Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Busting the Newbie Blues - a great event for book bloggers everywhere!

Have you heard about Busting the Newbie Blues? It's a great event that's being hosted by Small Review a very cute new blog that you should definitely check out! Busting the Newbie Blues encourages blogger interaction, and I've already picked up some great pieces of advice from reading various contributions from other bloggers.  It's also a great way to find out about new blogs that you might otherwise miss out on.

Each blogger is encouraged to fill out a short questionnaire.  I've decided to answer this one from a 'established' blogged point of view.  I still consider myself a new blogger, and I am definitely still finding my feet in some respects, but if I have any advice to give to even newer bloggers than me, then I'm happy to share! :)

You can find out more about the event and how to sign up: here

When did you start your blog? 

March 2010.

Why did you start your blog?

I kind of started this on a whim, which could account for the name of my blog and why it has nothing  much to do with books! I didn't put much thought into it.  Initially I started up a fashion blog, but I didn't put a lot of thought into that either and it folded after a few weeks.  I've always had a huge love of reading, and I was already posting my reviews on Amazon and Librarything, so book blogging seemed like a no-brainer. However, I had no idea that there were so many book blogs out there when I started this. I only knew of one or two. It's really a whole new world when you find out how big the book blogging community is.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? Did you make any mistakes new bloggers can learn from?

I think my biggest challenge has been HTML! When I started the blog first I was tearing my hair out over the layout. Mine is totally customised and it took me a long time to do it, because I am not all that tech savvy, and html actually drives me insane at times.  There have been a few times when I've almost deleted the whole blog by mistake -  it's true! Blogging consistently is also a challenge for me. It might not seem like it, because I have been blogging pretty consistently, but I am a huge procrastinator and I don't schedule posts, so usually everything is done in a rush the night before I post it! I very much admire bloggers who schedule posts months in advance.  That is never going to happen for me!

What did you find most discouraging about being a new blogger? How did you deal with this?

I'm going to talk about the issue of comments on reviews. I think a lot of bloggers find the lack of comments on their book reviews discouraging. Certainly I did and still do sometimes. Memes are all well and good, but when you're getting 20+ comments on a meme and only 2 (or sometimes even zero) on a review that you've put some work into, then that can be discouraging.  That's why I always try to comment on reviews of blogs I'm following! I don't have any secret formula to getting more comments on reviews, though. I still post plenty of reviews that don't get many comments. I will say, mix up your reviews - don't just review books that you have received from a publisher, because that's what everybody else will be reviewing too! Include books that you've bought too. People like to find new books to read, and they don't want to read twenty reviews of the same book all in one day.  I say this as someone who posted her review of Vampire Academy on the same day as 1,000 other bloggers posted reviews of Last Sacrifice. ha!

What do you find most encouraging?

The welcoming community! I had barely set up my blog when I had an email from Eleni (La Femme Readers - one of my fave blogs!) welcoming me to the blogging world.  I think Eleni is super nice and very supportive of new bloggers. Apart from that, I've met some great bookish people through blogging, which is great for me as most of my real-life friends aren't hugely into reading. Oh, and I found my book twin - Tammy from The Book Fairy's Haven. I like to think that us two along with Christina from Confessions of a Book Addict are book triplets!

What do you like best about the blogs you read? Have you tried to replicate this in your blog?

All my favourite blogs are filled with wonderful, thoughtful and well-written reviews. This is something I've tried to replicate on my blog, as I feel that the reviews are pretty much the most important thing about a book blog, right? I got a little carried away with memes when I started blogging, but now I only participate in two, which, for me, is the right amount. There are a lot of abandoned memes around here, I'm afraid! I also like it when bloggers think of original features for their blogs, and mix things up a little. Innovation is good, and variety is the spice of life! 

What do you dislike about blogs you’ve read? Do you try to avoid this?

As far as layout goes, I don't like it when blogs are cluttered and very difficult to navigate. My PC is old and slow, and so, if your blog has music players and widgets it's probably not going to work for me.  From a review point of view, I don't like nasty reviews.  Sure, I've read books that I haven't like, and I review them, but I never get personal or slag off an author, and I don't like seeing it in reviews either.  Also, my favourite bloggers all blog for the love of reading and blogging, but I've seen a few blogs crop up, and the very next week they'll have an IMM post featuring a publishers entire back catalogue that they've requested for review. Those blogs are not for me. It's not what I'm about. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Is this controversial? It's just how I feel. I have no problem with bloggers requesting books for review, but when a book has already been on sale for a year?!

Do you have any advice for new bloggers?

