Category Archives: Blogging
The debate over whether book bloggers should include reviews of books they disliked as well as those they enjoyed, has reared its head again.
The catalyst was this post on Twitter. The person who shared this was baffled: why single them out when there were plenty of other bloggers who also only reviewed the books they liked?
The message generated almost 200 replies and more than 3,000 “likes”.
It’s been fascinating to watch the reactions to this message. There seemed to be three types of response:
- People who agreed that bloggers didn’t need to review books they disliked. They saw it as a waste of their time or disrespectful to the authors.
I never write a review if I don’t like the book. If I don’t like it, I don’t mention it. Reading is subjective and it’s not my place to trash a writer who has possibly spent a year or more pouring blood, sweat and tears into a book.
2. People who felt the potential impact on an author shouldn’t stop bloggers making negative comments in reviews.
Yes reviews can be helpful if they have constructive criticism. But READERS are under no obligation to help authors. They already bought the book. The reviews are for other READERS not AUTHORS.
3. Those who felt they had a responsibility to their followers/readers to be honest about reactions to a book
I’m so dissatisfied with 95% of the books I read each month on my blog, I’m warning people way from them. I will not abandon a book I start reading, but I am very clear about what I dislike about them.
I tackled this topic in a previous post about “negative reviews” in my A2Zofbookblogging series. But since the issue is clearly still on people’s minds and opinions are so varied I asked a few bloggers I follow, about their “rules” .
Joanne: Portobello Book Blog
The question about reviewing a book she hasn’t enjoyed isn’t really an issue for Joanne.
She only ever reviews books that she has enjoyed and would want to recommend, she says.
There are so many books out there that I wouldn’t continue reading something I wasn’t enjoying. I don’t claim to be a critic and just because I haven’t liked something, doesn’t mean that someone else won’t.
Since Joanne frequently participates in blogtours, what does she do if the books she’s agreed to read, just doesn’t work for her?
I would contact the organiser and explain. They are always understanding and can usually provide something else such as an extract so I can still take part in the tour and help publicise the book.
Cathy takes a somewhat different approach. If she hasn’t enjoyed a book she will still review it but being careful to explain what didn’t work for her and to give a balanced reaction by highlighting any positives.
When I started my blog in 2013, my aim was to read all the unread books I had on my shelves and my kindle – all 746 of them – which has meant that if I haven’t liked a book I’ve felt that I needed to be honest and say that. I did not give myself the luxury of simply not mentioning that particular book as I was counting down all the books I had finished.
Even if that was not the case, I still think I would be honest in my response to a book, be it good or bad. I generally find that the books I am most interested in reading are ones that have had mixed reactions from people I trust. A book that has been universally adored tends to be a book that I will avoid!
Over the last seven years of blogging I have only written two or three reviews that I would consider to be ‘bad’ reviews but I feel that it is possible to discuss what you consider hasn’t worked without slating an entire work
There’s no definitive answer to this issue. Ultimately, as many of the contributors said, it’s YOUR blog, you get to choose the rules.
Personally I choose to review books I enjoyed and those I didn’t partly because I feel that gives my readers a more balanced experience when they land on my blog. Those are also the blogs I most enjoy and value reading.
However when when I have to share my dislike of a book, I still try to be balanced in my appraisal. It’s like doing a performance review for an employee: you try to make any criticism balanced and constructive.
A Question For You
Do you have a “policy” for your blog about whether to include reviews of all the books you read regardless of whether you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy them? Why did you reach that decision?
How much time do you spend searching for images to give your blog post more of a wow factor? If all you want to use is a book cover image, that’s easy enough. But if you want something more generic that:
- has impact,
- isn’t ubiquitous,
- is free and
- doesn’t have copyright restrictions
It’s only recently I discovered that WordPress also has a photo library containing thousands of images, and they’re all free to WordPress users. It’s also easy to use but of course you first need to know where to find it.
How To Use WordPress Photo Library
You can access the library in two ways. This is the method I prefer.
- Navigate to My Site → Site → Media.
