A Complete Guide to Starting a Book Blog

Book Blog Basics


After doing some research on blogging and finding relatively few resources that were specifically about book blogging, I decided to put together this guide for those thinking about diving into the book blogging world. I started Pages Unbound 5 years about with very little idea of what I was doing, so I hope other new bloggers feel they don’t have to do the same!

The Basics of Starting Your Book Blog

Choose a Name

Once you’ve established yourself under a certain blog name, changing it can be hard, so you’ll want to put some thought into this. Choose a name that reflects what your blog will be about, and also do some research to check whether it’s an original name or whether there are other variations.  (For instance, someone started a blog called “The Page Unbound” several years after we founded “Pages Unbound.”  This could be confusing to both of our audiences.)

Choose a Blogging Platform

First, decide whether you want to go paid or free for your blogging platform.  Free is a good place to start if you’re not sure about how long you’re going to keep blogging or you’re just on a budget. The two most popular free platforms are WordPress.com and Blogger. While I personally recommend WordPress.com for ease of use (and ease of converting to paid WordPress.org later), you should research both platforms and decide which will be most useful to you.

If you know you’re going to be serious about blogging, it could be good to go paid from the start.  At least pay for a domain name.  That way you won’t lose any followers if you change blogging platforms from, say, Blogger to WordPress.org and end up changing your URL.

Choose a Theme

Think about two things: the tone of your blog and user readability. Pick (or pay for) a design that represents the spirit of your blog: playful, serious, focused on mysteries, obsessed with fantasy, etc.  But also make sure it’s easy to navigate and your text will be easy to read. (For example, avoid light fonts on dark backgrounds. Also check if you can change the font size if the default is kind of small.)

Write an About Page

Readers consistently say they like to know about the blogger behind the blog.  While you don’t have to get too personal if you don’t want to, you should still say something about yourself and the general purpose of your blog. Allow your readers to get to know you and what they can expect you to be writing.  If you’re comfortable with it, consider adding a photograph for an even more personal touch.

Create a Review Policy

As a book blogger, even a newbie one, you’re likely to get requests from authors and publicists to review books or feature other content on your blog, such as author guest posts or interviews.  Instead of waiting for people to email you and then panicking, decide up front whether this is something you are interested in, and then list your guidelines on your Review Policy page.

Some things to include in your review policy:

  • What posts you will consider. (Only reviews? Only author interviews?)
  • What genres you are interested in and what genres you don’t want to review.
  • Whether you will post negative reviews or whether you will post only three star reviews or higher.
  • Whether you will post the review somewhere other than your blog (Goodreads, Amazon, etc.)
  • How quickly you expect to read and review book requests.
  • What formats you will accept. (Only print books, Kindle books, PDFs?)
  • The email address people can contact you at. (I recommend creating a blog-specific one, instead of using your personal email.)

Write Some Posts–And Schedule Some Ahead

Obviously, your blog is going to need content. You can start out with a simple introduction post telling people who you are and why you’ve joined the book blogosphere.  From there, your content is likely to include book reviews, discussions of books, book tags, etc.  Write some of these posts in advance. 

Decide how often you want to post on your blog (three times a week? once a week?) and consider writing out at least three weeks’ worth of posts before your blog goes live. This will save you a lot of stress trying trying to post consistently and keep you from scrambling to create content.  New bloggers often report blogger burnout when they fail to schedule posts before they launch.

Read Other Book Blogs

If you’re not really reading other book blogs, now is a good time to start. While there’s always room for creativity in the blogosphere, there are also conventions. Find out what other bloggers are doing and what readers might be expecting from your blog.  If you want to break the mold and do something wildly different, that’s great, and now you’ll be doing it as an informed decision.

The Details of Starting Your Book Blog

Once you have the foundations of your book blog, it’s time to start thinking about the details: making the user experience good for your readers and getting visitors to come to your blog.

Cultivate a Great Sidebar

Don’t overwhelm visitors with too much information in your sidebar. Think about what information will be useful to them, and put the most important things towards the top.

Consider including in the sidebar:

  • a brief bio (save the long version for your About page)
  • a search bar for your blog
  • a way to subscribe to your blog (email or WordPress feed)
  • links to your social media pages
  • a blog button if you have one
  • a list of your most recent posts
  • a list of popular posts
  • information about anything special events you have going on

Consider omitting from the sidebar:

  • the tag cloud (No one really uses this to navigate.)
  • a calendar (I can see your recent posts.)
  • recent Tweets (I can just follow you on Twitter.)
  • too much information about favorite books or other fun facts

Think about Blog Graphics

Most blogging experts recommend having at least one image per blog post.  Planning this out can take some time.  First, you want to be sure you’re staying on the right side of copyright laws and not using images illegally. Secondly, you’ll want to think about branding your images and keeping the look consistent across posts. (Consider making graphics similar sizes, fonts, and colors.)

