Book Blogging Tips For Beginners

01/07/2015 Blogging, Discussions 43

Book Blogging Tips For BeginnersIn just under a month it will be my first blogoversary (hooray!), and whilst a year of blogging hardly makes me an expert, I feel like I’ve learnt a few things that could help out anyone who is thinking about taking the plunge and starting a book blog (or has already plunged and feels a little lost!).

So here are a few tips I would give to those people who are where I was a year ago, and about to embark on a journey into the wonderful (yet totally confusing and crazy) world of book blogging:

  • Choose your platform wisely.

Before starting my blog, I endlessly researched the pros and cons of various platforms, and to be honest, ended up even more confused than before. Should I pick a free platform like Blogger or WordPress.com (and if so which one?)? Or should I just invest, and pay for my own domain and hosting?

In the end, after dithering endlessly over whether or not I had the technical skills to do it, I went for self-hosted WordPress, and I’m still to this day happy with that decision.

The main reason I plumped for self-hosting was that I felt that having my own domain made my blog feel more professional, and as an aspiring writer I could potentially use my blog in the future as a sample of my writing. I also liked that it meant my site was considerably more customisable (you can use plugins etc., and do so much more with the design and theme) and that I was the owner of my own work. Yes, you have to pay for hosting, but for me it felt worth it (plus the amount I paid was tiny…I went for the cheapest deal I could, and have had no problems with the service), and you can always put on your CV that you can set up, design and run a self-hosted WordPress website!

Really your choice all depends on what you want from blogging. Are you just trying it out? Or only plan to post when you feel like it? Well then a free platform like Blogger or WordPress.com is probably the best choice. If you are looking more to commit to it, or are looking to use it for any kind of career purposes, then it’s probably worth paying that little bit for your own domain.

  • Pick a name you love.

Picking a name was actually the hardest part of starting a blog for me, even harder than all the technical stuff in fact. Although it is possible to change your blog name at a later date, people do come to know your blog under one name, and you risk confusing readers by changing it. Therefore choosing a name is kind of a commitment!

I went with one of my favourite literary quotes as my blog name, but it could literally be anything, just as long as you love it, and you know you’ll continue to love it. I sometimes worry that ‘Boats Against The Current’ is actually a little too long, and people who haven’t read The Great Gatsby tend to get confused and think my blog is about boats, but thankfully I still like the name nearly a year on!

  • Keep your design clean and simple.

It’s tempting when you start blogging to get so over excited about designing your own website that you use about a gazillion colours in the design and have a sidebar full to the brim of flashing gadgets and badges for this that and the other. Well, my advice (and feel free to ignore it!) is to keep it simple, especially at first. No one likes to be overloaded with too many colours and fonts when they check out a blog, and seen as it can take a while to get a feel for your own blog and its overall ‘personality’, it’s probably best to start simple and let the design evolve with the blog. My own blog for example has already had about three different designs, but it is only with this last one that I feel like I have finally captured the feel of my blog.

  • Be prepared.

Something I did before starting my blog (after reading about it in various other blogging tips posts!) which I felt was useful was have a few posts written and ready to go before I even set up the website. At first it can take longer to write blog posts simply because you aren’t accustomed to doing it (unless you’ve previously had a blog), so it takes a lot of pressure off having to hurry and write posts for the first few weeks if you already have some pre-prepared.

  • Get on social media…but not all the social media.

You can write the most wonderful content in the world, but no one will ever know it’s there unless you tell them that it is…enter social media! Signing up for social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads etc. are vital for directing people to your blog and promoting your content, not to mention discovering other people’s blogs and chatting with your new blogger friends!

However, one thing I would say, is don’t overcommit social media-wise. I know when I first started blogging I got overexcited and signed up for pretty much everything and then found myself spread too thin across too many platforms, and therefore was gaining little traffic or interaction from any one site. Therefore I would say pick two or three to concentrate on (and my own personal favourites are Twitter and Google+), and see how you get on with those.

  • Only promote when you have something to promote (if that makes sense?).

Pretty much as soon as I posted my first review (Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, in case you were wondering!) I was all over my shiny new social media accounts spreading the word. Seen as I didn’t exactly have an abundance of followers (and had no idea how to use social media), it wasn’t like many people were following my links, but those who were probably read my review and then clicked to see what else was on my blog…and found nothing.

