Hey to those of you who have decided to check out this little article of mine. I want to preface this entire read by stating the following:
- I am not a book blogging guru
- I cannot provide you the path to instantaneous success
- Some or potentially all of the information I provide you with may not work for you, and that’s ok
There are more points I could make, but let’s just get into the meat of it, shall we?
So, you want to start a book blog? Why?
- 1. To get free books?
Let me stop you there. If this is your answer, you can stop reading the rest of this article. Free books should be buried deep down in your reasoning for wanting to blog about books. Want to know why? You become a collector rather than a blogger. If this is literally the only reason you started a blog, create an Instagram account instead. If you get a big enough following, maybe it’ll work out for you, but I don’t know many publicists sending out free books just to have pictures taken of them.
Receiving books in exchange for reviews, especially from traditional publishers, is actually a bigger deal than it sounds. This means you have put in the work to get recognized, and for that reason, you are being given a shot to start a relationship. If you don’t water that relationship (yes, using a flower metaphor here), it’ll wither and die faster than you can say BOOKS.
- 2. I love reading
This is a better response. Still not quite there, though. Blogging takes time and the initial set-up can see you wasting hour after hour, day after day just trying to figure out the right theme. If you love reading and just want to talk about books, I suggest following some of your favorite bloggers on Twitter and joining the massive book community there, on Discord, or Reddit instead of investing in a blog.
- 3. I have been reviewing on Goodreads and Amazon, but I want a place of my own to share my reviews
Best. Goodreads is great and all, but it isn’t the end-all/be-all of reviewing. Amazon… ugh. It has been on the downslope for a while in regard to reviewing. Half the time your review won’t post because of their guidelines or it takes a week for it go to up.
When you start a blog, you can decide when your review goes up and how you want to share it. You can cross-post your review to your social media, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. with a simple copy+paste. Your reviews can reach a wider audience, maybe even catch a publisher’s eye.
If you have made it this far, I assume you are still fairly serious about this. Let’s talk a bit about my journey and get into the next steps.
So, I began “voraciously” reading back in 2015. Before then, outside of AR reading in elementary school, the Harry Potter series, and a few Dean Koontz novels in high school, reading wasn’t my thing. I actually was more of a gamer and spent most of my time playing Call of Duty or Halo on Xbox Live.
My reading journey starts with a little book called Wool by Hugh Howey. My brother-in-law gave a paperback copy to my father for Christmas in 2014, and to say he raved to me about it for weeks is putting it lightly. I actually received a copy of The Martian by Andy Weir, which I set aside for a while because I just.. couldn’t see myself spending hour after hour reading when I could be doing so many other things.
Suffice it to say, I eviscerated Wool in like a day and quickly devoured The Martian the next day. I craved more novels in the same vein, so I took to Amazon and searched out the Customers who bought this item also bought like so many of us do and found a whole self-published community that Howey had sparked. Authors like Michael Bunker, Nick Cole, and A. G. Riddle to name a few. These guys were putting out books for super cheap compared to the big pubs when it came down to Kindle editions. I bought and bought to stuff my library and ended up be-friending them all on Facebook.
Let’s just say this sparked by reviewing bug.
I began reading and reviewing everything I could get my hands on, though looking back at my reviews, they are pretty sorry compared to the ones I write today. This led me to alpha/beta/gamma reading new novels, helping promote upcoming books from tons of indie authors, and even having a hand in the marketing for a series called Apocalypse Weird where several writers wrote in a shared world filled with monsters, magic, zombies, and the apocalypse. It never really met its full potential, but it showed me the wider world of reviewing and how those reviews not only bring in readers, but are a big help to authors who are trying to get their work in front of as many people as possible.
It is with a heavy heart that I say I left this community behind after about a year and a half as I was picked up by Petros at Booknest.eu to become a full-time reviewer on the site.
