GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Blogging tips and Etiquette | I Smell Sheep

Paranormal reviews of books, movies, comics with author interviews and giveaways we love urban fantasy, romance, science fiction, horror, fantasy, mysteries

Friday, December 6, 2013

Blogging tips and Etiquette

Looking to start your own blog/site? Here are some things I think are important when it comes to running a review site/blog.

-Find some blogging mentors in your genre. Visit sites you like, email the owner and ask questions. They can point you to some awesome websites that help. Develop a rapport with other bloggers. Be gracious for any help.
* just thought of this based on a comment below. It might be a good idea to guest blog on sites for a while. I did over at There was no pressure and I could practice finding my voice. Just ask a blog if they accept guest posts.

-Decide your style, own it and stick to it. This is branding. I Smell Sheep is quirky and humorous while still being professional. Reading is a fun experience and we embrace that.
check out my image. Why did I put it here? Keep reading to find out.
-Don’t plagiarize! Bloggers will find out. They Google paragraphs from their posts to see what turns up. Give credit and ask for permission.

-Networking. You will meet authors, publishers, and bloggers that are willing to scratch your back if you scratch theirs. Offer to help authors/bloggers.

-Be flexible as often as you can. Authors/publishers are busy people; sometimes things get lost. If you can, send gentle reminders to guest posters. This is how I do it :

“I just wanted to check and see if we are still on for your guest post (be specific about the type) on (date). If you need to reschedule just let me know. Thanks!” 
You have reminded them, given them an out so they don’t feel overwhelmed or guilty. Many times if they forgot or can’t do it they will offer a giveaway with the post when can do it. Now, there are exceptions. Bloggers are busy people too and our time is just a valuable. If the author/publisher contacted you and asked for a spot then didn't follow through with the post or with the giveaway, be polite and flexible if you can, then don’t work with them again. And DON’T go bashing them online.

-Be dependable. Don’t over promise. If you say you are going to do something. DO IT! You are building trust with readers, authors/publishers.
I made this! no judging. I own it.
-Integrity: when you run contests make sure you are picking the winner randomly. Follow through and mail the prize. Some bloggers have posted fake winners so they don’t really have to mail a prize. This way they can have tons of BIG giveaways.

-Honesty: post honest, fair reviews. If you don’t like something there are nice ways of saying so. Just because you hated something doesn't mean someone else will. Point out why you didn't like the book and end with the “not my cup of tea, but maybe yours” approach. 

-You will attract readers that like the same books you do. They will start to trust your judgment. Don’t abuse this.

-Be helpful: until you have authors/publishers coming to you, contact authors you have reviewed and ask if they would be willing to do a guest post or interview. Better yet, approach them with some guest post ideas.

-Guest posts: It is my experience that big long paragraphs make readers eye’s glaze over. Readers can’t spend unlimited amounts of time online. They want info quick and efficiently. Suggest your authors keep their guest post short when possible or use images to break up the text. Ask them to keep excerpts short unless you use one of those scrolling boxes, which are really cool by the way. How did I figure out how to do the scrolling box? I asked on Facebook and the wonderfully helpful blogger Anna Cade (Herding Cats & Burning Soup) gave it to me and told me how to use it. (Notice I gave her credit and linked to her blog? This is called being gracious and helpful. She scratched my back; I just scratched hers by giving her credit and mentioning her website.) I Smell Sheep has a document of our guest post features, and a long list of guest post ideas we send out. Authors really appreciated if you can give them some topics to choose from.
look! an image to break things up. Isn't he a sexy Transformer? Yes, he is.

-Interviews: The same things apply as with guest posts. Readers don’t want long all text posts. The number of questions you ask should depend on the type of answers you are probably going to get. If you ask an author their life story, the answer is going to long. So only ask a few questions for the interview. If you can get quick answers then ask around 10. Find the balance based on other interviews the author has done. And for heaven’s sake visit the author’s website and read up on them and their books.

-Book Tours: this is a good way to get on someone’s radar if you do a great job. That means getting the post up on time. But be careful for what you wish for. You can get over run with requests for tour spots. Be choosy, only books you like or think you would like, and in the genre you cover.

-Blog hops: here is another way to get people to visit your blog. There are tons of hops going on all the time. Ask around on your favorite social media if anyone knows of any hops coming up. Only do hops your readers will be interested in. This may be a way to bump up your follower numbers, but if they get there and you don’t catch their attention they won’t be back. 

