Interview with Ti from Book Chatter

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!

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1.) How long have you been blogging about books? Was this your first venture into the blogging world?

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.

BUT…

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?

John Steinbeck.

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.

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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!

Blog: www.bookchatter.net
Twitter: @TiBookChatter
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Book-Chatter/268609334865

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31 thoughts on “Interview with Ti from Book Chatter

  1. Pingback: Check out my interview with the lovely Wallace from Unputdownables! « Book Chatter

  2. Thanks for the interview Wallace. You asked some really good questions. I am so glad I have gotten to know you these past few months. BTW, I made the change to my reader ages ago but neglected to fix my blog roll. You’re all fixed now and listed as Unputdownables :)

  3. I came over from Ti’s…I just happen to be a Book Chatter addict of which you speak! This is really a public service here. I sure could have used this advice when I first started out. I have no question in my mind why Ti and I get along so well, because I have the same attitude about marketing and all that. I get weekly requests for companies to advertise on my blog, and I just can’t go there. I’m not very good at Twitter either. Bottom line is we blog because we love it, and that is all! Nice interview!

    • Sandy…you are the breath of fresh air that I happily breathe in each and every day. I can always count on you for a good laugh. I love ya!

    • Kathy…you were one of the first people to ever comment on my blog. I don’t know how you do it but you are like the queen of comments. I so appreciate you.

  4. It’s easy to see why Ti’s blog has so many readers. She is intelligent and perceptive and passionate about her family and for reading, down-to-earth, sincere, generous, and witty – and it all comes through on her blog! Thanks for posting this great interview!

  5. Ti– It was my pleasure completely — I’m just so glad you said yes! I too, am glad we have gotten to know each other and look forward to meeting someday. Thank you for having me on your blogroll… it’s an honor. (I am going to copy you and a few others and move my bogroll to my side column because it is so out of sight on here I think people are missing it).

    Sandy, Colleen, bermudaonion, and rhapsodyinbooks — I’m so glad you liked the interview. I thought people would appreciate hearing Ti’s take on things as much as I, so how could I not share? :)

  6. What a great interview. I think I’ve looked at Book Chatter a few times in the past, but I’ll make sure to check it out more often. I kind of feel the same about all the blog talk and branding/marketing. The only thing I’ve come up with is that I want to be content driven and not talk endlessly about how I get more followers. I’m sort of with the Field of Dreams/Shoeless Joe persuasion: “If you build it, [they] will come.” I’d rather have quality interaction with my readers who I do think of as friends now! I hope that’s not too dorky. I really enjoy hanging out with all these people and joking around on my blog. It’s been really fun. I’m glad to know that Ti feels that way too!

    One last thing: I don’t know how all you moms do it. The working, parenting, and blogging…it’s simply amazing. It makes me feel more hopeful about having children because so far I’ve pretty much lost all my friends to parenthood. They don’t make time for anything else so it’s nice to meet bloggers who have interests in addition to their family. :)

    • I think the parenting/blogging/career thing takes a bit of practice. I know that I wasn’t that put together when I had my first kid but after years of practice and plenty of planning I find that I can fit most things in. I swear by my calendar though…an old PAPER calendar, not even my Blackberry. I don’t trust it.

      • That’s funny that you don’t trust your Blackberry because I was really excited to get a Droid phone just so I could keep a calendar that constantly reminded me what I need to do. What happens within weeks of setting up my allergy shot schedule on it? It jumped to the wrong week somehow. I still can’t figure it out. I’m with you. Paper calendars are the way to go. Less of a chance of messing up! :P

  7. Excellent interview with a terrific book blogger (and one I’ve been lucky to meet in person – we’ve hung out at the LA Times Festival of Books for two years, and looking forward to 2011)! Ti is just so level-headed about the whole thing, and great about interacting with her readers.

    I’m glad she introduced me to your blog, too!

    • Florinda, it’s been a pleasure knowing you as well. Can’t wait until FOB 2011. It will be here before we know it. The year is flying by too fast.

      • I hope I can join you all for next years Festival of Books! It will be my first (I am always out of town for it, but have already marked it in my calendar for 2011)!

