What do you look for in a book blog post?

I’ve been having a bit of think recently about blogging and as per usual, given that I am a Bear Of Very Little Brain, I haven’t got very far and am now looking for YOUR help.

I absolutely love writing this blog.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally great to think that others might also enjoy it from time to time, but even if no-one else was reading I think I’d still like it just as much.

The trouble is – and I know this goes for everyone else so under no circumstances am I heaving a sigh and getting the violins out – that I just don’t have as much time as I’d like to work on the blog.  I have to do copywriting work a few evenings each week (got to earn some spondoolies to fund the book obsession somehow), I use probably one night a week on average for general ‘life admin’, plus I really feel it’s the done thing to spend time with one’s husband occasionally 😉  This leaves a couple of nights a week at most for blogging.

During the day, blogging is pretty much impossible as I look after the boys full-time.  C does have one full day at pre-school and H still naps in the afternoon, so most weeks during term-time I get an hour or so on a Wednesday, but that’s it.

I’m not moaning about this AT ALL – I’ve chosen this lifestyle and I wouldn’t change being at home with the boys for anything.  However, it did occur to me that maybe I could try and trim down the time each blog post takes me in order that I could update things a little more regularly.

So, here are my wonderings and the thoughts what I have thunk:

How do you feel about photos in posts?  

I know it’s nice to have one image but I usually include a few because I think it looks nicer and breaks up the writing a bit.  These photos take time to do (and they’re often not exactly award-winning shots!) and the subsequent uploading, resizing, etc., is a bit of a faff as well.  Obviously it’s worth it if people like them, but I read plenty of blog posts without images and I still enjoy those.  What do you think?

How do you feel about links in blog posts?

In every book review I write, I always provide links to an online source for buying the book (usually lovereading4kids.co.uk), the websites of the author and illustrator and the website of the publisher.  If I mention any other link-able things in the post then I’ll provide links for those as well.  If I’ve written any related posts on a topic then I’ll also link to those.  Do these genuinely make any difference to you?  I’d love to hear from publishers, authors, illustrators and book lovers about how important they feel these links are, as I see many brilliant posts from brilliant reviewers that don’t include them and it would certainly save me time to leave them out if people felt they weren’t beneficial.

What sort of reviews do you like?

I don’t *only* write book reviews on here, but over time they are marking up a larger part of the content.  I personally read a whole mix of reviews from other book bloggers of vastly varying lengths.  Some of these book bloggers post every day, some post a couple of times a week and some (like me) have no discernible pattern to their posting.  I’ve tried, on Pinterest, to start writing mini reviews under each image on the ‘What we’re reading this month’ boards, all of which can be found on this page here on the blog.  Is it helpful to have lots and lots of shorter reviews or fewer, more detailed reviews?

Given that I’d like this site to eventually be a resource for parents once Story Seekers: The Business is (hopefully) up and running, I’d like to make the reviews as useful as possible.  I’d love to hear from you about what makes a really great review, in your opinion.

I think that’s everything for now, though no doubt there’ll be a few updates as more occurs to me…

TTFN

P.S.  Before anyone states the obvious, I realise that I do waffle on and could probably save time if I wrote shorter posts – M tells me this on a regular basis.  The thing is, I just can’t.  It takes me infinitely more time to try and edit my posts than it ever does to write them, so while there may be many other reasons for being short and snappy, time saving on my part isn’t one of them.

 

 

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9 comments

  1. Short posts are OK, I do love a good meaty post all the same though (like this) particularly when it’s a very thought provoking subject. Does ‘the perfect blog post’ even exist? I’m in awe of my book-blogging buddies (you included, Loll) because no two blogs are the same, everyone has a different approach so when you find others reviewing things you have, you get a really true flavour of their opinion (and their childrens) as opposed to a regurgitated press blurb (in fact, to that end, I have NEVER seen this since we’ve been book blogging, never once – though it was rife when I used to write about videogames).

    I love people who put the time and effort in to do crafts around books, add photos, do activities and that kind of thing – I would love to have the time to do that but we take the approach that a short (and quite opinionated) review post is often easier to digest than the walls of text.

    Cool stuff, got the gears racing this afternoon! Nice one!

  2. Funnily enough I was thinking about exactly the same issues today with respect to my own blog! Personally, the mantra for me on my blog is quality over quantity – and I think even one blog post every few weeks is enough for me to want to follow a blog, if that post is original and full of passion and real content. But I guess others look for other things – some will like brief to the point reviews. The key thing is surely to write whatever you feel proud of – if you write a post and you’re delighted with it, whether or not it has photos and links, then that’s being true to you. I think having links is good for your visibility online so thinking about the business model for storyseekers, you may want to consider continuing to include links even though they take time to include. Personally I like photos and I like links, and I like reviews the sort of which I can’t find elsewhere, whether that is of unusual books, or reviews with additional content.