I spent the next year and a half building my fantasy, science fiction, horror and thriller portfolio, feeding my love for reading, participating in my first SPFBO competition, building a few contacts in the publishing industry and really figuring out who I was as a reviewer. Voice is really important in reviewing and honing in on that voice will pay dividends. I am always thankful to Petros for giving me the opportunity as I don’t know if I’d be doing this now if it weren’t for him.
In October of 2017, I decided to part ways with Booknest and founded FanFiAddict alongside my buddy Griffin. As you can imagine, it was SLOW going for a while. I knew very few in the community outside of the bloggers at Booknest, and really didn’t know about this massive community on Twitter. I started following everyone I could, reading and promoting reviews, getting to know individual bloggers, and sharing reviews I had written on this new venture.
As time went on, I began recognizing reviewers who were sort of stuck to the Goodreads/Amazon tradition of reviewing and reached out to see if they had any interest in simply having another place to share their reviews. This is how David S and Jason became consistent contributors and the blog has grown immensely since then, adding Justin, Tori, Dan, Arun, Harry, Cassidee, Natazha, Manny, Neil, KJ and Yann.
While our focus continues to be on fantasy and science fiction reviews, we post articles about series we enjoy and why you should read them, cover reveals, guest posts, book tours, reviews for horror, thriller, and romance novels, you name it. Anything and everything we can do to promote the book community, its authors, its publishers, and especially its readers.
Creating Your Blog
So I am going to go at this from one angle because it is the only one I know. I started a http://www.Wordpress.com website, first of all, because it was FREE, but second of all, because it was super easy to use. All you do is choose a theme and customize as much as you want (though some options are only available once you start putting some money into it).
If you choose to upgrade, the options are fairly cheap until you start getting onto a bigger scale. We are currently using the Personal Plan which is about $48 annually (not bad really) mostly to be able to get a domain. I really prefer having a .com to a wordpress.com. Looks cleaner, easier to type in, looks cleaner… did I already say that?
Writing posts is also fairly easy and if you ever run into issues, WordPress support is just about ALWAYS available to help you work the kinks out. Resolutions just end up being mild brainfarts in the creative process but sometimes it turns out that you just don’t have the appropriate access and need to upgrade in order to use those tools.
Some things I wish I had known before going off on my own to start a blog…
- You need time. This isn’t a quick 5 minute setup. If you want your blog to look appealing, you need to set aside hours to see what works and what doesn’t. Get opinions of others. Start a poll on Twitter asking people what types of things they want to see on a blog. The more the merrier, but remember, if you are going solo, keep what you do to a minimum.
- To add-on: If you change your blog’s theme, know that it comes with a TON of work. You will be working tireless hours trying to get everything adjusted and looking good.
- YOU DO NOT HAVE TO POST EVERY DAY. Seriously… don’t waste time stressing about content. Go by your own schedule. Post every few days, once a week, a few times a month. If people like your content, they will stick around.
- Don’t feel like you have to be like everyone else. I know it is in our culture to want what others have, but if you go about blogging that way, you will stew in your own frustration that things aren’t happening fast enough for you. Be patient, keep at it, and you’ll see that your work pays off.
- Blogging is easier and more enjoyable when you surround yourself with others. Yeah, starting a blog and wanting all the books for yourself is great and all, but it is lonely. Adding other contributors has been the best decision I have ever made for my blog.
This link will be your best friend: https://wordpress.com/support/
I highly suggest, if you don’t already, get a Twitter account. Whether you create the blog simply for yourself or you are bringing on others, Twitter is the best place (IMO) to share and talk about books. Start by following everyone you can, read their reviews, see how they promote their blogs, and use those to create your own individual path. If they also have a WordPress website, I suggest giving those blogs a follow and you can adjust how you receive notifications (whether by email or WordPress alerts). Here are a few I recommend following first on the Twittersphere (AND YES, I’VE LEFT SO MANY OUT. I’M SORRY):
The gang over at The Fantasy Hive
The gang over at The Fantasy Inn
Where Do I Find Books?
Well, the easiest answer to this question is this: look at your bookshelves/e-reader library.
