My 6 month blogiversary is tomorrow! To celebrate, I thought I’d put together a few posts about what I’ve learned over the past six months and what can help you become a better blogger. I’m also hosting a special giveaway on Wednesday, the exact day my blog turns 6 months old, to celebrate.
I’m giving away a $25 Amazon gift card, open to all residents of the US and UK, to whoever shares the best Rant Review. It can be an old or new review previously posted on your blog. You can also write one, post it on your blog, and share the link in the comments or link to this post or the giveaway post so I can read it. My pingbacks do not work unless you link to one of my posts.
Today, I’m sharing the RAVES of blogging and my advice for new and old bloggers, including some shoutouts to the people who’ve helped me along the way and made a difference in my life. On Thursday, I’ll share the “RANTS” of blogging and what makes me want to rant about blogging.
#1 Pick A Simple Blog Layout
If you’ve visited my website and not just viewed my posts in the WordPress reader, you will see that my layout is very clean, simple, and easy to follow. I paid a reputable cover designer to make my blog logo, and while it’s very simple, I like it because it reminds me of SCRABBLE. I don’t suggest spending this kind of money on a header unless you can afford it.
You can use free sites like Canva and Picmonkey to create a decent header without paying a premium. You can get free graphics from Pixabay, and if you’re like me, you can also pay for images from Shutterstock. I wouldn’t go by me when it comes to spending money so stick within your budget. If it’s free, it’s for me!
Make sure your blog header makes sense for the image you are trying to portray. Consider this when you’re choosing a theme with dark colors and fonts that no one can read. Script looks lovely on wedding invitations, but no one can read them without a magnifying glass. Consider this when you choose a black background and some swoopy script writing. I will not read a blog that uses dark backgrounds, has too much clutter, obscene amounts of colored fonts, or doesn’t look like the person spent more than five minutes making it.
And keep all the junky stuff like Twitter and Instagram feeds off your sidebar and just give the links. Too much clutter on the sidebar is a serious turn-off for most bloggers. As a rule of thumb, if your sidebar is longer than your post, then you need to remove the unnecessary things.
Make sure you have an archive on the sidebar, a search box is also helpful, a WordPress follow button is also something I look for and it’s very common that I don’t see this on a blog. I’m not going to hunt someone down to follow them. It shouldn’t be that difficult to follow, and it should be near the top of the page not the bottom. Depending on the blog layout, I could be scrolling for a long time. I do not have this kind of patience.
#2 Create a Social Media Account
If I can give new bloggers one piece of advice, it would be to create a presence on Twitter and make an attempt to interact with other bloggers. Don’t be shy. Most people will see that you have a blog site linked in your profile and that you read books. As long as you don’t just retweet nonsense, they will take you more seriously. I don’t follow people who only retweet unless they’re sharing other bloggers posts, just like how I don’t follow authors who post about their book every hour. It gets old after a while.
I created my Twitter account the same day as my blog, and it’s the reason I’m still blogging today. Networking with other bloggers is important if you want to run a successful blog. When your links are shared on Twitter or Facebook, you’re increasing traffic back to your blog, even if it’s very little at first. I have some followers who only read my posts on Twitter because they don’t blog but love books. Consider your audience and make a Twitter account. If you’re on Twitter, you can find me @jillianquinn7.
On Twitter, use the hashtags #bookblogger, #bookbloggers, #books, #amreading, and #amwriting or #amediting (if you’re a writer). I found tons of people by using these hashtags. Most authors, wannabe writers, book bloggers, booktubers, and bookstagrammers are nice and easy to interact with. No one will follow them if they’re annoying and mean, so chances are they will respond to your tweet, even if they don’t follow you back. Huge book bloggers will even respond to your tweets, but don’t expect them to follow you back unless they talk to you all the time. Don’t get offended if they don’t follow you back. It’s not personal.
Don’t be afraid to jump in on a conversation and add your two cents about a book or whatever someone is talking about online. I do it all the time and no one has yelled at me yet. I have somewhat odd Twitter conversations with my friends, and if you follow me, you’ve already experienced this for yourself. As long as you’re not rude, I’ll write back.
