I have learned a lot about blogging since I started a little over a year ago. I have spent countless hours learning about CSS, WordPress themes, FTC disclosures, social media, and so much more. Designing and administrating the blog is an ongoing process I am still learning about. The biggest challenges, however, have come in the form of keeping up with everything I need to do in addition to my full-time job and my family obligations. I have had to become super organized to make sure tours and reviews get posted on schedule.
For the casual blogger who just wants to post at his/her leisure without being bound by obligations to tours or authors, it might not be a big issue. I have taken a different approach to blogging, one in which I am striving to build it into a publication with a strong reader base. I am not expecting to ever get rich at blogging, but I hope to get to a point where I can at least sell enough advertising on the blog to cover the expenses of giveaways, self-hosting, plug-ins, etc. Right now, all of this is coming out of my own pocket. So, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to try to recuperate some of that cost.
I know I still have a long way to go to get to that goal. However, I have learned some things I feel are invaluable for beginner book bloggers.
1) Always manage and refer to a schedule. Before I make any commitments or sign up for tours, I refer to my schedule. And as soon as I sign up, I put it on the schedule, so I don’t accidentally schedule something else for the same date. Another important part of maintaining the schedule is to keep realistic expectations. If you can’t read a book a day, don’t sign up to review as part of a book tour two days in a row. Leave yourself time in between to get the books read.
Because Misty also does tours from time to time, I found it is easiest for us to coordinate our tours by keeping a Google doc that we both can access. That way, I know not to schedule something on a date that she already has a tour that needs to be top post.
2) Don’t go hog-wild with Netgalley and Edelweiss. I am still paying for this mistake. When I first signed up for Netgalley, I didn’t think I would get approved for much, so I made the mistake of requesting a ton of books. Of course, I was approved for almost all of them, which led to me being overwhelmed with books.
I haven’t made much of a dent in my Netgalley to-read. Some of them, I don’t even want to read anymore. I think I was just excited and over-zealous. Now, I am suffering for it because my ratio of approved to reviewed is low.
So, control yourself when it comes to requesting ARCs.
3) When an author comes to you asking for a review, don’t feel obligated to say yes. I made a few mistakes at the beginning where I was so excited and honored that an author would ask me to review a book, that I said yes to everything. Then, I was overwhelmed with review copies. Be discerning. Research the book when possible and think if it is truly something you would want to read and review.
Also, think about if you have the time to review it. What I do now is refer to my schedule for these as well. Most indie authors will say, “Oh, it’s okay. You can review it whenever.” While that’s nice of the author, I have found something always comes up that takes precedence over these, and I never get around to them. I keep putting the book on the back burner. So, now, I will commit myself to a date even if the author doesn’t ask for that. It will force me to make it a priority to get it read and reviewed.
4) Make a decision about which memes, if any, you will participate in. I have tried many of them, some with more results than others. I quit doing a lot of them because I would spend hours commenting on other people’s posts, but a good portion of those people wouldn’t reciprocate.
For example, I would comment on posts and follow fifty different blogs. From that effort, I would be lucky if I got three or four comments on my post. The payoff wasn’t worth the effort. Of course, there is a benefit to being social and making friends, but if people don’t respond, what’s the point?
5) Always state your source and include the FTC disclosure. If you don’t know why it is important, take the time to research it.
6) Know your copyright law. You don’t want to end up getting sued over a picture, video, or other content. This is not something I have had a problem with yet, probably because I have been very careful about what images I borrow, using only those that would qualify as fair use, such as a book cover being used as part of a review or an author’s headshot being used for promotional purposes. I NEVER copy pictures from a search engine or websites.
The reason I even mention this here is because I have heard about blogs getting sued because they have borrowed images without permission. It’s an important consideration.
7) Another problem I have heard about, which I have yet to experience (thank God!), is when authors sue bloggers for defamation of character. I am always respectful of authors even if I don’t appreciate their writing. Don’t slam the writer. It’s not worth it. Not to mention, it’s unprofessional and rude. There is no reason to be hostile. If you don’t like a book, explain why in an objective fashion. Don’t turn it into a personal attack on an author.
8) Don’t try to get too fancy. My first few attempts at designing the blog were not that great. I think I was trying too hard. There were too many colors and too many images. The sidebars took up too much space. Now, it is more on the plain side, but I like it. I might still tweak it from time to time, but I’m not in a big rush to change how it looks.
9) Don’t expect to do everything for free. There will come a point where you will have to spend money, even if it is just to participate in a blog hop or something. For me, getting off Blogger to a self-hosted website was the best investment I made.
The second best investment I made was the Ultimate Book Blogger plug-in, which really helps with keeping everything organized on the blog. I’ve also had to spend money on giveaways. I wish I had more money to spend because I would definitely do more of these. That’s beside the point, though.
Even if you give away a book you own or something you have made, there is going to be a shipping cost. No matter how you go about it, unless you refuse to do any giveaways and you stay on a free blog with no extras, there is going to be some sort of expense.
10) Don’t expect anyone to care. I know that sounds callous. I don’t mean it to be. I’m just speaking from my experiences of feeling like I have been talking but no one has been listening. Perhaps that is still true. Even if it is, I have come to the decision that I will keep writing posts even if no one seems to care. Even if a post doesn’t get any hits or no one leaves a comment, I will still keep writing content.
If you are a sensitive or attention-seeking type of person, you might get discouraged fast. It takes a long time to build up a network of people who might want to read what you have to say, unless of course you are already popular for something related to your blogging topics. For example, if you are already the president of a big book club, you’ll probably get more views on your posts than, say, myself who started out with no ties in the writing or reading communities. Heck, I only had one friend who liked to read. My family members all hate books or don’t have the time for them.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the lessons I have learned so far about book blogging. These are the ones that stick in my mind the most.
I’d love to hear from other bloggers. If you are just starting out, how is it going? If you are an established book blogger, have you had any of these problems yourself?