Now, I don’t know about other people’s blog reading tendencies, but I tend to check out a few posts when I find a new blog to see if the blogger consistently write things I’ll like before I follow, so to see no other posts would be kind of off-putting for me. Therefore I’d recommend (and again, feel free to ignore me!) having a few posts up before you promote, so that visitors can really get a feel for your blog, and will hopefully follow, as opposed to simply clicking off it and forgetting all about it.

  • Don’t be disheartened by abysmal stats.

For the first few months, blogging felt a lot like talking to myself. I’d spend ages perfecting my posts, press that publish button and wait…and nothing happened. A few hits a day, no comments, and that was about it. It was disappointing to say the least, but you just have to realize that every blog starts out that way. Yes, some people’s pick up faster than others, but it takes most blogs several months to get up any decent traffic or followers, so don’t be disheartened!

  • Make friends!

One of the best things about blogging is getting to meet loads of like-minded people, and so making friends is one of the best, yet daunting, aspects of starting a blog. The blogging world can feel a little ‘clique-y’ especially when you are new and looking at it from the outside, but in actual fact most bloggers are very friendly and more than happy to welcome newcomers to the community. After all, every one was a newbie once!

The best way I have found to introduce myself to other bloggers is through commenting on other blogs (and by this I mean, leaving thoughtful, relevant comments, not just ‘Great post! Check out my blog.’). This can be scary at first, but every blogger loves getting comments, and by participating in the discussion you are getting involved in the community, and building a rapport with other bloggers.

You could also try taking part in Twitter chats, memes, blog hops and challenges etc., which are all great ways to connect with other bloggers.

  • Have fun!

Blogging takes a huge amount of time and effort, so why bother if it isn’t fun? Try it out and see whether it’s for you, and hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!

So have these tips been helpful? And do any other bloggers have any tips for new/potential bloggers?

43 Responses to “Book Blogging Tips For Beginners”

  1. Laura

    Thanks for these tips!
    I’m a new book blog – well, about a month old – and am still finding my feet with it, so this helps!
    Thanks again! 🙂 x

    • Laura

      Glad these tips helped! Good luck with blogging (and your blog looks great by the way – I just checked it out!), and thanks for commenting. 🙂

  2. Precious @ Clockwork Desires

    Love these tips! I’ve been blogging for about nine months, and I first started with wordpress.com because I didn’t really know much about blogging at the time, but I hope I can get self-hosted soon! It definitely looks more professional. My blog name was a pretty random concoction, but I still love it till this day, so I guess I got lucky there.

    Precious @ Clockwork Desires

    • Laura

      I love your blog name! It’s really intriguing, and is definitely memorable.
      Good luck with going self-hosted! I think it’s definitely worth it to have your own domain, and it does make your blog so much more customisable. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  3. Neats

    You’ve given some great advice here Laura. I started my book blog a couple of months ago and although it’s still tiny, I feel that it’s taking shape nicely. Your advice about stats is a good one, I think a lot of people, myself included, get consumed with checking their stats and then getting disheartened when the figures are low. I’m starting to get out of the habit of checking them constantly and just concentrating on the content that’s going on my blog instead.

    • Laura

      Glad these tips were useful!
      I was definitely really obsessed with my stats when I started out, so I try to only look at them once or a couple of times a week now whereas I used to check at least once a day. Best of luck with your blogging. I just took a look at your blog and it looks great by the way! 🙂

  4. Jamie

    Great tips! I remember how those early months go with so few visitors. It really can be discouraging at first, but once you get over that hump it can be a lot of fun.
    One tip I think helps is to take it slow with review book sites like netgalley and edelweiss. it is easy to take in a few too many books and be in over your head. Same with tours, especially as being new.

    • Laura

      That sounds like a really good tip. I have still never requested any ARCs or taken part in any tours (I know! I’m a book blogging freak!), but I can imagine that it is easy to overcommit. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  5. bec

    good post Laura,
    I review audiobooks with the odd “real” book in the mix. I love to read book blogs especially if they are reviewing mystery, myself, I don’t go for blogs with all the whistles and bells, things flashing, moving or otherwise distracting! It’s just personal taste I guess!
    Good luck with your blog, you’ve made a wonderful start
    Bec

    • Laura

      Thanks! I had never really thought to listen to audiobooks, but since I started blogging I have realised that a lot of people listen to them, and I might give them a try myself. Thanks for commenting, and good luck with the blogging! 🙂

  6. Renee

    Some great tips there. I started my blog on a bit of a whim. I picked blogger because my quick research suggested it was easiest. I’ve seen so many gorgeous self hosted wordpress blogs out there since I joined “the gang”. I’m happy with mine though, it does what I want. I don’t get many comments, but then I only recently realised that you need to ask questions to get replies. That would be my tip – if you want more interaction, ask a question at the end of your post.

