Welcome to my ultimate guide on how to start a book blog, grow your audience, and make an income from book blogging.
Greetings! I’m Levan, founder of Suggested Reads. I’ve been a full-time blogger for seven years, and also work as a social media specialist. I love starting blogs and hope to help you on your own journey!
In this guide, I’ll cover the step-by-step basics of book blogging for beginners. Here’s an overview.
Contents: How to start a book blog
Scroll down to read in sequence, or click on the sections to skip straight to them.
- Get focused from the start
- How to name your book blog
- Register your domain / choosing a web hosting provider (I recommend SiteGround)
- Setup WordPress / Install your theme
- The best WordPress plugins
- How to grow your book blog
- How to monetize your book blog
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This post contains SiteGround & Theme Forest affiliate links. I only recommend services I myself trust and use.
Step #1: Get focused from the start
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
– Zig Ziglar
Lots of people own general / multi-topic blogs.
These bloggers write about all sorts of different things, including their favorite travels, food, pets, and more – all in one site.
In other words, their content is very eclectic, seldom focused.
That’s totally fine in itself!
But here’s the catch.
Multi-topic blogs often take much longer to grow on your own. In cases when they’re lucrative, it’s usually thanks to having larger teams – and often deeper pockets.
So the question is: what’s the best way to become a successful book blogger if you’re going solo and / or have a limited budget?
The answer: Create a niche (i.e. focused) book blog – from the very start.
By staying focused, you can more easily build your rep as a ‘go-to’ book blogger – a specialized knowledge expert, rather than a Jack / Jane of all trades.
This helps you gain popularity with a targeted audience – and soon, make a living from book blogging (more on how to do this later).
Here’s two ways to start a niche book blog:
a) Cover a range of book topics
You can create a blog about different kinds of books.
For example, with Suggested Reads, we’ve made lists of books about time-travel, dragons, and other topics / themes.
In short, you’re free to blog about any literary genre. However, you’re still staying within the book niche – not food, travels, etc.
Put simply, you’re focused.
b) Narrow things down even further.
Alternatively, you can start a book blog that’s all about one, maybe two, specific genres. For example, you can write mostly about romance novels. Kelly’s Book Blog is a great example.
This has the added perk of quickly pulling in like-minded genre readers who prefer a narrow, more specialized focus.
Step #2: How to name your book blog
“Names have power.”
– Rick Riordan
Next, you’ll need to come up with a good name for your new book blog. Here’s two tips to help you.
a) Keep your blog name short and simple.
Most people won’t easily recall a blog name like, say, ‘Jane Loves Scary Books’ (janelovesscarybooks.com). It’s way too clunky!
But how about ‘ScaryBooks.net’? That’s so much better!
In short, pick a blog name that’s easy to remember. Don’t get too fancy! It isn’t a memory contest.
b) Be clear in what your site is about.
In most cases, try to choose a name that instantly lets people know your book blog is about… well, books!
By reducing guesswork, you can more quickly gain awareness among the right audience – just from them seeing your blog’s public name.
For example, ‘Book Forum‘ will likely draw more clicks from avid readers than, say, ‘Things in Life’ – which is too vague and imprecise.
In short, choose a blog name that clearly reflects your focus on books.*
*Note: Of course, there are exceptions.
For example, maybe you’re keen on turning yourself into a broader personal brand – to which books are only one small part of what you do.
If that’s the case, you could use your own (nick)name as a blog title. Vilma Iris and Jane Friedman are good examples of this.
Step #3: Register your domain / choosing a web hosting provider
“Home is where one starts from.”
– T. S. Elliot
Okay, so you’ve decided on a book niche and blog name. Great!
Now let’s cover how to register your domain and choose a good hosting provider.
What’s a domain / hosting provider?
If you’re entirely new to blogging, these two terms may be a bit confusing.
Not to worry! Here’s an easy analogy to remember!
