This post is the first in a new feature that has been a long time in the making. Ever since the beginning of 2017 I have received numerous messages from various bloggers asking me questions on how I got my blog started, how I’ve developed relationships with other bloggers, authors, and publishers, and in what ways I have gone about promoting my blog. While I feel less than qualified to be giving advice to others (as I’m still relatively new to blogging myself), I thought it would be easier to write a series of posts in lieu of replying individually to each person who has contacted me. Please remember I can only give advice from my personal experiences, and what worked for me may not work best for everyone. First and foremost you need to find a groove that is unique to you. I remember how intimidating starting a blog was and how confused I felt at every step, so my hope is to save other bloggers the time and frustration I felt initially to be better put into writing your posts! My plan is to start by covering the 5 most popular and frequent questions I’ve received to date, but please feel free to keep submitting questions via my contact page on the blog; if I don’t know the answer I’ll do my best to find someone who does. I’ll be addressing Question #1 today, and the next one in post #2, etc.
Q#1: GETTING STARTED
Today I want to cover some of the basics of book blogging, or what I would consider the necessities of getting your blog off of the ground. If you have yet to create your blog, you will need to choose a platform to post on, WordPress and Blogger being two of the most popular. I chose Wordpress because it felt a little more user friendly for those of us who are tech challenged, but both sites have a high quality feel even on their free sites. Once you have chosen your blog name and domain, go ahead and start getting creative in designing a graphic unique to your blog with the name on it. If you aren’t design savvy (don’t worry, I’m not either), you can create an account on a site like Canva and use their free options to create some quality graphics. You will also need to decide what type of content you’ll be posting. Are you solely sharing book reviews, or will you be including additional content such as author interviews, guest and discussion posts, weekly memes, etc? If you feel confused as to what all these are, not to worry, I’ll be going into this in detail on one of the future posts I have scheduled. Once you have this all determined, you’re ready to get going!
If you have decided to just post book reviews in various forms on your blog, congratulations! The good news is there is no “right” and “wrong” way when it comes to formatting and design. Most people choose to include some information about the book, along with a picture of the cover either from Goodreads or one of your own if you run a Bookstagram account (more on those in a future post). When I started writing my reviews, I wanted to establish a general format that all future reviews would follow, and I would highly recommend doing so. This doesn’t mean you can’t play around with formatting and picture types, just that it helps to find a balance of consistency to your ever changing content. I decided early on that I wanted to include the following information at the beginning of every review: Cover Photo, Title, Author, Series, Genres, Link to my Goodreads Review, Date Read, Publishing Date, and Star Rating. After this, I include the book summary that is typically found on the inside jacket cover before jumping into my review. I don’t usually incorporate any summary or rehashing of a book’s plot in my posts, so I think it’s important to have that information handy for my viewers; they may not be familiar with the book and they can tell instantly if it’s a book they would contemplate reading. This is by no means an instruction on how to write your reviews, simply just an example of how I do mine. As always, keep it unique and timely to your own style; this will be the factor that attracts a loyal following.
Now that you have your post format decided and you have begun uploading reviews, how do you gain an audience? How do I start getting those free books in the mail? I’m going to stop here for a moment and address a common misconception about book blogging. Free books are one of the BEST perks in blogging, but if this is your whole reason in doing so, I’m afraid you are going to be sorely disappointed. Ask any book blogger and they will tell you that ARCs (Advance Review Copies) are a blessing and a curse; there is a heck of a lot of work expected from you when you receive these and many people who start their blog without having a passion for the writing side burn out within the first year. Here are some of the blogging tasks that I perform daily:
- 1-2 hours on computer reading/sharing other blogger posts, replying to blog notifications via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads since I went to bed. This also includes sharing my latest post that went up in the middle of the night to the following social media accounts as well as uploading new Bookstagram pictures.
- Reading at the gym 1-2 hours per day Monday-Friday (occasionally Saturday) while my kids play in childcare. This opens up the rest of the time they are awake to focus solely on them.
- 1-2 hours per day writing posts and setting up auto posting for upcoming posts during the week, while also posting reviews to Goodreads, NetGalley, Publishers, etc. I usually try to respond to blog related emails with authors and publishers during this time too. This usually happens while my kids are napping in the afternoon.
- Usually once my kids are in bed (between 7:30-8pm), I try to spend another 1-2 hours catching up on review copies and writing posts for the blog. I also use this time to respond to messages via my blog, FB, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads and handle all my social media accounts to shut down for the day. If Mr. Humphrey is traveling during this time, I usually spend the remainder of the evening handling blog stuff until I go to bed.
Again, this isn’t an EXACT everyday schedule, but just some typical structuring. If you counted up, that’s a minimum of 5 hours per day handling blog related responsibilities. That doesn’t even include the time it takes to organize your TBR for the month to ensure your timeline is on schedule and taking pictures for publishers and authors of their books. I’m not saying this to complain; far from it! I thrive on all of this, which is why I enjoy blogging; my big picture point is that, if all you want is free or advanced books, you will be sorely disappointed in blogging and I’d like to save you the energy and effort that will be wasted in such. If this hasn’t scared you off and you have a passion for promoting authors and sharing reviews to fellow readers, I think you’re off to a great start and you will flourish in your journey. Today, I just wanted to dip our toes into the very basics of book blogging, as I had multiple people message asking how to get a blog going with no experience or expertise in any form. My next post will be titled PUBLISHER CONTACTS, and I’ll be touching on everything from NetGalley, to Blogging Databases and Publisher mailing lists. We’ll even discuss the proper ways to approach authors about reviewing their books. Thanks for sticking with me this far and I’m looking forward to getting in to the fun stuff next time! ❤