Book Blogging 101: How to set up your basics and get started TODAY! #IndieMonth2017 #giveaway #BookBloggers
So you’ve decided that blogging is right for you, and you’re ready to dive right in! Now what?
In today’s #BookBlogging101 post, I’ll outline the basic getting-started choices, essential tools you’ll need, and how to set up your new blog today.
Read on to learn how to jump start your brand new blog!
No matter what type of blogging you plan to do, you’ll need a platform, or a way to share your content with the world. I use WordPress (WP) self-hosted (keep an eye out for more insight into that platform in a future post), but I started out on Tumblr. Back in 2010, when I did my research into blogging platforms, I shied away from WP because it looked too complicated. It took me less than a month to realize Tumblr wasn’t going to fit my needs, and another month to figure out where to move. My first incarnation of a WP blog was on WordPress.com (because it was the easiest solution at the time, and least complicated to understand), and GraveTells lived there for 8 months, until I finally switched to a self-hosted version of WordPress (you’re lookin’ at it!).
Platform: WordPress is best
There are tons of choices, but my #1 blog platform recommendation is WordPress, even if you don’t go with the self-hosted version (you can graduate into that later). Getting started is easier than you might think. Just go to WordPress.com and register. You’ll be taken to a dashboard that either shows your “Reader” content (blogs you’ve subscribed to, which will be none if you’re looking at a brand new account) or a “My Sites” page. The My Sites page is where you set up your site. WordPress has a handy series of tutorials that will guide you through setting up your blog and getting started with content.
Other platform alternatives
If WP isn’t your style, there are certainly alternative blogging platforms. Here are a few:
- Blogger by Google (top WP alternative, but beware that Big-Brother Google monitors your content and can remove it with zero notice)
- Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and other drag-and-drop content management systems (CMS)
- Medium (more suited to opinion bloggers than reviewers)
When choosing a platform (or theme), don’t be sucked in by pretty, sleek pictures and fancy setups. Some come with those pictures and some don’t (most don’t), but do you really want to use the same images 10,000 other bloggers are hosting? And will those pretties even work with your blog style and content? Look for a platform (or theme) that fits your specific needs and gives you room to grow. This is why I champion WordPress and encourage new bloggers to look past the initial ramp-up phase. Yes, it’s a little confusing to wrap your head around at first, but WP is supported by a MASSIVE community of bloggers, engineers, and marketers and is utilized by major brands across a broad swath of industries (not just romance!). Diversity, originality, adaptability, and—most importantly—tech support are easier to come by when you’re working with the mega player in the scene.
I know several bloggers who started on drag-and-drop CMS sites like Weebly or Wix and are now struggling to move their content over to WordPress self-hosted. If you start with a WordPress.com domain, you can quickly and easily export all your content to a self-hosted WP site. But some of the drag-and-drop creators (which WordPress is NOT, to be clear) will not let you export your content AT ALL. This means that you may have to hand copy every post—which includes the post text, images, formatting, categories, tags, excerpts…literally EVERYTHING—for every single article you have ever posted on your old site. You may think, “Meh, I’ll never switch, so it won’t matter.” But what if a year from now, after you’ve slaved over 50 posts (that’s only one a week, taking a few “holidays”) and your content host is suddenly going out of business, or starts charging, or doesn’t let you expand the way you want to? You will be in for a world of hurt. Be smart and research how to export content from a platform before committing to it. Anytime someone else controls your content, you are at a steep disadvantage. (And this is why I use WP self-hosted. And why I don’t depend on Facebook for pageviews. #BloggerRant)
Enough doom and gloom. =) Let’s talk social media!
Social Media: Play the field
If you’re going to blog, please, for the love of all things publicity, SET UP SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS! A brand new blog isn’t going to win Google searches, and readers need a way to discover you. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been putting together a promo post for an author and had to go looking for their social info, only to find said author has no Twitter account. Or only a personal-level Facebook page (you can’t @mention those in some scheduling platforms). *pulls out hair* When you put time, effort, and psychological sweat into an article for your little kingdom on the web (read: your blog), tagging people on social media helps you promote that post organically. So if someone likes what you’re doing, and they can’t find a social media account to @mention, you’ve just lost pageviews. Translation: New readers might have visited you, but since you’re not on <enter social media here> you’ll never even know you were mentioned.
