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Is starting a book blog something you’ve been thinking of doing for some time now? I have put together my personal guide to getting things off the ground. Please keep in mind, this is all based on my own experiences and that there are plenty of ways to do this successfully. This has just been the way things have fallen for me.
One thing I wish I had when I first started blogging was a ‘How To’ guide. I began my blogging journey in 2013 with a laptop and a passion for reading. I literally threw myself in the deep end and taught myself how to swim. I had no design experience, no idea what running a website meant. And I definitely had no idea where to start. So I sat down one afternoon and just came up with a blog name.
First thing’s first. You need to come up with you own blog name. This process for me took the longest. Creating a name that reflected what I wanted for my blog was extremely difficult. It took me 3 names to get it right. But you can choose what ever name you like. You just need to make sure that it’s not taken by someone else. You can do this by typing in the google search engine and checking Facebook and Instagram for blog name handles.
Next is something I wish I did do but didn’t, and no one told me to either! That is, set a budget! Starting a blog can cost money, and it is so easy to get swept up in the thrill of it all and spend $$$ where you really shouldn’t (and don’t need to!). I honestly think you can start a gorgeous blog for under $200 all on your own. You can do it for free too, and I will explain that further down and the reason why I chose to throw a little money at my website. Let me also point out that I knew no-one in the book industry when I started. In fact, I had no idea of the wonderful community I was destined to find along the way.
Now, once your budget is set and you are 100% certain on your blog name, it’s time to buy the rights to that baby! This is what we call a Domain Name. There are heaps of websites out there that allow you to buy a Domain name. But I have only ever used one over the last few years, and I have been really happy with the pricing and services. This is NameCheap. I don’t think I’ve paid more than $15 (AUD) per year to keep my name active which to me, is totally in my blogging budget.
So here’s the thing. You don’t actually ‘need’ a domain name. Websites such as WordPress, Blogger, Wix etc, allow you to create a free website without a domain, but your blog URL will end in things such as …..wordpress.com or …..blogspot.com etc. And in these cases, those websites that you might use will still own the rights to your content as they are your ‘hosts’. If that makes sense. I am happy to discuss this with you more if you have any questions. Just shoot me an email. I don’t know a whole lot about this as I have always self-hosted but I can point you in the direction of people who can help.
The reason I chose to go with a web hosting company was really just to own the rights to my content. And having extra security taking care of something that I work tirelessly on every day. In the end for me it was just piece of mind.
That company that I swear by is Flywheel. And I’m pretty sure it costs around $140 (USD) per year. I pay around $15(USD) per month as it’s easier to keep within my budget, but you can choose which ever option suits you.
I recently went though a name change. Buying a new domain name and then having to go through the process of hooking up that domain name with my current website without losing my content. Sounds like a headache, right? It was, let me tell you! But I contacted Flywheel and they took control of everything. Set up my new domain with my website and I lost nothing. Within 5 mins, my website was still the same but had a new URL and all was good in the world again! So if you are looking for a web host, Flywheel are your people.
Once you have all this set up, it’s time to create your website.
I personally use WordPress.com (WordPress.org is something different entirely). Once I signed up with WordPress, I contacted Flywheel and they connected my URL to my website which then gave me the URL to my dashboard on WordPress to work on designing my website. Here you can click on Appearance on the left hand sidebar and then select Customize. And this is where the fun begins.
There are so many wonderful templates you can buy online to help with the design of your website. I love Creative Market and Etsy – This is where I went to look for things like blog templates, social media buttons and all things design. You’re able to contact the designer and speak to them about installing the template you’ve chosen or any problems you’re having. They were fantastic and really helped me with finalising mine (because I am NOT an expert in web design. But I put mine together on my own after originally spending a fortune on having a professional design a website for me that I used for a year). So in all honesty, if your website is simple (i.e: blog posts, ‘favourites’ pages, reviews, cover reveals etc), you can do it on your own.
I often get asked about the gorgeous photos I have on my website. I mostly use stock photos (but the photos on my Instagram are mine). I pay a yearly subscription to a company that allows me to use their photos for my branding on my blog that can be shared legally. You definitely don’t need to do this. This is just a personal preference for me as I don’t have a lot of time to take my own pics. I researched a lot to find someone who was open to suggestions so I could have photos that had books in them. You can use companies like shutterstock.com and there are free stock photo websites that have some great content, but you can only use what they have on their website. I’ve not used them before and you may be able to contact designers privately, but I’m not 100% sure. I personally just needed somewhere I could be in constant talks with the designer, and she then creates the photos from our feedback. I love her. She is a tad pricey but worth it in my eyes.
If you’d like to know more, feel free to message me. I just can’t give away all my secrets on here 😉
This is where you use your own blog link to post on your websites and social media accounts when reviewing books or telling your followers about new releases and sales. You make a small commission when people buy things using your links, at no extra cost to them. I haven’t made huge amounts of money through my blog yet, but I do make enough to feed my reading addiction and host eBook giveaways on my blog without money coming out of my own pocket. As your blog grows, there is potential to collaborate with brands and their products which is also another way to make some money. I am only getting to this point now though. But I never went into this business wanting to earn money. I have stumbled across opportunities along the way and these have influenced the kind of direction I see my blog going in the future.
We’re down to the nitty gritty of it all now.
This is what is going to drive your blog. If you’re not a huge fan, now is the time to become one. Without these platforms, my blog would be nowhere. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Goodreads and the main ones for a book bloggers. I use Tumblr sometimes, but I find it similar to Instagram so it’s not on my must have list.
Send an email to your favourite publishers introducing yourselves and your blog. Let them know you’d love to be placed on their blogger list for Advanced Reader Copies of books that you can review on your blog. They will usually send out an email with upcoming books and you can just pick and choose the ones you want. Or they send you whatever they have 🙂 Also sign up to NetGalley. A whole heap of ARCs go up on there all the time, and it’s free!!
So guess what? You’re pretty much on your way to having the blog you’ve always wanted! This how-to guide is fairly general. If you have specific questions, you are absolutely more than welcome to ask me. I may have forgotten some things, but this is the general breakdown of what I did to start my blog. Creating content is the fun part!
Read lots, have fun and remember to always be kind.