RESOURCES FOR BOOK BLOGGERS
Hey yall, its Bunny! I am constantly getting asked how to go about setting up a book blog, so I thought it would be helpful to set up a resource page for book bloggers. My hope is fellow “word nerds” and book lovers, thinking about setting up a book blog, can come here and use this resource page to see some of the products and services that I use with my blog. I can’t tell you how much I wish I’d had found a resource page for book bloggers back when I first started blogging!
Make sure to bookmark this page, and check in every so often, because I will keep it updated as I find new products and change up my own work flow!
A Quick Disclaimer of sorts: Some of the products mentioned below contain affiliate links. That means I will earn a tiny commission if you decide to purchase through those links. I am being 100% honest with you when I say “I do use (or have in the past) all of the products listed below.” I would never tell you to use something without trying it out myself FIRST. Let me know if you have any questions about anything I mention below, I will be happy to answer any questions if I can!
HOW TO START YOUR OWN BOOK BLOG
Blogger or WordPress:
This is probably the biggest question I get asked. “Should I put my book blog on blogger.com or wordpress.com? They are free, so can’t I put my blog there?” Well, I’ve used both. The answer isn’t as easy as you’d think because I am going to say “Yes, but….”
See you can use blogger.com for your blog host. You can also make it work on wordpress.com. The problem is, once you get used to blogging, you are going to want to update and change things to keep them fresh and to implement the new ideas you have for growing your blog. That is a problem because those services are FREE, and since they are FREE they are really limited to what things you can do on the service! That’s right! It is “your” blog, but they completely control what you can put on it. Both of those sites have very extensive restrictions on scripts and software. So all those great widgets and fancy-dancy things you’d love to do on your blog – you can’t use.
I know, you’re frustrated because you were hoping to get going on your new book blog. You can start your blog on one of those services and use it until you aren’t happy with those site capabilities, but… There’s always a “but”, right? If you do that, set up there and decide to move later… that is SO MUCH WORK! You risk losing subscribers in the change over and worse – losing traffic and DATA!! It SUCKS to have to move. TRUST ME!
So, what can you do then? The way I recommend setting up your blog will save you hassle in the long run. I say host your OWN blog using the software from wordpress.org! The software from wordpress.org is the same software you would get if you put it on wordpress.com EXCEPT you will be hosting it on YOUR OWN SITE, so you can add anything to it YOU WANT!
Ok, now if you’ve decided to host your own blog, you’re going to need to procure a web hosting account. You don’t need anything major for your book blog, but you are going to want something that is reliable. Nothing sucks worse than your website constantly being down!
Back when I first started my websites (mid 2000), I used free sites like Lycos tripod, before moving over to blogger. I quickly outgrew blogger, and decided it was time to upgrade. When I bought my first website, I went through a company called fuitadnet or something like that. They were amazing, though the packages were small as far as web space goes, and eventually got bought out by a larger company called Bluehost.
Even though I no longer use them Bluehost is a good webhost, mainly because of pricing. The main reason I changed away from there, really had nothing to do with THEM. It was the package I had on fuitadnet was limited space and OLD. The server being changed over from one company to the other left my website down for over two weeks, and when it came back up…it was broken. I won’t bore you with talking about php, SQL, and databases here. Instead, I’ll just tell you the basic… This was because the software being used on my original host was so outdated, that when Bluehost moved it to their newer servers, a lot of the data was no longer compatible and corrupted.
In my mind, I thought “Well, if I’m going to have to rebuild anyway, I might as well move to a bigger package”, which brought me to HostMonster. Hostmonster was a good solid host for my site for several years. In truth, I’d probably still be using them, but my business went OUT OF BUSINESS, and when it came up time to renew – I decided I wanted to change my website name (yes, again) so I could go a different direction.
At the time was broke so my Dad, who is amazing, birthday gifted me not only my new domain name but a years hosting on the host he uses. I currently use Jumpline as my webhost, thanks Dad!
You are going to want to have a “theme” (the dressing to make your site all perty) that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but is also FUNCTIONAL, and a low load on the server! You can make your site look like ANYTHING YOU WANT so sky is the limit! Just keep in mind all of those hover over and slide out effects are going to take a toll on your server and slow your site down a little!
The theme I use is the ESPLANDE theme by a company called THEMEFUSION For premium high powered themes, I really suggest you search Themeforest.com. That is how I found the themefusion people. You don’t have to BUY a theme, tho, in my opinion you would be better off to. Buying a well developed theme saves you the time of “trouble shooting” and tweaking to get the performance you want. Plus, most companies/developers offer support for their premium themes. If buying a theme is out of the question, you can find THOUSANDS of FREE THEMES by searching WordPress.org
A barebones install of WordPress is fine, but trust me…you are going to want to install some plugins! So here are some of the plugins I recommend you try!
