If you haven’t already, please check out the first part of this ‘series’ by clicking here. Read it? Good, let’s get started on Part Two of my completely unplanned, irregularly scheduled series.
There’s lots of advice for bloggers out there, but very few of it applies to book bloggers. I know I was learning things on the fly as I started The Mad Reviewer and I want some resources to be available out there so not everyone has to learn while they’re going like I did. Here are some pieces of advice I really could have used:
1. Don’t obsess about free books and ARCs, especially when you’re just starting out.
Although I had no idea it existed until a month ago, there is apparently quite some envy and conflict among the book blogging community when it comes to getting review copies from publishers and ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies). Not because getting free books in exchange for reviews is controversial, but because people get jealous of reviewers who brag about all of the free stuff they get. They make it seem like all of us get sent dozens of books per month from publishers, which most of us don’t.
When you’re just starting out you need to focus on learning the technical aspects of blogging as well as improving your writing and connecting with other bloggers to build up your statistics. There is no reason for you to obsess over free books when you’re already doing all of these things. I mean, truly? Free books are awesome, but they’re not the be all, end all of book blogging. I’ve been around for almost a year and a half and I’ve been sent 3 books by publishers—and one of those was by accident.
Seriously people, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s nice when it happens, but if not it’s not the end of life as you know it and it certainly doesn’t mean you have a bad blog.
2. Don’t take on too many projects at once.
As my regular readers know, this is like the pot calling the kettle black. At one point last year I was editing an anthology, had almost 20 author-requested reviews, built my Twitter following, was guest posting regularly for at least two different blogs and still publishing one review/article per day here on my main blog. It was insane. I was insane to think I could do all of that on top of being in constant pain. (Chronic back pain is just lovely, isn’t it?)
I was getting stressed out and was depressed for a very, very long time. Then I stepped out of character and decided to regularly guest post for only one blog, drop out of editing this particular anthology and work on getting through my author-requested reviews. Thank goodness I did too! Otherwise I might have quit everything from the sheer stress of it all. That’s what happens when you try to juggle too many things at once.
This is probably the most important piece of advice you’ll read in this article: take it easy. You don’t have to do everything at once. There’s no need to be hosting a blog tour, running a giveaway and posting a review every day all at the same time. You can only take so much and your readers can only take so much. Step back, take a deep breath: you’re only human.
3. Respond to comments.
I try to respond to every single comment I get. Most of the times I’m successful, but the odd one slips through on a busy week. That’s understandable and I don’t mind when bloggers whose blogs I regularly comment on don’t respond a couple of times. They’re only human.
But what annoys me to no end is when bloggers don’t respond at all, especially if I’ve asked them a question about their review/article or gave a thoughtful opinion on said review/article. It makes me as an entitled internet commenter feel left out or under appreciated because when I comment on an article, I generally have something I feel is important to say. Let’s face it: most people who read things on the internet don’t comment, which is why I try to treat every comment as a special thing. It means people have been moved enough to take time out of their day to share their thoughts with me.
If you don’t respond to comments, it makes you look stuck up at worst or lazy at best. If I comment on a blog by someone who doesn’t reply to comments, generally I won’t stick around because part of owning a blog is engaging your readers. Engagement is important not only to build an awesome community but also to make your readers feel valued.
4. Guest post—to a point.
One of the main arguments for guest posting is that “It will give you exposure!” Exposure is great, but you can also die from exposure. I’ll explain.
Guest posting not only gives you an opportunity to exposure yourself to a new audience, but it can also give you a day off if someone is guest posting for you. The most useful way to guest post is—I’ve found—to do an exchange. You guest post for a person on one agreed day, then they guest post for you on another day. This allows you to have neutral content meaning you lose no content for yourself and you gain no content.
Honestly, the only time you should be guest posting for someone who isn’t going to guest post for you in return is if they a) are paying you and/or b) have a significantly larger following than you do. If the person is telling you they will pay for you to guest post, they’re probably telling the truth. But it’s the people who tell you b) that you have to be careful around.
People have tried to dupe me into guest posting for them by telling me they have a huge following. For example, I once had a girl tell me her blog had only been up for a week and was getting “about 1000 hits a day”. I called her on this lie after seeing that her content wasn’t particularly clicky (i.e. the kind that would get lots of search engine hits) and that she had no comments at all. There is no way you can have 1000 hits per day and not have any comments at all, so beware people like this. They have no conscience and don’t have any qualms about manipulating you.
I hope this article has been of some help, both to old and new book bloggers alike. See a topic I haven’t covered? Please leave a comment so I can address it in future articles. As for established book bloggers: did you have to learn things the hard way just like I did? Or were you smart enough to avoid such things?