Do you have any advice for a new blogger - I see your blog is only 6 months old but it already looks very developed, both through content and followers.First off, thanks! I appreciate it. I try hard to make the blog look nice and have it be a restful place to come visit.
Second, I struggled with whether or not to reply. I still consider myself quite new, and though 200+ followers is nothing to sneeze at, other 6 month old blogs have many, many more. That being said, I was pretty intimidated by the "big blogs" when I started out, so I decided to go ahead and try to give some advice. Maybe this will help someone out.
- Find your niche. This is going to take a while. Don't worry about it. I started out thinking my niche was YA and classics and then it rotated more towards YA and YA paranormal with a sprinkling of classics and historicals when I have the time. That's okay. You don't have to have everything perfect up front. Do try to find your niche though because it's easier to follow a blog that has an ongoing literary theme. It's easier for followers to identify with your taste in books if they see a trend.
- Make it pretty. It doesn't have to be professional, and it doesn't have to be perfect. However, your blog should look like you put a little effort into it, at least customizing the preset Blogger themes instead of leaving them as the default. Personally, I tried to have my header reflect how I feel when I read (characters mingling around, popping in and out of time) and then matched the rest of the blog to that. I wanted a restful place on the web as part of my niche, as well. I absolutely love the trendy, semi-professionally designed blogs out there, but I think my self-made template makes my blog stand out (hopefully in a good way!). You can find some great backgrounds at The Cutest Blog on the Block and Shabby Blogs.
- Post regularly. Set up a schedule. You don't have to stick to it 100%, but a general schedule will help you build your review archive quickly. Participate in memes if you like, but try to keep the meme to review ratio 1:1 or less. (For example, if you post reviews twice a week, you can have up to 2 memes.)
- Be polite. Book bloggers are some of the nicest people on the web; let's keep that reputation! Don't start flame wars; don't accuse people of stuff; don't steal or plagiarize, etc.
- Be patient. I haven't reached a point where I feel comfortable requesting review copies. I promised myself I'd start when I reached 50 followers...and then it was 100...and here I am, 200+, and still too chicken to ask. (I'm notoriously cautious.) The reason is that when I finally do ask, I want to make sure that I'm ready and that I've established myself as a good review blogger. I don't want to jump the gun and give publishers the impression that I'm only in this for the books or that I'm greedy. If you feel comfortable asking earlier, then go for it, but keep in mind that you're forming a reputation. Also, don't have giveaways too early on. I'd say, rule of thumb, if you have one before 50 followers, it can look like you're begging for followers, even if you're not. So unless a publisher offers to do a review for your followers, don't hold them until you've established yourself as a reliable blogger.
- Be positive. By all means, write negative reviews! It gives your readers an idea of what books you don't like as well as those that you do, and that helps identify your taste in books. Do, however, be polite in your reviews and make sure that when you critique the book, you're critiquing, not criticizing. Focus on the novel, not the author. That's somebody's precious baby out there for the whole world to see, so be nice.
- Stay on topic. This is part of creating your niche. Even if you read books outside of your niche, wait until you've got a small archive of reviews before branching out. Try to establish your base first.
- Be professional. Edit! Everyone's going to make some typos here and there, but try to keep them from peppering every post.
- Get your name out there. I got my first followers because I won a giveaway where the host posted my name and blog link. Then I found The Saturday Network and then The Book Blogger Hop. These are all great places to get the word out, just make sure you follow the rules and visit other blogs as well. Also, comment, comment, comment. Let the blogosphere know you exist!