Tag Archives: Blogging

Guest Post: How to Start a Book Review Blog–And Score Some Free Books!

Standard

This article has been reprinted with the permission of Web Design Relief.  Whether you’re just starting out or a best-selling author, Web Design Relief will improve your existing website or build you an affordable, custom author website to support your author platform, boost your online presence, and act as a hub for your social media outreach. Web Design Relief is a division of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. Sign up for their free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit the site today to learn more.

book-reviews

If you are a ravenous book reader, you may be able to turn your passion for the written word (and your love of sharing your opinion) into a rewarding book review blog. Not only do book review bloggers get the satisfaction of reading and critiquing, they also often score free books from writers and publishers who want to generate some book review blogger buzz. Here’s what Web Design Relief wants you to know about how to start a book review blog!

How To Start Your Own Book Review Blog

Pinpoint a genre/readership. Although your reading tastes may run the gamut from quiet literary fiction to noisy international espionage thrillers, you may want to focus your book review blog on one specific genre. When you focus clearly on a particular target audience, you’ll have a better chance of connecting effectively with that specific readership.

Sharpen your hook. There are a lot of book review blogs out there. What makes yours stand out? Now is the time to think about how you might distinguish your blog from others.

  • Do you want to write a “shock jock” style book review blog that invites controversy by both delighting and enraging readers? Are you willing to risk being alienated by certain writers or book review-seeking publishers by having an in-your-face style that cuts to the heart of reader concerns?
  • Or do you prefer a milder, more moderate approach that focuses on the positive, supporting the authors who inspire you while choosing not to devote attention to those books that don’t spark your interest?

Find your voice as a blogger. The tone and style of your book reviews will help define your future readership. If you are reviewing books that have an academic or literary focus, you may be able to get away with writing long, formal, winding sentences in your book reviews. But keep in mind that the most popular bloggers often embrace a witty, chatty, casual style, because the way people read using a computer or mobile device is different from how they read print. Learn more: Author Website Copy: Five Essential Tips For Writing Web Text.

stacks-of-books bing public domain

Establish a format for your book reviews. The traditional publishing industry format for book reviews includes dedicating the majority of the review to the facts of the book in question (story/content/synopsis/background). Only in the last few sentences, would you share your personal opinion and include both strengths and weaknesses of the book.

But you don’t have to stick to the traditional style of writing book reviews. As a blogger, you can take creative liberties with your book reviews. You may decide that the bulk of your review should focus on opinion, with only a few sentences dedicated to summary of the book itself.

Develop a book ranking scale. Another thing to consider is how you will rate or rank the books on your book review blog. You can use a traditional five-star system, or you can develop your own rating guide—using anything from emojis to color schemes. You may want to link each of your book reviews to an explanation of your personal book ranking system so that readers who are new to your blog can understand it.

Focus on value. Whatever the format/style/voice you choose for your book reviews, keep in mind that the most successful book reviews are those that are practical and helpful to readers who are trying to decide whether to read or buy a given book. Readers who are looking for the next great addition to their TBR list may not want to waste their time reading a lengthy diatribe about a book you consider a “don’t buy.” They might prefer to spend their time learning about a book they will actually want to read.

Select which books you will review. Your choice of book titles to review will say a lot about who you are as a blogger and what you value as a reader. Will you choose to join the conversation by reviewing nationally released, buzzworthy books that are already being discussed all over the Internet? Or will you focus on hidden gems from independent presses? 

Keep reviews short, memorable, and quotable. Book readers want you to cut to the chase and let them know what makes a particular book a great read. Witty insights, pithy phrases, and unique perspectives can make your book reviews memorable. Plus, authors who are happy with your turn of phrase might just feature your book review quote and URL on the cover of their next book release—which will help spread the word about your book blogging efforts!

Reach out. Book bloggers rarely succeed by writing in a vacuum. To generate an audience and increase the likelihood that writers and publishers will send free books your way, you’ll need to do some marketing. Here are a few ideas:

  • Connect with other book bloggers
  • Reach out to writing groups to invite book submissions
  • Cross-promote with other bloggers
  • Host book giveaway contests
  • Feature writer interviews/Q&As/guest bloggers
  • Integrate your book reviews with social media feeds 

Final Thoughts: Are You A Book Reviewer? Or A Writer?

If you are active in the creative writing community as an author, you may want to be aware of how your book reviews will be received within the community of your peers. What you write today about a given author’s book could affect you tomorrow if you sit down at a luncheon and an author you once lambasted is seated right beside you. Also, if you come down hard on a particular publisher’s title in a way that makes a big splash, that publisher might not be particularly receptive when it’s time for you to pitch your own book for publication.

Your words have power—as both a book lover and an author, you’ll have to make decisions about your priorities and values if you decide to start a book review blog. Learn more about what it means to be an author who also writes book reviews.

 

Question: What most influences your decision to buy a book?

Happy 4th Birthday to ARHtistic License!

Standard
Happy 4th Birthday to ARHtistic License!

Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of the first blog post on ARHtistic License. I like to reflect on the blog’s progress around its birthday and at the end of the year.

One year ago, ARHtistic License had 465 followers. As of this writing, it’s grown to 683, an increase of 27.5%, a modest gain (I was hoping for more like 50%; I can dream, can’t I?).

There are two ways to determine what content is most popular: views and likes.

My ten most popular articles of 2019 so far, based on the number of views:

  1. NaPoWriMo2019 #13 (252)
  2. *Jan van Eyck’s The Crucifixion and the Last Judgment: Painted by a Committee (235)
  3. *How to Make a Meme on a Mac (154)
  4. *Escaping the Khmer Rouge: Review of Beautiful Hero by Jennifer H. Lau (144)
  5. *How to Practice the Piano: Doh! Dohnányi (136)
  6. Phoenix Folk Dance Festival (102)
  7. #DC383: Ratoon (92)
  8. *10 Best Zentangle Sites on the Web (86)
  9. #DC385: Valentangle (72)
  10. *Review of The Accidental Tourist, or Why I’d Rather Read the Book Than See the Movie (70)

The titles marked with an * are articles from prior years that still get lots of views currently.

blogging-15968_1280

I know why some of these articles got lots of views:

  • The NaPoWriMo one is a poem I wrote that was featured on the official National Poetry Writing Month website, so lots of NaPoWriMo participants read it. It’s not necessarily the best poem I wrote that month, but I read all the featured poems (a new one every day in April), too.
  • People like help with technical stuff; I think that’s why my how-to on memes gets read so often.
  • Beautiful Hero won 1st Place in Writer’s Digest‘s Self-Published E-Book Award in 2018. I think people searched for reviews of it.
  • I think all pianists find Dohnányi’s exercises challenging. Misery loves company.
  • I posted a link to the article about the Phoenix Folk Dance Festival on the Phoenix International Folk Dancers Facebook page.
  • The titles that start with #DC were my entries in a Zentangle challenge (the Diva Challenge, which seems to have stopped, to my sadness). It was a very popular challenge, and all the participants checked out all the entries. Tangle enthusiasts love finding new sources, so I think that’s why so many people read the 10 best Zentangle sites article.
  • I love that so many people read the Jan van Eyck article. I have no idea why that one gets read almost every day, while others of my articles about the old masters don’t get nearly as much interest.