- Click on the drop down arrow alongside the button for media library source button in the top-left corner.
- Select “Pexels free photos” from the 3 options.
4. Now do your search using the search box at the top of the screen. As an example, I searched using the term “reading”. As you type, the screen below the search box will fill with options.
5. Initially, the screen will show the possible images in small size but if you use the slide tool in the upper right corner, you can change the view.
This is how my first screen looked.
I found it difficult to really see the images clearly so I used the slide bar to change the view. By moving it to the mid way point I could see 6 images per row instead of 12.
Although it does mean you have to do more vertical scrolling to see all the options, I find it easier to work in this view.
If I wanted to see the images even more clearly, by moving the slider bar to the far right, I end up with just 3 images per row.
6. Now all you have to do is select the image you want (you can select more than one at a time). Your selected image will show with a small red dot in the bottom right corner.
7. Click on the “Copy to Library” text top left of your screen. Your chosen image/images are now in your media library, ready to add to your post in the usual way. You can edit the image here – changing the size, adding a title to make it easier to find, and an alt-tag.
How to Use The WordPress Image
8. When I’m ready to add the image to my post, I just select a new Image Block, click in “Select Image”
9. From the drop down menu I choose “Image Library”, and select the image I just added.
When the image appears on your page, you may notice that the caption has been pre-filled with the photo credit. One less thing for you to worry about.
10 The alternative method is to access the WordPress image library while you are writing your content and building your blog post. You just “insert image” and from the drop down menu choose “Pexels Free Photos” as shown at step 10 in the graphic above. Then you just search that library, select the image in the same way.
I prefer having my images already chosen before I begin designing the page but both methods will get you to the same results. Just choose what works for you.
A Good Solution?
The catalogue is extensive though some of the images available are a bit on the cheesy side. But so are many of those you’ll find in other libraries.
You do need to think carefully about the search terms you use. The more general your search term is, the more results will be returned but many of them could be irrelevant. Again, that’s no really any different to what you’ll find in other photo libraries.
Of course the best images will be ones you create yourself since there’s no risk you’ll find another blogger using the exact same picture. But if you don’t have great photography or design skills, this is a good option.
This post is part of my A2Zofblogging series. Don’t forget to check out the other articles listed in the series page.
Six months after I launched BookerTalk I was ready to throw in the towel. To be honest with you, I’d made the classic errors of most blogging newbies:
I didn’t have a clear purpose for the blog. Just a half-formed idea I would blog about my project to read all the Booker Prize winners.
I didn’t have a plan for when and how often I’d post.
I didn’t understand the mechanics of blogging. Categories and tags were a mystery. The difference between a post and a page escaped me. And what the hell was a ‘slug”?
Frustration. It took me hours just to post one piece of content. Hours I didn’t have to spare when I was also working full time, frequently away from home on business trips and also trying to maintain an exercise regime.
I came close to deleting all my content and closing my WordPress account.
What stopped me?
First I started getting a few comments. Just one or two per post. Small fry I know but they were enough to make me feel that I wasn’t entirely whistling in the wind. Unfortunately they didn’t resolve my struggles with the technicalities of WordPress.
Marcus Aurelius Has The Answer
Marcus Aurelius came to my rescue. Not in person of course, but in the words of wisdom captured in his book Meditations.
Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up? So what?
Those last two words nailed it for me. If I asked for help from some established bloggers, what was the worst thing that could happen? Even if they said no, I’d have lost nothing.
None of the bloggers I approached did say no. Not one of them sent me packing or made me feel my questions were naive. Each and every one of them was generous with their time and their expertise.
I came across that quote from Marcus Aurelius again last week and it got me thinking. What if I created a space on this blog for bloggers to ask for help? A space where we can use the Wisdom of crowds concept to help new and experienced bloggers solve problems, explore new ideas and become more productive.
I know you can find thousands of blogging tips already on line. You can just do a Google search or check out one of the experts I listed in an earlier post. You’ll certainly get answers to your questions about blogging in general. But you won’t find it as easy to get answers to specific questions about book blogging.
