Steps I’ve Taken to Improve My Pinterest Account This Year and Get More Traffic

Steps I've Taken to Improve Pinterest

I noted at the beginning of the year that I wanted to improve the blog’s Pinterest account this year.  A lot of bloggers credit Pinterest with giving them a large amount of traffic and page views, and I want to make sure I’m not missing out.  This is with the caveat that these bloggers are not in the book blogging niche; they have blogs devoted to other topics that already get far more traffic than book blogs: parenting, lifestyle, finances, blogging advice, etc.  The one book blogger I saw do a post on how Pinterest has helped her (The Uncorked Librarian) has a blog dedicated to both books AND travel, and when I commented asking if she saw more success with her travel pins than with her book pins, she said yes.  Still, I’m jumping into the Pinterest world with some gusto here, just to make sure I’m not ignoring a source of potential readers for my blog.

I know a lot of people (like me, really) are not sure how to best use Pinterest to point people to their blog posts and gain traffic, so I’m going to discuss some of the things I’ve done so far and whether they seem to have had any success.

You can follow Pages Unbound on Pinterest by clicking here.

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1. I created uniform Pinterest board covers.

Pinterest board covers screenshot example

While I was researching posts on how to improve my Pinterest profile, this advice from My Twenty Cents stood out as an actual concrete step I could take (as opposed to vague advice like “pin a lot” or “pin at the right times”).  So I went on Canva and created graphics to use for the featured photo for each board that matched the Pages Unbound blog branding and that clearly stated the purpose of each board.

My Twenty Cents noted that nice board covers have no direct impact on traffic, but they make you look professional and make it easier for other people to follow your boards, and she says that she saw an increase in Pinterest followers after making nice board covers.

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2. I created a group board for book bloggers.

You can request to join the book blogger group board here. (Also it wouldn’t hurt if you left a comment on this post telling me you did, so I know to check to approve you.)

A lot of Pinterest advice boils down to “join group boards,” but I couldn’t find a ton of book blogger group boards, and the ones I found were  often closed to new members. So I started my own.  Because the board is new, it’s smaller than the more established ones, but I’m hoping it will give book bloggers a board to join that’s actually open and that, in time, it will continue to grow.

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3. I started pinning every day.

The advice I’ve read also suggests that Pinterest really values consistency in pinning.  You must pin every day in order for your account to be seen as credible by the site and for your pins to be more visibly featured in the feed.  Before, I used Pinterest sporadically, whenever I thought of it or when I particularly needed it for something like a specific project I was working.  I don’t have a set amount of pins I pin every day (some people recommend 100, and some people only do 15), but I do try to pin a couple things every day, specifically focusing on other book blogs.

As I said in my post on reasons to focus on blog images this year, however, a lot of bloggers do NOT have pinnable images on their posts, and I, therefore, cannot share their content on Pinterest.

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4. I started experimenting with the pinnable images on my own blog.

We’ve had verticle, Pinterest-sized images for our discussion posts for awhile, but I thought I could make them more visually interesting, so I tried some different templates from Canva.

Unfortunately, most people say that colors like red and orange do well on Pinterest, and cool colors like blue, green, and purple do not, but I’m sticking with purple since it matches our branding.

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5. I cleaned up my Pinterest Profile.

I deleted boards I wasn’t using. (Some people would probably argue I should delete all boards that have nothing to do with books/writing/blogging, but I like my baking boards and am too lazy to have a blog account and personal account or even to make the boards secret.)  I also tidied up or added board descriptions and some pin descriptions.  Finally, I deleted old pins that were not good quality or images or that had never been repinned.

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Results?

These initial five steps had visible but marginal results on blog traffic that came from Pinterest, about a consistent 5-10 referrals per day. That’s more than we usually had, but it also is not necessarily worth the time I put into Pinterest. I’ve started to see more traffic after signing up for the free trail of Tailwind, a Pinterest scheduling service that also has other features like “tribes” that share your pins, and I will write a more detailed post on my experience with that in the future.

Do you use Pinterest for your book blog?  What strategies do you use? Have you seen any traffic for your blog from Pinterest?

Briana

Thoughts on the Ending of King of Scars

Potential spoilers for all six books currently in the Grishaverse.  Read ahead at your own risk!

