5 Myths About Book Blogging

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

29 thoughts on “5 Myths About Book Blogging

  1. Rosie Amber says:

    My best blogging advice is to do what you enjoy, write interesting pieces or book reviews. Mix up your content but make it your blog. Then use one or two social media platforms to spread the news of a blog post if you want to, but it isn’t always necessary. Two way communication with your readers and other bloggers on their posts is good, but keep the time you spend doing this reasonable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I like this advice! A lot of advice is about gaining more traffic, but blogging needs to be fun and not a chore, or else burnout happens. I really believe there’s space on the internet for all kinds of blogs and all kinds of styles. There’s no one “right” way to blog!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Janette says:

    I definitely agree about the use of libraries. I get nearly all my new releases from my library and there’s nothing quite like reading a shiny new hardback. Also, the more people use libraries and the services they offer, the more likely they are to be properly funded

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    • Krysta says:

      Very true! I know tons of readers who don’t use the library or whodon’t realize what it offers (access to new releases, ebooks, etc.) and it is SO confusing to me. Libraries in the US seem to have a lot of enemies, and I’m always trying convince people to be supporters. Seeing that the library helps them personally is usually the most effective way to get people invested in saving libraries.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lexlingua says:

    What a thoughtful analysis, and very good advice in here. The bit about social media is well taken. As for ARCs, I don’t think I’ve ever managed to get ARCs from Net Galley and so forth as per request. When I started my blog, I decided I’ll just use it as a time capsule for my thoughts and as a platform for connecting with fellow bloggers.

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    • Krysta says:

      When the pandemic started and I lost easy access to the library, I tried joining Edelweiss and got approved for very few titles. After a few weeks, I gave up. It’s much easier for me to get new releases from the library at this point!

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  4. Siena says:

    These are all great points, and I especially agree with you about new releases. In blogging it really doesn’t matter, most bloggers just post stock images of the cover anyway. More broadly, I don’t think it’s necessary to talk about new releases to be a successful blogger, there are a lot of successful bloggers who focus on older titles. I suppose that new releases are trendier, but I think that applies more to social media than to blogging.

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    • Krysta says:

      That’s true! We used to try to post more Bookstagram-type photos, but it’s time-consuming and so now we mostly use the regular cover photos–and so do a lot of people! And, totally–there are lots of bloggers who focus on different types of books or genres like classics, non-fiction, sci-fi, romance, etc. I don’t know a lot about the nuances of the different little branches of book blogging, but I often get the sense that the idea that one needs tons of new releases is associated a lot with YA blogs. And, even then, I agree with you that plenty of these bloggers focus on older titles (and “older” sometimes means “last year,” which isn’t old at all!).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ofmariaantonia says:

    I love how you say that it’s not always necessary to review only recent releases. I try to do a mix with my reviews. Because there are some really good older books out there that are being forgotten!

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  6. Briana | Pages Unbound says:

    The “generic blogging advice doesn’t always apply” is a big one for me. I can’t count how many blogging sties say to do guest posts to get traffic, but that doesn’t really work for book bloggers, maybe partially in part because the blogs where you’re guest posting don’t really have that much traffic either. It’s different if you can guest blog for someone with 50k followers in a different niche.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I generally don’t see ads on blogs because I read posts on my laptop with an ad blocked, but the ridiculous “sponsored posts” WordPress started doing put me over the edge because the ad blocker can’t touch them. I caved and paid for the personal WordPress plan within a week to get that garbage off our blog.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Jenna @ Falling Letters says:

    Oop, I wish I had looked at this post before I published my post this morning, haha, many of these points are spot on to what I have been thinking about lately! Especially the first two points about ‘having to’ review ARCs/ new releases. I’ll have to add an update to link back to you.

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  8. Books Teacup and Reviews says:

    This is great! I don’t know if I’ll call all these points a myth as they kind of work in growth or getting new followers but at the same time, I also agree with you. One doesn’t need a domain or ARC or follow generic advice and every point you mentioned. And your blog is the perfect example why and also this post. I believe in mixing up content.

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  9. Eustacia | Eustea Reads says:

    Good point, especially about the need to always have the latest books – I definitely don’t follow book blogs or instagram accounts because of it. I would actually prefer blogs and accounts that feature less popular books.

    Related to the ARC post – I think the idea that ARCs are a measure of success is not a helpful idea (may not be a myth), because that kind of takes away other reasons to blog and focuses on the latest and newest books.

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    • Krysta says:

      I actually don’t read ARC reviews or new release reviews as much because I haven’t read the book yet and can’t discuss. Or I’m sometimes worried about spoilers. So I definitely don’t mind bloggers who focus on backlist titles or just review a new release a few weeks after the release date–I think I prefer them!

      And, yes, I think it’s important to think about why we blog. I don’t blog to receive ARCs, so ARCs aren’t that meaningful to me and it would stress me out if I had a bunch to review.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. riv @ dearrivarie says:

    all of these myths were all issues i faced when starting and getting back into blogging over the past couple of years. social media especially was super ingrained in my mind to be vital for blog growth but after burning out time and time again, i’ve realized that worrying about algorithms just didn’t work for me. it’s a lot easier now to read and post on my own pace and i feel a lot happier with blogging as a hobby so it just goes to show how personal the experience and process is! 🙂

    Like

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