Blogger Interview – Elaine Simpson-Long from Random Jottings

Elaine Simpson-Long of Random JottingsI’ve been blogging since 2006 – practically the Dark Ages in digital terms – and one of the blogs that I’ve read since the beginning is Random Jottings.

Mostly reviewing books, and doing so in the least pretentious way, Elaine has an enthusiasm that’s hard to resist and I also love her digressions into baking, tennis (we share an antipathy to Roger Federer) and travel. Here we go…


What’s the name of your blog? How did you come up with that name?

Random Jottings. I was setting it up and had to think of a name quickly and this just came into my head. I am sure if I had thought more fully about it I would probably have got myself in a muddle and produced a pretentious title. So Random Jottings it was.

What do you write about? Do you stick firmly to a topic or is your blog more wide-ranging?
I started just writing about the books I had read or books in the past I have loved, but found that I wandered off into commenting on my thoughts about Wimbledon, the state of the English cricket team (most of them unprintable), my daughter’s wedding, family and grandchildren and who is going to win Strictly Come Dancing (I never pretended that Random would be a centre for intellectual excellence) and also my rants. My rants, be it against the BBC, the ECB, pretentiousness or anything else that takes my fancy, seem to be very popular…

Tell me about your typical reader.
I am not sure I have a typical reader but at a guess I would say most of them are female and are all chatty and friendly and full of good humour. I love them all.

How do you find inspiration for blog posts?
Well, a good read, obviously but sometimes an article in a newspaper or an item on the television will trigger off a train of thought. I love reading home improvement magazines and some of the pretentious rubbish produced in these set off a Random Rant recently. All grist to the mill.

When did you start blogging and why?
I belonged to an online book discussion group and I always wanted to say or write more than could be contained in an email so when an offer for a free trial in setting up a blog popped up, I thought I would give it a go. I wanted to see if there were like minded people out there who loved books and chat as much as I. Bit nervous at first and wondered if anybody would be interested in reading it but now Random Jottings is coming up to its tenth anniversary which I find slightly scary.

Have you always had the same blog?
Yes. I have flirted with the odd addition to do with music and cooking but have decided just to stick with Random and concentrate on that. I have a small blog Random in Oz which I added on when I visited my daughter in Australia, and shall do again for my next visit, but that is just a small addition.

Do you host it yourself or use a platform such as WordPress or Blogger?
I am with Typepad. It is not a free blog but the monthly fee is very small and their service and help is excellent so I see no reason to change.

How many readers do you have? (completely optional – keep it confidential if you prefer). 
I have a widget on my blog which logs all visitors and in a one month period this year I had over 48,000 visitors. Of this figure over 24, 000 were based in the UK, 13,000+ in the USA and the rest split between Europe and the rest of the world including Bahrain, Ula Bhator and Outer Mongolia which I find pretty amazing.

How you organise yourself so that your blog runs smoothly?
I am not sure that I do actually. I just write when I want to about what I want to and that is that.

How much time do you spend blogging?
When I was working and commuting to London I had far less time than I have now, but oddly enough, I posted more often, daily most of the time. Now I am retired but with the advent of grandchildren seem to have less time which is illogical and so I do not have a set amount of time for blogging. I used to feel guilty if I did not blog frequently, but as the whole point of Random is that it is fun and not an obligation, I rid myself of this feeling and now write when I can.

What has been the best thing that’s happened as a result of your blogging?
This is an easy question to answer and the answer is Friendship. The whole blogging process has been a joy and has led me to make so many friends, some of who I know I will never meet, and others that I have. Communication, chat and fun with Kindred Spirits. Wonderful.

How have you seen blogging change over the years? Why do you think this is?
Blogging was viewed as being the domain of the amateur when it first started and I remember many of the so called heavy papers deriding us and scorning these people who had the temerity to say what they thought of a book they had read. How dare we have an opinion?
But oh how that has changed. There is not a publisher in the land who will not use the blogging community as a marketing tool and my experience has been that publishers are friendly, encouraging people who are generous with their time, their authors and their books and appreciate us all. As most bloggers have a large amount of visitors and who also link their posts with Facebook and Twitters it is pretty clear that we wield an enormous amount of influence. An author recently told me that his editor at the publishers said she was sending me a copy of his latest ‘If Elaine likes it you will be ok’ an utterance that left me utterly confounded. I mention this, not to boost my ego, but as an illustration of how the blogging community is now viewed.

ELSTBRpileWhere do you think blogging will be in another five or ten years?
They will continue to grow and be viewed as an essential part of marketing, but for me as a ‘small’ blogger I cannot imagine much will change. We have to continue to be more professional as more responsibility is passed on to us who post reviews, but anyone starting a blog now has so many wonderful opportunities.

Recently, it’s become much more common for bloggers to monetise their blogs whether by using affiliate links or advertising. How do you feel about that and if you use those things how does that work?
I do not monetise my blog because it is not my living, it is a hobby and one that I love. I link all my reviews to Amazon, so if somebody clicks through Random Jottings and buys something, I get a percentage over a year on these purchases. This can mean the odd Amazon gift certificate or two which is always lovely to receive, but it is certainly not an income. I have been offered advertising but have never accepted it as I want Random Jottings to be mine and mine alone. It is also vital to preserve one’s integrity so that your readers know that your comments and thoughts are the blogger’s own and not influenced in any way.

Where do you hope your blogging will take you?
I hope it will continue to take me into this lovely friendly world of communication and friendship that has been created over the last ten years. I have no other ambitions for Random Jottings but to continue along the lines I have established. I want it to remain a joy .

If someone told you that they wanted to start blogging, what piece of advice would you give them?
If you want to establish a blog you must be in it for the long haul and be prepared to post regularly. Be careful in what you say. Be kind and also be honest. Your readers will respond to this. Remember that once you have said something and launched it into the ether it stays there forever so do not write anything you might regret later. Be courteous and respond to all comments and communication from your visitors. Most of all simply enjoy it.

What other blogs do you read? Apart from mine obviously!
Stuck in a Book
Desperate Reader
Harriet Devine
Oh so many others. I dip in and out of blogs which is a very addictive thing to do!

Thanks so much for taking part Elaine, and I’m looking forward to reading your reviews for many more years.

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