Recipes for Success: First Steps to Creating a Book Blog
Guest post from Kate of Ex Libris
Here at NetGalley our goal is to provide a central resource for professional readers to discover new titles to recommend! Whether you’re a reviewer, blogger, bookseller, librarian, or educator, we know that you’re spreading the word about books. Some of our members are well-established and some of you are just starting out. For those of you who have just started or are thinking about starting a dedicated book-review blog, we introduce this new blog series: Recipes for Success. Here you’ll find tips and tricks from the insiders! We aim to give new bloggers and reviewers helpful information, tools, and best practices to help facilitate your growth and effectiveness as reviewers.
Our first post is from Kate of Ex Libris, who’s here to kick things off by sharing four first steps in creating a book blog. Kate has been a NetGalley member since 2011 and has been approved for 182 titles as of today! Don’t forget to stay tuned for Kate’s next Recipe for Success, all about Review Policies.
So, you want to start a book blog…..
I published my first review on June 8, 2011. It was The Help by Kathryn Stockett and probably qualifies more as an essay rather than a review. I started a book blog looking for a way to combine my love of reading with something I could do from home with limited materials. (I was never good at scrapbooking). As I slowly discovered the vast world of book blogging, I eventually found a community in the Young Adult blogging world through attendance at book festivals and book signings. Without that community, I don’t think I would enjoy my hobby-turned-passion as much as I do. I feel like I have grown leaps and bounds as a blogger in the past 18 months, but I know that I still have a lot to learn. So, as I offer what worked for me, please understand that this is what worked for me. Ultimately, you have to travel a path that works for you. I just wanted to talk about some of the steps I took at the beginning that really helped me.
1. Start a blog
It’s that simple. There are many free blog platforms… and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about them. Make sure you give people a way to follow you. RSS or Google Friends Connect (GFC) are two of the most common. I know that there is a lot of pressure to hire someone to design your blog and make it look ultra professional, but I’m kind of in the “create content and build readership first” camp. Design is really important and you should definitely think about how your blog’s design attracts or distracts people when they visit you, but in the end, people are coming for the reviews and opinions. If you can’t create the blog design of the century right away, don’t stress about it. I read plenty of great blogs that use the basic blogger design and never buy their own domain name.
2. Read books and write reviews consistently.
If you don’t know how to write a review, find some book blogs that you like and make notes about why their reviews grab you. Are they funny? Are they in-depth? After that, start reading and writing. I know that a lot of publishers talk about “blogging consistently”. What does that mean? To me, it means at least one or two reviews a week. Others might say three, but I think that you get the point. Of course, life happens and if you go a week or two without posting one or two reviews a week, I promise the Blogger Police won’t come to your doorstep. However, if you blog sporadically, you might not be taken as seriously by readers and publishers. It’s up to you and your schedule to decide what you can handle as far as reviews are concerned, and these aren’t hard and fast rules, but it’s something to keep in mind.
3. Reach out.
Twitter is great for making new book blogging friends, as are Goodreads groups and Facebook. Book festivals and book signings are also great ways to connect. I am lucky enough to live in the great State of Texas, which has a fantastic YA blogging community. I met many of my closest blogging friends when I attended the Austin Teen Book Festival in 2011. If your state doesn’t have any sort of official blogging group, why not start one? Chances are, there is at least one other blogger in your state or town. Make the first step! You find that you can learn a lot from other bloggers. My more experienced blogging friends have helped me immensely.
4. Keep going and be patient
This was a hard one for me. You’ll find it’s harder if you are friends with bloggers that have been around longer and have larger readerships. There were many times when I was frustrated because I felt like I wasn’t gaining followers fast enough or wasn’t making the contacts I wanted to. If I could, I would tell Past Kate to calm down. Don’t expect to get boxes of ARCs or every NetGalley request you want. Expect to spend time reading and reviewing and establishing your blog. It might take some time to build a readership. Keep working and reaching out to publishers and other bloggers. Remember that you are doing this because you love books.