Monday, May 7, 2012

Book Blogger Confessions (3)


Welcome to Book Blogger Confessions, a meme hosted by Karen from For What It's Worth and Tiger from All-Consuming Books on the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month, to discuss some of the frustrations that are unique to book bloggers.

Topic: Comments are the holy grail of blogging. What do you comment on? And what do you do on your blog to encourage comments? 

Two things before I get going on this:

(1) Been a while since I did this meme. Glad to be getting back to doing it.

(2) "The holy grail of blogging" ... Yeah, that's about it. :)

What Do I Comment On? 

I only comment when I have something to say.

I love discussion posts and opinion pieces because they encourage the reader to talk. Whether it's "Do you like this or that?", "Such and such drives me crazy / I love it / makes no sense." or "What do you think of X?" ... I think posts like these are vital if you want your blog to be a discussion, rather then an electronic book in its own right. (There is nothing wrong with either aspiration, but they attract different readers and gather different responses.)

Memes are fun for discovering new blogs and making sure I poke my head in on blogs I might not have visited during the week. But finding something worth saying to each of those bloggers can be really tough sometimes. (I'll talk about improving this below...)

I think, truthfully, the thing that drives me the most crazy about being a book blogger is reviews. They are the most time consuming thing on the blog since I need to read the book and think about what I thought of it, how it was written, who would like it, etc. Then I need to write about that. And the kicker of the whole thing is that reviews are actually the thing I find it hardest to comment on / find ways to get people to have meaningful discussions about.

Sometimes, if a post is empty for a review and I can think of *something* to say aside from *just* "Great review!" I'll add to one, but commenting on reviews can be tricky because if you start really discussing the book too much you risk someone else getting a spoiler from what you've said.

How Do I Try To Encourage Comments On My Blog? 

If there is any advice I could give other bloggers it's this: Find your own voice. Find your own style, for the blog, for posting, for all of it. The thing that will make your blog stand out in the end is you.

How does this apply to getting comments? It applies because the way that you set up your posts is what will either invite, discourage or make people indifferent about saying anything.

Personally, I see my blog as a discussion. It's like one giant chat room, or Xbox Live Party, dedicated to books. My background is gaming and the games community is *very* vocal. Plus, I've always been a total chatterbox who cannot shut up. I often talk too much and too long. But for me, my blog is only as good as the discussions it is providing. So I make a point of trying to make sure my content makes people want to talk.

If you want people to give you an answer, ask a question. 

"What new books did you get this week?", "What book are you dying to read that hasn't released yet?", and one I REALLY need to start adding to my posts, and I feel so silly for not thinking of it sooner: "So, have you read [book name]? Are you hoping to read it? Or perhaps something you've heard has made you cautious? I'd love to hear your thoughts." (for reviews). These work especially well at the end of an article, where the next thing someone might do is start to type a comment. If you ask a question at the end, much like asking one while talking to someone, it makes them more inclined to want to say something back.

If you want something to be said, you have to begin by having something to say. 

So often I see people do a meme like Waiting on Wednesday and they'll just post the image of a book and its description without telling me a single reason why they are excited about it, or how they discovered it, or whether it reminds them of another book ... Something, *anything*, people. I hate going through a meme and going "Nice book!" or "Thanks for sharing!" all by itself. I tend to include those in my comments, but I *want* to leave something direct and personalized to *that* blog's selection if I choose to comment. I strive to provide quality in whatever I am doing, and commenting isn't an exception.

If you want people to comment on reviews, you need to make them personal. 

To be clear here: I mean you should tell us what you really, truly felt. Not that you should sling mud at authors! Adding this upon re-reading that and realizing it might cause confusion.

There are times I'll go to read someone's review of a book and I sit there wondering if they've actually read it. I understand that there is always the concern that someone might see a spoiler they're not suppose to, but there are ways to block those if you are nervous, and there are ways to discuss things without blatantly spoiling if finding a way to put up an alert makes you uncomfortable.

I am aware there are differing opinions on what makes a review look professional, and risking spoilers is something that can effect how others will see a blogger. But I guess the reason this doesn't bother me is that I don't see myself as any sort of "professional reviewer". I'm not getting paid for this. I'm a reader who strives to share her passion for the books she loves, and a writer who feels that other writers are entitled to fair, honest and considerate reviews of their work.

People often say that mean spirited or negative reviews are the ones that get the best feedback. The one thing those reviewers are doing that I don't see as much from us is this: they're putting themselves out there. They say what they really feel, they talk about the book as if they've really read it. The tend to have style and voice, whit and humor (even if I think some of the crueler things said are no laughing matter.)

What's holding us back from being like that about what we LOVE? About what was GOOD or GREAT? In being a blogger, you have consciously decided to put your opinion out there. There's always gonna be someone who thinks you're a fool. But there will also be people who think you're totally brilliant. If you aren't YOU, though -- if you don't give what you're saying 110% -- you're doing everybody, *especially yourself*, a great disservice. You've already decided to stick your neck out, to stand up and speak about something I *hope* you're passionate about.

Make. Your. Words. Count. 

If you do that and ask questions to encourage people to respond to your posts, comments will take care of themselves. (Realize I'm assuming people know about your blog and that you tweet / facebook / something when you release new content.)

I hope that this article is helpful.

So, what types of posts do you comment on? Do you have any tips for encouraging comments that I may have missed or never thought of? I'd love to know, so please feel free to leave a comment. :) 

13 comments:

  1. Two very good points - having your own voice and ask questions in your posts.

    It took me a while to 'find my voice' and I must admit that for a long time I thought that being myself meant I wasn't being professional. But I eventually (I'm slow!) realised that I'm not being paid for blogging, and although I want to be professional, if I want to throw in a few puns, or spell things in the Australian way (see realised above!) then I'm being myself and therefore unique.

    And questions always help me to think 'hmmm ok I DO have something to say about this'!

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  2. i agree that memes are a great way to find new blogs!

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  3. Welcome back!

    I have to agree with you about finding your voice in blogging. We are for the most part reviewing a lot of the same books. You need to let your own voice and honesty come through. That is what makes people want to interact with you on a regular basis.

    Will you please everyone? No but that's ok. It's better to throw yourself out there and make some mistakes. You need to have fun with it. Blogging is a hobby and not worth doing if you're afraid to be yourself.

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  4. "Find your own voice. Find your own style, for the blog, for posting, for all of it. The thing that will make your blog stand out in the end is you."

    A to the Men! I couldn't have said it better.

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  5. Okay so first let me say that your advice to other bloggers is everything I look for in following and commenting on a blog. I really love blogs that have their own voice and style. If I love the voice and style I'm more likely to read every post and comment. Also welcoming blogs make me feel okay to comment even if I feel stupid.

    I prefer to comment on reviews actually. I think this is because I feel fine voicing my thoughts even without reading the book (especially if it isn't a genre I typically read) but only if the review leaves me something to work with in regards to saying something with some small degree of depth.

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  6. I recently started ending my reviews with a question and I am finding that I'm getting more comments. I also find that if other bloggers do the same with their posts, I am more likely to leave a comment.

    I respond to almost all the comments left on my blog. Now that blogger has threaded comments it makes it much easier to do so.

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Thanks for visiting my blog. I love comments! Please feel free to tell me what you think about my blog and the things I am posting. I enjoy hearing what others think. :)

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