How To Grow Followers For Your Book Blog

Day 6 of the A-Z challenge.

F is for Followers

“How do I get other bloggers and readers to follow my site?” This is a question I get asked a lot. 

It’s a burning issue for new bloggers like Amanda Llwyd, a crime fiction blogger at The Butler Did It (a clever blog title). Amanda responded to my Twitter question about the biggest challenges facing book bloggers.

Even seasoned bloggers sometimes get frustrated when they see other bloggers leap ahead with follower numbers in the thousands. 

It’s understandable. You’ve spent hours carefully crafting that book review or a list of favourite books. But no-one seems to be listening. 

I’ve asked myself the question about how to increase my following many times over in the eight years I’ve been blogging. 

Today, I’m going to share with you some of the insights I’ve gathered about how to build a follower base. 

1. Go Beyond Content

The answer is that it takes effort. Becoming a successful blogger with a substantial number of followers can take years.

You do need to offer interesting, informative and entertaining material otherwise there is no reason for anyone to visit your site. The more popular the genre you write about, the bigger your potential readership will be

But content alone isn’t going to get you very far. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking: “If I write it, then people will come and read it.” Potential readers won’t know you exist unless you tell them. You can’t rely on Google and other search engines to do the job for you – until you have developed a good readership, you won’t figure high enough up the search results pages to make any difference. 

2. Engage, Engage, Engage

Readers don’t find you. You need to find them.

To gain a following it’s essential to engage extensively in the blogging community. Actively seek out bloggers who are in the same niche area and build up a relationship with them. Commenting on their blogs will bring you to the attention of the blogger and to their readers.

Make sure your comment has substance – simply clicking “like” won’t have any impact; nor will comment like “nice review” or “interesting”. You want to show in your comment that you’ve actually read the content of the post. 

The more you comment, the more your visibility will grow. Over time you’ll find that the bloggers you are following, begin to follow you in return. 

How much time should you allocate to engagement?

I’ve seen recommendations from some blogging experts that you should spend as much as a third of your available blogging time on engagement. The remaining time is then split equally between content creation and promotion via your chosen social media channels. 

Christian Mikhail from The Art of Blogging, has a different recommendation. He suggests using the interval between blog posts to build your interaction levels. Let’s say you blog on alternate days. Christian’s advice would be to adopt this pattern:

Day 1 you create and publish new content

Day 2, you engage with other bloggers. not just a few people, but scores.

You repeat the sequence over again

This approach applies even if you are not publishing on alternate days. If you publish say every three days, you still use day 1 to create content but now you use days 2 and 3 to connect.

How do you find bloggers in your space?

Well you could do a Google search but you’re likely to get overwhelmed by the number of hits. Out of curiosity I did a search for “historical fiction book blogs” . Wading through all those 8,000 plus results would be an arduous task.

A search for “literary fiction book blogs” is slightly less daunting. But still represents a sizeable amount of effort.

An easier way to find like-minded bloggers would be to use the tools available in your blogging platform.

In WordPress for example the “Reader” screen gives you the ability to search for relevant blogs using “tags”. If you’re not sure what they are, think of them being like topics.  This tutorial will explain them in more detail.

In the navigation bar on the left (shown below) click on ‘tags’  and then add the name of a topic.

It could be a tag that you use on your own blog. So for example, if you focus on historical fiction, put that into the “add a tag” box and click “add”. Your main screen will now be filled with blog posts where the blogger has used that tag. 

It’s now a question of reviewing those suggested blogs and deciding which to follow. 

3. Be Easy To Follow

If you want people to follow you, you need to make it easy for them to do so.

Check that you have a “Follow” or “Follow by Email” widget clearly visible on your home page. These instructions will help you find and add the right widgets.

4. Promote, Promote, Promote

Your job as a blogger isn’t done when you hit the publish button. It’s only just the beginning. You then need to actively market that content you’ve sweated hours to create.

If you look at the most successful bloggers you’ll see they are people who are very, very busy “off blog”. They’re prolific Tweeters, Instagrammers and Facebookers, sharing their content throughout the day. They’re also interacting with other users of that channel. It’s all geared to building visibility and driving traffic back to their blog.

