Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Advice for New Bloggers

top ten tuesday tips for new bloggers

The Broke and the Bookish hosts Top Ten Tuesdays, and this week they've got a great topic to talk about. We are asked to give our top tips and advice to new bloggers.  I am no veteran, but I have been happily blogging for over two years now...  so maybe I've got some tips you'd like to keep in mind while working on your own blog.

1.  Have fun!  This is your blog and you are writing about what you love - so always have fun with it.  It is too easy to feel stressed about keeping to a schedule, or overburdening yourself with commitments - so keep your primary goals in mind and always have fun with it.  This is not a job, no one is making you write a blog.

2.  Keep your goals in mind.  There could be any number of reasons why you decided to start writing a blog.   Personally, I needed a way to keep track of the books I've read, what I thought about them, and hopefully find other people with whom I could discuss them.  I've added more to my list of goals as my blog grows and I further develop my "voice", but I can always feel like I'm successful when looking at my goals.

3.  Do not over-commit.  I've had trouble with this, particularly last year.  Once you've attracted some publishers, or have developed a relationship with a publicist - it is really fun and exciting to have new releases and ARCs available to you.  I began having a lot of trouble saying no to many of the pitches, and then I had trouble reading all those books in the time frames that I had promised.  Reading became stressful, and reading should never be stressful (unless maybe if you are reading for a class!).  My calendar was filled with due dates for books, and left me very little time for books on my shelf that I also really wanted to read. This year I have been very picky about what I'm accepting for reviews, and have been able to read more of my own choosing.... and I am all the more happier for it.

4.  Be social.  This is a hard one for me, and I'm still working at it.  Join Twitter, and get chatty.  Promote yourself, especially if you've just written a post you're really proud of.  Go to author events and meet other bloggers and the authors themselves.  This will add to your experience ten-fold.  I haven't personally attended any of the big conferences (BEA or ALA) but do it if you can swing it.  Also, read other book blogs and try to make a point of commenting as often as you can.  After all, don't comments on your blog make you smile?

5.  Make your own rules.   And then break them if you want to.  No one says you need to post everyday, so don't feel like you have to.  Having a post-free day is much better than a week full of meme-posts or a post just full of links you've collected.  Don't get me wrong - meme posts are fun and a great way to introduce yourself to other bloggers (look - I'm doing one RIGHT NOW) but you'll find that the overwhelming majority of my posts are original content/reviews.

6.  Edit, spell check, proofread, etc.  This should go without saying, but unfortunately it needs to be said.  I admit that I make mistakes too, we are all human after all, but I will not read a blog that makes grammatical errors all over the place.  I just can't take you seriously if it appears you don't care enough about your own opinion to write it correctly.

7.  Don't write for stats.  Yes, stats are becoming more important and publishers have begun taking them into consideration as they have more and more bloggers to work with.  But stats should not be your focus.  Giveaways are fun and bring more traffic to your site - but how many of them stick around to keep reading your words?  Do you want a huge number of "followers" who don't really follow you?  So I suggest having giveaways if you like - they are fun after all - but don't break your bank holding them, and don't force people to "follow" you to enter.  You should always be writing for you.

8.  Make sure your blog is easy to read.  This is also one that should go without saying, but truth is...  wow.  It is amazing to me how some people choose to display themselves through their blog.  Dark red text on a black background is not easy to read.  Sure, it may look cool, but it is not easy to read and therefore I will not read it.  If you aren't sure, check your site out on other devices - especially mobile devices (phones, iPads) and see what it looks like there.  You might be surprised.  And please, shut the music off.  You are the only one who likes it, trust me.  Also, lots of flashy "things" on your sidebar might look cool to you - but will probably make your page load slower, frustrating potential readers.

9. Use those extra pages to your advantage!  No matter which blogging platform you use, you should have the ability to create other pages besides your "home" page (where your posts show first).  Create an interesting "About You" page...  I will admit that is one of the first things I want to read in a newly discovered blog (after the post that brought me there of course).  You should also have a clear review policy which will help your relationship with publishers and authors - and be truthful.  Are you accepting books for review?  What kinds?  Are there any genres that you will not read?  What about self-published books?  Check out my policy on my About Me page if you aren't sure what I'm talking about.  I also use pages for master lists of the books I've reviewed (one page by genre, another page my author) and you wouldn't believe the thankful comments I've received for these pages.  This is something that is easier to start when you start your blog, and not a couple of years into it.  Trust me.

