It is a truth that ought to be universally acknowledged: book bloggers are busy people. Because if we’re not reading books and writing book reviews, we are either working, studying, or even just doing our other hobbies, spending time with friends or family, or attending to the important responsibilities in our lives.
I mean, I get it. I have been a book blogger for six years now. I’ve read, reviewed, and maintained a book blog while also being an undergraduate at university, working my first full time job, my two postgraduate degrees while working two jobs, and I am now working a full-time paid job that’s at least 50 – 55 hours a week. How do, and did, I do it?
Having maintained blogs with a consistent schedule where we are either posting once every two to three days while balancing, you know, life, I feel like I am qualified? experienced enough? to impart some advice and tips today. Blogging is not easy – remember when we talked to bloggers about how they balanced blogging and life? – but if you are a book blogger looking for tips on how to manage your book blog while on a busy schedule, I hope this post will be helpful today.
1. Use a Notion (or something similar) to plan your schedule
Discovering Notion, an online application tool with calendar, planning, and database capabilities, and utilising it for The Quiet Pond was one of the best things we ever did. Skye actually put together a Notion for The Quiet Pond specifically – and I’ll forever be grateful for it – and it has genuinely changed my life.
One of my biggest roadblocks when it comes to book blogging is deciding what content I want to do next. I often get stuck on whether I should review this book or if I should write this idea instead. I am the kind of person that has ideas all the time – sometimes in the wackiest places and hours of the day. I am quite an indecisive person and Notion has curtailed that significantly. Now, I am able to plan weeks ahead of our content. When it’s time for me to blog, I pull up Notion and can see, at a glance, what needs to be done and then I just do it. In other words, Notion enables many-braincells-CW to make decisions for no-braincells-CW – and this has helped me so much.
Here are some examples of how we use Notion at the Pond, in case you need ideas on how this tool can work for you.
Use the calendar for your blogging schedule
Our The Quiet Pond blogging calendar is the tool that I use the most in Notion.
For instance, our month-long guest series require a high level of organisation – and because there’s three of us at the Pond (more on co-bloggers later!) – we use the calendar so we know who is posting when and what. Here is a screenshot of our Notion calendar for the month of February 2021, when we did our first Black History Month guest feature series.
This ambitious calendar was decided during January – before the event started. As you can see, with daily posts (which isn’t our regular schedule), Notion saved us from a lot of potential disorganisation and mess. I find having a visual representation of the calendar extremely helpful and having the ability to plan and delegate, as well as the freedom to shuffle things around if unexpected things come up.
ADVICE TIME! Something that Skye also did was that she added ‘Type’ and ‘Author’ to each calendar item/page, so we knew the type of post we had scheduled into our calendar and who was managing the post. Knowing what the post is and for it to be reasonable easy to see at a glance can help you if you are wanting to ensure that your schedule has variety each week.
But you probably aren’t doing an intense daily blogging schedule like we did for last month in February. So here’s a look at our January 2021 schedule, which would be more representative of our normal blog schedule.
Better, right? Seeing each post spaced apart on the calendar is great for me, because I can see how often we are posting, when we are posting, and what I need to work on next. And having this is great, especially when I come home from a busy day at work, itching to do some blogging, and I can just open Notion and it can guide me on what I need to be working and preparing next.
Keeping track of post statuses and collaboration posts
If you are a book blogger who regularly collaborates with other people, Notion is also a fantastic tool with its template and ‘board view’ capabilities. My co-bloggers and I plan our entire guest series on Notion – we come up with a list of authors whose work we really enjoyed or are excited for and who to approach. When they respond and express interest in collaborating, we create a bucket for that series and an item/page for that author. This is especially helpful when you might have to juggle multiple projects and managing different sub-tasks.
A screenshot of what we planned during Black History Month can be seen on the right! Using ‘Status’ in each item, we were able to allocate different statuses to each author post. For instance, I was able to see which posts were completed, what I needed to do for each post (we also utilised a checklist and we had a template for this checklist, which we applied to each author), and whether I was waiting or needed to follow up with an author if they were running behind.
