Blogging: guess what? It’s hard work

coffee book reading

I was at a blogging event recently and arrived a few minutes after it started to find a slightly unusual dynamic had emerged:

An older American lady sitting in a chair, surrounded by young English bloggers – some of whom are still very new to blogging. The American, who had never been to one of these events before, was dominating the conversation and had been from the beginning of the session, and it soon became clear that she had *no* experience of writing or publishing for anonymous readers, blogging in general, commenting, networking, social media accounts and in fact, had little experience of the internet as a whole.   She had decided that she was going to use this event as a “learn how to blog in an hour” session, and wanted to learn *everything* about blogging, whether or not that’s what the event was about.

I got the impression that she had the belief that it was “build it and they will come” when it came to blogging and that she would have to do very little work in order to get lots of hits and comments – and that they would all be positive.  “What happens if someone says something horrible?” “Well you can either delete it, or accept it if it turns out to be correct. Or just not allow comments. If you delete it, you will still have to read it however, so If you’re not ready, don’t allow comments”.  I think she soon began to realise that there was more to blogging than she realised, that there was a lot of work to be done, and the experienced people in the room had been doing this for several years.

So I’ve decided to brush off some general tips to those thinking of starting out in blogging – no matter the platform and no matter the niche.

  • Write about what you know and enjoy. Readers will be turned off if they think you’re not sincere. It will also make it easier to keep going when it seems you’re posting into the void
  • Do NOT think that writing one post and telling no one about it will make you a star – your post will be lost mere seconds after you hit the “publish” button, and no one will find you, so you have to get the word out.

Time and effort

  • Blogging takes a lot of work. At the minimum I will spend a couple of hours a week promoting posts, doing admin etc. A post can take several hours and multiple edits before it makes the light of day, and even then I will spot a spelling mistake only AFTER I publish.
  • Be regular with your posts, even if it’s once a week, or once a month. People won’t come back if they don’t know when you will post next, but they just might if they know there will be a post on the third Friday of each month. I used to post every other day, but that’s because I had the opportunity of building up a decent backlog of posts and have them scheduled. I’m now publishing less regularly, but still get similar levels of traffic, but that’s in part due to my back list of posts still getting hits.
  • Keep some kind of tracking tool going. I have a basic spreadsheet that I got free off the internet, where I track which posts are scheduled when – which is really when scheduling posts well in advance (e.g. I’ve written a holiday related post). Other people track how diverse their reading is .  My books – and where I got them from – are tracked using Goodreads, for the simple reason they have optional tags.
  • You don’t live in a vacuum. Get out and socialise in the internet community. Take part in challenges like Bloggiesta; follow other people’s blogs; Comment, without spamming (no “nice post, please follow my blog” type of comments); Tweet; use Facebook including group pages; use Google+, including communities; Pinterest, Instagram.
  • Learn comment etiquette – don’t be rude, don’t flame someone else. The rule stands: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. However, there are always trolls and spammers around so you have to develop a thick skin, delete and move on. Too many authors and bloggers have made a name for themselves for have a meltdown over something innocuous and have ended up as a laughing stock. If you think you cant cope with negative comments – don’t allow comments!

Reality can suck

  • Don’t expect to quit the day job tomorrow. You will not generate enough money to be your sole income in the next 6 months. Or perhaps ever.
  • Benefits come in more shapes than money. Making new friends even if it’s “only” online; Free books; free random gifts (I’ve had knitting needles
    open book

    and a ball of wool from a publisher before now); free beauty products for beauty bloggers. If you are talking about something you’ve received free in exchange for a review, you need to disclose the fact in your post. Mostly it’s good manners but in the US I think it’s a legal requirement that you do so.

Sharing is caring

  • Make it possible for others to share your posts. Include social media buttons on your posts so that others can tell their followers about what you’ve written.
  • Include a “sign up via email” option for those who don’t use the same blogging platform as you do.
  • Follow your favourite publishers, authors, brands etc  on what ever social media works for you.
  • Remember to include the related brand when sending a review out. If they thank you for the review – have the decency to thank them back, at least for the product. You never know where the conversation may take you!
  • Unless you have a massive following (and even if you do), your voice will be very quiet in a very big room. Use software like Hootsuitetweetdeck or Buffer to schedule your updates and promotion links at times when people are likely to see it (Follow the dawn and dusk?)
  • Subscribe to sites like Problogger and DailyBlogTips. Not all tips will be appropriate to you, but once in a while you’ll find some tweak that’ll help you out.



Spring 2017 Bloggiesta – Finish up!

