Welcome to the third day of Armchair BEA! This four-day event is organized to coincide with the BookExpo America in NY that ended yesterday and the Book Blogger Convention, that is being held today Those of us unlucky enough not to be in the most happening place this week are instead a part of BEA from the cozy comforts of our home. (I know it's not much, but at least one can claim that feeling of participation!). Today, I'm doing a panel post on "Writing and Building Content".
Why do we blog? More specifically, why do we blog about books? Not all readers blog, nor do they review books by habit. There must be something more than a desire to talk about books that makes us sit late nights sometimes, tired after a long day but still finding the energy and the enthusiasm to write up posts. Blogging needs passion. It is easy to blog for a month and then succumb to burnout. In addition to loving books, one needs to love to blog or to write. Of course, we don't have to be a professional writer, nor do we need to worry about most of the things that publishers look for. Heck, if you can write humor into your posts, you're all set!
Yes, I really mean the humor bit. You don't have to be stand-up-comedian-style Rolling-On-The-Floor-Laughing-And-Crying-My-Eyes-Out funny. You don't have to be funny each time. It's okay to be sad and depressed occasionally. We're human. But liven up your posts. The readers who read your blog, need something more than a lot of words thrown in together to actually keep reading till the last word. I'll admit that I don't always read a post entirely. And I'm sure we all do that. When there are tons of blogs to read each day, how do you try to entertain your readers?
Keeping things lively
Even bloggers can get into a rut. If you have been following the same blogging schedule for the past many months, then you are getting into a rut. Almost every blogger gets there. After a while, livening things gets difficult. There is also that case of not wanting to change things too much, in case they don't work out. So how do you keep your readers interested, and get yourself out of that safe nook?
Let's get adventurous! There are so many things you can try. This is after all your blog, and there are no rules there. Your blog is what you define it. Your readers will accept it so long as it doesn't glare their vision, like that fluorescent yellow T-shirt you always hated. Some suggestions are:
- Do a special feature. This can be anything. You can challenge yourself to read books from a particular imprint or lesser-known publisher. Or books from your own country/state. Lesser-known books that I was talking about yesterday. All books that won a certain award or are featured in the NY Times Bestseller List.
- Do weekly / monthly discussion posts. There is no dearth to the number of topics you can talk about regarding all things bookish. These are perfect opportunities to make your blog discussion-oriented as well. Write your post in a way that evokes discussion, in a way that makes it an open topic.
- Create your own meme, but let's be innovative here. Come up with memes that encourage discussion and not just an I-can-write-this-in-my-sleep kinds. As you read through blogs, you would know the kind of memes you don't glance at much. Use that as the metric. Some really wonderful memes I have seen are Weekly Geeks and Jen's Character Connection.
- Write personal posts. Readers LOVE knowing more about the blogger behind a blog. Sheila's Morning Meanderings feature is so incredibly popular. I don't mean that you should bare out your life history, but you can choose what you want to reveal. Kathy once did a weekly feature on her life in France.
Let me tell you that I almost never follow blogs that post too many reviews a day/week. Or I follow them but comment very less. I guess it's unfair of me to categorize a blogger by the amount of books he/she reads, but it's a personal preference. Reviews take time to read. Unless the blogger is my best friend, or someone who means a lot to me deeply and personally, I will not read through each review, and trust me, I want to read every review that looks good to me. Sometimes if a book has been reviewed a lot and I really really want to read that book, I will no longer read any more reviews, and if you are looking for more comments (we all are), it's a good idea to decide how often you want to post a day.
My typically busy day sometimes forces me to give a cursory glance through my reader, and when I come across a blog with 15-20 posts regularly in a week, I am tempted to "Mark all as read", sometimes without even looking through them. And I doubt many of us have that kind of time that lets us navigate through our reader each day. Once a day is perfect. Twice a day is good, so long as it isn't everyday. You don't really get more readers by posting more. If you really have to post 2 reviews a day, I suggest mixing them - do not review popular books together. It's cruel to the reader. At most, one book reviewed a day is healthy. It keeps your blog active without seeming intimidating.
Memes - Too many or too little?
When I started blogging, I did one meme a day. Almost. In those days, I believed memes were crucial. How very wrong and naive I was! Memes are good to get visitors, and also get more followers. It is also a way for you to find new wonderful blogs to feed your always hungry Reader. But doing more than than 2-3 memes a week isn't a good idea. The reason I don't like memes much is because they tend to be impersonal. Your blog is your voice. If all you do in your blog is list books and probably just add a synopsis, then you aren't making your voice heard. As a reader, it is very important for us to hear the blogger. And you make sure that your voice is heard through reviews, personal/opinion posts and random bookish topics. So, while memes can help you get followers, it may not help you in retaining them or getting more comments.
What a hypocrite! Did I just say no-rules and then give out a lot of rules?
They are just suggestions, from someone who's been writing since ninth grade. There are no rules in book blogging. Over time, you will come to set a pacing for yourself based more on what you do when you visit other blogs. Using your own intuition is the best approach, since you will know well what tires you out or perks you up. The rule of thumb I use is - I post what interests me, and I post as often as my readers let me.
What else do you do to keep things exciting at your blog?