Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! It’s been a while since I’ve done a Top Ten Tuesday, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to participate in this “rewind” and go back and talk about what I’ve learned from blogging. When this topic originally came up, I didn’t feel as if I had much to say on the topic, but now that I’ve been blogging almost two years, I definitely do. This post is geared towards book blogging, but many of these tips can be applied to other types of blogs as well. So here are my Top Ten Blogging Tips:
Use a blog calendar. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it actually took me a long time before I started a blog-only calendar. Many bloggers use computer-based calendars to organize their blogging life, like Evernote or Google Calendar, but a hands-on approach is the only way that works for me. What I mean by that is that I must write things on a calendar with my hand! I found this nifty four-month white board at Target and snapped it up:
I try to color-code different blogging activities, like reviews, blog tours, cover reveals, memes, etc. And when a month is over, I simply erase it and write in the next month in line. The white board method is great because I can simply turn around (it’s behind my computer) and see at a glance what’s happening.
Don’t over-commit/Follow through with your commitments. I know not all book bloggers participate in blog tours or request ARCs from Edelweiss and NetGalley, but for those who do, or if you are just starting out and thinking about doing so, let me save you some stress by saying it one more time: Don’t over-commit! It’s so easy to click that “request” button, but before you know it, you’ve requested (and have been approved for) fifteen titles that are all coming out on June 11th! LOL, that might be a slight exaggeration, but I’m not kidding folks. It could happen to you.
If you like participating in blog tours, keep track of the ones you’ve signed up for, and don’t over-book yourself, even if the Best Blog Tour Ever asks you to participate. You know how many books you can comfortably read each month, so keep track of what’s coming up on your schedule and know when to say “no.”
Likewise, always follow through with whatever you’ve committed to read and review. I am certainly guilty myself of eagerly telling an author I’d love to read their book, but then it ends up falling into that black hole of books you just never had time to read. I’m still catching up on some indie book requests, and I don’t feel very good about it. But I did learn a lesson! With NetGalley and Edelweiss, publishers will look at your stats to see how many reviews you’ve submitted in the past. If they see too many books that don’t have reviews attached, they may decide to decline your request.
Check all your links before you publish! Making sure your links work, and making sure all your images have links, is really important. It may be a hassle and take extra time, but I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be reading someone else’s blog and click on a link, only to find it doesn’t take me to the correct place. Equally frustrating is clicking on a book cover image and expecting it to take me to Goodreads, only to discover the blogger hasn’t linked the image at all. I try to link most of my images, usually to the book’s Goodreads page. And please, if you are participating in a blog tour and using a blog tour banner, link the banner to the website of the tour host! It’s the polite thing to do, and it comes in handy if you are thinking about signing up to be a tour host.
Proofread & use spell checker! I know, most bloggers do this, but you’d be amazed at the number of typos and misspelled words I come across every day. Even incorrect word usage errors, like using “their” instead of “there,” for example, can stop me in my tracks. If you are a blogger, then guess what? YOU ARE A WRITER! And you should be proud of what you write and make it the best it can be. Publishing a blog post that is error-free makes you look professional, but posting something full of typos just makes you look like an amateur. Even if you’re in a hurry and have a deadline to get a post up (I mean, who hasn’t been in that situation?), it’s still worth a few extra minutes to check your post over before hitting the “publish” button.
Make it easy to comment on your blog posts. This is a biggie, folks. My biggest pet peeve when trying to comment on other bloggers’ websites is when I have to prove that I’m a human. Yes, I know we all hate spam. I get tons of spam on my blog, too. But usually the spam filter catches it, and only very rarely do I have to delete a comment because it’s spam. I hate to say it, but it’s usually Blogger blogs that use CAPTCHA (or something similar):
Whenever I try to post a comment and I see something like this, I get so annoyed! You want your readers to enjoy visiting your blog, but having to jump through hoops to do so will turn a lot of people off. Even the CAPTCHAs that simply have you drag a picture of ice cream to the ice cream cone (for example) are annoying. And did you know people who are color-blind or have dyslexia may not be able to use CAPTCHA? Think about potential commenters you may be turning away because you are afraid of spam! Do everyone a favor and turn it off!!
Build relationships with authors, publishers and publicists. Even if you are a generally shy person, like I am, stretch out your neck and get to know these important people in the publishing industry. I always let an author know when I’ve written a review of their book, received their book for review, or chosen their book for a “Waiting on Wednesday.”
