When I first stumbled upon the book blogging community, I couldn’t find helpful guides to book blogging. Only tips and tricks from other bloggers. I asked questions or I researched the answers myself. Most of these things I’ve learned just by doing. Experience is the best way to learn and that’s why I’ve decided to create this guide for newbie book bloggers. The most frequently asked question I receive is “How do I receive books for review?” And my simple answer would be, “Lots of hard work reading, blogging, networking, and loving what I do.” Yet there are so many other questions that I get that I decided to just keep notes on all the questions I get. After a while, the questions showed a pattern. Most of them refer to newbie book blogging questions, and that’s how I got the idea to start a guide.
I hope this helps you guys a lot. Feel free to pass and share this guide around. But do remember that this is a guide and I’m not telling you what to do, but I’m sharing with you what I did to get where I am today.
Before you start, ask yourself these questions:
If you say “yes” to all then you’re ready to start. If you’re unsure then maybe you’ll have to adjust your schedule to fit in your book blogging duties. It sounds like a job doesn’t it? But you know what? It’s not. A blog isn’t work. I love doing this simply because I really enjoy reading books. And I take a lot of time and energy into making my blog as successful as it can be.
Who is your audience? Who will be your visitors? Are they readers, authors, or publishers? If you set up your target audience, then you can set up specific goals. My target audience are readers who just so happen to be book bloggers too. The content on my blog cater to readers and book bloggers alike. So do my giveaways that anyone can enter. My language, and tone of of my content is casual, and informal, so most people will understand what I’m referring to.
How do you make yourself stand out from the hundreds of book blogs out there? You don’t. You just be yourself. There’s no one more unique than you! I consider myself a nerd as well so after a bit of brainstorming with my friend Stephen, he popped out the two words that stuck with me… “Book Nerd” and the rest is history!
A blogging platform is a service that lets you produce your own blog. There are dozens of blogging platforms you can use. You can opt to either go free or self-host.
You’ll want to stick to the most popular ones since those are the platforms that everyone is familiar with. The two most popular blogging services are Blogger and WordPress.
Blogger was well known as blogspot.com. (Even I had one way back in the day when it first came out. ) They eventually got bought by Google. What I love about Blogger is that everything is done for you. Your stats are enabled. Your widgets can be turned on and off. So many other bloggers use it, so they’re familiar with the interface when they comment. It’s easy, and it’s free. The only downside is the theme must be customized, and if you don’t have an advanced knowledge of HTML or CSS, then it’s rather hard to make it look the way you want.
WordPress is just as customizable as Blogger. It has all the features that Blogger does, but the themes are a lot prettier right out of the box. There’s a lot more themes to choose from to suit any style, and most are coded to respond to mobile, and tablet screens which is a huge convenience to your visitors.
By having your own web site, your limitations disappear, and you can do anything you want to your site. There’s a bit of a learning curve if you self-host, but it’s always good to learn something new!
The two things you must need to get your own web site are server space and a domain name. Server space is content and pictures you use to display on your blog. This requires maintenance which is why you must pay for it. Domain names must be registered because a web address is actually a string of numbers, and who is willing to remember that? This is why we have domain name registration so you can easily say “mybookblog.com” instead of “22.214.171.124” which is the IP address to which your blog is pointed to.
What you want is the service when you’re looking for a reliable host. I’ve been using GoDaddy for years and I’ve never had a problem with them. My site was down only once, but it seemed to go back up right away. Also, GoDaddy has a great customer service area. You can even call them if you want to talk to a real live person. (If you’re wondering if I get a referral credit when I refer someone I don’t. I’m not affiliated with them. I’m recommending it because they’re honestly reliable.)
GoDaddy offers several packages, and everything is pretty darn cheap. Most of their hosting services have three distinct plans, and I always opt for the lowest. A book blog doesn’t need as much space so you’re okay to pick the lowest plan which in this case is called “economy plan.”
With my experience, I picked “Web Hosting”, the “Economy Plan”. I chose this one because the features suit my needs and I can install all the software and services I want. Yet, a book blogger newbie like you won’t need MySQL databases, or 10 email accounts, so the WordPress hosting plan sounds a lot better. You can pay in increments of 3 months, 12 months, 24 months or 36 months. I highly recommend paying 12 months. It gets cheaper when the months add up, but you must be willing to commit to your blog for at least a year so you don’t waste your money.
After you selected your plan, you can now find a domain name to register.
Type in your name of your blog in the search field and see if it’s available. If it’s not then, you can either choose a different name or a variation of it. Sometimes just changing the .com to .ca or something else works, so don’t worry if it’s not available in .com. GoDaddy will let you know. (Just an added tip…. Canadian web sites are about $2 more than the others.)
Just like the server space, you can pay in the same increments. It really depends on your budget. There are options to also point your Blogger.com address to a domain name, so that’s another option you can choose as well.
Decide whether you want to be self-hosted or work with a free blogging platform. There are pros and cons for each, so whichever you choose is entirely up to you. I chose the self-hosted path, and the cost for one year of server space, and a domain name registration for BookNerd.ca is $78 CAD. I also work with Blogger to test out themes for several clients, but I do have to admit, working with Blogger can be really buggy, so I opted to self-host. I like having my own domain name, and the control over the site and the backend.
After you have set up your blog and your domain name has been activated, your blog is ready! But don’t start telling people right away. Not yet! There’s no content or even a theme. The next section can help you make it look pretty. This is the most fun part for me, and you may be delighted to learn how much fun designing banners, headers, and buttons can be.