What I’ve Learned So Far: My Life as a Blog Toddler

So, I celebrated seven months of blogging at the beginning of June. I totally missed my six month anniversary so I guess there’s no sense breaking out the party hats now.  I would tell you that it feels like it’s flown by or like I’ve been doing it forever depending on which day you ask me. And while I feel proud of myself for my longevity (I have the attention span of a sugar-addled four year old),  I’m still just a baby compared to many of the book blogs out there in the blogosphere.

I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the past 7 months. And while I am by NO MEANS an expert on the subject of book blogging (seriously, I’m definitely not) and I am still at the stage where I’m still pretty new and not quite an established blogger yet, I thought I’d share my experiences as a “blog toddler” (should I trademark that term?) from the perspective of someone who’s been around the block for a while but is not a behemoth (yet). Note: this is all just my perspective, not advice per se. If you’re blogging, you have to do you. What works for me might not work for someone else. That said, this kind of like a “best of” list for the advice that I took when I started out. This is what has worked FOR ME.

And! I’m not in any way claiming that this is an original topic. Find any book blog out there, chances are you’ll find a similar post. In fact, I saw a couple of people do something similar during Armchair BEA last week so I’m behind the curve a bit (disclaimer in the interest of the brouhaha in the YA book blogging community recently: I wrote this post on 6/4 and scheduled it for today. Screenshots provided upon request. /end disclaimer).  This is simply my perspective as a reasonably-but-not-totally new member of the community.

  • If you haven’t already, put yourself out there. While I’m somewhat awkward among large groups of people (including large groups of faceless people who I speak to via a keyboard), if you want traffic to your blog you’ve got to interface with other human beings. That blog’s not going to grow itself. And you know, for the most part the book bloggers I have encountered have been a genuinely nice group. The first person to reach out to me on my blog was Giselle of Xpresso Reads, who runs a super popular (for good reason) and busy blog  and it meant a lot to me. The first person to visit my blog regularly & really befriend me was Andrea at The Bookish Babes. She is awwwwesome. And I’ve met & interacted w/ so many other amazing people – April from Sim-Sational Books, Jessica from Hackaroo’s Reviews, Autumn from The Autumn Review, Molli from Once Upon a Prologue, and others. You will meet great people! Say hello to someone. Blogging has become so much more enjoyable now that I’ve gotten to know others.
  • Utilize available resources. Use twitter and Facebook (though I am terrible at keeping up with FB). Put yourself in blog directories. Participate in hops (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read host a great one every Friday). Get involved in hosted challenges and book tours. Bottom line: interact with people. Be friendly. The worst I’ve gotten is ignored tweets and you know what? I put my big girl panties on and got over it. It happens. Maybe they didn’t see it. Maybe they were too swamped to respond. Maybe they thought I had the shifty eyes of a serial killer. Whatever. If somebody not answering your tweet is the worst thing that happens to you on a given day, consider yourself lucky. Days I tweet links to my posts vs. days I don’t are crazy in terms of difference in page views & comments so that’s proof enough to me that twitter is integral. And sometimes you get lucky and someone will like your post enough to RT it. Yahtzee! Even more exposure. But DON’T SPAM. People don’t like it in their inbox and they don’t like it in their twitter timeline. If you post nothing but links to your own stuff over and over, people have no reason to follow you (and will likely quickly unfollow you).
  • Comment on other blogs. Then comment some more. Then leave another comment. Don’t expect everyone to come to you. You can’t sit back and let someone else do all the work. You could be the most interesting person ever but people can’t visit your blog if they don’t know it exists. Be sociable – though for the love of all that is holy, DON’T SPAM. Only comment on blogs if you plan on saying something reasonably meaningful. Don’t comment just to leave a link to your post. Don’t cut and paste the same comment on 100 blogs – by and large book bloggers are not idiots and it’s obvious when someone is doing this. And then…you get a comment! Someone takes the time to visit your post and write something about it! Respond to it. Follow the link to their blog. Don’t expect to receive unless you plan to give back. I try to not only respond to every comment here, but also go to their blog and comment on a post. I’ve found a bunch of really cool blogs that way and have some nice back & forth with some great bloggers.
  • Don’t be all about the free books. Really. Sounds obvious and everyone will tell you this. It’s easy to look at the bigger bloggers saying this and think “easy for you to say, you’ve got book packages arriving all the time.” But seriously. This is coming from a non-bigger book blogger (in the interest of honesty, I definitely originally typed “non-bigger book booger” there) who doesn’t have books flying into my mailbox on a daily basis. Don’t be a book grubber. It’s very unbecoming and it’s usually obvious who’s blogging because they enjoy it and who just wants free shit. If you just want to read books for free, get a library card.  It’s a lot easier, believe me. If you look at it from a time is money perspective, the amount of time you’ll spend on your blog will greatly outweigh the cost of books.
  • Understand that it’s going to take a while to build up a reputation, establish relationships with publishers, etc. If you think you’re just going to jump in and start getting print ARCs sent to you from the big publishing houses you are sadly mistaken. Start blogging. Put out meaningful content. Write reviews and not just memes (though memes are FUN and a great way to get to know other bloggers and you should find some you enjoy). Proofread…twice. Network. And then? When you’ve been doing that for a few months, start requesting books on NetGalley. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I get approved more often than not, but I’ve been doing this for 7 months and I’ve written over 100 reviews and I still get declined sometimes. I’ve seen well-known bloggers mention on twitter that they’ve been declined for a book. Again, the big girl (or boy) panties need to make an appearance here. Don’t be petulant. Sometimes it’s disappointing, particularly if it’s a sequel to a book that you looooved – I was declined for one recently that made me want to curl up and drink until I could no longer feel feelings – but remember that you are not owed anything. And even after 7 months, I haven’t contacted any publishers for print ARCs yet. I don’t feel like I’ve been around long enough. In the next few months I’ll look into this but again, I expect some rejection. Suck it up, cupcake.
  • Related: be respectful. Be professional in your interactions with publishers and understand that if they turn you down, they have their reasons.  They can’t give out ARCs to everyone who requests one and many of them have pre-ordained lists of bloggers who receive them. Don’t keep re-requesting the same book on NetGalley if you’re turned down. Acting like an overgrown baby over a polite rejection is probably not going to win you any friends – either with the publishers who aren’t going to want to deal with you or the bloggers who will resent you making the rest of us look bad. Don’t stalk authors on twitter and beg for ARCs. Again – avoid being a book grubber. Use the golden rule here: don’t be an asshole (note: this is my version of the golden rule).
  • Don’t get caught up in numbers. Yes, it’s easy to look at blogs that have thousands of followers and get jealous. But you know, they worked hard to get where they are. They’ve been blogging for years in a lot of cases. I’m pretty sure that for many of them blogging is like having a second full-time job. And you might look at some and wonder why they have so many followers because you don’t think their blog is all that unique or special. So what? Don’t be hateful. Jealousy is an ugly thing.  Don’t worry about how many followers someone else has. Put out good content and eventually the readers will come. And keep in mind that followers and readers are not necessarily the same thing. It’s tempting to host giveaways with a bunch of a follower requirement hoops to get your numbers up, but ask yourself if this is really what you want. Sure, it might  get you approved for more galleys & ARCs more quickly but it doesn’t necessarily mean that people are reading your content. Sometimes I see blogs with tons of  GFC followers and they look like ghost towns with nothing but memes and the occasional review that nobody is commenting on because people only followed in order to try to win something. I don’t judge anyone because their blog is their business, but that’s not how I want to grow.
  • Don’t copy. It should go without saying since this isn’t kindergarten, but nobody likes a copy cat. Again, do you. Find your own voice.  There are a lot of bloggers out there with a very unique style that sets them apart. It’ll be obvious when you’re copying them and then everyone will point and laugh (and the person who’s style you’re copying will probably be quite annoyed with your Single White Female routine). It took me a little while to realize that the best thing for me was to just type pretty much exactly the way I talk, while adding  a filter for most of the profanity and some of the snark. When I started letting that come through in my reviews and just being myself they became infinitely less boring (if I do say so myself). Not everyone will get me. Not everyone will like the way I write – some won’t like that I swear, some won’t like that sometimes the sarcasm just can’t be contained. That’s ok. Not everybody has to like everybody’s style. I am who I am and I’m reasonably comfortable with who I am about 98.2% of the time. The rest of the time I curl up in the dark with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and curse the name of Adriana Lima.