Does that mean you have to be visible on all social media channels?

Absolutely not. In fact it’s better to pick just one initially and really get to know how it works rather than scattering yourself across multiple channels. You can always add another channel once you’ve got to grips with the first one.

Which channel should you pick? The answer is – as so often – it depends. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest have different advantages and benefits but only you can decide which works best for your needs. It might just be a matter of personal preference. If you’re a creative person, Instagram and Pinterest could be more to your taste than say Twitter which is more word-oriented.

Whichever platform you choose and how much time you decide to allocate to engagement, just remember one thing:

There is no magic formula for blogging success. It takes dedicated effort to get the results you want. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Join The Discussion

Where do you turn when Hyou have a problem with your book blog? I’d love to build a list of resources so please share any websites, blogs or podcasts you’ve found helpful. You can simply leave a comment below or follow the discussion on Twitter using #A2Zbookblogging.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on April 7, 2020, in Blogging and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. My biggest success as a blogger is that my first followers are still there, reading and commenting.

    For the rest, I’d like to have more followers, sure, as long as they really read my blog. I read older books and each time someone reads a book after my billet, it’s a reward. Not because I scored something but because I managed to give a writer (or an indie publisher) a bit of attention.

    Like Sue and Bill, I’m happy with the interactions I have with people who have become blogging friends. I think writing a more personal post here and there is useful because interactions are personal and it’s like giving updates to friends.

    All my personal posts are book related though, like the Literary Escapades.

  2. Good post Karen. I think this question also relates to goals. For example, you know that many of the memes out there will get a lot of hits – though how many turn into ongoing followers is a different question – but I don’t want to fill up my blog with memes. Some people love them because they can be easy to write and read, but they are not what I blog for and I read very few memes.

    So, for me, I like seeing my readership grow and new commenters appear – and I learnt very early on that visiting and commenting on other blogs was the best way of getting known – but my goal is not “to have lots of followers”. My goal is “to write content that I want to write” and then do what I can to get it to people interested in that sort of content. If my goal was getting followers I would write very different posts. I think we have to not compare ourselves with others but try to do what we want to do to the best of our ability. Maybe what we want to do is a niche area – I think mine is to a degree. So, what matters to me is to grow engagement rather than to grow followers. These are related of course but getting your head around exactly what you want – big numbers or good engagement – is part of this question? I look at my engagement stats as much as I look at the raw hit numbers.

    As for overnight successes in the blogging world? I don’t know any either – unless the blogger is already a celebrity and therefore well-known before they start their blog?

    • So much here to comment on Sue but i’ll just pick up on two points for now
      * Memes – I think they can be useful for bloggers who don;t read very much and so wouldn’t have enough content to sustain a blog. But they can be over- used. Some blogs I;ve seen are practically all memes. They get traffic but it’s not sustained.

      * What do you count as engagement stats? Comments? Engagement and following do go hand in. hand – it would be hard to have good engagement if your follower base is very low. But you could have loads of followers yet very little interaction

      • Yes, I agree re Memes being useful for that purpose. I like the monthly #6Degrees one partly for that reason, but they can be overdone, particularly if followed slavishly.

        Yes, engagement, which for me is commenting (not liking), and following do go hand in hand, but my point is that the number of followers isn’t necessarily an indicator of interaction so it’s useful to know what your real aim is. I have always preferred the small dinner over the large party. Sometimes when I get a spike in followers, it looks like they not “real” though I’m not sure how simply “following” gets them anywhere.

      • For example, a new follower today is Jazz fusion guitar improvisation lessons and modern music theory. I’m thinking they want exposure but I’m not aware that just following gives them that. I would have thought they have to comment, but I haven’t drilled that deeply into the algorithms because they don’t get in the way at all.

  3. When I started I constantly compared myself to other blogs, particularly because I wasn’t reviewing the latest new releases and didn’t feel relevant. I’ve learned that it’s about finding your own groove and being happy there.

