Wednesday 16 March 2022

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Guide to Book Blogging: Getting Started Part 2 - Creating Content & Engagement

A photo of a tablet propped up on it's side, facing the bottom left corner of the photo. It's open to Once Upon a Bookcase's homepage. In front and just to the left of the tablet, to the left of the photo, is a pale green, hardback notebook with a pink biro on top. They're all on a light grey, fluffy duvet.

Ad: Titles with an asterisk (*) were provided to me for free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Guide to Book Blogging: Getting Started

Part 2: Creating Content & Engagement

I'm continuing with my Guide to Blogging with the second part of Getting Started, which is focusing on starting to create content. If you haven't yet, be sure to read the first part, Setting Up Your Blog, because until you've set up, you can't move forward.

Ok, so you've set up your email address, decided on a blog title, chosen a platform, have your theme and template, and your first few pages. Now it's time to work on your content and engagement.

Writing Reviews

Now you can get on with writing reviews! You are a reader, you've read books before, you maybe get books from the library, those are the books to review. Depending on your idea of your blog, you might want to think about if you will review every book you read from now on or not. You will also want to consider whether you write negative reviews, or just stick to positive reviews. But what do you put in a review? The first thing to think about is what information you're going to share with your readers before you even get to your thoughts. Are you going to take a photo of book (helpful if you're Bookstagramming, too), or an image from Goodreads, the publisher's website, etc.? Are you going to include a description? What about the publication date and publisher? These will be especially important later on, if you start reviewing for publishers. How about links to the author's website, or the book's Goodreads, etc. pages. If you're part of an affiliate program, you probably want to include that link to. How about trigger and content warnings? I think giving the source - how you acquired the book - is cool to include, too. What else might you want to include, that could be helpful for the reader before they get to your thoughts?

But what do you actually write when it comes to your thoughts and opinions? There are a few questions you can ask yourself to figure out your review style:
  • Think about the blogs you read; what do you like about them? What do they talk about in their reviews that has you coming back? Also think about those you don't enjoy. What areas do these blogs cover or not cover that you like? Think about their different lengths - the short and snappy reviews and the long, in depth reviews - which do you prefer reading?
  • What you read reviews, what do you want them to tell you? What are you interested in finding out about?
  • What do you notice that you like or dislike as you're reading? These are things to talk about in your review.

Here are a few particular areas you might want to discuss or exclude:
  • Premise/plot
  • Pacing, and in regards to the pacing, the length of the book
  • Characterisation
  • Narration - both first or third, and multiple perspectives
  • Tropes if applicable - whether the book includes tropes you like and those you don't, or what you think of how they handled a particular trope
  • Twists and un/predictability
  • Conclusion - or the ending for books in a series, cliffhangers, etc.
  • If applicable, any problematic issues

When it comes to negative reviews, it's important to remember to not rip the book to shreds. There's no need to be rude or offensive - to other readers who may have liked the book, and to the author. Be constructive. Just because you didn't like it, doesn't mean others won't. I've had numerous people tell me that they've decided to buy a book based on my negative review, because the things I talked about that I didn't like were exactly the kind of things they loved. You don't have to write negative reviews at all if you don't want, but if you do, the way you handle them is something that could potentially be considered by publishers.

My next few posts will be covering creating a book review policy, contacting publishers, and how to be up front and clear when you've received a book for review, so there are things I will touch on in more detail in those, but I feel it's important to point out now that if you do start receiving books from publishers for review, in the UK it is the law that you clearly disclose this. This is down to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) rules about advertising. Take a look at my review of The Bone Spindle by Leslie Vedder*. You'll see in the title that I include (#Ad) at the end, and the very first thing you read in the post is that I received a proof, that I received it for free, that it was sent to me by the publisher, and they did so, so that I can write an honest review. You'll also see that above I put an asterisk by the title, and at the very top of this post, the very first thing you read is a very similar dislaimer. For any books you receive from a publisher in exchange for a review, in any post you discuss them in - even on social media - you must make this clear. Even in your reviews page. See Recognising Ads: Blogs and Vlogs on ASA's website, and all the links in the artcicle that apply to you, including the one for influencers, and the one for social media. I will go into this in much more detail in future posts, but it's something I think you should be aware of now, that you'll have to add more info to your reviews when the books come from publishers.

Other Content:

To make your blog particularly engaging, you need more than book reviews on your blog. So you need to think about other content. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Discussion Posts. Think of particular things you're interested when it comes to reading. Maybe you want to talk about your favourite tropes. Perhaps you have strong views on paperbacks versus hardbacks. Perhaps there's something you've seen be discussed among the bookish community on social media that you'd like to share your two pence on. Keep a notebook with you when reading, you might read something that inspires a blog post.
  • Recommendation Lists, Wish Lists or TBR Lists. Pretty self-explanatory. Lists of recommendations, books you want, or books you already own but have yet to read on particular topics. Sapphic Fairy Tale Retellings. Non-Western Inspired High Fantasy. Contemporary YA by Authors of Colour. My Most Anticipated [insert type of stories here] of 2022. The options are endless. What books can you group together that you loved, that you want to read, that you've not yet read?
  • Book Hauls. Book hauls are always good, similar to the above, they're posts where you share the books you acquired in the last week or month, depending on how often you want to do these kinds of posts.
  • Hosted Features. These are features hosted by bloggers that invite other bloggers to get involved in, writing a specific kind of post on their own blog, that they then share a link to on the host's blog, along with everyone else. Top Ten Tuesday from Jana of That Artsy Reader Girl is a good starting point - every Tuesday, bloggers write about their top ten on a specific bookish topic, share links on Jana's own post, and check out other posts by other bloggers. (Past topics are listed, and helpful inspiration for your own discussion posts.) There's also Can't-Wait Wednesday hosted by Tressa of Wishful Endings, where every Wednesday you share a book you're excited to read that is generally not yet published, sharing your link on Tressa's blog, and checking out others' posts. There will be other similar ones about.


You now need to work on getting others to visit and engage with your blog, or you're just shouting into the void. If you do end up reviewing for publishers, your engagement and stats is what they're most interested in. So having conversations with others is important - you must engage with other people and their blogs. Here are a few ways of bring people to your blog.
  • Post your content on social media. If you're sharing your links on Twitter, etc. when you post, people are going to find your posts. But to have followers of your social media, you need to be engaging on Twitter, etc., too. Post reading updates, share the books you've just bought, etc. Follow accounts similar to your own.
  • Engage with other blogs. You can google for blogs similar to your own, who blog about similar genres or types of books. Or think about the kinds of books you like, and then the publishers who publish those books. Then check out those publishers' social media accounts; they'll retweet or share posts from bloggers about their books. Check those blogs out, and if you enjoy their content, follow and comment. Engage. And make sure the URL to your blog is in the website field. Most bloggers will check out the blogs of those who have commented on theirs, so you're likely to get those people commenting on your blog.
  • Take part in those hosted features. Like Top Ten Tuesday or Can't-Wait Wednesday. Share your links on the host's blog, and people will check out your posts. Also visit the other blogs taking part, and post genuine, meaningful comments. No-one likes, "Great post, check out mine!" If you have zero interest in the books that blogger reads, nothing in common at all, you don't have to comment.

So that's it! You have a blog, you're creating content, and you have engagement! Do you have any questions? Anything I've not been clear enough on? Anything I've not covered or you're unsure of? Let me know in the comments! And check back next Wednesday, when I'll be talking about creating a review policy.

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