Why I Started Book Blogging

I discovered this post on the abooknation today. It reminded me of starting my own book blog, although my reasons were slightly different.

Like this blogger, I have always been an avid reader, but it was really only when my first book was published that I began to understand the true value of a review for an author.

It’s really the only feedback you get from readers.

A negative review can crush your soul until you think about the fact that you haven’t liked every single book you’ve picked up, either. Sometimes it’s a matter of taste.

A thoughtful review helps you improve your writing and motivates you to keep going. And if someone praises your work, it’s incredibly satisfying and fulfilling because you know you’ve connected with a reader’s soul.

The fact that such a small proportion of readers leave reviews does not really surprise me, because I had never done so before, either.

Once I recognised the need for reviews of Indie books, I saw that this was an opportunity for me to use my love of reading to help other Indie authors by leaving an honest, constructive review.

Thus, Book Squirrel was born.

After developing my confidence with book reviews, Book Squirrel’s blog extended to include author spotlights and interviews, book events and, recently, a range of integrated Indie book promotion services.

I love blogging about books and supporting other Indie authors. I enjoy giving back to the Indie author community and showing others how positive and proactive Indying is done.

Book Squirrel brings me, and others, joy.
And that is the best reason ever to keep going.

abooknation

I’m not sure if I’ve actually ever mentioned why I got into book blogging but if I did I don’t think I made a blog post about it so… HUR WE GOO:

I’ve always loved reading but I feel like I went through phases where I went on a bit of a (very) long slump until I read a book that hooked me back into reading! I’m someone with the shitest memory, even now when someone asks me for book recommendations I have to skim through my posts to jig my memory of what books I’ve read. So around 4/5 years ago when I got back into reading, I had no idea that book blogging was a thing, I thought why would anyone want to hear my rambling thoughts about a book I’ve read??????

Whenever I finished a book I would write up a review and literally just leave it…

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The Value Of Commenting On A Blog.

I’ve questioned quite a bit recently why people don’t engage or leave comments on WordPress blog posts as much as they do on Facebook or Instagram.

As I suggested in this post some time back, maybe it’s because many people just don’t realise how encouraging or helpful leaving a comment can be.

WordyNerdBird

blogging

It’s easy to read a post and move on, andeven easier to like a blog post without reading it.

But stop and think for a moment. How much more valuable to the writer, and other readers, if you actually bothered to respond. Isn’t that what you’d hope for when writing your next blog post? Nobody wants to invest time in writing something that people are just going to skim over.

Not only that, but you will gain more from the post and from the interaction with others than you realise.

You might gain new ideas or perspectives, or you might just end up feeling a little better about life.

It doesn’t have to be a long or complicated post. Even just saying “thank you” or “I liked this!” does the trick.

However, commenting on a blog post is more useful than just propping up the ego of some blogger who…

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Is Tumblr Still Even a Thing?

I’ve spent some time over the past few weeks discussing what I like and what frustrates me about different social media platforms. Most of them I’ve ended up feeling quite positive about, but it occurred to me today that I never even thought to discuss Tumblr.

I don’t even know if Tumblr is still really a thing or not. 

I have a Tumblr account, and I post there, but it feels a little like shooting into the void. I still feel as though I don’t understand it. And that means I’m probably doing it all wrong. 

Does anyone out there use Tumblr? I would appreciate any hints or tips you could give me to make my experience there more satisfying. 

And if you’d like to connect there, that would be great! 

‘Top Four Shakespeare Podcasts’: The Most Successful Blog Post I’ve Ever Written.

It is a constant source of amusement to me that barely a day goes by without someone reading a post I wrote over two years ago. As hard as I try to write posts that are interesting and engaging, and have some relevance to either readers or other authors the one post that shows up in my blog stats almost every day is ‘Top Four Shakespeare Podcasts’, posted in June 2017.

While I have had some posts that got a great response at the time, othing else I’ve published on this blog has had that kind of perpetual popularity,

The funny thing is, it’s only got three likes, but more people than that visit that post every day. Perhaps WordPress needs to make the “like” button bigger and brighter so that it’s easier to see and click.

Given that it’s the most successful blog post I’ve ever written, I thought it was worth posting again for all the followers I’ve gained since then. Enjoy.

WordyNerdBird

Promo WordyNerdBird Shakespeare Podcasts

I love podcasts, and I love Shakespeare. In these four podcasts, you’ll find the best of those two worlds combined.

#1: No Holds Bard. An informative and entertaining podcast by Dan Beaulieu and Kevin Condardo, directors of the Seven Stages Shakespeare Company in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  They discuss the plays, words that people in the 21st century might not know, different interpretations, and various performances of Shakespeare’s plays.  They even have a segment where they’ll answer homework questions sent in by students. 

You can follow on Facebook and Twitter.

#2: Folger Shakespeare Library: Shakespeare Unlimited. A podcast that explores the associations between Shakespeare’s writing and the world today through the words we use, ideas we discuss, and performance of the works of Shakespeare and others.

You can find more information on their website.

#3: Chop Bard – In Your Ear Shakespeare. This podcast explores different parts of the…

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What I Love… and What Frustrates Me… About Pinterest

Pinterest is great for inspiration, curating themed collections and procrastinating by getting distracted with eye candy. 

It is a platform on which the users create collections of images called boards. These are usually themed, although how organised and themed they are is entirely up to each individual user.

I love being able to put together a collection of images on any theme I wish. The evidence of this is the fact that I have a bazillion Pinterest boards for everything from books worth reading, my book reviews and blog posts and social media for Indie authors to costume and set ideas for musical theatre productions and swoonworthy libraries. I’ve collected hundreds of great looking recipes that I might never make, and probably twenty that I have. I can be as nerdy about things as I like- in fact, that is positively encouraged! It really is all very enjoyable. 

Just a few of my bookish and Indie author boards.

Pinterest is a great way to highlight my own content and link it back to my blogs or website. When I write a blog post relevant to Indie authors in one way or another, I can add it to one of my boards on Pinterest where it is easily found and accessed by others. The link back to my blog post is an integral part of the pinned image, so that a click on that image takes a viewer straight to my blog. This link is easily achieved by sharing to Pinterest directly from each WordPress blogpost, or by adding the link manually to a custom image. 

It is a wonderful thing to be inspired by others, whether it’s by “how to do something” posts, images of places you’d like to travel to,  or ideas about how to take better photos of different things. This is something that Pinterest and Instagram have in common because they’re both highly visual in nature. 

I also like the fact that you can have secret boards. This means that you can save collections of things like Christmas or birthday gift ideas or whatever else you want to keep private, and nobody else can see them. 

One very practical, personal use for Pinterest is creating a Wish List. My best friend, my sister and I all have a Wish List board, where we place images of things we’d like to have as birthday or Christmas gifts. It makes shopping for one another so much easier, and enables us to buy the perfect gift every time. They don’t have to be expensive things – one of my friends used that board to find the pattern for a pair of knitted gloves I liked, and presented me with those very gloves in my favourite colour: black! If there is a particular book I want, or a particular bear I want to add to my collection, I can add it to that list and use it as a shopping list for myself, too! 

What frustrates me, though, is that Pinterest is really not all that social.

You used to be able to like someone’s post, but you can’t do that anymore. You can save it to your own collection. You can leave a comment, but not many people do. You can send someone a pin via direct message, assuming they’re on Pinterest too. But none of it feels much like an immediate connection like it does on Facebook or Instagram. I may have 735 followers, but I never actually know if they’re there. 

I suppose that’s because Pinterest is focused more on curating content than on creating connections between people. I understand the different emphasis, but I really don’t think being able to like someone’s image distracted from that. 

The Verdict: Pinterest is a helpful and enjoyable media platform, but not exactly social in nature. It is best used for collecting and sharing content, not connections. 

Having said that, if you’d like to follow me on Pinterest, you are more than welcome to do so. You won’t be able to ‘like’ my posts, but you may find one or three – or thirty – boards that inspire or help you somehow. 

Why I Don’t Keep All My Book Promotion Eggs In One Basket.

As a promoter of Indie books and Indie authors, I’m always trying to find different ways to help authors put their books in front of readers. 

The ever-changing and often-frustrating Facebook algorithm means that Facebook is becoming less and less fruitful for book promotion. My own recent frustration with that particular platform has provided further encouragement to look further afield.

This isn’t particularly devastating for me, as I have always believed that it’s better not to keep all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. My aim has always been to spread my promotions as widely as ever, and I have applied this principle to my promotions of others’ books as well as my own. 

From the outset of my writing career, I have worked hard to build good reach on a variety of social media platforms. I have grown my following organically, through engagement and sharing, so that my audience is one actually interested in my content.  That has paid off in the form of followers who respond in a positive way: with likes, shares, comments and engagement.

That is why I have confidence in Book Squirrel’s new promotional feature.

The ‘Book of the Week’ promotion provides a blog post including the book’s cover and blurb, and two reviews of the author’s choice from Amazon or Goodreads.   This blog post is then shared throughout the week on Twitter and Pinterest in addition to Facebook. A “Book of the Week” post is also made on Instagram. 

The social media posts will be accompanied by clear, attractive images like this:

As with all of Book Squirrel’s promotions, the price is deliberately set to be affordable for Indie authors on a tight budget. After all, I know what it’s like to want to promote your book, and not have at least $50 to make it happen. 

Cafe Comedy

I may need to learn to turn the volume down a little when being a comic genius in public places. 

We were sitting at a cafe deciding what to have when I commented on one of the options: “I’m not sure I needed to know that their chicken was marinated by a jerk.”

A lady at the next table laughed out loud, turned around and said, “I had the same thought, but wasn’t brave enough to say it.”

The waiter showed up while I was writing this post, and I shared my observations. He laughed and said, “Actually, the chef IS a jerk!” 

I nodded safely. “Many of them are,” I said. 

“Too true!” he said. “But that’s all just between you and me, right?” 

“Of course!” I smiled… and then kept on writing. 

What I Love… And What Frustrates Me… About Blogging On WordPress

There are many features of WordPress that I love. In terms of social media platforms, though, the advantages are clear.

It’s more meaningful than Facebook.
The content on WordPress – and I assume on other blogging platforms – is as varied and interesting as you’ll ever find. Books, history, poetry, literature, Indie authors, self publishing, photography, travel, food, music… you name it, there are multiple blogs right there waiting to be discovered and read.  There is no end to the talent in this place. 

There’s no clickbait, drivel or game requests.
Enough said.

You can engage exactly as one does on Facebook.
You can like a post, you can leave a comment. You can even like as many posts as you want to, and WordPress won’t stop you from doing so. How’s that for a positive, helpful algorithm?

Sharing posts is easy.
What’s on WordPress doesn’t have to stay on WordPress.
With one click, you can share posts on WordPress using the reblog function, or directly onto any of the other social media platforms.

Going ad-free with a custom domain is cheap and easy. 
It doesn’t cost much to have your own domain name that adds to your personal branding, and eliminate all advertising from your blog altogether. It works out even cheaper if you pay for two or three years instead of one, and as a business expense, you can claim it as a tax deduction. This can be done from the WordPress menu, so you don’t even have to Google how to do it. 

Sorry, though – wordynerdbird.com and mrbooksquirrel.blog are already taken. Have fun thinking up something cooler! 

There is no instant messenger, nor is there an inbox. 
There are benefits to not being quite so available all the time. 
I know. It’s a shocking thought, but I’m brave enough to say it. 

Many bloggers do have links to their other social media accounts on their blog, so you can still send a personal message or have a conversation there if you wish to. 

There’s no drama. 
Well… there might be on some political blogs, or perhaps some celebrity ones, I suppose. I don’t follow or read those, so I wouldn’t know.

Generally, though, you follow and read what you want to, and the rest sail blissfully past without even making a blip on your radar. 

Block style formatting. 
I found using the new “blocks” editor intimidating for about half a day, and have absolutely loved it ever since. It makes designing a great-looking post super easy. If you don’t like where an image or some other content is, you can move it around without fuss. Need a sub-heading? No problem. Formatting a list? Easy as. You can even save a particular block as a reusable one, so you can add it to subsequent posts with one click. This is great for themes and otherwise related posts. 

The Reader page on WordPress is brilliant
It lists all the posts from the blogs you follow, so that you can scroll through and see what’s on offer. It means that people who follow your blog will actually be able to see when you make a new post, and click through to read it with ease. 
If you want to find something new, you can search for a topic or click on the “Discover” tab.

There are, however, just a couple of things that frustrate me.

As I commented yesterday, I wish it were easier to get people to engage and respond. Perhaps they don’t perceive the value of that like they do on other social media platforms. Perhaps it’s a different type of audience. I just don’t know what the answer is there. 

The WordPress app. 
While the website uses “blocks” for content, the app is a dinosaur. Editing a post using the app is a nightmare because of the different formatting – you have to convert it from blocks to “classic” and it all just ends up looking wrong. 

It’s disappointing, because an outfit as big and professional as WordPress should be able to furnish their users with an app that is easy to use and which fully complements the website editor. 

Consequently, I do all my posting via the website, even on my iPad or phone. It’s far easier and the results are better. 

The Verdict:
WordPress wins, hands down. With just a little more audience interaction, it would be darn near perfect. 

What I Have Learned From Blogging 150 Days In A Row

Blogging consistently for 150 days in a row is no mean feat. It takes time, effort, and brain power, and a bit of self-discipline really helps, too. I’m thinking very clever things of myself today, but that’s not the only positive outcome. 

When I first started blogging, I was a bit here and there with it all, which is perfectly fine. Over time, though, I noticed that the more consistent I was, the more consistently my posts were being read. When I managed a three or four day streak, I felt like I had really accomplished something constructive in terms of getting myself “out there” as a blogger,

At the beginning of this year, one of my resolutions was to blog more consistently. I can certainly put a check in that box!  Now that we’ve reached the middle of the year, I have spent some time thinking about what I’ve learned from doing so. 

Goals are highly motivating. When you’re on a long streak, it’s very easy to dismiss thoughts like “I’m too tired” or “not today” and get it done. 

Planning is essential. Sometimes, deciding what to write about is the hardest part. Planning helps to overcome this.  I have developed a list of themes, post ideas and issues to explore. That way, I’ve always got something to write about if there is nothing pressing or timely bobbing around in my head.  Participating in special “months” like Women in History and “National Poetry Month” has helped me to focus my posts during those specific times. This has helped me to attract different kinds of readers to my blog, which is generally quite eclectic in the topics I cover. 

I still want to improve the way I coordinate my planning. I’ve started to time my Shakespeare-related posts to coincide with #ShakespeareSunday on Twitter so that I have an audience to reach that is automatically curated for me by someone else’s design. That’s proven to be very handy, so I want to find more opportunities like that to fit with my interests and content. 

Reblogging is a great way to share sand add value to someone else’s content. I often share other people’s posts via Twitter, and do so very gladly. When I discovered how to reblog someone’s work, that was a revolutionary moment for me. It enabled me to share their work in a more meaningful way than just tweeting it – which is meaningful and helpful, but it doesn’t add any value to the content. 

Reblogging makes it possible to add comments or a reflection of my own on the topic. This is helpful to both them and myself: their content reaches another blogger’s audience, and my content is enriched by theirs. It is also a very good thing to be inspired by what someone else produces, and to let that fuel my own thoughts and words. 