  • Here’s the tl;dr version: Don’t get discouraged if it seems like you’re writing these fantastical posts and nobody is reading. We’ve all been there. I think probably most of us still have days when we feel like that. It’s balls when you write what you think is a masterpiece of internet literature and you get, like, no comments. Keep plugging away. Keep writing interesting content. Keep networking with other bloggers. And don’t be an asshole.

If you have tips to share, please do so in the comments and link me back to your blog. 😀

And hey, if you like me click the follow button. (<– genius networking scheme)

Advertisements
Leave a comment

24 Comments

  1. This was an amazing post! Im at the 1 year mark and cant agree with you more on all points. I definitely need to network way more, and havent requested any printed ARCs either…

    Reply
    • Thank you! I’ve gotten a lot better at networking. I’m honestly at the point where I don’t even feel like it’s networking anymore. I have a bunch of blogs that I visit/comment on regularly because I genuinely like the people and the posts, and I have a whole bunch more that I read via RSS and chime in occasionally on. And I love talking to other bloggers on twitter.

      The print ARC thing seems kind of overwhelming so I may just put that off forever. Ha ha.

      Reply
  2. I lurve you and your blog. But you already knew that.

    Best advice: Comment. Hands down best way to make friends and bring ppl to your blog.

    Great post, Karen!

    Reply
    • I lurve you and your blog as well. Lurve fest!

      Yep, I totally agree. Twitter is a close second for making friends but not quite the same.

      Reply
  3. Oh my gosh, great post!