I loved doing the A2Zofbookblogging series earlier this year; especially the contributions made by so many bloggers who had particular knowledge and expertise to share.
Open Invite To Book Bloggers
I’m going to continue that series. But I’m also going a step further and throwing the door open to any book blogger who has a question or a challenge.
Maybe your question is about attracting more comments on your content. Perhaps you’re wondering if it’s OK to post content on books you didn’t enjoy. Or you’re looking for content ideas beyond reviews and book hauls.
Whatever your question, don’t be afraid to ask. I don’t claim to be an expert in the field of blogging. But I promise you I’ll do my best to help. And I’m sure that if I don’t know the answer, there will be plenty of other bloggers who do.
We may not be storming walls when we blog, but Marcus Aurelius can still teach us that it’s futile to struggle alone when all we have to do is ask for help.
How To Ask For Help
Post A Comment Here
Use the comments section on this post to share your question about blogging. Or explain a particular challenge you face. Make sure to include a link to your blog. If your challenge is with a particular feature on your blog, include a link to the relevant page.
Send A Direct Message
If you prefer, just use the contact form you’ll find in the side navigation bar on the home page of this site
Getting more readers for your book blog takes a lot of energy, time and focused effort. Content alone won’t win you more followers. You have to connect to the wider community of readers and bloggers via social media.
If you’re already using Twitter and Instagram but not seeing all your efforts there convert to more followers, it could be time to branch out.
Pinterest has more than 320 million monthly active users worldwide. While that’s much smaller than Facebook which has 2.5billion, it’s still a sizeable social media platform. And it’s growing: in 2019, Pinterest gained 70 million monthly active Pinners.
How can you attract their attention and get them to visit your blog?
I’ll admit to being perplexed by Pinterest. I tried it a few years ago, created some some book related boards and pinned what I thought were attractive looking images. They did get shared but none of that interest resulted in additional traffic on my blog. So I gave up.
Turns out I was doing it all wrong.
One blogger who has made it work is Briana at Pages Unbound. Initially a sceptic, she’s now become a fan of Pinterest and has seen traffic blog site boom.
In this guest post in my A2ZofBookBlogging series, she shares how she got started with Pinterest, how you can begin your own journey and how to make it work for your book blog.
Beginning With Pinterest
I’ve been blogging at Pages Unbound for nine years, and I was as skeptical as anyone that Pinterest could be of any use for me as a book blogger. I had tried it a few times over the years, and it never resulted in anything. After seeing The Uncorked Librarian and Eline from Lovely Audiobooks post about how they were getting good blog traffic from Pinterest, I decided in January 2019 to do more research and give it one more chance.
By the end of 2019, I had 9,344 page views from Pinterest. As I’m drafting this post in mid-June 2020, I have 8,818 page views from Pinterest – so nearly the same amount of views in just six months!
I admit I don’t do everything “right” that many Pinterest experts would probably recommend, and there are book bloggers who have much more success than I do–very rightly if they spend more time making images, promoting them, thinking of good SEO keyword strategy, etc. But here are some of the steps I’ve taken that worked for me.
When you read articles online about how to use Pinterest, you start to notice that they all have generally the same advice:
- Use Pinterest daily.
- Pin multiple things a day (recommended numbers vary).
- Pin a combination of your own images and other people’s images.
- Use keywords in your pin title and description to help people search for the images.
- Make sure your images are professional looking, include (legible!) text, and are vertical.
- Join group boards.
And those are the basic steps that I took.
- I started creating a vertical, pinnable image for every discussion post and list (basically anything that is not a review).
- I started pinning daily. While many people recommend pinning anywhere between 25-100 images a day, I often only pin about 5-10. I don’t necessarily pin my own content every day either, though obviously the more unique pins you have linking to your own site, the more traffic you are likely to get. So try to strike a good balance of promoting lots of your own pins while still re-pinning valuable content from others.
- I found some book and book blog group boards to join, including The Readers Lounge, Book Blogger Blog Share, and All About Books.
- I started my own book blogger group board.
