Seeking Fellow Bloggers’ Advice

I’ve had this blog for almost a year now (tomorrow’s the anniversary!), and although I’m enjoying the writing practice and the interaction with readers, it hasn’t necessarily grown as much as I might have wanted it to. So I am seeking advice – from all my readers, but from fellow bloggers in particular.

From those of you who are experienced bloggers, especially book bloggers, I would love to know how you’ve made it work: what your strategies are for types and timing of posts; how you use social media to your advantage; how you connect with publishers and authors; and how you’ve carved out a niche for yourself.

I’d be glad to hear your thoughts about anything from the loooooong list of questions below – and if you’d rather reply at length and in private rather than via a comment, feel free to get in touch with me via e-mail: rebeccafoster.books@gmail.com.


Blogging

  • How often do you post per week?
  • How long do you try to make your posts?
  • Does a post’s timing (day of week and time of day) matter?
  • How do you encourage blog comments?
  • Do you try to reflect on book trends and controversies?
  • How can I help create advanced buzz about books?
  • When’s a good time to write about book prize races – before and/or after?
  • How many book blogs do you follow and how do you keep up with them all?

I generally publish one straightforward review per week, usually on a Monday, and then my general strategy for other posts is to alternate between lists on a theme (with mini reviews), event or travel write-ups, and personal reflections or opinion pieces. I also do a monthly reviews roundup and often report on my library borrowing at the end of a month.

I try to make my post timings sensible for both US and UK readers, so I usually aim for 9 am ET / 2 pm GMT. I follow about 10 fellow book bloggers and already that feels like the limit of what I can sensibly keep up with, though I’d love to be supportive of others in return. I’d like to think it’s not always a tit for tat scenario, but I also accept that I’m more likely to get follows, likes and comments if I’m returning the favor.


Social Media

  • How can I attract more followers (blog and/or Twitter)?
  • How often should I check Twitter and post on it?
  • Where do you draw the line in terms of who you follow on Twitter?
  • How can I best use Twitter to my advantage?
  • Do you always tag a book’s author and/or publisher when you tweet a review?
  • Is it worth making a Facebook author page?
  • Are there any other groups (Facebook or other) I should be part of?
  • Are there blog networks or directories I could join?
  • Can you think of any blogger perks websites I should sign up for apart from NetGalley, Edelweiss and Blogging for Books?

I think I follow about 300 Twitter accounts. I go on there every few days and find it completely overwhelming; I can be scrolling for 20 minutes and not even get through a few hours of posts, let alone a few days’ worth. I follow a lot of publishers, so use the site mostly to keep an eye out for new books and enter giveaways, plus I link to my blogs and bylined reviews. However, I don’t know whether I should be following all the authors, publicists, fellow reviewers, bloggers, and freelance writers I can. It just seems to snowball!

I also cross-post my reviews to Goodreads and sometimes to Facebook, either on my own page or in a UK Book Bloggers group.


Publishers and Authors

  • Do you request books, or are they sent to you unsolicited?
  • How do you keep track of what’s coming out and decide what to ask for?
  • How far ahead would you request a title?
  • Are certain publishers particularly helpful and accommodating?
  • How can I know definitively whether an American title is also coming out in the UK, maybe at a later date?
  • Are your requests always granted?
  • How many times do you follow up with a publicist before giving up?
  • How can I help support debut novelists?
  • How can I get involved in blog tours and giveaways?
  • How could I bag invites to literary events in London?
  • Is it possible to get involved in judging a literary prize?

Maybe my expectations are unrealistic, but I’m sure I’ve heard other bloggers talk about receiving boxes full of review books, unasked, months in advance of the publication dates. Some people seem to be doing blog tours and interviews every few days. I’ve gotten a bit braver about sending e-mails to publishers asking for a book I fancy reviewing on my blog, but I don’t feel like I quite have the etiquette down yet.

My long-term aim is to be a judge for a major book prize, like the Bailey’s Prize or the Man Booker Prize. (Hey, a girl can dream! I certainly read enough in a year to keep up with the load.) I also like the sound of getting dressed up for a book release soirée or similar.


Finding a Niche

  • Would you rather see more straightforward reviews on my blog, or fewer?
  • Is it important for me to specialize in terms of what genres I review?
  • Is it advisable to list my e-mail address on the blog?

Tomorrow I’ll unveil an updated blog design to mark the one-year anniversary. I’m also tailoring my “About” page.


I’m grateful for any and all pieces of advice. I may have been doing this for a year now, but I still feel like an utter newbie! Here’s to another year of reading and writing.

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22 thoughts on “Seeking Fellow Bloggers’ Advice

  1. I’ve been blogging for years and blog views have been down the last two or even three years. The main reason appears to be facebook. You asked about twitter–I cross post (it’s done automatically–there’s a plug in that just pushes the post to twitter) but I rarely bother with it otherwise. I believe viewership and participation there are way down. A few fans do click back from there when the post goes live, so it’s worth posting that you posted, but overall it’s a very low traffic for me. I’ve belonged to twitter groups where we crosspost each other’s stuff, but in testing it, it results in one or two views if I’m blogging a free book and that’s it. (It simply hasn’t been worth my time).

    Facebook is not my favorite, but I get the most comments and views there if i actually copy the post and post it there (as opposed to linking back to the blog). I can get a LOT of views, shares and comments on some FB posts if I do that. If I link to the blog, I get maybe half that result.

    The time of the day I post doesn’t seem to matter much, but weekend traffic is always slowest. I tend not to post as often on the weekends as a result.

    As an author, I generally don’t solicit reviews, but happily send out review copies when they are requested ESPECIALLY if the reviewer has a blog. Many do reviews on GR or Amazon or other retailers and these are HUGELY valuable, but a blog is an extra bonus.

    I have a personal author page on FB AND a business page so that I can more appropriately target people who want to see certain things:

    https://www.facebook.com/maria.schneider.3382
    https://www.facebook.com/BearMountainBooks/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

    Some posts end up on both, but that’s not usually the case.

    Here’s my blog:

    http://www.BearMountainBooks.com

    I’ve found that by blogging my other hobbies (besides reading) I broaden my visitor base as well.

    Good luck!
    Maria Schneider

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maria, thank you so much for stopping by! It’s interesting that you think blog views are down in general. Looking through my stats, I see I get most of my referrals from Goodreads or from random web searches, with a handful coming through from Facebook or Twitter. I always post a Tweet to link to a new blog post but, as you say, it doesn’t seem to generate much traffic.

      I love how you’ve incorporated your other hobbies into your blog. Alas, I don’t have many non-reading/writing hobbies! But perhaps the few that I do (pets, recycling, foraging) I will eventually write about for my “Something Different” category.

      It’s good to hear from an author that you like seeing blog and Goodreads reviews — that’s where the majority of my reviews will go if I request an ARC.

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  2. I think your blog is great already!

    You should definitely synch your posts with social media – mine also go on instagram, tumblr as well as fb and twitter, and if not registered with teadlabs already you should do that for rankings.

    Having been blogging for nearly 8 yrs now, my best advice is to put yourself about a bit – commenting and tweeting will get more visits – even though we’re time-pushed, and commenting in general is down. FB is more difficult, as your audience is more limited to those you already know. I love Twitter – I never read tweets slavishly – just log in and see what’s happening for a quick snapshot. I do always check my notifications though – to see who’s new following, retweeting, liking etc. Always copy an author/publisher into any tweet about a book.

    I used to be too shy to ask publishers for books – but since I got involved with Shiny New Books, I’ve been a lot less afraid about asking for a book – but if I ask for it, as opposed to being sent it unsolicited or even pitched to me, I will always read and review it. I’ve built up a good relationship with quite a few publishers – but with others, it’s very hit and miss – perseverance is needed.

    I do reviews for Amazon Vine too, but you have to be invited to join that – but beware Amazon owns Goodreads, and anything you publish there or on Amazon can be used by them – so I do different shorter versions of reviews on Amazon.

    How’s that for starters. Keep it up – you’re doing a great job, and Happy Blogversary for tomorrow.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Annabel! I had never heard of teadlabs (how do I sign up for that?) and I don’t really know what tumblr is! I’ll catch up with all this social media stuff eventually.

      I’m relieved to hear that you aren’t slavish about Twitter. Even following just 350 accounts, I find it impossible to keep up with. I do like connecting with authors and publishers, though. I’ll take your advice to tag the relevant people whenever possible, and be better about following and commenting (especially on blogs).