As I mentioned in my sign up post, I kept it relatively light this year, and so my to-do list was relatively short as follows:

  • Review uploaded media…anything not attached to a post?
    • I deleted about 30 images that were not attached to a post, and that I could not see being used in the near future. There are still unattached images in there, but there’s actually chance of them being used.
  • Do Librarythng. and Goodreads match, including reviews?
    • Goodreads and Librarything now match, with reviews linked and the 2017 books now matching.
    • It wasn’t what I had planned to do, but I did a check that the “To-Read” shelf and my “tbr” tag matched on Goodreads – to find out that they were out! I corrected these, corrected/added some reviews, and got several review hits from goodreads for the said books in the following days!
    • My Librarything to-read and tbr numbers match, but they are lower than the number on Goodreads – I still have to work out where the missing books are.
    • On an unrelated note, I logged onto Netgalley to review my TBR pile – and found there were two books that I’d read but not reviewed!  One review had already been published, so was copied in, and – worst of all – one review had simply not been written! Argh! There’s a post that needs to be done!
  • Any posts that need to be completed/scheduled?
    • two reviews were finished and published
  • Tags and categories right on blog, Goodreads and Librarything?
    • These have been tidied up, and where the usage numbers were low (< 2), deleted
  • Any posts that can be scheduled into twitter?
    • On the assumption that if a page got a hit in the last week, it means someone is looking at it, then some of those pages got scheduled into twitter over the next week or so, with images. This included the post just published
  • Take part in twitter chats where possible
    • this didn’t happen this time….boo!


Spring 2017 Bloggiesta

Well Spring Blogiesta is upon us, running march 20th to March 26th, and the sign up post is up.

I’m going to keep it relatively light this year, and so my to-do list is relatively short.  It’s the standard stuff that should be done, but often gets forgotton or pushed onto the back burner. They are as follows:


  • Review uploaded media…anything not attached to a post?
  • Do Librarythng. and Goodreads match, including reviews?
  • Any posts that need to be completed/scheduled?
  • Tags and categories right on blog, Goodreads and Librarything?
  • Any posts that can be schduled into twitter?
  • Take part in twitter chats where possible


2017 Blogger Resolutions

It’s now becoming traditional for me to set goals at the beginning of the year, then reflect how I’ve done by the end. Many of these are based on resolutions from previous years, which I have had mixed results in achieving.

  • Increase subscribers to this blog to 1100, excluding twitter followers
  • Increase annual page hits to this blog (to 12000)
  • Increase twitter followers to @brumnordie (to 1100)
  • Read and review 60 books. 50% to be paperbooks or audiobooks.
  • Post at least twice a week
  • Mamet use of sharing with Facebook groups as appropriate.
  • Make better use of twitter, including the analytics, scheduling content.
  • Take part in twitter chats such as #Blogtacular #bookbloggers etc
  • Ensure about and contact details are maintained and up to date.
  • Make use of scheduling and planning software as appropriate.
  • Take part in blogging challenges, such as Bloggiesta, as and when I remember!
  • Continue doing more non-review posts, such as Sunday Salon posts, which I hope people find interesting – they certainly generate comments!
  • Look to do more non book related posts – get out into Birmingham more and write about stuff! This includes stuff at the museums etc.
  • do more posts about sewing, my cross stitch and quilting in particular. I’m not putting numbers on this.
  • Comment more on other people’s blogs – I’m not going to put a number on this as it’ll be a nightmare to track. Just “do more”.
  • Release more books via Bookcrossing. I still have half a crate left over from the closure of a couple of OBCZs and the bookcrossing UK meetup in Birmingham in September 2016
  • Reorganise my bookshelves (Haven’t been done in two years – about time they’re done!)

State of the Union 2016 address – Resolution updates.

It’s now becoming traditional for me to set goals at the beginning of the year, then reflect how I’ve done at the end of the year. Following are the resolutions I set at the beginning of the year.  As you can tell, I didn’t do as well as I hoped! There was a lull in the second half of the year, which meant that I hardly read, never mind blogged, so that took a large dent in my stats.

  • Increase subscribers to this blog to 1100, excluding twitter followers [I still got new followers, taking me up to 773]
  • Double annual page hits to this blog (to 12000) [considering the drop off in the amount of content I was producing, page views remained steady, at a same as last year’s stats]
  • Increase twitter followers to @brumnordie (to 1100) [i went some way to this, in getting to 690]
  • Read and review 75 books. 50% to be paperbooks or audiobooks. [i did a much better ratio of paper to ebooks, but didn’t hit the 75 mark, coming in at under 60 books.]
  • Post every other day [as I mentioned above there was a period I didn’t blog for several weeks, so missed this goal]
  • Make better use of hashtags on twitter [the increase in followers on twitter is due in part putting out other content than my own, as well as making use of tags]
  • Ensure about and contact details are maintained and up to date.  [Yes, this was done, especially by About and Review Policies]
  • Make use of scheduling and planning software as appropriate. [the death of my laptop late the year has meant that I haven’t used the spreadsheets that I used to use for tracking scheduling. However, what’s wrong with a simply diary?]
  • Take part in blogging challenges, such as Bloggiesta, as and when I remember!
  • Continue doing more non-review posts, such as Sunday Salon posts, which I hope people find interesting – they certainly generate comments!  [I did run out of subjects that I inspired to produce a post for, but I’ve found some more and will be posting some new content in the new year!]
  • Pay better attention to sites like Problogger and Hubspot for social media and blogging tips to see how I can achieve some of my goals [I did follow some additional sites in looking at producing content etc, but I don’t think I made best use of them. I certainly tried to comment more on other people’s blogs – not all of them about books, and attended several blogging events. I even managed to go to this year’s Bookcrossing event where I got some of my mojo back in terms of reading and releasing books – look out for more on this in the new year – I hope! ]

So, did you have any goals, and how did you do? Feel free to comment or link to your update post!

