The book blogosphere is full of advice – much of it so common that it might seem like a truism. But how much of this advice is true? Below are five pieces of blogging wisdom that I do not agree with.
You need to review ARCs to have followers.
It seems to be taken as a matter of fact in the book blogosphere that one needs to have a mountain of ARCs in order to gain followers and receive traffic. I . . . honestly have no idea where this idea came from. Is there data on this, showing a correlation between ARC reviews and traffic? It seems more intuitive to me that showcasing ARCs might matter more on other platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, where visuals are prioritized and there might be more competition for views.
But book bloggers and their readers often tend to move at a slower pace, prioritizing longer, more in-depth reviews along with lively discussion in the comments. When people are looking for conversation, seeing the latest releases may matter less. In fact, our (rather few) ARC reviews here at Pages Unbound do not tend to have very high stats. Reviews a bit after release date seem to get more traffic and more interaction because others have had time to read the book and feel like they are able to comment on it.
We review ARCs very rarely at Pages Unbound, and our traffic is higher than ever. And the bloggers I follow? I don’t think most of them regularly review ARCs, either! I don’t look for ARC reviews when I follow a blog, and I suspect I’m not alone. It’s really not necessary to have ARCs in order to stand out or gain followers. Effective writing and interesting content matters more than being able to say that one has a bunch of ARCs.
You have to buy all the latest releases in order to have high stats.
This point goes with the one above. We’ve been blogging over 10 years at Pages Unbound, and it seems that the rise of Bookstagram really ingrained in bloggers the idea that one needs to be able to showcase a rainbow of 100 new releases behind them in order to get followers – and, for some reason, a lot of people seem to think that these books must be purchased and not from the library. Or they think that the library does not even offer new releases, and that’s why the need to showcase a bunch of recent titles means that one has to have an endless book-buying budget. Let’s break this down.
First of all, using library books to review or to photograph is perfectly acceptable – and not uncommon! Secondly, if one has a public library and that library is adequately funded, it will have new releases. You can be among the first on the wait list for a new release by searching the catalog and placing the book on hold before the release date. If the book is in the catalog, it will have some sort of label like, “Being processed,” or, “On order,” but you can still place a hold. Finally, if you do not see the new release you want, ask your librarians how to submit a purchase request for the title. If they buy it, they should place you on the hold list (or you can ask about this), so, again, you will be among the first to get the book when it finally hits the shelves. You definitely do not need to buy books to get them early or on or around their release date.
Finally, it seems to me that the idea that one needs a bunch of new releases in order to be competitive and gain traffic is, once again, an idea book bloggers got from Bookstagram and BookTube – possibly from the popularity of book haul posts. Many bloggers seem to associate these other platforms negatively with consumerism because of such posts. But the good news is that book blogging often tends to be less about consumerism. Book blogging can move a bit more slowly than other platforms because longer reviews may be prioritized, and it takes time to read and review a book–more time than it takes to just show the cover for a haul picture. The audience for book blogs understands that the medium is different and that the written word is being prioritized over photographs (though pretty pictures are appreciated, of course!). They are not necessarily expecting posts about all the latest releases at once.
You need a custom domain name to be taken seriously.
Many bloggers will suggest that bloggers should pay for a domain name to look more professional and be taken more seriously. This may matter more for other types of blogs, but book blogs are not customarily monetized right now. Removing the “WordPress” from the address bar does not matter to most readers and surely does not impact publishers’ decisions to send ARCs or authors’ decisions to do blog tours or interviews. Getting a custom domain name is a completely optional expense at this point for people blogging as a hobby, and bloggers should not feel pressured to spend money on it if does not make sense for them.
You need to be really active on social media to be successful.
Admittedly, many bloggers have reported that interacting on social media or posting on places like Pinterest has increased their views. However, with the potential number of platforms expanding (TikTok, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram . . . ), it’s important to decide which (if any) platforms you really want to engage with. Trying to be really active on too many will likely be exhausting, and mean less time for creating actual blog content. So think carefully about if you actually enjoy the platforms you are on or are considering joining. For instance, if you are on Instagram, do you like taking photos or do you just feel like you ought to? Also consider if those platforms are doing what you thought they would. Maybe you have followers on Facebook and interact with people on Twitter, but none of them are actually clicking through to your blog content. Are you okay with that? Do you still find it meaningful to invest time there?
Choosing what social media platforms you really enjoy will help you use your time there more effectively than if you try to balance too many platforms at once. But, even if you decide you do not want to be on any social media platforms, that’s okay! “Success” is how you define it. Maybe success means, not getting tons of views from Twitter, but instead forming meaningful relationships with other bloggers and having interesting conversations. And you will still get traffic, even if you are not on social media. Commenting around on other blogs will boost your traffic, as will creating posts with good SEO. Most of our traffic here at Pages Unbound currently comes from search engines, and not from social media clicks.
Generic blogging advice always works well for book blogs.
I would argue that a lot of the generic blogging advice I see does not necessarily translate effectively to book blogs. Why? Generic advice often assumes a larger, more general audience, as well as the potential to make money. That is, generic advice often assumes that bloggers can pull from a really large pool of potential audience members – but book bloggers do not always have these same numbers. For example, food blogs might get tons of views because tons of people search for recipes. Everyone eats and many people cook. Book bloggers, on the other hand, seem to get less traffic than other types of blogs, and that traffic is often from fellow book bloggers, and not the general public. As a result of comparatively lower stats, book bloggers have historically struggled to monetize successfully.
So I’m always skeptical of generic advice that may not apply to book blogs. The advice above, to get a custom domain name, is one piece of advice that might apply to blogging generally. But for book blogs? It doesn’t make sense to spend money on something that may not make one money. So I find that the most effective book blogging advice often comes from book bloggers. After all, they are the ones figuring out how to navigate the circumstances unique to book blogs.
What do you think are some book blogging myths that should be debunked?