10.  Always be considerate.  Do you like a feature that a blogger has created on their site?  Tell them, and always ask first if you'd like to recreate it or do something similar on your site - and give them credit.  Never ever ever plagiarize your posts.  Write negative reviews if that is how you feel about the book, but don't be hurtful or over the top with negativity.  Writing a good negative review can be harder than a glowing review for this very reason.  You should always be respectful of the author and your audience.  This also goes for commenting or chatting with other bloggers....  it is perfectly acceptable to disagree and speak your piece, but you are far more likely to be heard if you do so respectfully.  I've seen many a debate on Twitter where two passionate bloggers resolve to agree to disagree, and that is that.  Some people love the drama, but I prefer an intelligent debate.

Above all - HAVE FUN!
Do you have anything to add to my list?  Anything I might have missed?  Any advice you might have for me?  Suggestions always welcome!



geoffwhaley.com said...

I've read about 10 of these today and #7 is probably my favorite. Sometimes I forget other people read posts and I ramble on and then I'm like 'whoops' should probably go back and edit some :-D

And I agree with #3 it is by far the most important. We're all different and have to judge things based on how we feel about them not on what everyone else is doing!

Karis Jacobstein said...

Great tips! It's amazing that spelling/grammar and consideration need to be said, but they are probably two of the MOST valuable tips for new bloggers... I also love the "use the pages to your advantage" tip. It's one that I didn't even think of, but it is so true!

Check out my Top Ten!

Matthew (The Bibliofreak) said...

Ah, over-committing. That's one I've had problems with in the past and probably still do. When people are offering you new oops all the time it's so easy to get caught up in their pitch and agree to take a look, only to find you just don't have the time to fit in all your commitments. It's like being a kid in a candy shop, or a bookworm in a bookshop if you prefer, for a while. You have to reign that in a bit to be fair to everyone. Good call :)

Tanya Patrice said...

Awesome tips. Especially on over-committing - and about a blog being easy to read.


Jillian said...

Over-committing!! That's my biggest downfall as a blogger. Working on it. :)

Sarah Reads Too Much said...

We've all been there Jillian!

Sarah Reads Too Much said...

Love the analogies - it is very much like being a bookworm in a bookshop!

Ben said...

No. 3 is crucial. I'm swimming in a sea of over-committing right now

Red said...

Don't write for stats is so true and so hard to follow. You're right that what you post should be for you and while it's easy to get caught up in stat watching it's not the most important thing.

thebookwormslair said...

Thanks for the post, I'm looking to spend some real time on my blog over the next month or so and these tips are great. The pages tip especially is handy I'm already planning one page to help readers and now I may have to add a couple more!

thebookwormslair said...

Thanks for the post, I'm looking to spend some real time on my blog over the next month or so and these tips are great. The pages tip especially is handy I'm already planning one page to help readers and now I may have to add a couple more!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Great list! I've loved seeing everyone's tips today and I've realized I really need to create a page indexing my reviews. I can't believe I haven't done that yet.

Smash Attack! said...

Over commit? What is this you speak of? LOL

All I can say to that, is I'm 2 years in and still have problems there. Getting better though!

Loni said...

I can't be live I forgot # 6! Grammar and spelling are so important.

Hannah said...

Great list! I need to get better about proofreading my posts. Sometimes I get really excited and want to post something immediately after I've written it... and then I'll regret it and hang my head in shame when I go back later and realize I had several grammar errors. Ugh! I'm working on paying more attention and slowing down a little while I'm writing to try and combat those errors :)

And I love your comments about writing respectful negative reviews! It's definitely hard to find that perfect balance where you clearly identify why a book didn't work for you while still recognizing that someone else might love it and it was the result of someone else's hard work.

Angela said...

Thank you so much for the helpful tips. #5 is especially liberating.
Angela @ AJ Arndt Books Blog

readinpleasure said...

Thanks for the helpful tips, Sarah. I think I am guilty of typos, not necessarily grammar and would work hard on that.

Kathy said...

Hi Sarah: Good list. I've been mulling over alphabetizing my book list by author - I started it early and just added to it with time, but now I realize that is frustrating for readers. Your post confirmed that I need to do that.

Thanks, Kathy

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

Great advice for new bloggers, and smart reminders for 'veterans'!

"Don't over-commit" is one I took to heart in the past year, and am pleased with the way it's worked out.

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