Book Review: The Million Dollar Blog

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The Million Dollar Blog, by Natasha Courtenay-Smith, is an advice book written mainly for those who wish to run their blog as a business. The emphasis is on how to monetise the venture, be that directly through the blog itself or by using it to draw in clients to an endeavour it supports.

The book starts by encouraging everyone to blog. It then goes on to discuss the best way to prepare for this new adventure. It covers content, branding, the importance of aesthetics, and of finding a niche that allows the creator to be enthusiastic about their subject whilst remaining authentically themselves.

“Every blogger interviewed for this book has talked about the importance of authenticity and of the reader’s uncanny ability to see through a blogger who’s just in it for a fast buck and not committed to offering real entertainment value and information.”

Despite the title, there is acknowledgement that creating and maintaining a financially successful blog takes time, support and hard work.

Interspersed within the narrative are numerous tales of successful bloggers who achieve hundreds of thousands of hits and earn staggering sums, although often from more than just blogging. They are also motivational speakers, run training courses, produce video guides, paid for digital content, and books such as this one. Blogging is a part of what they do but it is not the whole story.

There is some discussion about content and the alleged short attention span of many readers. Quality writing, it seems, is not the route to a successful blog.

“Whether content is good is entirely subjective. There is plenty online that doesn’t impress me yet it has huge readership and vast followings”

The author talks of scannability, listicles, clickbait and of finding a unique voice. She believes that to flourish a blog requires a constant stream of fresh content to maintain engagement. She returns several times to the need for search engine optimisation. A presence on multiple social media platforms that encourage reader interaction is advised, but hits from search engines will apparently bring the people most likely to purchase whatever is being sold.

The time required to research, create and promote content on an active blog is acknowledged.

“If you really want to achieve something and get where you want to be, you have to work hard. If you want to do it as a hobby you can do it in your own time, but if you want to do it as a job you’ve got to put the hours in because you’ve got a lot of competition.”

Throughout the book I was Googling the various blogging aids being suggested. Most required a financial outlay. If blogging is to be an integral part of a business, and the author advises that it should be, then some investment is to be expected. The target audience is not the casual blogger.

She mentions blogs for fashion, travel and luxury goods but only touches briefly on those whose aim is to raise the profile of a cause. Even then their success appeared to be linked to activities outside the blogosphere, the blogs offering an introduction to the wider world of PR.

I would have been interested to know what the author would make of book bloggers. They do, after all, support an industry where financial gains are notoriously scarce. As she has chosen to write a book I presume she has some interest in how her creation should be promoted. I will be watching with interest how a digital strategist goes about encouraging sales.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Piatkus.

Retrospective: 2014

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As I have already noted in my book recommendations post, this was the year that I became a book blogger. Over the course of 2014 I have read and reviewed sixty-six books, abandoned a further two that failed to hold my interest and, as the year draws to a close, am part way through one more.

I was feeling rather pleased with myself over these numbers so I mentioned them to my husband. This was a mistake.

‘I thought you would have read more than that’, he said. ‘That’s just a little over one a week.’

My little balloon of pride silently deflated. I reminded myself that it is not a competition, numbers should not matter, and there is no point in looking for praise or admiration at home. Here, I am the Mum who can’t: cook appealing food; keep up with my family when they exercise; add anything of interest to a conversation; remember every detail of every computer and programming language that I worked with twenty years ago.

My home life and my life on line couldn’t be more different and for this I am grateful.

On line I have had  a fabulous year. Authors and publishers have kept me supplied with the books that have facilitated my escape into other, more rewarding worlds. I have been treated to some gems that I may not otherwise have discovered. Getting into book blogging has been a highlight of my year.

I have learned some lessons along the way.

One of these is that I gain no pleasure from reading ebooks. As I read and review because I love books and want to share the joy this means that I will now only accept physical copies. I regret that I may miss out on some titles, in particular Salt’s Modern Dreams collection, but I find reading lengthy text from a screen to be a chore.

Another lesson learned, and one that I regret, is that self published books are too variable in quality to accept for review blind. Some, of course, are easily as good as any that have been released by a traditional publisher. I do not understand, for example, how EJ Kay’s Watermark has not been snapped up by the book trade. However, over the course of the past year I have read too many self published books that had interesting plots but were crying out for a tough edit to smooth over the rough edges and add balance to aspects of the writing. With so many good books out there, and so little time to read them all, I am now strictly limiting the self published books that I will accept.

Alongside my reading and reviewing I have continued to write my own fiction. I am not a blogger who dreams of having my own book published, mainly because I am not writing a book. I write flash and micro fiction which I publish on various sites on line. However, by continuing to write my own fiction I have learned a great deal.

One tough lesson came from another’s review of my writing; apparently I have significant issues with grammar. I am a strong advocate of good grammar so this feedback hit me like a punch in the gut. Having rallied it has been one of the most useful things said to me. Not only is it an area that I can work on to improve but it gave me a taste of how authors may feel if my book reviews are negative. I will always be honest in my opinions, otherwise what is the point of a review, but I try hard to say why, to add context. Reviews are written for other readers, not authors, but I know that they may be read by both.

Another lesson learned from my own writing is how hard it is to write well. Even if I don’t particularly enjoy a book I am in awe of anyone who can produce one. The sheer work involved in capturing all of those words in a coherent and compelling order is worth acknowledging. Thank you authors for creating the worlds that give us readers so much pleasure.

As a book blogger much of my contact with the book world is through publishers. I am immensely grateful to all those lovely PR people who have taken the time to send me books and who acknowledge the reviews that I write. It is a lovely feeling to be even a very small part of this magical, literary world.

At the beginning of the year my blog was a place where I recorded random musings on my life, thoughts and issues that affected me. I will still retain the right to use it for whatever types of post I wish. My hen keeping and teddy bear pieces are fun to produce and I thoroughly enjoyed creating my Shakespeare Bear Review last summer.

In the coming year I will be looking to write many more book reviews as well as adding to my small collection of author interviews and literary gig write ups. I hope that this will be of interest to the visitors I welcome to this site. All writers hope to find readers so thank you for being here. I wish you a very Happy New Year.

 

 

Learning to Blog

Twelve days into blogging and I am taking note of my behaviour. I started this as a therapy; as a means to exorcise the seemingly constant stream of conversation and discussion that was going on in my head and never got shared.

When I did have a real time, face to face conversation with a known person about any of this sort of stuff I never seemed to get across either the feelings or the meaning of what I was thinking. I have no idea if this is typical or unusual, but it was getting me down. Writing this blog has helped. I can think through and edit what I want to say. I am hoping that it comes across as I want it to; that it is real.

What I didn’t anticipate was how I would react after I had emptied my overfull head of those thoughts. I was doing this for me yet I started watching the blog stats; the number of new visitors, views, likes and follows offered a validation of what I was doing. I started to note what seemed to be of interest; the best time to publish; where the views were coming from.

I can’t say that any of this has affected what I write. I sit down at a quiet time of day with a soothing drink, put my feet up and log on. What I produce is what is in my head, not what I think will be read. I am still doing this for me. I find it interesting though that I do take note of how it is received. I generally have no idea who is reading, just the numbers. I have no idea what readers think, but I still like the fact that it is being read. I am not just writing and storing the document in my computers memory; I am publishing and it is being read. That is a satisfaction that I had not anticipated.

It will be interesting to see how my reader stats evolve as the novelty of posts from a known person diminish. Will I pick up new readers from shares, searches or tags? Will it matter?

Thus far the effort I have put in has been more than repaid. I have found writing to be like a sports massage for the mind. It still feels good to be read though.

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