My top ten articles in the past year, based on number of likes:

  1. Wordless Wednesday/ Flower of the Day: Assorted Vincas (24)
  2. NaPoWriMo2019 #13 (23)
  3. Wordless Wednesday: Painted Rocks by the Neighborhood Ice Cream Parlor (23)
  4. Wordless Wednesday/ Flower of the Day/ #ALP: Red Bird of Paradise (23)
  5. Creative Juice #111 (22)
  6. Flower of the Day: African Daisies (21)
  7. My Favorite Art Blogs (21)
  8. OctPoWriMo Day 8: Married Forty-Five Years (21)
  9. Wordless Wednesday/ Flower of the Day: Red Bird of Paradise (20)
  10. Wordless Wednesday/ Flower of the Day: Hibiscus (20)

I think I know why these posts got the most likes:

  • Wordless Wednesday and Flower of the Day are two popular photography challenges. Photographers, like zentanglers, support each other by checking out their entries.
  • NaPoWriMo (April) and OctPoWriMo (October) are poetry challenges. Like photographers and zentanglers, poets like to see what their colleagues are doing.
  • Creative Juice is a feature that appears every Friday on ARHtistic License. It’s a list of a dozen articles I found on the web that I found inspiring or creative. It has a loyal following.
  • People who surf the internet like to find websites that match their interests. I think that’s why readers liked the art blog roundup.
woman typing writing programming

Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Nevertheless, I am disappointed that I can’t get 100 likes on my posts. I think it has to do with the fact that in order to “like” or comment on a WordPress blog, you must have a Gravatar; in order to get a Gravatar, you must sign up for a WordPress account and give up personal information like your email address. It sounds like a big deal, but it’s not. It’s free.

It breaks my heart that my #1 most viewed post so far this year only got 24 likes. Does that mean that more than 90% of my readers HATED my poem? I already confessed that it’s not one of my best, but if even 40% liked it, that would be 100 likes right there.

I am so jealous of bloggers who regularly get hundreds of likes on their posts.

Every year I whine and consider quitting.

Then I try to do some things differently and plug on.

Please, if you enjoy reading a blog post and there’s a “like” button, click it. It will make the blogger’s day. It will serve as vindication for the hours she spent on the post. It will put a smile in her heart.

Also, please share it on your social media. Thanks!

And subscribe so you don’t miss a single post.

A to Z Blogging Challenge

Standard
A to Z Blogging Challenge

Friends, starting next Monday I will be participating in the yearly April A to Z Blogging Challenge. And, as usual, for me (this is my fourth year taking the challenge), I will be adhering to my blog’s focus on the the arts and the creative process. The challenge will come from writing about a topic that starts with the day’s letter. I hope you will stop by daily to check out ARHtistic License and the other participants in the challenge.

How to Keep On Blogging

Standard
How to Keep On Blogging

It’s a common experience across the Blogosphere: you’ve made a commitment to your readers that you’ll post consistently on certain days, but, every once in a while, as the day approaches, you can’t think of a topic to write about; or your post is boring, even to you. What should you do?

frustrated-writer-2

What to do:

  • Give yourself permission to miss one post a year. But unless you’re experiencing a life-crisis (like a death in the family, a birth, a move, a fire, surgery, prolonged illness, a flood), you only get one pass a year. Work on the following tips starting today, so you won’t become a habitual slacker.
  • Keep a notebook where you jot down your brilliant ideas. I know from personal experience that no matter how vivid my ideas are, if I don’t actually write them down, they dissolve into the ether. Elizabeth Gilbert says something to the effect that if you don’t diligently take the idea and do something with it, it will go away and find someone else to birth it.
  • Don’t have any ideas? Brainstorm. On a blank page, write down any idea that comes to you (even if it’s stupid) and let it suggest other ideas, along the same lines or totally unrelated. Make it a game to come up with at least twenty, then chose the five best to craft into posts (and you’re allowed to fine-tune them as you work).
  • Your blog probably has a focus. Mine is the arts and the creative process. What aspects of your focus have neglected? Certainly you haven’t exhausted every possible angle. Or if you feel you have, think up something totally unrelated for a change. For example, I might write about garden tools (though it wouldn’t be hard to make that into an art or design article). Or take an outlandish position on something and work it into a humor piece.
  • Interview somebody. It can be someone connected with the focus of your blog, someone you know or someone you’ve never met. Ask her. She might say no, but she might say yes. You can interview her in person, by phone, or by email.
  • Tell about your life. I follow about 100 blogs, and I think I know these bloggers as well as I know my friends. Then they’ll post about something that happened to them and I realize I don’t know them at all. I’m honored when they share their private lives with me. You can tell your readers about an incident from your past, or what you’re going through right now, or come up with a list of interesting factoids about yourself (like your major in college, your first job, what cities you’ve lived in, your hobbies).blogging-15968_1280

Being stuck for a blog post idea isn’t fatal. You can take steps to prevent yourself from running out of ideas, or you can inspire yourself to come up with an engaging topic.