Think about your home address and the house you live in.
Your home address = the info that people need to know to visit you.
Your house = the actual place you live in, keep your stuff, furniture, etc.
So, using this analogy for your book blog…
Your domain / URL = your online ‘home address’.
Your hosting = your web ‘house’ that stores the contents of your blog.
You thus need both a domain and hosting plan to run a successful book blog. One cannot exist without the other.
The good news: Getting a domain and hosting plan is really easy and affordable! I’ll show you how to do this in a moment.
But first, let me highlight some key differences between free and paid blog hosting (i.e. your ‘house’).
Free vs Paid Blog Hosting
“Invest in yourself to get the best interest.”
― Debasish Mridha
There are two options for how to start a book blog: free vs paid hosting.
Free blog hosting platforms like Wix or Blogger are great if you want to blog as a side hobby.
However, they also come with many long-term restrictions, including:
- Less control over how your blog looks. There are templates, but the customization options are limited.
- Fewer add-ons available to help enhance your blog’s features.
- A lower chance of ranking on Google due to less optimization power.
- No custom domain of your own – unless you pay for it. By default, you’re stuck with an untidy URL like username.wixsite.com/siteaddress.
- … and many other limitations.
Admittedly, free blogging platforms have come a long way since their early days.
Nonetheless, if you’re serious about becoming a pro book blogger, I think it’s best for you to invest in a paid hosting service.
Doing this will help you overcome all the above limits of free blog hosting.
Free vs paid blog hosting is like the difference between living in someone else’s ‘home’ – or investing in your own. The latter is almost always better.
So… what’s the best paid blog hosting provider?
As a long-time blogger, I’ve used many paid hosting providers over the years.
This includes Bluehost, inMotion, GoDaddy, HostGator, and other slightly more premium services.
However, I have to say that my overall favorite hosting provider thus far is SiteGround.
I personally use SiteGround for Suggested Reads and most of my other blogs. So I speak from first-hand experience.
Here are three reasons why I think SiteGround is a great starting choice for your own book blog.
1) SiteGround outperforms most other hosting providers in the same category
I know a lot of other bloggers tend to recommend Bluehost. Frankly, I find this a bit dubious.
Having actually used both, I honestly think SiteGround is way better than Bluehost and other providers of a similar type.
This is in terms of speed, reliability, server up-time, free features, and much more. Numerous online tests prove this.
Moreover, SiteGround has received thousands of five-star reviews from real and happy customers. So I know I’m not alone on this.
In short, I recommend SiteGround as a great starting host for new book bloggers. They’ve not let me down thus far.
2) Great value for money
SiteGround really gives you a ton of performance value for the small amount you pay.
Not only are their hosting plans affordable, you also get lots of useful freebies. This includes daily blog backups, server security certs, and more.
I especially love their free and exclusive SiteGround Optimizer add-on that really helps to speed up my sites.
Click on the image below for more hosting plan details.
Personally, I think the StartUp plan is more than enough for any new book blogger. You can always upgrade in the future when traffic picks up.
3) Excellent Customer Service
I’m happy to report that SiteGround’s customer service is great!
When I was with Bluehost, I’d often wait between 20-40 minutes for live chat help. It was agonizing. In addition, their workers weren’t always the best at assisting me.
By contrast, SiteGround’s live chat help is near-instant. In most cases, I usually only wait for a mere 2-10 minutes – really fast!
Plus, they stay on the line until they’ve solved any small issues I may have. I find the staff to be really well-trained and patient, too.
Put simply, SiteGround really nails it with their top-notch customer support. They’re fast, efficient, and go the extra mile.
How to sign up with SiteGround for a domain name / hosting plan
Here’s the easy part in how to start your book blog! It only takes a few short minutes to create your brand new ‘house’.
- First, click on the image below to select their most affordable StartUp plan.
- Next, select the below options. Double check that you’ve correctly typed in the domain you want (i.e. your new ‘home address’).