Make sure that people can easily follow your blog (I usually only follow via google friend connect) and also make it easy for people to comment on your blog.  OK, so the blogger default comment system may not be the prettiest, but I hate it when I have to jump through hoops to comment on a blog. I don't want to fill in my details every time. Make sure commenting is quick and easy. That's what people want. It doesn't matter if it's not pretty.

Also, always have a test blog so you can try out new designs before you use them on your actual blog. This will save you many html nightmares! I speak from experience!

How did you bring your blog to the attention of so many people?

I actually got lucky.  One of my very first WoW posts drew the attention of a publisher who offered me the opportunity to host quite a big giveaway. I got lots of followers this way pretty quickly, but  I now know that the majority of these people are never actually going to comment on my blog!  The best way to bring attention to your blog is to interact with other bloggers, get involved in the community, join Book Blogs Ning, create a twitter and goodreads account for your blog.  All of these things help.  Oh, and of course, participate in the blog hops held at crazy-for-books and Parjunkee's View every Friday.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience?

I never knew how much of my time blogging would take up or that I would be so dedicated to it.  It's important to stick with it and give it time, because the hard work will pay off and it is rewarding! That said, I am still learning every day! I'd also like to say that I'm thankful to the helpful bloggers out there. Every new blogger should check out The Story Siren for her helpful posts and also Book Blogging 101 at Parajunkee's view. I know I picked up a lot of tips from those two!


  1. Really cool information. I'm always trying to find ways to be a better blogger. Thanks.

  2. Oh, and for someone who designed this blog from scratch, you have done an amazing job!

  3. Your answers to the Busting the Newbie Blues questionaire are spot on. I'm a newbie, feeling my way through the blogosphere, and appreciate good commentary, advise and experience like yours. Thanks!

  4. @Clarissa - the basic template layout was already there when I got this design. I didn't write any of the html. Definitely well beyond my capabilities! :)

  5. Leanna, I have been clicking through all of kinds of blogs today with these questions filled out, and your answers have been the most helpful of them all. Thank you!

  6. Hi Leanna. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I know I've deleted posts accidentally but how do you delete an entire blog?! :)

    The blogosphere does eat up a lot of time doesn't it? Luckily, I'm a procrastinator too so I can blame the blogs I follow for why I'm eternally behind in things and didn't post so much. I'm now working on trying to post more often and juggling my time better.

    I'm now off to check out your review for Vampire Academy.

  7. Thanks so much for participating! Your questions really were very helpful. I've filed away a number of suggestions you've made (like having a test blog. Genius!)

    HTML was a problem for you? I never would have guessed. Your blog design is one of my favorites. So neat, organized, and the colors are very inviting and easy on the eyes.

    I'm glad you mentioned reviewing books other than those from publishers (especially since I'm not getting all that many!) Now that you mention it, I actually did find it a little tiresome when every other blog seemed to review Matched all on the same day. I think some new bloggers worry they won't be able to keep up because they aren't getting ARCs and so their reviews for those books seem really delayed. It is good to hear you suggest otherwise.

    I agree with you, it is discouraging to spend time writing a review and then get no comments. I find when I pair a review on a day when I also participate in meme I get more comments on my review. I've also tried to find memes that are basically reviews, like Tween Tuesday (Hosted by Green Bean Teen Queen) so you get the attention through the meme, but also focus on a more substantial post. So far so good!

  8. You got awesome answers. I love this questionnaire. I did this too :)

  9. I enjoyed reading this, it's given me some ideas. It's great to read the hows and whys from other book blogs, thank you Leanna.

  10. What a lovely post. Thank you for sharing.
    I know what you mean about the lack of comments. Sometimes I physically cant leave comments due to the ISP and I forget when I get on my home computer.
    If I am going to be reviewing a book myself I do not read the reviews until after I have completed my own as to remain completely unaffected by other peoples opinions obviously this is harder with some books that have a lot of hype :D
    Thanks again for the lovely post

  11. Thanks for sharing! I am a newbie since I have only been blogging for about 4 months. I had a lot of problems with HTML too. Sometimes it used to take me 2 hours for the most basic HTML stuff!
    Your answers were very helpful! Thank you! I love your blog and it was one of the first book blog I discovered.

  12. Love your answers to this as well and thanks for the shout out! I definitely think we are book twins. :) I must start following Tammy's Blog, especially if we are book triplets. ha! Thanks for sharing this!

  13. I love your well-thought-out answers! I really appreciate the time you always take to read and comment on my reviews, by the way, and I thought you should know that. You hit the nail on the head there. Memes are a fun way to interact, but I blog because I like to talk about how I thought of certain books. Knowing that people care enough to read and comment makes blogging all the more worthwhile.

