Armchair BEA Discussion: How to keep an active buzzing blog

Friday, May 28, 2010


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.
How often should I review?
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?

21 comments:

Marg said...

Our posts are actually pretty similar this time - great minds and all that!

readerbuzz said...

Thank you for the ideas on keeping blogging fresh! Now, how about a post on keeping commenting fresh?! :-)

Molly said...

Great post! I think we should have had an armchair BEA panel on twitter and really fleshed out a lot of these wonderful ideas (for example, I would love to do a regular feature, but am rather dry for creative ideas. I need the brainstorming of others to get it going).

Hmmm...maybe next year :)

Ash said...

I don't like memes very much to be honest. I do Teaser Tuesdays because I like quotes and reading the stuff other people come up with, but that's about it. I agree with the letting your reader know you personally thing. I didn't do that a lot when I first started blogging, but then I found that people commented more on those posts than anything else. I try to keep my personal stuff related to my blog theme (I guess?) so hopefully that helps.

Felicia the Geeky Blogger said...

Great Post!

I think with memes as with reviews or any other feature that you blog about, it should be whatever makes you keep blogging. OR (and this is meant to big) what your purpose is for blogging. If it is to get visitors and subscribers then you are going to approach it differently than if you are blogging to keep track of your thoughts. In those cases, you will probably blog about things that make you happy to be blogging and hope (but not require) that people come along for the ride. For those aiming to take a more professional approach then number of hits, fan bases, etc are important and they must change with the ebb and flow of the blogging world. What you start your blog out doing and where it ends up could be two different places. What I think is great about the blogging community in general is there is a place for everyone. What works for one, might not work for another :)

Emily said...

I think memes are a good way to keep up your posting every day. However, I like to rotate mine out so that I'm only doing 2 a week. Every other week I do a different one. That strategy has worked really well for me.

Gwen said...

I subscribe to a gazillion blogs and do my best to read them all. I agree, if you post more than once a day, I tend to drop ya like a hot potato.

I also drop those that are all memes, all the time.

One point that you mentioned that really hit home for me was not every day has to be a review. At first, that was my goal, but now I see where that can be drab for a reader. Not to mention a real PITA for me. Thanks for that tip!

The Bumbles said...

I like variety - which is why our blog (aside from this week) always has a different category from day to day - books, movies, food, travel, music, sports, etc. So sometimes when I check in with my Reader and see all those book reviews piled up I go cross-eyed. There are a few top notch favorite book bloggers whose reviews I will read every day because they are innovative, honest and have a different spin. But I much prefer discussions to reviews. Nice post - you made me laugh at the end with your doling out rules ;0)

StephTheBookworm said...

Wow, this is an outstanding post! I agree with a ton of it. I try my best to add a personal touch to my blog when I can and I steer clear of all memes. I don't do any of them. I understand the benefit of them, but I'm just not a fan. For me, my blog is about reading, and books, and getting to WRITE, and share part of myself and my thoughts, and memes don't really provide that opportunity.

Anyways, thanks for sharing lots of great insight and ideas!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

I struggle with adding bits of my self and often wonder if this is where I fail. Great post by the way. Definitely something to think about :)

Happy weekend

Emidy said...

Such a great post! I was the same - at the beginning I thought that the more I posted memes the better. Nowadays, all I do is Teaser Tuesday and IMM whenever I get new books.

I also try to post some discussion topics once in a while!

Callista said...

Great tips. You can always tell if someone is a new blogger because of the large amount of memes. We all use them until we become more comfortable with how to write our own posts.

Melina said...

Lots of good ideas. So far, the only thing I am planning to do on a regular basis is IMM.

toothy said...

i'm really loving armchair bea!

i'm a new blogger myself so its great reading all of these advices from experienced bloggers. i'm definitely got some great tips from this post.

thanks!

Lynne said...

Loved this post, Aths.

Heck, there's lots I'd like to do on my blog...if only I had the time. I'm lucky to get reviews up. Once or twice a month I participate in Sheila's It's Monday! What are you Reading? meme because I like seeing what everyone has read or is going to be reading for the week.

There are a lot of blogs I skip over, but that doesn't mean they aren't amazing, interesting or informative; it just means it's not something that catches my eye specifically. And a lot of times I really enjoy a post but because my Google reader is jam packed I may not comment. I know I should though, because you're right, everyone likes comments.

And I personally do like when people expose themselves and their personal lives or at least their personality a bit more. Like Sheila's Morning Meanderings. I read it every time just because I feel like I know her and I want to see what's going on in her life for the day. Of course she's always on the go, go, go so it's usually interesting.

I actually had a lot of fun with the Armchair BEA Twitter party!! Did you do that at all?

Florinda said...

Blogger "voice" seemed to be a pretty popular topic today - I wrote on it too, and made some of the same points you did. We must be on the right track or something! :-)

Amused said...

I agree completely on the humor thing - so important to keep someone reading! I loved this post!

Lisa said...

Great ideas! I don't know if I've made my blog more interesting to others but I know I've had a lot more fun with it since I started to add more humor (well what passes for humor for me!) and my own personal life. Although I sometimes worry that I over share. I've been doing a lot of tours lately and I'm really ready to get back to books that not everyone's reviewing.

Valerie said...

One thing I struggle with is how much of myself/my own life to share. I probably would feel more comfortable letting more hang out if it weren't for the fact that I feel protective towards my family!

IntrovertedJen said...

I'm slowly catching up! This was a great post, and thanks for the Character Connection shout out! It actually takes a bit of work to put those together, but it shows and I love reading everyone's posts. I've started weaning myself off of memes, for exactly the reasons you stated. I mostly skip over them in my reader. I found myself using them because they were (mostly) so easy to do and it is a good way to get followers when you first start out. I feel like I am starting to find my own voice and features, and really just need to get my act together and write those more thoughtful/more personal posts!

bermudaonion said...

This is a great post! I agree - there are no rules, but there are some things I think you should never do - like have music play automatically. I'm not sure I do anything to make my blog stand out from the crowd. :(