The ending of King of Scars is certainly dramatic.  Reviewers have reacted with stunned gasps and increased excitement for the sequel.  I have to admit that my reaction differed.  Initially, I thought the ending was cheap drama, an easy way to create shock without regard to the cohesiveness of the story.  Upon reflection, I understand more clearly why I felt this way.  The ending of King of Scars is shocking–but it also undermines nearly everything that happened up until that point.

King of Scars is a thoughtful depiction of how a handful of individuals are dealing with the aftermath of Ravka’s civil war.  Nikolai is fighting the monster the Darkling left inside him.  Zoya is attempting to come to terms with the adoration she once felt for the Darkling–and working to make amends for the ways that adoration made her complicit in Ravka’s suffering.  Their struggles make clear the lasting effects of a corrupt leader and of war.  The Darkling may have died, but his influence remains, both in Nikolai’s condition and in the cults that have sprung up to declare him a Saint.  Fighting evil is never as easy as simply killing the villain.

Resurrecting the Darkling takes away from the power of this narrative.  The focus moves from the struggle to face the personal demons of the past and back to the traditional fantasy narrative of toppling a dark lord.  This is perhaps more exciting.  It gives the characters something physical to punch, someone personal to direct their anger towards.  But it also lessens the poignant depictions of how Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina are attempting to accept what they did in the past, both to survive and to save a nation.  In real life, enemies do not typically return to give people something to hate. They have to learn to live with themselves and to move forward– without having someone onto whom they can transfer their anger and their self-loathing.

Maybe Leigh Bardugo feared that the story of a king trying to fight his own anger and save his country from economic collapse simply is not compelling.  Maybe it would strike readers as shabby next to the romanticism of the previous trilogy, complete with its seemingly all-powerful dark lord.  But there is something compelling about Nikolai’s journey and about Zoya’s.  Those journeys remind readers that the fight never ends, that sometimes the important moments are the quiet ones.  King of Scars is very different from lot of fantasy books–and that is its strength.

I was sorry to see the Darkling return because I do not want to see the focus of the duology shift from the personal journeys back to yet another quest to kill the Darkling.  We have been there, done that.  Even King of Scars was a quest to kill the Darkling(‘s monster) once and for all.  I really hope that the sequel will surprise me.  But, in the meantime, I’ll be mourning the return of a villain I do not think the story needs.

The Crimson Skew by S. E. Grove

Information

Goodreads: The Crimson Skew
Series: Mapmakers Trilogy #3
Source: Library
Published: 2016

Summary

The Western War has begun.  Theo has been conscripted into the army.  Shadrack is being blackmailed by the prime minister into helping the war effort.  And Sophia and her friends are on the run from a mysterious group of agents from a future Age.  Then the red mist starts descending, turning people mad.  Turning them on each other.  Sophia is still determined to find her lost parents, but her maps might just lead her to a solution that can end the war.

Star DividerS. E. Grove’s Mapmakers Trilogy is a fantasy masterpiece.  Set in a richly-imagined world where different geographic areas have been flung into different time periods, it is fully of compelling characters, gripping dangers, and thought-provoking scenarios. This final installment provides a satisfying conclusion to a series that has been nothing short of stunning.

In The Crimson Skew, Grove presents a world where the prime minster of Boston, desperate to reclaim the history that might have been, sets into motion a war that will fulfill Manifest Destiny–no matter the cost to the inhabitants of the western regions.  The history of the U.S. is, of course, in many aspects, shameful and embarrassing, to say the least.  The Crimson Skew, with its parallels to this history, reveals this, showing how greed and corruption in high levels can affect the lives of many, displacing peoples, tearing apart families, and ending lives.  It is a sobering look at how carelessly people are treated when they are viewed only as pawns.

The story retains its heart, however, by focusing on the characters readers have come to know and love.  Sophia continues on her quest to find her parents while Theo risks his life for a war he does not believe in.  The stakes are high for everyone and S. E. Grove keeps the plot brisk and flowing, even as she introduces new characters and new locations to explore.

Readers who have come this far with Sophia and her friends are not likely to be disappointed by the trilogy’s conclusion.  It brings together all the elements that made the first two books original and compelling, while neatly wrapping things up.  Fans of fantasy will devour Grove’s Mapmakers trilogy.

