Your Advice to Would-Be Book Bloggers

Last week, I received a friendly email from someone looking for advice on starting her own book blog.  She wanted to know some general things about blogging, Blogger, the book blogging community, and also had more specific questions.

Dear Ann Landers, How do I start a book blog? Signed, Blogger-To-Be

I sat down and typed a response to her, knowing full well that I’m not the Book Blogging Expert of the Universe, but wanted to offer some help and encouragement.  My email covered a bunch of topics–branding, Google Reader, reviews, rating system, rating policy, content, and building a feeling of community, but I know there are things I must have missed.

Today, I’m turning my comment section over to book bloggers, publishers, authors, or anyone tangentially related to book blogging with the hope of compiling enough information to write a comprehensive post or series about this topic, with links to those who participated.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a book blog?  If you’ve already written a post related to this topic, would you link it in the comments? You can touch on anything you feel is important–branding, driving traffic to a new blog, contests, writing quality reviews and posts, GoodReads, social media, challenges, BEA, or something as basic as how (and if it’s appropriate) to contact a publisher or author.

I’ll say here that Trish of Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? and Lisa from Books on the Brain were both instrumental in helping me navigate the book blogging world long before I even considered starting a book blog.  Lisa left the first comment ever on my now-defunct life blog back in 2006, and I reviewed my first book there with TLC Book Tours.  The book blogging community is diverse and welcoming, and I hope you’ll share some valuable tips with those looking to join the fun.

19 Comments

  • At 2011.01.14 12:09, Lenore said:
    • At 2011.01.14 13:27, Ti said:

      I think it helps to know what your purpose is up-front, and then to make sure that whatever you’ve decided on, allows for growth. Many bloggers jump right into creating a blog, which takes mere minutes to do, without thinking of the long term. They never think anyone will read them, and then BAM, they have a following and need to expand.

      Think BIG. Makes it a lot easier.

      I would also say, spend some time visiting other blogs. Actually, spend a lot of time. See what works, and doesn’t. If it takes your pages several seconds to load then you will lose readership. I learned that with my first blog.
      Ti´s last blog post ..The Sunday Salon- Reading Prompts are Everywhere

      • At 2011.01.14 13:36, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

        Don’t be afraid to ask question! Also try to find a buddy who you can bounce ideas off of and help proofread your work.

        • At 2011.01.14 14:22, Chrisbookarama said:

          I was a jump into it blogger but that was a few years ago and the community was relatively small. I’d say check out a lot of blogs, see how they do it. Decide where your interests lie: eclectic or niche blogger? As for what to review, start with your own or your library’s books, build an audience before asking for review copies from publishers.
          Chrisbookarama´s last blog post ..I Give You

          • At 2011.01.14 15:12, Liz (Roving Reader) said:

            Reading a lot of other book blogs is essential and helps you get a feel for what works and what doesn’t and how you’d like to organize things. Also, I agree with Ti that it’s better to think bigger rather than smaller when it comes to scope. I originally envisioned my blog focusing only on traveling and books, but since I haven’t been doing as much traveling this year I decided to expand beyond that. Basically your blog is always a work in progress!
            Liz (Roving Reader)´s last blog post ..Happy Friday!

            • At 2011.01.14 15:17, Dishy said:

              I don’t review books, but do run two blogs. Unless you’re going to self-host I would recommend going with a free WordPress blog. I know Blogger has its devotees, but as a user I find Blogger makes commenting unnecessarily tedious. Especially as your blog grows, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for readers to interact with you & each other. There is nothing more rewarding for a writer (or book reviewer) than to hear from those enjoying their work.
              Dishy´s last blog post ..Jealousy

              • At 2011.01.14 16:41, Kari said:

                My advice has always been to write about what you want to write about. The book blogging world ends up being much bigger than you think (!!) and it can be very overwhelming. Everyone has a different style of writing, and you can sometimes find yourself getting sucked into blogging a certain way—maybe you’re writing for an audience, maybe you’re writing notes you want to remember, maybe you’re writing a summary of what you read, do you do contests? memes? ‘in real life’ posts? No matter how you write, though, it is always more enjoyable to a reader if your own voice shines through. Personally, I don’t need to know the details of a blogger’s life day-in and day-out, but I do like to be able to understand the voice behind the words. Be confident with your own voice!
                Kari´s last blog post ..It is official

                • At 2011.01.14 16:44, rhapsodyinbooks said:

                  I don’t mean to sound facetious, but personally, I would just go to a blog like yours and start reading through the archives. You have a nice mix of stuff, and a nice blend of the personal and professional in reviews, occasional other subjects, humor, etc. I think your friend could do no better than to spend time going through your blog!!!
                  rhapsodyinbooks´s last blog post ..Review of “The Distant Hours” by Kate Morton

                  • At 2011.01.14 17:59, Meg said:

                    The advice I find myself giving most often is akin to, “If you build it, they will come.” To me, the key to building a great book blog — or any blog, really — is to write continuously, post on a regular schedule and don’t fear the cricket sounds that will form the background noise of your blog space for a while! Posting often will build your base and, gradually, folks will show up.

                    Also, commenting . . . that’s the fastest way to introduce others to your blog! For new bloggers, I always recommend they begin commenting (with their new blog address included in the form!) on the blogs they love and visit frequently. As you said, Nat, book bloggers are generally a welcoming crew . . . and I think that, for the most part, there’s an unspoken “write to me and I’ll write to you” thing going on. We appreciate the visits/comments and comment back! 🙂

                    I agree with Kari and Jill above, too, as well as the other fine folks who have commented! Going through the archives of favorite bloggers gives a great idea of others’ writing style and content, and can be an inspiration for new bloggers. Plus, it’s always great to start a post by saying, “Nat at Book, Line, and Sinker had a great post up on XYZ and here’s my take on that . . .” When I was starting out, I did that often!