It’s also fair to say that there are times when the tank has been dangerously empty, and those bloggers whose work I have shared have literally saved my day – both by inspiring my post, but by encouraging my mind and spirit when life has been hard. 

Varying the topics attracts different readers. There are blogs dedicated to just one topic. Some of those bloggers do it extremely well. I am probably never going to be one of those people. 

I like to discuss different things that interest me. By mixing it up, I’ve been able to find new readers who like history, or poetry, or horror, or Shakespeare, or who are Indie authors and interested in the issues that relate to our awesome little corner of the publishing universe. These audiences often cross over, so if someone isn’t interested in what I write one day, they probably will be on the next. 

Over the past 150 days, I have seen my readership grow, measurable by the increase in followers on my blog. I find this very exciting, as when I started out, I thought having ten followers was incredible. Actually, given that I had very little clue what I was doing, it probably was incredible!

Consistency increases visibility. I’ve noticed that I’m getting more post likes and engagements from people who weren’t following me previously. I can only assume that this is because my posts are gaining visibility via the WordPress reader as well as on Twitter and via my very amateur attempt at SEO. My rather thorough use of categories and tags might be helping, too.  Whatever the source of the magic, I’ve enjoyed some great feedback and questions from readers that have been both helpful and stimulating. 

Accuracy and accountability matter. When you say something on your blog, you need to be able to back it up. Thankfully, as a History teacher, this is something I’ve always known. So when a reader asked me recently, “What’s your source?” I was able to answer promptly and easily.  I really don’t want to start providing a bibliography for every post I write, but it does matter that I can verify my content when I am called on to do so. 

People want to know who you are, Even though a blog post focuses on a particular topic or idea, readers respond well when you show them something of who you are or what makes you tick. I do not suggest making it all personal or discussing all your private issues in detail, but if readers can see that you are genuine, they will respond to you in positive and encouraging ways 

I am better at blogging than I used to be.  Part of that is in the development of my skills by learning as I go, and part of it is confidence that can only ever come from experience. This has, in fact, been the most motivating lesson of all. If I keep going, I’ll get even better. I don’t know if the world is ready for that, but I am. 

There are, however, still things that remain a mystery to me: 

How do you actually get people to click “like” before they leave? 
How can I get more people to leave a comment or question? 

Those are questions that fall into “next level engagement”. I’ll write that into my goal-setting now. 

Why You Should Stop Using The Angry Face Reaction on Facebook

In a recent post, I commented that someone suggested that the angry face reaction to one or more of my Facebook posts may have contributed to some of the problems I have been having with them flagging and suspending my posts for no obvious reason.

It turns out that this theory is correct. 

The Facebook algorithm assumes that an angry face reaction means that people don’t like the post itself, or object to it somehow.  This causes that post to undergo more scrutiny by the algorithm, which seems to result more often than not in the post being deleted by Facebook, and the user having certain types of access or posting permissions suspended for a time.  This is what is popularly referred to as ‘being in Facebook jail’.

This is very good to remember when responding to Facebook posts.

The problem with that is that people might not intend for that to happen at all when they use the angry face reaction. It may be that they are sharing the anger, frustration or dislike expressed by the author of the post about something entirely different. It’s not the post they object to, it’s whatever the writer is angry about that makes them angry, too. 
While they are trying to be supportive of the author of the post, that dratted algorithm misinterprets that completely and sets in place consequences that are both unintended by the responder and entirely inappropriate and unfair. 

In short. unless someone posts content that is completely objectionable, don’t use the angry face reaction.
Much more helpful alternatives would be to:

  • Use the “wow” or “sad face” reaction
  • Comment with your thoughts or reactions
  • Post a gif that expresses how you feel about the content of the post

That way, your friends and their posts will actually receive support rather than suppression. 

Save the angry face for those posts that express hatred, vilification, prejudice, discrimination or violence. They’re the ones that should be suppressed.