I’d also suggest creating an account on Goodreads because you can interact with bloggers who don’t use Twitter on there as well. Instagram and YouTube are also good places to meet new bloggers.
#3 Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For ARCs
For newbies, ARCs are Advance Reader Copies you can request from the publishers via NetGalley, Edelweiss, or even direct from the publisher by sending them an email. I received three boxes of books last week from a publisher and did a happy dance with them in my living room. Getting ARCs is cool and by far, one of the best perks of blogging. But it’s like getting a drivers license—it’s a privilege NOT a right. And don’t be a jerk about it.
I requested my first ARC when I had less than 10 followers, and I was approved for a book by Simon & Schuster without having a ton of time invested into blogging and hardly any followers. I actually DNF that book and plan to pick it back up at some point because I’ve heard it’s good and just wasn’t patient enough (story of my life), but the point is don’t be afraid to ask for ARCs.
I don’t know who came up with the idea that you need 6 months of blogging and 500 followers to request an ARC. Most of us have requested them since our first few weeks of blogging.
If you have a blog, then you can request an ARC. What’s the worst thing they say? No. Who cares if they say no. Go ahead and ask for ten more books until someone finally says yes. And don’t take it personal. Everyone gets annoyed when they’re turned down for a book that another blogger was approved for and they really wanted.
The one book I was dying to read this summer is Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. I love science fiction, and I am a huge fan of Blake Crouch and have been for a long time. Some bloggers got approved for an ARC and didn’t even know who he is. Did that annoy me? Hell, yeah. But who knows how the publisher makes their determination. They could’ve hit their allowance when I requested it. Who knows.
I’ve seen bloggers with less than 50 followers get approved for a ton of stuff on Edelweiss. Does it make sense? Absolutely not. But it’s the publisher who makes the decisions, so blame them when you didn’t get the book of your dreams.
Worst case scenario, you can always look through the download titles on both Edelweiss and NetGalley and read books without waiting for permission from the publisher. This can help you increase your score on NetGalley and probably wouldn’t hurt with Edelweiss since it’s by far the hardest site to get approved for ARCs. Some of the big publishers only use Edelweiss and NetGalley for certain countries, so I’d suggest setting up an account on both. I got approved for P.S. I Like You by Kasie West on Edelweiss and then got denied for four in a row after that for books I could’ve cared less about.
Keep requesting and don’t give up. Someone will say yes eventually. Don’t get discouraged.
#4 Make Sure You Comment On Other Blogs
I’ve always made it a point to comment on other blogs, especially those who comment on mine. And I always answer my comments. There are certain people who are loyal and read all of my posts, even those I know wouldn’t normally appeal to them. I know who these people are, just as you all know your loyal fanbase. If you know this and are not taking the time to comment back, then shame on you. I understand commenting is a real time commitment and it’s been a struggle for me lately, but after months of spending hours per day commenting, I think I can get a little break for a few weeks.
You can always tell when a blogger comments by how many people interact with them. And you shouldn’t waste your time trying to interact with this person because you could have conversations with people who actually want to talk to you about books and not just in it for freebies from publishers and follows. In most cases, you’ll also notice they don’t even comment on their own posts. This is rude and I refuse to follow anyone who is this oblivious to commenting. Not everyone can comment on every post you write but I think once a week or maybe even a retweet on Twitter should suffice to say oh hey, remember me?
#5 Write Book Reviews and Make Sure You Create An Index
I know it sounds crazy to list writing book reviews to a book blogger, but you’ be surprised how many so-called book bloggers write very few reviews. I know everyone reads at a different pace, but I think a book blog should have a minimum of two reviews per month unless you’re on hiatus. It takes a while to get the hang of formatting book reviews. My reviews from March until now are all over the place. I used to write the Top 5 things I liked about the book to make it short and sweet. Depending on the book, I also break down my reviews by characters, plot, writing, and overall thoughts. If you click on Red Queen, for example, which was one of my earlier reviews, you’ll see the structure differs from Novemeber 9 and Red Rising. These also happen to be some of my favorite reviews.
