book blogging

Bloggers: Where in the World?

After the end of Armchair BEA, it was suggested that someone put together a list of bloggers by city and state (and country, presumably) to make it easier for meet-ups and such. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I believe we have Sarah of Breaking the Binding to thank for this great idea!

Being the map nerd that I am, I thought a map might work a bit better (also, I’ve seen how brilliantly this has worked for other blogging communities). So, here we go.

Where in the world are you?

Instructions

1. Open the Google Map below in a new window.

2. Click the button that says EDIT. **You may need to log in to Google first**

3. Select the “Add placemark” button:  It’s in the top left of the map.

4. Click on the map in your location. You don’t have to put it on your house – I’ve put mine on Brisbane’s City Hall, for example. It’s up to you!

5. Edit the description of your point (ie. not the map description on the left sidebar) with your name, blog address and/or other details like twitter. You can use html so you can include your blog button and live links too if you wish.

6. Once you’re done editing, click Save and Done. Your point will be saved for others to see. If you close the map window without saving your point will be lost!

7. Enjoy!

Open the map in a new window!


View Where in the world… in a larger map

Five for Friday: Reviews

This week’s Five for Friday is brought to you by Armchair BEA. Those of us not lucky enough to be able to attend the Book Expo of America in New York this week have been able to follow and have our own fun online!

Today’s Armchair BEA topic is: Ask the Experts! We’ve been asked to “Ask a question or share a tip.”

Two weeks ago, I shared Five things I learned as a newbie book blogger. This week I’d like to continue on the blogging theme. What are the most important things to include when writing a book review? Here are a few things that I like to see in reviews that I read on other blogs, and try to include in my own reviews.

Five things I like to see in book reviews

1. Cover

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but wow, that’s hard not to do. Cover art these days is often one of the most important selling points of a book, since it’s what a potential buyer will see and be attracted to (or not, as the case may be).

I love pretty covers. The magpie instinct is terrible for my bank balance, but I am definitely attracted to colourful ones. I think including a cover image with a review gives the reader a first impression that can draw them into reading more about the book.

2. Links, links, links!

There’s all sorts of external links you can add to reviews as well as linking to sites within your own blog. I’m always surprised when I read reviews and there are no links of any kind within the review, not even to a vendor. Some of the linked information I’m interested in includes:

  • Author contact details – Twitter or their personal website
  • Other reviews of the same book – It’s nice to know what others thought! I am trying to remember to add this to my reviews.
  • Goodreads and purchase links – Sometimes readers want to follow through with the recommendation!

3. Genre/target age group

Genre isn’t always obvious judging by the title and cover, and intended age-group even less so. If you looked at the cover of Fifty Shades of Grey, what would you say it was about? It’s just an added piece of info to better inform potential readers as to what they’re reading about.

4. Keep it fairly short

I prefer shorter reviews rather than huge wall-o-text essays. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t wax lyrical about that brilliant book you just read, just be aware that not everyone is likely to read all of it. This point goes hand in hand with the next…

5. Formatting

Walls of text with no paragraphs are really difficult to read! Use subheadings to draw the reader’s eye to the important parts of the review. You can even use bullet points for a super-clean review look – Anya over at On Starships And Dragonwings does this really well in her reviews.

I find light-coloured text on a dark background is really quite difficult to read – and if you colour your text in the post itself, be aware that it comes through to feed readers that colour, against a white background. Sometimes that makes it totally illegible. A pretty site isn’t much good if your readers can’t actually read your posts!

Is there anything I haven’t mentioned that you really like to see in reviews that you read? I’d love to know! And, have a lovely weekend!

Five For Friday: Reviews

This week’s Five for Friday is brought to you by Armchair BEA. Those of us not lucky enough to be able to attend the Book Expo of America in New York this week have been able to follow and have our own fun online!

Today’s Armchair BEA topic is: Ask the Experts! We’ve been asked to “Ask a question or share a tip.”

Two weeks ago, I shared Five things I learned as a newbie book blogger. This week I’d like to continue on the blogging theme. What are the most important things to include when writing a book review? Here are a few things that I like to see in reviews that I read on other blogs, and try to include in my own reviews.

Five things I like to see in book reviews

1. Cover

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but wow, that’s hard not to do. Cover art these days is often one of the most important selling points of a book, since it’s what a potential buyer will see and be attracted to (or not, as the case may be).

I love pretty covers. The magpie instinct is terrible for my bank balance, but I am definitely attracted to colourful ones. I think including a cover image with a review gives the reader a first impression that can draw them into reading more about the book.

2. Links, links, links!

There’s all sorts of external links you can add to reviews as well as linking to sites within your own blog. I’m always surprised when I read reviews and there are no links of any kind within the review, not even to a vendor. Some of the linked information I’m interested in includes:

  • Author contact details – Twitter or their personal website
  • Other reviews of the same book – It’s nice to know what others thought! I am trying to remember to add this to my reviews.
  • Goodreads and purchase links – Sometimes readers want to follow through with the recommendation!

3. Genre/target age group

Genre isn’t always obvious judging by the title and cover, and intended age-group even less so. If you looked at the cover of Fifty Shades of Grey, what would you say it was about? It’s just an added piece of info to better inform potential readers as to what they’re reading about.

4. Keep it fairly short

I prefer shorter reviews rather than huge wall-o-text essays. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t wax lyrical about that brilliant book you just read, just be aware that not everyone is likely to read all of it. This point goes hand in hand with the next…

5. Formatting

Walls of text with no paragraphs are really difficult to read! Use subheadings to draw the reader’s eye to the important parts of the review. You can even use bullet points for a super-clean review look – Anya over at On Starships And Dragonwings does this really well in her reviews.

