Book Blogging for Beginners: Advice from A Veteran Book Blogger
Readers keep books alive. There are some who read simply for escape, to gain knowledge, or to be provoked to thought. Others read and want to share the agony and ecstasy of reading with others.
Book reviewers, book bloggers, readers on bookstagram and booktok are all book lovers: what sets them apart is their willingness to read, analyze and critique books, or simply shout out about the books they enjoyed.
On Daily (w)rite, I interview a host of writers and publishing professionals, but I also wanted to hear from a book blogger.
Among the many book reviewers I know, Lynne LeGrow, or Fictionophile as she calls herself on social media, stood out for her depth of her reviews, for her professionalism, and her sheer prolific consistency as a reader. It doesn’t hurt that our reading tastes match, either!
So today, she shares a reader and book reviewer’s point of view–which I thought might be useful to authors looking for genuine reviewers, and for book bloggers who would like to speak about their crucial, but often unheralded role in the publishing industry.
This post will also help if you want to set up a book blog, but are still sitting on the fence, because Lynne has excellent advice on book blogging for beginners.
Tips on Book Blogging for Beginners: Honest Answers from Lynne LeGrow
I consider myself to be a life-long bookworm. I lived in a rural area as a young child and the highlight of my days back then was when the mobile library parked up the road from our house.
Always an avid reader, I studied library science courses when my children were adolescents. I was following my life-long dream to work with books. Once within the library system, I worked myself up to the position of cataloger.
I was the sole fiction cataloger for our local library system which has 14 branch libraries. It was work that I loved and I was kept very busy.
One of my duties while working for the library was contributing to the library’s blog. So, it only seemed natural to me to create my own book blog as a beginner.
It was a very amateurish endeavor at first and I had it for a couple of years before I became a more serious book blogger. When I retired in December of 2015, I wanted to keep in touch with the book world – my book review blog was a wonderful way to do that.
Book blogging is a labor of love for me and I spend countless hours doing things blog related other than reading. Some of these things are very enjoyable, like creating graphics, and thinking up ideas for posts.
Other activities are not always so enjoyable, like keeping abreast of all the social media obligations and staying on top of the copious number of emails I receive.
Rules to Follow when Approaching a Book Blog: My Pet Peeves
— When authors and/or publishers don’t take the time to read my ‘Review policy’. They suggest I might like this dystopian fiction, or this YA science fiction opus, when I’ve already clearly stated that I don’t read or review these genres.
— Also, I have so many books on my review commitment list now that I am wary of accepting many more. I often accept with the disclaimer that I won’t be getting to the book anytime soon, so if this is a problem then don’t send me the book. Then, they send me the book and a month later send me an email asking why I haven’t read it yet!
— When authors send me an email asking me to review their book and they attach the book. This puts unwanted pressure on me to review it, even if it is not something that sounds like I would enjoy. I feel it is presumptuous of them, and not very professional when they don’t ask before sending their book.
— Deadlines – the pressure to review a book by the publication date is something I can no longer do as I have over 100 review commitments at the present time.
Joys of Being A Book Blogger
— I have become acquainted with many like-minded readers through my blog. We have a ‘quid pro quo’ relationship as well – I support their efforts and they support mine.
— Being engaged with other bloggers. I’m retired, so the online friendships are a great social benefit for me personally.
— When I share a book recommendation and someone reads that book and enjoys it. So very gratifying when this happens.
— FREE books – enough said.
How to Work with Book Review Platforms as a Book Blogging Beginner
I’ve been very fortunate in my relationship with both NetGalley and Edelweiss. For those of you who don’t know, these are the two major sources for digital advanced reading copies.
I have been auto-approved for nine different publishers, so always have myriad choices for books for review.
When a reader is ‘auto-approved’ that means that they can download any book that that publisher has listed on NetGalley without having to request it first.
If you are NOT auto-approved, you ‘request’ the title and the publisher may, or may not, approve your request. Also, I have an ongoing and very satisfactory relationship with the publishers at Orenda Books, Bookouture, Amazon Publishing, Bloodhound Books, Severn House, and several more.
So, to start book blogging as a beginner, visit NatGalley and create an account there.
I am a member of Goodreads and though this database is not without its faults, I think it is a fabulous source for readers of all types.
I review every book I read, and in addition to posting these reviews on my own blog, I also post them to the Goodreads site.
I am a Goodreads librarian, so that satisfies my need to work with book records LOL. I use Goodreads to organize my TBR (to be read list), to keep track of series that I am following, to keep track of publication dates for my review commitments, and much more.
On Goodreads I have met many like-minded booklovers, and I belong to several Goodreads groups.
In short, book blogging is not an exact science. There are as many different types of book bloggers as there are different types of books.
And, most importantly, like most things in life, you reap what you sow. If you give your blog a lot of your time and effort, it should be successful.
If you post only once in a while and don’t share your posts on social media, then you will likely have a less successful blog with fewer followers.
Tips for a book blogging beginner :
— Share your blog posts on social media. If you find social media intimidating, I have written a post that should be helpful for using Twitter. Remember to use hashtags on both Twitter and Instagram.
— If you join NetGalley and Edelweiss, be wary of your own greed. Those lovely books all look so appealing that it is tempting to download more than you can read and/or review on time. Free books come with responsibilities. I fell into that trap when I first joined and I’m still playing ‘catch-up’. I’ve written a post for NetGalley newbies that might prove helpful.
— Post often and make sure that all of the links you incorporate into your posts are current.
— Always be respectful of the author’s efforts. You don’t have to like their work, but you DO have to be able to express your views without being nasty, derogatory, or mean.