  3. I’ve been thinking similar thoughts myself, and deciding what my blogging ‘voice’ is. I’ve a draft post on the subject waiting to me to write so I won’t waffle on about me me me but instead answer your questions!

    Photos/Pictures: I used to put more in but I tend to just to have cover images (that I grab from Google image search) for most book reviews. One picture is important I think because without one your post can’t be pinned! 😉 It depends on the content for me: some posts seem to cry out for images, others are okay without.

    Links: I never link to somewhere to buy a book because I’d prefer people to go to their local independent bookstore, although in reality budget limitations affect where people purchase – or borrow from a library, of course! For author/illustrator/publisher websites and social media I’m trying to set up separate pages for them. I have one for publishers that I’ve received books from as that’s only fair!

    Reviews: A mixture! Sorry, cop-out answer. I’m finding that my rare long and detailed review/commentaries add something different to the mix whereas a short review can be a bit lame (not yours, but a review saying “I like this book” does nothing for me!) Added value to reviews I think is the main “selling point” for me personally e.g. crafts, detailed commentary, child input to the reviews. I’m more likely to just read a book description than a short review to get an idea of whether we’ll like it. The detailed commentaries and personalisation of reviews are more interesting. But I’m talking from the viewpoint of someone who is a book obsessive! In order to encourage more people a wide variety of reviews linked to themes might be good? Er, basically, I don’t have an answer to this one! I think whatever you enjoy most works best because enjoyment shows through in writing 🙂 I’m more of a less posts, more waffling person myself!

    I also agree with everything ReadItDaddy wrote above, and love his blog too. And yours of course. And too many other people to mention but I probably have linked to on mine… 😉

  4. I love posts like this! I love it when we all chip in and get involved and it starts a debate or get’s me (us) thinking about our own choices. I particularly enjoy posts that aren’t reviews but are still book related – like this one and your ‘where do I go with Storyseekers’ posts or ReaditDaddy’s posts about gender bias for example. Posts that get me reacting and thinking. I also really appreciate reviews that come at books from different angles and see something in a book that I wouldn’t necessarily notice. Reading all the different reviews of Clara’s new Martha book has shown me how we all come at things from a different viewpoint. Some are arty and crafty, some are based around a child’s reaction, some are all about the writing or the illustration, or how a book makes you feel, or what you learn from the book, or how it would work in a school setting. That’s why I love following different blogs, I learn from you guys. I want a review where I can learn something more than I would from looking at the book blurb on Lovereading4kids.

    Personally I love seeing pictures in posts, even if it’s just a cover shot. I think that picture books are such visual things that an image gives a fuller sense of what a book is like. Images can also be helpful in explaining a point you are trying to make. But I’m a visual kinda gal so that’s a very personal opinion. One blog I follow never posts pictures and I regularly search t’internet after reading her posts to see what the book looks like. Maybe that’s a good thing?

    With links, I think it depends on what you are writing the blog, or the specific post, for. I think that links that are relevant to the post can be really important, for example, if you’re writing a post championing a new publisher/author/illustrator then linking to them is a great way to support them. If you are doing a straight review I don’t think the links are as important. Look at your stats, are the links you post clicked on? That should give you a good indication of whether they are worth the effort or not. I like Anne-Marie’s point about linking to a publisher if they’ve sent you the book. Perhaps you could have a links page with them all on so you don’t have to do it on each review?

    In the end, any post that is written with passion will win me over. I think that’s the key. Don’t have rules about how often you post, how long the posts will be, what you will include. Just let your obvious passion come out and we’ll all keep on reading, enjoying and interacting with your blog.

  5. Thanks to all of you for responding at such length, I really appreciate it 🙂

    ReadItDaddy – I very much agree that it’s nice to see a range of different reviews from different people, all of whom have a different ‘voice’. It has brought to the forefront of my mind the fact that I need to finish the page for my blog that I’ve had in drafts for ages, which is one that links to all the other brilliant book blogs that are around. By showing people that there’s a community of us out there who all approach things from our own angle, hopefully everyone will be able to discover new books and reading ideas written about in a style that suits them.

    Zoe – I completely agree with you that the main thing is to write something that I’m proud of and that feels like ‘me’. For that reason alone, I think I’ll be sticking to longer, less frequent reviews as I just never feel as though I can say everything I want to otherwise. If I love a book, I could witter about it for hours! I’m also hoping that providing very short reviews on Pinterest gives a bit of variety and at some point I will start creating boards that link books by theme, which might be something parents could refer to quickly and easily.
    You also raise a good point about online visibility and the potential impact on my Story Seekers business model. I have only the vaguest of ideas about things like SEO and creating an online presence and it’s definitely an area I need to stop avoiding and just get to grips with it all! As I’m sure you’re aware, it’s not always easy finding the balance between just blogging about books for the love of it and feeling that you have a message you’d like to get across to widest audience possible. That’s why all the responses to this post have been so useful and are clearly showing me how I’d like to tackle things in the immediate future.

