Archive for the ‘blogging tips’ Category

Blogging Know-How: Preventing Spam

Hello and welcome to the fifth instalment of Blogging Know How! The aim of this feature is to answer some of your blogging, reading, reviewing, and social networking related questions. If there’s anything you’ve been wondering about, you can’t figure out or just want me to help you out with, you can send it to me via the little contact form I’ll post at the end of these posts.

“How do you protect your blog from spam? I recently got this disturbing email from a follower of mine about an indecent Twitter update on my blog but even though I checked on Twitter for that tweet, I could not find it. I even tried signing out and then viewing my blog but could not find it among the Twitter updates.” – Nobonita

As bloggers, spam is something we have to live with. Getting more exposure for your blog means more spammers as well and it’s not something you can get rid of altogether. It’s quite an annoying business but all we can do is to prevent them from showing up on the blog.

Things you can do to prevent your blog from spam if you’re using Blogger:

  • Enable comment moderation for your comments: This is the most important one. It basically means that you’ll have to review each comment before they go live on your blog and either approve it or trash it. When you have new comments to approve, a notification will appear on your Blogger dashboard and you can sort through them. It may sound like a lot of work but unfortunately, Blogger doesn’t have a built-in spam filter yet so this is the best you can do. How to activate word verification? Just go to your Blogger dashboard, then click on Settings -> Comments -> and set comment moderation to ‘always’.
  • Word verification, aka captcha: Captcha’s main goal is to deter automated comment spamming systems by making your readers enter in crazy jumbled-up letters when trying to comment on your blog. Each commenter will have to go through this additional step before they can actually submit their comments. BUT. (And here comes the tricky bit) If you ask me, captcha is single-handedly the most annoying thing I’ve seen on Blogger. Seriously. The words are extremely hard to read, almost illegible which will put off lots of bloggers from commenting. No one wants to spend ages on your blog, squinting at the computer screen trying to figure out what those tiny mouse droppings stand for. And if you’ve already set up comment moderation, it’s also pointless. You’ll have to moderate your comments before they appear on your blog anyway, then why torture your readers?
  • Backlinks and registered users: Make sure to set the backlinks tab to ‘hide’ and the ‘who can comment tab’ to either registered users or users with Google accounts.

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Blogging Know-How: How to Handle the Stress of Blogging

Hello and welcome to Blogging Know How, a weekly feature here on Books, Biscuits, and Tea. The aim of this feature is to answer some of your blogging/ reading/ reviewing/ social networking related questions. If there’s anything you’ve been wondering about, you can’t figure out or just want me to help you out with, you can send it to me via email or the little contact form I’ll post at the end of these posts.

“How do you handle the stress of blogging? I have so many emails and contacts to make or respond to, on top of my own blogging duties, that I’m a bit overwhelmed by it all!” – Angieleigh

Great question, Angelieigh! It’s actually one of those topics I’ve wanted to talk about for a while, so here’s my story and what I think.

I’ve always loved reading. I’ve always preferred a quiet night in with a good book and a cuppa tea to going out, no matter how sad it sounds. But there was a time when I realised that none of my friends read as much as I do and even if they do pick up a book, it’s not something I’ve ever heard of or would ever pick up. It would have been nice to know someone who had the same passion as me. A few years later I discovered someone’s blog while I was searching for a book on Google – and I thought, that’s what I need! So I signed up on Blogger and joined the blogging world.

During the first few weeks and months of blogging, we all went through a phase where we had no idea what an ARC or a blog tour meant. We loved reading and we wanted a place where we could talk about these things without people telling us that ‘no one cares, love’. Then, slowly but surely we learnt the meaning of these words, discovered NetGalley, and requested our first ARCs. In short, we were in book heaven and we had no intention to leave.

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Blogging Know-How: Blog Tours and Getting Followers

Welcome to my third Blogging Know How post, my new weekly feature here on Books, Biscuits, and Tea. The aim of this feature is to answer some of your blogging/ reading/ reviewing/ social networking related questions. If there’s anything you’ve been wondering about, you can’t figure out or just want me to help you out with, you can send it to me via email or the little contact form I’ll post at the end of these posts.

“What’s the easiest or best way to become involved in blog tours?” – Rachel

Great question, Rachel! There are many websites out there who offer blog tour services to authors and who are constantly looking for blog tour hosts. Usually, the only requirement is that you have a blog that you regularly update. Some of them approve you right away and some of them look at your statistics (the number of unique visitors you get each day, how long you’ve been blogging, how many people follow you, etc) first, it depends. Here’s some websites you might want to check out:

  • Novel Publicity: Novel Publicity doesn’t have any rules in terms of the length of time you’ve been blogging for, but we do look at bloggers’ statistics.
  • Kismet Book Touring: Even though they are not interested in the number of your followers or your statistics, they require that you have been blogging for at least 3 months before you sign up as a tour host.
  • Bewitching Book Tours
  • Enchanted Book Tours: They are not concerned about how many followers you have or how long you’ve been blogging. Their only requirement is that you have a blog that you regularly update.
  • PJV Tours
  • AtomR Book Blog Tours: Their requirement is that you have at least 300 followers and you’re actively posting on your blog.