Is there something you do that I didn’t mention that helps you keep going in your blogging life? Please share in the comments below.

Has this article been of help to you? Please make my day by clicking the like button and by sharing it on your social media accounts.

My Favorite Art Blogs

Standard
My Favorite Art Blogs

Art is one of my passions. Blogging is another. Here, in alphabetical order, are my ten most favorite art blogs:

  • Artistcoveries. Judith started this blog in March, 2016 to share her process of discovery as creates. She’s self-taught, and it’s been exciting to witness her progress. She lists lots of resources that she’s found helpful.
  • Beez in the Belfry. Sandy Steen Bartholomew is a talented illustrator, comics author, and mixed media artist. I learned of her when I bought one of her Zentangle® books (she’s also a Certified Zentangle Teacher). She blogs about the many facets of her life, even offering glimpses inside her studio.
  • Colossal. Featuring artists working in all facets of art, design, photography, crafts, illustration, and more, Colossal consistently wows me.
  • Living on the Edge of Wild. Deborah J. Brasket is a writer and artist. She posts about whatever is on her heart and what she’s recently painted or seen and shares her writing.
  • Frugal Crafter. Lindsay Weirich is an artist, writer, and craft designer. She is also an excellent teacher, as evidenced by the wonderful step-by-step videos she produces, shared on the blog and on YouTube.
  • Oil_painting_palette wikipediaMy Modern Met. Similar to Colossal, this website showcases gorgeous art, design, photography, and more. I always find something new there.
  • My Street Inspiration. This site displays examples of creative artistry you find on the street—murals, public art, graffiti, and street musicians.
  • Nathalie’s Studio. Nathalie Kalbach is a mixed-media artist. She designs stamps and she shares her art journal and discusses her projects. She shares visits to museums and documents her strolls through the ‘hood, Jersey City, and Manhattan across the river. (Her photos make me homesick for New Jersey.)
  • Sketch Away: Travels with My Sketchbook. Suhita Shirodkar always has her sketchbook with her and records what’s going on in her life. She’s also an art workshop instructor and makes recommendations about supplies she uses.
  • Writing and Illustrating. Kathy Temean is heavily involved with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in New Jersey. Every Saturday she posts an interview with an illustrator, complete with pictures of their work and questions about their process, how they got started in the business, and everything else artistic minds want to know. She also deals with the writing side, and often picture book authors will offer copies for a giveaway on the website.

That’s it—my ten favorite art blogs. (Just so you know, I wrote a separate post about my favorite Zentangle blogs.)

Now it’s your turn. Is there an art blog you love that I’ve overlooked? Or do you blog about art? Share in the comments below.

Guest Post: How to Use Medium to Share Your Writing and Grow Your Email List by Nicole Bianchi

Standard
Guest Post: How to Use Medium to Share Your Writing and Grow Your Email List by Nicole Bianchi

Thank you to Nicole Bianchi for this excellent article about utilizing Medium. 

 


Want to connect with other writers? Make sure to get your invitation to my private writing community on Facebook!

As a writer, you’re probably seeking more exposure for your work. What if I told you there was a website where you could publish your writing and tap into a potential audience of 30,000 people per month?

Woman typing on laptop

Enter Medium. A blogging and publishing platform developed by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, it’s a fantastic place to share new articles or republish old blog posts and reach more readers.

However, there are several steps you need to take in order to get your writing in front of Medium’s audience. When I first tried posting on Medium back in March 2016, my posts received very little views and interaction. Feeling discouraged, I stopped posting.