    Reply
  4. Nice post Karen, and hey, congrats on 7 months:) You know I haven’t started requesting ARC’s from publisher’s either. I sometimes feel overwhelmed with the NG approvals I have received, not sure I am ready to request MORE, you know? For me, blogging a little over 6 mos., the the real trick has been balancing the blogging with the reading and writing. That’s one reason I took a reading retreat a couple weeks back. I felt like somehow reading had taken a backseat. How does that happen when you are a BOOK BLOGGER? Anyway, the retreat helped a lot. Kind got me back on track. I think taking breaks when you need one is important.

    And I love your blog. I like how you are sort of a ‘no holds barred’ kind of girl when you review. I think you definitely have found what all the big blogger’s call “your own voice.” 🙂

    Reply
    • I agree with you on the NG approvals. I have so many right now that I still need to read & review that I’m not sure adding on paper ARCs would be all that wise at this point.

      I get what you mean about not wanting reading to take a backseat. The other day I was thinking that I should just take all of my library books back so that I could focus on review books and I was like, wait a second here. Why should I not read things just because they’re back list titles or I may not even end up reviewing them? I need to read what I want to read, you know? Whether it’s from a publisher or from the library. When blogging stops being fun and starts to feel like a job I won’t want to do it anymore.

      Reply
  5. Thanks for the great advice post! 🙂 My blog is in the infant stages and it can be difficult knowing what to do to make it better, so I really appreciated the personal anecdotes and your opinions on how to make book blogs reach their potential.

    Reply
    • It’s really a trial and error process from what I’ve found. Actually I forgot to include the best advice I took – have fun with it. Read and write what you like instead of what you feel like you should like or what will get you the most page views. There is one book in particular that everyone in the YA world loved and I just couldn’t get into *cough* Cinder *cough* and it took me a while to put it aside bc I felt like I HAD to get through it since everyone else was reading it. I do intend to pick it up again when I’m more in the mood for it but that’s because I want to, not because I feel like I have to.

      Reply
  6. I love this post SO MUCH, Karen! I’m honored to be mentioned – I really have enjoyed us chatting a bit here and on Twitter. Your advice is so true, because folks, getting “known” as a book blogger is easy: blog intelligently yet passionately, be friendly and put yourself out there, interact with others, and be YOU. Yet, the way you said it all made a lot of sense and made me smile. So GO YOU with this post. Love love love it.

    Reply
  7. YES to all these points, esp the comments bit. I really try to return the favour for every reply I get on my posts and visit their blog. Comments seriously make my day and I appreciate every one. I know everyone says “don’t get caught up in numbers” and it’s SO TRUE. It’s really hard not to get sucked into that vortex but you’re so much better off without agonizing over it. Great post!

    Reply
    • Me too. Regardless of page views, comments make me feel like somebody is actually READING what I’m writing. And don’t get me wrong, I’m totally narcissistic enough to write just for my own self, but it’s nice that someone else is actually paying attention.

      I was totally caught up in numbers at first. I couldn’t figure out why my blog was growing so slowly and had so few followers (and I still don’t have a ton…damn you, lack of GFC) but whatever. Slow and steady wins the race or something.

      Reply
  8. This was such a brilliant post! I agree with literally everything that you’ve said on here, although I really need to stop being such a lurker on Twitter and actually talk to people on there!

    Reply
    • It was hard for me to stop lurking on twitter. I still do it more than I should (but in my defense, when I’m on twitter I’m usually at work) but I’m getting better. I always feel like I’m intruding on people’s conversations or something and it was hard to get past that feeling!

      Reply
  9. Great advice! And I’m so glad that you included “Proofread.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone include this in other blogger advice posts that I’ve read, and I really feel like it’s something that should be common sense, but unfortunately I think a lot of bloggers have forgotten this step. Proofread, spell-check, even read your review outloud to see if it makes sense. And even if you catch an error later, you can always fix it! Everyone makes mistakes, and not everyone is perfect at spelling and grammar. But if your posts are consistently full of errors, it’s going to turn off Grammar Nazis like me, and may even turn away publishers and or authors who may want to work with you.

    Thanks again for this, and I can’t believe you’ve only been blogging for 7 months! You seem like a seasoned professional!

    Reply
    • Yes, I am crazy for the proofreading thing. I actually go back to my posts they day before they’re scheduled to post and give them a final once over. Then of course sometimes I miss things and I just want to spontaneously combust because I proofed them, like, 50 times and still missed some ignorant misspelling or errant punctuation.

      Thank you for the compliment! I still feel like a novice most of the time. It’s a slow learning process, which sounds dumb but it’s totally true.

      Reply
  10. “Don’t expect to receive unless you plan to give back.” —- this goes a long way! I use it in my personal life often. lol

    Reply
  11. serious comment now.. I am with you on the review writing. I was kinda awkward at first. Trying to write the way I thought I should be writing, but then I figured screw it. I just write the way I talk. usually with all the profanity. lol. Proffesional stuffy reviews bore me.

    your awesome btw

    Reply
  12. I’m gone to inform my little brother, that he should also visit this website on regular basis to take updated from most recent gossip.

    Reply
  13. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you
    penning this article plus the rest of the site is very good.

    Reply
  1. Never Too Fond of Books » Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge 6.15.12
  2. Top Ten Tuesday: Posts That Are Totally Me « Attack the Stacks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: