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Repost: 5 Things I’ve Learned About Book Blogging

It’s rerun week at 101 Books! Today’s post originally appeared on November 18, 2011. 101 Books will return live on Monday July 9. 

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So I’ve been at this for nearly 15 months now, and I’m still enjoying it as much as the day I started.

If you didn’t know (and why would you?)  this is my third attempt at a blog. The first was a rambling personal blog that I didn’t promote and really didn’t care to. The second one was a golf blog that I updated 1-2 times a week and, at least for awhile, felt like I got into a flow of niche blogging.

But I’ve never enjoyed blogging like I do now. I don’t think you can write posts 5 days a week unless you enjoy doing it. If you’re not having fun, you’ll burn out and begin dreading sitting down at the computer. Believe me, I know.

But even though the blog is just part of this project–the other, of course, is reading 101 books–I feel the blog is almost more fun, just barely, than reading the books.

And along the way, I’ve learned a lot about blogging–and, more specifically, book blogging. This isn’t life-changing stuff you’ve never heard. But experience really is the greatest teacher, and this experience has taught me a lot.

1) Don’t take yourself too seriously. Something about reading makes us want to poke our noses in the air and talk like we are an English butler in the 19th century. But then we just come off as pretentious jerks. And nobody likes pretentious jerks.

Unless you’re writing a blog geared toward college professors and academia, then loosen up your shirt collar and have fun. If you can throw in a fart joke while you’re talking about William Faulkner, well, you have found the key to successful book blogging, my friend.

2) Be honest. There’s a great temptation when you write about books to act like you know everything: Yes, yes, of course I knew that the pimples on Hal Incandenza’s forehead represented the staggering growth of mankind during the Baby Boomer generation. I absolutely knew that. No, I didn’t.

And, just to be clear, I totally made that up. The point is: Sometimes I feel like I need to know every symbol, metaphor, theme and plot device before I talk about these books. I don’t. I learn as I go. And, many times, I probably never pick certain things up. But this isn’t a blog about literary critiques. I have no plans to make it one because I would suck at that.

3) Be consistent. I can’t stress this enough. When I first started this blog, I thought there was no way I could come up with more than 1-2 posts a week. Outside of simple reviews, what could I possibly talk about?

But it’s amazing how I just found stuff to write about once I began writing every day: books turned into movies, the writing styles of authors, cool facts about these books, passages that impacted me, and so on. As long as I keep reading, the blog material is always there. And we all know that the more you post, the more traffic you can expect over time.

4) Be willing to adapt. Not long after my first Freshly Pressed feature, I sat down with my friend and blogging pro Jon Acuff. We chatted about the blog and brainstormed some content ideas. At the time, I thought I should make each post somehow related to the list of books.

But he pointed out, by doing that, I would be working within a narrow framework of posts. So, from there, I decided to branch out from just talking about the list and also focus on reading and books in general. When I could tie those posts back to a book on the list, that would be even better. So that’s what I’ve done. The moral of the story–adapt. Stick to a theme, but be willing to maneuver within that theme as your blog evolves.

“Your blog killed me!” says Picasso. (Source: oddsock/Flickr)

5) Know your audience. A few weeks ago, a new commenter on the blog said 101 Books was “the death of art and meaning.” Now that’s a lot to put on a little old book blog, isn’t it? If I could single-handedly kill art and meaning with a book blog, imagine what other powers I might have!

Anyway, he went on to say that my reviews were unoriginal, lacking in insight, and passionless. Sure, his comments bothered me at first, but then I realized he just simply reaffirmed the purpose of this blog. 101 Books isn’t about boring, academic reviews for professors with doctorates in literature studies. I have no interest in that, and I figured out early on that neither do you.

So I approach the blog as just a normal guy who loves reading, who wants to read a crapload of books, and who wants to let you guys know whether these  books are worth your time. You guys seem to feel the same way, so it’s a good fit. If you’re looking for haughty, academic reviews, you’ve come to the wrong place.

That’s all I got for now. But I’m sure you have other ideas.

If you’re a book blogger, or just a blogger in general, what is one piece of advice you would pass on?

(Photo: Michael Graf/Flickr)

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11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great idea. And here’s 5 things I’ve learnt about you from your blog:
    1) You run as much as you read.
    2) You loathe Mrs Dalloway, Lolita and Are you there God, it’s me Margaret (with you with them all)
    3) You have a 4w4 (this really surprised me, it’s quite unusual in the UK, though not unusual enough)
    4) Your posts are incredibly creative and I love reading the backgrounds to the authors/books etc
    5) You seem to spend your time v productively considering you are having to do all this reading (well want to) and have a job, family and small child. Go you! And thanks.
    nicola http://homemadekids.wordpress.com

    Like

    July 6, 2012
    • Thank you Nicola! I appreciate your kind words and how you consistently read the blog. On #3, what is a 4w4? 4 wheel drive? I don’t own one of those!

      Like

      July 9, 2012
  2. sylviemarieheroux #

    Hi Robert, Thanks for reposting that. I’m in my 7th month of blogging and I am still thinking about just the issues you brought up. Who do I write for? Well, so far, mostly myself because it helps me think… I’ve also struggled with having one or two blogs, one for “fun” reading and one about what I read that is work-related. That means that the potential audiences for both threads are quite different, but what the heck, I can always decide to split them up later. I also don’t aim to do literary critiques (had a hard enough time with that in my lit degree) but I concentrate in talking about what I found interesting in what I read. I don’t aim to write everyday, but I try to put out something about 6 times per month which has been my average rate so far. Your blog has been an inspiration, because it does have a personality.

    Like

    July 6, 2012
    • Keep at it! Focus is a big key. A specific topic for a specific audience.

      Like

      July 9, 2012
  3. I love the first two points the most, because they really reflect my own attitude to reading and writing: the most important thing is to enjoy it and share it!

    Like

    July 6, 2012
  4. misscathyadele #

    This sounds like great advice. I am a complete newbie to WordPress and am just beginning to discover the joy of blogging. I’ve wanted to write in one form or another for a long time but had a severe case of ‘too afraid to try in case I fail” syndrome. I’ve now realised that attitude is stupid, so here I am! I may have to write these pointers on to my desk to keep me going. Thanks for sharing the wisdom!

    Like

    July 6, 2012
    • Awesome. Blogging is a great way to develop your writing voice and simply get better at writing. Once you get going, you’ll find that it gets easier and easier.

      Like

      July 9, 2012
  5. Really sound advice Robert, thank you. I haven’t anywhere as much experience as you have but I’m also finding that my original plan (to blog about novels that won the Booker prize) is limiting what I can post. So have started to branch out also….

    Like

    July 7, 2012
  6. beefhearts #

    This is great advice. I’m new to blogging myself and this kind of advice is a great help. I like your style and and the flow of your entries. I look forward to continuing to read what you have to say.

    Like

    July 9, 2012

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