Book Reviews as Bread and Butter

by Kim on July 24, 2009 · 43 comments

bread and butterThis is a post that’s been in my head for awhile, so forgive me for linking back to posts I read in March. Back then, Amy (My Friend Amy) asked readers if she should keep reviewing books because her last two book reviews hadn’t received any comments. There were many great comments on her post, but I want to talk about it just a little bit more.

I’ve experienced the same comment issue — despite being a books blog, my reviews tend to receive fewer comments than other posts. Generally, I chalk this up to reading books that few people read (memoirs, nonfiction on cultural studies and journalism, literary journalism, etc.).  It was interesting to hear that other bloggers experience the same odd ratio of comments between reviews and other posts.

I left the following comment for Amy:

I think it’s sometimes hard to comment on book reviews if you haven’t read the book — I have a hard time commenting on reviews other than to say I agree or disagree (if I’ve read the book), or that the review was good and I am going to look for the book. But if I’m way behind reading posts or something, I usually don’t take the time to comment with any of those because they don’t seem like useful comments.

I like commenting on posts that ask questions or inspire my own opinions, and book reviews don’t always do that. But, I think you have to write good reviews to be a book blogger because it helps you gain credibility and provides the backbone of content for a successful books blog.

Coincidentally, I came across a different post a few days later that cemented and clarified some of the ideas I expressed in my comment above.


Bread and Butter of Blogs

Just a few days later, I came across a post at ProBlogger that asked about the “Bread and Butter” of your blog. Basically, bread and butter posts are defined as

regular features that tie-in to the core topic of the blog. By identifying these posts you can make your work as a blogger a lot easier as well as making your blog’s appeal to readers much more consistent.

Later in the article, the author suggests finding bread and butter posts by looking at which posts are the most popular, what categories you have with the most content, and identifying topics you already post about frequently.

From what I’ve noticed, the most popular post criteria doesn’t always apply to book reviews even though I think they’re the “bread and butter” for a book blog. However, I was curious whether the other two criteria — categories and post frequency — would show book reviews as the center for my blog. If I want to call myself a book review blog, then book reviews should be a major category of posts, and books/reading should be a major topic I write about.

How Does My Blog Fit?

Despite only posting, on average, a one book review a week, book reviews are still my biggest category. Right now, I have 68 posts under “Book Review.” The next closest category is “News and Notes” with 39.  So that’s good, book reviews are, content wise, the biggest contribution.

To figure out what I post about most, I looked at my tag cloud. The biggest tags are fiction, blogging, personal, reading, and literary journalism. That seems pretty accurate for my blog, and I think shows that among my various categories, many of my posts are about my blogs core topics.  But, I guess if someone out there thinks my blog isn’t book related, they might have an argument given that blogging is my most used tag.

Conclusions

The point of this long post is to suggest that, even if book reviews don’t get the kinds of comments we might like, it’s still important to write them. Book reviews are the mechanism that helps draw people to your blog and creates the sense of what your blog is about. They also provide the stability and credibility your blog needs to grow because they tell readers a lot about you and what you like.

How does the ratio of comments for book reviews versus other posts work on your blog? Are book reviews as important as I think they are for book blogs? What kinds of posts draw you to a new blog, and what kinds of posts convince you to keep reading?

Photo by hyperfinch (via flickr)

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