  8. What a great interview! I always look forward to what Ti is going to be posting about. Whether it is a book review, getting ready to go to a kid’s play, or even just something about herself, she always makes it fun. I’ve always wanted to open a coffee shop/bookstore also. As soon as I win the lottery I will do that!

  9. What a great interview, Wallace!

    I am so grateful for the insight from Ti, whose blog I do like. I just haven’t had much chance to spend a lot of time at her little slice of the ‘net, but I do plan to read more from her.

    I have to confess that I feel like I’m still so green regarding all this. I haven’t given much thought to marketing/branding beyond the usual (twitter, facebook), and I’m torn on whether to incorporate ads. My tendency is to not do that, although I am considering becoming an affiliate for IndieBound or something like that. Not Amazon, of course. ;)

    While I have enjoyed the couple of events I have participated (and will participate) in (48hr Read-a-Thon, Crazy Book Swap), I think in the long run that kind of thing will be more the exception than the rule. That 55 Questions meme was fun…but lordy…so much work!

    So I don’t know what it all means for me just yet. But it is nice to read an interview from a someone who is doing wonderful things with her blog. I only hope I can blog as well in the future. ;)

  10. Hi Wallace,

    I started blogging a few months after Ti in 2008, and wanted to say that Ti’s blog is one of my favorites. Her reviews are excellent; she reads a lot of the same kinds of books that I enjoy, and well, I just love her Sunday posts and photos about life and family.

    Keep up the great blog Ti.

    • Diane…I love your blog too. Getting to know everyone has been so great. It’s such a great support system. Book bloggers are really quite special.

  11. Ti is great … and she offers some fantastic advice for bloggers. I ended up kind of stuck on Blogger (which has gotten a bit more flexible) but I made a lot of the same mistakes (a ginormous blog name being one!) as Ti and I wish I had just moved the whole shebang to WordPress.

    I agree that the way to get a good interaction going is to be a good host on your blog. Visit all new commenters who come to your blog. Comment on other blogs and make visiting them a priority as much as you writing your own blog. I’ve been so gratified by the friendships I’ve made blogging (Ti included). It is (almost) as fun as reading!

    Great interview!

    • Oh, and the Game On Diet teams helped a bit too. ACK! We loved each other so much we decided to diet together. What won’t we do for interaction? :)

  12. Bahnree — thank you, I’m very excited!

    Carin — yes, I agree, if you build it they will come. Community is a big art of this blogging thing I am learning (I think we are learning that together!). And I agree with you and Ti: Paper calendars all the way!

    Florinda, Jo-Jo, and bibliophilebythesea — thank you so much for stopping by the blog! I know you are friends with Ti, and I am so excited that you came for a visit on my blog to see what she had to say. :) I’m glad to be learning about even more great blogs through these comments. Gotta love the book blogging community!

    Reese — Thank you! Yes, there are hard decisions to make about blogging. I figure if you are true to yourself and what works for you, then you will have a good blog (which you do). I think that is why I love Ti’s blog so much, it is so authentic!

    Janelle — I’m glad you liked it. Definitely check out more of Ti’s blog in the future, she’s great. ;)

    Jenners — Glad you stopped by, and thanks for the extra insight for bloggers. I appreciate you sharing your way of building blogging relationships. That’s a great idea!

  13. I just adore Ti! I love her personal posts and her reviews. I’m so glad that you interviewed her.

    I like the advice she gives to new and novice bloggers. I think it’s spot on…you need to decide what you want your blog to be and how it will work before doing it…it will help in the long run when you are interacting with readers.

    I’m new to this blog, but I’ve just subscribed. See you around the Internet!

    • Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I think she had great advice too. I know when I started blogging I would have loved to read about how one of the “greats” did it, so I figured having Ti featured on the blog like this would be beneficial to all!

  14. Great interview, Wallace. Lots of good advice. I’m a relatively new blogger (just two months into it) and Ti answered some of the questions I had, filtered through you. Thank you for that. I haven’t decided yet, just how serious I want to get with this whole thing. I think if it stops being fun then I’m in trouble. So I guess my job is to keep it from getting to be too much like work. So far I’m enjoying the heck out of it. Lots to learn though. ; )

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