I’ve been blogging for about 3.5 years now, and how I blog has drastically changed since I first started. Blogging and real life have taught me a lot. There are quite a few things that I wish I’d learned faster. There are things I wish I’d started implementing sooner. I wish I had started challenging myself to learn new and harder things when I first started blogging. I wish I had taken the time to develop new skills right off the bat instead of waiting. Now, I want to share some of that knowledge to possibly save you some time.
Know What You Want from Your Blog
Some people say to blog about whatever you want and I agree. But here’s the thing, you can do that and blog for an audience at the same time – you just have to open your perspective up to how you do things. Here’s a secret: even if you don’t formally recognize it, the longer you blog the more likely you’ll subconsciously start focusing your site. It may take quite a bit longer, but it’ll narrow eventually. That doesn’t mean your blog can’t change, but if you want it to be a go-to place then you should know what you want to be a go-to for. Think about how you plan on achieving your goal and get creative! There are so many different ways you can reach the same goal while differentiating yourself from everyone else.
Learn Basic Photography and Photoshop
This isn’t a must, but I wish I’d started this much sooner. There are tools like Canva and PicMonkey you can use as well, but I prefer using my own stuff. I don’t feel as restricted when I’m working with my own original images. I don’t have to worry about image copyright and can do whatever I want with it. Your images don’t have to have the same style (i.e. have the title of the blog post on them). You don’t have to do the same thing as everyone else. Establish your own “thing” and people will come to remember you for it if you stick with it long enough. Cait @ Paper Fury is an excellent example of this.
(Plus, Photoshop and photography would look great on a resume.)
Challenge Your Ideas
Curate the best content you can. Don’t post for the sake of posting. Add value to each article and put forth effort. Not only will your readers notice, but you will too; and it may not bother you now, but it probably will later. While I brainstorm, I try to write about topics from perspectives I don’t see others write from. I try to say something different about a book or situation, or I try to say the same thing differently. I may not always be successful, but I’m always happier with myself and my content when I push for excellence instead of settling for something I know is mediocre. If you know you can do better, then put forth the effort. Taking the easy road never got anyone anywhere.
There’s a wealth of information on the internet. Start reading Publisher’s Weekly on a regular basis. Know what’s going on with the book industry, not just what the latest drama is in the book community. Keep your eye on what trends are on the rise so you can plan accordingly or at least have the option to. I’m talking about book blogging trends too. Be aware of what other bloggers are doing so you can know or figure out how to differentiate yourself from the masses.
We are All Just People
Don’t take any one person’s opinion as law. There are a lot of people with a lot of opinions, so if you remember one thing, remember this: at the end of the day, we are all just people. No one is perfect. No one knows everything. Learn from others’ successes and their mistakes. Don’t put bloggers or authors or anyone else on a pedestal.
It’s easy to doubt yourself early in the game when an established and very successful blogger has a strong opinion different from your own, or when it seems like everyone shares the same opinion. If you see everyone jumping on a train to support a movement or promote a book, it’s okay to take a second and decide if you really want to join that train. And more importantly, it’s okay to not want to hop on. It’s okay to not agree.
Always remember: just because everyone else thinks it, it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily wrong or that they’re right.
Learn from others and implement the good, but if someone makes a mistake or has a different opinion from your own, it’s okay. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Just because someone has a lot of followers doesn’t mean they’re always right. It doesn’t mean that they can’t be mean or make mistakes or be flat out wrong. Choose who you back wisely. Think before you act. Don’t over generalize and be safe.
Stay Away from Blogging Drama
Is writing that tweet really worth it? Is publishing that scathing article right? Is following the rest of the twitter crowd and demonizing someone really what you should do? Do your own research first. Don’t just rely on what people tell you. Look for the proof and see it for yourself. Formulate your own opinion; don’t let others make it for you. I have never once regretted restraining myself when something explodes in the blogosphere.
Do you really need to call that person out? Sometimes action needs to be taken, but be wise in how you go about doing things. Don’t be a bully. Think about whether or not it’s really worth the possible trouble. 99% of the time, it isn’t. Always be honest with yourself and with others, but don’t be obnoxious. Remember that you are 100% responsible for what you say and do. You can’t blame others for the things you write and say. You are in control of that.
Book People are Everywhere
If you’ve read an article about social media (that isn’t necessarily book blogging related), you’ll know that Facebook isn’t a lost cause. You’ll know that social media reach is just as important, if not more so, than your blog stats/followers. Experiment with different social media strategies. Try out the video feature on Facebook. Go take some pictures for instagram. Tumble away (I don’t use Tumblr so pardon me if I’m using the wrong expression). There are so many options. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.
Have fun. Be different. It’s okay!