    • Laura

      That’s a really great tip! I didn’t used to put questions at the end of my posts either, but since I have started I have definitely found that I’ve had a lot more comments.
      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  7. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Excellent tips. One thing I wish I had done when starting out was purchase a custom domain name from the beginning. It costs very little and simplifies things if you switch platforms. I would also add “don’t be afraid to ask” — I learned that (once I had some traffic and content going) I really could ask publishers for the review copies I wanted, and most of the time they were happy to oblige. Now I try to only request books I really want, and not just grab what’s available (on Netgalley etc.) Keeps my request-to-review ratio much higher.

    • Laura

      I definitely think getting a custom domain is worth it. As you say, it doesn’t cost that much, and seen as I probably would have ended up upgrading somewhere along the line it made sense for me just to start off self-hosted.
      One area of book blogging I know nothing about (and so couldn’t offer any tips on the subject) was Netgalley and ARCs, because I have still never requested any. There are so many books I already want to read it just didn’t make any sense for me to look for more! I imagine it’s easy to get carried away on there though (which is why I have avoided it so far!) so only requesting books you really want seems like a good tip! Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  8. Silvara

    Love the post! Could have used it when I first started my blog 9.5 months ago.

    Only other tips I can think of, is not to worry about getting or not getting ARCs. Especially right away. Just because you aren’t reading/reviewing the new latest and greatest, doesn’t mean no one will want to read or follow your blog. Try out some of the ‘read now’ options on NetGalley to start getting your stats up. But don’t grab a bunch all at once as that usually has the opposite result, and you may not read them all.

    Also, don’t be afraid to reach out and poke other bloggers. Anytime I had questions, I’d e-mail or message someone. Even the people I’d never had any kind of relationship/contact with were super nice and helpful. And quite a few of them are now good friends!

    • Laura

      These are great tips! Not getting the latest ARCs doesn’t really hurt your stats as far as I’m concerned. I have never requested an ARC (there’s so many books i already want to read, without adding to the list!) or taken part in a blog tour or any of then other usual book blogging things, and I don’t think it has done my blog any harm (even if it does make me a bit of a book blogging freak!).
      And that’s great advice about contacting other bloggers if you need help or advice. It can be scary, but most people are nice and will be happy to help. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  9. Jen @ The Bookavid

    Great advice!
    Ohh, the talking to yourself part is so accurate. I still feel like I’m only doing this for myself despite having halfway decent stats. It’s just so discouraging to see fellow bloggers who have just started surpass you. Blogging isn’t all about followers, but it’s really hard to get that inside your head.

    • Laura

      It is hard to get past the whole stats and followers thing, but I did start to enjoy blogging a lot more once I stopped obsessing over it. Thanks for commenting!

  10. Topaz @ Six Impossible Things

    What a lovely post! I’m nearing my second blogiversary, and I can 100% vouch for all of the things you’ve said here – especially on the abysmal stats. I feel like that’s a huge part of the reason why so many new bloggers get discouraged and give up after only one or two months of blogging – we all have high hopes of easy fame, and it’s difficult to learn that we have to work towards that.

    But it’s all worth it – every minute. And I’m so happy that so many of us have stuck around this long. <3

    • Laura

      Congrats on the two years of blogging!
      It is hard when you learn that most people don’t get instant results with their blogs, but there’s definitely a sense of satisfaction when you work really hard on it and start to get more views and followers. Thanks for commenting 🙂

    • Laura

      That’s great advice! I found my blog picked up a lot more when I started leaving comments on other blogs because I started to build up a rapport with some other bloggers, and got more involved in the community. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  11. Elizabeth

    I’ve been blogging for a long time (since before Twitter existed) and I still don’t get the hang of the social media and what to use for what kinds of promotion. I pretty much stick to Twitter and use FB for posts that would interest my friends and family outside of the book world.

    • Laura

      I definitely think social media is one of the hardest parts of blogging to grasp, because there are so many different options, and each one works differently. Twitter is a favourite of mine, and one of the first I set up, but I think Google+ is great too because you can promote your posts directly to people likely to be interested. I have never used Facebook for my blog yet though, so I think that’s another avenue I could explore at some point. Thanks for commenting!

