Chances are when you first started blogging it was because you wanted to share your thoughts on the books you read with someone – anyone – who might have enjoyed them as much as you did. You came up with a name, figured out how to get a blog – whether free or paid – added your personal touch to the design, wrote your first post and pressed publish.
Then you anxiously waited for someone to come along and find it.
Perhaps you had a bit of knowledge about the book blogosphere before you created your blog and wrote your first post. Perhaps you already had your social media accounts lined up in order to spread the word about what you just posted. But maybe you didn’t.
Eventually, whether you were tapped into the social sphere or not, someone will have discovered your site, read your post – or posts – and commented.
Maybe they agreed and cheered you on, maybe they didn’t and questioned whether you had any brain cells, common sense, taste, or intellect. Maybe they loved your enthusiasm and the passion you put into your review or post. Maybe they thought you were dishonest and pandering to the publisher, author, your audience, the book’s fandom.
Maybe they liked your snark, your animated gifs, your negative feedback. Maybe they found it distasteful, juvenile, offensive or rude.
Maybe they liked you and came back again. Maybe they clicked away never to return.
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Does it really matter what “they” think?
It depends on who you’re blogging for.
If you’re blogging for you, it doesn’t matter if they like you (or your blog) or dislike you, love you or despise you. It doesn’t matter if they agree with your views on what you’ve read. It doesn’t matter if they approve of your approach to blogging. It doesn’t matter if they think you’re dishonest or motivated by some purpose other than a love of what you’re doing.
It doesn’t matter if they think you’re a super fan, an attention-seeker, a drama queen.
It doesn’t matter because you’re blogging for you. You’re sharing your thoughts, whatever they may be, in the way you want to share them. While it may feel hurtful if someone calls you a name, questions your integrity, dismisses you as if you have no value, as long as you’re doing what makes you happy, what gives you a sense of personal accomplishment, that’s all that matters in the end. Those naysayers and doubters do not matter.
If you’re blogging to make a name for yourself, to build a brand, to get your foot in the door in the industry, to make friends, to get those “free” books, then it does matter.
If you have a goal, you have to keep your audience in mind in order to achieve that goal. Or if you don’t have one yet, but want a specific audience, then you have to plan accordingly. You have to get to know your audience – or the audience you want – and find out what they like and dislike. If they like substantive posts, then be sure to make them substantive. If they like a review with a side of snark, then be sure to include that snark. If they want to see a broad spectrum of review ratings, then make sure to read books that you love, like, dislike, despise.
And if they want to see certain types of books reviewed then only read and review those books for your blog.
If you’re looking to get back something from your blog other than the reward of doing something you love, getting the occasional word of praise, making a few friends, then you have to think strategically about what your audience responds to, what the publishers want to see in order to include you on a tour or send you a book, what the authors want to see in order to respond to your request for an interview.
And if you’re looking to monetize, you’ll have to dig a little deeper to find out how to maximize income from advertisements and affiliate links and work a little harder to get those numbers up.
If you are an outsider looking in and are not familiar with the industry, are uncertain about what works and what doesn’t, are unclear on how to market yourself, then you have to do your research. Study blogs that have good numbers, a large following and try to apply what works for them to your blog. This does not mean copy them. You need to be original. You need to find something that works for you.
Blogging for anyone – or anything – other than yourself requires time – to learn about the industry, to find out what works and what doesn’t, to come up with new ideas, to learn about your audience. It requires dedication – to keep working toward building your persona/brand, to keep living up to your readers’ expectations, to keep improving on what you’ve built, to keep moving forward even when there have been setbacks. It requires hard work – to be consistent, to be professional, to be this person you’ve created when you just feel like being yourself.
And sometimes it may require a level of dishonesty. You may be required to pretend to like something you didn’t and sing its praises on a tour or in a review. You may have to say you didn’t like something that secretly you loved because your fan-base/audience thought it was all kinds of dreadful. You may have to pretend to like someone you don’t, you may have to pretend to be someone you’re not. You may have to write about things that don’t interest you. You may have to promote something you don’t stand behind, advertise a product you don’t believe in, or stay silent about something you do.
When you’re running your blog like a business there are concessions you have to make or your business will suffer. You just need to decide what’s most important to you.
If you’re unsure just who you’re blogging for, then ask yourself the following questions:
- Would I change my review style if it would mean I’d get more readers?
- Would I change the types of books I read if it would draw in a bigger crowd?
- Would I write more positive/negative reviews if it meant that people would stop saying negative things about me?
- Would I alter my rating in order to appease the author, publisher, my audience?
- Would I promote a book I wasn’t interested in or didn’t care for if it meant that I’d have a better shot at being included on future tours or receive more books from the publisher?
- Would I be friendly with a blogger or author I didn’t like just because they were more “popular” than me?
- Would I join an event, participate in a meme, write about topics that didn’t interest me because it/they would result in more pageviews or keep me connected with the community?
- Would I ask my audience what works and what doesn’t and change the types of things I post about based upon their feedback?
- Would I post an ad for a book I hated if I was being paid for the ad space?
- Would I refrain from posting a review for a book I didn’t like if I was being paid to advertise that very book?
- Would I keep my opinion to myself about anything if it could have a negative impact on my brand, my blog’s readership/traffic, my standing with authors, publishers, the community?
If you’ve said yes to any one of those questions then at least in part you are blogging for someone other than yourself – not that it’s wrong, or a bad thing. It just means that you need to factor other things into your decision-making process before pressing publish or going on a mini-rant on Twitter or Facebook.
So… who do you blog for? Do you blog for yourself or someone – or something – other than you?
Or is it a little bit of both? Do you blog mostly for you but take into consideration your readers, followers, advertisers, the authors and publishers you interact with?
Whoever you blog for, what has been your experience? Would you change anything about the way you blog, or who you blog for?
And if you’re not blogging just for you and you had it all to do over again, would you do anything differently?