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.
Day 17 of the A-Z challenge.
Q is for Quality & Quantity
Let me ask you a question.
Imagine you’re a newish blogger. You don’t yet have many followers and the number of visits to your site is disappointingly low. To change that, do you think the best way would be:
- to increase the number of posts you write OR
- to improve the quality of posts?
Both are important. But the debate about what matters most – quality of content or quantity of content – has raged within the digital marketing and blogging world for at least a decade.
Once upon a time the mantra was “content was king.” That phrase was uttered in every digital marketing meeting I sat through. It came to be viewed as the magic wand solution for every ailing campaign, blog and website.
According to this concept, all you needed to do to get your viewer figures to soar, was to write and publish more. Problem solved. Everyone happy.
But things don’t always work out the way they do in theories.
The trouble with this particular theory is that it doesn’t take into account other factors like:
- how often you already publish new material;
- how much time you have available;
- how much you have to say on your topic and
- the appetite of your readers.
Don’t Be A Slave To Content
Your first hurdle is going to be time.
Let’s say you currently blog 2 or 3 times a week. Adding one more post per week maybe doable (depending on your work, family commitments etc). But if you are already blogging 5 times a week is it feasible for you to post almost every day of the week? It takes a lot of energy and time to keep up that kind of schedule.
Second hurdle: the more frequently you post, the more content ideas you have to generate.
Right there is the biggest issue. Because in order to post often, you may end up sacrificing quality. You don’t have time to research and write for your usual thoughtful reviews and discussion posts. So you fill the gaps with short insubstantial pieces which are much quicker to generate.
Some maybe little more than bullet point list or an extended photo caption. You don’t feel very invested in the topic but you’re doing because it’s a Tuesday and your plan says you post on Tuesdays. You need something to post that day and anything is better than nothing.
But that’s content isn’t necessarily why your readers have been following you. They don’t object to the occasional short piece or meme-related post but when it happens week after week, their patience gets stretched. They’ll stick around out of loyalty but they won’t be as engaged. You’re not providing them enough meat upon which to comment.
Going for quantity unless you can also maintain quality is a move that could hurt you. And not just because of reader reaction.
Google Favours Quality
Google pays very close attention to the quality of content on blogs and websites. Quality is one of the factors included in the algorithm that determines in what order you see sites listed when you do a Google search. Web and blog sites with the highest quality scores get to be shown on the first page and will be among the first sites you see. .
One element of quality assessed by the Google robots is the length of content. Google wants to send searchers to substantial content because it’s more likely to have answers to the searcher’s question. It doesn’t like very short articles. The more of these you have on your blog site, the lower you are ranked – and the less chance there is a Google searcher will ever see your material.
Google currently favours content 2,000-3,000 words long. Don’t panic! That doesn’t mean every article you write has to be 2,000 words long. Or that you can’t periodically do a 400-word piece. But if the number of short posts starts outweighing the longer ones, you could find the number of visits coming from Google to your site will go down.
Which is better: Quality or Quantity?
Content is critical. You need to have a substantial amount of it so that readers find plenty to interest them when they visit your site .
Quality is critical. Blog sites with articles that lack depth or are poorly written will seldom be very successful.
Quantity and quality are not opposing armies fighting for territory. They are allies. Used together they are a powerful tool to keep existing readers loyal AND bring you new readers.
Day 16 of the A-Z challenge.
P is for Publishers
In a world where coverage of new books is on a markedly downward trend, book bloggers have become an increasingly important element of a publisher’s marketing strategy.
From a book blogger’s perspective, a strong relationship with publishers and publicists can result in opportunities to read books before they hit the street. Not all bloggers look for advance (and free) copies of books but for those who want to go down that path, it’s essential to know how to have a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship.
Jen Lucas and Cathy Johnson enjoy good connections with publishing companies. What do they see as the dos and the don’ts.
Here are their key tips.
Jen Lucas @ jenmedsbookreviews
I am by no means the most prolific of Twitter users or Instagram posters but they are the place to be if you want to connect with publicists and enhance your profile. Here are a few rules of thumb from my perspective.
1.Follow publicists and publishers on twitter and Instagram.
Interact with them and for more than just requesting arcs. Share their posts, help to publicise books and give more than you expect to receive back.
2. Make sure that you are producing good quality reviews and tagging the author/publisher in your tweet some how.
I know that may seem simple but many don’t do it at all. And a review should be more than just “I liked it – buy it.” It doesn’t need to be War And Peace length (like mine) but your review should make readers want to read the book.
3. In the early days you may need to review books you bought yourself, or got from the library.
Publishers like to see consistency as well as quality and writing about the books you love, even older titles, is a good way to show you are serious about books.