As of #IndieMonth2017, here are the social media networks I personally find most relevant, in order of how I prioritize them:
- Twitter (Easily my most-used platform. I tweet multiple times per day, pre-scheduled, from two different accounts)
- Facebook (Yes, this is the most effective network, but you have to outsmart FB’s algorithms to get eyes on your posts, and those games exhaust me)
- Instagram (I would put this above FB, but you can’t put hyperlinks in picture comments, and you can’t pre-schedule without lots of hoop-jumping. I use Insta for sharing lifestyle and personality moments about me personally, rather than just about my blog content)
- YouTube (Great for hosting podcasts even if you don’t want to video blog)
- Pinterest (More popular for some genres and topics than others. My Pinterest strategy is “if I think about it and have extra time.” Which is pretty much never, so my Pinterest account is rather sad and outdated)
I don’t use SnapChat (honestly, I just don’t get it—that content DISAPPEARS). I don’t use Reddit (the interface looks like it’s from 1980, and the commentary there can be scathing). Google+ is so niche and so confusing that, while I play around with it sometimes, it’s just not worth my time. And LinkedIn can be a great resource for professional topics (I use it to socialize some of my editor blog posts), but I don’t really see it making much impact on fellow romance readers. Anything other than that just isn’t on my radar, and I can only handle so much social media.
So, yes, play the social media field, but set limits and work primarily with your top choices.
Optional (but suggested): Retain readers with a newsletter
To get started, you truly only need step one of this article: setup a platform. Social media is an essential second step. And if you’ve gone to the trouble to do all that, chances are high you actually want people to read your content and visit you regularly. The only medium that you control (aside from your blog if you’re using a self-hosted solution) is your mailing list. When people sign up for your mailing list—or, in general blogger terms, “subscribe” to your blog—they’re telling you “YES, I want to know when you post new things! Send me stuff!” Of course, you don’t want to bombard them with emails, but the fact that they want your stuff in their inbox means your content is making a difference and gaining appreciation. *high five!*
There are several stellar posts on the nitty gritty of setting up and utilizing mailing lists over on the DaVinciKittie.com portion #IndieMonth2017 (mostly catered to authors, but the info is still valuable), so I won’t go into too much detail here (are your eyes bleeding yet? 🙂 ). But I will list a few quick resources you can use to get started. All you really need is to start collecting email addresses—you don’t need a fancy signup form or levels of subscription options, so don’t let perfectionism delay your setting up a barebones signup form. Just have a link where readers can give you their email address. You can flesh out your Newsletter content and practices later. Baby steps!
Some mailing list hosting suggestions:
Some of these are free, some are not. MailChimp has a free option until you hit a certain number of subscribers/sends per month.
I think that’s enough mind-numbing setup info for today!
My next article in #IndieMonth2017’s Blogging Basics week will go over how to get review copies and hook up with publishers and authors. I know that’s what you really want to know about (ARCs!), but you won’t get far there til you’ve set up your blog, right? So get to it!
What blogging platform do you use? Which social media works best for you! Share your social links! #BloggerLove
Then enter the giveaways below for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card and some awesome ebooks and other prizes from our 2017 IndiePendence Celebration sponsors!
These are open to US & international readers! Leave a comment on today’s post, then fill out the prize widgets below to enter to win these fantastic prizes! Not sure what to chat about? Here are a few prompts to get you started…
- What blogging platform do you use? Why do you love (or despise) it?
- Which social media platforms bring you the most bang for your buck?
- As a reader, what ways do you discover blogs?
- Bloggers and reviewers: Share your social links & GoodReads shelves and tell me what you love to read! I’m always looking for new recommendations.
Sponsored by author Carysa Locke ($25 Amazon Gift Card!)
Win one of 12 prizes from our event sponsors! (Includes a $25 Amazon Gift Card, jewelry, swag, and TONS of ebooks!)