Sunday Salon: Yearly reading goals


In looking to wind the year down, it’s time to reflect back on some of the reading subjects that tend to crop up most years, and I’ve found this question floating round the internet:

When you set a yearly reading goal, do you set it high to force yourself to meet that goal or do you keep it low and normally go over that goal any way?

For a long time I didnt track how many books I read, or even which books I read – the horror, right? Then, several years ago, I was listening to a couple of bookish friends compare notes as to how many books they had read, what were their top 10 etc – how could I list a top 10 when I didnt even remember what I’d read that year?!

Therefore in 2011 (had to go off and check there!) I started making use of Goodreads and their reading challenge facility. 2011 – 2014 I challenged myself to read at least 95 books, and each year read more than that. However, by 2014 I had realised that the challenge was no longer fun to be reading that number of books, and that by the end of each year I was finding myself reading short and light books simply to get the numbers up – and the reviews could be light on detail too!  (And I still dont produce top 10 lists!).

Book pages text
Patrick Tomasso via Upsplash

Therefore in 2015, I plonked for something more realistic: 60 books, with the very real chance of reading more. And I did – I read 64. 2016 was the same level of 60, which I may or may not meet. It’s meant that I’m not trawling Amazon for the freebie romances to boost my numbers. I’m reading the hardback books that have been on my shelves, unread and unloved, for years. Some of the books I’ve been reading are longer, genres I’ve not tried before (YA books and the SummerReads books from Quercus are examples) and a better mix of paper and ebooks. So whilst my numbers arent high, they have meant that I think my reading is more rounded as a result, and I will probably do the same again next year.

So I put the same question to you now:

When you set a yearly reading goal, do you set it high to force yourself to meet that goal or do you keep it low and normally go over that goal any way?




VIP Event at Rush Hair, Birmingham

rush-front-of-houseThis is a bit late in being posted up, for which I apologise, but on the evening of  Thursday 24th November, Rush Hair on Corporation Street in Birmingham threw their doors open for a bloggers event.  Under new Management, and with the roadworks on Corporation Street having finally been completed, this was an ideal time to invite some potential new clients to have a look around.

I arrived straighrush-christmas-cakest from work, and therefore was operating on an empty stomach. I was immediately welcomed in, my name checked off the list, a glass of bubbly put into my hands and a pass (which I got to keep afterwards) with my name, twitter id and blog name on it (other events people – please take note!).  We were kept topped up with bubbles and there were plenty of snacks around the place.

The salon is relatively small and all on one level, but judicious use of clean white walls and mirrors on the main back wall helps make it look bigger.rush-main-salon rush-mirrors


There is also the basin area – an area that is traditionally ugly, but here is tucked in a seperate room, made to be dark and a little nest-like with products nicely laid Rush Hair Braiding rush-braiding out.

On the night there were a number of people doing dry hair makeovers, including braiding and use of the GHD straigners (something I went through, to the shock and awe of the head stylist).  I didnt take photos of myself, but I know people did, so look out for images elsewhere around the web!


rush-hair-productsRush Shampoo Area









Scheduled for a number of hours, we all seemed to leave en masse at around 8pm, most of us with goodie bags in hand and some with a stack of business cards from other bloggers. Rush Hair Goody Bag

In Summary:

Rush Hair salon is well placed to get the newly invigorated traffic coming along Corporation Street now that access has been sorted out. It is bright and open and appears to be bigger than it really is due to judicious use of mirrors.  A 90 minute session (on an empty stomach) with no wet treatments or cuts makes it difficult to judge washing, cutting or blowdry capabilities, however my straightening did last until the following Tuesday. It could have lasted longer had my hair not needed a wash.

I have oddly challenging hair and I am in the process of going shorter – it took over 10 years of same cut, and 5 years with the same stylist before I had enough trust him to do a restyle. Let’s just say it takes me a while to change things!  In the immediate future, I would consider going in for a straighten, and possibly a blowdry.

From the blogger event, it was also not possible to judge the likely target audience – there were a lot of (much younger than me)  lifestyle and fashion bloggers, and it’ll be interesting to see the age range attracted to the salon – the staff seemed to be fairly young, which can help with keeping the energy levels up high and styles on trend.