Though most of what I’ve talked about for Notion is outlining ways of organisation, I really feel that good organisation can save so much time; it’s time you don’t have to spend wondering what to do next, what needs to be done, deciding what goes where, and resolving conflicts! And as I said before: book bloggers are busy; we have other things going in our lives that demand our attention and memory. Using tools like Notion help you do the heavy-lifting and gives you the cognitive space to read, write, and create.
2. Plan your posts with a simple outline – trust me!
If you are anything like me, you may start writing a post, feel like you’re going somewhere, and suddenly your head is filled with the Nintendo Wii Theme song, in which you’ll find yourself asking: “… wait, what was I writing again?” When writing on a busy schedule, I know that I want to churn out as many words as much as I can – but I also want my words to be succinct yet meaningful too.
In my experience, the best way to do this is to give yourself direction of what you want to write before you even start writing the full thing. All I did was write bullet points of what I wanted my post to cover – it’s that simple but so effective and you’ll thank past-you for doing it.
Even for this post, I wrote an outline. I thought about what my main points were, used those main points as headers for this post, and then all I did was add, elaborated, and expanded. Like writing posts and like reviewing, it’s likely you already know the material – you know what you’re going to writing about, it’s just a matter of writing the words and writing something cohesive. Moreover, if you have to put the post aside for the day, you will have your outline to refer to and you won’t have to try and delve into the recesses of your brain to remember what that elusive and spectacular idea that you forgot.
- For book recommendation posts: I suggest creating the list of books you want to recommend before you format or talk about the book. Searching or thinking of books to recommend can be challenging; save yourself the hassle and decide what books you want to recommend first.
- For discussion posts: Outline your main points, like you would with an essay. If your discussion post had/has headers, what would they be? Write them down, and then you can take your time to write it, knowing full well what direction you want to take your discussion. (And if the discussion evolves and changes as you write it? At least you can cover all of your bases!)
- For book reviews: Use our book review prompts list! Or, before starting write down three of your main points of your review and what you want to discuss in each point. When you come to writing your review, you can expand on each point.
Book review outline example
For instance, if I was to write an outline of a book review using my recent review of Take Back the Block as an example:
- Why I think Take Back the Block is an exemplary middle-grade book
- What the story is about – praise how the book handles so many things at once
- balances gentrification, growing up, friendship, change
- Talk about why I loved the main character, Wes
- he’s not perfect, but trying his best
- and he gets to be a kid, which I loved
- Why I loved how the book explores gentrification
- explains gentrification in an easy way
- I thought it was thought-provoking
- Also liked that this book is empowering and is about activism
- see different forms of activism
And that’s an example of what my book review outline will look like! That way, if I have to leave it and come back, I know what I was planning to write and can just build on my knowledge, understanding, and feelings about the book itself.
3. Take notes when reading, if reviewing
Something that I have started doing more recently is taking notes while reading a book that I know I will review. As you all know, a lot can happen in a book, and it can be difficult to remember everything that happens. (Who hasn’t opened up a document with every intent to write a book review, only for their mind to go blank?)
I do a mix of taking notes in my notebook, highlighting passages on my electronic reader, and typing notes as I read them digitally. You will have your own way and system of taking notes (some people might annotate, some people might use post stick notes), but what you will find is that over time, when you’ve done more note-taking, is that the notes become the bare bones of your book review.