    You should know that your blog is one of my favourites, and I truly love dropping by, even though I should do so more often! Keep up the good work, and thank you for all that you do! :)

  14. Thanks for all the nice comments, guys! I'm glad that I've been able to offer any little advice or pass on some tips.

    @A Canadian Girl - almost deleting the blog was surprisingly easy. I'm very lucky that I pressed preview instead of save, that's all I can say!

    @Asamum - I am the same as you with reviews - I rarely read reviews of books that are coming up soon on my TBR. I think this has a lot to do with the lack of comments on some reviews because sometimes we are all reviewing the same book at the same time. That's why I've been trying to mix it up a bit lately, although I know publishers often want a review posted on a certain date, which often leads to a deluge of reviews on the same book! (and less comments).

    @Misha - html is horribly, horribly time consuming. I hear ya!

    @Christina - totally follow Tammy's blog. You will love her reviews. We like all the same books!

    @Melissa - thanks for the nice comment. I love your blog too. I can't believe I only found it a while back. I was missing out! Now it's one of the blogs I visit every day. :)

  15. really really helpful!
    Thanks a ton!!:D

  16. Oh no, I wrote a response to you yesterday, but it seems it did not show up! Here's take two.

    I'm so glad you participated in this event! You've given such great advice here and I've written down a few suggestions (like creating a test blog? Genius!)

    I can't believe you have trouble with HTML. Your blog design is one of my favorites. So neat, clear, and easy on the eyes. I especially like the colors you've chosen.

    I agree, it is discouraging when you write a review and only get a few comments on it, or worse, none.

    I'm also glad you mention reviewing books other than those from publishers. Now that you mention it, I realize it was a little overwhelming (and boring!) when every other review one day seemed to be for Matched. I think sometimes people who aren't getting ARCs feel out of the loop because they can't join in with all of the early reviews, but as a reader, I don't mind this at all. I enjoy seeing a review for a book a few months after the hype has died down.

    Thanks again for all of your responses!

  17. Great post! Plus, the new template designer in Blogger is pretty cool and you can change a whole lot of advanced settings without any html editing. I just redid mine, hehe.

  18. Love that picture :) Great information and helpful hints. Thanks! I've used the new template designer for my personal blog, but can't figure out how to go back to the cut and copy background code should I decide to. I'm sure it must be something simple.

  19. @Small Review - I'm sorry your comment got deleted. I hate when that happens. I am so with you on the Matched reviews (also the Vampire Academy reviews) - there were so many, but when the publisher is trying to buzz up a release they often request that the reviews be posted on a certain date, so that's why that happens. It's better if people mix and match their reviews, for sure!

    @Simay - You must change your blog layout more than anyone I know! :-p

    @Kim - I've never used the template designer, so I'm not going to be much help to you on this one. I hope you figure it out. Maybe if you're not using a pre-installed google template it'll go back automatically for you? I'm just guessing though!

  20. Fabulous answers Leanna, I especially loved your thoughts on comments. I completely agree, it's really easy to get discouraged when you've written something and no one has anything to say about it. Then it feels like you're just talking to yourself, which is fine, I started the blog for me, but it's also fun to get other people's opinions on what you've written:) I always appreciate the thoughtful comments you leave me, they make my day!

  21. Hi! I really enjoyed reading your answers to the questionnaire. I love your blog design, I can't believe you describe yourself as not being tech savvy. I've never thought of having a test blog to test out html before! Thanks for the advice.

  22. What a wonderful, wonderful post - you've actually inspired me to also do this one and hopefully I'll get around to doing it this week. By the way, it's wonderful having a book twin as fabulous, chatty as you - I love your blog, love your writing style and love your reviews.

    I take my hat off to you for braving HTML. I've got a working knowledge of HTML, but even I am avoiding taking on that beast. Who knows, maybe one day I'll take on the challenge, but for now? That one can so stay on the back burner.

    I feel the exact same with you in regards to readers who request back listed titles that have been out for more than a year. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I think that many (not all) of these bloggers are looking for a way to score free books. I believe that blogging should be varies, especially books - and that people shouldn't only stick to blogging about books that have been sent to them by publishers.

    Also, not much to add on the commenting issue, except that I completely agree with you. It definitely bugs me that meme's take preferences for comments instead of reviews, but still, one learns to live with it. I usually make the effort to comment on my followers book reviews - because while it's nice that books are highlighted, it's the thoughts and opinions about books and various book related topics that interest me.

    Fantastic post book twin :-)

  23. Thank you for such a useful post! I am new blogger and am doing it for fun. When reading other blogs it's too easy to think I'm not blogging enough, but then it is just a hobby isn't it! Great advice though for developing it over the next year, thank you!

  24. I think my biggest challenge has been HTML! When I started the blog first I was tearing my hair out over the layout and it was really cool

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