Subscribe or Pass? What I’m looking for in book blogs I love.

Posted December 23, 2016 by Tara in Let's Talk Blogging /// 9 Comments

I have recently started a project to follow new blogs and get to know new people in the blogosphere. A lot of the bloggers I followed back in 2011 when I started are no longer blogging, and the community has changed a lot in that time. I recently stumbled upon blogs I’d never seen before that seem to be taking book blogging in new directions, and I felt SUPER inspired by what I saw. So I decided to clean house a bit and completely purge my BlogLovin’ account (my primary way of keeping up with content) and build up my subscriptions from scratch. I wanted to build from scratch because I’ve found myself scrolling through my BlogLovin’ feed with a lack of interest, which told me that it was time to really shake things up. I think I have a tendency to just follow people willy-nilly, when a more limited and curated feed is more my speed.

I’ve spent the past week just clicking around book blogs and looking for the 50-100ish blogs I want to follow. There were a few blogs that I’ve followed for years…big blogs, blogs that I used to look up to…that I’ve now decided to unfollow. And there are dozens of new voices I want to get to know. But as I was sifting through all of this I really thought about which features make me click that “SUBSCRIBE!” button, and which tend to make me want to say “PASS.” And I figured I’d share those here with you, in attempt to prompt you to think about what inspires and interests you. 

It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it!) that each of these elements are matters of personal taste. And I have very specific taste. There are a million ways to book blog, and there is an audience for each of those ways. But here are the things that will turn me on, or off, to your blog:

Subscribe: YAY!

  1. Beautiful images. Listen, I love good content (see #3). And it should be number one on this list. But I can’t deny that what has really drawn in to many of the new blogs I’ve seen is their remarkable use of images. This is no doubt due to Bookstagram, and it is seems like a lot of these bloggers are active across multiple image-heavy platforms (Tumblr, Pinterest, etc). Great images and graphics add a layer to content that bring something fresh to what we do as book bloggers, and invite me in to their personal reading experience that much more.
  2. Clean, crisp modern layout. A good layout that looks good on my desktop and mobile phone is important, and shows the blogger has an attention to detail. And a blog with a modern layout usually means the blogger is updating the site regularly as layout and graphics trends change over time. This is completely superficial, I know. But hey, I like the pretty-pretty of good design. *Shrugs*
  3. Discussion posts and original content. I really enjoy talking about reading and taking in-depth looks at books, and some bloggers do an amazing job at digging deeper. I like to get to know the person behind a blog, whether it be a quirky tendency to shelve their books a certain way or their feeling about representations of race in YA. I also really like posts about blogging because I as interested in the process of book blogging as a hobby as I am in books and reading.
  4. Clear voice. You all know Cait @ Paper Fury (hi, Cait, if you are reading this — I’ve never commented on you blog, but I will be!). She is probably the best example our community has of a blogger with a great voice. She is unabashedly herself in every post, and I see many, many younger bloggers mimicing this in their own posts. A clear blogging voice doesn’t need to quirky like Cait’s, but my favorite blogs are the one where the blogger shines through the words. I like to think of it like this: if I’m scrolling through posts, my favorite posts are the ones where I can tell who the author is before I even look at the blog title.
  5. Smart writing. I love it when bloggers make me think. My favorite blog posts go deeper than reviews to things like literary analysis and cross-book comparisons.

Pass: NAY

  1. Generally unreadable styling and layouts. Myriad “why I follow-unfollow your blog” posts cover this, but layout IS important. If a blog is cluttered with ads and sidebar junk, or has a hard-to-read color scheme or looks poorly designed, I’m probably going to pass. Ditto if any of your graphics look like they came from MySpace circa 2006.
  2. Memes Memes Memes. After six years, I’m pretty much over memes and canned content. If I scroll through a blog and only see memes, that’s a hard pass for me. I took a hard look at my own content two years ago and realized that if I hated reading meme posts and filler content, I should stop posting it myself…and I did. The realization that I hate reading meme posts completely changed how I blog, and I’m looking to read blogs with the same philosophy about content creation.
  3. Reviews Reviews Reviews. I can only read so many book reviews before I get bored. If I scroll through a blog and only see book reviews, I’m probably going to move on. This is not to say reviews are bad! I love reading reviews, and acknowledge that they are the heart of book blogging. But I prefer to follow blogs that are around 20-50% book reviews, rather that blogs where reviews are the sole focus*. Again, this has to do with wanting to get to know the blogger better!
  4. Taste in books. I follow many people who read different genres from me and I enjoy reviews of books I will never read, but by TASTE here I don’t mean taste in book selection but rather taste in book opinions upon completion of a book. This is best illustrated by a specific example. I read a blog the other day that gave quite negative reviews to several books that won the Printz award (books I loved). This is totally legit — their opinions are valid. But I chose not to follow that blog because we have quite opposite opinions on what makes for good literature. I like to read the negative reviews of books I love, but I prefer to read them on Goodreads where they are less attached to people I “know.”
  5. Selling too much or overselling a “product.” Not every blog needs to be a business opportunity. I get very, very tired of book blogs that have taken to selling products more than blogging about books. I do follow one blogger whom I admire that I think balances this well (hint: it’s Ashley at Nose Graze, and she is very transparent about her process/products, and even admits that she hates selling…funny how she’s the blogger who I actually buy products from!). But I recently deleted at least two other bloggers from my feed who seemed like their primary purpose was building followers to sell their own self-published books or promote their blog tour companies. There is clearly a huge following for that, but I’m not interested.