— Read what you enjoy. It stands to reason that you will give your favorite genres more positive reviews. If you feel forced to read something not to your taste, it might be a great book, but you will score it lower only because it is not a genre you like. Human nature is fickle…
— Be honest with authors who offer you books out of your comfort zone. You’ll do yourself and them a favor by being candid and refusing politely.
— Don’t spread yourself too thin. Focus on one or maybe two social media sites rather than trying to engage with them all. Social media is very time-consuming! Remember you want time to read and review.
— Don’t include spoilers in your reviews. People read reviews to find new titles to read. If you’ve ruined the experience with a spoiler, the person will be less likely to read that book.
— Only agree to taking part in blog tours if you are SURE that you can post your review on the specified day. Tours don’t work unless the participants take their commitments seriously.
— Don’t be a slave to your blog. If you let it, it will take-over your life. Plan your posts so that your personal life doesn’t take a back-seat.
— Have fun with it – it should be a labor of love, not a chore.
Visit Lynne’s excellent blog here.
Here are her other haunts: Twitter. Instagram. Goodreads. Tumblr
As authors, what sort of interactions have you had with book bloggers? As a reader, do you visit book blogs often? If you’re a book reviewer, would you have comments for Lynne or advice on book blogging for beginners? Whether you’re an author or a book reviewer, feel free to ask questions. I find that we all learn from a discussion and enjoy chatting about our favorite topics: books and reading!
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Great advice. I’m thinking that someday I’ll convert my blog to just a book review blog. Right now, I don’t take any requests at all. Reading is something I do for fun and I love sharing my thoughts, but I want to do it without pressure and deadlines. I read the books I enjoy and review them. If I don’t like a book, I don’t finish it and don’t review it. Loved the tips, Damyanti. Thanks for sharing the thoughts of the experts. 🙂
What an amazing post. So very very helpful. I break all the rules when it comes to my (mostly) book blog–and for that I’m rewarded with a stagnated follower count. Lynne’s tips are excellent. Hoping to give some a try! And you’re so right about finding a book blogger who fits you and your genre preferences. I follow Bookish Beck carefully–a book blogger and professional reviewer out of England (originally from my state in the U.S.). We have similar tastes and so if she loves something I know it’s worth a try. Also, she has her pulse on the publishing biz (reading on average something like a book a day)–and so she is so helpful with advice!
I too follow Bookish Beck, mostly because her love of libraries seems as strong as mine. I read about 120-130 books per year, so Beck has me beat with her ‘one a day’.
Do book bloggers read & review books from self-published authors, or do they prefer to stick with the established publishers?
Thanks for an interesting post. You’re certainly keeping yourself busy in retirement Lynne!
Many book bloggers review books from self-published authors. However, your best bet would be to read their review policy carefully before submitting your request.
I’ve worked with plenty of book bloggers – most of them aren’t as professional as Lynne. They’re writers trying to support other writers. I never write a review unless I have read the book but I know people who have. I always create custom interview questions based on aspects of the book being reviewed. Thus, I really don’t review that many books! I can’t imagine having a TBR list containing more than four books!
Thanks for the positive words. Oh my… a TBR of 4 books… Perhaps I should go into panic mode as I have over 200 review commitments. Clearly I must reign in my book gluttony.
Great words from Lynne, and I’ll echo the danger of all those lovely books just waiting to be read on one’s NetGalley pile! I generally schedule the review post for a week before publication date as soon as I get it, so I can see what and when things need to be read by. Publishers would like it earlier if they are going to use anything from your reviews… I’ve had two ‘quotes’ so far!
Congratulations on your ‘quotes’ Jemima. I’m trying to follow my own advice and post nearer to publication date while still trying to get a handle on my backlog which resulted from my GREED early on in my NetGalley membership.
Waving hello to Lynne, I really enjoy book blogging, but I also encounter some of the draw backs. However, there is a lovely book community on social media which makes up for some of the pitfalls.
Hi Rosie. The book blogging community has sustained me in times of lockdown and illness. I’ll be forever grateful.
I’ve dealt with many book bloggers over the years. I can’t imagine ignoring their guidelines. For any reason!
You would be surprised at just how many authors and publicists completely disregard anything written in blogger’s review policies. I’ve politely refused only to have received another email ‘reminding’ me of their generous offer in a previous email. So frustrating!
Of all the social media we have available, I like my blogging connection the best. Some readers take the time to actually read and respond to my posts, so I truly appreciate that. The “Great Post” or “Thanks for sharing” isn’t what I’m looking for. Of course, I understand that everyone’s busy, but if you want to really connect with someone, take a bit of time, show some interest in what they’ve put together (it takes time to come up with good posts like this one), and leave thoughtful comments.
Refusing politely is such good advice. I’ve learned that the hard way and accepted books that I couldn’t relate to. What then? Well, I chose to read and do my best, looking for solid writing, good world building, and characters I could relate to. I now refuse politely.
Thanks for this helpful post today.
You are absolutely correct in that it is great when comments reflect your post content. That being said I am pathetically grateful for any and all comments as I know time is limited. If anyone spends their valuable time visiting my blog and commenting I am overjoyed.
What a helpful post. I learned a lot.
I’m so pleased Jacqui. I still can’t get my head around Damyanti referring to me as a ‘veteran’ book blogger. I still feel like I’m a newbie and continue to learn things about blogging on a daily basis.
Thank-you so very much for featuring my blog in this post. ❤📚
I checked out Lynne’s blog and learned that she is a retired library cataloger from Nova Scotia–as was my maternal grandmother. I’m reminded once again that I really need to read more Canadian literature!
Thanks for stopping by my blog Liz. It is a small world. My own maternal grandmother hailed from Lincolnshire, England.