What Will Make Your Book Blog My Favourite?

Day 5 of the A-Z challenge.

E is for Expectations

I love hosting a book blog. It can certainly be challenging to find the time but it’s a joy to connect with other avid readers all around the world.

I also love reading other people’s blogs. 

Every week sees me visit easily a hundred plus blogs. Book blogs (obviously). Genealogy blogs. Blogs that explain some of the technical aspects of social media. Blogs about social history. And occasionally, when I’m in need of inspiration, recipe blogs. 

Since I discovered blogs (about 15 years ago I think) I’ve become a huge consumer.

It’s a world that’s changed significantly since the early days. But so have we readers. We’re more demanding. More savvy in searching out content to suit our interests and tastes. Quicker to form an opinion whether we like what we see. Less tolerant of sites that take a long time to load. 

I thought I’d share some of the elements of book blogs that I enjoy the most and some of my expectations.

There are three key elements that help determine whether I enjoy the experience of reading a book blog and whether I become a loyal follower.

3 Elements Of A Successful Book Blog: A Reader’s Perspective

book blogging

Relevant Content

Perhaps it’s stating the obvious but the content of the blog site has to be relevant to my interests. I want a good match between the blogger’s shares literary tastes and my own. Not an identical match, but good similarity. So if I detect that the blogger mostly reads Young Adult, Science Fiction or Fantasy, I know we’re not going to have a long term relationship.

My main interest in the site will be the book reviews: ideally those that introduce me to new authors or new titles by authors I have already experienced. I want the blogger’s reaction and enough information about the book’s plot, themes and style to help me decide if it’s one for me. I don’t like reading a blow by blow account of all the plot developments. Nor do I like just getting the publishers blurb and two lines of why the blogger enjoyed or didn’t enjoy reading it.  

I also enjoy discovering what other bloggers are reading (Is this me just being nosey or being afraid I’m missing out on something exciting? )

Next in priority would be interviews with authors I’ve heard about and reactions to shortlist/longlists for prizes I don’t follow personally. 

Of lesser interest are monthly round ups (especially if they are just a list of the books read and reviews posted) and book haul posts.  I do read them but if I’m short of time, these are the posts I will tend to skip. 

Usable Features

By usable I mean the whole experience of visiting the site is a positive one because it’s easy to use and easy on the eye.

I don’t want to spend a ton of time figuring out where to find the blogger’s “About” page or a way to search for topics of interest. A clear navigation bar is a ‘must have’ but sometimes it’s not in the common place at the top of the page and you have to scroll far down to find it.

Nor am I happy if I click on a link and the page to which I’m directed no longer exists or images take forever to load because they’re so big. I’m not alone it seems: I read recently that almost 40% of people leave a website if images take too long to load. That statistic has given me pause for thought – how quickly does my own site load? I need to find out otherwise I’m in danger of (justifiably) being accused of double standards.

Human Dimension

You can have all the great content in the world and faultless functionality, but it still doesn’t add to a great blog. There’s an absolutely critical element that makes the difference between being an OK blog and one that I want to return to time and time again.

When I visit a blog I want to feel there’s a real person behind all the words.

The blogs I value most are those where the blogger sounds as if they are talking directly to me, as if we were sat chatting in a coffee shop. So, although some blog experts argue we should write in the third person, my own preference is for blogs that use the first person. It takes confidence which doesn’t come easy to many of us, so I value it even more when I see it on other blogs.

I highly appreciate bloggers whose expertise and knowledge is evident but they never boast or puff about it, it just comes through naturally in how they write about books or authors.

Personality makes such a difference to my reading experience. I don’t look for bloggers to share personal information (though the antics of their pet can be fun to read about occasionally). But I do like them to share an opinion and – just as importantly – make readers like me feel our opinions are valuable.

It’s a tall order. I know because I’ve tried to do this on my blog. I don’t think I’ve been particularly successful but I haven’t given up trying.

So let me ask for your help.

What do you expect when you visit a book blog? What do you particularly enjoy and what do you dislike? What do you like/dislike most about Booker Talk? Is there anything you’d like to see more or less of in the future?

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 6, 2020, in Blogging and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Imagine reading almost one hundred or more blogs a week! I know you are most excellent at leaving comments, and I quite admire that about you. I agree with your three key points, probably feeling the third most strongly. There does need to be a personal connection with the blog’s author, I think, and that is one of the things I miss the most about the days when I first began blogging (2006). You are an important piece of the book blogging world, and I appreciate you.

  2. Referring to book blogs specifically: I completely agree with your last point, about personality. I would have said it’s much harder to write in third person than first person.

    I also dislike when a page takes too long to load, although I’ll usually give a blog I’m interested in time to load by hopping to a different tab. I do most of my reading on a desktop.