In cases where a domain is already taken, try a variation of your desired URL until you find one that’s available.
- Then scroll down until you see the following choices.
- Location refers to the physical location of the SiteGround server your site will be stored on.
In most situations, a shorter data travel distance between your audience and your server = quicker loading times.
Thus, try to choose a server location nearest to where you think most of your future visitors will come from.
Make an estimate guess for now – but don’t stress over it. You can always contact SiteGround support to change your server location later on.
- If you prefer, you can choose a hosting period of only 1 month, just for a trial. However, I recommend signing up for at least a year since it gives you a bigger discount (better value).
- Uncheck SG Site Scanner since there are free alternatives (e.g. WordFence). I’ve never needed to use the paid service myself.
- Pick Domain Privacy. It keeps prying Internet eyes away from your registration info (e.g. your name, address, etc.).
- Submit your order and… you’re done!
Congrats! You’ve taken your first real step in how to start a book blog of your very own.
- Check your email in a few minutes for a confirmation of your purchase.
SiteGround will also send you login instructions for your new blog. Follow them before moving on to the next step.
Step #4: Setup WordPress / Install your theme
What is WordPress? It’s one of the most powerful, feature-rich, and customizable blogging platforms available. Plus, it’s free!
Most pro bloggers use WordPress – and you should too.
a) How to setup WordPress for blogging
Your new SiteGround hosting plan already comes with an automatic WordPress install. Great! Saves you the hassle.
Now it’s time to login to your WordPress dashboard (follow your emailed instructions).
Once inside, you’ll need to make a few small tweaks to your fresh WordPress setup. This will enhance your blog’s overall configuration.
To do this, I strongly suggest you watch the short tutorial below. You’ll find it very helpful – especially if you’re a first-time WordPress user.
b) Choose your WordPress theme (and make your book blog beautiful!)
Right now, your new book blog looks a little… aesthetically plain.
That’s where WordPress themes come in. This part is fun!
What’s a WordPress theme? A theme is basically an installable file package that sets up the look and style of your book blog. This includes font types, menu appearance, features, image layouts, and so on.
WordPress easily lets you install any theme of your choice and customize it to your heart’s delight. Awesome!
Free vs Premium WordPress Themes
There are literally thousands of free and premium WordPress themes to choose from, each unique in their own way.
To use a free theme, simply go to your WordPress dashboard > Appearance > Themes > Add New Theme and choose the one you’d like to Install and Activate. It only takes a few clicks!
Free WordPress themes are great when you want to play around with your book blog’s look for the first time. They’re a solid practice for beginners.
However, if you’re serious about being a pro book blogger, I suggest you invest in a premium WordPress theme.
Compared to free ones, premium themes tend to be more feature-packed (e.g. multiple page layouts, included add-ons, etc.).
They also usually look sleeker and come with proper customer support.
In addition, most premium WordPress themes offer more powerful blog customization. This will help your site look unique from others.
Here’s a video that further explains why premium WordPress themes are generally better than those that are free.
The good news: Premium WordPress themes are actually really affordable! They usually cost between $15-60 (one-time) – with free lifetime updates.
Where can you find the best premium WordPress themes?
Many websites sell premium WordPress themes. I’ve shopped around at a few different places in the past.
However, my most loved premium WordPress store by far is Theme Forest. I find the themes there really well-priced, beautifully designed, and easy-to-use.
Plus, their selection of themes is huge! Customer support is also just a ticket away.
My tip: When shopping for a WordPress theme, always check customers’ reviews first! Make sure a theme you’re looking at has at least 4.5 stars and above. That’s usually a good gauge of quality.
How to install your WordPress theme
Whatever WordPress theme you decide on, the installation process is always the same. It’s easy!
- After buying your theme, go to your Theme Forest Downloads section and get the installation file (pick ‘Installable WordPress file only’).
