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.
A significant milestone this week – the fifth anniversary of this blog. And a chance to look back over the last few years and appreciate just how far I’ve progressed. Not that I am claiming to be an expert now ; in fact I still feel I am wearing my ‘learner’ plates; but I’ve definitely made progress. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned along the five-year journey….
Lesson 1: Avoid the ‘Build it and they will come’ mentality: I was disappointed in the first year that my posts didn’t attract many viewers or comments. I would look at other blogs and get envious at the response their content attracted. It took a while for the penny to drop that the world wasn’t exactly waiting with breathless anticipation for my thoughts on a Booker prize-winning novel. In other words that I couldn’t just publish something and expect everyone to rush to read and comment. I’d have to work at it; I would need to engage more myself with other bloggers. It wasn’t until I began connecting with other bloggers, commenting on their posts and joining a few challenges, that things began to change.
Lesson 2: Add new content regularly: One of the questions most commonly asked of blog experts is “how often should I post new content’. Not surprisingly the answer is usually “it depends.” By which they mean it depends on how much you have to say about your particular topic and what you think is your readers’ appetite for hearing from you. I’ve seen some blogs – usually ones which review products like cameras or software, which are updated everyday and sometimes even more than once a day. Equally I’ve come across blogs which just get updated once a month. The more common approach it seems is to go for three or four new pieces a week. When I first started I knew nothing about these best practices. I just posted when I had something to say – which was essentially once a week. But over time that’s changed. I no longer have to scratch my head to think of subjectsI want to write about and actually have a list of potential topics that I keep updating when new ideas come to mind (usually at the most inconvenient times like when I am driving and its too dangerous to start searching for pen and paper). Even so I’m also conscious that it’s easy to overdo the content and irritate readers who are busy people and don’t have time to read multiple postings from me. Nor frankly do I have the time to do much more right now. Ideally I go for three posts a week but if some weeks that goes down to two, I can’t imagine anyone will cry.
Lesson 3: A blog is not just for Christmas. I’m sure you’ve seen ads with the slogan “a dog isn’t just for Christmas” aimed at people who bow to pressure from their kids to buy a puppy only to find the novelty wears off after a few weeks. But the poor animal still needs feeding, walking, cleaning etc. And so it is with a blog. It needs regular nourishment in the form of new content. If needs to feel love through regular interaction; acknowledgements that people have taken the time and trouble to leave a comment so you should respond accordingly. And it needs regular maintenance – checking web links are still active for example, and archives are up to date. The key lesson for me in recent years is just how much time it all takes – and that doesn’t include the time to check out other people’s blogs and comment on their content…..
Lesson 4: Find your own voice. I mentioned last week that I’ve been doing some spring cleaning on the site (you can find that post here), visiting some old content and doing a refresh. Reading again those posts from five years ago has been a salutory experience. They were well written in the sense that were grammatical. But oh so dull and worthy. They don’t sound like me at all. Maybe some people right from the off have a unique style that reflects their personality but for me it’s taken a while to stop sounding like a professor and more like someone you could have a chat with about books. There’s a long way to go yet to achieve the tone I’d like but at least I no longer cringe when I read my posts.
Lesson 5: Stick to what you love
Creating the blog marked my entry into an entirely new world, one which had its own vocabulary. Readathon, meme, TBR: all foreign concepts to me. Fortunately there were a few kind people around who took pity on me and explained the new jargon. I must admit I got carried away for a time, joining multiple challenges and latching on to every new idea that came my way. It was fun initially but then began to feel that the blog was no longer my space, it was being driven not by me but by the need to keep up with external events. Instead of writing what I wanted to write about I was answering prompts from challenges and readathons etc. Gradually I’ve been weaning myself off these. I still do a few memes like the Sunday Salon, Top Ten Tuesday and Six Degrees of Separation but only when I feel like doing them not because I am slavishly pedalling away on a treadmill. If a particular prompt doesn’t interest me then I let it go. In short I will do only what I enjoy doing.
And the future?
There is still so much about blogging I don’t understand (like HTML) and many best practices I have yet to put into use like search engine optimisation. I’m also still vacillating on whether to go for a self hosted site to give even more flexibility in how the blog looks. So plenty for me to focus on for the next five years.
|What lessons have you learned while blogging?