                    Or, you could just be like me and ramble on about whatever and ever, amen. Hasn’t failed me yet, haha. 🙂
                    Meg´s last blog post ..Etsy Find Fridays- All houndstooth- all the time

                    • At 2011.01.14 18:19, Erin said:

                      Make sure you know why you’re blogging and have picked a style/topic that will work for you long-term. Focus on writing about what you want to write about and people instead of trying to impress people; it’ll make your blog more genuine and interesting to read. Once you’ve got that bit worked out, start commenting! Make sure your comment is relevant and thoughtful, though. Obviously saying “Hi, here’s my blog:” and posting a URL is not the way to go! Keep at it–a blog readership takes a long time to grow, but if you keep plugging away, it’ll come.
                      Erin´s last blog post ..The Birthday Giveaway- Take Your Pick and Help Me Celebrate!

                      • At 2011.01.14 18:48, Jess - A Book Hoarder said:

                        The advice so far is great and I agree with all of it. Spend time getting to know other blogs and leaving comments and you will find new post ideas and things you want to talk about/read (especially read, it’s a slippery slope my friend) for your own blog.

                        I love what Meg said about how you could just be like her and ramble on. The simple rambling touch can make it so much more personal. Make sure you are writing in your own voice or style. When I started I was so worried about my posts being “proper” or “professional” that I scared myself out of writing half the things I wanted to. I finally said screw that and now I write how I talk. If you are more comfortable with the proper…great! Just don’t be afraid to be yourself on your blog and do quirky things like using only lowercase letters when you leave comments…*cough cough* It’s all about having fun with it.
                        Jess – A Book Hoarder´s last blog post ..Radiance – Alyson Noel

                        • At 2011.01.14 22:40, Jenners said:

                          You are so kind … and I think you are more than qualified to give advice!

                          My advice would be.

                          1. Don’t get too caught up in accepting “free” review copies. It is a slippery slope and can lead to feeling burnt out and overwhelmed very quickly.
                          2. Be honest in your reviews and don’t be afraid to interject your own personality into them.
                          3. Participate in the community — particularly things like Book Blogger Appreciation Week, a meme or two, a read-a-thon.
                          4. Don’t be afraid to leave comments on other blogs … but relate it to what they are writing about … not just promoting your blog. Meaningful commenting is the truest and best way to build your blog.
                          5. Don’t forget to have fun with it.
                          6. Don’t feel like you have to post every day … but post regularly enough that people don’t forget about you.
                          Jenners´s last blog post ..Review- The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer

                          • At 2011.01.14 22:44, softdrink said:

                            Be yourself.
                            softdrink´s last blog post ..C

                            • At 2011.01.16 05:33, Marg said:

                              I think a couple of key things are not to expect people to just start to find you. It can be hard but you need to reach out by participating in community events, email bloggers if you think that you might have some common connections, and try to comment, comment, comment!

                              Oh, and I think Twitter is a great way to connect with other book bloggers as well!

                              Finally I would say don’t be afraid to let you shine through, because that is what will make your blog unique!
                              Marg´s last blog post ..Blog Tour- Major Pettrigrews Last Stand by Helen Simonson

                              • At 2011.01.16 12:16, Gwen said:

                                My advice for any blogger just starting out….keep a doc of each and every password, feed address, and all of the other important stuff having to do with your blog so it is all in one place.

                                Most important, be yourself!
                                Gwen´s last blog post ..Ding- Dong the Year is Gone 2010 in Review

                                • At 2011.01.17 07:41, Beth F said:

                                  Participate in memes and challenges — they are a great way to get to know other bloggers. But, don’t forget to post some fresh book content — reviews, news, thoughts. Leave comments, ask questions.
                                  Beth F´s last blog post ..Review- Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

                                  • At 2011.01.17 09:49, Colleen (Books in the City) said:

                                    Most of my advice has already been offered but I would echo the recommendation to take part in book blogging community events such as Bloggiesta, memes or challenges – it is a great way to introduce the community to your blog but also, in the case of Bloggiesta, to learn a lot from the experts!

                                    My second piece of advice is around comments – one of the greatest thing about book blogging in my opinion (and why I started) is the opportunity to share and discuss your thoughts on books and that discussion takes place in comments. So take time to comment on people’s blogs (meaningfully as mentioned above) and you will develop relationships in the community.

                                    Lastly – enjoy it!
                                    Colleen (Books in the City)´s last blog post ..Review- Promises to Keep by Jane Green

                                    • At 2011.01.17 21:20, Wendy said:

                                      Oh, my…there is so much I could say…but I think the best advice I could give would be to share yourself with your readers. I don’t mean that you have to “tell all”… but there are so many book blogs out there that if you want to grow your readership, you need to stand out in some way. Find your “voice” and share your opinions; don’t be afraid to put a little of who you REALLY are into your blog.

                                      Also, get out and be a little social – by that, I mean join in some of the community events (they are fun and you meet wonderful, like-minded people), join a challenge or two (or host one), visit other blogs and leave a few comments.

                                      The world of blogging is a wonderful, social experience and for the most part, you get what you put into it. Think of it as being a room full of people who you are mingling with and getting to know.
                                      Wendy´s last blog post ..A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear – Book Review

                                      • At 2011.01.18 21:22, Coffee and a Book Chick said:

                                        The thing for me is to have fun – sometimes my hectic work schedule requires me to travel often all over the country and I need to make sure I don’t make myself feel too guilty when I’m behind in blogging or reading other blogs and commenting on them. Don’t look at it as another job when you get done with the real day job – just have fun with it!
                                        Coffee and a Book Chick´s last blog post ..The Passage- by Justin Cronin

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