Posted in Blogging | Posted on 13-10-2011|
Last spring, I wrote a series of posts on How to Make Money as a Book Blogger, based on my years of paying the bills with my internet income (before shifting my focus to writing stories and self-publishing, I blogged about everything from home improvement to the cruise industry and actually earned a living that way). As I admitted in those articles, it’s not easy to make piles talking about books, but it’s certainly possible to make enough to cover web hosting and pay for a few new reads now and then. At the very least, book bloggers can snag a lot of free stories to review.
Laurie Lu from Bona Fide Reflections started her blog in February this year and has built up a following and managed to acquire a lot of books to review (traditionally published as well as indie offerings). I thought I’d ask her some questions, in case any of you are thinking of starting a book blog (or have one that you’re hoping will become more popular).
Interview with Laurie Lu from Bona Fide Reflections
What prompted you to start a book review blog?
Well hmmm… *taps finger on chin,* I love to read. And one day I found Goodreads, a book community, online. As I looked around, I noticed that a lot of people had links to other websites. I started poking around more. Looked at what they were doing and realized I could be doing the same thing – blogging about the books I read and interacting with an audience of like-minded individuals. So, long story short: blogging is just an extension of my love for reading.
You’re on Blogger, but you have a custom design and your own web address (www.bona-fide-reflections.com), so it doesn’t look like you’re on Blogger. Can you tell us how much those upgrades cost and how you went about having them done?
I have a friend who is a webmaster and I sought out advice from him on how to take my blog one step further than Blogspot. It is important to own your own domain (i.e., .com, .net, .org) so no one else can use that name. I went to Go Daddy and bought two domain names – bona-fide-reflections.com and bonafidereflections.com. The latter to cover all bases for “search” purposes. I think it cost me all of $12 for a year. After purchasing my domain names, my friend had changed everything over for me from my blogspot addy to my domain name. I have no idea how he did that part.
Regarding the design of Bona Fide Reflections… when I first started by blog, I used the blogger templates to use as my blog design. But, I was not able to create the look I really wanted. I knew what I wanted it to look like. I just did not know how to make it happen. So, I enlisted the help of a blog designer whose work I had seen around the blogosphere. I really liked her style of design. The cost of having her do my blog renovation was close to $200. However, she did everything for me: Header Design, Column styling (2 or 3 column design), Background Design, Bloggy Button with grab code, InstallationCustom avatar/illustration, 4 HTML installations, 4 extra graphics (winner, interview, guest post, Teaser Tuesday etc.), Custom Style Sheet, Navigation (drop-down available), Signature. There are other cheaper options. This just what I wanted and what worked for me.
Hmm, maybe I should hire her! Okay, now for the good stuff: what’s the secret to getting free ebooks to review?
Great question. Well, I think networking helps a whole lot in getting your name out there. I made sure I interacted with authors and publishers on Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook. Interacting with other book bloggers has also been very helpful in this endeavor because they were able to offer advice and introduce me to some authors. Once you get your name out there, the authors and publishers tend to seek you out to help get the word out on their upcoming release or, in some cases, already published books.
Another great avenue to take is signing up with NetGalley. They offer a lot of ARCs (advanced reader copies) in a lot of genre categories. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a book you’re interested in from the author or publisher. The worst that can happen is that they will say no; but, you are no worse off than before you asked. In other words: nothing ventured, nothing gained.
What do you do if an author sends you a book to review and you just don’t like it?
I approach them first to let them know how I felt about the book and why I felt that way. Then I ask them whether or not they want me to post my review. Most often times…., er, no every time they ask that I not post my review. But, I can completely understand why. Often times, I am dealing with an indie author just starting out and they really don’t need bad press. Just because I did not like the book does not mean they won’t find a following for it and I don’t want to hinder the author’s efforts to sell their work.
I know you’re active on Twitter. What have you done to promote your blog online and pick up followers?
Within the past couple of months I have really utilized Twitter. This a place where like minded folks seem to “congregate” and share information. Once you start socializing, you find yourself developing a larger network. This helps to get your blog’s name out there while having some fun. Plus, Twitter is a platform that can be used advertising your blog when you have got something going on the blog and need some traffic directed there. You pick up followers by putting yourself out there and interacting and following others. Many people tend to follow you back.
I have also gained a lot of followers by participating in blog hops. What’s a blog hop? A blog hop consists of linking up participating blogs which are hosting a giveaway and the blogs link up together allowing our followers to hop easily from one giveaway to another. For followers that means lots of chances to win free books. For host blogs it means lots of new visitors and followers.
Any tips for new readers thinking of starting a book review blog?
Having a blog is a lot of fun. I have enjoyed meeting some really wonderful people who are like-minded in their reading preferences and I have connected with really wonderful bloggers, authors and publishers. However, it has been a lot of work. It is hard not to get discouraged and feel overwhelmed. The most important thing to remember is that you are doing it for fun (or at least, I am) and just focus on that fact. If you have bitten off more than you can chew, always be honest and communicate whether it is with your peers, authors, and/or the publishers when you get to a point where you are overwhelmed. When, you are feeling discouraged, reach out to the peers you feel closest to because often times they have been in your shoes and can offer support or advice to help you get through a rough patch.
Thanks for sharing all that information, Laurie!