After you’ve written your first review and have your blog setup, you should take the time to make a Book Reviews menu with a list of your book reviews in alphabetical order by author. To give you an idea, click HERE to see what my reviews page looks like. Some bloggers keep multiple indexes, which can be helpful and is nice to see, but it’s not necessary to have more than one index. It’s very time-consuming to update multiples indexes every time you post a review along with updating Goodreads and Amazon.
Linking your reviews to the category Book Reviews or whatever you call it on your blog is helpful when you have the categories displayed in your sidebar, but I would rather see them in alphabetical order under the appropriate menu. This is a pet peeve for a lot of bloggers and may cause you to lose some potential followers if they can’t easily see what books you have reviewed.
#5 Find A Support Structure
The reason I made it to 6 months of blogging is because of my support structure. And by that, I mean other bloggers. Britt @ Geronimo Reads and Larkin @ Wonderfilled Reads are a huge reason why I am still blogging. Without their late night Twitter chats on DM, the creation of our Goodreads Hype or Like Friday group, and our blog shenanigans I don’t think I’d be writing this post. Britt and Larkin, if you read this, you girls are awesome. Thank you!
Shortly after I met Brit and Larkin, I met my bestie for life, Donna @ Chocolatenwaffles. For those of you who don’t know Donna, she’s French, likes her waffles with extra rum, is extra loveable, and writes some really awesome reviews. If you have any good recs for mysteries or thrillers or like to snark about Throne of Glass, go visit Donna. And ask her about the knocker.
Over the past six months, Donna and I have talked pretty much every day about everything from blogging to life to what we ate that day. Donna is amazing and without her, I also don’t know if I would’ve made it this long. She even convinced me not to give up on Hype or Like two weeks ago when I was really frustrated and couldn’t think of any topics. Lots of love, hugs, kisses, and rum coming your way, girl!
I’m sure by now anyone who follows me has taken notice of my close relationship with Drew @ TheTattooedBookGeek. I’d say he’s my bestie but I know he hates that word (ya know cause he’s a dude and that’s not manly). When you see our crazy comments on our blogs and Twitter, it’s because we’re friends and you might even be missing out on an inside joke that probably makes absolutely no sense to anyone but us. Drew keeps me sane on a daily basis, especially when I’m being, as he says in his Brit words “stroppy.” Drew, you don’t like hugs or kisses, like Donna, but how about a high-five or a secret handshake? And, thank you for not giving up on me when I was being, as you say, a cow. 🙂
Anyway, the reason I took notice of Drew over five months ago is because of his dark poetry. I once told him my poetry is about as deep as a glass of water, and he was like no way, so I said, okay, as deep as bathtub. I’m pretty sure the conversation went something along those lines. I know a lot of you already follow Drew, (And why wouldn’t you?), but if you don’t already know him, you really need to read some of his poetry and go follow his blog. It’s super meaningful, it will make you cry (and I’m not a crier), and I’d be shocked if it didn’t provoke some sort of emotion. I’d start to wonder if you’re an Android if it doesn’t. He also writes really great book reviews, even convinced me to read “big girl books” because of them, but today, I want you to read some of his poems.
Here’s a few of my favorite and Drew’s favorite poems that all of you should read, if you haven’t already.
In addition to my closest friends, I’m also friendly with a lot of bloggers I consistently talk to that I think everyone should follow, if you don’t already follow them.
Follow These Peeps
If you like fantasy, you need to follow…
If you like romance or mysteries, you need to follow…
If you’re looking for reviews in various genres, discussions, and insightful posts, you need to follow…
I’m sure I am missing a few people, but these are my favorite bloggers to talk to about books. Some of you have followed me since the beginning. My first follower ever was Britt @ Geronimo Reads and a few of you were not far behind. I know a lot of you review more than one genre, but I put what I think you review the most and why I love reading your blog.
Thanks for 6 months of support!
Stay tuned for my Rants of Blogging on Thursday and a special giveaway I’m posting tomorrow.