Image Basics

To get started, you might want some basic graphics so you don’t have to make an entirely new one for every single post (unless that’s something you love to do). So, you might make an image for use on all discussion posts, an image for use on all Top Ten Tuesday posts, etc.

Advanced Images

If you have time to invest into making many graphics or you’re invested in using images for traffic growth, make a unique image for each blog post.  To be really unique, you can use your own bookish photography.  Otherwise, find royalty-free images and optimize them for sharing.  This means putting the post title on the image and putting your blog name or URL, as well.  If you’re going to be sharing a lot on Pinterest, expects recommend portrait-style graphics (long vertical images).

Check out my recommendations for free graphics tools for book bloggers here.

Choose What Social Media to Join

Few book bloggers only run blogs.  Joining social media will help you both meet other bloggers and readers and help you promote your content.  If you’re a social media fiend, feel free to join everything: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Riffle, etc.  However, remember that the most valuable social media is the one you enjoy enough to actually use. If you’re going to start slowly or have limited time to devote to other outlets beyond your blog, I recommend Goodreads (of course) and Twitter as the places where the book community is often most active. (You can also read my posts on using Goodreads to drive traffic to your blog and using Goodreads to write better reviews.)

After you’ve joined, make sure your social media is clearly linked to in your blog sidebar, so people can find and follow you. Then add your blog URL to your social media profiles.  If you’re on WordPress, you can also set up your blog so it will auto-share new posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Start a Review Archive Page

One of the first things I do when I visit a new book blog is check out their review archives.  I want to know what kinds of books the blog features, and whether I agree with the bloggers opinions on books we’ve both read.  Make it easy for visitor to access your content by starting a page for your review archive, which you can choose to alphabetize either by author or by title of the book. You can also make archive pages for any other posts you’

Participate in the Book Blog Community

If you want people to read your blog, the single most useful thing you can do is read and comment on other people’s blogs.  Write meaningful comments and connect with readers, and they’ll want to read your actual blog content. Alternatively, no one can visit your blog if they’re not aware it exists, so go out there and talk to other readers!

You can also join memes, read-alongs, reading challenges, Twitter chats, or other events that other bloggers are hosting.  Big events include Bloggiesta (a few times a year) and Armchair BEA in May.

For more on how you can get traffic to your book blog, go here.  You can also see the best blogging advice submitted by our readers.

Advanced Book Blogging

If you’re super serious about getting traffic to your blog or becoming known in the book community, start thinking about search engine optimization (SEO) for your blog and creating timely and unique content.

Complete These Quick SEO Tips

There’s a lot of information on the web about improving your SEO and getting traffic to your blog. The following tips are quick ideas to get you started.

  • Include ALT tags for your images. (Use the media editor in WordPress to do this.)
  • Use heading tags.  Your blog post title will be an H1 tag. In your post, use H2, H3, and maybe H4 to structure your post.
  • Use keywords.  Make sure you’re naturally including the words you think people would use to search for your post in the post itself.  If you’re reviewing a book, for instance, you’ll probably want to mention the title and author name a couple times throughout the review, not just once.
  • Use links.  Send readers to other related posts on your blog to keep them engaged and reading.
  • Update old content.  Once you’re an established blogger, make sure your old content isn’t wasting away.  If you’ve written an interesting discussion post or helpful guide, update it and re-share it on social media.

If you’re wondering what kind of stats you might be able to expect as a book blogger, check out this informal survey I took.

Get Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs)

Indie authors and publicists may begin contacting you about reviewing their books very early in your blogging career.  However, if you’re interested in getting ARCs from major publishers, your blog will probably have to be at least six months old, and you’ll have to demonstrate to publishers you’ll bring the book visibility by sending them your stats for follower numbers and average page views.  Updating your blog frequently and having comments on your posts can also be useful.

For e-ARCs: Simply go to Netgalley, fill out your profile, and request.

For physical ARCs: Check out some of these guides.

You can also enter Goodreads giveaways for ARCs for check the Shelf Awareness industry newsletter for ARCs.

Think about getting a Co-blogger

As the tasks “big” book bloggers are expected to perform increase, I’ve been predicting that bloggers seriously invested in growing or even monetizing their book blogs may want to co-blog.  After all, bloggers are expected to

  • consistently write unique content
  • read books and other blogs
  • comment on other blogs
  • take photos
  • make graphics
  • run social media
  • host events
  • …and more.

If that’s not something you have the time to all by yourself, or you don’t have the skills or interest to do, you may want a co-blogger to help.  If this idea appeals to you, find out what questions you should ask potential co-bloggers.

