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5 Things Your Mom Didn’t Tell You About Book Blogging

Sure, you’ve already got a great book blog. Your mom loves it. In fact, your book blog is so good that more people than your mom and brother read it.

That’s step one to blog success—more than just family members!

But how does your book blog stand out in the middle of all the thousands of book blogs on the intertubes?

Well, I don’t claim to be an expert or anything, but I have been blogging about books for nearly 4 years, and here’s what’s worked for me.  These, of course, are in addition to these blogging tips I gave a few years ago. All those tips still hold true as well.

So here are a few of my thoughts that, just maybe, your mom didn’t tell you:

Book reviews are boring.

This is my dirty little secret: I really don’t like writing or reading book reviews. Maybe once—if it’s a book I’ve never read. But I just generally avoid them. I don’t have a problem with people who only write book reviews—that’s fine. But it’s just not my thing. In fact, like I said, I don’t even enjoy writing them. My review posts are my least favorite posts to write on this blog. I just feel so long-winded and generic.

I like reading and writing about the quirky, off-the-beaten path stuff related to books and reading. The weird stuff. The strange facts you never knew about the book or its author. I think that’s why my blog (and sites like Book Riot) have been fairly successful. People are interested in more than just a book review.

Your English professor doesn’t blog, so ignore him.  

I think step one to writing a book blog is to forget everything your English professor told you. That’s not to say that he didn’t have valuable things to say. He’s a smart guy with a lot of great insight on literature. But if you want to find your blogging voice, then you need to get his voice out of your head.

You’ll never been willing to say that Mrs. Dalloway sucked or James Joyce was a blowhard if you have Dr. Snotsengrass looking over your shoulder for the rest of your blogging career. Find your own voice. And, remember, it ain’t his.

Don’t make it all about you, but do make a lot of it about your opinions.

Does that make sense?

Whatever you blog about, I hope you’re thinking of ways you add even the smallest something to other people’s lives—even if it’s just a two-minute post that helps them get their minds off their busy day. So in that sense, it’s not all about you.

But you know what those people don’t want to read? This: “Moby Dick was interesting. Herman Melville is a good writer. This book is really good.” Blech. Tell us what you really think. If you like a book, then tell us why—with energy and opinion! And don’t apologize! People love to read and listen to opinions as much as they love to share them. Why do you think political talk radio is so popular?

Ignore the stats. Write about what you love.

This one is difficult advice to follow. Most of us love to know people are reading us, and blog statistics are an easy way to confirm that.

But it’s also easy to get sucked into stats and start following the trends too much, to worship the stats just a little too much. I know this blog so well that I can usually tell you before I click publish whether or not a post will do “well” or not. It would be easy to tailor every post to those numbers and quickly get away from the purpose of 101 Books, which is to read through the Time Magazine list.

If I published 900 posts about dogs reading, I might have some nice traffic here and there, but I’m not sure exactly what either of us would gain from that—and I would have totally sold out the purpose of this blog for some extra numbers, and maybe a few extra dollars. Don’t do that.

Write about what you love, and the numbers will naturally follow.

Life gets in the way. Embrace it.

You remember a couple of weeks ago when I posted this?

Here’s what happened. I almost always work ahead with my 101 Books posts. In other words, today’s post was probably written 3 or 4 days ago, at the latest. I like to stay ahead.

But on that particular Monday, I was coming off Memorial Day weekend with a jam-packed week ahead of me with a family wedding, and completely slacked on the blog. I was running behind most of that week.

So what did I do? I just threw a photo of a dog with a toupee on the site and called it a day.

You don’t have to do something silly like that, but it’s okay to be honest with yourself and your readers. Sometimes, you just don’t have it. Life happens. Your wife has a baby. You go on vacation. Your dog is sick. Your brother’s getting married.

And, honestly, most of your readers probably won’t notice you haven’t posted for a few days anyway. Life goes on for them, too.

It’s easy to taking blogging way too seriously.

So take advice from “experts” like me with a grain of salt. Everyone’s situation is unique. What works for me might not work for you.

Relax and have fun with it. The more you can do that, the more success you’ll have with your book blog.

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27 Comments Post a comment
  1. sure

    Like

    June 27, 2014
  2. Ignoring the stats is quite tough. When I initially started blogging 2 months ago I didn’t care for views,visitors,etc (I didn’t even know the distinction) but then it slowly started to assume huge importance …. I’m now trying to stop thinking about it too much.

    Like

    June 27, 2014
  3. This is a great post. Like you, I write my posts ahead of schedule. I have come to realize that I do love blogging. It gives me an opportunity to publish things that would not find a publisher otherwise and find readers who will enjoy them. For me, blogging is a learn as you do kind of thing. And I have this wonderful opportunity to get feedback from others who are also writers.

    As far as book reviews go, I read them to find out if a certain book is something I want to read. One of the things that a lot of reviewers miss out on is a review is a good opportunity to teach a reader something: about reading, about the time period the story takes place in, abut why this particular writer deserves more reading etc.