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  3. I could probably write a novel here, but The Parchment Girl has an ongoing series on her blog called The Ultimate Guide to Book Blogging that answers a ton of these questions pretty close to the way I would. http://parchmentgirl.com/features/bookblogging/

    When it comes to social media, if it overwhelms you, you should pick just one platform and use it as a hub of connection. I have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., but would regularly use them even without a blog, so I don’t tend to be overwhelmed by them. Still, I find that I like Twitter the most. I have the app on my phone and have TweetDeck open on my computer pretty regularly, so going through tweets isn’t a chore, it’s more meant for entertaining and connecting. If you don’t dig Twitter, I’d choose the one you feel most comfortable with and focus your time there. There’s a ton to be said for connecting (beyond just sharing your content) as a way to bring people to your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for pointing me to Parchment Girl’s series. I’ve already registered at a blog tours website as a result. Goodreads is definitely my social media outlet of choice, but I think I’ll stick with Twitter too — if only because I’ve already won two books and a tote bag through it 🙂 Maybe I just need to go on the site a bit more frequently so that I don’t feel like a week’s worth of posts are piling up. Every other day at least?

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  4. Since starting my blog about 2.5 years ago, I feel like I’ve been pretty low-key compared to most bloggers when it comes to other forms of social media. Al I have set up, besides me blog, is a FB page. I probabyl wouldn’t have even done that it my brother hadn’t done it for me. After it’s set up, it’s very easy. I think the most effective way for me to gain followers was by visiting and commenting on other sites. And, even though I just don’t have the time to join in on all the events and challenges that go on, I do try to follow along.
    I don’t think it’s necessary to focus in on any particular genre. I like book blogs that cover everything and anything (like yours already seem to do). I also like the ones that are written by genuine readers, rather than ones that talk about the books they’re going to read, but then don’t follow up with any kind of reviews. I love that you read so much, so that those of us who don’t read as many books can pick and choose more carefully. 🙂
    I also don’t request a lot of books for review – only if there’s something I really think I will like that falls under the focus of my blog – Canlit. Only a few times have I received unsolicited books. I do get to choose up to 3 books from Random House Canada every month. They were the first publisher to get in touch with me after starting my blog (I think it was about 6 months in). Sometimes I want all 3, but sometimes I’m not interested in any of them. between that and the few I request myself, I am content. The rest i can get at the library, or read from my own books.
    I mostly post reviews on my blog, since the reason I started was to have a space in which to talk about the books I read, but every once in a while I try to post something a little different. And, I try to post about twice a week, on average. Otherwise I don’t think I would be able to keep up.
    I think it would be super fun be a judge for a literary prize. I have seen a lot of shadow prize juries around. Have you ever thought about joining one of those?
    Happy first ‘Blirthday’! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Naomi — you are my most faithful commenter! I’m pleased you enjoy the variety on my blog; there’s so much that interests me that it would be hard for me to stick with just one genre. I like how you often feature Canadian Lit but don’t restrict yourself to it.

      That’s neat that you have an arrangement with Random House. I’d love to find something similar. (Not that I don’t have enough to choose from already, what with NetGalley, Edelweiss, Goodreads giveaways, the public library and my own shelves!)

      A shadow prize panel sounds like the perfect way for me to find a way into prize judging. I’ll have to work on getting myself out there and forming more connections so it could happen someday 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think the answer to all these questions depends on your goals. Apart from wanting to judge a prize, or maybe, as a stepping stone to that, what do you want? Just more traffic in general, or more commenting? More connections with publishers? Maybe pick one thing and make a manageable goal out of it, like, contact three publishers by (whatever date) or comment on X number of blog posts. Things you have control over, because you don’t really have control over your traffic.

    For me, having a bit of a local niche helps. I have contacts with local publishers and authors.

    I’ve been doing this 5 years and never once received a box of books 🙂 I used to get a lot of review copies, most of them because I asked. Sometimes unsolicited, but those will stop when you don’t review them 🙂 Now I get very few review books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My problem seems to be that, like Queen sang, I want it all, and I want it now! My husband has a nature blog that has never been hugely popular, and I remember over the years I would always say to him when he complained of having so few readers and commenters, “well, shouldn’t you be doing this for yourself, because you enjoy it?” So that’s what I should be reminding myself of too.

