As I was reading some of the open-ended responses for the 2018 Book Blogger Stats Survey I recently conducted, I began thinking about one of the biggest things I think can possibly “limit” the growth of book blogs: that the followers of a book blog tend to be other book bloggers. And I was struck that at least one other person mentioned getting non-blogger followers as one of the challenges they face. While blogs with other focuses, such as cooking, make-up, or travelling, tend to attract a wide audience, it seems that book bloggers are generally communicating with each other, and the most popular advice for growing your reach as a book blogger reflects this: people recommend commenting on other book blogs and generally “engaging with the community.”
I like the community aspect of the book blogosphere, and I certainly love interacting with fellow bloggers, who tend to be kind, enthusiastic, and generous with their time, money, and support. We tend to lift up each other, as well as authors, publishers, libraries, bookstores, etc. However, if we’re thinking purely about stats (I know, no one really wants to only focus on stats because there are more important things like engaging with your readers and loving what you do, but I’m throwing this idea out there), then it seems as if an untapped path to growth would be encouraging non-bloggers to read book blogs. But how do we do that?
I don’t actually know. If I did, I’d be sitting here with 20,000 followers and probably not writing this post, but I have some thoughts about why we may not be reaching a large audience, and I’d love to know what others think in the comments.
Reasons Non-Bloggers May Not Read Book Blogs
1. We’re not posting “general interest” book content.
I imagine that if non-book bloggers are following book-related content, they’re reading large bookish sites like Book Riot, Novl, YA Books Central, etc. These sites have multiple authors churning out content constantly, and they generally have multiple giveaways going on. They’re also likely to have bookish news and fun lists. Book blogs, on the other hand, are more about the blogger’s personality and tastes, not general interest content, and an individual blogger will publish content less frequently than a site with multiple contributors.
2. People see Book Blogs as unauthoritative.
Every once in a while, one of the community’s controversies will become big enough news that even people outside of the book blogosphere/Twitter community will hear about. One example is the 2014 article author Kathleen Hale wrote about stalking a book blogger who gave her book a negative review. The comments on these pieces often amount to “What is a book blogger? Who are these people who think they have the authority to judge books? Why would anyone care about their opinion?” The implication is that major publications like Kirkus or the New York Times employ people who are “qualified” to review books, while book bloggers are rambling amateurs whose opinions aren’t worthwhile.
3. People perceive the community as unwelcoming.
Finally, as with any community, people who are outside of the community may feel that the community is cliquish or unwelcoming. New book bloggers, for instance, often report feeling nervous about approaching “big” bloggers or trying to break into a group of “book blogging friends.” Or, for example, when Jenna Guillaume wrote a piece for Buzzfeed about the infamous “dick soap” that was included in a bookish subscription box and quoted some tweets reacting to the soap, here’s what some commenters thought:
This means non-bloggers may think that the conversations in the book blogging community are not for them.
So What are Some Solutions?
Honestly, I hope the answer is to just continue posting quality content that we’re passionate about. I think bloggers and reviewers are authoritative (which I discussed in this post), and I think we are genuinely welcoming. (Most of the nervous bloggers ultimately report that everyone is very friendly and there was nothing to be nervous about!) We could possibly think about posting more “general interest” content, but I believe the appeal of blogs is the personal touch, and it would probably be difficult for an individual blogger to “compete” with a big site by trying offer similar content. So maybe the real question is just how can we reach non-bloggers who may not even know book blogs exist, and how can we get them to check us out and stick around? (Because, real talk: a lot of my friends know I have a book blog and none of them read it. They very likely have not read a single post, even though they are avid readers. So what would make people like them come to the blog, and what would make them stay?)
Do you have a sizable non-blogger readership for your blog? How do you engage them? Or did you read blogs before you were a blogger yourself? How did you find book blogs, and what attracted you to reading them? Do you have any general advice for reaching out to non-bloggers? (Or are you a non-blogger reading this? What makes you read book blogs?)