  12. Wren

    Hi,
    I was wondering where you meet other book bloggers. Do you go to Twitter or something?
    I’m trying to make friends, but I’m not good at making friends at times. I have a very dry and very dark sense of humor. I’m not good at making friends except for in real life.
    Where do you meet people?

    • Laura

      Twitter is a great place to meet other book bloggers. I haven’t yet tried a Twitter chat, but I have been meaning to for ages, because I hear that they’re really good for meeting and chatting with other bloggers. I also try and consistently comment on a lot of different blogs, because some pretty good chats can happen just in the comments! I hope this helps, and thanks so much for commenting 🙂

    • Wendy

      I’ve found that link-ups and challenges are good ways to at least find out who’s out there. I participate in the Top Ten Tuesday posts on The Broke and the Bookish, and I click on different responses each time. Then I look through the blogs and get a sense of which bloggers might have similar tastes, sense of humor, etc.

  13. Wendy

    These are great tips, and timely, having started a blog last month. I’ve been really surprised at how much time I spend on writing and on reading other blogs. I’m on vacation right now, and I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to maintain things when I get back to work. I’ll have to decide what is important and let the rest go.

    Visiting many other book blogs has helped me figure some things out, in particular about design. Swirly fonts and colored type may look pretty, but are hard to read! I understand what you’re saying about too much stuff in the side bar too. I am probably guilty of that, partly because I was excited to figure out how it worked.

    I think another aspect I didn’t consider well enough was my overall goal for the blog. I started it thinking it would be something I’d use in my classroom, but (in part because of being on vacation), I’m actually spinning it much more towards adult readers of YA fiction. I’m enjoying the kind of conversation that goes on in that community. I also hadn’t read as many book blogs in advance, so I didn’t realize that there were people who almost exclusively reviewed ARCs, people who showed photos of their latest book hauls, etc. I guess one advantage to not having a lot of followers at first is it gives the blogger time to work out what kind of content they will create.

    • Laura

      Congratulations on having started your blog! I really hope you enjoy blogging.
      I think visiting other blogs is a really useful way of figuring out what to do, or not do with your own blog. All the things I’ve pointed out design-wise stem from me having visited other blogs and found things hard to read etc., and so I’ve tried to not have to many crazy fonts on my own blog. I guess a lot of it is personal preference though: my own design is pretty simplistic and plain, and it probably isn’t to everyone’s taste.
      I feel like my blog went in a different direction too, once I started getting involved in the community. I hadn’t read too many book blogs before I started either, so I didn’t know about a lot of the things that people post like book hauls and discussion posts (I had kind of thought it would all just be reviews!), so it was fun to start experimenting with my content and figuring out my own personal style of blogging.
      Best of luck with the blogging, and thanks for commenting! 🙂

  14. Trisha

    This was really helpful! I started my blog a couple of weeks ago, and I totally feel like I’m talking to myself or keeping a diary most of the time. And honestly, I think for the first week I spent more time on appearance than I did on content…and then when I was happy with the way it looked, I’d spent so much time on wordpress that I hadn’t read any books, and therefore had nothing to blog about!

    • Laura

      I’m glad this post was helpful!
      The appearance thing can definitely be time consuming. I’ve just redesigned my blog and it took me ages just tinkering around with it and trying to get it just right. Yours looks great though! I love the green.
      That has totally happened to me too though where you realise you’ve become so obsessed with blogging and reading other blogs that you haven’t actually read any books!

  15. Ginger

    Your tips are really useful! How did you ever decide completely to self-host?! I’m rather new to the blogging aspect of websites (I’ve had other websites for other purposes), but so far I love it! I’m currently using Wix just because of the ability to design more in depth than WordPress.com. The only thing I’m still on the fence about is whether I should invest in a self host and domain. I’ve been looking into Bluehost, and getting the plus subscription for a year. Any tips for really knowing if you should? I want to continue blogging, as I have various content ideas besides books and its fun, but I’m just not sure if it will be worth it.
    Thanks so much for these tips! (:
    -Ginger

  16. Carrianne

    I just started my blog a couple weeks ago and I cannot tell you how happy I am that I had a few reviews from Goodreads to stock pile and post on my blog. Now of course, I wish I had some of those left. I’m still getting the hang of balancing reading, reviewing, and writing engaging content for my blog. One thing I know I have to do for sure is create a couple social media accounts for my blog, but that sounds just as daunting. *sigh* If it’ll help the blog, I guess I should do it though, right? lol I totally agree that the the blogger community is very welcoming and friendly. I know I’m tickled pink when someone takes the time to stop and leave a comment on one of posts.