What tips do you have for people looking to start book blogging?

38 thoughts on “A Complete Guide to Starting a Book Blog

  1. SERIESous Book Reviews says:

    Great tips!

    I wish I had thought more about writing posts in advance when I started my blog. I was just so excited to start it, I published the first thing I wrote😛

    But going to other blogs is so important! It’s so easy to think that “because you build it, people will come” but you need to get involved–and I didn’t do that much in my first year of blogging and it is one of my biggest regrets!


    • Briana says:

      Me, too! I think it’s there’s only one thing you can do to help when you start, it’s planning a little bit ahead! It’s just that starting a blog is so exciting and a lot of us just jump right in!

      Exactly! I didn’t interact much my first year either, and I noticed a huge jump in visitors once I started to speak more to other bloggers.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lunch-Time Librarian says:

    This is a great guide! I’m sure it’ll be a big help to anyone starting out with a book blog🙂 And I’ve been blogging for a bit, but that tip about updating old content is so key and I needed your reminded to do that! It’s definitely something I’ve been working on doing more.


    • Briana says:

      Thank you!

      I’ve been trying to think about updating some old posts recently too. It’s easy to assume that once they’re publishing, that’ it and they may not get any more views, but that doesn’t have to be the case.


  3. rantandraveaboutbooks says:

    I wish I had this when I first started. This is so comprehensive it should be under the WordPress help links. I learned a lot from social media in the beginning. Then I started reading and commenting on a lot of blogs. It’s very intimidating when you first start and you’re trying to figure out what to do each day to make it work. I started with a feature about my favorite book to movie adaptations and back then, I had assumed everyone had read and watched Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, so I didn’t think to remove spoilers. I learned that lesson right after I finished those posts. I remember setting up my submission process page and thinking no one will ever want me to review their book. Haha! I was wrong about that one. I also look at book reviews to get a feel for what the blogger likes and their writing style. That’s usually my deciding factor if I want to follow them. Great post! This was such a good idea.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Briana says:

      Thank you! I was kind of inspired by the fact, after I realized there’s a lot of advice about general blogging that I think isn’t always useful for specifically book blogging, what does exist is sometimes limited, or otherwise divided across posts. You can, for instance, find plenty of posts about ARCs or about setting up your sidebar–but as a new blogger I didn’t even realize these were things I perhaps should be thinking about. I also think a lot of new bloggers are surprised that authors will start emailing them right away with review requests and it’s good to have a policy from the beginning!

      I honestly don’t worry about HP or HG spoilers either. Oops? They’re just so ingrained in modern culture it’s almost like trying not to spoiler Romeo and Juliet for someone. They’re going to find out how it ends sooner or later. :p

      Liked by 1 person

      • rantandraveaboutbooks says:

        It’s funny you mentioned similar blog names in your post because I found someone on Twitter with a blog called Unbound Pages. I almost sent them a tweet one time when I meant to send it to you. Yeah, I think this is so helpful. There’s never anything specifically about blogging. It’s usually just general info. I do see a lot about ARCs but none of them have been very helpful to me with the exception of a few from more experienced bloggers. I don’t even bother requesting ARCs anymore. Is that weird? I just have too many books to read on my iPad. I’ve seen some sidebar posts. I didn’t see the point in those without talking about the important pages you need on a blog. You hit every single thing a new and even current blogger could ever need. I had a review page from the beginning and haven’t changed it since. I just looked at what other bloggers were using and read a few articles on it. But it was very cumbersome in the beginning. It was stressful in a way trying to setup a blog that people would maybe want to read. Now, it comes so natural I don’t even think about it. I just write down notes or save post ideas when they come to me. Haha! That’s true. I can’t believe there’s still people who haven’t seen or read an HP movie or book.


        • Briana says:

          I understand we don’t have the world’s most uncommon name for a book blog, but when I see people found blogs after ours with extremely similar names I have to admit I’m mildly annoyed. It’s just confusing for everyone. There’s also some relatively new music festival thing called Pages UnBound (note the capital “B,” really distinguishes them) in Canada, and I’m forever being tagged by people on Twitter who are announcing they’ll be performing with us soon. :p

          I don’t really request ARCs either, besides some on Netgalley. I just get too stressed out with “having” to read things. So much of the rest of my life is structured and about having to read things that I just don’t like it, I guess. JK Rowling could write a completely new Marauders era book and if I got an ARC I think I’d be like “Ugh. Do I really have to read this within one month?” But I know some people feel they’ve really made it as a blogger if they can be approved for ARCs, so I think it’s helpful to know how to go about getting them.