- I tried adding more keywords and hashtags to my pin descriptions.
That’s pretty much it. It sounds relatively simple, but of course the real key is the time commitment required to create images (I use Canva) for every post I want to promote and pin those images to multiple group boards. I also make new images for posts/pins that do particularly well and try to promote the post again a few months after the initial pin. I log on to Pinterest (nearly) every day instead of sporadically like I used to do.
Pinterest Tips Specific to Book Bloggers
Of course, general “how to use Pinterest” tips don’t always apply specifically to book bloggers, so this is what I’ve learned about promoting bookish content in particular on Pinterest.
The audience on Pinterest is not the same audience you probably have for your book blog.
Book blogs are often followed mostly by other book bloggers, but on Pinterest your audience is more general – and often includes librarians and educators. Because of this, I find that book lists do well on Pinterest.
Imagine people searching for things like “Books set in New York City” or “picture books about anxiety” or “middle grade books about mermaids.” Some discussion posts also do well. I get the least amount of views for reviews. So if you have limited time to devote to Pinterest, I wouldn’t start with promoting reviews or things that largely appeal to other bloggers like weekly wrap-ups or book hauls.
Seasonal content also does well, and you should start pinning it about a month or so before it’s relevant. So start pinning Christmas book lists in November or books about witches in September.
Pins which feature a lot of book cover also seem popular. If you have a book list, create a graphic that includes the covers from several of those books, instead of a pin with just one background image.
Pins related to popular books do well. You’ve probably noticed the same if you’re on Bookstagram, for instance, but pinning things related to popular classics or popular books like Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings will get you more views than pinning something more obscure.
Make sure you join book-related group boards. This is not something I did before revamping my Pinterest strategy in early 2019. I’m not sure I even knew group boards existed. But one of the keys to Pinterest is – making sure that other people are pinning your images, not just you. In a group board, each member is supposed to pin someone else’s image each time they add one of their own, which will help your pins gain visibility.
Pros and Cons of Tailwind
If you read any article on Pinterest, it will probably mention joining Tailwind, which is a paid service that lets you schedule pins, join tribes (where other people schedule your pins to their boards), and see analytics related to your pins.
Out of curiosity, I did a free trial of Tailwind, and I think I’ve paid for two months (not in a row) since then.
I see the major benefits of Tailwind as:
- Scheduling. Using Tailwind means you don’t have to log on to Pinterest daily if you don’t have time to pin manually.
- Tribes. I think these help your pins get shared more than just group boards.
- Managing content I also like that Tailwind will tell you if you are trying to add a pin to a board where you have already pinned it. Some people who aren’t on Tailwind maintain elaborate spreadsheets to track where they have pinned images already and on what days, so they can make sure they are spacing their pins out instead of pinning the same image to ten group boards all in a row.
But I don’t think you need to join Tailwind. Though it’s convenient and can be a time saver, I haven’t really seen a difference in my blog traffic from Pinterest clicks between months when I did have a Tailwind subscription and months when I didn’t.
It’s also worth noting that I’ve recently seen comments from people who are far more experienced that Pinterest is prioritizing fresh content over re-pins, which means you would want to spend more time creating fresh pins and less time pinning your pins to multiple boards or even re-pinning other people’s content to your boards–all of which makes Tailwind less useful.
Keys to Success
I know there are probably ways I can improve my Pinterest traffic even further, but I am currently getting a good return for the amount of time I am putting into the platform.
While I have found various tips and tricks that work for me, I think the number one thing that made a difference for me was actually having some semblance of a strategy instead of randomly pinning images to random boards, which was my previous approach.
Making pinnable images, pinning consistently, and pinning to group boards are the initial steps I would recommend to book bloggers, and you can always work on refining your strategy from there.
What do you think of Pinterest? Have you tried it and given up? Or have you never thought to try it to support your blog? Do share your experience, good or bad, by adding a comment below. Don’t forget to check out the other articles in the A2ZofBookBlogging series page.