Book Blogger Plugin – this is the only pay for plugin I am going to tell you about. I do not use, and haven’t…BUT, I did help a friend get it installed on her blog so I got to tinker with it a bit. Honestly, it’s a good plug in. Its not free though, its $35. Do you need it? Well, that’s a catch 22, aint it? You will appreciate the functionality and convenience you will gain from this plugin. With that being said – you can install other plugins that do EVERYTHING this plugin does, and they are all FREE. Basically, this developer just took all the free plugins most book bloggers used, and combined them into one plugin. So, you can pay to install one plugin and call it done OR you can take the extra few minutes it will take to install the individual free plugins and have the same set up – FOR FREE. I know which route I chose, but I wanted to make sure I at least listed it here for you so you could decide for yourself.
So what plugins make my blogging life easier?
Here is my list of MUST HAVE WORDPRESS PLUGINS FOR BOOK BLOGGERS
- Akismet – Used by millions, Akismet is quite possibly the best way in the world to protect your blog from comment and trackback spam. It keeps your site protected from spam even while you sleep. Askimet stops between 6k and 16k spam comments on my site EVERY SINGLE MONTH. I can’t imagine having to weed through them all manually. THANK YOU ASKIMET!
- Amazon Affiliate Link Localizer – This plugin not only automatically changes any Amazon link on your site to use your affiliate ID, but it also changes the link to point to the user’s local Amazon store. Visit the settings page to enter your Amazon Associate IDs. Sometimes I forget to put my affiliate stuff into my posts, and this plugin catches that for me and corrects it. Total timesaver!
- AZIndex – A highly customizable and user friendly plugin to create one or more alphabetical indexes of selected posts in your WordPress blog. LOVE! This thing is awesome. I wanted an easy way to make an index of my review posts and have it automatically update itself. I tried SEVERAL plugins that made the promise. This is the one that did everything I wanted it to.
- BulletProof Security – Website Security Protection: BulletProof Security protects your website against XSS, RFI, CRLF, CSRF, Base64, Code Injection and SQL Injection… hacking attempts. One-click .htaccess WordPress security protection. Protects wp-config.php, bb-config.php, php.ini, php5.ini, install.php and readme.html with .htaccess security protection. Security Logging. HTTP Error Logging. Login Security/Login Monitoring: Log All Account Logins or Log Only Account Lockouts. Website FrontEnd/BackEnd Maintenance Mode (HTTP 503). Additional website security checks: DB errors off, file and folder permissions check…
- Easy Content Templates – This plugin lets you define content templates to quickly apply to new posts or pages. YOU WILL THANK ME FOR THIS ONE. I SWEAR IT! As book bloggers, we have several types of posts (memes) that we want to look relatively uniform! This is SO MUCH EASIER than copy and pasting the old post and then rewriting the text to make sure they have the same look! I could not blog without this plugin!!!
- Google Analytics – Enables Google Analytics on all pages. This will let you see where your traffic is coming from and what posts are getting the most attention.
- I am reading – Book display with search by ISBN, title and author for all Amazon market places with lots of individual display settings. I love this one! I have mine set in my sidebar. Its so easy for me to share what book Im reading. Just pop in the ISBN and the page number and wahlahhhhh….
- UpdraftPlus – Backup and restore: take backups locally, or backup to Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace, (S)FTP, WebDAV & email, on automatic schedules. Automaticly backup your website. I’ve used this so many times! Im a constant “tinkerer” and Lord knows when you tinker, you usually need to REPAIR! lol
- WordPress Backup to Dropbox – Keep your valuable WordPress website, its media and database backed up in Dropbox! Save your backup OFF SITE incase something happens to the server. This is all automatic. Set it and forget it!
- WordPress Editorial Calendar – The Editorial Calendar makes it possible to see all your posts and drag and drop them to manage your blog. I love this! It gives you a visual of your blog posts, so you can see what is happening when, etc. Not only can you clearly see what days you have set posts up for, but you can reschedule them, preview them, and edit them, all from right here on the calendar! If you need to reschedule all you have to do is click on it and DRAG IT to the date you want it to hit on! I’m not exaggerating when I say I usually have my blog left open to this page. It keeps me motivated, keeps me on schedule, and ON TASK.
If you only get ONE plugin, Get this one! I’m not even kidding! LOVE LOVE LOVE
- WP Super Cache – Very fast caching plugin for WordPress. Just do it. It will speed up your blogs performance.
WINDOWS LIVE WRITER LOVE THIS. I literally use this program EVERY DAY and have since 2007! It basically makes writing a blog post as easy as typing a letter. Everything is WYSIWYG, so it is super super easy! LOVE LOVE LOVE.
Sites I can’t live without:
Google Calendar – I use to keep track of blog tours, etc. I don’t use this nearly as much as I use my blogging binder though. I guess I am more of a hands on kind of gal when it comes to that. I do type up my binder onto the calendar abt once a month though, incase I need to log in from somewhere other than home! Several people have asked me to do a post about my blogging binder, so I will be doing that SOON!
Goodreads – I not only use this site for the social aspect of it, but its how I check and see what new books are coming out, keep track of my wishlist, and have a running inventory of my home library. I can’t tell you how often I fire up the goodreads app while Im out shopping because I can’t remember if I already own a book or not!
Amazon – Dude… I love this site. There is a reason I chose to be an amazon affiliate, you guys. I not only use this site to shop, but I use it to track what new books are coming out, whats “hot” right now, and I love love LOVE buying used books!