However, in case you would like an example, here is a rough guideline of what kind of notes I make when reading and how or why I turn it into a review.
|Things I make notes of (and examples)||How I turn these highlights into points in my review|
|Specific lines, passages, or dialogue that resonates with me. ||If it resonates with me, it may resonate with someone else – and that’s worth highlighting! I may mention this in my book review and relate it to how this book made me feel or highlights of the book.|
|Character notes; their characteristics, whether I like their development, what I think about them||Characters are such a huge part of the book, that I think they are always worth mentioning in a book review. Since characters are also the driving forces behind a book, I like talking about how I feel the characters move the storytelling forward and whether I just enjoy the characters.|
|My feelings while reading the book||Am I crying? Am I happy? Am I boted? Am I screaming into a pillow because something is so cute or so terrifying? I love noting down how I’m feeling as I read, and sometimes it’s helpful when discussing a book to see the rollercoaster of emotions you may have gone through!|
|My unfiltered thoughts when reading, whether it be worldbuilding, characters, plot, themes, writing style, etc.||Writing your unfiltered thoughts can be helpful, as I feel that it helps me engage with the work more. Moreover, some of the thoughts that I document make it to my book reviews, because my thoughts may speak to the themes and ‘heart’ of the book|
|Making notes of specific events in the book, especially turning points or important scenes||I write spoiler-free reviews, but noting down specific events are helpful because (1) they capture how you feel, in that moment, which helps you contextualise your feelings after you have fnished reading, (2) important scenes may be emotive – how did book made you feel? (3) they may highlight important themes in the book|
|Content warnings in the book that I find as a I go||Helpful for me at the end, so I know what content warnings to include in my review!|
|Lines that I just like – for no particular reason!||No reason! Maybe I just like the line a lot. Maybe I just want to feel something when I highlight something. And that is ok!|
4. Blog consistently and frequently, rather doing it all in one day
Blogging more consistently and frequently for shorter periods of time, rather than blogging for 8-hours straight in one day works very well for me, and maybe it will work well for you as well. (And if that’s not possible for you, that’s okay! Pick and choose what advice works best for you and your wonderful brain.)
In the past, I used to blog exclusively on the weekend. I would sit down, and blog for 8 hours straight, and later emerge absolutely exhausted and emotionally drained with two posts to show for it. Because I know me better now, I know that I genuinely struggle with sitting down to do one thing (I cannot for the life of me watch an entire season of something in one day), I need to vary my day with multiple activities. When I started blogging for 1 – 2 hours a weekday, I found that I was more productive, more excited to write and create content, and didn’t feel burdened by the pressure of creating oodles of content in one day. While practice is a part of it, I can now write a book review in an hour, whereas in my 8 hour blogging days, I wrote two at most.
Now, working on The Quiet Pond feels like part of my schedule – I blog after dinner/after going out with friends/playing video games until I go to bed, because I write best at night time. If you write/create best in the morning or afternoon, then give that a go!
5. Templates, templates, templates!
Formatting posts and getting them blog-ready takes so much more time than most people would expect. It may seem like it won’t save that much time, but utilising templates for anything that you can use a template for will help tremendously.
Here are some examples of how I utilise templates:
My book review format template
I cannot recommend enough having a document where you have saved a basic template of your posts (or, use a reusable block, see below).
I have a Microsoft Word document that functions as my book review template. Specifically, because my posts are structured in the order of: (1) post image/banner, (2) blurb, (3) book review, (4) my ‘is this book for you?’ section that is unique to our book reviews, and (5) book purchase/pre-order links, having a template that provides me with the structure and requires me to just go in and copy + paste makes things much easier. (The right image is a section I include in my template and have tailored for my book review of Amari and the Night Brothers!)
The book purchase/pre-order links are particularly helpful to have as a template, because, as you all know this, linking things take forever. Therefore, my template includes links to each respective store/retailer, where I just need to click into the link, search the book, copy the book link, and paste it into the review that I am formatting.
Utilising ‘reuseable blocks’
If you use WordPress to blog, WordPress has ‘reusable blocks’ that you can use. In essence, reusable blocks are blocks that you can save and reuse. Another way to think about it would be having a block on copy and pasting it whenever you need. You can learn more about reusable blocks here.
