When I first launched my book around 18 months ago I wandered into the weird and wonderful world of bloggers. What a strange place that was. I asked one I met at the time who was extremely helpful, to write something about blogging for me and here is what she has to say.
This is by Linda Hill
Bloggers are a weird and wonderful bunch and each one is different, with their own unique approach to their blogs and preferred genres. However, for the most part, all bloggers have one aspect in common. We all love books and want to spread the love of books as far and wide as we can.
Every so often there is a debate about bloggers not being ‘real’ readers or not being genuine in their reviews because they are ‘paid’ to review. Neither of those accusations is true. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but all the bloggers I know – and let me tell you, I know a lot of them – blog because they love to read. They love books. They love to share the joy in immersing yourself in another world, meeting fictional people, travelling the globe and beyond, and seeing all manner of events whilst having amazing experiences and emotions, all through the written word.
Some bloggers do have affiliate links on their blogs so that they ‘earn’ a few pence if a reader clicks through and buys a book, but they make it clear that this is the case. Receiving a copy of a book for review might be construed as being paid, but often we bloggers also purchase the same book when we’ve really enjoyed it. I have been offered payment to read and review but I’ve always declined. I want to retain my integrity. I know the majority of bloggers feel the same.
In fact, far from being paid to blog, bloggers actually pay to blog! We buy books all the time. Many of us pay for our blogs and our domain names, although it is possible to blog for free. I pay because otherwise the blog hosts can insert adverts over which I have no control. I’d hate to review a memoir, for example, concerning someone who’d suffered anorexia, only to find that an advert for slimming pills had sneaked in to what blog readers saw. Bloggers also spend money and time attending bookish events, book launches and meet ups, signings and talks. Every time I attend a bookish event in London, the travel alone costs me between £38 and £50 depending on the timings. I had to decline an event at the end of last year as the peak time trains meant a day return of £117 and I can buy an awful lot of books for that!
Speaking of time, blogging takes up a considerable amount. Aside from actually reading the book, bloggers have to prepare their posts, write their reviews, set up giveaways, research authors and their books, write interview questions, suggest topics for guest posts, find copyright free images, reply to emails, chase publicists and authors who haven’t sent promised materials like extracts (which more often than not need reformatting to fit the blog) for blog tours, set up tweets and Facebook posts, add images to Instagram and share our blog posts as far and wide as we can. Many bloggers share for one another too. I spend at least an hour a day reading posts from fellow bloggers and tweeting about them.
Personally, I don’t blog about books I haven’t enjoyed. Having recently completed the first draft of my own novel, I understand the challenges in writing 80,000+ words. No author sets out to write a bad book or one that a reader doesn’t enjoy and my view is, if I can’t say anything kind, I’ll keep my views to myself. Besides which, readers have different tastes. I love literary fiction, often when it is totally intense and character driven and little action takes place. Another reader may hate that style of writing. Personally, I’m not a fan of graphic visceral blood and gore and I find it hard to engage with fantasy or science fiction but I know readers and bloggers who love those genres.
Each post I put out takes me about an hour to put together and then I spend around another hour or so scheduling tweets, adding links to various Facebook book groups and copying my review onto Amazon and Goodreads on the day it is published. I tend to schedule tweets about my blog post a day in advance using Hootsuite, partly because I’m permanently terrified I’m going to miss my slot on a blog tour and let down the author and tour organiser. I read somewhere that a tweet needs to be seen on five occasions to have an impact in Twitter’s fast moving feed so I send out a tweet at 7AM when I think many will be waking up and reaching for their phones and tablets or on an early commute, at 9 when people have a sneaky look at social media before beginning their working day or when they’ve just got back from dropping off the children at school, 1PM as it’s lunchtime in the UK and America is just waking up, 6PM when many are again on their commute scrolling through their phones or are cooking dinner and finally at 9PM because most folk will have eaten dinner, got the children in bed and be relaxing.
Bloggers appreciate how important it is for authors to get reader feedback and to reach the magic 50 reviews on Amazon, for example. Many of us have contact emails on our blogs or can be reached through social media and there are some ways authors can help themselves get those reviews.
Firstly, I’d say an author need to engage with bloggers and other authors on social media to build up a following of, hopefully, loyal readers. I belong to a few authors’ ‘street teams’ or advanced reader teams so that I know I will always be able to read and review their books.
Most bloggers have preferred genres, so if authors are looking for reviews it’s as well to check the blogs to note the kind of books featured and see if their book fits. Also, authors need to see if a blogger has a review policy and abide by it. Mine says I’m not accepting new material at the moment and yet I still get daily requests for reviews. I’ve actually received 212 emails requesting reviews in one day, so authors shouldn’t feel offended if we don’t always have time to respond. As well as author requests we are contacted by publicists and blog tour organisers several times a day and life can intervene in our ability to reply.
I’m lucky, I’m retired and I’m not holding down a full time job, bringing up a family and blogging at the same time so I do try to respond, although I must admit I deleted the email saying ‘Dear Madam. Here is my book for your immediate review.’ and another that simply said ‘I want to be on your blog. What do I do?’ Try beginning the email, ‘Dear Linda’ is a good place to start!
It’s better not to send mass emails to bloggers requesting reviews. Salutations like ‘Dear [insert name here]’ or Dear John Smith don’t make us feel very loved – unless, perhaps, we are John Smith! I must admit, I have found ‘Dear Book Bag’ quite amusing though. I’d advise authors to send a simple email with a proper named salutation to a blogger they know reads their genre, outlining the book’s genre, length and blurb in the first instance and politely requesting a review. Sending an ecopy automatically can clog up inboxes and be annoying, but similarly, sending a link to Amazon and telling the blogger to buy the book and review it doesn’t help either, especially if it’s dystopian book about flesh eating lesbian zombies and we only read and review poetry!
Bloggers love authors who share or acknowledge their reviews. A simple emoji or ‘Thanks’ in reply to a tweet or even a blog post comment makes a blogger feel their effort has been worthwhile and we will be happy to review or feature that author again. That said, we don’t expect every tweet or mention to be acknowledged as we know authors have lives to live just as much as we do.
It’s hard to give unequivocal advice and information about bloggers and blogging because we are all as unique and individual as all the authors out there hoping to feature on our blogs. Joining Book Connectors on Facebook is a good place to start as authors and bloggers support one another there. All I can say is, keep writing and become active in the bookish world as a whole and the reviews will come. After all, bloggers want to read the books just as much as authors want us to!
You can find Linda’s Blog here: https://lindasbookbag.com
She is on twitter as @lindahill50hill