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Monday, 27 July 2015

Blogging 101 and Taking it to the Next Level

The bloggers' workshops at YALC were at the top of my list for tips and of course, to meet the bloggers.
The first workshop had Andrew Hall (The Pewter Wolf), Laura (Sisterspooky) and the always lovely Michelle Toy (Tales of Yesterday) answering thoughtful questions posed by the wondrously coated Andy Robb (@ThatAndyBloke).
Advice included Andrew's "be constructive. Be kind" when reviewing any book, and "the fifty page rule" advocated by Laura, who uses this rule with any book when deciding if she wants to read on.
So, how do these enormously successful bloggers (each of whom have won UKYA Blogger Awards in 2015) make themselves visible online?

Top Tips

  • Tweet publishers and authors and link to your blog
  • Make your blog unique
  • Include some personal posts, so that it's not all about books
  • If you really don't like a book you've been asked to review, either link it with a blogger who might enjoy it, or write a topic post instead. (All of the bloggers were firm about not posting negative reviews.)
  • Blogger language learnt: "Recs" = recommended reads; "TBR" = to be read. 
Best of all, I finally got to meet Michelle Toy, who I first met very briefly at the UKYA Extravaganza in Birmingham. Always warm and welcoming, she had thoughtfully made us goody bags packed with useful blogging advice, how to write a review, and TWO FREE BOOKS!
Inside I found the beautiful, shimmery SEED by Lisa Heathfield, which I had already read before, but now I can gift it to someone else to enjoy. Published by Egmont, it is the dark intense tale of a girl born in a closed cult community, which I read in one sitting.

And I was delighted to find THE IT GIRL by Katy Birchall, also pub'd by Egmont, which  I've been itching to read.

Chelley Toy and me, taken by Sally AKA The Dark Dictator
Next Level Blogging featured another stellar panel of bloggers, namely:
Viv Dacosta from the venerable  Serendipity Reviews which is on the Guardian's Top Ten Book Bloggers list
Lucy Powrie teen blogger and creator of #ukyachat and Queen of Contemporary

Once again, Andy Robb led the questions...
So what defines a good blog?
Jim: "Enthusiasm"
Viv: "Being unique. Being specific to an author."
And how do you think of new content?
Viv gets her ideas first thing in the morning, whereas Jim bounces ideas off the blogger community. Lucy, however, likes lists, which she calls her "ideas bank".
What is your USP as a blogger?
Lucy: "Being personal. Always being yourself."
Viv: "As I writer myself, my posts often focus on the writing process. I'm a SCBWI member, and many of my readers want to know how to write, tips on the writing process..."
Jim: "Author interviews."
Does a blog full of 4 or 5* ratings look false?
Viv: "I detest the Goodreads rating system."
Jim: "I no longer write negative reviews to avoid being snarky."
Extra Tips?
  • Tweet pictures
  • Buy your own blog space - don't just use Blogspot (Oops!)
  • Make guest posts specific - Viv says one of her most visited guest posts was Abi Elphinstone's The Art of Rejection
  • Be constructive (this came up again and again)
  • Write "mini-recs" - this fab advice came from Jim, if you don't have time to write full reviews
  • Tweet at different time zones
  • Use social media managers like Hootsuite to schedule your tweets
And finally?
What came across hugely from both workshops was the wonderful sense of community that bloggers enjoy, described as "hugely supportive" and "a second family". Each of the bloggers was so passionate about books, authors, reading, and promotion of all things bookish. As a newbie author I was thrilled to finally meet them in person, and delighted when Viv from Serendipity, Sally The Dark Dictator and Chelley Toy of Tales of Yesterday agreed to review my debut book THE ISLAND!