You shouldn't save these PDF files. These are review copies only, and should be deleted once you finish reading and have reviewed the book, they should not be passed on.

My hard deadlines are organized in Google Calendar. If I have a tour coming up it goes in Google Cal. I also have a Google Cal gadget on my sidebar - so my readers can see what is "coming" for my blog. When choosing a book, or accepting a review with a deadline,  I always go to the calendar and check what I have coming up.  This is my organization process, I suggest if you want to try to do it like me, go ahead, but don't be afraid to modify it. Also, let me know about yours. Just because mine works, doesn't mean it is that great. Sometimes I get terribly overwhelmed, no matter how organized I am.

Which brings us to the OVERWHELMED part - and the ethical questions of this post.

  • Turning down review copies
  • Not getting to review copies
  • DNFs (Did Not Finish) - When is enough, enough??
  • None of these are my books, the horror
Turning Down Reviews

When I first began reviewing I looked at other bloggers sites and saw their "Review Policy" tabs, and "Contact me if you would like your book reviewed" blurbs... and really stopped and scratched me head.

"Do authors really send their books to bloggers???"

I really thought maybe these bloggers were either hopping and praying that maybe some author would just happen to pass by and say - hey she/he looks nice, let me send them my book, or they were really "in the know" and maybe also publishing in newspapers or magazines. *slaps forehead over stupidity*

One month in and my eyes were opened to the power of a blog, a tweet and a goodreads book recommendation. Call me naive, even as a web designer, and self-proclaimed tech-junkee, but I had no idea. By the time I had reached 100 followers I was already getting my first review requests. And as an eager reader, I accepted everything.  I still have a hard time of turning down reviews. But as the pile grows and grows, my acceptance does become more limited.  You have to do this, if not you will be overwhelmed - and there is only so much time in the day - and you can only read so fast.

But, remember when you turn down a review. Always, always, always, be polite, it is just good form.  But, also, even when I have been nice, I have received snarky or hurt replies in response. It is what it is, just ignore it and move on. You can only read so many books - and if you didn't like the synopsis, you are probably not going to like the book. Only accept books that you think you will enjoy.

Not getting to a review copy.

Accepted a book to read and it just keeps on sitting on your shelf? I have a few of these myself. They sit there and I know I need to grab them... but other books are pushed in front, until it is buried in a pile that I don't see going anywhere.

It happens. Don't stress, don't panic. Maybe one day you can get there. I usually catch up on vacation. ;)

DNF Time

How far into a book do you declare enough is enough? I hear a lot of people state - Page 50 is the magic number. Personally I've stopped a book after the 2nd page. I've also finished a book that I shouldn't have finished. I leave it up to my feeling at the time. If it is a tour book I might "try" harder to like the book. I might go over 50 pages, but it usually ends in the same frustration - and then I have to write a Bad Review for a tour stop (this makes my palms sweat just thinking of it - see prior BB101 post Bad Reviews).   Once again, DNFs are your preference - and time wasted on a BAD book is a terrible crime, especially since there are so many GOOD books out there.

All these books, and not one I really wanted to buy.

I have this problem when I look at my shelves of books. I'm a member of a few books clubs, I have and I'm a reviewer.  That means EVERYONE dictates what I read. I haven't bought a book I really really wanted in a long time. And unfortunately I don't see that changing. Even my little group project of tells me what to read now (who thought of those polls!? LOL).

Now that I'm the "book suggester" of the family other members of my family try to UP it a notch.

Question: "Have you read this? Oh you should!"
My response: "What genre?"
Answer: "Memoir."
My response: "Wouldn't fit on my blog. Sorry won't read it."

No matter how much good things I've hear about a book, if it doesn't fit within my genre restrictions, I can't read it. My dad gave me The Secret and I kind of got excited because the cover looks very UF or at least mystery with paranormal components... yeah was I mistaken when I read the synopsis.

A lot of people might come back with "Wah Wah, complain much? Poor little PJ, whatever." And I'm really not complaining, I love this, if not I would give it up immediately. Reviewing, and running these blogs takes up a HUGE part of my life. I wouldn't do this if I didn't really enjoy it. So you take the good with the (well not bad, but) not so good and you find your niche. And in the end, hopefully it makes you a good book blogger.


April (BooksandWine) said...

This is SO awesome. I keep thinking I want to re-organize my shelves kind of the way you mention - with books for review and contest books in their own specific case, however, spacing is kind of an issue. And OMG do I feel the pressure of a TBR pile, I own over 1000 books, 800 of those are TBR. This does not include review books, like you I make review books a priority.

I actually recently made a google calendar for my blog but am finding it really hard to stick to!