          I get so confused when I visit blogs without review archives! It’s one of the first places I look! I’ll admit I’ve let ours get away from us, but it’s also so long at this point that it’s bordering on un-useful. Mostly I like to just get a sense of what the blogger usually reviews. If I want a specific book I’ll just use the search bar.

          Liked by 1 person

          • rantandraveaboutbooks says:

            I would be annoyed, too, if I were you. That would drive me crazy. Pages UnBound doesn’t even sound like it’s related to music. I agreed to a bunch of author reviews and interviews over a one month span and it was very stressful. I even had one author request I give her a donation if I didn’t write a review of her novel I had zero interest in reading. That really takes some nerve. After that, I haven’t accepted one request. I honestly don’t have the time, and some of these self-pub books are not that great. I stopped requesting on NetGalley when I realized it lowered my ratings when I didn’t read and review the books. No blog archives is weird to me. I post all of my book reviews under their own page. Some people have them in every type of order you can imagine, which seems like overkill, but to not have one at all is unusual for a book blogger. I also look through most recent reviews to see if they read the same books.


            • Briana says:

              Maybe it is a literary festival. And people do readings or spoken word or something? I’m not sure. Just that they stole our name and people perform there. :p I find this REALLY weird because, yeah, amateur book blogs are probably going to overlap with the book-related names, but if I were a legitimate event, I think I’d Google a bit to check my name were unique. They’re probably really made they can’t have the @pagesunbound Twitter handle though.😉

              Yeah. In addition to not wanting ARCs for time constraint reasons, I’ve had some unpleasant experiences interacting directly with some authors, and I know many other bloggers have, as well. The unprofessional ones ruin it for everything, and then they wonder why many bloggers have decided not to deal with self-published authors. Frankly, it’s easier, even if I am missing out on some self-published books that are great.

              Liked by 1 person

            • rantandraveaboutbooks says:

              Yeah, that really sucks for you guys. I think it’s pretty lame that some book bloggers use a similar name. They couldn’t think of something else? Like they weren’t married to it or anything. A lot of bloggers have said the same thing about authors. If you say no, you’d think they would just be like okay and move on. What I find is that some people will send me a request without checking my page to see what I read. The other thing I noticed is that the self pub authors can never classify what genre their book fits into. I hate reading that it’s a 200k word book that’s a mix of contemporary, fantasy, and criminal drama I’m like huh? That makes no sense. Or I get the adult version of HP and Hunger Games mashed together. I’m like no way. I don’t know if I’ll ever take on another review from a self pub author. So far, only one of them has truly appreciated the time I spent to read and write the review.


  4. Jamie @ Books and Ladders says:

    I think the tip about creating posts ahead of time before starting a blog is REALLY helpful. I didn’t do that when I started my own, but we did that when I started blogging on Books Are My Fandom and it REALLY helped. We didn’t have to worry if we had posts for the day or not and it was more just a “let’s check it over one more time before releasing it to the world”! This is really helpful and I will be sure to send it to my followers!


    • Briana says:

      Yes! It’s nice to start out ahead, instead of starting out at a run and then trying to write very quickly so you can eventually get to a point where you’re able to schedule posts in advance. I wish I had thought of this when I first started blogging, or had someone suggest it to me!


    • Briana says:

      I’m glad you find it helpful! It probably too me a couple years to really get what people were expecting a book blog to look like, or what features they thought made one easy to navigate.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Alex says:

    Considering I’ve literally just made my blog, this was a really great post to read! I’ve been combing through tip-posts all day and this is definitely my favourite.


    • Briana says:

      Thanks so much! I wanted to write a post that had most of what would be immediately useful in a single post, instead of making people comb through a whole series of posts for advice.


  6. shansbookshelf says:

    Thank you for this post. It very helpful, I’ve recently just started blogging three months ago and I had no idea what to say in a review policy or even if I should do one. Now I think I will. 😃

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      Congratulations on starting your blog! We didn’t have a review policy initially either, but it becomes really helpful when authors start emailing you review requests! (Of course, ours says we don’t accept any review requests and people still pitch us stuff, so obviously not everyone bothers to read the policy…)

      Liked by 1 person

      • shansbookshelf says:

        Thank you! I must say I found your post helped so much:D. Already I’ve seen a huge improvement communicating with other bloggers. My review policy is up now, it took a while to get it perfect but I’m happy with how it turned out.
        That’s not fair they should always read your Policy first🙂


  7. lynneawilson says:

    Great guide! I’ve just started my book blog and being a complete newbie to the world of blogging, I have been somewhat overwhelmed by it all. This guide has given me some points to focus on. Thank you x


  8. Thourya Osama says:

    I think I have to bookmark this😀 . It’s a powerful post. I have started my blog months ago and many things you’ve said I didn’t know anything about. So, thank you so much.


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