‘What is it like to be a blogger?’ they asked me. It was a question that caught me out, to start off with, because I’ve been running my blog for so long now that it’s become an integral part of my day to write a review/have a little rant/whatever and post it. I actually had to take a quick look at my blog (www.graemesfantasybookreview.com in case you were wondering) to see how long I’d been running things for. It all began way back in March 2007 so that’s just over five and a half years then; a good year longer than any of the jobs that I’ve held down. I wish that blogging was my job but that’s another story.
‘But what is it like?’ It’s amazing, no question about it. Find something that you’re passionate about, blog about it and join in an ongoing worldwide conversation with likeminded people. What’s not to like? I love reading fantasy, sci-fi and horror; running my blog has not only helped me become a little more coherent (hopefully) in my reaction to books but it has also opened my eyes to just how many of these books are out there. I’m never going to be able to read all of them but I’ve managed to find some little gems in the meantime; books that I would never have come across if it hadn’t been for the blog. I’ve also made a lot of friends through blogging and queuing for signings on my own has become having a good chat in the line and perhaps a beer afterwards with the publisher. Again, what’s not to like? And the books… I am never short of something to read and for a person like me that’s a real lifesaver, especially on the morning commute to work.
I ought to tell you though that there is a flipside to all this. There’s always a flipside… Find something that you’re passionate about, blog about it and join in an ongoing worldwide conversation with likeminded people… And try to make sure that the rest of your life doesn’t get ignored too much. Like the job that you have to go to every day and the family that you come home to afterwards. I love reading fantasy, sci-fi and horror and the constant temptation is to just keep reading; especially if I want to get another review up before the end of the week. Real life isn’t too keen on that happening though; my two year old daughter wants me to have picnics with her Star Wars figures (best picnics EVER but there’s always glitter to be cleaned up afterwards), my wife wants me to be a husband, there’s a dirty great big crack in the wall and the boiler is making funny noises… You know what I mean here, you’d rather bury your head in a book as well.
It’s all about maintaining some kind of balance then and you’re never going to get it quite right. Ok, I never get it quite right but I’ve got an understanding wife (for as long as the book pile remains vaguely under control) and a daughter who will read Star Wars books with me (so long as Yoda is on the cover). It all seems to work out but I couldn’t tell you quite how it does. If you’re going to blog then you really have to find your own way to make it all work out.
And that’s really the point of this post isn’t it? You like sci-fi, fantasy and horror just as much as I do and you’re thinking of starting up a blog of your own (the title caught your eye didn’t it?). You’re not quite sure how to do it though, setting something up on Blogger is easy enough but what happens next? I’ll tell you how it worked for me and, because I like you, I’ll also tell you what you should probably do instead…
Things kicked off for me with a random conversation that I jumped onto in a forum where I mentioned that I was starting up a blog and I’d be happy to review the books that the publishing chap was talking about. He asked me for a link and my blog was born a couple of hours later… The books turned up the next day and the rest was history. I was really lucky that it went the way it did and, to be honest, I don’t think that kind of luck exists these days. There are a lot of bloggers out there now and a lot more who want to start; publishers can now afford to be a lot choosier about who they work with. So… Give those potential contacts a blog that they will want to work with. Don’t contact any publisher until there’s enough content on your blog that they know you mean business. You’ve got a bookshelf full of books, blog about those. Go to the library and blog about any books that you take out. Blog about that really cool cover you saw in Waterstones. Blog about… well, it’s your blog!
Publishers are also going to want to know that plenty of people read your blog before they start sending you books. There are loads of widgets out there that will measure your traffic, all pretty much do the job. How to get that traffic though…? That’s a tough one. It all boils down to ‘link back to your blog wherever you can but not too much’, no-one likes a spammer. Twitter is always a good place to post links; different forums have different ideas about what’s spam and what isn’t.
So you’ve contacted a publisher (publicity email addresses can be found on most websites) and they are sending you books. Then another publisher realises this and decides that they’d quite like to send you books as well. Then you end up with a pile of books on the bedroom floor and an unhappy wife (well, I did…) The number of books received can vary, some weeks nothing at all will show up but other weeks can see anywhere between 20-30 books arrive at my house. What do you do with all those books?
My experience is that while every publisher would love you to read their entire catalogue, none of them actually expect you to (it’s a lot of books after all). If you’re a quick reader then go for it but if not, save yourself the headache and just read what you want to. They’ll be cool but just remember that it’s good manners to send them a link to any review that you do post (whether you liked the book or not).
I tend to prioritize my reading through an ever changing system of ‘what catches my eye at a particular moment’ but I will also try and make time for a publisher if I haven’t reviewed one of their books lately. You’ll find that your own method of prioritization forms by itself.
The most important thing is to enjoy it. There’s no point if you don’t enjoy it and your readers will pick up on it as well. Don’t be afraid to take a few days out if you need to and come back ready to pick up and get going again. Your readers like your posts (they wouldn’t read them if they didn’t) and they’re happy to wait for them.
That’s pretty much it but I’m online far more often than I should be so drop me an email if you’ve started a blog and have any questions (email address at the top right hand side of my blog). Or just drop me an email anyway, I like getting emails.
Go on, go write that blog!