Juju at Tales of said...

Awesome advice!

ParaJunkee said...

@April - 800?????!!!!! Um. You have me beat. By like 700, LOL.

April (BooksandWine) said...

I go to a lot of library booksales where you can get a box of books for a dollar and of course I bring more than a dollar! :-) The boxes aren't small either, plus stupid amazon and it's easy to click buttons. It's definitely compulsion.

Enbrethiliel said...


I like this post because it gives a book blogger who is just starting out a really good idea of what he is in for--and lets him decide whether it's what he really wants. I'm not sure whether I'd like to give up as much control over my reading choices as you have, Parajunkee, though I've experienced some of that thanks to my job as a tutor. (When my students have to read something, I have to read it, too. And yes, it can be quite worthwhile! But it's not really what I'm in the blogosphere for.) But you've clearly made the right choice for yourself and for your blog, and this post that explains that is gold. Thanks! =)

Dawn Hullender said...

Very good post. It's something I'm struggling with myself. I've forced myself to read so many books I wouldn't normally read that I am now burnt out on reading *le gasp* How does this happen?

I haven't enjoyed reading a book since Lisa Sanchez's Eve of Samhain.

I only have like 15 or so on my TBR file, and keep in mind, these are only review requests. I own over 20 TBR, but since I bought them, they get pushed to the end of the pile.

In addition to all this, I'm still working on writing two novels. I need a vacation. :D

Anonymous said...

This is helpful. I have over 30 printed books in my TBR pile and at least a dozen waiting for me on my Kindle. It does get to be a bit much but God forbid I go a week without adding to it.

Right now my issue is having too many in my review pile. I really want to read a book of my picking but I feel obligated to read the review book first. When an author asks for a review and it is something you can't/don't want to say yes to, do you always respond and tell them no or do you ignore the email?

Stephanie G

ParaJunkee said...

@Enbrethiliel - I've always been the person that reads anything and everything. Read the shampoo bottle while in the tub - I mean really! So having book after book "forced" on me is not bad in the least. I'm finding so many new authors and topics to read about. I've been taken out of my "vampire" comfort zone (which started me on this paranormal roller coaster) and thrust into faeries, wolves, name it. I'm really enjoying it. Yes, I'll get a book now and again that I really don't like, but I try to appreciate the words, the craft of the story.

@Dawn - I'm really sorry to hear that. Take a break, don't read anything for a few days. Rent a series disk that you wanted to catch up on and just watch tv for 2 days in the time you would normally be reading. Just don't let the books burn you out. I've heard some people say that you can read while you write. I'm also trying to write, but its really a no pressure thing. When I get the inclination I type in a few words, usually after a long drive or a daydreaming session at work ;) The whole point of this article is not to let the books wear you out. This isn't a paying gig. You are not going to get fired. Do it because you love it, if you don't take a break! ♥ Parajunkee

Rachel said...

Luckily, I learned early that it was okay to say no to some review requests, thanks to reading the advice of book bloggers like you! I keep a stack of about 10 books on my headboard over my bed that are strickly review requests. Books I collect from the discard pile at the library or from bargain stores are wedged into my meager bookshelves for reading who-knows-when, and library books I check out I tend to keep by my computer when I'm not carrying them around with me, since those have due dates and need to be read first. I try to read one library book and one review request at the same time, so that I continue to wittle away at the requests, and the TBRs on the bookshelves are for when I can't get to the library.
I have a review policy on my blog, but I don't think the people requesting my reviews actually read it.

Tammy said...

Thanks for joining in TFAG's today! I love reading too and have about 3 in my to read pile. If I have more that that I get stressed out...weird, I know!

I am your newest follower! Congrats on over 1000 followers!

Mel said...

Thank you for this post, it is extremely helpful. I especially found your last part interesting, but it brings up a question I have been struggling with. My blog is geared towards YA reviews, but lately I have been dying to read Insatiable by Meg Cabot and Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich. I am feeling the need for some adult book time, but I am feeling guilty too because I feel I am neglecting my blog when I read something other than YA. Does that ever happen to you? You want to read something that isn't relevant to your blog?

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

Thanks for the advice!! I have trouble not finishing a book that was sent for review, and unfortunately, I've read a couple of books that I'd rather not have finished lately. I guess I need to suck it up and just throw them on the DNF pile next time.

Emily said...

@Mel- Who says you can't review those titles on your blog? I say go for it! Everything I read is relevant to my blog, I just make sure to mark the grownup/sexy time books as such for people who aren't interested in that. Maybe highlight those books as "for mature readers" or something like that, if you end up wanting to review them.