Reusable blocks are efficient for posts where you might have the same block of text each time, which means that you can save time on typing out the text again. For example, I utilised reusable blocks for our ‘series introduction’ (the first section of text in quotes) for each Our Friend is Here: Black History Month Edition post, and we also use a reusable block for the introduction (in the quote block) in each book recommendation posts. Moreover, images can be saved as a reusable block, which is helpful for me, especially when I use the below image at the start of my reviews:
Other ways you can use reusable blocks:
- Use an image reusable block when signing-off your blog posts with an image of your signature/name
- If you include your bio at the end of each post, you can save your bio as a reusable block
- Affiliate texts and links
- Review disclaimer text, i.e., I was provided an ARC in exchange for an honest review…
- Like what we do, use reusable blocks that you would use multiple times across multiple posts, such as a little introductory text to your post
- You can group reusable blocks together to create a template involving a multi-block reusable block! Just remember to ‘convert to regular block’ after, so that any changes you make to the block aren’t saved to your reusable block.
ADVICE TIME! If you use WordPress and you need to reuse a post’s formatting, rather than copy and pasting the post. use the ‘Copy Post’ function! It takes more time to apply headers and random bits of formatting, than to simply replace the text and images on existing formatting.
If you are organising a project or a series or something that involves contacting multiple people, create an email template! Writing emails can be draining after awhile, so I like creating an email template to make sure that everyone who I contact receives the same information. My advice though: even if you use an email template, making it personal goes such a long way. As most bloggers will know from being asked to review books, the emails that tend to stand out more are when the email feels like it’s personal, rather than a simple ‘Hi there!’ as a greeting.
6. Find your worth it:effort ratio
Someone smarter than me could probably explain this better, but an important trick to book blogging – and just, life in general, I guess – is figuring out your worth it:effort ratio. The way I see most of my blogging is a balance between the content I create being worth it and how much effort I put into it. If you are a new book blogger, this balance can be challenging to figure out, but this is simply something that you just learn over time.
On content being worth it
What makes a post ‘worth’ it will inevitably vary between blogger to blogger. For some people, a post that is worth it may be a post that receives a lot of views and engagement, for others it might be that internal sense of pride and joy, or maybe the other is how much it fulfills you – whether it be creativity, expression, or that the post builds your brand.
For bloggers, I think there will always be that pressure that the content that we create should get views and engagement. I’ve been there! Before I created The Quiet Pond, I really struggled with this. I found it difficult to grapple with the fact that the posts that I spent hours and hours writing and putting together got barely any views, whereas the posts that were quick to write and compile got more engagement. Now, what I aim with my content is a feeling of satisfaction and enjoyment – did I enjoy writing the post? am I proud of it? does it help people? I can’t tell you what should matter to you – that’s something that you have to figure out yourself.
Effort is a tricky thing, because book blogging – and, life again, I guess? – is just a collection of our efforts. Book blogging is something that we purposefully create and do, and that requires time and energy and effort.
Something that new book bloggers struggle with is the idea that: if I put more effort into something, it means that the results will be better. It’s a tough lesson, but it is not always necessarily true. Sometimes your passion projects in your book blog can flop – it’s happened to us! – and then you wonder why you even bothered putting so much effort in. Being smart with your time means also being smart with your effort. Considering the high volumes of content that book bloggers put through, it is okay that all of your posts aren’t 100% effort; it’s okay if it’s 80% sometimes.
On reconciling the two – what’s the balance?
Like I said, what makes something worth it for you and how much effort you need to put in is something that all book bloggers need to figure out for themselves. If I had any advice to impact, it’d be this:
If you are having fun writing a post, pouring your feelings (good or bad) into the review, recommending books that you are passionate about, writing those tags to connect to others, or engaging with an author’s work, then write it! At the end of the day, book blogging is a hobby and if you are having fun, then you are doing it right.
7. Consider getting a co-blogger
When I settled into a full-time job, I knew that book blogging was going to be challenging to do consistently. I grappled with the idea of looking for a co-blogger for a long time; I wanted people who understood my vision and goals for the Pond and would be able to bring their creativity and fun to the table. The prospect of co-bloggers can be scary – you are inviting people to collaborate with you on something that you have built up and are proud of. (One day, I’ll write a Book Blogger Resources post where I talk about the benefits, caveats, and tips on co-blogging.)