    I love personality & vulnerability on a blog — meaning I like to know the writer doesn’t know everything, & that they are in the process of learning and sharing their experience and discovery. As to the book I tend to skip the plot and that list of info at the top about where one found the book and where on e can buy it. I know how to Google and can seek out that info myself, although a link to Goodreads is helpful, should I want to add the title to my list. I want to know how the book made the reader feel, what they learned that they hadn’t anticipated learning, why the book was worth their time specifically. I tend to skim through and skip a dry analytical analysis, unless I can see from the start that the blogger has something new and different to contribute. (Again, I can Google scholarly analysis. Unless that blogger is sharing something personal while also analyzing, or has impressed me with prior posts or a like interest in books, I am likely to be impatient with their scholarly remarks. I like themed scholarly remarks, such as a blog that focuses on assessing books through a feminist lens. Especially books by women from the World War One era! But otherwise I am impatient with analysis about a book I haven’t read yet. So I’d likely skim a site full of books I don’t recognize which dryly analyzes and then leave if there’s no sign of personality.

    I love some character, some independent thinking and new ideas on a book blog. Break out of the box and speak your mind with some nobility. I enjoy seeing favorite quotes in the sidebar, a list of favorite books on a page somewhere, a sense of who the blogger is as I begin. And lots of pretty color. It gives me a sense that they are artistic. <3

    I also like a well thought out critique — I am thinking of a writer like Brian from Babbling Books. Measured, interesting, calm, intelligent, courageous, different. Nothing like I describe above, ha ha! No color in sight on his blog! Except that he takes on relevant topics, puts out his opinion calmly and thoroughly, and is always open to courteous dissent. And he reads a lot of classic lit & history, which is in keeping with my interest as a reader.

    I find memes dull and repetitive, though I do like to see people's answers for Top Ten Tuesday when I know them and they share my taste in books.

    I tell you what I most hate? Typos. Misspellings. Lazy writing. Misinformation. Rants for rants' sake without any foundation or reverence for the opposing viewpoint. I like a positive environment and have tried to learn to curb my own turbulent enthusiasm in order to spread love not war.

    All that said, blogs are all about variety. My favorite sort is another's great dread, probably. 🙂

    • Now that I point out my disdain for typos, I’ll have to ask you to pardon my typos above! There is no edit function within the comment box. 🙂

    • I prefer reviews which have a personal reflection more than a copy/paste of the blurb but do find it hard to do that in a way that feels natural. I spent too many years of writing in a third person I suspect. I hadn’t come across Brian’s site but just a quick look tells me I will enjoy his articles so thank you for pointing me in his direction.

      • You’re welcome. He contributes a wonderful note in the book world, & I’ve learned a lot from the way he writes.

        I hear you on writing in third person for so long. It may help to imagine you are speaking to a person face to face when you blog? Then it becomes natural to write in the first person. You’d never speak to someone over coffee in the third person. (I assume.) 🙂

  3. Not sure how I missed this, until I saw your tweet but yes, pretty everything you’ve said — it’s as if you wrote my post for me! But more literately, obviously.

  4. Yeah I definitely agree about relevant content. For me, I think the thing that attracts me the most, after reviews and lists, is good discussion posts!

  5. Very pertinent and logical wishes for blog characteristics and I completely agree with you. I am quite fond of reading about book hauls though, especially if there’s a story about how a certain book was acquired. And I appreciate monthly summaries with links to reviews, because there’s always one or two I might have missed, even when I subscribe to a blog.

  6. I totally agree with your vision.

    I like to discover new authors even if sometimes it’s disheartening because I know I’ll never have enough time to read all the books I read about and sound so great.

    I tend to skip posts where there’s too much blow by blow information about the plot

    I love blogs with a distinct personal voice.

    And I agree about the layout. If there are too many pictures, too much colour on the page it “hurts my eyes” and I’m not keen on reading the review.

    I like your blog, its content and its layout. I’m not there much mostly because I don’t have time to read as many blogs as I’d like. (And because I recently discoverd that WordPress had unsuscribed you without my knowing it, so I didn’t get your posts in my inbox anymore)

    I’ve forced myself not to feel self-conscious about how I write.
    I’m not a native English speaker, I know I’ve made mistakes and I’ve never taken writing classes or classes that implied to polish my writing and I don’t have time to spend too much time on a billet.
    So, it’s all about spontaneous writing and readers have to live with it. 🙂

    The best thing about blogging is when another reader comes back to you and says: I picked this book on your blog and I loved it.

  7. Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

    I cannot think of a single blog that I love and return to that has posts in third person 😅 what strange advice! I’m with you, the 1:1 human element is crucial for me.

  8. I think you’re spot on about relatability – for me it has to be books I’m interested in and a blogger who conveys enthusiasm about them. I don’t enjoy those that seem to be just there to push the latest mainstream release. But that’s just me!

  9. You cover a few things important to me too. Usable features is one. Some of the modern fancy look ones drive me batty. Where is the about? Where is the search bar? And even, sometimes, where is the most recent post? Or where can I find the categories/tags to find similar posts. And so on.

