Being a blogger is a lot of fun and extremely rewarding. However, sometimes it can be a lonely and frustrating experience. I began blogging in 2011 and July, 2016 will be Come Step Back In Time’s 5th Blogaversary. I also set-up a 2nd blog, retro food for the modern cook Viva Blancmange, in 2013. I honestly have had a brilliant experience blogging over the years, visited incredible places, met fascinating people and researched unusual topics I may never have found otherwise. However, I am now at a bit of a crossroads.
I hope 2016 will be my best blogging year yet but in order for this to happen I need a new direction for the content on both of my websites. This means changes in my writing practices and methods. I also need to be more integrated within the friendly, but close-knit, blogger community. Exchanging ideas with other writers, being more interactive with you, my readers and, of course, embrace all the new and exciting possibilities offered by digital media.
In light of these plans to reboot my blogs, I have been actively looking for top notch blog events to participate in to help inspire my transition. To this end, I am happy to say I struck gold first-time around and wanted to share my experience with you here.
I recently attended a day’s ‘Bloggeration’ workshop, run by Sarah Moody (@Sairey_bearey ). Sarah blogs full time at The Prosecco Diaries and runs Bloggeration (@Bloggeration_ ) which is a fantastic initiative that aims to build blogging communities, offering support and advice to bloggers to help them get the most out of this great adventure. If you are a lifestyle blogger, then Sarah’s workshops also provide an opportunity to pitch and connect with relevant, pre-selected and trusted, brands.
Sarah was a drama teacher before going freelance and has worked with many top brands and written for Cosmopolitan, The Guardian and Blogosphere magazine (a must for all pro-bloggers! Available from WH Smith). Sarah is also studying for her PhD in social media communication, therefore very well-placed to impart her ‘pearls of blogging and digital media wisdom’.
If you have been blogging for a while and are in need of inspiration or guidance to move on to the next level, then I highly recommend Bloggeration’s workshops. They take place at O Gallery, a spacious and stimulating studio space beneath the O Bag Factory in Crouch End, North London.
Bloggeration’s workshops are currently free to attend, brilliantly organised and offer plenty of opportunities to network with other established bloggers, exchange ideas and pitch to brands (if that is the direction you wish to take your blog).
Each workshop lasts six and half hours, from 10.30am-5pm. No need to bring a pack lunch, you will be watered and fed on hearty fayre. There are competitions and chances to win prizes throughout the day! You also receive professional advice from Sarah, tailored specifically to your own blog. Topics covered at previous Bloggeration workshops include: crafting; lifestyle; parenting; health; fitness and wellness. The workshop I chose to attend was sponsored by Penguin Books UK. Keep an eye out on Bloggeration’s Twitter account (@Bloggeration_) for updates on 2016’s workshops.
Let me introduce you to the talented bloggers who joined me at Bloggeration’s workshop:
- Very Berry Cosmo – Twitter @veryberrycosmo;
- Broke In The Big Smoke – Twitter @brokeinthesmoke;
- My Lavender Tinted World – Twitter @lollalong;
- Lorna Literally – Twitter @lornaliterally;
- Laura’s Little Book Blog – Twitter @midnightstar3;
- Country Mouse Claire – Twitter @cmclaire;
- The Art of Life: Confessions Of A Postgrad – Twitter @josiemale;
- Style Lingua – Twitter @style_lingua;
- Page To Stage Reviews – Twitter @zarinatweets.
During the afternoon, Junior Campaigns Officer at Penguin, Stephenie Naulls (@stepheniejayne), answered our questions about book blogging and booktubing. We were told about Penguin’s new booktubing initiative, Penguin Platform (@PenguinPlatform), a place for young adults, to share, create, discover and debate.
- ‘Introducing Penguin Platform’. Uploaded to You Tube 2.4.2015.
We were also introduced to exciting new Penguin book titles already out as well as those available in 2016. Stephenie was engaging, honest, open and keen to develop positive relationships with established, as well as up-and-coming bloggers/booktubers of all ages and interests.
The workshop took the form of a two-way dialogue with Stephenie encouraging attendees to put forward suggestions on how Penguin can improve their relationship with bloggers/booktubers in the future. Stephenie explained that Penguin books are urging bloggers and booktubers to get in touch with them. Stephenie is your first point of contact in this regard (@stepheniejayne). It was very heartening to see collaborations with bloggers being taken seriously and respectfully.Embed from Getty Images
We were also given an insight into how the publishing world works. Penguin do not accept unsolicited manuscripts and if you want the team to look at your writing then you will first need to secure a literary agent (so please lovely readers don’t ask Stephenie to read your latest literary offering!).
Apparently, the previous trend of authors receiving big advances for their book, particularly first-timers, is starting to wane. Stephenie explained it is better, in the long-run, for the author if their literary agent secures them a decent commission percentage for each book sold, rather than a high cash advance. Obviously, there are exceptions to this, particularly if you are a first-time author who already has a large, established readership/audience for your writing (i.e. one of the vloggeratti/bloggeratti or star of a high-profile reality tv show). However, as with all things in life, there is always room for negotiation.
Here is a round-up of Stephenie’s and my fellow bloggers/booktubers top tips for book reviewing:
- demonstrate to the viewer/reader that you have fully engaged with the book you are reviewing;
- put across your thoughts in a fun, creative and interesting way using your platform’s unique house style;
- discuss the characters and themes of the book (sometimes neglected by reviewers!);
- don’t forget to include information about the type/genre of book you are reviewing, (i.e. fiction, non-fiction, biography, young adult, historical fiction etc);
- be honest! If you don’t like a book that is fine but don’t just dismiss it without putting forward a carefully considered response as to why? If you love the book, then also explain to your audience, why?;
- you have a loyal audience who trust and listen to your voice, so use the platform wisely;
- Stephenie is keen to hear from you, so do get in touch. Her Twitter handle is @Stepheniejayne.
As a post-script to this workshop, I found-out from Stephenie that the famous Penguin logo currently has 6 different poses and the publishing house has very strict guidelines for usage of each one. Who would have thought? For more information about the history of Penguin Books, click here.Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
I value all of you, my lovely readers/followers, many of you have been with me since I began in 2011. I hope that you will enjoy 2016’s improved content, across all of my media platforms. I would love to hear from you, so please do leave a comment below or Tweet me (@emmahistorian ) if you have any suggestions of topics you would like me to cover in 2016, on either of my blogs or my You Tube channel.