|THE MILLION DOLLAR BLOG
Natasha Courtenay-Smith (natashacourtenaysmith.com)
This week sees the release of Natasha Courtenay-Smith’s The Million Dollar Blog, a book that looks at the current state of play in the blogging industry and offers advice on how to stand out from the crowd. To celebrate the launch of this essential read for anyone currently running, or planning to run, a blog of any description, I – along with a number of my fellow bloggers – have been asked to take part in a blog tour with a bit of a difference. Rather than reviewing the book, we have been asked to talk about our own blogging experiences and, perhaps, offer tips that have helped us on our journey. I would highly recommend checking out the rest of the tour: there are some excellent pieces which give some insight into the world of the jobbing blogger.
My own experience with blogging started in the dim and distant past when people used LiveJournal to blog about how many hours they slept last night, or what, exactly, they did yesterday in more detail than anyone needs to know. After a couple of aborted attempts, I decided that it wasn’t for me, so I left it. Years later, Twitter came along and I found myself having conversations not only with like-minded readers, but with the people who wrote and published the books I loved to read. And so the idea formed: a blog that would concentrate solely on book reviews with little insight into my personality beyond what I thought of the book in question. The name came to me as I was staring at the WordPress registration screen, months-old baby in one arm.
Long-time readers of the blog will know that the blog has evolved – as has my reviewing style! – over its five-and-a-half-year lifetime, to include guest posts, interviews, a book-related travelogue and – my crowning achievement so far, in my own humble opinion – the wonderful essays that make up Carrie at 40. Adaptation is the nature of the game, providing content that will interest your readers and bring them back for more time and time again.
There are countless book review blogs out there in the big bad world, and you don’t need to look too far to find them. So, why bother? Why does my opinion matter, and why do I think anyone else would be interested in hearing it? Reader Dad, like many of the book review blogs, is a labour of love; it was never intended to make me famous or rich. It is, quite simply, a venue that allows me to share my love of books with the world. In my five-and-a-half years I have built up a small but consistent core following (hello there!) and it is for these people that I write. I have long been of the opinion that book review blogs are more likely to sway readers one way or the other than newspaper or magazine reviews. Why? The complete history of my opinions on books is available at the reader’s fingertips. It gives people a sense of what kind of reader I am, and lets them decide whether my taste is similar enough to their own for them to trust my reviews.
And there, for me, is the crux of the matter: trust. I write honest reviews (and would recommend anyone running a book review blog to do the same) and while I often receive free books, they are always sent in the implicit understanding that I will always be 100% honest about what I thought of them. There is nothing that sets me apart from a hundred other bloggers except that some people have similar tastes to me and have come to trust the reviews I write. It’s a winning formula: I get to keep banging on about books in the knowledge that people read what I write, and I get people talking about books which, let’s face it, is much better than talking about anything else!
Don’t let the overcrowded blogosphere put you off starting your own: there will always be someone out there who trusts your opinion over anyone else’s and if you can keep the conversation going with that one person, then you’re doing something worthwhile.
The Million Dollar Blog by Natasha Courtenay-Smith is out now, priced 13.99.