- Back in your WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes > Add New Theme.
- Then, hit Upload Theme, choose the file you just downloaded, and click on Install Now.
- Activate your new theme to enjoy your blog’s new look!
My tip: Each theme comes with its own unique features and editing tools. Be sure to read the setup instructions that came packaged with your file. If it isn’t there, you can also visit the theme publisher’s website.
Step #5: The best WordPress plugins
What are WordPress plugins? They’re little add-on tools / features that enhance your basic WordPress blog. There are tens of thousands of plugins available (no exaggeration)!
Different plugins do different things. For example, some help you block spam comments. Others make your blog load quicker, track your visitors, and so on.
WordPress plugins can add a lot of zing on your book blog!
To discover them, simply go to Plugins > Add New > and browse the giant library of choices. You can then hit Install Now > Activate to start using the ones you want.
However, while they’re great to have, I suggest you try to keep your number of installed plugins as low as possible.
This is because most (not all) plugins add loading time to your blog. Thus, the more of them you install, the longer it takes for your readers to load your posts.
To put it simply, be selective with your WordPress plugins. Only keep those you really need.
My Favorite WordPress plugins
Here’s a short list of my all-time favorite WordPress plugins. I personally use them for Suggested Reads and all my other blogs.
(Free) Yoast helps you write blog posts that have a better chance of ranking in Google. This will in turn increase your search engine visitors over time.
(Free) Smush is another very useful plugin. Using smart algorithms, it basically compresses the file sizes of the images you upload. This means your blog will load much faster, which is great for readers.
Caching plugins are essential to improving your blog’s loading speed. They help to remove unneeded code, optimize how images / video are fed, and much more.
However, to me, WP Rocket is by far the best caching plugin on the market right now. It does an amazing job at enhancing your blog’s speed. Many independent tests prove this. Plus, it’s easy to use!
I’ve installed WP Rocket on all my own blogs, including this one. Check out how this plugin has helped Suggested Reads ace the loading speed test!
The proof is in the pudding! I highly recommend that you give WP Rocket a go.
Other WordPress plugins worth trying
- MonsterInsights’ Google Analytics (free)
You can sign up for a free Google Analytics account. Then insert your given code into this plugin to track your audiences’ details.
- WPForms (free)
Easily create Contact Forms for people to email you.
- Loginizer (free)
Keeps hackers away by limiting the number of login attempts.
In summary, feel free to try out different WordPress plugins. Just remember not to bloat your blog with too many!
Step #6: How to grow your book blog
“Dreams don’t work unless you do.”
– John C. Maxwell
You’ve just learnt how to start a book blog from scratch. Fantastic!
Now comes the real work: growing your audience!
In general, your potential readers will come to you from three main sources.
- Organic traffic (e.g. Google and other search engines)
- Direct traffic (e.g. when someone directly types in your URL / returns from a browser bookmark)
- Social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
Let’s go over how to grow each of them!
a) Organic traffic
Search Engine Optimization – or SEO for short – is a great way to increase your book blog’s traffic over time.
Here’s the gist: the better you apply SEO to your blog, the more likely Google will rank you higher in their search results.
Thus, as a book blogger, your goal is to use SEO to rank for as many book-related search results as possible. This helps more people find you, thus increasing your organic traffic.
So, how do you get started with SEO?
First, you’ll need to do keyword research.
Doing keyword research involves you finding out what avid readers are actually searching for on Google (i.e. what ‘keywords’ they’re typing in).
My #1 SEO advice for book bloggers: You need to do keyword research before you even write your next blog post!
This will help you create content in a way that increases your chances of being discovered on Google (thus more blog visitors for you).
Here’s a real example of how keyword research has helped us grow Suggested Reads’ organic traffic.
If you search ‘what are the best zombie books?’ or ‘best zombie books’ on Google, you’ll find us ranking on Page 1.
These rankings are not an accident. Instead, they’re a direct result of our active keyword research.
