Hello all and thank you for coming to check out this post all about advice for creating or running your own book blog. I have seen a lot of bloggers successfully approach this subject so I thought I would throw a few of my own tips into the ring. Book blogging is such a rewarding and (at times) stressful journey into the book community and all its glorious elements. You will meet a lot of writers, publishers, reviewers; and (more importantly) other book-bloggers. It is easy to get overwhelmed by it all so I have mapped out some advice to keep you on the right track and enjoying the glorious world of book-blogging.
This is a personal piece about the elements I found most helpful/important when starting out so please feel free to elaborate on your own advice in the comments below!
Think About What You Want To Achieve With Your Blog
This is the most important point. What is your reason or inspiration for starting this blog? What do you want to do achieve? Is this a past time or a future job? Are you settling on a particular genre or area of books? Once you settle into an idea of where you are going with your writing then you can focus on the steps needed to get you there.
I wanted to review books, to share the latest releases with everyone and get the word out about the books I love. I focused on learning how to review and promote books. I found out ways I could get my hands on the upcoming releases and I spent a long time crafting a review style. If you stay invested in the elements of the blog that mean the most to you then you will definitely go far.
A good piece of advice that someone gave me once was: If you mean it, You will make it.
Make Sure Your Blog Has All The Essentials
There are so many platforms to build your blog base on. Shop around for what might suit you the best. You could solely review on sites like NetGalley, Bookbridgr, Google +, Amazon, Instagram or Goodreads. Or you can build your own website and share to these sites when convenient. If you already have a website set-up then that is great! But make sure to keep it fresh with updates and if it is not working for you then start again.
I personally recommend building your blog around WordPress. I have spent a year with Google’s Blogger but I felt I couldn’t function with it as well as I do now with WP. WordPress has an inbuilt community, which functions amazingly, that has really helped boost my confidence with my reviews, it is also connected to Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms which helps promote your posts.
Once your blog is set up then you will need to add essential pages such as Review Policy, About Me and Contact Me as well as setting up content sections such as Book Reviews, Blog Tours and Interviews etc. I recommend checking out quite a few book blogs before you sit down to write these as there are many different ways to do so. I have included my own but they are just one of many examples of what to include in each page.
Connect With Other Bloggers
The blogging community is the greatest resource to any writer/blogger. You could be the most entertaining or profound writer in the world but without a community to pass on the word, your hard work will be lost to everyone. Sharing, commenting and interaction are key to integrating yourself with your peers.
I am part of several communities online that will happily share my content with their readers. It wasn’t always that way. I spent quite some time on the outer fringes thinking I could do it all by word alone. The best way to get your writing recognised and your confidence up is to share your work. Meet people, interact and discuss you favourite (or least favourite) books. There are blogs that will interview you and share your blog with their readers, so keep your eye out. Make sure to accept help when it is offered.
Twitter is my favourite place to network about books. There is an enormous community that will take on board any blogger who is truly invested in books. There are significant communities on Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook and NetGalley too. Each have their positives and negatives, but my advice to you is to choose one or two and stick to them. I tried doing all of them at once and it takes far too much time and takes your focus away from reading.
Spend some time looking around, take it all in and weigh up the pros and cons of each community. You will spend quite a while networking so you need to have a working knowledge of the sites you intend to use. This is another area that takes time, so don’t worry if you efforts aren’t being noticed straight away. I have been blogging for 18 months and I still learn new things everyday.
Reviews and Other Content
Reviews are an important aspect of book-blogging, but certainly not the most important. I know plenty of bloggers who get by without writing them but it is the fast track option to getting noticed. Starting out you will want to review books that mean a lot to you. This is important as it will draw like minded blogs to your site and begin your support network.
There are plenty of blogs giving advice on how to write reviews so have a look around to see what advice may help if you feel unsure about what to include. Personally, I still haven’t found my true style. I am constantly playing around with the length, breadth and detail of them. Every blogger feels this way at times but don’t fret as it is natural. You will have reviews that are highly regarded and some that are completely ignored. Just enjoy the ups and work through the lows.
Don’t let it be all reviewing, interviews and guest posts though. Remember to have fun with your blog! Take part in Book Tags, write about things that make you laugh, join in with whatever quirky topical posts are making their way around the book communities. Be serious when it is required but make time to have a laugh and join in with festivities.
I will talk a little more about it in the Finding Publishers… section but writing reviews for publishers and authors is not as pressuring as it may sound. All they want from you is your unbiased thoughts on their releases. If you didn’t like the book then say so! Just make sure you are friendly, constructive and you acknowledge an audience who may actually enjoy the book more than you did.