Whether you’ve been blogging for 1 year, or 5 or 10, I’m confident you’ve learned some lessons along the way. So do share via the comments option – what’s been your biggest learning experience? What do you want to learn next?
I know officially we are still in winter in the northern hemisphere so it might be a little premature to think about spring-cleaning. And indeed I’m nowhere ready to throw open all doors and windows into the house to let in the clean air which was my grandmother’s preparation for cleaning the house top to bottom. It’s far too cold right now for that kind of malarkey. But with the fifth anniversary of this blog imminent it feels the right time to do a bit of a dust and polish of the site. I’ve also been goaded into action by some tips shared via a podcast I follow called Pro-Blogger which has some useful advice on how to make your blog more effective.
I’m gradually working my way through all the 100-plus editions of the podcast. Some are not relevant because they are designed for people who want to monetise their site or have a self-hosted domain. But one piece of advice I’ve started to follow is about improving old content.
Darren, the guy behind Pro-Blogger says he has a weekly habit to revisit old posts and assess if they can be improved – maybe redirecting links to more recent content, adding new ones or updating the content with more current information. His point is a few minutes spent on tweaks can mean readers get a better experience of the site. Plus each time you refresh the page, it is crawled by Google so you get more chance your site will be included in search engine results.
I’ve started with my posts from year one of the blog. What an eye-opener that has been. When I started back in 2012 I really didn’t know a) how to blog b)how to write a good review. So the early posts were very insubstantial. No links, no formatting of text to help guide readers around the page more easily, no photos to break up the text. These are all changes I’ve been making over the past week. I’ve also changed categories, tags and headings. Often I’m making small cosmetic changes such as ensuring consistency in the format and colour used for headings and book titles. I don’t want to alter the actual content unless I think a reader would get to the end of it and wonder why they bothered wasting their time. So with a few of them got more of an overhaul – like my first Booker prize title review The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens where I combined the review with some earlier published content about the author.
I’ll finish 2012 by the end of the week and then move onto the next 12 months. It’s something I can do easily in about 20 minutes per post and watch TV at the same time.
One positive thing has come out of this exercise – it’s shown me than in five years though I still consider myself to be still very much a learner, I have definitely improved.
|How are your blogging skills?
Though I’ve learned a lot in the last five years there are still aspects of blogging that mystify me so I’ve been making a conscious effort to learn how to fix issues and some new techniques. What have you learned recently that has made a difference to your own blogging?
I should really be packing my suitcase for my trip to India later tonight. OR writing my letter of complaint about the way our local council is handling its proposal to downgrade our library to a voluntary service. I should also be tackling the bottomless pit that constitutes our ironing basket.
I am doing none of these things.
I am instead getting distracted by the multitude of interesting bookish type pieces of news coming through from blogs I follow and newsletters etc. I thought I’d share a few of these with you (you’ll thank me for this I’m sure since you know you don’t want to be doing ironing, shopping etc either).
First item to catch my attention was this photo collection showing imaginative techniques some booksellers are using to get us to buy more of their stuff. These people have far more wit and creativity I have. I just wish the website had indicated where to find these wonderful places. Take me to them right away!
Then I saw that Ragan.com has published a very useful 16-point checklist that bloggers can use to make sure your content is top notch before you press the publish button. Some of the 16 points are, I would hope, common sense actions we all take anyway – like checking for spelling errors. But there are others that I don’t think about such as “Did I break up my content into sections with headings?”. I know I do with some long posts but maybe not enough. I also don’t pay much attention to tagging photos or content. Maybe you’ll find some new tips yourself from this article.
And finally, a thought-provoking piece in the Guardian about the future of writing. With a headline The Death of Writing, how could I resist? The full title of the article is the Death of Writing – if James Joyce were alive today he’d be working for Google – in which Tom McCarthy argues that today:
it is funky architecture firms, digital media companies and brand consultancies that have assumed the mantle of the cultural avant garde. It is they who, now, seem to be performing writers’ essential task of working through the fragmentations of old orders of experience and representation, and coming up with radical new forms to chart and manage new, emergent ones.
McCarthy’s argument isn’t one that can be summarised easily so I suggest you take a look yourself. I’ve read it through twice now and am still trying to work out my response.