4. Keep an eye out for publicists offering ARCS via Twitter.
They regularly ask for readers and if you are quick and savvy you may be one of the lucky ones. Just make sure you do a quick “thank you” tag when it arrives (another good ad for the book) and REVIEW THE BOOK . Again should be obvious but too many people take the books and run. Even that first bookpost picture or a simple promo post if you don’t get on with the book is better than nothing.
5. Sign up to publisher’s newsletters and read them.
They often have the book giveaways in them and are sometimes the only way to get the ARCS.
6. Use but don’t abuse Netgalley.
It’s easy to get caught like the kid in the candy store and become overwhelmed with books. Never ask for more than you can feasibly review or when you spot a book you really do want, you may find the pr guru says no!
7. Just keep sharing the book love.
That’s why we do this and really is the best way to get yourself noticed. for example – If you love a book drop onto Amazon and share a link to the book on Twitter so others can buy it. Tag the publisher and author and they will see it and they will remember.
There are no guarantees to getting books and I get/accept far fewer books than many other bloggers (I’m rarely sent them on spec) but this is how I’ve managed to ensure that at least I keep being asked.
Cathy Johnson @ WhatCathyReadNext
Here are my tips on working with publishers and attracting their attention. I’ve confined my advice to getting physical copies rather than digital copies via NetGalley, as that seems like a whole separate subject.
1. Identify publishers who publish books in the genres you enjoy.
2. Follow them on social media and share and comment on their posts.
If you can, identify the members of their publicity team and follow them too
3. Tag publishers on Twitter when you share reviews of books they publish.
These could be books you already own but you can also use this technique when you have borrowed a copy from the library.
4. Ensure your Twitter profile includes your blog URL
Also make sure that your “About Page on your blog has details of the genres you read and how to contact you.
5. Try to build followers by being active on social media.
This is an important step because publishers are more likely to work with book bloggers who have a good reach. They are not going to be interested in a blog that few people read no matter how well written the content.
6. Establish a reputation as a responsible book blogger.
Don’t accept offers of books or invitations to join blog tours unless you’re absolutely sure you’ll be able to meet review commitments. If an unexpected event occurs that makes it impossible to post your review on the agreed date, do tell the publisher as quickly as possible. They may be able to jiggle their schedule.
7. If you are sent books by a publisher, post a picture and a thank you on social media before you do your review.
Let Me Ask You A Question
What has been your experience of working with publishers and publicists? Do you agree with Cathy and Jen’s advice or is there something else you’d like to add?
Day 15 of the A-Z challenge.
O is for Order & Organisation
Type “how to be organised” into the Google search book, and you’ll get millions of results about how to bring order to your life.
They all pretty much say the same thing:
- Set your goals
- Make a to-do list
- Touch things once.
- Delegate where possible.
- Have a system to track progress.
If you’re the type of person who operates to those principles, I salute you. I would rate “good effort” on number 1, merit a gold star for number 2 but only a “must do better” on numbers 3 and 6. Since Booker Talk is largely a one woman band, I’d get to skip number 5.
It’s a topic I’ve been asked to include in this A2Z book blogging series. But clearly I am not the best person to be writing about how to be an efficient and organised book blogger.
Friends, I have come up with a cunning plan.
There are some bloggers whose organisation skills are far superior to my own. Why not get them to write this post I thought! Cheeky eh??
The three bloggers featured here have developed good mechanisms to make sure they are posting reviews and other contents regularly. You may not read as many books as they do, nor have as many commitments for blog tours and review copies. But following even a scaled down version of their systems, could be of help.
Karen @ Kaggsy’sBookishRamblings
I avoid the pressures of blogging by scheduling posts ahead. I keep a monthly paper calendar where I plan reviews to be scheduled and dates, usually with a gap of a couple of days in between, then set aside time when I have a few hours spare and a few books to review, and write them all in one go.
WordPress allows you to schedule posts for a specific date and by having a couple of weeks of reviews ready to be published, I don’t feel so pressured to write about a book immediately if real life is busy.
Linda@ Linda’s Book Bag
My technique for keeping track of reviews for blog tours is a belt and braces approach.
I have a dated spreadsheet with reviews needed highlighted in red, draft reviews in yellow and completed ones in green. I also have a blogging A5 diary with post it notes sticking out of the pages when I need to review as well as a Moleskin diary that I use for personal things as well as blogging.
On top of that, I stack books for immediate review in date order next to the bed! The spreadsheet has date, title, author, author Twitter handle, publisher, publisher Twitter handle and who contacted me about the book.
I did try keeping a publication date spreadsheet too, but so many publication dates have moved this year I’ve abandoned it!
Oh, and as soon as I’ve read a book, I draft a review before I begin reading the next.
Over my ten years of book blogging I’ve developed a review scheduling system that works for me.
My first step is to add the book to my Goodreads account, placing in the appropriate shelves eg. ARC, Netgalley, Edelweiss, Publisher etc. As a Goodreads librarian it’s also convenient to be able to enter ARCs into the database.