On The Fence: MAY…be!

  1. Bullet journals. I have zero interest in bullet journalling, but it seems it’s the hot new thing. I won’t unfollow a blog that posts mostly about bullet journalling (I follow a few great blogs who do!) but I will take a harder look at the rest of the content to see if it’s of interest.
  2. Genre choices. As I said earlier, genre choice is not a deal breaker for me. It’s more about the way a person reviews within their choice of genre (smart, critical reviews) than the genre itself. BUT, I will have a hard time with blogs that post entirely on, say, erotic fiction. Or adult high fantasy. If there is literally ZERO overlap in books we’ve read, I’m probably going to pass.
  3. Comments. One of the thing I do look at is how many comments have been left on a blog. I am more likely to follow a blog that has a strong base of people leaving comments, but not having comments is definitely not a deal breaker. I know that commenting in general has gone down in the community, and lord knows I myself am terrible about commenting
  4. Grammar/typos. Generally not a deal breaker for me unless it’s out of control. I’m not going to be bothered by a blogger who misspells things or overuses commas occasionally.
  5. Posting frequency. I could not care less if you post daily, or even weekly. Post when you feel it, take a hiatus when you’re not. Its all good with me. However, I do regularly cull my subscription list the easy way: by get rid of blogs who haven’t posted recently. It’s not personal, and I’ll often find my way back to resubscribing when the blogger becomes active again.

Whew. So there you have it. Those were the things going through my mind when I finally dumped and re-built my BlogLovin’ subscription list. Now, obviously these are not hard and fast rules. I follow many blogs that do none of the “Yay!” things and several that do many of the “Nay!” things. But this is definitely a good representation of what matters to me and what I value in content I enjoy the most.

With which of these do you agree? What would you add to the list? What makes you click “subscribe” or pass on a blog?

 

*it must be acknowledge that this blog has been mostly reviews for the past year, so I’m not practicing what I preach here. I’ve been posted reviews to keep my blog on “maintenance,” but I’ve definitely been floundering on the content front. I’ve lost followers and blogging friends in the process because I’m just not putting myself out there like I used it. I’m trying to change that!

Tara

Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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9 responses to “Subscribe or Pass? What I’m looking for in book blogs I love.

  1. Clear voice is the biggie for me. If I can’t remember/tell whose blog it is as I’m reading, then I’ll probably unsubscribe.

    I also unfollowed some people who seemed to only post book tours and giveaways without much other content.

  2. What people review is the big one for me. I always check to see if their recent reviews are books that I would enjoy. Not that I want them to review all the same content I do (how else do I find new books?) but if I’m not interested in their last 5 reviews, I doubt I will be in their future posts.

    Memes and promotional reviews all the time is also a bit of a turn off. I don’t mind the occasional of either, but it does get boring if that’s all there is.

  3. Yay! It’s so good to see you back!! I’m saving this post to reflect on over the weekend for sure. I got in to a bit of a blogging rut and I’m trying to come at it from a fresh point of view for 2017. Time to get brain storming on some new ideas and content I think! R xx

  4. Content, more specifically original content, is the deal breaker for me. If the blog is just reviews and memes, or blog tours/blitzes etc then I have zero interest.

    I also did the same as you a year or two ago – started a completely new Feedly, because I was following THOUSANDS of blogs, many of which I’d followed in the early days in order to take part in Feature and Follow, and really had no interest in their content. So a carefully curated list is definitely the way to go!

    • I can report that after a month of having a smaller follow list I am much happier! I’ve added a few new ones here and there, but overall it feels so much less overwhelming in my feed!

  5. It’s funny how our own preferences shape our blogs. I really only want to read book reviews and don’t so much care about people’s dogs or circulation stories so tend to post only reviews, but I am in the minority. I’m also not a fan of pictures. You have very good points about these things, as well as voice. Will have to think about my habits… And redo my blog roll. Thanks for the insights.

    • I do enjoy reading reviews, but it’s so specific — I really only read them for books I’ve read or want to read. I used to read them a lot more when I was a practicing librarian and wanted broad perspectives on a broad range of books. But it also matters to me HOW someone writes a review — I love to see someone with a clear voice and strong opinions!

  6. Thank you for posting this! I started blogging maybe around a month ago and I’m beginning to pick up on a lot of things already, one of them being what kind of content I should create. Lovely post!

    • Thank you so much! Everyone has different taste, so the number one piece of advice is always YOU DO YOU and write what makes you happy!

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