    Anne-Marie – I’m really looking forward to reading your post on this topic! You’ve made some great points in your response and have really helped me clarify where I stand on things. I think the main thing I need to do is to have confidence in my own ‘voice’ and stop comparing myself to everyone else. I just look around at all the other blogs and find myself lacking because they’re all so amazing in different ways and I definitely need to take a step back and remember that it’s better to have a variety and that there’s a place for me within it all. I get myself wound up sometimes thinking about how far the blog is from what I’d like it to be once it’s forming part of the ‘resources’ I can offer parents through Story Seekers and start losing faith in the whole idea. I know that this is when I should be grateful that I have over two years before I can get things going from a business point of view, so I don’t need to be all-singing and all-dancing just yet!

    Carmen – I also love posts that get people talking! I find them much easier to write as I can totally be myself and not worry (as I do with reviews) that someone else has written something directly comparable of much higher quality.
    I agree that links and pictures definitely add something to a post and I also love blogs that give a personal viewpoint on a book or add a related anecdote of some sort. I suppose my fear was the people would rather read a shorter review that gave a summary of the book and not too much more (and I’m sure there are people that would and there’s nothing wrong with that!) and that therefore I’d be alienating people by writing so much. I need to tattoo on myself somewhere that I can’t please all of the people, all of the time and just go with what works for me. As you say, that’s the joy of following a range of blogs and you made a really good point about Clara’s new book, for which I’ve also read a number of reviews. I enjoyed each review and each one added something extra which made it well worth reading.
    However, your last point is the one that has probably hit the nail on the head for me. There Are No Rules. I’m someone who probably spends too much time thinking about being organised and trying to come at something from every possible angle and tick every box, etc., etc. That’s all well and good for some things, but I need to relax a bit and accept that not everything needs to fit within a certain structure for it to be ‘valid’.

    Once again, thanks SO much to all you supercalafrajalisticexpialadocious dudes for your thoughts – I really is kind of you to take the time.

  6. Somehow I missed this post yesterday but by catching up now I get to read everybody else’s answers 🙂

    I follow your blog and the blogs of everybody who has commented and I love that fact that we’re all approaching the same theme from a completely original angle. I only post when I’m happy with a post and I agree with Zoe’s comment about quality over quantity. Because I have decided only to include books that I like on my blog I can’t have a book on that doesn’t feel right if that makes sense.

    I like pictures on a post but they are not necessary for me. If I found the subject of the post interesting I would read it anyway 🙂 I like to see a finished craft or a book cover for a book review but otherwise I’m fine with just text.

    I like links but although I personally link to an author’s page I never link to a publisher. I would love to direct my readers to their local bookshops but as a site for expats the Amazon links are often the only option that we have (the local bookstore would probably order from Amazon anyway!). I do like links back to other posts that may have been written as otherwise I wouldn’t know they were there – I guess I like links 🙂

    As far as reviews I would go with what you like to write and how you like to write. I would write what you would like to read and how you like to read it. I took advice from friends and members of my writing group when I set up my blog and I changed some things but ultimately found my own style. I’m comfortable with it and if people like it, that’s me but if they don’t that’s fine too.

    Thanks for posing the question – just be you and do what you are comfortable with. Make your own rules or throw the rule book out the window (but please don’t stop posting your treasures in the attic, I don’t know anyone else who does it quite like you :)).

  7. Loving all of this discussion! I think what we all share is an interest in reading and writing posts with passion 🙂

  8. I’ve just caught up on all of your discussions! Great post and great comments too, plenty of food for thought. I know I’m late to the party but I agree that there are no rules and that actually if you try to write something which isn’t your style/passion then I think it will start to fall by the wayside with all the other things going on in your life (or at least become a chore!) Also I find I like blogs which mix things up, so a blog with the same structure of post every time is for me in danger of becoming stale. I love pictures in posts (despite the time they take) – at least the book cover or a shot of you reading the book I think. Not worried about links although having read the comments I think author website links would be really good! I link to iTunes for book apps because there is no alternative but am wondering if I should link to the publisher’s site instead/alongside this. Thanks for the opportunit to contribute to such an interesting debate!

    1. Hi Helen, I’m so sorry I’ve not replied until now. Thank you so much for your thoughts and for joining in. I think it’s really interesting that your mention how blogs with the same structure to every post can become stale: when I first started blogging I was worried that because my posts were so random, people wouldn’t ‘get’ my blog and my dream was to write similar posts each time, i.e. perhaps reviews. I now realise that a) I could never write a blog like that anyway as there are too many different things I want to dip into, and b) you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say that you (and I think a lot of others as well) like variety anyway.
      Thanks again for your contribution – it’s lovely that we all chat about this, especially as a few of us are currently doing some blog contemplation 🙂

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