Book Blogging 101: Why book blogging may be right for you & what you need to know #IndieMonth2017 #giveaway #BookBloggers
Book blogging can be both a blessing and a curse, but it can also open up social, professional, and emotional doors you may not even know existed.
Sometimes a reader starts blogging out of passion for the books. That passion can work with your natural skills and strengths to set you up for a full-on profession. I came to editing through blogging about romance books (I’m now a full-time developmental editor for indie romance authors), and I know at least a few bloggers who successfully transitioned into writing. Maybe you’re happy in your career or just know that you want to keep your reading as a hobby thing. Blogging has led to years-long friendships with other readers and bloggers and given me an emotional outlet for my book-boyfriend-mania. It has opened doors for me to work directly with authors and publishers I respect, people I fangirled over six years ago and am now on a first-name basis with. There’s nothing sweeter than meeting your favorite author and finding out she loves your work as a blogger too.
Read on to explore what your WHY might be and see if book blogging is right for you.
Understand your motivation
Before jumping into book reviewing and blogging, it’s important to know why you want to do it. What motivates you? What do you ultimately want to get out of it? You might have a quick and easy answer for those questions, but even so, take some time to really mull it over and get to the heart of your urges. Some common motivations:
- Get free books
- Get involved, even peripherally, in the publishing industry
- Be a cheerleader because you just love the books that much
- Work with authors, because authors are (after all) the rock stars of the book world
- Become known as an influential and respected voice that readers look to for recommendations
I can’t stress enough how important this discovery period is. Once you understand your motivation for wanting to be a blogger, you can set attainable goals and tailor your web presence to support meeting those goals. Like anything else important in life, blogging is only worth doing if you’re willing to sacrifice. And since sacrifice sucks, be sure you know why you’re doing it.
Define your blogging focus
So, true story, I started blogging in late 2010, and I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to get review copies—hell, I didn’t even know they existed. I just knew that every time I read a book, I seethed inside with all these quips and quotes and babble that I just had to get out of my head. And the only way to gain a measure of sanity (and not be in a permanent book coma) was to write my thoughts down. I still have that old book journal…
I actually hate journaling. It’s far too personal, and this is the only real journal I’ve ever kept. I switched away from this physical version to keeping digital notes (I now use Evernote) within a few months. Anyway, my why was internal: I had words I needed to get on paper, so I did. Then I figured, why not do something with it? Why not help other readers who are doing the same Google searches I was take a shortcut and get recommendations from one of their enthusiastic peers?
And so GraveTells was born. But I didn’t have a focus. I was desperate for content—I thought that’s how it had to be done: post, post, post, even when you have nothing to talk about!—and I blogged about anything and everything romance related. Especially Twilight. Don’t hate. Twilight has a special place in my life, even if I don’t relate to it like I used to. The point here is that I had no focus, no plan, no pattern. No readers or followers. And that was demoralizing.
Defining your focus can be hard, and it may change over time, so I’ll share what my current focus for GraveTells is:
- Discover talented unknown or lesser known contemporary, paranormal, and scifi romance authors and give them publicity. Help them reach new readers by featuring them on my site.
- Help romance readers find new books and authors they will love and maybe even be able to make a personal connection with.
- Become known and respected as an influencer in the romantic fiction genre and use that voice to (somehow) supplement my income.
So why is this list important? It drives my content and marketing strategies. Following point by point:
- To discover new authors, I need to look outside the traditionally published authors found on the shelfs of brick-and-mortar bookstores.
- To help guide readers in finding new books, I need to give them choices and recommendations
- To become respected as an influencer, I need to network with bloggers, authors, and publishers and continue to build my reader following
What kind of blogger are you?
