Well, lovely readers, it’s been one whole year of reviewing and I thought I’d do what I do best, review the year! It’s hard to believe it’s been that long and that short a time, in some ways it feels like only yesterday that I sent off the first batch of emails to publishers explaining the aim of my new venture and asking for review copies of books, but it also feels like a lifetime ago.
So, what’s happened in a year? I’ve set up two Facebook pages, one for my original mental health blog, and a second for my colouring review blog. I’ve set up a Twitter account and have been trying to get to grips with Tweeting, being succinct (there’s not a lot you can say in just 140 characters), and learning to ask for things and not feel guilty for doing so. I set up a Goodreads account and now add all of my reviews there. I also add my reviews to Amazon where I’ve steadily climbed through the reviewing ranks from around 25,000th in the Summer to becoming a Top 100 Reviewer on the 12th of April with a current rank of 93rd on the whole of Amazon UK! I’m staggered that a colouring book reviewer could rise that high when most of the reviewers at that level have written thousands of reviews about a wide range of products. On my blog I’ve reviewed over 150 adult colouring books and colouring mediums and utensils, certainly not the highest volume of reviews online but potentially the most detailed and I’ve stuck to writing for my target audience – people like me who are housebound and entirely reliant on reviews because they can’t visit shops. My aim has always been to make it feel like you’ve looked inside the book, or used the pens or pencils yourself so that there aren’t any surprises when your purchases arrive, and particularly, aren’t any disappointments. I really hope I’m succeeding in that!
In the past year I’ve learnt A LOT! It’s hard trying to think up all of the things I’ve learnt but here goes: The biggest thing is how to review. Until a year ago I’d never really written a review or even thought about what made a good one or bad one, it was only becoming housebound and being entirely reliant on them that made me realise their value and importance when purchasing items and being unable to see the product in person. I’m sure a lot of people take one look at the length of my reviews and are put off because they want a quick overview of the item and then they head off to the shops to check it out themselves. However, for those of us that are housebound, this isn’t an option and so I set about writing the most detailed reviews I could about these books after discovering that most reviews on Amazon a year ago simply stated “Great book, must buy” or “Not what I expected, sent it back for refund” and other one sentence summaries that usually didn’t explain why they did or didn’t like the item. My reviews are lengthy, but it’s for a purpose, it’s to give you all of the information that you’d garner from looking at the book in the shop yourself, as well as the added benefits of me testing pens and pencils on the paper so that you know what sort of quality it is ahead of time without having to fork out money on a book that’s unsuitable for the mediums you’re wanting to use on it. Other things I’ve learnt include how to use coloured pencils, how to shade and blend, and I’m learning new colouring techniques every day. I’ve also learnt all sorts of marketing techniques to gain social media followers and increase my reach as well as my rank on Google searches. I’ve learnt important communication skills which I’ve used in emails to publishers, tweeting, social media, getting messages across in blog posts and reviews and generally communicating with you all without being able to speak or infer tone of voice.
So what have I achieved in the past year? I’ve created a blog with over 150 reviews of colouring books and mediums to help the housebound community venture into this wonderfully calming activity. I’ve advised countless people who’ve emailed me with their requirements about books that would suit them and pens and pencils that wouldn’t exacerbate any pre-existing conditions. I’ve become a Top 100 Amazon Reviewer, a goal I set for myself a few months ago that I never actually believed I’d achieve. I’ve gained loads of followers, many of whom have shared their stories with me which has been incredibly encouraging whilst on this journey. I’ve been interviewed for The Guardian newspaper, TV, online magazines and on radio, all from my home. This blog has now received over 700,000 hits from over 70,000 visitors and combined with my original blog where I also post all of my reviews, I will reach one million hits within the next 6 weeks or so, not bad for a colouring book reviewer who mostly only has access to the outside world through a laptop and an internet connection!
The biggest thing I’ve gained from all of this is a sense of purpose. I’ve found a place in the world where I can make a bit of a difference, even whilst ill and stuck indoors. I’ve been able to reach out to others and lots of you have reached out to me too, whether that be liking or commenting on my Facebook posts, messaging me, or commenting on my blog, it all means so much to me because it helps me know that I’m on the right track, that I’m giving you the information you want and need, and that I’m making a difference. Thank you all for your support whether this is the first post of mine you’ve read (where have you been? You’ve got some catching up to do!), or whether you’ve been with me from day one when I wrote my first colouring post – Keep Calm and Colour In; whether you’ve read almost every review like some of my very dedicated family and friends have (I’ll always be eternally grateful to you all), or you like to dip in and out, thank you to all of you from the bottom of my heart, you will never know the good that it’s done me. I’m currently further away from recovering from my anxiety disorders than I’ve been at any point through the last 2 years, but most of the time I’m distracted from that and don’t have the time to wallow in it or obsess over it, I’m too busy contacting publishers and colouring and reviewing books. This process has certainly created anxiety on plenty of occasions, and also challenged it and it’s given me a lot of opportunities to practice doing anxiety-provoking things like asking for things, saying no, and being critical. I still find those things incredibly difficult but I’m learning to do them and I’m really excited about what the year ahead holds. I’ve no idea when the colouring craze will calm down and I’ll be out of a job, but I do know that I’ll be sticking at this for as long as I can and I’m sure I’ll find ways of branching out when the colouring books do end up being published less frequently and I need more things to fill my time with.
Thank you all and I’ll leave you with some of my favourite colouring pages, favourite reviews, and achievements. Here’s to another colour-filled year, hopefully sprinkled with even more opportunities to reach out to the outside world about mental illness and get everyone talking about it just a little bit more! Colour On everyone, Colour On!
Doctor Who Colouring Book – A Review
Guest Post – Tangle Wood Book Launch
Lost Ocean, a US and UK comparision
Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom Deluxe Edition – A Review
Secret Garden Artist’s Edition – A Review
Tangle Bay – A Review
T’Gaal Adjustable Pencil Sharpener – A Review