Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Armchair BEA 2013: Blogger Development

You can find links to other blogs taking part here.

When I first started blogging it was for all the right reasons. I wanted to share my passion for books and reading, to join in with the giant book club that is the blogosphere. But that was not quite what happened, because I really did not know what I was doing. I felt as if I was shouting in the dark: my blog was a small and rather unloved thing, followed by a number of my friends, but not really doing what I wanted. Why was nobody reading my posts and making lots of comments on them? Where was the community that I could see in evidence on other people’s sites? What was I doing wrong?

After a few months, I had almost given up any hope of my blog being successful and it would have probably died a natural death if I had not had the great fortune to attend a seminar on blogging at my local library run by two established bloggers who happen to live in my area. Jessica who was writing Read React Review at the time, and now posts as The Hypeless Romantic, and Kristen from Fantasy Cafe shared a load of advice with us and made me realize that I could find a way into the blogging world. It was possible: I just needed to be brave enough to peek over the parapet and try to actively engage with other members of the community.

Looking back at their advice now, it all seems so simple and straightforward. However, I have found myself passing along the same ideas to other people who are struggling to get their blogs to be noticed, so I know that I am not the only person who could not see the blazingly obvious. I guess that many of us bloggers are naturally reticent about plastering our opinions all over the place, and so are rather shy about trying to advertise ourselves. We feel uncomfortable pushing ourselves into the spotlight and so sit at the side vainly hoping that someone will notice our feeble attempts to join in. I know that this is a good description of my own attitude when I started to blog, but I have learnt to be bolder and that overcoming my natural shyness is not actually as difficult as I once thought. The people who know me from my book group and in real life will probably find it hilarious that I describe myself as shy, but I really am, honestly, and it is daunting when you try to worm your way into the already crowded book blogging scene.

Pearls of Wisdom

So, what wonderful pieces of advice did Jessica and Kristen bring to my attention? As I said, they were nothing magical, but they did change the way that I viewed my blog and how I presented myself, and it, to the world at large. Allow me to share some of their most useful nuggets of insight.

1. Quality is always preferable to quantity. Some of the very best blogs that I follow, such as Kristen’s Fantasy Cafe, publish relatively infrequently. However, what they do post is always worth reading, well written and interesting. That is not to say that blogs that post frequently are publishing poor quality writing: it is much more likely that they are actually semi-professional in that they have multiple authors and so have many more pieces to present to their subscribers. Fantasy Book Critic is a good example of this type of blog, but there are many others who have the ability to spend many more writer-hours on their chosen genre than the lone blogger who has a job and other responsibilities to occupy their time.

2. Get out and make friends. This is possibly the most difficult problem that I had to overcome, but it is possible if you try hard enough! Find blogs that you like, read the posts and then comment on them in a constructive way. If the blogger has a Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest or any other social media account then have a look at what they post there as well and friend or follow them as appropriate. Twitter is one of the most powerful ways to get into the community quickly, although it can be rather overwhelming at first, but be fearless and try to take part in discussions that you think you can contribute to. It goes without saying that you should be marketing yourself using these same platforms.

3. Remember that you are marketing a product. I know this sounds really strange, but your blog is a product and you want to promote it in the right places and in the right ways. Try to have a consistent brand that is easily recognizable, such as the coffee cup with cookie and chili pepper that you can find as my profile picture on all my social media accounts. Make yourself easily recognizable and people will be more likely to interact with you.

4. Include the community in your posts. You can do this by asking questions or trying to attract attention via the many memes out there. You can also take part in challenges, events and, my personal favorite, read alongs: simply taking part in this year’s Armchair BEA will bring you to the attention of many diverse book bloggers. The other good way to engage with the community is to link to other people’s posts or reviews in your own writing. I certainly do not mean that you should plagiarize anyone, but include a link to other reviews of books when you post your own thoughts: other bloggers appreciate this. I have my own weekly Sue’s Saturday Suggestions where I post links to interesting things from the various blogs that I follow.

As I said before, these probably seem like amazingly obvious pieces of advice, but I have found them immensely helpful and they have transformed my sad and lonely little blog into something more vibrant and visible than it was before. I am never going to make a fortune from my writing, but I enjoy my interactions with the friends that I have found in the book blogging community and I truly appreciate the insight that Jessica and Kristen gave me into being a more social blogger.

Thank you, ladies! :)


  1. I'm a fan of writing small amounts of good quality instead of writing a post for every single day. It makes for better reading!

    1. I agree. In my travels around the blogosphere I have come across blogs that publish lots and lots of posts, but if they aren't interesting then I won't feel drawn to return.

  2. Community is so important. I try really hard to answer every comment on my blog. I figure they took the time to comment the least I can do is answer. Great tips.

    1. Thanks! I agree about replying to comments: if you don't interact with the people who have actually taken the time to comment then you really are missing the whole point! :)


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