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Tips on Growth From a Book Blogger

June 12, 2014


Over on The Daily Post, we’ve published interviews with writers on growth and readership. Robert Bruce, the blogger behind the popular book site, 101 Books, shared bits of advice on building a loyal readership and successful niche blog. Here are snippets from his Q&A:

You’ve got over 26,000 followers and counting. What’s your secret?

There’s really no secret. It’s just steady, consistent posting over a long period of time. 101 Books is more than three years old now, and I’ve had more than 700 posts. When you post that often, people are bound to find you. Then, the key is to just write content that relates to them. Most people don’t care about what you had for breakfast, but if you can help them learn something new, then they’ll keep coming back.

What types of posts perform better?

The funny thing about my blog is that, even though it’s centered on the “101 Books” project, these book reviews don’t perform as well as the quirkier stuff. One of the most popular posts I’ve had was a post about my two-year-old son judging books by their covers. I put a couple of classic book covers in front of him and asked him what he thought they were about. His answers were hilarious. That post took about 15 minutes to put together, but because it was unique and fresh, it became a hit.

Obviously, list-style posts do well, and I probably tend to overuse them because of that. (I’m not BuzzFeed.) Also, for whatever reason, people gravitate to more negative-sounding titles, like “7 Words That Should Die A Horrible Death.”

There are many blogs about books on the web. Why do you think yours has been so successful?

I think people can easily get behind the idea of someone pursuing a crazy goal and the ups and downs that come with that.

There’s a lot of great book blogs out there, and a lot of bloggers who write incredibly detailed book reviews. My blog is a little different because I review books in small chunks; I take a small passage from a book and write about it. Or I write about some cool, unusual fact from the author’s background. So I think it stands out a bit in the book blogging world.

Plus, I think people can easily get behind the idea of someone pursuing a crazy goal and the ups and downs that come with that. It’s like a literary version of the Julie and Julia book (and movie). Not that I’m near as creative and successful as she was, but you get the point.

Do you have tips for someone who wants to focus their blog on books?

Sometimes you’ve just got to push the publish button because an almost-perfect blog post is better than no post at all.

Be honest. Don’t feel like you have to like a book or dislike a book because of what the critics say. On my blog, I’m very vocal of my dislike for Mrs. Dalloway, but it’s my honest opinion.

If you want to write a book blog with an academic voice, that’s great. But you’ll probably realize that not many people will read it. I try to write about literature in an approachable way, and that style involves forgetting what my English literature professor taught me.

I think it’s also important to forget about being perfect. Sometimes you’ve just got to push the publish button because an almost-perfect blog post is better than no post at all. Don’t pass over the great in search of the perfect.

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