4 stars

The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan

Information

Goodreads: The Poison Throne
Series: Moorehawke Trilogy #1
Source: Library
Published: 2008

Summary

Fifteen-year-old Wynter Moorehawke has returned to the palace where she grew up like a sister to the two princes, the bastard son Razi and his younger brother, the heir Alberon.  But things have changed.  The cats no longer talk, the ghosts are not friends, Alberon is missing, and the king is torturing subjects.  The king desires Razi to take the throne, but Razi knows his brother must be the one to rule.  Now Wynter must choose: her king or the true heir.

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Review

The Poison Throne is a compelling adult fantasy drive more by character development than by plot.  Fifteen-year-old Wynter Moorehawke has returned to the palace where she was raised as a sister to the princes, only to find that the king has turned into a bloodthirsty tyrant and his heir Alberon has fled.  Without a license to practice their craft, Wynter and her father are at the mercy of the king, trapped in the palace until it pleases his majesty to grant them their livelihood.  Every day is a balancing act as Wynter strives to stay on the good side of the king, but also follow her own conscience.

Fans of books like Six of Crows will likely find The Poison Throne a welcome addition their fantasy shelves as the focus remains on the characters and the hard choices they must make to survive.  Though nearly all the characters are sympathetic, they all, at one point or another, make decisions that can seem horrifying.  Torture, killing, and more become their weapons of choice as they fight to preserve their secrets, protect the ones they love, and save their own lives.  In Wynter’s world, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine who is fighting on the side of right.

At times, the pacing of the book can seem slow and, indeed, readers will realize from the start that the book is basically just a set-up for Wynter to flee the palace at the end.  Nothing much happens in terms of Wynter figuring out what the king is hiding or why his heir has fled.  Instead, the story focuses on Wynter’s reactions to the changes at the palace, her complicated relationships with her brother the prince, and her feelings for a man whom she knows is going around sleeping with the servants.  The characters are so compelling, however, that this focus is not misplaced.

The Poison Throne will appeal to fans of court intrigue and stories featuring complex characters not drawn in black-and-white.  While audiences who read primarily YA may initially find the pacing slow,  the characters and their choices are so interesting that readers will likely find themselves drawn into the story regardless.  A solid start to a fantasy trilogy.

3 Stars

Ten Interesting Posts of the Week (2/17/19)

Post Round-Up

Around the blogosphere

  1. Mere Inkling reflects on C. S. Lewis and Scrabble.
  2. Starry Sky Books shares 6 bookish items for any time.
  3. Nandini lists 5 must read books for Ravenclaws.
  4. Lovely Audiobooks shares Pinterest tips for book bloggers.
  5. Aurora Librialis has a quiz to find out which book character would be your Valentine.
  6. Grace explains why she loves To Kill a Mockingbird.
  7. May shares her top five diverse romantic couples.
  8. Ellyn explains how to outline a blog post.
  9. Stephanie wants to bring monsters back into books.
  10. Margaret wants to talk about romance in YA books.

At Pages Unbound

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo Review

Information

Goodreads: King of Scars
Series: Nikolai Duology
Source: Purchased
Published: January 29, 2019

Official Summary

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

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Review

Potential spoilers for the Shadow and Bone trilogy and Six of Crows duology. Very minor spoilers for King of Scars itself. (As in, don’t read the review if you want to know literally nothing about the story, but it’s safe if you don’t mind basic facts like who’s in the story, where it’s set, etc.  being revealed.)

King of Scars takes readers back to Ravka, where King Nikolai, Zoya, Genya, and other favorite Grishaverse characters are dealing with the aftermath of the civil war and the death of the Darkling.  It’s a novel that begins by backing away from the high stakes plot Bardugo gave readers in Six of Crows to ask how a king and his advisors hold together a crumbling country that might be at risk of going to war again and how the leaders who just survived a war deal with their own scars.  This might not be what readers were initially expecting, but the introspective approach is thoughtful and engaging, while it lasts.

Because the story also takes readers to Fjerdan, where Nina is completing a dangerous undercover mission for the king, while trying to bury some of her grief for Matthias.  Her story is more action-packed, following her deep in enemy territory as she tries to complete her tasks and learn about her the way her new magic works.  Nina’s plot line is fascinating, as it shows readers more of Fjerdan and Nina’s struggles to overcome her dislike of the country’s oppression of Grisha to try to see what Matthias might have loved about it, and it introduces a great new cast of characters.  However, her plot also means that King of Scars is not exactly “Nikolai’s book,” which is how it was marketed.  In fact, even the events that occur in Ravka with Nikolai are frequently narrated from Zoya’s point of view.  I didn’t have a problem with this, and I thought all the POVs were well-written, but I think this is going to be surprising if readers were expecting an exclusive focus on Nikolai.