Finding A Rhythm
Being consistent is important. The only person in charge of posting content is you. You have to work to your own pace otherwise you will end up getting stressed out. Be clear with the readers of your blog how often you intend to post so they know when to expect new content. Focus on one type of post at a time, such as reviews, then slowly branch out as you go along into Blog Tours, Interviews and Guest Posts etc. Once you have built up a repertoire of different post styles then you blog will become more fully formed and your confidence will increase.
Invest In A Kindle
If you want to be reviewing upcoming releases straight out of the gate then you will need to set yourself up on Netgalley. To do this you will need a Kindle. It is definitely worthwhile picking one up as a lot of authors do send you their books in an e-book format. I know there is a constant debate about e-book vs physical copy but I recommend being partial to both. I picked up a Kindle at a second hand electronics shop for £12 and it was a great investment. If you want to get into book reviewing in the hope that you receive tons of physical copies then you won’t stay very far ahead of the game. It is possible to run a book blog without an e-reader but NetGalley is an important resource for all book reviewers and not utilising it would be a massive mistake.
Finding Publishers To Connect With
When you have settled in to your blog and your following is building up nicely, you will want to keep the readers happy with news/reviews about upcoming releases. It is at this point that you need to consider getting in touch with publishers that can provide you with review copies to share on your blog. There are sites set up for this purpose like NetGalley, Bookbridgr and Readers First so make sure to get yourself signed up for those.
But if you are interested in reviewing specific book then you will have to get in touch with a particular publisher. Approaching publishers was daunting to me at first. I found that publishers are not only grateful for your attention but they are easy to interact with and keen to offer books for review. Once you build a report with press contacts then you will have the pick of the books, as long as you are clear, considerate and fair to the books you receive. I would also recommend offering to interview authors or post an extract to help promote upcoming releases as it keeps you in the loop.
There are so many options to consider when sitting down to choose which social media sites you want to associate with your blog. I have been through them all and it has taken a long time to decide which to use and which to avoid. Book communities set up everywhere and they all have different elements to offer you as a blogger. The main group of social media sites are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Goodreads.
Each site will offer you a different experience when it comes to both talking and hearing about books. I personally prefer Twitter and Instagram. They both have incredibly tight communities that both support and rely on each other. They are also popular with authors and publishers. Keeping track of updates and showing your interests will keep you in the loop when it comes to the release of books you want to review. Twitter’s like and re-tweet system helps get the word out about your latest posts. Instagram gives your followers an idea of what books to expect on your blog in the near future. Instagram also allows your readers to connect with you on a personal level which helps increase support.
Social media is a vital resource so don’t neglect it.
Dealing With The TBR pile
It may not seem it at first but once your blog takes off you will be taking on board more books than you know what to do with. If you are lucky enough to have an abundance of willpower and patience then you will be able to say no to the offers that you cannot make time for and your time management won’t go out the window.
If you don’t have those traits, like me, then you will likely be overwhelmed at times. Starting out I took on as many reviews as I could and it wasn’t long before I was swimming in books. It is natural to get caught up in the excitement of the attention and intrigue of being a resource to both authors and publishers. But it is important to know your limits. Your TBR will never suffer as there are plenty of books to go around but your reputation will if you keep agreeing to review books and promptly forgetting about them.
It will be more beneficial to review a small amount of books well to impress your audience then banging out lots of rushed or incomplete reviews that readers will see through immediately. Once it becomes clear that you are a reliable resource that can promote books well then you will have a pick of the bunch.
Having Fun With Your Blog
That is why you started it right? To enjoy yourself, meet some like-minded people and read great books. It will all become too job-like if you are not having fun. If you find yourself in a rut then just step back, take a break and go back to concentrating on what is important to you.
At one point I was really struggling to find new content for my blog. It was certainly frustrating! I took a breath, had a break and realised that cover art is something I really wanted to explore on ATIB. So I started my Cover Artist Spotlight series and it is great fun. The moment you aren’t finding your blog enjoyable anymore is a sign for a break, re-organisation or moving your focus elsewhere. If you are enjoying yourself then your readers will sense it and get caught up in the passion.
Thanks for stopping by to read through my attempt at advice! I love book-blogging and I am grateful for all the help I have been given over the years. Being a blogger is not only rewarding but it increases your confidence in your opinions. I have always been lacking the confidence to speak up about what I thought about certain things and blogging has helped with this no end. Be the blogger you want to be and make sure to have fun! Until next time, happy reading!