The whole point for the exercises above—identifying your why and your focus—is to determine what medium you can successfully operate in and what kind of content you should invest in. That sounds awful technical, so here are some examples of what kind of blogging might be right for you:
- Opinion columnist
- All-around influencer or genre personality
That last one may seem silly to add—I mean, aren’t reviewers also influencers? Yes, true! But Influencers (capital I) are often full-stack, to borrow a term from the tech world. What I mean is that Influencers tend to operate across multiple platforms to reach the greatest audience (not all, of course, but many). And that is a whole lot more work. Influencers are people known by name, people whose Tweets you read and share, whose opinions heavily influence your own, whose personality engages and inspires you. Think George Takei. That’s a pretty high bar to start with, so let’s break down the other options.
Book reviewers review books. Duh, right? 😉 Pretty straightforward. And you don’t even need a blog to do this. Realistically, I wouldn’t consider someone who only reviews on GoodReads and bookseller sites a “blogger”, but this role is worth mentioning here. Because blogging is a lot of work, and it’s not for everyone. Think of reviewers like voices in choir: the general tone of a book’s reviews tells you something about the audience it appeals to. One person’s 3-star review is another’s 5-star, but what if a book has 20,000 5-star reviews? That sets a different tone than a book with an average of 3.5 stars that range from “OMG BEST BOOK EVER” to “burned it in my backyard bonfire”. Obviously the first book is a likely fit for most readers in the genre, while the second probably appeals to readers with specific tastes. Reviewers—and their honest, unvarnished opinions—are essential for creating this data. And hey, it usually means free books for the reviewer. Bonus!
Promoters promote books. These definitions are doozies, eh? 😉 You don’t need to have read a book to promote it, and promoting a book doesn’t have to mean reviewing it. That said, the most respected promoters also review books and post quality reviews. How else will your audience know what recommendations to trust? If you post dozens of promos per day, copy-and-pasting in a script from a tour company—the same content 100 other blogs are posting on that same day—what’s the point? Who’s going to read all that? What quality are your followers and what purpose does all of your setup effort actually serve? *stepping off second soapbox*
Good promoters develop followers who like the same kinds of books. I call this kind of promoter Taste Curators. Say you like alpha male hero stories about gay space cowboys, and that’s all you blog about. Chances are your readers are going to share that same genre profile, and while you may have a smaller readership overall than say a general contemporary romance blogger, your traffic will probably be more dependable and you’ll be able to form a personal connection (and trust!) with your followers.
Opinion bloggers create original content. Beyond just reviewing a book (which is also a form of opinion blogging) and promoting a book (which, depending on how creative you are, can also be a form of opinion blogging), opinion bloggers are essentially columnists who focus their content on the genre they blog about. Maybe you’re passionate about feminism in romance, and you have a lot to say on the topic. You can spin that out into a series of blog posts that encourage discussion and debate. Or your purview might be more broad, exploring topics across the genre and not conforming to a niche interest. That’s fine too.
Opinion bloggers use many different mediums, including blog platforms but also videos and podcasting. This type of “blogging” is probably the most volatile and (if you’re a natural introvert like me) scariest of all of them, because it fosters an environment for dissent and makes you vulnerable to feeling attacked. Because realistically? People are inevitably going to disagree with you, and they won’t be shy about letting you know. If your skin is not thick enough to take a little criticism, or if you break out in a cold sweat at the thought of a possible confrontation, this avenue is probably not for you. If you choose this avenue of blogging, don’t hide behind your keyboard. Be proud of what you write.
How often will you post?
Finally, let’s talk about the cadence of your blog. Or podcast. Or whatever medium you’ve chosen (more on platforms for blogging in my next post!).
Why is cadence important?
It sets an expectation with your readers that you will share yourself with them at specific time intervals or on specific days. This allows people to fit you into their schedules, to integrate your blogging experience into their daily lives. Which is freaking fantastic, because it means regular readers for you and dependable new discoveries for them. But if you can’t stick to a schedule, or you don’t have any clue what your schedule might be? No sweat! Just get started and see where your habits naturally take you. Getting started is better than being perfect, and everyone has to start somewhere. Right? Right.