But in November a friend encouraged me to try posting again. One of her posts had gone viral on the platform and brought her several hundred new email subscribers. She advised that I try submitting to Medium publications. These publications are like magazines that exist inside the Medium platform and curate articles around specific topics.

I followed my friend’s advice, and the results were amazing. My Medium following grew from around 200 people to 1,800. Three of my posts ended up becoming trending articles in a publication and as of today have received over twenty-five thousand views. Another was featured on the Medium homepage.

Best of all, Medium drove traffic back to my website. Over the past three months, 550+ new subscribers have joined my email list with most of those subscribers coming directly from Medium.

Today, I’m going to share with you how to set up an account and all of the strategies I’ve used to turn Medium readers into subscribers.

How to Get Started on Medium

Step 1 – Set up a Medium Account

To get started on Medium, you’ll first need to create an account.

You can sign-up with your email address or with a Twitter, Facebook, or Google account. I recommend signing up with your Twitter account if you have one. Any of your Twitter followers who are also on Medium will automatically appear as Medium followers too.

Medium will also ask you to select your interests and will suggest people for you to follow. Make sure to pick the topics that you will be writing about. Medium will display articles related to those topics in your homepage feed, and you’ll be able to see the types of articles that are performing well.

Step 2 – Edit Your Profile

Now it’s time to edit your profile. (Click on the avatar at the top right-hand corner of the page to find your profile. Choose “profile” from the drop-down menu.)

Here’s a screenshot of my current profile:

Use a photo of yourself for the profile picture. This will give your account more authority and establish trust with your readers. I recommend uploading the same photo that you use on your other social media accounts so your followers will immediately recognize you if they follow you elsewhere on the web.

Finally, make sure to include a prominent link to your website or to your email list sign-up form.

Step 3 – Write Your First Story

To start writing your first post, you can click on “Write a Story” in the menu bar or choose “New Story” from the drop-down menu.

If you’re republishing a post from your blog, just copy and paste it and make the necessary formatting edits.

Alternatively, you have the option to import a post directly from your blog. However, I’ve had problems in the past where a post I imported displayed the date I first published it on the blog and not on Medium. This meant that it did not show up as a new story in readers’ feeds. I recommend just creating a new story and copying and pasting your blog post into the Medium editor.

The title, subtitle, and lead picture are extremely important for getting people to click on your article.

A constant stream of articles floods readers’ homepage feeds. The only way yours will stand out is if the title and picture catch readers’ eyes. For example, here’s how one of my posts would show up on a reader’s homepage:

The picture makes the story stand out, the title is intriguing, and the subtitle further explains what the title is about without giving too much away.

I’ve tried not including subtitles on posts, but I’ve found that the articles usually do not perform as well.

Read my post here for tips on how to write compelling headlines and more suggestions on how to format the body of your Medium post. You can find free stock photos to use as lead pictures at Pixabay and Unsplash.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Happy Blog Birthday to Me

Standard
Happy Blog Birthday to Me

ARHtistic License is three years old today!

In the past three years, I’ve published over 1,735 posts. ARHtistic License now has 465 subscribers.

But sometimes I wonder if all my work is worth it.

blogging-15968_1280

I subscribe to a hundred blogs, and I check out at least twenty new-to-me blogs a week. Some of the blogs I see are fabulous—and I share their posts on social media and through Flipboard and Creative Juice.

But some of the blogs I see are, frankly, poorly written and unattractively designed—and yet have thousands of subscribers.

I must be doing something wrong.

Help me.

