Today’s topic(s) cover aesthetics – both for books and for the blog. Much like my Diversity in Publishing post yesterday I’m going to apply the IRAC method to this so I don’t go too far off point.
As a book blogger, in whatever form that takes, branding is important. Your colors, your fonts, your style of review, all of these things come together to make the “brand” of your blog – something that makes your reviews and posts and websites, all your various content, immediately recognizable to the people looking for you. What do you do to create a brand on your site? Do you think about these things?
As some may have noted For the Sake of Reading is still very much a blog in progress. My co-blogger and I both came from individual blogs (Poisoned Rationality and Bloody Bookaholic) with different tastes in blog design. If you look at Poisoned Rationality, I had a green aesthetic going on that I quite enjoyed. The sidebars changed, but by in large my actual theme did not (once I purchased it to be designed).
Originally my blog was called “Last Exile Words” (this was back in early 2007) with the tag line “my words are my last exile”. It was a rift on my then favorite anime “Last Exile” and the fact that in the show certain phrases (or words) were needed to unleash a power. At the time of my blog’s formation I was going through a pretty nasty round of sickness (something was wrong with my lungs) so leaving my bed to socialize was hard. The only thing I had were my words. The banner itself was a girl reading and various literary quotations about books.
While I liked it, I made that banner in paint and it showed. Even though book blogging was still in the early stages (to put it in perspective there was maybe half a dozen book bloggers at BEA 2007, by 2010 they had a separate convention day just for bloggers (then known as Book Blogger Con, now known as BEA Bloggers), I wanted to be seen as professional. So I shopped around and within my limited budget I hired Ashley (of Ashley’s Bookshelf…who I’m not sure if she’s still blogging actually). After some back and forth we settled on the design and Last Exile Words became Poisoned Rationality, tagline ‘Where Obsession is Diverse’.
As for my reviews – if you go back you’ll see I went through three or four different review formats before settling on the one used in the last four years or so. In fact here’s what my very first review looked like (I added the stars later):
I didn’t consistently add covers until…apparently not until sometimes in 2010. Bit of a mistake on my part. I had special events (Linnea Sinclair Book-A-Day, Morganville Vampire Re-Readathon, Sabrina Jeffries Re-Readathon) wherein I had covers on those posts, and any Special Edition posts, but largely I didn’t have covers on my reviews. As I discussed in my Book Aesthetics post, covers won’t make me keep a book, but they can make it so I don’t look at a book at first glance. Now its unheard of to have a review without a cover.
You’ll notice I did not have purchase links – this was something I added later (sometime in 2009) because I was tooling around with affiliate linkage. I would after a few years drop purchase links on my review posts, only reserving them for Special Edition posts (author guest posts/interviews).
For those who remember 2008-2012 was the kind of ‘Wild West’ years of book blogging. Every other blog would post lists of what to do or not do, how to review, how to get ARCs, how to talk to authors, how to join blog tours. Lawlessness in the fashion of FTC scares, copyright infringement, monetization and self-published author retribution against negative reviews was running rampant. There was even, briefly, a bit of a feud between book bloggers and mommy bloggers.
How I structured my posts in those years is largely a reflection of what ‘new thing’ was running around the community. Some posts have FTC disclosures. Some posts have affiliate linking disclosures. Some have image copyright disclosures. I wasn’t very consistent to be honest.
By the end of PR’s run I had a format like this:
Literally just the cover, the summary (in italics) the review and how many stars I gave it. I liked this – it was simple to put together, it was a clean style and it didn’t involve me hunting down a lot of information. During most of PR’s run I was working an office job that while it gave me time to tweak reviews and such, did not offer me the time to hunt down information outside of Goodreads. Since I worked long hours at that job I tended to not have the energy to look at my blog while at home for too long.
Tasch and I have two different ways of writing up reviews at For the Sake of Reading – for me they look like this:
Pros – 3 things
Cons – 3 things
Spoiler Notice – if applicable
(Read more break)
Want to Know More?
Add it to Goodreads
Connect with Author: Social Media Link | Social Media Link | Social Media Link
I find this works well. The Pros & Cons tend to be snarky tidbits or just my subjective opinion (Brandon Sanderson is GodKing for instance) and the “want to know more” part is useful to me as well because then I remember to post my review at Goodreads and/or tweet the author my review.
What I learned from this was basically – I don’t give a frell about branding. During PR’s run a lot of people would recognize my blog name when I’d say it so I did something right. For the Sake of Reading is still finding its way. Just how structured do Tasch and I want to go? Same review format? I don’t know we’d agree (she still uses stars whereas I only use them on Amazon or Goodreads) and really I’m not sure we need to brand ourselves that way.
Have you met us? We’re pretty freaking awesome gals and a force to be reckoned with when together!
One thought on “#ArmchairBEA: Blog Aesthetics”
I just recently changed my review format by adding more info about the publisher, page number, etc and also added a link to Goodreads. I’m really satisfied with it, but I can’t decide if it’s worth going back and changing all my reviews, so there’s a consistency. I don’t even know how I’d approach collaborating on a blog design, I imagine there’s a lot of compromising but the experience of having a blogging partner would be worth it.
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