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Blogger vs WordPress, a.k.a Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Blogger vs WordPress a.k.a Should I Stay or Should I GoHey everyone! As you may have noticed, Books, Biscuits, and Tea went through some changes this weekend. I’ve been thinking about moving from Blogger to WordPress for a while but I finally plucked up the courage and went through with it – yay! :) Since many of you have been asking me about my first impressions with WordPress and the reason why I left Blogger, I decided to write a post about it and explain some of my concerns in connection with Blogger and whether it’s worth leaving your old blogging platform or not.

The main reason why I left Blogger was that in the past couple of weeks I’ve had constant issues with comments not showing up, blog titles not showing up, and several other things that made blogging less enjoyable than it was before. Mind you, apart from the time when Google decided to delete my blog for no apparent reason, I’ve been quite happy with Blogger. Up until now.

I’ve only been on WordPress for about 48 hours but I’m in love with it already. For me the most striking difference between the two platforms is how professional WP looks compared to Blogger. And in WP’s case, professional doesn’t equal complicated. I thought I’d be confused with its system and I’d need weeks to figure out how it works but here I am,  typing away with a huge smile on my face. :) Anyway, here’s why I think you should go ahead with moving to WordPress. Mind you, I’m talking about self-hosted WordPress blogs, not the free WordPress ones. For more information about the differences between these two, check out this article.

Why switch to WordPress?

Control over your blog

One of the most important differences between Blogger and WordPress is the amount of control you have over your blog. Blogger is owned by Google and Google has the right to delete your account without a warning. I’m not making this up and yes, it does happen – it even happened to me once. Apparently, Google may remove your blog even if you use a custom domain name (e.g. myblog.com instead of myblog.blogspot.com) so a self-hosted WordPress site is definitely better in this respect. With WordPress, you’re in control.

▸ SEO

Another reason why I switched to WP is SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It basically includes processes behind improving a site’s visibility in search engine results pages, such as Google. What exactly is “Search Engine Optimisation” and why should you care? More info here. What made me think in the first place was April’s article – apparently, if your blog’s HTML coding is bad, your site will be down ranked. Well, I happened to check my blog with W3C validator while I was still on Blogger and there were almost 600 errors in my blog’s html. I mean, 600?!?! Holy shrimp. The great thing about WP and its blog templates is that they are more SEO friendly. Now that my blog is all set up and my template looks almost identical to the one I had on Blogger, I went back to W3C and checked my blog’s html again – guess how many errors it had? 7. Instead of 600. Sounds a tiny bit better, right? In addition to this, WordPress has a great number of SEO plugins you can install and work with and they’re super easy to use.

Plugins

WOW. One of the things I love most about WP is the awesome plugins. WP makes your life super easy – there are thousands of them and you can access each of them right from your Dashboard.

Simplicity

I just love WP’s post editor. It’s quite similar to Blogger so it doesn’t take too much time to get used to it but it’s much better and easier to use. I’ve constantly had issues with Blogger’s editor and photo uploader so it’s such a huge relief to finally be able to use this one. Plus, I know many people who originally write their blog posts in Microsoft Word before they post it on their blogs, but I noticed that it tends to mess up their blog’s template. I’m not kidding, I’ve seen it happen many times. But do you know what? WP has a button which lets you paste a text from MS Word – AND it doesn’t mess up your theme. Cool, huh? You don’t have to worry about it being complicated even if you’re not a HTML expert – the post editor looks almost identical to the one we have in MS word so you don’t even have to go near the HTML editor button.

Privacy

I know some people are obsessed with privacy and captcha (which I still hate, by the way) but they don’t realize that it’s actually the number one reason why people can’t or simply won’t comment on their blog posts. It’s interesting about WP’s comment system is that in addition to being able to moderate your comments before publishing, you can edit your comments too, which you can’t do on Blogger unless the commenter deletes his/her comment and re-submits it. Plus, WP also lets you password-protect your posts – either all of them, or just the ones you’d prefer not to make visible to the public.

I’m sure there’s much more but these are the things I can tell you right away, 2 days after switching blogging platforms. :) All I can say is, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be worth it. I love the fact that WP makes everything so easy and that’s a huge plus when you don’t have much time beside work and reading. I was REALLY nervous about moving because I had no clue how it all worked but thank goodness Bex @ Kindle Fever helped me through the whole process and pretty much did the editing part for me. (Bex, I love you. :D ) If you’ve been considering this move for a while just like myself, I would definitely say go for it. Moving itself doesn’t take too much time, not more than an hour anyway. Making your blog look like the way you’d like it to be takes much longer. Other than that, I’m happy with how things turned out.