 

Two measures of a blog’s popularity are views and likes. Views are the traffic your blog gets; likes are the number of people who enjoyed your post enough to click the “like” button.

typing-on-computer-deathtostoc

Here are the top ten posts on ARHtistic License in the past year, based on views:

  1. Serb Fest (267 views)
  2. NaPoWriMo Day 21 (152)
  3. Diva Challenge #334 (100)
  4. #DC345: Christmas Star (97)
  5. #DC346: Phicops and Huggins (93)
  6. #DC350: Rimana Heartstring (74)
  7. #DC362: Somnee (71)
  8. Cozy (71)
  9. Inktober Day 24: A Composite (71)
  10. #DC360 Shattuck vs. Tripoli (69)

I think I know why the first one got a lot of views. My daughter sent a link to a Bosnian friend. I think Daria must have posted it online, where lots of her friends are among the Balkan community (thank you, Daria). I also posted it on the Phoenix International Folk Dancers’ Facebook page, which also generated some views.

The other nine posts were responses to challenges. The NaPoWriMo people featured one of my poems on their website. (Unfortunately, it was not one of my favorite poems. I like this one better if you’re interested.) The rest were zentangle challenges from I Am The Diva. Laura’s devoted fans support each other by checking out one another’s entries.

Writing and coffee

Here are the top eleven posts on ARHtistic License for the past year, based on likes:

  1. NaPoWriMo Day 21 (20 likes)
  2. Strategy (20)
  3. Wordless Wednesday: My Neighbor’s Pomegranates (20)
  4. Wordless Wednesday/ Flower of the Day (19)
  5. Wordless Wednesday/ Flower of the Day: Tecoma Yellow Bells (18)
  6. My Favorite Photo of 2017 (18)
  7. Christmas Recipe Challenge (18)
  8. 12 Worst Blogging Mistakes (17)
  9. Beach House (17)
  10. Wordless Wednesday/ Flower of the Day: Hibiscus (16)
  11. Ahwatukee Festival of Lights (16)

Isn’t it interesting that there is almost no overlap between the two lists? Again, most of these articles are responses to blogging challenges, especially photo challenges (photographers are very supportive of each other—thank you, shutterbugs).

Two articles that didn’t make the top lists but which I feel are among my best work this year are I’d Rather Be Dancing: Phoenix Folk Dance Festival and Walk in the Art District. Both are photo essays which required many hours to shoot and edit

Isn’t it also interesting how low the number of likes is? The same NaPoWriMo article that had 152 views only had 20 likes. Does that mean that the other 132 people who read it disliked it?

writing-helloquence

 

I know the “like” button is peculiar to the WordPress platform (which ARHtistic License utilizes) and fans and users of other platforms might not be tuned into it. Also, to click the WordPress “like” button, you must sign up for Gravatar, which requires a username and an email, and, optionally, your website. This gives you a little identifying avatar (of your own provision, or one will be generated for you) which also makes it possible for others to view the profile you submitted—and can help others find your blog. I know it involves time and some people are uncomfortable releasing their email addresses, but it’s a requirement for adding comments and interacting with the WordPress blogging community. Consider that you do your favorite bloggers a disservice when you don’t let them know how much you enjoy their work. Like me, they might feel as though they wouldn’t be missed if they quit.

My goal in starting my blog was to stimulate a dialogue among people I enjoy—intelligent, artistic, creative people. I haven’t succeeded. If someone leaves a thoughtful comment, I will reply, especially if a question is asked. But I get so few comments on most posts.

What am I doing wrong?

frustrated-writer-2

Between now and my next blog birthday, I need to decide how to improve my blog so that it becomes what I want it to be—a place where creatives exchange ideas—or, decide if I want to scale it back or discontinue it altogether.

Here’s how you can help me:

  • If you’re not a subscriber to my blog, please sign up today! (See the third item on my sidebar.)
  • If you enjoy something I’ve posted, please click the “like” button (a great way to give feedback on any blog).
  • If you have something to add about a topic, please leave a comment.
  • If you’re on Facebook, follow the ARHtistic License page.
  • If you’re on Twitter, follow me.
  • If you’re on Instagram, follow me.
  • If you have any ideas about how I can improve ARHtistic License or attract my target audience, please tell me in the comments below.

Thank you. I think about my readers every day, and I’d love to get to know you better.