      Your advice is good: if I take baby steps in contacting publishers and connecting with other bloggers, the views and comments should increase gradually. I could also look into featuring local authors and publishers. Thank you for your comments!

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  6. I’m so grateful for all these pointers! I’m also struck by the fact that all of my regular commenters, and most of my followers (all but 5, I think), are female. Is the book blogging world really so female-dominated?

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    1. There are plenty of guys book-blogging out there, but you may need to go out and look for them and comment – there are a good number in my blogroll (David H, Tony M, Tony/Anokatony, Savidge Reads, Lonesome Reader, Calmgrove, Winstons Dad, Asylum, His futile preoccupations, Blue Book Balloon, Hogglestock, Intermittencies of the mind, Me and my big mouth (on hiatus at present), and of course dear Simon at Stuck in a Book). How’s that for starters.

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      1. Thanks for the starter list of male bloggers. I know of Simon Savidge of course. Now, will it be super obvious if I start following them all and commenting on their posts?! I hate the idea of feeling mercenary and only doing it to get likes and follows in return…

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  7. I didn’t get round to commenting yesterday, though your post interested me. As you know, mine is not a book blog, and I only rarely post about book-related topics, despite being an avid reader.

    Like your husband, my blog is really my own diary, for me (please post a link to his blog by the way. I’m interested!), which I started as a way to record my day-to-day life in France, where I was then living. All the same, I was disappointed when my readership fell when I left France, though of course it’s understandable. Many of my followers and commenters are American, so I suppose my blog is more exotic to them than to the average English person. I find weekend postings get more traffic.

    Oddly, I find little correlation between readership and blog quality. I did Blogging 101 (WordPress’ blogging course) a few weeks ago As part of that, I read dozens of blogs. Many are wonderfully written and illustrated, but many are not. I saw some that were ill-written, where the author seemed to me to have little to say (said she judgmentally), yet they seemed in some cases to have a high readership. I know that some – though not all – of the blogs I like best have a low readership.

    Commenting regularly certainly generates real relationships which I enjoy, and in the end, I think that’s what matters to me. I’ve even now met some of my ‘blogging friends’. I don’t ‘do’ Twitter, Instagram etc. so those doors are currently closed to me. But that’s OK, as don’t want to run my life round my blog.

    And yes, my readership is largely female.

    I enjoy your blog a lot, though I’ve rarely commented … so far. I’ll make sure that changes! Good luck!

    Like

    1. Interesting to hear about your experience with the WordPress blogging course. I have felt the same way about Goodreads review quality: it upsets me when poorly written or shallow reviews gets dozens of likes but thoughtful, well crafted ones hardly get any notice. I know I’m snobbish in that respect, but I do think if you’re going to bother writing something it should be a piece of work you take pains over. I often don’t understand what achieves popularity.

      I have met one blogger friend in real life and agree it’s a lovely thing when friendships can move beyond the virtual realm.

      My husband blogs about his explorations in nature at Considering Birds: https://consideringbirds.wordpress.com/ Recently he has tried to emulate the Guardian Country Diary format (~350 words on a seasonal theme).

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Well, I think everyone’s covered what I was going to say, but one thing that you need is just time. I had a very low readership my first year (though I wrote something over 100 posts), but then it’s picked up a bit every year since. For me blogging is for fun, but also keeps me engaged in the book world when I’m pulled in other directions (my own writing, paid work, chasing my 4-year-old), so I’m not all that concerned about traffic. There are so, so many lovely blogs that it’s hard to read them all, and I don’t expect that people will read or engage with mine if I’m not reading and engaging with theirs. One of the best things about blogging, though, has been finding new friends (a bunch of them have commented before me on this thread), and feeling like there’s a space to share how books affect us personally; readers who know you through blogging will really *get* those kinds of posts, you know? I’m rambling, so I’ll stop now, but best of luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Carolyn. I’m sure you’re right: I just need to be patient and make connections where I can. In the past week I’ve followed a bunch of blogs that other readers pointed me to, so I’m spreading myself out a bit. I guess I’ll consider it virtual ‘networking’!

      Liked by 1 person

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