If you want to grow the readership for your blog, you need to write great content. But content alone is not enough. You also have to engage with potential followers via social media. Which social media channel should you pick? Twitter and Instagram are popular among book bloggers but that doesn’t mean you should ignore […]
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 […]
It’s time to talk about an issue that loads of bloggers run into at some point.
We’re talking blogger burnout. It can happen for different reasons and happen in different ways. You might find it’s harder to summon up the enthusiasm to write new content. Or you struggle to think of new topics to share with your readers.
Most book bloggers start out with huge amounts of energy and passion. But somewhere along the way they lose that energy. It might happen within the first year. It might take a few years.
Several bloggers who were very active when I started out just over eight years ago, are no longer around. Either they just weren’t as enthused about writing reviews and chatting about what they were reading or looking forward to read. Or their circumstances had changed and they simply didn’t have enough time to do justice to their blog.
How can you stay fresh and inspired with your blogging?
One way is to share the load of blogging with other people. Instead of struggling all alone, maybe you could find a partner, like the duo behind paperprocastinators blog. Or you could go further and do, as Rosie Amber has done – and recruited a team to help make sure you always have new content to share with readers .
As part of my A2ZBookBlogging series, I asked Rosie to share her experience of running a blog with multiple contributors.
How It Works
I started my book blog eight years ago. For the last six years I’ve successfully run a review team alongside my own reading list.
The team idea came about because I was getting many submissions for books in genres that I was less keen to read. Also, I wanted to encourage more readers to write reviews. I created a book review challenge project, which was a great success; I then asked several of those who had taken part if they would like to join a team. Happily, most of them said yes!
The team consists of an international mix of fellow book bloggers, writers, editors, creative writing tutors and people who just love reading.
We focus on indie and self-published authors and mainly use e-books which can be sent as mobi or e-pub file to us. This involves little or no cost to the author. Once a month or so, I send a list of accepted submissions to the team, and they pick which one(s) they would like to read. I ask that they review the book within 4-6 weeks, but I don’t give deadlines.
The reviewer will post the review on at least two sites; Goodreads and Amazon are where most authors like to see a review, but some also post to other sites like BookBub. Most of the team have their own book blog (though this is not a requirement) where they post any team review; they will also send me a copy to post on my blog at a later date, with full credit to the reviewer.
How do I do it? Lists! I have lots of spreadsheets and a desk diary. I try to answer all book submission requests within 48 hours, either with acceptance or a decline. My team know I will always try to answer their own messages the same day. I enjoy what I do, so it’s never a chore.
The Benefits of Team Blogging
From the author’s point of view, the benefits of submitting to my review team are many. Often, a book will be chosen by more than one reviewer, which saves them having to apply to multiple book blogs. Once read, an author will have the review of their book posted on up to six sites. As for the team, I am delighted to say that we all get on so well, and some of us have met up a few times in real life. I never anticipated that running my book blog would make me some great new friends – this was an unexpected bonus!
I won’t deny that it’s a lot of work, but I enjoy the contact with my team and the reward for all of us is seeing readers discover a new favourite author through our reviews. The positive responses from some of the authors we’ve featured makes it worth while too. When we got this message from Lizzie Lamb, author of romantic comedies, for example, we all went around smiling:
Rosie Amber and her team of reviewers/bloggers are professional, dedicated and fair minded. As an author, I know that I will receive a fair critique of my novels from them. I am happy to use them as go-to reviewers for any new novel I publish. I am also happy to recommend them to other authors.
Professional and fair is exactly what we all try to be.
The team is constantly evolving; over the years members have come and gone; sometimes life gets in the way and a person may not have the time or headspace to review for a while, but obviously I understand this and there is never any pressure. I am lucky to have a core of supportive, reliable reviewers who have read for me month in, month out, over the years.
Have you ever thought about partnering with other people to build content for your book blog? Share your experience and your tips by adding a comment below. Don’t forget to check out the other articles in the A2ZofBookBlogging series page.
If you want to grow the readership for your blog, you need to write great content. But content alone is not enough. You also have to engage with potential followers via social media.
