I’ve been wanting to share 10 mistakes I made my first year of book blogging. Actually, I’ve been blogging for over two years now, so I could probably name 20+ mistakes, but I’m not ready to embarrass myself that much. Don’t do the following:
1. Not posting often enough. This rookie goof is a huge one. At the beginning, I published a long post every two weeks. Between posts, I’m sure people forgot about my blog. And who wants to read a really long post? Not me. If your post is over 1,000 words, I’m skimming it heavily, people. Now I aim to post weekly. It would be better if I could publish more frequently. Charlotte, and Ms. Yingling, I don’t know how you read all those books and post about them as often as you do. Do you not sleep? I bow down to you.
2. Reviewing books that no one cares about. Of course, doing so can be a public service if you want to highlight a really great, relatively unknown book, but if you are trying to improve your site stats it makes more sense to review books for which people are searching.
3. Not using big enough pictures. Book covers are gorgeous these days, why go thumbnail? Also, I didn’t use enough pictures. I’m still working on this–it’s like I forget I can use a bunch of photos. Blog posts are visual, they’re not an academic essay. However, I have to include the caveat that I don’t like others’ blog posts that are so image heavy they take forever to load. This makes me pull my hair out. Also, posts that are so busy with pictures and what not jangle my nerves.
4. Not using the title of the book in the title of the post. I was trying to be clever, but I may have confused folks. If an internet user was searching for reviews on a particular book, my imaginative post titles probably made them harder to find.
5. Not checking that my blog posts were going out into the world where I intended. Months went by before I realized my posts weren’t showing up on Facebook, even though I could have sworn I checked the little Facebook box in the Publicize section of my blog.
6. Providing my own summary of the book. This is debatable, but I don’t see the point of wasting brain cells doing this when summaries are readily available. Why reinvent the wheel? Now I paste summaries, referencing the source such as Goodreads, and focus on sharing my opinion of a book.
7. Forgetting what I did that worked well. Sadly, I do this in several areas of life, including child-rearing and cooking. Apparently, I need to take notes on absolutely everything. Re book blogs, I love to read excerpts from books when I read a review. They convey the flavor of a book perhaps better than anything else. I used to provide excerpts on my blog. Then, oops, I stopped.
8. Not fully using SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. I had a math teacher in junior high who used to say if you couldn’t explain a concept you did not really understand it. I resented Mr. Burlett’s comment at the time, but have found in life that it is generally true. Soooo, no, I can’t explain SEO…
9. Not yet signing up to be a Barnes and Noble affiliate. I always link the books I’m reviewing to a source where people can read more about them and purchase them if they want, usually Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.com. Becoming an affiliate means if readers follow your links to those sites and buy something, you get a few pennies. Amazon.com would be my first choice, but in NC, (as well as Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Rhode Island and Connecticut), a blogger cannot be an Amazon Associate. I used to think becoming an affiliate would cheapen my blog. But a summary of outbound clicks on my blog show there have been hundreds of clicks to Amazon and Barnes and Noble. If I had linked them all to Barns and Noble and signed up to be an affiliate, who knows what kind of riches I would be swimming in today? 🙂 Addendum: The states excluded from the Amazon affiliate program may change from time to time. As of 2/25/14 Amazon states: If you’re in the following states, AR, CO, MN, MO, ME, or RI, due to tax legislation, we’re unable to operate the associates program in your state.
10. Taking too long to find my blogging community. When I first started blogging, I naively imagined my readers would be mostly middle grade readers. I should have been clued in when I asked middle grade kids I knew if they read any blogs. Their response was often, “What’s a blog?” Blogs are too long for many in this age group. Initially, most of my actual audience consisted of other dedicated middle grade book review bloggers (like these MMGM folks linked to from Shannon Messenger’s blog.) Now, judging from the search phrases my blog software collects, both kids and adults are finding my blog via search engines queries that land them on my site.
Wow, it was scary easy to come up with that list. I’m sure next year I can share 10 more blunders. Sigh. Please, let me know in the comment section what blogging mistakes you’ve made so I won’t feel like such an idiot!
Some great pieces of advice there. Thanks for sharing it.
Swlothian, You are welcome!
Ha! I’ll bet we all made those mistakes in the beginning. 🙂 Interesting post, Susan.
I’ve been blogging for four and a half years and in the beginning I posted two or three times a week. But blogging has changed, as has everything else in the electronic age. I’m lucky to get to it once a week now. Twitter has taken over, I’m afraid.
Also figured out a while ago that no one wants to plow through long blog posts (does it worry you that our attention spans are getting shorter?).
But I have to disagree with part of your #7. As a bookseller for ten years, I read nothing but ARCs. And it clearly states on the ARC that you can’t quote from it. And since I was often posting long before the book came out, I had no way of checking the accuracy.
Joanne, Are you saying my blog is already an anachronism? 😉 I do need to learn more about that Twitter stuff. I lot can be said about technology and attention spans. I feel like there is so much amazing content on the Internet, that I find I do go into “skim mode” a lot. Interesting about the ARCs and not quoting. I assume the rules are different if the book is already in print.
Susan: As one who has had my book (S) reviewed on your blog, thank you for what you do. These are some great tips. I’ve had my blog for a few years now, and sadly, I slowly weaned away from it because I had no idea if anyone was reading it or not. Despite the plethora of tag words that would attract any search engine, I had no record of hits of people actually reading my words.
(Is there some sort of ‘counter’?) 🙂
I do love your dedication to MG materials and your blog always fascinates me. I guess one could call my ‘time travel adventure series’ a collection of books “no one cares about”, but I think what makes your blog stand out is that you do. You do care about the indie writers, the ones who don’t have a publicist or a marketing agent, who so admire and thank bloggers like you who take the time to read and review our works. Mahalo Nui Loa.
J. Lee Graham
IN THE NICK OF TIME
THE TIME OF HIS LIFE
ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD
J. Lee Graham, Thank you for your kind words. Yes, on WordPress there is a great “counter” that allows the blogger to see how many people are reading the blog. You can see how many people have looked at your blog for a particular, day, week, or month, and at a glance compare these measures over time to see if your blog is gaining in popularity. I’m no expert, but I imagine all the blogging platforms have this feature, since it’s so important to many bloggers to have this data.
Now that you have written a series, I’ll have to add you to my List: Time Travel Book Series for Kids post which remains my most popular post!
goodness! I did not know that B and N had an affiliate program-being in one of Amazon’s excluded states, this might be useful!
Which just goes to show that there are always things to be learned!
Charlotte, Actually, I just rechecked Amazon’s site and the excluded states have changed somewhat. People in my state are now eligible! From Amazon: “If you’re in the following states, AR, CO, MN, MO, ME, or RI, due to tax legislation, we’re unable to operate the associates program in your state.” I need to make a note in my post.