A short while ago, I asked Ti from Book Chatter if I could interview her. Why, you ask? Well, besides the fact that Book Chatter is one of my favorite blogs, I thought Ti would have some good advice to people who are interested in book blogging and/or starting their own blog (OR bloggers who are looking to pare down and stop trying to keep up with the rat race that the blog world is becoming). Ti has hundreds of followers (almost a thousand on Twitter alone at the time of this post). However, Ti is unusual in this area: she doesn’t try for readers.
Ti does almost no memes (save but Sunday Salon), and very few features. She rarely participates in Twitter conversations, and typically only tweets on occasion. Her blog is followed by people who actually just love her blog. And more interestingly, unlike many who have hundreds (or even those with thousands) of followers on Twitter (which for those of you who don’t know, is like the new bookmarking of websites and blogs), her readers repeatedly and consistently leave comments and interact with each other on her blog. What this means is that they are actually reading her blog, not just following for following’s sake. And what this tells us, is that Ti has some meaningful, solid content on her blog.Hence, it is one of my favorites.
Since I am of the school that wants to much to actually blog for people who like the content and not just the flash, I decided to pick Ti’s brain. And I thought I would allow you to benefit from this by making it an interview and posting it below. Enjoy — and see for yourself why Ti’s blog is one of the best book blogs around!
I’ve been blogging about books since February of 2008. I had a brief stint with blogging prior to that, but it was more of a personal diary and I wasn’t consistent with it. It didn’t last very long and then it occurred to me that blogging about books would be a much better fit since books are my thing.
2.) What were some of the things you did to get started? (i.e. what would you recommend to brand new bloggers about getting started — picking a platform, a design, a name?)
When I decided to create a book blog, I didn’t know what was available to me. I went with a free interface (Blogger) which seemed simple enough to use. I figured I could put it together quickly and be up and running in a weekend.
Well, I made a lot of mistakes. First off, I named it Book Chatter and Other Stuff. The name fit, but it was a long name and with the “blogspot” extension, the URL was monstrously long.
The other thing that was wrong right from the start, was the template that I picked. It was a two-column number and after working with it I realized that what I really needed was a three-column template and of course, Blogger did not offer one at the time. Later I manually tweaked the code to force it into three columns but it never worked properly after that.
I struggled with it for well over a year and then decided to go with my own domain name (a shorter one) and moved everything over to WordPress.
If you’re thinking about starting a blog, I suggest you do the following:
- Visit blogs. A lot of them. Which ones appeal to you? Are they functional AND pleasing to the eye? Do the pages load quickly? Do you prefer nested comments? Take notes on what you like.
- I think it helps to know upfront who you are. Pick a name that suits your personality but also think about how easy it is to type that name. Is it too long? Is it catchy?
- No matter which platform you use, do a little research to determine what features these platforms offer. If you aren’t sure how any of it works, then just ask! The blogging community is usually very supportive of new bloggers. We are happy to help.
- It helps to know your purpose up-front. Do you plan to advertise? If so, you’ll need a platform that allows you to do that.
- If stats are important to you, or if you are trying to increase your readership, it really helps to visit other blogs, and comment often. The back and forth interaction will get your name out there. Being on Twitter and Facebook help too.
3.) How much time a week do you think you spend on blogging and/or reading for your blog?
Reading: I average about 90 min of reading each day.
Blogging: I typically publish 3-4 posts per week. I’d say I spend about 5 hours a week on writing and maintenance.
Blog Reading & Commenting: I spend a solid hour each day reading and commenting on all of your blogs. I think this is a very important part of my day because it’s the interaction that I have with other bloggers that really enhances my blogging experience.
4.) You have a pretty solid readership, who are loyal to your blog and like to contribute to the conversation (comments). How/why do you think that is? In other words, what about your style and blog community do you think contributes to this. There are many blogs out there who promote themselves widely and have thousands of followers on Twitter, but they do not have the same interaction on their blog as you. Any thoughts on that?
I don’t think in terms of readership. When someone takes the time to say “Hi” or to comment on something I’ve written, I often think of them as potential friends. Not subscribers.
I pay attention. I notice when someone new visits. I notice when they come by regularly and I notice when they haven’t come by in a while. If a person takes the time to visit me, then I do my best to visit them or to reply to them personally by email. To me, this is the only way to get to know a person.
I’ve made lots of friends this way and have gotten to know so many of them well through Facebook or email. I’m really quite lucky.
5.) Continuing on from the theme of the last question: There has been much discussion in the book blogging world about marketing one’s blog. I have seen you say that you are somewhat opposed to that, and I’ve noticed that you don’t often take part in the award chaos and marketing discussions. Could you tell us more about your opinion on the subject?
Ah, the marketing/branding discussion. The decision on whether or not to market your blog really comes down to what you expect to get out of it. Numbers are important if you’re looking to generate revenue.
I am not one of those people. I didn’t create the blog to make money (although it would be nice to get paid to read). So for me, the marketing/branding thing isn’t really that big of a deal to me.
I think where it becomes a bit of a hot potato, is when a beloved blog suddenly goes “Hollywood.” Seeing this transformation can be startling at times. It’s like a personality overhaul that I just wasn’t expecting. It makes me question if I ever really knew the blogger at all.
As far as the awards and all that, I am always honored to be nominated, but I don’t measure my success in them. Meaningful interactions and lasting friendships is how I measure success and I am lucky to have both.
6.) How do you juggle work, marriage, kids, and all of your other responsibilities and still have time to blog regularly… are you secretly superwoman?
My name is Ti, and I live in Stepford. No, seriously… balancing work, marriage and kids is a constant struggle for me. I am always looking for ways to streamline the day-to-day. When I get home each day, much of my evening is spent prepping for the next day. Careful planning and an up-to-date calendar is what keeps me sane.
7.) If you could do anything in the world as a job what would it be?
I’d love it if I could make a living writing fiction. If not that, then owning a bookstore/coffee house would be my ticket to happiness.
8.) If you could only read one author for the rest of your life, who would it be?
9.) If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be?
Cormac McCarthy because he’s brilliant and a bit of a recluse. He needs to get out a bit.
10.) If you were going to write a book, which genre would it be?
Literary Fiction, or possibly a memoir.
Thanks to Ti for being willing to answer all of my questions and letting me post them all here on my blog! I very much appreciate her taking the time to indulge me in learning more about her blogging ways and sharing them with the community.
Visit Ti and see for yourself how great her blog is!