    I also agree re the personal voice of the blogger. When I started I thought I should follow the old school/university learning and write in third person but I soon realised that a blog – even one wanting to write serious reviews – is different to a newspaper or journal review and that 1st person was a better and more comfortable way to go. I’m still pretty formal I think, but I try to be personable.

  10. Lisa’s mention of patchy broadband is an interesting one. Easy to forget that when putting together a post as my own is very reliable. I enjoy a personal element to reviews but I don’t find it easy to include it myself probably because I wrote for print for a long time which is a whole different ball game. My travel posts are very different as I’ve only blogged about that. I appreciate your forthright views when reviewing, Karen. Always politely expressed!

  11. Enjoying this series of posts Karen and very impressed that you are finding the time to write such thorough posts!

    Like Lisa, I resize images to reduce download time – it’s an old habit from when I was working in web-publishing many moons ago.

    One thing I do like is if bloggers have their social media links set up and obvious – if I want to share a post, I at least want it to be attributed correctly.

    Being able to easily comment is critical. Doesn’t apply for me and WordPress sites but it drives me crazy trying to leave a comment on a Blogger site – the number of hoops (or other profiles) you need means by the time I get there, I’ve forgotten what I want to say 🙁

    • Excellent point about the visibility of social media links. Mine are there as standard feature of each blog post but I’d like to have them more prominent then my theme currently allows,

      Commenting on Blogger and Typepad are both frustrations for me.

  12. You make a good point about page loading time.
    I’m very conscious that Australian readers in the bush can have poor internet speeds. (I’ve experienced this myself when on holidays). That’s why I mostly limit my images to an image of the book, and I resize them so that they’re not huge file sizes. For example, if I scan a cover image myself as distinct from getting them off the web), the file size is typically between 1 and 2 MB. I try to resize these to 500KB or less, though I’ll concede that some early posts don’t conform to this because it’s something I’ve learned over time.

    BTW Bill, you don’t need to Confirm Follow if you’re following a WordPress blog. If you visit your own blog, you will see that any response to a comment you’ve made will show up in your notifications in the RHS.

  13. I resonate with all your expectations! When I have so many blogs in my inbox, I can’t get to all of them and I tend to skip the memes that simply consist of book covers. I, too, am attracted to a blogger’s engaging and personable style. On the other hand, I also enjoy an in-depth thoughtful analysis. My pet peeve is a review that is 99% synopsis! I also look for bloggers who share my fav genres and authors.

    About your site….I enjoy your sidebar! It has all the information a visitor might be looking for and I love how you’ve created colorful headings there. I need to investigate how to do that!

    I’m really looking forward to your posts each day in this series! Thanks!

    • I forgot about the posts that are just a cover photo. They have little value for me either Carol.

      Thanks for the confirmation about my sidebar. I have played around with it umpteen times. The ability to colour the headings is dependent on the theme you use and the package you’ve bought from WordPress. If you use their free option then the customisation will be very restricted.

      I used to have all notifications of new content from blogs I follow, coming into my email but that meant my in box was congested. So I’ve switched to using a reader called Feedly instead. Much more manageable.

      • Thanks for the info….I’ll need to obtain a different theme to do some side bar tweaking! And yes…my inbox is very congested! 😂😂😂 Thanks for the tip!

        BTW….I’m not sure why but I’m not able to comment on your posts using my WordPress connection (I have to fill out the form every time) ….and although I do get notifications on your new posts, I’m not getting notifications on comments….so I’m going back through all these posts to check if you’ve replied. I thought at first that my comments must be going to spam but I see my comments and your replies….just not getting notifications. So odd!

  14. I don’t read anything like the number of blogs that you do and I don’t know where you find the time. And I’m really enjoying this series and I don’t know either where you find the time to write it (and respond to al the comments!). I find that I mostly move outwards from the circle of lit.bloggers that I initially engaged with and as I get to know them I will read whatever they write about, which is often well outside my own experience. And I will put up with a fair bit of inconvenience from their sites.

    • … not least the Confirm Follow every time I comment on your site.

      • You shouldn’t have to do anything to confirm a follow if you are doing it via WordPress. Can yiu tell me exactly what happens when you leave a comment?

        • I make a comment. I press Post Comment.

        • Ok, Nothing happened that time. But the first time, and on every other post of yours I have commented on, before my comment appears under your post I get an email saying Confirm Follow. And so I push the button. That also happens every time with two other sites I follow.

          On the other hand I have got into a system with Brona’s Books which is on Blogger. It is always confused by whichever of my 3 gmail accounts I happen to be logged in to, so I just put my name at the end of the comment and ignore the What is your URL, email etc?

  15. I’m with you about the personal involvement of the blogger. I came to blogging from an academic background, where every expression of personal involvement or engagement with literature was systematically pounded out of us. Learning how to insert myself into my posts has been the single thing I’ve struggled with the most. I’m still experimenting with it every time I write something (and I started internet book reviewing in the late 1990s).

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