    I don’t usually review books on my blog. But when I do I try to give the reader insight into my response to the book, what I gained from the book. After all, I see it as a chance to have a conversation with the writer and other readers. That is the reason I follow your blog and read your posts. That and the fact that you care a lot about books, good writing and reading. So keep up the good work.

    Like

    June 27, 2014
  4. This is all great advice—and very well-written!

    I have felt the same way about book reviews on blogs but haven’t had enough courage to even admit it to myself. Thanks for helping me get there!

    Like

    June 27, 2014
  5. Tonya R. Moore #

    I do tend to feel like I’ve somehow failed at blogging, whenever I get too busy and let a week to a week and a half pass by without updating my blog. I do appreciate the voice of reason, ever so often acknowledging to that life does get in the way. It reminds me to stop taking it so seriously, and to simply allow myself to enjoy what I do, whenever I can.

    Great post. I also have some trouble with writing reviews, but maybe a different approach is just what’s called for. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    Like

    June 27, 2014
  6. I have to disagree about the book reviews. I like reading other people’s reviews about books I’ve read, or ones I’m thinking of reading. They have to be well written, of course, but most of the bloggers I follow are talented writers who make their reviews fun to read. I think you just have to be enthusiastic about it. Otherwise, maybe concentrate more on other aspects of literary life, like you have done. Sometimes I think I might like reading about books almost as much as I like to read them! Everyone’s different, I guess. 🙂

    Like

    June 27, 2014
    • Totally understand. That might be more of a personal thing. I love writing about books, but the book reviews wear on me.

      Like

      June 27, 2014
  7. Alex Hurst #

    Great advice. 🙂

    Like

    June 27, 2014
  8. Awesome advice. Seriously.

    Like

    June 27, 2014
  9. Book reviews are funny. If I click on a new blog and don’t see any reviews in, say, the ten most recent posts, I will probably click away. But, my favourite posts are more discussion style. I guess the reviews tell me you have some credibility – you read books and have thoughts about them. Without that you (might) just be someone posting top 10 lists every day which is not my thing.

    Like

    June 27, 2014
    • I get that. I try and keep a mix of serious and fun. I don’t know how well I do, but I know I couldn’t write book reviews all the time, but also know a straight Buzz Feed style top 10 list blog would wear me out.

      Like

      June 27, 2014
  10. Thanks for the advice! You’re right about not taking blogging too seriously. Just look at webcomic artists – life gets in the way of them all the time, and sometimes they have to put their storyline on hold in order to deal with it. Their fans are overwhelmingly supportive and eager to wait. There’s no reason why book blogging should be any different.

    Like

    June 27, 2014
  11. Simply amazing! Thanks for the advice!
    I often get a little beat on stats i guess, you got me there hahahaha
    And well life gets in the way, a lot…
    Truly a genuine and brilliant post! Thank you so much!

    Like

    June 27, 2014
  12. I agree – I’m not often fascinated by a book review, as it’s relatively rare that one will offer something truly new and exciting. I think that the really interesting posts happen when someone has a new angle on a book, something that hasn’t been looked at before. Which is why I’m having lots of fun recreating meals from the books I loved as a child and teenager!

    Like

    June 28, 2014
  13. Good advice, Robert.

    Like

    June 28, 2014
  14. “I donʼt know about that. I never went to college. If any sonofabitch could write he wouldnʼt have to teach writing in college.” Hemingway said that (Monologue to the Maestro). Great advice!

    Like

    June 28, 2014
  15. http://novelacious.wordpress.com/
    have a look at my blog 🙂

    Like

    June 28, 2014
  16. Reblogged this on and commented:
    This is so helpful! Especially for myself and other relatively new book bloggers! Scope it out!

    Like

    June 28, 2014
  17. Great post! I actually just decided to no longer write traditional reviews on my blog, so I’m now a book blogger who doesn’t review books. This is sure to go over well, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 28, 2014
  18. Reblogged this on Writing from the Twelfth House and commented:
    I’m really enjoying following Robert’s quirky, fun, informative blog, and found reading this post very useful – apart from anything else, it confirmed my own dark suspicions about writing book reviews!

    Like

    June 29, 2014
  19. Love this

    Like

    July 1, 2014
  20. Sage advice. I don’t imagine it is possible to love reading and not end up writing about books but if I am lucky I will be able to write about books when it seems relevant to whatever other sh*t is happening in my life (which it seems is plenty in the month since I started blogging). I actually don’t want everyone to know what I am reading and I have other outlets to talk about what I am reading anyway. But like the person who likes to wander the streets at night and look into the houses of those who don’t (like me) pull the drapes the moment the lights go on, I do like to see what other bloggers are reading so I can pass judgement. Didn’t even check to see what you are reading, just hope it includes something Time missed.

    Like

    July 4, 2014
  21. Thanks so much for this post. I’ve just started a blog and when googling ‘bloggy’ type posts most seem to fall into the category of how to boost traffic with stats and social networks and SEO’s etc etc.

    Your comments seem so much more relevant because they are about the content and the community.

    Like

    July 20, 2014

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. In my bed: June 2014 | Reading in Bed
  2. Book blogs minus the reviews? | BookerTalk
  3. My Most Popular Posts, Broken Down By Category | 101 Books

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