What’s Going On…
So you want to be a book blogger? I’ve been book blogging for some time now and while I’ve learned a lot, there is still tons of stuff that I’m still figuring out. I think book blogging is one of those things that’s always changing, and there are ways to improve all the time. Even those of us who have been doing this for ages – we’re still learning, too! If you’re looking to join the book blogging community, here are some tips to get started.
What the heck is a book blog?
Simply put – a book blog is a blog that sticks (mostly) to the theme of books. Book bloggers are people who enjoy reading and want to encourage people to read and talk about books. If we’ve done it right, you’ll be encouraged to read a novel we recommend.
Set up your site!
If you don’t already have a blog set up, then you need to do some window shopping. Find some blogs you really like and try to implement some of the features that you find appealing in your own blog. Not all book blogs are only about books! SassyCatChat.com, for example, is a personal blog as well as a book blog. Decide what kind of content you want to create. There is no right or wrong here, so find what works for you.
You’ve got some big decisions to make if you’re starting from scratch. Here are some of the basics for beginning a blog.
Name your site- Your blog name is probably one of the things you should consider most carefully. It will be the hardest thing to change down the road, so make sure it’s something you like. Check to make sure someone else isn’t using the name you choose. A simple Google search will help you with this. Your blog name should give potential readers a clue of what to expect from your site.
Pick an address – After you select a name, it’s time to decide if you want to have your own domain name or web address. I think it’s best to own your domain as it gives you some freedom in the future. It’s a small monetary investment and I think it’s worthwhile. Your domain name should be short and easy for people to remember. Ideally, it closely matches your blog name. Name Cheap and Go Daddy are some reputable sites that you can purchase your domain name from.
Where to blog- There are several great blogging platforms to choose from. Personally, I think WordPress offers you a lot for free and is a great choice. Blogger is also a popular choice, but you can choose what works best for you. My advice is to start with a free site if you’re new to blogging, and then have something to work up to in the future. A free or lost-cost system will ease some of the pressure of starting out.
Choose your look- Your blog’s aesthetics is all you! In the blogging world what your site looks like is called your theme. Pick a theme that showcases your personality! You can start out with a free theme option, or you can invest some money and have someone design a theme for you. Fortunately, how your blog looks is something that’s flexible later down the road as you grow. My advice is start with something simple and easy to use. Some bloggers are very fluid with their sites and change their look often. If you decide to have someone design a blog theme for you, then I suggest Ashley and her company Nose Graze. Ashley offers themes, hosting services and also has a killer plugin if you decide to run a self hosted site ( i.e. not a free site from a platform such as WordPress or Blogger). If you’re unsure what blog hosting is, then do some research before deciding which direction to take.
One important thing you should keep in mind is people love photos! A blog that has great images is appealing to most readers. You can take your own if you’re good at it, and even join the community of book lovers on Instagram – called bookstagram! There are several great sites that offer free images you can use, such as pixabay or you can pay for royalty free images on shutterstock.
How much work is starting and running a book blog?
A lot! Most people assume that book bloggers spend their time lounging about all day with a ton of free books. While this is partly true, there is a lot more to it.
Reading is a relatively small part of what goes into book blogging. Honestly for a lot of us, book blogging is about as time consuming as a part time job.
The best words of wisdom I can give you here is what you put in is what you’ll get back. On any given week, I’d say 20 hours or more are dedicated toward something involving my blogging life. Making sure you’ve got a regular schedule of content is key to getting and keeping readers of your blog. Coming up with creative content isn’t always easy, and some days it will feel much more like work than a hobby.
What should I do to have a successful book blog?
Time Management! It takes time to read a book and write up a quality review. Depending on how fast you read, and how long your book is, you can expect to spend 4-8 hours reading any title. Reviewing a book is also a time investment. I spend roughly an hour to two writing up a review, posting it and then sharing it on various sites. All elements of book blogging are a commitment of your time, and learning to manage it will help you greatly.
Be Social! While this sounds fun, it can also be a black hole for time each week. If you want to have anyone reading the lovely blog that you’re building, then you have to put in the time to read other blogs, and get involved in the community. Find bloggers that you like and follow their blogs, and comment regularly. Follow other people on Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Pinterest – whatever platform you’re comfortable with and interact with people. Participate in weekly blog link-ups and meme’s. This will not only help you find bookish friends, but it’s a good way for them to find you. I cannot stress enough that you are not a lone island. Being part of the community is a huge part of blogging – and a huge part of the fun!