    Anyway, thank you for this post. It was wondefully helpful and gave me some hope. It’s hard not to get discouraged when you’re not seeing the numbers you want. (:

    • Laura

      I’m glad you found this post helpful, and please don’t feel discouraged if you’re not seeing the numbers you want. It takes a while for things to pick up, but it does eventually. Best of luck with the blogging! 🙂

  17. Kelc

    Hello there! I really want to try book blogging. I love reading and I’m trying to improve my writing skills. I want to see if I would enjoy making stories that I have in my head and such.
    Anyway, I found this very helpful, so thanks! I know you started out self-hosting, but I’m really nervous about doing it right off the bat. I’m not sure if there would be monetary repercussions if I ever decided blogging wasn’t right for me. Then again, I over-think EVERYTHING. So first, I’d like to know what hosting company you chose… If I self-host, I’d like a good deal.
    Other than that, should I start out on a free platform to see if I like and will stick with blogging? I know they don’t get as much traffic nor is the domain very professional. I do like that on WP, you can switch over, but it is true that switching can be a pain later on. What do you think…?

    • Laura

      Hey! I’m glad you found this helpful! Book blogging is definitely a lot of fun, and it has certainly helped me improve my writing skills, so I hope you give it a go!
      I can understand why you would be nervous about self-hosting right away. With most hosting companies (even though it gives you all the deals in terms of what you pay monthly) you pay for however many months or years you want upfront, so once you’ve paid it, you’ve paid it, and if you decide you don’t like blogging you just wouldn’t need to renew it when it ran out. However, one thing to bear in mind if you go with self-hosting is that if you decide you do like blogging you have to carry on renewing and paying your hosting after your initial term runs out or lose your blog, and although you can often get really good deals as a new customer, a lot of the time they put it up quite a bit when you renew (and I hear it’s quite complicated to change hosting companies).
      I chose GoDaddy for my hosting company because it was the cheapest, and I’ve never had any problems with it. I think when I started out I paid less than a pound a month for hosting, so it didn’t seem like much of a gamble, but of course it did go up a lot when I had to renew the following year (so if you find a really good deal, I recommend you get as much time at that rate as you can! I now seriously regret not signing up for three years worth of hosting at that rate!).
      I think starting on a free platform can be a good way to start though to see if you actually like it and want to keep doing it. I read loads of blogs on blogger and wordpress, and it isn’t like it puts me off in any way. You can switch later, but from what I’ve heard it is pretty handwork though.
      I hope this helps! Let me know if you do start a blog, I’d love to see it! 🙂

      • Aralyn

        Thanks a bunch for the info! I did start a blog on WP; I’ll include the website this time, so you can check it out if you want (but there is literally only one post right now). I’m considering starting it up on Blogger, too, to see how it goes there, too. I don’t know which one I might like more, unless I try, I hear it’s simpler, but with a bit more customization available. Though, I’ve notice some complaining that there aren’t as many free themes there, buuuut then I saw other websites have free themes for Blogger that you can download and use….? So maybe I’ll give that a shot, too.
        And if I ever move to self-hosted, your info about looking for deals will be greatly appreciated! I figure if I enjoy it enough and want to try, the difficult move from free to paid might not be as bad, haha 😉

  18. Preeti

    For a person who starts feeling a little lost in this ocean of blogs, you truly are a lifeboat flowing against the current and giving a helping hand.
    I thank you for writing such a beautiful and simple post for the new bloggers like me. It’s truly a guiding light especially for someone who has gone through so many blogs that the end result becomes confusing.
    I am definitely following your tips

    • Laura

      I’m so glad you found this post useful, and congratulations on joining the blogsphere!
      Your blog looks awesome by the way, I just checked it out. I love the painty background (as you can see from my header, I’m a fan of the whole watercolour thing!), and I really like your review style. Happy blogging! 🙂

  19. Hagar Magdy

    I’ve started setting my blog up a week ago, and I’ll have to admit I felt lost at first because like everybody knew what they’re doing while I have no idea what step should I take next. Your point about everyone being a newbie made me rethink. Thank you for thooe great tips! I’m already preparing some posts like you said as I think that’s the most important tip of all 🙂

    • Laura

      Congratulations on joining the blogosphere! I’m so glad you’ve found these tips helpful, and best of luck with your blogging! 🙂

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