I had an email yesterday from someone, who has asked to remain nameless, asking for thoughts on book blogging as they were thinking of setting one up. I am a firm believer in the more book blogs the merrier, in fact I have been known to say to many people ‘you know you should really write a blog’. Now this person didn’t just want my thoughts they also wanted all of yours too. I did send a small tweet out about this last night but then today thought ‘sod it, let’s make a blog out of it’ – though I am hoping my honest response won’t get me in trouble in the meantime. So here is part of the email that sparked this all off and after I have had a rant go at responding I (and they) would love your thoughts too…
This might seem an odd request but I was wondering if you or your readers might have any tips for a budding new book blogger? I am always amazed by the breadth and diversity of the book blogging world and would love to be a part of it. I just wondered if there were any things you could recommend doing when starting a new blog, or indeed recommend not doing. I would love your thoughts on what you like about other blogs you read or anything that puts you off revisiting a blog, and of course any insights from other bloggers and followers of blogs on what they do and don’t like?
What is interesting about this is that this year I have been pondering the same thing myself a little. As I mentioned a while back, when I was reaffirming my own blogging boundaries, I realised that I had gone from following ten blogs to around five to six times that many blogs and so I have been looking at lessening that and this has meant looking at what puts me off other blogs and what keeps me coming back. So I came up with five reasons for each, firstly what keeps me coming back…
Lashings of personality – I like reviews in the broadsheets, however the reason I like blogs all the more is that I get an emotional and personal reaction to a book and the enthusiasm or emotive response to a book can have me rushing it up the TBR quicker than an academic one on the whole. I also feel like I am getting to know the blogger.
- A good sense of humour – Something I am often jealous of in a few bloggers is how they make their reviews so witty and so I enjoy reading them even if I have no plans to read the book they have read, if that makes sense. I need to do this more; I do in my vodcasts and on The Readers I think, but not so much my reviews.
- Well rounded and backed up reviews – Be it a rave review or some constructive criticism on the whole, as long as it is not the sort that involves being vile with a smile, I like a blog that has a bit of depth. Not being a snob but if I wanted a brief ‘it was good’ or ‘it was crap’ I would go on a certain shopping website. I don’t expect a literary essay by any means, a nice thoughtful well rounded review does the trick.
- More than just book reviews – I love reading about books. I also love book blogs which talk about the behind the scenes of reading. What books they have bought (even if they know they shouldn’t have) or borrowed recently, where they have been out and about, book habits etc. That said if all I got was those and no reviews, and just cat pictures or knitting for a week, I would be put off.
- No agenda, just enthusiasm – I have noticed some blogs seem to have an agenda, either you feel the blogger just wants all the latest books and then doesn’t actually write about them or that someone is writing it purely in the hope they will get a blog-to-book deal or some job in publishing. If that is an aspect of it or an off shoot of it, and I know it can be with me and my job – but I don’t mention it on the whole and hope you think I am genuine, that is fine and in some ways will fuel the fire of bookish enthusiasm. Enthusiasm always shines through.
What puts me off…
- High opinions of themselves – Says the man who is spouting on about what he does and doesn’t like, but I have been asked, ha! Sometimes you get a tone with someone’s writing that they could have written this whole book better than the author or that people should be thankful that they have written a review of any book at all. It is hard to explain but you know it when you read it. I like to feel I would want to hang out with the bloggers I read.
- Layouts – This actually could be a whole list in itself. I don’t like (though I make an exception of one blog) white writing on black background, blog posts where you have to ‘click to continue reading’, lack of pictures (just text and I turn off, odd considering books are all text on the whole and so is this post), adverts – well too many of them (this annoys me on broadsheet websites), pages that are too busy, odd text (sans serif etc). I like a nice clean spacious layout.
- Reviewing books way in advance – this sounds really silly but if a book isn’t out for a week or two, let alone a month or two which can make me grind my teeth/snarl inwardly, I have no interest in reading a review of it. What is the point? Ok, I could add it to a wish list I guess, like I do many, many books, but I have no thoughts on it to share, nothing to add and if the blogger is doing it all the time it just seems a bit smug even if that is not how it was intended. I myself like to have a chat on my blog with commenter’s about the books when I can, how can I do that if none of them have read it and only the publisher has? Each to their own though.
- Endless Meme’s – I admit I used to be a bugger for this, and those blog to blogging awards (which seems like constant back patting), yet after a while they got too much. One every so often doesn’t nark me at all, but a few every week… erm, no.
- Too much negativity – If a blogger never has anything good to say about a book, or only likes one book in five, then I just haven’t the time. The internet is a place that people use all too easily to be mean and I have no interest in it. Why would you spend your time wanting to read books you loathe let alone write about them?
So that is my thoughts on it all. If I had to pick one thing though I think as I started my blog as a diary of bookish thoughts that is what attracts me to others overall, that and not taking themselves too seriously. Oh I am off again. As I said I did ask on twitter what put people off and got some of the following responses which I don’t think the people who tweeted me back will mind me sharing…
@1mpossiblealice – I like blogs for the human touch… like chatting to a well informed friend
@afictionhabit – reviews that regurgitate the plot and then give a score rather than describing what it felt like to read the book…
@sly_wit – Basic readability. Not the writing, but layout issues; black backgrounds, clutter, etc. Then it is just a question of style.
@dogeardiscs – High brow literary commentary, cluttered layout, constant memes and lack of voice
@penandpencilgal – sounds silly I know, but not enough photos
@stujallen – meme’s, pointless ones. Lack of personality, like to know who is behind the blog
@chasingbawa – Too much complaining about not being taken seriously, etc. Reading + writing blogs should be informative and enjoyable.
@JacquiWine – Anything too academic/over analytical. My work is v analytical, so I am looking for something more personal/engaging from blogs. I am not too keen on scores either
Blimey, that wasn’t even all of them, but these were the commonly occurring factors. Mind you my main tip would be blog for yourself and do what you like. But what about you out there be you a blog writer, blog reader or a blog lurker what do you love about them, or what keeps you coming back?. I would love your thoughts and so would this soon to be book blogger (and probably a few others too). Though if you all say a blogger who writes a cruddy blog post like this I may weep, ha, ha, ha!