Not a Million Dollar Blog

This post was written to share my experiences of blogging as part of the blog tour for Natasha Courtenay-Smith’s latest book, ‘The Million Dollar Blog’. I review the book here.

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The photo I attached to my first ever blog post.

When I started blogging I was writing posts for myself. This is probably just as well as few other people read them. As I learned to navigate my way around the blogosphere I came across others who produced similar content – thoughts on their lives, their children, their everyday experiences interacting with the world face to face. Some of these bloggers hoped to make money from their writing. Perhaps they harboured dreams of creating a million dollar blog. I had no such ambitions. That said, I did watch my stats with interest. Each new follower, each like or comment left beneath a post, gave me a warm, fuzzy glow. My words were being well received even if my readership remained small.

I started to post book reviews and realised that this was the niche I felt most comfortable in. With that realisation, my priorities changed. Now the numbers mattered more. If I was to ask publishers to send me books to review then I needed to attain a certain reach. I became more active on social media, mainly Twitter, and developed daily habits that enabled me to promote my work. I contacted a wide range of people within the book industry and noted those who were willing to offer support.

I am now at a stage where I could ask for more books than it would be possible to read. I can be choosey about the titles I accept which offers two main advantages:

  • I only ask for books I expect to enjoy, so reading remains a pleasure;
  • the reviews I write are likely to be positive which is ever so much better for me, author and publisher.

I refuse to accept ebooks, most self published works and certain genres. This is not due to snobbery. I firmly believe that every reader should be reading whatever type of book they enjoy. As my personal experience of reading these books has not been positive I avoid them. There is no pleasure in writing a negative review, even if it may be useful to other readers. I review every book I read and will always be honest in sharing my thoughts.

Much of my time on social media is now spent promoting books, although I retain a personal edge. Feeds that are little more than advertising are not interesting. I only follow those who appear real and are willing to interact.

I will share my views, and those of others, on books I have read. I am grateful to everyone who shares my posts and aim to reciprocate when they review books I have been sent. I value my place in the friendly, welcoming and generous community of book bloggers, but feel I can only offer backing for books I know personally.

As in any group of people, there is a hierarchy among book bloggers. The cool kids will be woo’d, especially by the big publishers. The mystical definition of cool is hard to define, but everyone knows who they are. Several of these people have gone on to find paid work as a result of the exposure provided by their blogs. Their trajectory is a pleasure to follow.

And I too have stepped outside the blogosphere. I have started attending more book events – readings, launches and, this year, my first literary festival. As well as being enjoyable in themselves, they give me additional material to write about, thereby keeping the content on my blog more varied and interesting.

I do need to remember though that just because an author has been lovely to me on Twitter it doesn’t mean they know who I am. That said, when I introduce myself to them at a book event and they recognise my name, I feel that I have arrived.

The Million Dollar Blog is a guide for those who wish to monetise their blog. I have no such aspirations. I write because I love books and have learned, through creating my own fiction – a useful exercise but not one I plan to pursue – how skilled the authors whose words enrich my life are. I want to support them, and those who publish their work. Blogging is how I choose to do this. By not asking for payment, other than a copy of their book, I feel able to retain my impartiality. My readers know that what I write is how I feel.

Of course, I still want my words to be read. There are many people publishing advice on line about how to attract readers; I wonder what their readership is.

New followers, days when my stats spike, these continue to give me those warm fuzzy feels. Perhaps if the slow but steady growth I enjoy stalled I would wonder why but I have no higher expectations. I suspect that book blogging is not the ideal route for those who aspire to create a million dollar blog. How lovely it would be if I were mistaken.

Do check out the other stops on this tour, detailed below.

blog-tour     milliondollarblog

‘The Million Dollar Blog’ will be published by Piatkus on 29th September 2016

 

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.