Which social media channel should you pick? Twitter and Instagram are popular among book bloggers but that doesn’t mean you should ignore Facebook. It can be a great way to reach new followers and to interact with them. So if one of the reasons you started a book blog was to engage with other avid readers, Facebook could be your answer.
Starting Out With Facebook
I started my book blog ivereadthis.com in 2013 as a way to stay connected to the Canadian publishing industry. Realizing I needed other outlets to promote my work, I created a Facebook business page to publicize my blog content.
I dutifully updated it every time I posted a new review, but I didn’t pay much attention to engaging with my followers.
Fast forward to just a few months ago when I learned that Facebook business pages are not as effective as getting the word out as I originally thought. In fact, only a small percentage of posts are typically showing up in your followers feed, based on how much they interact with you. So what to do?
Building An Audience With Facebook Pages
Every once in awhile (and more often during the pandemic) I’ll pay for a Facebook advertisement to boost my reach. Sometimes I will create an ad that invites people to ‘like’ my page, while other times I’ll pay to ‘boost’ an existing post to my followers.
Facebook advertising is extremely easy to set-up and does result in more engagement, it simply depends on whether you have a budget to advertise. The audience for my blog (and business as a whole) is women over 30, and in general they still interact with the Facebook platform regularly. If I wanted to target a younger audience, I’d spend my advertising dollars elsewhere.
If you don’t have money to spend on advertising but you still want to grow your audience on Facebook I recommend spending more time on the platform, joining other groups, commenting and following other businesses that are similar to yours; this advice can be applied to any platform you use as a reliable technique to grow your audience.)
Building An Audience With Facebook Groups
Creating a ‘group’ is another option to increase engagement.
For the past three years, Facebook has been pushing their users towards creating ‘groups’, which are semi-private pages that people must intentionally join.
A group is very similar to a page, but based on the new Facebook algorithm, members of your group are much more likely to see your posts than if they were merely ‘followers’ or ‘likers’ of your page.
There are multiple videos available online that explain the Facebook algorithm better than I have. This article by SocialMedia.com gives a very thorough explanation of how the algorithm works and what you can do to books traffic to your group. .
An Online Book Club was Born!
When the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions started to take effect in Canada at the beginning of March, I decided to start an online book club. I had been mulling over starting one for awhile, and when my in-person book club was cancelled I figured this was the perfect time.
I don’t have a lot of tech-specific knowledge so I decided the easiest way to host the club and facilitate discussions was with the Facebook live video tool.
Each month I make about an hour-long video where I ask the audience questions, and they respond in real-time with the texting function on Facebook live, then everyone’s comments scroll up the screen as I talk.
It’s not an ideal platform, but it allows people the flexibility to pop in and out of the discussion without interrupting others, and for those who can’t make the live taping, I post the video on the Facebook group after so they can watch it at their leisure.
Although the Facebook group is yet another platform I have to spend time cultivating, I find it hosts some of my most engaged followers. They are excited to know what I’m reading and consistently leave comments on my posts.
I also share my other initiatives with them because they seem genuinely interested in knowing more about my business, so I’ll encourage new members to sign up for my newsletter, visit my blog, etc. I grow the membership to my online book club by posting links to it on my other platforms: my newsletter, my Facebook business page, my twitter feed, etc.
Give It A Go
If your audience tends to skew towards people 40 and older, I’d recommend using Facebook as a way to interact with them. I find it very user-friendly, and because it has been around for so long it has a wide variety of capabilities (video, polling, stories, etc.).
Anne Logan has worked in the Canadian book industry for eleven years as a publicist, literary festival programmer, and book reviewer. She is the past President for the Writers’ Guild of Alberta and currently sits on the Board of Directors for Calgary Reads. As the book columnist for CBC Calgary, she reviews books on air for radio and television. She hosts an online book club on facebook and reviews books on her blog ivereadthis.com.
Have you created a Facebook group or a page to support your book blog? Share your experience and your tips by adding a comment below. Don’t forget to check out the other articles in the A2ZofBookBlogging series page.