Here are some examples of blogging frequencies:
- Several times a day. Common on…
- Large group blogs with multiple contributors
- Copy-and-paste blogs who source content primarily from tour companies
- Once a day. Common on…
- Multi-contributor blogs
- Very active personal blogs (people who either do not have a traditional “day” job or who are extremely personally motivated to publish their own content)
- 2-4 times per week
- Once per week
- Once every other week or once a month
Which is best? That really depends on what your goals are and what you focus on. And, more importantly, what your personal circumstances allow you to sanely commit to. I keep picking on “copy-and-paste” blogs, but if that’s your thing and you really enjoy it, great! There are readers out there who can absorb that much content and may visit you regularly. Posting prepared content is much faster than crafting your own, and you can set this up with a minimum of effort. Reviewers and opinion bloggers often invest significant time in their posts because they publish original content. They have to create the copy (text), edit it, format it, schedule the post, set up the social media, etc. If you have a busy family life or a day job that takes 60 or 70 hours a week, you probably can’t realistically post every day (or even 2-3 timer per week!) without completely giving up your personal freedom.
Time is your most precious resource
Earlier in this article I mentioned personal sacrifice. Sometimes that comes in the form of not being able to read what you want when you want to (because you have a review list 20 books long and three weeks to get through them all), and sometimes it means giving up your free time to format posts and edit book reviews. Let’s be honest here: you’re probably not getting paid to be a book blogger, especially not when you first start out (if ever). The amount of articles you choose to publish per week directly correlates to how much personal effort upkeeping your blog will take. Sacrifice, people. It’s. Freaking. Real.
Just how long does it take to prep a post for a site like GraveTells? Here are some real numbers from my experience:
- A typical book review:
- 5-10 hours of reading, during which I mark quotes and take the notes that will form the meat of the review text
- 1-2 hours of edits to make my review readable and formatted for the blog
- 30-45 minutes of setup time for social media sharing and adding the review to my weekly and monthly newsletters
- 30-45 minutes of graphic creation and finalization (if it’s a Top Pick or Book of the Month)
- A typical copy-and-paste promo stop (no original content):
- 30-45 minutes of copy-and-paste to get the content into a draft post (includes setting up any author bio or giveaway info for the post, weeding out other people’s affiliate links, stripping any custom code that will break my site, and fixing broken links or links that don’t open in a new tab)
- 30-60 minutes of social media and newsletter setup
- An original collaborative article (usually author promo, sometimes cross-promo with another blogger. Like my Signature Interviews with authors)
- 1-2 hours working together for content creation until we decide on the right subject, tone, and verbiage
- 1-4 hours additional word smithing and editing of content
- 15-30 minutes of giveaway widget creation
- 30-45 minutes of graphic creation and finalization
- 30-45 minutes of social media setup and adding to newsletters
- Original event-driven articles like you’ve seen on #IndieMonth2017
- 2-3 hours writing and editing of the article’s content (if I am the article’s primary author; less if it’s a guest post, like Instafreebie’s fab article or Shelf Addiction’s podcast recommendations post)
- 15-30 minutes of giveaway widget creation
- 30-45 minutes of graphic creation and finalization
- 30-45 minutes of final post review and scheduling
- 30-60 minutes of social media and newsletter scheduling
Those are just general averages. Some posts take less time, and some take more. I’m an editor, so I tend to spend more time on nitpicky things than other bloggers. That’s just my style, and I take that into account going into a commitment. Anyway, that should give you some idea of how much time you need to allow for your own blogging to fit your schedule.
Being a blogger doesn’t mean conforming to exactly one of these roles. Your blog is a unique reflection of you and will showcase your individual likes, dislikes, and fangirl moments. Choose the blogging content, cadence, and platforms that best suit you and get started carving out your niche!
So what kind of blogger are you? Share your thoughts on blogging below, and link your blog if you have one! #BloggerLove
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