I find light-coloured text on a dark background is really quite difficult to read – and if you colour your text in the post itself, be aware that it comes through to feed readers that colour, against a white background. Sometimes that makes it totally illegible. A pretty site isn’t much good if your readers can’t actually read your posts!

If you’d like to comment on this post, please click here to be taken to a working comment form. I wish I knew why wordpress turns comments off like this, seriously.

Five for Friday: Being a Book Blogger Newbie

The Oaken Bookcase has been open for three months now, and what a busy three months it has been! I still consider myself a total newbie in this, but I’ve read so many great books and met some lovely people along the way. I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned by chucking myself in the deep end with book blogging.

Five things I’ve learned as a Book Blogger Newbie

1. Getting snowed under is easier than you think.

When I first started out, I wanted to gather ALL THE BOOKS. I found the free bestseller lists on Amazon and went nuts with downloading free books to my Kindle, and once I worked out how to use Netgalley I requested a load of ARCs from there as well. It only took a couple of weeks before a couple of authors approached me to read and review their books – I was so excited, but when I looked at my growing to-read list, I was pretty daunted. Then I went to the library and it all went downhill from there.

Pretty soon I was feeling overwhelmed with the number of books I had to read by a certain date (for the releases of ARC books), plus the books I had recieved from authors – there was no time to read the books that I had wanted to read back before I started blogging!

I’m still trying to sort through and rationalise my to-read pile. It’s important to realise that there’s a limit to the number of books you can read and review in a certain amount of time. After a while, you get a feel for how many books you can comfortably read in a week. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be organised.

Make lists, use a calendar, stick post-its all over your walls – do whatever you need to do to visualise the books you have for review, when you plan to read them and when you need to post the reviews. It helps to rationalise your workload and help you to feel a little less snowed-under. I’m still working on that.

 

2. Embrace the Social Media

Social media is the best and (arguably) the easiest way to market your blog. There are so many sites now that it can all get overwhelming pretty quickly, so I suggest picking a list of a few that you’re comfortable with and stick with those, at least to start with. Twitter is the best networking tool as you’ll easily find hundreds, if not thousands of bloggers, authors and publishers to follow and interact with. Here are a few others to consider using:

  • Feedburner – make sure your RSS feed is on Feedburner so that people can subscribe and easily keep track of your updates in their feed reader. Feedburner also has some neat tools to help you keep track of your followers and add things to your feed. If all of what I just said was gobbledygook to you, there’s some nice help files there too to explain things.
  • Facebook – Create a Facebook page for your blog! You can also combine this with Networked Blogs or RSSGraffiti (here’s a how-to post) so that your blog post feed is automatically sent to your FB page – then your likers get your updates in their FB timelines.
  • Pinterest – Pin your reviews to a board in Pinterest. I’ve had a bit of traffic from people repinning my reviews into books they’ve read and following through the link to my blog. Not to mention that Pinterest is full of the most beautiful stuff – if you haven’t tried it out, go and have a look, it’s amazing.
  • Forum sites such as Book Blogs – write a post introducing yourself and join the groups that you’re interested in. It’s a great way to meet other bloggers and interact somewhere where you can write more than 140 characters!
  • Goodreads – If you’re not a member of Goodreads, then what are you doing here?!?! (okay, just kidding) There are plenty of groups to join and discussions to be had there, not to mention you can add all your pretty books to your shelves and see just how many are in your to-read pile.
  • Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk/vendor of your choice – post your reviews. If you’ve updated your blog address in your profile, people who like your reviews might follow through to your blog as well.

There was plenty more information on how to set up these and more social media sites in the mini-challenges for the Bloggiesta that was held back in March.

 

3. Authors don’t bite (usually)

The first time an author retweeted my review on Twitter I was terrified! They’re actually reading my stuff! I hope I didn’t say anything too awful! After following authors on twitter and through their blogs, I’m reminded that their book is their baby and they could be mortally devastated if anything nasty is said about it. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be writing critical reviews! Just remember to be respectful and tactful.

I am still pretty shy when it comes to interacting with authors in general, but I’m pretty sure they like to hear feedback so I need to remember to tell them I enjoyed their work more often.

Publishers… now I’m not sure whether they bite or not, but I’m almost ready to work up the courage to request some review copies to find out!

 

4. Community events

I recently participated in the Bout of Books read-a-thon. I saw so many new blogs, spoke to new people on twitter and put new books on my to-read list, and it was great fun! Participating in community events like this increases your exposure and gives you new blogs to follow as well. This also goes for Giveaway hops such as those I Am A Reader, Not A Writer hosts, but they tend to drive a lot of one-time traffic. Hopefully a few hang around to be actual lasting readers.

I keep reminding myself that while these events are great for getting those follower numbers up to look good on Netgalley and (eventually) for wooing publishers, it’s real readers that make writing a blog worthwhile. Getting those is a lot tougher, but adding content and meaningful networking goes a long way towards impressing people enough that they subscribe and read your posts.

 

5. Discovered my own style and reading habits

This whole blog-creating process has not only changed my blogging style (which I hope is improving over time!), but also helped me to find what books I most enjoy reading. Over the last few years I’ve barely read any books that weren’t already on my shelves, and last year I didn’t read much at all while I was at home with my baby son. This year, I’ve rediscovered the Young Adult and Middle Grade age groups and I’ve got to say I’m loving them! The adult books I’ve read recently have been very dark and gritty and not always particularly enjoyable. YA and MG books are free of most of those darker adult themes and in fantasy books, I think that makes for a much more enjoyable read.

I’ve learned a lot more over the last three months than just these five things, but I hope these things will be useful to someone starting out in the blogging world! If you have any more tips for newbies do please leave a comment. Also, if you have any questions please get in touch, I’d be happy to help!

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