-Followers vs. page visits. Some authors/publishers look at follower numbers. But with the help of blog hops and tours you can have 2000 followers, but only 10 page visits a day. There are ways to help up your page hits. Be creative with posts and titles. Growing a following is a slow process. You must think long term. You have to build trust with readers/authors/publishers.

-Getting swag: many authors have a place on their website where you can ask for swag. If there isn't, email the author and ask for some, but offer to send a S.A.S.E. Swag and mailing is very expensive and self-pub or small press authors aren't given bookmarks by a publisher. They buy them out of pocket. Be respectful of this fact.
I made this too!
-Never sell an ARC or give it to a friend. Never sell or giveaway a review ecopy an author has sent you. This is where integrity comes in. That is stealing. If an author gives you a print ARC you can ask them if you can use it as a giveaway with your review or give it to another blogger (you should include that blogger’s name and web address with your request)

-Try and be different and original. Brainstorm about new ways to do the basics like interviews, reviews, guest posts.

-Images: you have to be careful about what you use. Many times I have contacted a website or artist to ask if I can use their image. Usually they are fine with that. Give credit if you are unsure, but just have to use it. Make your own. I make our images with Microsoft paint. They aren't as pretty or as professional as some, but I keep it simple and quirky! So it works. I included some sites where you can get free images/public domain images at the bottom of this post.

-Google blogging tips. There is a ton of stuff out there.

-Visit bloggers who post how to articles. One of my favorites is: I've learned so much stuff from her posts. If you know of others put the links in the comments and I will add them to this post.

Scrolling text box:
If you put the code above in the html view then switch to regular view you can paste the text in the white box there as well.
<div style="border: 1px solid #ccc; font: 16px/26px Georgia, Garamond, Serif; height: 400px; overflow: auto; width: 700px;">

Free image sites

Helpful links for bloggers


  1. Enjoyed this post, I am fairly new to blogging and I am always looking for ways to do better or make sure I am not doing something horrific. One thing I always wish I had did right in the beginning was not stress the small stuff and just be me. I tried so hard to do everything right instead of doing what was right for me I was hella boring, I sounded a little robotic. So if I could go back to March 2012 I would tell myself to relax and do you!

    1. I was lucky, I got to practice writing posts as a guest reviewer/blogger for Love Romance Passion. There was no pressure. If I came up with a post I would send it. Prepared me a little for running a site. I guess I should have mentioned that in the post. Guest blog for a while till you find your voice.
      Of course nothing prepares you for the time and effort that will go into it and the patience it takes to grow.

  2. Replies
    1. thanks. Someone pointed out I misspelled rapport. was that you? I fixed it! thanks to who ever caught that :)

  3. Fabulous post Sharon. And thanks for the scroll box code. I've always wondered about that but never asked.

  4. I love that scrolling box! If you see so,etching on a blog you like just go to Facebook and ask. Most people are willing to help. Gonna work on another post about how to get more of the general public visiting blogs. Most people don't know they exists and what a great resource they can be.

  5. Great post and valuable information.

  6. I don't like to do giveaways anymore, not since I gave away a Kindle for a contest that didn't have many contestants. I asked the winner to send me a photo I could post on my site, a photo of them receiving the gift.

    How do you provide proof that you are legit sending the gifts out? Do you have to do more giveaways to establish integrity? I only did it once and I didn't get the feedback I wanted, then I felt like I spent a lot of money to send this gift and didn't even get feedback to share with my other contestants and readers. :(

    Thanks for this post! You guys do so many more interactive and engaging events, so I appreciate this sharing of advice. I hope to understand more!

    1. Sometimes you will get that feedback and other times you wont. We don't always get a thanks either. It's up to each person to give that. And some don't. But we enjoy doing giveaways so either way it's a win :)

    2. Makes me feel better about hosting more in the future. Thanks! I thought it was just me. :D

      At least, that's how it felt with that first time.

    3. to get a big response to a giveaway you need to have a large network to draw from. Since we are a book site and work with other large blogs they will share our giveaways on their social networks because we do the same for them. There is a large built in reader base for circles we run in. You will get people who stop by to enter and don't ever want to come back again. They just want the prize and you usually won't hear from them.
      You don't have to worry about people not believing you are sending out prizes since you don't do many and there is no reason for people not to believe you. If readers get screwed they will start complaining on social media and rumors start.

  7. Wonderful post, thank you for sharing these pearls of knowledge and wisdom - BTW that is a pretty awesome transformers pic ;=D

  8. One of my other favourite book blogs is Felicia at The Geeky Bloggers Bookblog, here is a link to her latest helpful post: