Holy Cow! We’ve had a blog for one whole year!!! We can’t believe how far we have come in this first year of blogging. What started on a whim, Jackie and I literally thought up the idea and had it launched within a week, has turned into a passion project. We have loved getting to know our readers, exploring our city, and refining reading preferences over this past year. We wanted to share a little about what we have learned about blogging – both general tips and technical ones – and also celebrate with a giveaway for YOU! If you aren’t interested in the tips – scroll to the bottom for a chance to win one of the hottest new releases and a killer pair of earrings.
**Note- this post contains affiliate links. Items purchased through these links may result in a small commission for us at no cost to you.
- Find your own voice – When we first started out, we looked at other blogs and tried to copy what they did or what they posted or their aesthetic. We were all over the place in our photos and blog posts. Pretty quickly we determined our areas of expertise, what makes our readers unique, and our signature style.
- Finding your literary voice – Don’t just read the hottest books or those others are reading and chatting about. In the beginning of starting our blog, we were constantly trying to read the most popular books or the newest releases, but then reading became a chore. (Ugh how I hated The Wonder.)We decided to just read what we like because that’s what we are passionate about. We found some of our favorite books of the year this way.
- …But be flexible – That being said, we still try to challenge ourselves to read new genres, new-to-us authors, and books we’ve never heard of that friends or booksellers have recommended. We’ve found some of our favorites that way! Castle of Water was unknown to us before the author reached out and it ended up being one of our best books of the year!
- Don’t compare yourself to others, especially when you are just starting out – We fell into this trap in the beginning. We compared our growth to the growth of other bloggers, Instagrammers, and Pinterest pinners. We would get down on ourselves when it was totally unnecessary to do so. It bummed us out and made us feel like failures. Luckily, we were able to push the comparisons aside and focus on our own growth instead. We are so much happier now!
- Be social – Make friends! That’s the best part of being on Bookstagram is meeting new people that share our same interests! We’ve met amazing people who make us laugh, get us through book hangovers and give seriously awesome recommendations.
- Bring your family into the fold- We love having an excuse to take kids out and have fun with them. We’ve gone on so many bookish adventures and the kids love being a part of our blog. Hearing my three-year-old ask about “Beyond the books ends” makes me laugh every time. Plus, since blogging experiences means I need photos, I’ve been able to get a lot of great shots for our family albums too!
- Have Fun with this!!!
- WordPress – You need to pick the right blogging platform when you start out. We did a lot of research and ending up using WordPress.org (not wordpress.com.) WordPress.org will cost money because you will have to pay for hosting, but the ability to customize makes it worth it. We’ve never once regretted out choice.
- Bluehost – Remember when we talked about hosting? Well, we chose to go with Bluehost to host our blog. It’s only about $3.95 a month which is basically a cup of coffee! They are a WordPress partner which makes integration extremely easy.
- Tailwinds – For blog traffic, Tailwinds is everything!!! Pinterest is our number one referral source, bringing in 20,000 people to the blog this month alone. Tailwind makes scheduling easy. I take an hour or two once a month to pin a bunch of stuff and then Tailwinds automatically publishes it at times that work best for my viewing audience. It’s been amazing, doubling our traffic within the first month of use and it’s been going up ever since! Plus it’s only about $10 a month! (try your first month free – you won’t regret it!)
- Canva and Unsplash – If you are going to be using Pinterest, you are going to have to pins! We use Unsplash to supplement our own photos with free images related to the blog. We then import photos we wish to use into Canva and use their templates to make gorgeous pins. The best part is both services are free!!
- Get some HELP – Sometimes we just needed help and guidance on our vision, as I mentioned above, it changed a lot and we were lucky to have my INCREDIBLE, best friend, Julie help us in more ways than I can count. She helped create our branding, streamline our look and taught us to refine our content to give our readers more of what they want. I gave her grandiose ideas and she made them into relatable mini goals. She taught us to think big while working on small steps to get us toward the finish line. I honestly can not begin to express how lucky I am to have such a talented friend navigating us through the fun and confusing blog world. You can get Julie’s help too by contacting her at juliechomiak.com
- Where to get free books? – A major part of book blogging is reading. Obviously. But books can get expensive very quickly. I read 120 books last year at $15 an average for each book, I would have spent almost $2,000 if I hadn’t figured out how to score books for free.
- Blogging for Books – If you have a blog (no matter how few followers) you can sign up to get a physical copy of one book, then once you have submitted your review, you can request a new book!
- NetGalley – For those of you with e-readers, NetGalley offers free ebooks for you to request, download and review. It’s another great one for beginners.
- Amazon Prime – Did you know that in addition to all the other awesome freebies included with Amazon Prime (free tv shows and movies, free shipping, and prime exclusive deals) you can also get one free ebook a month from the Kindle library? They even send a monthly email allowing prime members to read one of 5 new books a month before they are released.
- Audible – If you sign up for an Audible trial you can get 2 free audiobooks.
- Penguin First to Read – If you have an iPad or Smartphone, you may want to sign up for Penguin’s First to Read program. They send out a monthly email alerting you to enter to read one of five books before they are released. The caveat is that the books are ebooks only available for Adobe or Bluereader (apps that you can download for free.)
- Library – This one is pretty obvious but the library is a great place to get the newest releases. Plus, if you are an audiobook fan, your library may use services like Overdrive and Hoopla which provide instant access to books!
- MailChimp – Ok, now you have people coming to your site, but how do you keep them coming back? How about creating a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly newsletter to get readers back to new articles that they would like? We use MailChimp and it’s a breeze! We have a template created which makes writing the newsletters fast and easy. The embedded form on our site auto-updates so there is no extra work for us. The service is also free for you to use for your first 2,000 subscribers.
- Affiliate Networks – So now you’ve put in A Lot of effort and maybe a little bit of money. Can you make some of that back? Yes – at least enough to cover your costs. We monetize the site with the following 2 affiliate programs.
- AWIN -Awin is an affiliate network with many programs in one. We use it primarily for Etsy since we all know they have the best bookish merchandise!
- AMAZON – I mean, it’s Amazon. We buy most of our stuff from this store and most likely, so do your readers. It’s the perfect affiliate program for anyone starting out.
To celebrate our blogiversary, we are giving away a copy of New York Times bestseller, The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen on Instagram. Included in the giveaway is the Criselda Ball Drop Earrings from BaubleBar.
You can enter that contest on our Instagram on the giveaway post. Check the post for full details. A winner will be chosen at random at 12:00 AM EST on February 2nd by Random.com and will be notified by email within 48 hrs.