But how do you conduct your own keyword research? Watch the video tutorial below to discover a few awesome free tools you can use for your book blog.
You’ll also want to check out Miles Beckler’s easy guide to good keyword research using Keywords Everywhere (free).
In addition, try out Neil Patel’s free keyword research tool UberSuggest (nope, not the car ride app)!
I myself tend to use a combination of all the above free SEO tools to find the best book-related keywords to target. There are premium tools out there (like SEMrush or Ahrefs) – but start with the free ones first to practice.
It’s worked thus far for us – and it’ll work for you, too!
Next, it’s time to do some SEO-friendly writing!
So you’ve done some initial keyword research.
Now it’s time to write blog posts that are optimized to rank for them on Google!
How do you do this?
For starters, check out Brian Dean’s video tutorials below. In my opinion, he’s hands down one of the best SEO experts in town. You’ll learn a lot from him.
Remember to install Yoast as well (the free WordPress plugin I mentioned). It’s a fantastic SEO ally!
WP Rocket will also speed up your book blog in a way that helps you rank higher on Google.
My Tip: Learning SEO takes time. But don’t be impatient. Keep practicing, be consistent, and you’ll see results soon enough.
b) Direct traffic
To reiterate, direct traffic comes from people who’ve bookmarked your site and / or are keying your URL directly into their browsers.
Here are two tips to improve your direct traffic.
The first tip is simply to keep your blog’s name short and sweet (as I said earlier). This makes it much easier for people to recall and quickly type it in with minimal hassle.
By doing this, you’ll start to slowly build a good public reputation as an info-rich book blog.
This leads more bookworms to trust and remember your site which, in effect, increases your direct (i.e. returning) traffic over time.
c) Social media
Social media is a superb way to quickly bring people to your new book blog.
From my own experience, Facebook and Pinterest seem to generate the fastest results.
Here’s how you can use these two platforms.
You’ll first want to start a FB Page for your book blog. Be sure to fill in all your key details (e.g. blog URL, info, logo, etc.)
Next, share your post link onto your Page and customize your captions, as seen below. Do this for every article you publish.
Then start searching Facebook for relevant Groups to join.
By relevant, I mean those that relate to people’s general interest in reading and / or specific topics that revolve around the post you wrote.
For example, to promote the above post, I joined several Hunger Games enthusiast FB Groups.
I then shared my blog post into each Group. This instantly brought hundreds of Facebook users to Suggested Reads to find out more.
How to share your book blog posts into FB Groups
Go to your FB Page post > hit Share > Share in a group > and write some descriptive text (this will be seen by members of the Group you’re posting in).
My #1 advice: Don’t simply write something like “check out my post!”. That’s too self-promotional and spammy.
Instead, try being thoughtful and open-ended.
For instance, if you’ve written a blog post about romance novels, ask people who their favorite genre authors are – or invite them to suggest more similar books.
In short, you should aim to start a conversation with other readers.
When you’re done writing your description, make sure you’re posting as yourself (not as your page) > then type in a Group Name > and click Post.
Do this across multiple FB Groups and you’ll quickly see your social media traffic grow!
You’ll get even more visitors by taking the time to respond to Group comments – which helps to bump your post up the internal feed.
Pinterest is a fantastic source of traffic for your book blog!
Think of Pinterest as a search engine like Google – but specifically for images.
You’ll thus also have to apply Pinterest SEO to reap the benefit of being more easily discovered on the platform.
Here’s the good news! Pinterest SEO is actually much more straightforward than what you need to do for Google. Results are also far more instant (Google SEO takes time to kick into effect).
I suggest you watch Anastasia’s tutorial to learn how to use Pinterest SEO to drive big traffic to your own book blog. She’s amazing!
I myself have applied her tips and have seen a nice surge in Pinterest traffic for Suggested Reads. Try them!