    • There’s a balancing act – if you review the really popular books then “everyone” else is reviewing them so it would be hard to say anything different. If you review the old or little known books, you have a smaller universe of interested people. So the absolute key is – decide what you want to get out of the blog. And be happy with that as you say

  4. Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

    I remember, in the early days of Keeping Up With The Penguins, having a conversation with a non-blogger who seemed confused about the amount of time I was “wasting” on social media, when (in his view) I should’ve been reading more and writing more for the blog itself. In the end, frustrated, I said “having a blog without a social media presence is like having a shop without a sign out the front – would you walk into a business without any idea what it was or what you were doing there?”. It’s a simile I’ve trotted out a number of times since, and I think it works. Most of my community connection has come through social media channels, and for me they’re just as much a part of my “blog” as the site itself. I don’t tend to think of it as “gaining followers” per se, but I guess that’s the logical outcome. I think the way I’d put it for newbie bloggers is to try and put themselves in their readers’ shoes: how would they find you? Go there and be there when they come looking.

  5. The silent majority is a lot higher than we think. I often get Facebook messages from ex colleagues who tell me they regularly read the blog – yet they never comment.

  6. Agreed – engaging is really important (and it’s kind of what I did instinctively when I first began blogging). Twitter is again useful I think, and I use Instagram to a lesser extent. Neither platform is entirely satisfactory (Twitter has a short attention span and IG sometimes thinks it’s also a blog!) but I think they’re handy tools!

    • I’m trying to evaluate how useful Instagram is in terms of whether it drives traffic to the blog site. I did an experiment with Pinterest a while ago and abandoned it because it really didn’t generate any more visits or engagement. Twitter is the only one that seems to produce engagement

  7. All of these sound like sensible tips, Karen. I think it takes a good few months before you can hope to get a following. My tip is to try to resist comparing yourself with others, particularly if you find yourself write crowd pleasing but ultimately unsatisfying posts in the hope of luring in followers. I’ve weaned myself off looking at my stats, keeping it to once a month. Good will power practice!

  8. There is no formula but everything you suggest is great. However it doesn’t explain overnight success, which they seem to be quite a few. I’ve been more on YouTube than on my blog but now that I’m blogging more people are subscribing. I believe they are coming from my YouTube channel and my Instagram page. The thing is to not give up and to focus on the content. 🙂

    • Overnight success? I haven’t seen that happening personally with any of the blogs I follow. I suspect the people involved have already done what you have done Didi and built an identity in another space which then pulls through to the blog.

  9. These are good, you hit the proverbial nail on the head when you said that it takes time and dedication. There is rarely a genuine ‘quick fix’ process that would work in the long-term.

    • It would be good to think there are quick fixes but the reality is that it’s all effort, effort, effort. More than people imagine when they start off I’m sure

  10. Oh thanks for the tip about searching by tag!!! That’s fun and new to me!
    I like to gain followers through commenting! I’ve tried adding my blog to twitter follow posts and then I end up with random followers who are not at all in my niche and then I feel guilty not returning the follow.
    It as a surprise to me how much time I would need to invest in commenting and promotion. It probably took me a year to become established across different platforms and gain followers. Bookstagram is great for community but not so much for click throughs….twitter is great for promotion and click throughs..,,Pinterest is starting to provide some click throughs for me. I post across all platforms because each one reaches different people.
    Thanks for the great information and conversation!

    • Well done for getting those social media platforms working for you. I’m interested in your comment about Pinterest. I couldn’t get that to work well – I probably wasn’t doing it correctly though.

      • Honestly, I don’t think I’m doing Pinterest correctly judging by the views others report…..but….after about 6 months, I did start to see an increase in views generated via Pinterest. For example, for today’s post I had 16 views from Pinterest within the first few hours. So I’m encouraged and I’ll take it! Another Pinterest user might think that was dismal! 😂😂😂

  11. Followers are a mystery to me. I have some, in their hundreds rather than thousands, but why? Of course I try to write engagingly, though to be honest, mostly I just write for the few who are going to comment. I know that I got going by commenting and being commented on, but I doubt that more than 20 people comment on my blog, or I on theirs, over the course of a year. For a long time I wondered where all the odd ‘likes’ were coming from, but I guess that was from tags drawing people’s attention in the WordPress reader, and some of those become followers of course. I could say I wonder what they get out of it, but I guess the majority are happy to read and not comment, just as we all do with newspapers and magazines.

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