Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Friday, April 9, 2010

Keeping Track of Challenges and Review Books

Most bloggers I know have some way of organizing the books they plan to read in the immediate future, especially those bloggers who accept review copies.  Below is how I do it - what do you do?


About two years ago I started using an Excel file to keep track of things.  It has worked WONDERS for me, especially in regard to reading challenges and review copies.  (This post doesn't cover my extensive TBR list - that one requires a post all it's own!)

Reading Challenges 
  • When I decide to join a challenge I figure out how many books I'll need to read.  For example, the Mind Voyages Challenge includes 12 books over 12 months.  Then I code my chart to include enough spaces for that challenge.  With the Mind Voyages Challenge I filled in 12 places on my chart with MV. As I choose the books I want to read, I update my chart. This month I decided to listen to GENESIS so on my chart I wrote Genesis (MV).  And if my reading plan derails one month, no big deal - I'll simply move that MV to the next month and make it up later.  Looking ahead on my chart, I can see that I need to read about 5 specific books each month in order to complete the challenges I've signed up for.  That is a reasonable goal for me and reminds me not to sign up for any other big challenges.
Review Copies
  • The best thing my chart does for me it that it keeps me from overcommitting.  If I get a pitch for a book to review and it's one I'm interested in, I look at my file and see when I can reasonably expect to read and review it.  I give that info to the publicist/author/whoever and let him/her decide if my timeframe is acceptable (I'm usually scheduling 2-3 months out).  If so, I write the title in that month on my chart.  By setting my own deadline with the person sending me the book, I feel like we are both benefiting; I'm committed to read/review the book at a time that is convenient for me (AND I won't leave it wasting away on my shelf) and the sender knows to expect a review at a specific time.


If you are like me and are fascinated with charts and the way people keep organized, you are welcome to view my chart.  Of course there are some (many?) of you who will think this is completely over-the-top crazy, but that's okay.  My house may not be neat and tidy but my reading schedule certainly is!


And now I want to hear from all of you.  How do you keep track of what you plan to read for challenges?  If you accept review copies, how do you decide when to read them?  How do you keep track of what you've committed to?

18 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I use a spreadsheet, too, although I really don't make plans for my challenges. Maybe that's why I don't do so well at them!

Alyce said...

I'm probably not as scheduled as you are. I keep separate lists of my review copies and the challenge books I need to read. I schedule review books far in advance (I'll be scheduling into September for whichever review copy appeals to me next), and though I schedule just a few review copies a month, I get unsolicited copies that get thrown into the mix too. So I try to rotate through and read a personal copy, a review copy, then a library book. That way I can pull from my lists and feel like I have a lot of choice about what I'm in the mood to read (with the exception of the few review copies that have firm deadlines each month). Without my Excel spreadsheet keeping track of everything for me though it wouldn't work so well. :)

Susan said...

Interesting. I don't organize my reading challenges at all. My TBR "pile" is an Excel spreadsheet where I list every book that I think I might want to try. It's color-coded for fiction, non-fiction, genres, etc. For review books, I use Google docs. I list books by title, genre, when I received them, etc. I check them off when I finish so that I can keep track of what I've read and reviewed. I have a link to the spreadsheet on my blog so that publishers/publicists/authors can look at it and decide if they want to work with me or not. Since I don't have ANY kind of system for deciding what to read next, I leave it up to them to take the chance or not :)

Laura said...

I've found a kindred spirit in the realm of book-tracking geekiness! I use a Google spreadsheet also. I'm not in the review copies game, but I do challenges and I set yearly reading goals. I also keep statistics in the spreadsheet so I can produce nifty graphs at year end.

Here's my 2010 Reading Plan

Robin of My Two Blessings said...

I just keep lists in a certain spot of my blog that I can refer to time and again. My blog is my book diary. Hubby told me I should keep a spreadsheet for the review books and make sure I'm not accepting too many. Something to do with taxes. I Like your spreadsheet.

Amy said...

I have no such organization.

Teresa said...

I am just starting out and trying to figure out how to get organized. Thank you for sharing your spreadsheet!

Anne Pages said...

Thanks so much for sharing, more so the spreadsheet. When reading I hardly follow any plan.

Vasilly said...

I don't have a spreadsheet but I do use a calendar to keep up with all my reviewing obligations.

Crystal said...

I've started using Google Calendar - I can access it anywhere and I can glance quickly at it and see when I am open and schedule accordingly. It really has improved my ability to get books read on time and to keep up with things.

I'm a spreadsheet and organization nut when it comes to my reading, but my house is somewhat of a wreck usually so I understand completely.

Jenny Girl said...

I am not nearly as organized as you. Since I read the same type of books most of the time, I join challenges that fit with my reading tastes.

Review copies, I have a bit more than usual right now due to the good ole USPS, but I have gotten better at saying no. I receive mine usually way ahead of when the reviews are due. However updating my blog challenge lists and links, etc sometimes falls nehind. I just spent an hour updating said lists :(
I am alsways striving to be more organized.

Booksnyc said...

I have a spreadsheet for challenges too where I list the books I plan for the challenges so that I can see where there can be some overlap - I don't schedule them, however, and I guess we'll see at the end of the year if that ends up being a mistake!

For review copies, I slot them into dates on my google calendar so that I can see my commitments per month.

Kailana said...

I'm really weird... The minute I PLAN to read a book, I lose interest in it. So, I do have a small pile once in a while of books I should be reading soon, but more often than not I just read whatever interests me. Reading is supposed to be fun and if I pressure myself too much it isn't so much anymore...

Heather J. said...

Thanks everyone for sharing the way you organize your reading (or not!) - I've loved comparing how everyone does/doesn't do it. :)

Rebecca :) said...

I was just thinking today that I need a better system for keeping track of my challenge and review books! I try to be organized but really I am organizationally challenged. Your spreadsheet idea is awesome. I like the way you have mapped out how you need to space the books apart and how it keeps you from overcommiting (something I have done). Thank you for the help!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

How I love charts and checklists!

I was using an Excel spreadsheets to track books and commitments. Then I realized I was double entering, since I track my library in LibraryThing also. About 5 months ago I began using a Google calendar to schedule posts and review commitments. I add a private comment to my LibraryThing book, as well.

As far as reading challenges, I'm not much of a pre-planner. I'm with Kathy ... maybe that's why I don't do so well with them :)

Looks like you have a great system that works for you - thanks for letting us have a peek, Heather.

Suey said...

Well isn't that a cool looking spreadsheet! Maybe I'll try that sometime... :) Mostly I just write in a notebook and try to work things in here and there, leaving lots of room for reading on a whim too.

Marg said...

Late to the party here, but I too use spreadsheets to organise things like the books I have read, the books I want to read, library due dates, how far I have progressed in challenges etc.

I really need to start adding my review dates into the spreadsheet as well as the next due book is how I generally decide what to read next.

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