Spring 2016 (Vol. XIV, No. 1) Table of Contents
In 2007, I started blogging. I wanted to have a blog associated with our bookstore, but first wanted to test-drive the blogosphere and work the kinks out with a personal blog. My husband Dan had recently been diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease requiring folks to avoid eating wheat, barley, and rye for the rest of their lives. In Dan’s case, his symptoms reversed after being on a gluten-free diet for several months, though retooling our pantry, dining out and learning how to cook and bake without wheat flour proved to be a real pain in the ileum. I started chronicling our experiences in navigating the gluten-free world as The Crispy Cook, quickly slapping up successful recipes, fuzzy photos and advice using Google’s Blogger platform.
Once I got the hang of blogging, I started The Book Trout, where I spent much more time carefully crafting longish essays, book reviews, and reports about the world of used and rare books. I wanted to have our bookstore blog be a polished virtual front door for our bookstore and attract booklovers to our website and open shop. Where I spent minutes dashing off a Crispy Cook entry, my Book Trout posts took hours. Guess which blog is more popular?
The Crispy Cook gets many more traffic hits and comments than my poor Book Trout. As a food blogger, I’ve received new books, food items, blogger swag and even a free trip to meet Betty Crocker in Minneapolis from companies looking for a potential blog review, so I was a much more frequent food blogger than book blogger because of these larger rewards for so much less of my time.
The other interesting thing that I found about my book blog was that even though I spent all this time writing and rewriting my posts, the most popular posts were ones I found the easiest to write. I could always count on increasing my blogger stats at the Book Trout by posting a hasty snapshot of our late lamented bookstore cat Sam lounging on the counter (key variations: lounging in the window, lounging on a customer’s lap, lounging on a box of books) or by recounting a trip to a colleague’s bookshop or antiquarian book fair. A few artful photos and a snippet of conversation with a bookseller, and the post writes itself.
I should do more posts with lists of new book acquisitions or books arranged by a subject or author/illustrator. I have found that in the long term, the books I’ve flogged in these Book Trout posts sell better than my other stock. Perhaps it is because I have focused on blogging about the most unusual titles or those with the most arresting jacket art and bindings, or perhaps it is a result of having another set of book images and descriptions floating around the Internet.
Three of my top five most popular Book Trout posts are book reviews of specific titles I had in the shop. I have never had anyone purchase our copy of these titles as a direct result of these reviews, but I am sure the authors and publishers enjoyed the results of my labors. I don’t do book review posts anymore.
So what have I learned from all this bloggery? I have learned that I should spend much more time analyzing my blogger data and focus my efforts on blog posts that actually deliver customers for my books. I know now that my book blog posts shouldn’t be so long and overworked; it’s image-rich, short, chatty posts that are the ones that get visited and shared the most. I have learned that I should spend much more time feeding my blog. My haphazard pattern of posting when I have the time or am feeling particularly inspired just doesn’t cut it. I have also gotten the sense that blog readers really want to learn personal details about the blogger’s life and I have generally not been comfortable with writing those kinds of posts.
That’s what I SHOULD do. However, I have discovered that when I HAVE to blog, I drag my feet through my writing. It’s more of a chore then, and becomes unfulfilling. Instead, my desultory blogging method works for me because it feeds my creative impulses. I like to write, I like to read, and I like to connect with other bibliophiles, so The Book Trout is my vehicle for those passions.
Feeding posts into The Book Trout on a much more consistent basis and dashing off shorter, more targeted posts, is something I could do to make it a zippier and effective marketing tool, but in the past several years I have focused my marketing efforts on more direct contact with my regular customers, periodic tweaking of the bookstore website and dashing off quick posts (always, always with a photo) to feed the shop’s Facebook page. The Book Trout remains my somewhat neglected, but fondly regarded, book baby.
In short, there are many other more successful book bloggers and bookstore owners with blogs out there and if you are thinking about adding a blog into your marketing toolbox, you should seek them out and analyze their blogs. Despite my longevity as a blogger, I am still too haphazard at nurturing my bookstore blog, though it remains a creative outlet for me.
Old Saratoga Books,
Check out the Independent Online Booksellers Association Website