Communicate! You might think that this is the same thing as social media. It is and it isn’t. At some point, you’re going to find yourself having to keep up with authors and publishers. Keeping on top of communication is key to establish and maintain a good relationship with professionals in the publishing world. Respond to book requests from authors and publishers promptly. Whether you choose to accept a book to review or politely decline, it’s always good manners to respond.
Hopefully, once you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ll be invited to help promote a book. This involves things like cover reveals, blog tours and hosting giveaways. While these are fun and exciting, they also require organization and communication. If you take advantage of one of these opportunities, then you need to follow through and be sure to post the appropriate content in the time frame you’ve agreed to. People are depending on you.
How do I get all those free books?
This works a little differently for everyone. A lot of big bloggers will tell you that you need to have a large following before you request books from publishers. I never found that to be true. I had a relatively small following when I started getting ARC’s (Advanced Readers Copies) from publishers. Many publishers and authors are always looking to expand their reach. While they may not send you the top titles in their catalog right away, they will generally give newbies the opportunity to read and review titles that need some extra promotion.
My advice is do some detective work! Write a nice email introducing yourself and your blog and send it off to the publicity and marketing departments of publishing houses. Be sure to include your social media links and, of course, a link to your blog. Let them know what category of books that most interest you. Always provide your physical address. If they’ve got a book they’d like to send you then don’t make them ask you where to send it to.
If you’re lucky enough to get a response then follow through! Once you’ve read and reviewed the book send a quick thank you and let the author and/or publisher know where you’ve posted your review. Twitter is a great way to give a shout out to a publisher that sent you book mail.
If contacting publishers seems a bit ambitious for you, then you have some other options! Open up an account with Net Galley or Edelweiss. These sites let you request e-book copies of titles that publishers are looking to have reviewed. Download some “Read Now” options and request one or two titles that look interesting to you. Set up your profile, post your reviews on the sites and after a while you’ll start getting approved for more titles.
It seems like common sense, but you would be amazed at how many people request books and then don’t read and review them. This is not an example of throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. Exercise some caution and restraint, and start off slowly.
I’ve gotten a free book or someone has sent me a request – what now?
Congratulations! Getting books to review is exciting! Receiving books in the mail or getting advanced e-books never really gets old. Pretty soon you’ll be among the group of book bloggers with more books than you can ever read. It’s nearly inevitable that you’re going to get books that really aren’t your cup of tea. Remember that you are not obligated to review anything.
You’ll also find yourself in the position of not liking a book. Yeah, that happens! Either a publisher has sent you something unsolicited or you requested something you thought you’d love and it just didn’t work out. You have to decide if you want to post a negative review. Some bloggers only choose to share what they like, while others take great pleasure in roasting a book they didn’t like. If you want to post a negative a review then do so, but remember that there is a difference in discussing why a book wasn’t a good fit for you and totally trashing someone’s work. Keep it classy folks.
Enjoy your blog!!
This is my final and most important tip! Book blogging is a hobby and something you should love. Yes, it takes a commitment but anything worthwhile does. It’s all about being part of a community of people that love what you love. You’ll find many established book bloggers are very welcoming to newbies so don’t be afraid to reach out.
Most importantly – it takes time! Don’t expect miracles overnight. Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’ve decided to start a book blog for the hoard of free books and social media fame, then you’re certainly going to be disappointed. Running a blog about anything is a hobby, and should be something you do for the sake of interacting with and sharing your opinions with others.
Some last tips and advice
Run your blog as you wish, but most book reviews are provided as a free service to authors and publishers. Most will steer clear of bloggers that charge for reviews. A free copy of the book, promotion for your blog or a copy provided for a giveaway is the only form of “payment” you should expect.
There are ways to monetize your site if earning a paycheck is your end goal. Organizing blog tours for authors is a paid service that you can explore once you have a good following, but this is an entity in itself outside of blogging. You can also explore posting ads on your self hosted site via options like Goggle AdSense, but most bloggers will tell you that it’s a hassle and they don’t earn any real income. Affiliate links are also a way to monetize your site and promote products and people you love. Tread lightly here. You don’t want to turn your blog into a billboard, and again, most bloggers will agree that this is not a windfall of cash. Basically, if you’re starting a blog to make money – you should rethink starting a blog.
Be authentic! I know everyone says be yourself, and find your voice. While this is somewhat cliche and ambiguous advice -it’s really true. Don’t fall into the trap of mimicking other blogs, or posting content that doesn’t ring true to who you are. It’s easy to do, but your readers will see through it quickly. You Do You!
I hope you’ve found this helpful! If you’ve got any more blogging tips please share in the comments!