One part of the book I did struggle with was the constant allusions to the original Grisha trilogy with Alina.  I didn’t particularly care for the first two and never read the third one, and it didn’t fully occur to me that Bardugo is created an entirely cohesive universe where it is necessary for readers to have read all the books before King of Scars to understand what’s going on.  If she continues to do this with future series, I think it’s going to create a real barrier to entry to her work for new readers, partially because (sorry) the original Grisha trilogy is mediocre compared to her most recent work, and readers (like me) might not want to read through three “meh” books to get to the good ones.  As it was, I was vaguely confused about some references and what was happening and realized I probably needed to consult a Grishaverse wiki to really understand what was happening, even though I could see that Bardugo tried to include just enough explanation of previous events to keep readers on track.

My other reservation is the ending of the book, which I feel is actually a bit unoriginal and undermined a lot of what was set up as the focus of the story in the beginning of the novel.  I don’t want to be more specific, however, to avoid spoilers.

Ultimately, King of Scars is a well-developed epic fantasy with imagination and scope and a complex, compelling cast of characters.  Bardugo is really becoming a force to be reckoned with in the fantasy world, and it’s always nice to find a book that reminds me of why I love the genre.

Look for Krysta’s upcoming discussion post about the ending of King of Scars!

4 stars Briana

 

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Controversial Opinion: I Don’t Care If You Cut Up Books for Crafts

Turning Books into Crafts

Every once in a while, I see a humorous meme or reaction on social media of someone reacting with horror to the idea of cutting up books for crafts. (Example here.)  I think the horror ties into a couple discussions that have shown up in the book blogosphere, such as the discussion of books as sacred sparked by Marie Kondo’s Netflix show where she (*gasp*) suggests removing books from your home that don’t give you joy and the discussion of waste and consumerism that showed up awhile back as a reaction to people burning books for the “aesthetic” on Instagram.  The idea is that books are  valuable (emotionally and monetarily), and cutting them into pieces is, therefore, a crime.  I completely agree that books are valuable, but I don’t care if someone shreds a whole pile of them for a craft project. Here’s why:


1. These are not rare manuscripts.

This is not the Middle Ages, and people are not cutting up the one available copy of a text.  While I in no way want to dismiss the fact that many people do not have easy (or any) access to books and many people do not have the disposable income to purchase books, the fact remains that printed books have basically never been quite as affordable and widely-available as they are now.  Someone cutting up a book for an art project is probably cutting up a $10 USD paperback of which there are thousands more copies in the world.  Turning a mass market paperback of  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe into a craft is not preventing other people from accessing and enjoying the story.

There are also a lot of books (in the US, at least; I am not speaking for everyone) that are so widely available they have trouble finding homes.  If you walk into any thrift store, you will find dozens of copies of Fifty Shades of Grey that people no longer want…and that are not currently selling because the market is so saturated.  Buying one for $1 and turning it into a craft is a decent way of recycling a book that otherwise might not be  used in any way at all.

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2. Often people use books that were damaged/unreadable anyway.

A lot of bookworms treasure and take care of their books, so I think it often gets overlooked that books can, in fact, become so damaged that they are not really readable.  Take library books, for instance.  Libraries frequently go through their collections and “weed” books that are too damaged to circulate.  Maybe they’re ripped or stained or missing tons of pages.  These books are often sent to be recycled, but someone taking a damaged book from their library (or their own collection, or wherever) and turning it into a craft is also a nice way of giving the book new life.

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3. People can do what they want with their Property/ money.

I completely support donating books and supporting charities devoted to literacy, and Krysta and I both post about ways to do that here on the blog.  However, at the end of the day, I think people have the right to spend their money as they wish.  Generally, I do think that people are using cheap used books or very damaged books for their crafts (in which case they have the right to do what they wish with their own property), but if someone actually wanted to go out and buy a brand new (say, $25 USD) hardcover book to cut into pieces and turn into art, they have the right to do that.  In the end, this is not particularly different from spending that money on fancy patterned cardstock at a craft store or other art supplies.

What do you think? Should people turn books into art? Have you ever made a craft out of a book?

Briana