Bringing in Joce and Skye was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Generally speaking, here are some of the ways both of them have helped me and have made my journey as a blogger so much better and easier:
- We get to do the best kind of group project – one that we want to do together and love doing! Whenever we do our big month-long heritage posts, Skye, Joce and I divide the work up in a way that works with our schedules and work on the guest features together.
- If I’m really busy with non-blogging things, Skye and Joce can create content/posts so I can have a breather and have the space to do my non-blogging stuff.
- Blogging feels more fun – we’re like a little Pond family and we can bounce ideas off each other, talk about books, work on things together, and get feedback on ideas that we may have. (To be honest, it’s usually me with the ideas and Joce and Skye telling me to slow down.)
- If I’m in a pinch, they have my back. (I was traveling for work and wrote the entirety of this post on my phone [which was indeed a journey]; Skye backed me up by formatting everything for me before the post went up.)
8. Blog/Do the things that you are interested in
I touched on this briefly above, but if you want to blog consistently, then I cannot emphasise the importance of creating and writing content that interests you. There’s nothing worse than struggling to write a post that you do not enjoy or feel interested in – it makes book blogging feel like a chore (or, more than it can feel).
At the end of the day, book blogging is a hobby and if you want to enjoy your hobby, create content that sparks joy. And trust me – the things that spark joy or things that we are passionate about are so much easier or more fulfilling to write about than content we simply do not enjoy doing.
I can’t tell you what you enjoy, but here are some lessons I learned during my book blogging journey:
There’s no ‘right’ way to be a book blogger
Sometimes it can feel like to be a ‘legitimate’ book blog, you must do book reviews, you must do book tags, or you must do wrap-ups. I used to believe that I had to do tags as a book blogger, but actually did not enjoy doing them at all. My advice: If you don’t enjoy doing them, don’t do it! Part of book blogging is finding your voice and style, and voice and style emerge when you are genuinely invested and interested in the content that you are writing, rather than doing the things that you feel obligated to do.
Request what you are interested in
Only request advanced reading copies (ARCs) of books that genuinely interest you! Sometimes it’s hard to discern whether you want to read a book because of the hype or because the premise genuinely draws you in. I know all too well how it feels to scroll through NetGalley/Edelweiss and clicking request request request with wild abandon, but exercise a little self-restraint and you will thank yourself for it.
… And don’t request more than you can read
In the same vein, request a few at a time! I have the tendency to feel overwhelmed when I have too many books to read, so I usually request 2 – 3, and when I have finished reading and reviewing them, I request a new batch of ARCs. (And guess what? My NetGalley ratio is perfect so far.)
Take a step back every once in awhile
Book blogging can feel all-consuming sometimes – it feels like there’s so many ‘right’ ways of doing things that we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to meet these arbitrary standards. But that’s all they are, friends: arbitrary standards! Sometimes it’s healthy to take a step back and ask yourself: Why am I putting all of these expectations on myself? Are they external pressures or internal? Please do take a moment to pause and ask yourself again: Am I being hard on myself? Am I setting unrealistic expectations on myself where I’m doomed to fail? Do I even enjoy blogging?! Your mental health is so important, friends. Don’t make things harder for yourself. 💜
And that’s all for today, friends! My main takeaway from today’s Book Blogger Resource is that you can do a culmination of little things to make your life easier – and doing those little things is worth it. There’s no hack to make blogging suddenly easier; it’s just a toolkit of useful resources, habits, and working smarter that will help. I hope my tips were helpful to you in some way.
At the end of the day, I can only provide you with tips from my singular experiences and perspective, so if you find your own way that works for you, then I’m genuinely happy for you. If you found this list helpful, please don’t hesitate to share this post with your fellow book bloggers! And if any of you have any spare change, I do have a Ko-Fi if you want to show a little appreciation. Thank you for reading.