Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Top Ten Tuesday: Advice 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!