@Enbrethiliel- One of the best things about being a blogger is that you get to make all the decisions about your blog and how it will turn out- I'm really particular as well about giving up control of my reading so this was a big issue for me when I first started too.

@Dawn- Bummer! Reading slumps are so hard, when I have one I feel so lost since reading is one of my favorite things to do!

@Paranormal Haven (Stephanie)- For me, it depends. If the email is from a real person or from someone I have a relationship with (I work with a couple of publicity agents pretty regularly, for example), then I send an email and just say that I'm going to pass on this title and to keep me in mind for future ones. If it's a Bostick Communications email or something similar (I get a TON of those) I just delete them.

Personally, I think that accepting review books is definitely more art than science. I've definitely gotten better at it over time. I remind myself that for every review book I request, it means I'll have to postpone reading a book I've purchased or one I have out of the library. If that sits okay with me, I accept the request or join the tour or whatever. If my first response is "meh," I pass.

The best thing, though, is when a tour or review opportunity for a book I wanted to read anyway comes up. Then it's the best of both worlds!

What Book is That?

Alison said...

Only 20 TBRs? I'm impressed :-)
My problem is that I get books as gifts or I buy books and then I get books from the library. Library books take priority b/c I need to return them. Then, I never end up reading books I own.
I like the idea of listing them on Goodreads.

My 5 Monkeys(Julie) said...

I have those piles too .
I think I have it under control of what needs to read and when.
I also try to read something fun so I lose the mojo of making sure reading is fun and not a job, because it can feel like it.

ParaJunkee said...

@Rachel - I agree, I don't think that a lot of the review requesters read that policy. On top of it, I have a feeling some of them don't even really take a look at my blog, which is odd, because you are sending me a book to read, don't you want to take the time and check things out a bit?

@Mel - maybe make it an event. Adult Time or something, you know, this way your readers know that you are still a YA reviewer but still like to get a bit adult at times.

@Carrie - Life is to short to read bad books. I had a snarky comment made on a DNF that I had gotten half way through because I loved the author (Covet by JR Ward) but I just couldn't stand the book. Plodded through, but had to give up. Well, the reader said that if I didn't finish it, I didn't have the right to review the book. That got a big eye roll out of me, because we know what we like and we know what we don't like and you can usually tell in a few chapters.

@Em - tons of great points as usual! I'm still pissed that I missed the Chloe Neill tour. *screaming internally*

@Allison - The last trip to the library I checked out 10 books and read 1, I had to return all the rest, so I kind of gave up.

Tanya said...

What a great post! As a newbie blogger, obviously I don't have the review problems, but can I hope for them?! LOL!

My problem is that every time I read a book review that sounds really good, or keep clicking on the numerous amounts of links on amazon or B&N that keep taking you through a tour of books, I keep adding to my TBR list. I really need to work on this because I am spending WAY too much money lately!

It also gets overwhelming just starting out. I'm constantly second guessing myself, especially when it comes to books that I have no idea how in the world to review them because either I don't like them, or am not sure how to respond (for various reasons). So, I love the comments you made about DNF's. I know that as an author I would be crushed if someone slammed my book, so I try to tread lightly and include positives. In the teaching world, we call it a two and one-- Two or three positives for every negative. (I read your BB101 on reviews and it helped a lot).

So, my next question is- which is OT, do you think I should put together a giveaway to reach out for followers?

Thanks for all these great tips!

Larissa said...

Thanks for the post Rachy!!! I struggle with that a lot! There are a couple books for review i accepted a while ago that i cant seem to finish and I just dont know what to do =(

Loved the post!


Dawn Hullender said...

Thanks Parajunkie. As a matter of fact, I decided not to read anything AT ALL until next week and have ended up writing over 3K (and still working) on my WIP.

I'm uber excited that I was able to write so much today and am not feeling bad about not reading.

The books won't eat me. They'll still be there tomorrow...or the day after. Thanks for the support!

Missie said...

"Wah Wah, complain much? Poor little PJ, whatever." <<<< LOL!

I didn't see this post as a complaint. In fact, BB101 has become my favorite feature because it is so helpful. My TBR pile is out of control because of all the recommendations/reviews that I've picked up from other bloggers!

But yeah, I totally had the same thought when I first started blogging and saw people's contact info & policies. I couldn't believe it!

I think it is very cool that book bloggers get to opportunity to share their honest thoughts on books!

P.S. All your organizing sounds like a lot of work! Get yourself a BDB doggen to help out! :D

Ashley said...

Thank you so much for these "guides". I am sitting at 50+ followers and I still havent received a book from an author/publisher. How did you first get asked for a review?

Ashley C.

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