Before you can really start requesting new books, start posting reviews of some older titles. Whether you import old reviews from Goodreads or simply write a review of a book you’ve been meaning to read again, it doesn’t matter. The more reviews you have to start off with, the better your opportunities will be in getting attention to your blog.
NetGalley and Edelweiss+ are the main two (2) websites for advance reader copies. All you have to do is create an account, update your profile, and begin requesting. Having said that, these are still only e-ARCs, so if you are looking for physical review copies, you still have some ways to go.
In regard to NetGalley, you start with a blank slate. You can only review books you have requested and been approved for. That means it could be slim pickings for a while, but once you do start getting approvals, make sure you don’t let those lapse. Also, rule of thumb, don’t request EVERYTHING. We all fall into that trap, and if you receive a ton of approvals at once, you are already way behind (and no-one has that kind of time on their hands). Eventually, if a publisher really likes the content you are putting out, there is a chance you get auto-approval status which means you do not have to put in a request for their titles. You will simply see a “Read Now” button on those titles.
In regard to Edelweiss, you also start with a blank slate BUT you can add reviews to any book they have available on the website. I loved this advantage because it helps you build stock in the site before you even begin requesting. A couple of things to note before you end up getting down on yourself:
- Orbit does not approve eARCs on Edelweiss for bloggers – you need to request on NetGalley. They only approve eARCs for librarians and booksellers.
- Graphic novels are… iffy when it comes to eARCs. They are typically choppy if you try to download them as a mobi, epub or PDF. They generally come in ACSM format which is used with Adobe Digital Editions. I have an intense hatred for ADE because it is crap software, but maybe you will find it works for you.
If you do end up conversing with publicists, you know you’ve made it. I HIGHLY suggest you keep a good working relationship with whomever you speak with. Best way to go about getting the “invite” is to query publishers’ publicity departments via their websites.
Some Blogging No-Nos
Please don’t do these things.
- If you are going to post a negative review on your blog, don’t post it on social media while tagging the author and publisher. Not cool, bro. You will get cancelled so fast by the book community that it just isn’t worth it.
- Don’t make a list of the worst books you read in a given year, or the books that disappointed you the most. Not cool, bro. Authors have feelings, too. Remember, they didn’t write this book specifically for you or with you in mind. If you didn’t like it, move on. Berating the author for all of the work they put into their art only harms and hinders the community.
- Don’t DM authors with critical feedback or to ask for ARCs. Not cool, bro. What good does it do when you go right to the source to provide your opinion? Guess what, it’ll be all over socials before you can blink. In regard to ARCs, unless they are a indie author, they don’t have access to ARCs so you are just wasting your time. When it comes to indies, they generally have a newsletter you can join where those opportunities are plentiful.
- Don’t ask publicists for every conceivable book their publisher has put out. No cool, bro. Stick to what is coming out or more recent titles.
I know there is a ton to unpack here, and there is a ton more that I did not touch on. If I can be honest with you, every journey is different. Every blog is different. Heck, every person is different in the way they think, process information, speak, etc. That is why I say this information may or may not help you. I can only speak from my own journey using first-hand experiences.
Book blogging is very enjoyable and can be a very rewarding experience. I mean, after 3+ years of doing it, FanFiAddict is starting to find its way onto book covers and bookseller websites. It has led to numerous opportunities like starting a podcast (Authors on a Podcast Talking Books), a BookTube channel (FanFiAddict), and creating relationships with other bloggers, my favorite authors, and publicists that I can now call friends. Through those relationships, I was able to create MAYDAYcon and TBRcon, and I have the ability to do so many other things that I couldn’t before blogging.
If you want to start a book blog, remember these things: Be you. Don’t try to emulate. Join the community. Love books. Don’t be a jerk. If you can do those things, you’ll succeed. I guarantee it.
I appreciate you giving this article a read-through. If you ever have any questions about starting a blog, feel free to reach out. Always happy to help!