The second step is to add the book to a calendar app (iCalendar) on my iPad. I choose a date I’m planning to have the review appear on Book’d Out and use a colour code system so it’s easy to ‘read’ at a glance, for example the initial entry is blue, I change it to pink once I’ve read it, and then green once it’s reviewed and scheduled for publication.
My third step is to add it to the Review Schedule page on my blog which is just a list sorted by year and month of publication. After the review has been published, I add a link to the post on my blog.
The next step is to add the cover to my scheduled monthly book haul post, which I call Bookshelf Bounty.
The final step is to add the book to the cataloguing software I use, BookCollectorz. This software, among other things, lets me specify where I can find the book eg on a specific shelf if it’s a paperback, on my Kindle or Bluefire App etc
Writing it all out like this makes it seem like scheduling is a lot of work, but it’s simply a habit after so long and helps to keep me organised and on track.
Let Me Ask You A Question
How do you keep organised in your blogging life? Are there any tools you use or do you rely on your memory? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.
Day 2 of the A-Z challenge.
B is for blogging expertise
The world of book blogging can be exciting but it can also be frustrating.
When you’re starting out, there just seems so much to learn and so many decisions to make. What do you call your site? How do you add images? What the heck is a widget? How do I get more comments?
Even people who have a few years’ experience under their belts struggle at times. Social media moves so fast it can seem overwhelming. New tools are launched, new functionality is introduced.
Now you might not be the kind of person that feels they have to keep up with the latest trend. But sorry to break the bad news: you’re not immune from change. Because social media providers are constantly making changes to keep one step ahead of the competition. So just when you’ve mastered a tool, they change it or even remove it from their service.
If you use WordPress as a blogging platform you’ll know what I’m talking about – the new Gutenberg “block” editing system. I’m a fan but I also know many of you haven’t taken to it or struggle to understand how it works.
Recommended Sources of Blogging Expertise
The good news is that, whether you are a beginner or an experienced blogger, there are easy ways to get help. There are plenty of people who’ve done all the hard work of identifying best practices, figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
Here are some of my favourite resources. Yes they are heavily focused on people with commercially-focused blogs but you can easily skip over anything that isn’t relevant. There is still plenty of advice left, that will be applicable to bloggers like us.
This is a site I highly recommend for newbie bloggers and those who want help to take their blog to the next level.
ProBlogger describes itself as:
The site is run by Darren Rowse, an Australian who has been blogging since 2002, so successfully that it gave him a full-time income within two years.
ProBlogger is absolutely crammed with about 8,000 articles and tutorials. They’ll give you tips, advice and guidelines on everything from the length of blog posts to how to create content calendars and effective headlines.
But if that’s not enough for you, there is also a very active Facebook group and a podcast. Occasionally Darren runs a free blogging challenge to target a specific challenge. He’s just finished a “7 Day Content Sprint” which was intended to help people struggling with the motivation to write new content.
I’ve been listening to the podcast for about two years. It can get a bit repetitive but I’ve also picked up loads of ideas.
Smartblogger is the brainchild of Jon Morrow. His personal story is inspirational. He was diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy when he was a child. His hands, feet, arms, and legs are almost totally paralyzed.
Despite that he has created several lucrative businesses and now trains people to become professional bloggers.
The site has similar content to the that found on Problogger. What I like about SmartBlogger are that Jon’s blog posts are highly practical. A recent one called How To Write A Blog Post is an easy to follow step by step guide and there’s a handy glossary of words that convey an emotional punch. Very useful when you are struggling to find alternatives to “engaging” or “exciting” in your next blog review !
I’ve only recently started listening to Jon’s podcast so I can’t yet give you my opinion on how useful that will be.
If you want ideas on how to improve the visual content of your site, Natalie could be your answer.
She’s a poet and blogger who has a passion for graphic design. On her site you’ll find some great tutorials explaining how to use the Gutenberg block editing system or how to add an image carousel to your blog site.
I noticed just now that she has a tutorial on including “swishes and swags” in graphics. I don’t know what those are exactly but I’m going to make a date to find out. Maybe you’ll see the result of my labours on bookertalk.com soon…
It’s thanks to Natalie that I was able to add and customise social media icons to my blog and learn how to use an image gallery. She’s also very good at answering questions if you get stuck.
I can’t possibly leave Hugh out of this list. The very fact he’s from Wales and lives only an hour from my home, earns him a place.
More importantly I love his very down to earth advice. His blogsite is a mixture of topics reflecting his interest in fiction writing, photography and blogging.
He writes about some of the practical aspects of blogging, topics that you don’t always see covered in depth elsewhere. His articles are always very practical; every time I read one I find something I can apply to my own site.
Particular favourites of mine are his post about how to protect the intellectual content of your blog and how to create pingbacks (which help generate visitor traffic).
Plus he’s a really nice guy who loves comments and always responds.
Join The Discussion
Where do you turn when you 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.