Also, Bex and I had a little chat today and we decided that if anyone needs help with moving to WP and blog design, courtesy of my own design studio Sweet Dreams Design, then we’d be more than happy to add a WP design package to my website and help you guys out with moving. We haven’t decided on the pricing yet but do let us know if you’d be interested. Also, feel free to let me know if you have any questions about WordPress or the move itself. :) x

Blogging Know-How: Mentors, blog buttons, and sharing ARCs

Welcome to the second instalment of Blogging Know How, my brand new weekly feature here on Books, Biscuits, and Tea. The aim of this feature is to answer some of your blogging/ reading/ reviewing/ social networking related questions. If there’s anything you’ve been wondering about, you can’t figure out or just want me to help you out with, you can send it to me via email or the little contact form I’ll post at the end of these posts.

“I’ve been watching youtube videos and reading other blogger tips/tricks of the trade and a lot of them say to get a mentor. More experienced bloggers must have a TON of help requests. How would a fairly new blogger go about getting a seasoned mentor when they don’t know anyone? And thanks for this feature, I love it! I’ll definitely support it. :)” – Mandee

Thanks Mandee! Having someone more experienced helping you out is great and it definitely makes blogging and exploring this whole blogoverse much, much easier but I can see why it’s so hard to find someone to help you. It’s not the fact that people don’t want to help or not even the fact that you don’t know anyone. It’s rather that blogging takes a hell of a lot of time and most of us go to school or work full time besides blogging and taking on a mentee would mean that they’d have even less time for reading and well.. everything else. So how do you get started? I’ll tell you what I did when I started my blog and entered the blogosphere, the great unknown for the first time.


Take your time. Blogging and getting the hang of things takes time but you’ll get there. You don’t necessarily need to know anyone to get started. There are lots of websites and articles that may be useful for beginners. For example:

And as the last article says, don’t be afraid to reach out to fellow bloggers for help. All of us were beginners at some point so we know how confusing it is when you’re thrown into the unknown. When I started Books, Biscuits, and Tea I haven’t even heard about blogging mentors. I had no idea such a thing existed and I didn’t know anyone either. But I’m sure you (and everyone else) have some favourite blogs you often visit, and bloggers who you look for inspiration or look up to. You can learn a lot from even reading their posts! And it never hurts to ask for help. I’ve had some people emailing me about review templates and social networking but no matter how busy I was, I always tried to help them out – and I’m sure most people would do the same. :)

The buttons! How do you make them and the links that they use? THANK YOU!!! – Libby

You mean the “grab my button” photo with the code? You won’t believe how easy it is! I could copy-paste the whole thing for you but d’you know what? This website will do it all for you. If you’re having problems with any of the codes, just click on this photo and you’ll see how I did mine. First off, fill in the first two brackets with your blog’s title and its URL. Then, you’ll need a blog button. I did mine in Photoshop using my (previous) blog template. Once you have a button, make sure to upload it on Photobucket or any other image sharing website and copy-paste its direct link into the third bracket. As for container type, click on “Textarea” if you have a Blogger blog. If your blog is hosted by WordPress or something else, click on Pre.
Container’s border colour: #ffffff (which is white, but you can choose any other colours by clicking on that little black box)
Container’s background colour: #ffffff
Font colour: #000000 (which is black)
Then click on preview and get code.

1. Go to Blogger -> Design -> Page elements -> Add a gadget -> HTML/Javascript
2. Copy the blog button code from the website and paste it in the HTML/Javascript box in Blogger
3. Give a title to your widget, e.g. “Grab my button”
4. Save it. That’s it! :)

Easy peasy! :)

What do you think about people sharing ARC’s? All the ARC’s I have received say not to share with other people but I see all the time on other blogs that bloggers let each other borrow ARC’s. Do you think this is OK or not? – Anon

Judging by your question, you don’t approve of people sharing them – and to be frank, I have to agree with you and I’ll tell you why. An ARC (or Advance Reader Copy) is basically an uncorrected proof of a book. It’s a roughly-produced version of an upcoming book that publishers send out to newspapers, magazines, and book bloggers to create a buzz before its publication. It’s important to note that producing ARCs actually costs more than producing finished copies of the same book.

Going back to the original question, I think passing them on is okay as long as the recipient is a fellow book blogger who will review it on his/her blog as well. Lending ARCs to book bloggers is OK since the person you give it to will also spread the word and write about the book.

As opposed to this, I don’t think that sharing ARCs with non-bloggers or passing them on to friends who won’t review it is okay. That’s not why there were produced and sent to us bloggers, after all. Giving them away if you have a spare copy (sent by the author or the publisher) is one thing and it’s perfectly all right. Selling them on Ebay or passing it on to many people is a different story. Just imagine what would happen if everyone who has an ARC passed it on. Then the next person would pass it on to someone else and so on. Who would buy the book if every single person already read it by the time it comes out? That’s right, no one. The aim of this whole ARC business is to make people interested in the book not to let the whole word read it for free. So no, in this case I don’t think it’s okay to pass them on, nor is it okay to sell them on Ebay for a bunch of money.

What do you guys think of sharing ARCs? Do you think it’s OK?

Do you have any blogging/reviewing related questions you’d like me to answer on my blog? Something related to ARCs, social networking, or anything else? Don’t hesitate to let me know. :)