I always like to let publishers or publicists know about reviews of their books as well. Getting to know a publicist is a great way to be included on their list of bloggers that they enjoy working with, especially if you’ve done a good job of following through with a request they’ve made.
New authors, independent authors, and authors from smaller publishers are usually eager to have bloggers promote their books. Offer to run a giveaway or do an author interview to post on your blog. Sometimes it’s scary to ask for things, but often times the answer will be “yes.”
Use Twitter! It took me more than a year to realize that I was missing out on something: the power of Twitter. Now I love it, and I recommend all book bloggers embrace this fun and easy social media platform (if you don’t already, and I’m assuming I’m preaching to the choir!). I think it’s the best way to quickly communicate something to either a large group of people, or even better, a specific author, publisher or blogger. It’s way faster than email, and more effective than Facebook (I feel very meh about Facebook these days…you never know if people are actually seeing your Facebook page.)
I always tweet authors when I’ve chosen their book for Waiting on Wednesday, written a review of their book, or received a copy of their book for review. Before you publish your blog, make sure to include the author’s and/or publisher’s Twitter handle in your “publicize” settings. As soon as you hit the “publish” button, the author will get the tweet and will often be curious enough to click on the link to your blog. And if the author likes what they read, he or she will most likely retweet your tweet, which means a completely different group of people may come to your blog. You never know what might happen when you do this! I’ve had authors offer me ARCs of their book because I mentioned it on Waiting on Wednesday.
Make sure to have a Twitter follow button near the top of your blog that is easy to find. I get new followers every single day, and you can, too!
Consider signing up for Blog Hops, blog tours, cover reveals & host your own giveaways. This might be cheating, but a sure-fire way to grow both your stats and your followers is to participate in a Blog Giveaway Hop. Check out I Am A Reader, Not A Writer, a blog that has multiple hops to choose from each month. Anyone can sign up, provided you offer a giveaway. The link to your post will be part of the linky, so everyone on the hop will add your link to their post. Hundreds of people will visit your blog during the hop, I promise! And once you lure them in with a giveaway, many of them will like what they see and become new followers. Think of it as an opportunity to let a wider audience see what your blog is all about.
There are also many bloggers who host blog tours, cover reveals, and other promotional book events, like AToMR Tours, for example. Once you sign up with them, you will start to get emails with opportunities to participate in these events. This means more exposure for your blog! And never underestimate the power of a giveaway. Sure, you want people to love your blog because of what you have to say, but why not offer a giveaway of the book you’re reviewing? Maybe the author is interested in donating a copy.
Get creative with whatever blogging platform you use. One of the best things about having a blog (for me) is getting to make all the design decisions. I can’t speak for Blogger, because this is a WordPress blog, but you can do a lot with a free theme if you get creative. I’ve seen lots of blog posts lately about bloggers who are paying to have their blogs designed for them, but it really isn’t that hard to do it yourself with a little experimentation and a lot of perseverance. I’ve designed all my headers, backgrounds and buttons on Photoshop Elements, a versatile and inexpensive software program that does many of the same things that Photoshop does, but for a fraction of the price. Do you feel stuck because your blog theme won’t let you use the font you want? WordPress charges $30 a year to customize your fonts, but I’ve found a way around that, at least partially. I simply designed a header incorporating my blog name, and used the font I wanted. Then I turned off the name of my blog that would normally show up over the header. Problem solved! (Sorry, WordPress).
Creating your blog is all about showing the world who you are, and whatever you do should reflect your personality. And don’t be afraid to re-do your design every now and then! I just did a big design overhaul recently, and I really like it, but I know the moment it starts to feel “old” I will not hesitate to change it again.
Be true to yourself. It’s really easy to get caught up in the latest blogging trends and participate in the memes that everyone else is doing, but no matter what you choose to do with your blog, make sure you enjoy what you are doing. Write book reviews the way you want to write them. Just because everyone else is using a rating system for books doesn’t mean you have to. Start a new feature that you haven’t seen anywhere else, rant about things that bug you, or talk about things you love in the blogging world. But whatever you decide to put on your blog, make sure your personality shines through. If you love what you’re talking about, people are going to love what you write!
Do you have any blogging tips that work for you? Feel free to share them in the comments (no CAPTCHA, I promise!).