This week I have decided to play around with the idea I have been enjoying off & on with my blog. And that is 5 lists of 5. I have done a few of them now & thought it could be a lot of fun to focus a whole 5 days on them. So here we go, 5 days of 5 lists of 5!
And we'll start off with a few lists of my own advice, both new & old for new bloggers. If you've been a loyal follower of my blog, you'll remember the (now defunct) site I ran called New Books for New Bloggers which basically doled out a free book every month along with some unsolicited but apparently much appreciated advice to new bloggers. I kind of miss that site & toy with bringing it back, but until then I am forever wanting to encourage new bloggers to continue on even when this thing called blogging can really be discouraging.
5 Things Your Blog DOES Need
- Branding. That may seem like a large concept to you, but it's truly not. A brand is simply your personal flavor. Your style. Who you are. All displayed on your blog. This should include posts about things you're interested in (not just posting the same things as the blog monsters). It should also include a distinctive look which can be accomplished with everything from changing the default fonts & a fresh background for your Blogger template to having something custom designed for you by many of the inexpensive blog designers found around the blogosphere. Check out who designed your favorite blogger's site & see what they charge if that's the route you're going down. But put some thought & a LOT of you into your blog's look & feel.
- Vision. A lot of people are eclectic, enjoying many genres of books. And that's great! I'm the same way. But if you can narrow this down to a more niche audience, you'll have a better time getting readers who are there for exactly what you're posting about. My blog tends to focus purely on YA Sci-fi & YA Fantasy. I shave it down further by not including urban fantasy or anything involving vampires or werewolves (unless you're Rusty Fischer) & focusing on gritty dystopians, space, ghosts, & zombies. Decide what your pinpoint genres are & stick with them. You can definitely throw in a few other things here & there (I also read literature/mythology/fairy-tale retold for YA as well as YA Mystery -- but only if they are exceptional)!
- Connections (External). Ways for people to connect with you other than just on your blog (like Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, etc.) & ways for people to connect with other blogs you enjoy (such as a blogroll). This builds you into a community as opposed to keeping you isolated. You may want to skip joining groups or listings that don't generally showcase your blog but rather use your placement of their button on your blog to promote themselves instead. But that's entirely up to you. I know I joined EVERYTHING when I first started & just weeded out what didn't work along the way.
- Connections (Internal). If someone hops by your blog out of curiosity & likes what he or she reads they'll most likely want to read more of the same. So make it easy for them! The best two ways are as follows:
- Use tags! Or labels as sometimes they are called. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to read more about a particular subject by a blogger & not being able to easily find it with a simple tag. If you're confused by them, check out what others use as tags. See what works for you. But always use tags.
- Use a service like LinkWithin which takes information from your post, including tags/labels, and creates a set of links to other posts you've made that are similar in some way. It's so easy to install & once it's there you don't have to think about it again because they do the work for you!
- Stats. Somewhere on your blog there should be an easy way for publishers, agents, or authors to view your blog stats, or how many visitors you have/had. Making it easier for them to see if you are a new or more established blogger is helpful to them & gives you a boost in their eyes sometimes. And being a new blogger has its advantages. Some publishers, agents, & authors are looking for you specifically!
5 Things Your Blog DOES NOT Need
- Similarity. While it's a good rule of thumb to be aware of what other bloggers in your area of expertise are doing, it's not necessary for you to mimic them. Actually you want to do the opposite! You want to be as unique as you can be without being ridiculous. Standing out in some way is what gets you noticed & what draws new, loyal readers to your blog.
- Crowds. Don't judge the success of your blog by the number of followers or commenters you have. If the book blogging world is only a popularity contest for you, I have a feeling you may be disappointed. There are a lot of very well-established blogs with thousands of followers. They've been around for years & earned every follower & comment by starting just where you are starting. It won't happen all at once & it takes hard work. I personally haven't made a huge effort to collect followers because I feel that what I write is for me & if others want to stop by & enjoy it, so be it. I do giveaways to get books into others' hands, not to draw followers. I like writing about books & reading & there are a faithful few who provide feedback & a few who read silently & keep going. And so I had about 350 followers (through GFC until it went offline) while bloggers who started after me have 1000+ & I'm happy with it because I'm accomplishing what I want with my blog.
- Clutter. I know it's tempting to put a lot of countdowns & book covers & team badges & all sorts of other things in your sidebar. Don't. A good rule of thumb is not to have more than 3 flash widgets (they take a LOT of time to load) & not more than maybe 40 images if most of them are small like team badges. Going above this generally slows down the load time of your blog & when someone wants to read your posts but has to wait 5 minutes for your blog to load because of a million images & widgets... well they tend to click the X and move on.
- Music. Unless you spend a lot of time staring at your own blog, there isn't really a need for a jukebox or music rotator or whatever else is out there. It not only slows down blog loading, but can startle readers when it suddenly finally loads. And a lot of music programs don't offer a pause or stop button which makes readers like me simply click out of the blog & not go back. Instead of using a music program if your idea is to share a playlist you've worked on for a book you love, make a blog posting for it! People usually have access to their own preferred ways of listening to music (mine is Spotify) & will go looking for the music if you explain how & why you chose it.
- Giveaways. You don't need them. Not everyone has the resources for giveaways & you might not either unless you want to clean your bookshelf of older books. It's really not necessary to have giveaways in order to find readers. Especially if you want quality readers who are there for what you're posting & not just because you asked them to follow you in order to enter their giveaway. And I'm not saying don't have giveaways! Definitely have them if you want/can. Just you won't fail as a blogger if you don't.
5 Tips From Great Bloggers
These mega-bloggers also have sections of blogging 101 so you should check them out!
- The Story Siren. Remember that for you to succeed, others don’t have to fail. Blogging IS NOT a competition.
- Parajunkee. You don’t just wake up one morning with 10,000 subscribers you work for every single one of them.
- Books With Bite. If you request a book from Netgalley, review it! Don't let it sit there. The publisher knows who they sent the e-book to and who reviewed it.
- Persnickety Snark. Reviews should be honest but not harsh. If the book is terrible (in your opinion), tell the truth but realise that other readers may love it. Reviews are subjective.
- The Undread Reader. First off, I’m all for you making your blog as colorful as you want it to be. Why not? Colors are cool. But I’ll tell you what is not cool. Making your post hard to read with colors.
5 Ways To Get Books
- NetGalley. Sign up & you have potential access to many new releases or advanced releases with NetGalley.
- GoodReads Giveaways. There are tons of opportunities to win books & advanced reader copies here. But so much depends on your activity on the site. Still, there's always the possibility!
- RandomBuzzers. Random House's teen site where participating in activities & polls earn you BuzzBucks to purchase books in the BuzzStore. There are also multiple opportunities to win books too.
- PulseIt. Simon & Schuster's teen site where three to four advanced reading copies are available for you to read on your computer each month or so.
- And when all else fails... You have 3 really great options!
- Go to the library! Lots of libraries are really getting up to date on their YA acquisitions. Or go to your library's web site. A lot of libraries now are offering downloads of ebooks & audiobooks of new releases.
- Enter giveaways on other bloggers sites! They aren't hard to find, especially if you have a healthy Twitter following list.
- Check out Amazon.com for free indie eBooks. There are usually quite a few of them on hand, but if you don't find them quickly, DarkSide Publishing offers a bunch on a regular basis.
5 YA Book Blogs You Gotta Visit
You'll see why when you get there!