Get FREE Books and ARC (Advanced Reader Copies) for review:
Everyone wants FREE books! It is awesome to get them free, trust me, I know! There is no way I could blog without getting my hands on them free, because I am a single mom on a super tight budget! That’s why when I buy, I buy USED. I can’t afford all the books I want, much less afford them new! So don’t be too good to buy used! Is all I’m saying.
A few things you need to know about getting books for free, before you just go ballsout grabbing for freebies… NO ONE is going to send you anything for free, if you can’t offer them something in return. Please save yourself some disappointment and take a few months and build up your blog readership before you start requesting books! Your blog needs to be active AT LEAST six months before most publishers will even consider giving you something for FREE.
- Local Library – While you work on building your readership, a great place to get books is your local library. Most libraries now utilize the digital lending programs offered through https://www.overdrive.com/ so you can get digital versions of all the newest books! Many libraries also have sales where they sell off old copies for like $1 to raise funding for new book purchases! Don’t pass up on that, its great deals!
- NetGalley – If you don’t mind ebooks, then check out NetGalley. This site provides digital review copies to professional readers, including: booksellers, librarians, media, bloggers, reviewers and educators. Requesting a book on here doesn’t guarantee you will get it. The publishers have the final say in who receives their books. Its just an easy place to browse tons of publishers and authors upcoming titles, and try nabbing a copy with just a few clicks.
- Author Publicity Listing – Check the ABOUT and CONTACT ME pages of your favorite authors. Most of them will have a “For publicity and review copies contact” section. That’s usually how I go about finding someone to contact!
- Enter those contests and giveaways yall! There are free books being given away all around you, don’t forget about those! Check Goodreads Giveaway Page, LibraryThing’s Early Readers, and other book blogs! I check the twitters for #BookGiveaways every day! No lie!
- Publishing Houses – Oy, this one is a can of worms. That’s for sure. All book bloggers want big name titles. To get the big name titles you have to go through the publishing houses marketing departments. *cringe* Requesting titles from publishers scares the poopshithell outta me. No lie. And getting a rejection letter is depressing as crap! Most times, they don’t even bother to reply so you are left wondering if you are going to get it or not! Now a days, you are more than likely going to get offered a digital copy, not a paper one. That is the way the market is shifting, so know that in advance. With all that said, here are the publishing house marketing departments I have book marked. Good luck!
*Harper Collins – http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com/home/ContactUs.aspx?TCId=100 use the dropdown for PUBLICITY INQUIRIES
*Simon and Schuster – http://www.simonandschuster.biz/media/publicity-contacts
*Penguin – http://www.penguin.com/aboutus/mediainquiries/
*Hatchette – http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/customer-faqs/#4-1
*Macmillan – http://us.macmillan.com/splash/contact.html
*RandomHouse – http://www.randomhouse.biz/about/contact
*PenguinTeen – now have you fill out a form, which is here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dE5NcUhhcUMwTHVYYmIwRnhLQklOOEE6MQ#gid=0
Book Photography Gear:
ANY camera will work. Most people I know who blog, just use their phone and Instagram! No kidding! Not me, I’ve never been one to go “the easiest route”! lol… I currently have 2 camera bags, and a purse. I need ONE BIG bag, but for now this works.
Here’s the specifics of what is in my bag:
|POINT N SHOOT|
My quick “go to” camera is my Canon G9.
2 Dolica back up batteries
DC charger + USB charger
8 gig SDHD
4 gig SDHD
my “Big Girl” camera is a Sony a350 (and Im ready for an upgrade!)
|Accessories:Sony rechargeable batteries (x2)|
300x ultra fast memory cardLenses:
Tamron AF28-200mm F/3.8-5.6 XR Di – this one is my baby! love!
DT 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 Zoom Lens
DT 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 Zoom Lens
DT 55 – 200mm f/4-5.6 Zoom Lens
70-300mm f4.5-5.6 Zoom LensFilters:
Quantaray 6 Cross flare
Quantaray 4 Cross Flare
Quantary FLD (Fluorescent to Daylight)
Tristar Optics UV Polarizer – I usually have this one on. Makes the colors more vivid.
* I also have 2 filters that don’t say what they are or what they do. LOL!Tripod
|LIGHTING – dude, just use a window and the sun! Its cheaper!|
|Here is the lighting set I bought.|
BUILDING TRAFFIC FOR YOUR SITE
(ie: publicity for your book blog)
We were so proud to pass one MILLION visitors this past year! With that being said, building site traffic is something I am still striving to improve! Below are some of the methods of promoting I am currently working on!
Some great places to build traffice are:
- Pinterest and Instagram for sharing photos and linking to your blog
- Facebook Page – I still havent figured out how to best utilize this yet.
- Twitter – tweet your new posts with hashtags like #books or #reading
- youtube – there is a subsection of youtube we call booktube, and its full of book lovers sharing videos about books
That’s all I can think of for right now, yall! If you have suggestions, questions, or want more info on something, please let me know! Make sure you keep checking back because I will be updating this page as I myself discover new products and change up my workflow!
I hope this post helps you in some way! Have a great day!