Step #7: How to monetize your book blog
We’ve covered the beginner basics of how to start a book blog and grow your audience.
Now, let’s look at how to monetize your traffic. This is a big part of becoming a full-time book blogger.
Here are two ways to help you earn blog money:
- Work with ad networks (i.e. placing ads on your posts)
- Affiliate sales (i.e. earn commissions from books you recommend)
I’ll elaborate on both methods.
a) Work with ad networks
As your traffic grows, it’s possible to make good money from displaying ads on your blog.
The most efficient way to do this is by working with ad networks.
What are ad networks?
Short answer: Ad network companies help to mediate between advertisers (i.e. people who want to run ads) and publishers (i.e. bloggers like you and me).
They are the middle-party who take a cut of advertisers’ budgets – and give the rest to you. You don’t have to source for advertisers on your own. The ad networks do that work for you.
Thus, as a blog publisher, you’ll need to connect with an ad network that’ll help you serve good quality ads by advertisers. Your reward is a steady blog income.
So what’s the best ad network to work with?
I’ve teamed up with many ad networks over the years – at least 20 different companies.
I can honestly say the absolute best ad network I’ve worked with thus far is Mediavine.
Full disclaimer: Suggested Reads is not yet with Mediavine. However, my other blogs are (e.g. Games Like Zone). I’m hoping for this blog to team up with them soon.
Here’s why Mediavine is awesome.
- Great payment rates
Mediavine offers one of the best ad display payment rates I’ve ever seen. Here’s some proof! Other networks I’ve worked with don’t even come close.
This can add up to a nice healthy income for you as your book blog traffic grows.
- Fantastic support
Many members of Mediavine’s staff are actually bloggers themselves. That’s seldom the case with other ad networks.
As fellow content creators, they’ll better understand your unique publisher needs and give more empathetic help than elsewhere.
- Faster-loading ads
Ads will slow down your blog’s loading speed to some degree or another. This is inevitable with all ad networks.
However, Mediavine is much less prone to causing this. This is thanks to clever coding that’s going on under their hoods. Here’s how they do it.
The end result? You’ll display ads and earn serious blog money – with only a minor effect to your blog’s speed.
In short, I think Mediavine is a big winner among ad networks. You can apply to work with them here (be sure you meet their entry requirements).
b) Affiliate sales
Here’s how you can make money from affiliate sales:
- Sign up to a free-to-join affiliate program and log in (e.g. Amazon Associates, Book Depository Affiliates, etc.).
- Create custom affiliate links (e.g. for products, services, etc.)
- Insert these links into your blog posts (e.g. with buttons, text, images, etc.)
- You’ll earn a commission rate if someone buys an item via clicking on your links.
- People are not charged extra for purchasing anything through your blog. They pay the exact same price they normally would.
Thus, as a blogger, you can earn an income by adding affiliate links into your book reviews, lists, and so on.
As your traffic grows, more people are likely to buy books through you. This will slowly increase your book blog’s overall revenue.
What are the best affiliate programs to join?
Personally, I think you should sign up for Amazon Associates.
Amazon is the world’s most trusted online store with a huge library of great books. As such, people are more likely to purchase something from them via your affiliate links.
Plus, they also sell ebooks and audiobooks – two popular formats among book lovers.
One drawback: Amazon pays a pretty low commission rate for book sales. Book Depository used to pay better rates, but unfortunately, they are now defunct.
Also check out shareasale.com. They work as a kind of ‘affiliate curator’ under one dashboard.
Basically, you apply to join and – once approved – you’re free to search their database of thousands of affiliate programs by other companies.
The best part? You’ll have access to tons of book-related affiliate programs by highly reputable bookstores. Commission rates vary.
Got more questions on how to start a book blog?
I hope you’ve enjoyed my beginner’s guide on how to start a book blog. Please leave a comment below if you have any further questions. I’ll respond to everyone.
Till next time, keep reading!