Monday, June 28, 2010

To New Bloggers

Someone asked me this a few weeks ago: 
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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Be professional. Edit! Everyone's going to make some typos here and there, but try to keep them from peppering every post.
  9. 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!
So bloggers, what do you think? Do you have any suggestions for new bloggers? Is there anything you wish someone had told you when you started out?

12 comments:

  1. I love this post! This is great advice for new bloggers which I am, only about 6 months old and I'm glad that I followed most of these from the begining. I am still very intimidated by the big blogs. =D

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  2. Some might disagree, but six months is a long time in the book blogging world. I also believe book blogging is a separate world from other blogs. There's a different mentality. Also, there are sub-groups within the book blogging community. It's an amazing experience.

    You have a great list. Perfect advice for the newbie. :)

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  3. Great post, with some very helpful points! I've decided lately that I was doing too many memes on my blog, so I've decided to cut back. I'm a new blogger too, and I've started memes, done them for a week or two, and then stopped. Not ideal, but I guess everyone has to learn, right? From now on I hope to focus more on reviews, even though it'll mean I have less posts every week.

    My first review copy actually came courtesy of a waiting on Wednesday post I did when I'd only had my blog for a few weeks, and the publisher contacted me. I was really surprised. I didn't think I'd ever get a review copy so soon!

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  4. Great list! I remember when I started blogging... I thought that the more memes I posted, the better! I soon realized that reviews and discussion posts are so much more valuable and are a lot more entertaining.

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  5. Erin,

    Great post =)

    I'm just ecstatic that I have 46 followers right now, I only started blogging at the beginning of May.

    I started my blog because a website () approached me and asked if I would like to write reviews for their website (I e-mailed them a lot with recommendations for their Supernatural Book Lovers Club). I thought if I was going to write the reviews there then I might as well get started on blogger as it was an idea I had a while ago but didn't think I had the time to do it.

    Then once I was asked to do reviews, I thought why not and I made time. Posts don't take long if you prepare them beforehand e.g. IMM - I add the books into my weekly IMM post as I get them, so I don't have so many to do at the end of the week when it comes to posting time.

    I only take part in 2 memes at the moment and they are enough for me to update on a weekly basis. I think if I did any more then I would be lost for time for actually reading books to write reviews about and doing other life stuff.

    At the end of the day, your blog is about you. What you write/review/read is down to your selection. Don't feel pressured to read books that you think everyone wants to read about. I only read books that interest me. Sometimes that's the supernatural genre and then sometimes I like to take a break from what I am reading and reach for something else. Just be you when you write, put your own stamp on things. I think just being you is a big factor in a successful blog.

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  6. This is so helpful! I'm a brand new blogger of 1 week and a bit :)
    I have 31 followers so far (OMG I never thought I'd get any) :D
    I started my blog because I wanted to read a lot of the classics...However, I have realized that I may enjoy paranormal and YA too. Also I'm in a few challenges which require me to read other things than just the classics.
    Is this okay? Can I maybe add a subtitle to my blog which explains that I like reading other thing as well?

    As for memes, I do 2 so far...I review about 3 books a weeks so I hope this is okay. I'm considering joining one more meme though...Like teaser tuesday or something :).

    This advice was brilliant :)
    Thanks so much for the post :)

    Nora

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  7. I think that posting on twitter and facebook will help gain more readers too. Ask questions at the end of your post to include the reader. Make it have a voice.

    CD

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  8. Great advice! My blogoversary is pretty much in exactly a month, and I agree with a lot of what you say! Also, OMG one thing new bloggers should not do is embedded captcha, you know, where the page refreshes and you have to do captcha. I almost always click out, thinking I commented.

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  9. This is an awesome post! Great tips!

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  10. I too feel a little sheepish asking for review copies and have only done it a couple of times. What I found helpful was I joined a couple of ancillary book sites and mentioned I was open to reviews for authors, as well as tweeting an open invitation to authors. It worked so well, I have had about ten authors approach me so far, and when I provide them with a review, I always tell them to feel free to pass my name along to fellow writers in need of review.

    I also give authors willing to give me books a lot of free reign with my review, allowing them to tweet it, facebook it, and post it on their blogs or websites. It helps them by making positive reviews more visible, and it helps drive traffic to my blog!

    Also, blog hops help you reach new readers! There is a great one at blog called Crazy for Books.

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  11. Thanks so much for answering my question! Your advice sounds spot-on to me. My blog has been up and running for about a month now. The blog hops definitely have helped me get publicity - definitely the main thing. I need to work on making my blog a little prettier - like a nice header. Maybe someday I'll pay someone to fix it up, but definitely not at this point.

    I definitely believe in extensive commenting. I try to be present on a lot of blogs. But I also am working hard at limiting myself. I had a cooking blog last year and keeping it up just became so much work that I gave it up. I'm having such fun with this new blog. I want it to thrive but never to feel like a job. So balance is vitally important.

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  12. Thanks for the post. This is a real help.

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