If you are an avid Bookstagrammer or book reviewer, and if you have been thinking about starting your own book blog, this post is an easy guide how to start a book blog and make money on your book reviews and more.
This post is a technical one about how to start a book blog. It's about the exact steps (with my best recommendations on how to do it the "right" way) to take on your computer to get your blog online and start blogging.
And while I'm a book blogger and this post is slightly geared towards book blogs, anyone can follow these steps to create any type of blog.
I started learning about blogs over 5 years ago, and there's a ton of information out there on how to start a book blog, which can make it easy to get overwhelmed. But, Rome wasn't built in one day. While you can get your blog up and running in minutes with the steps below, you will learn and grow over time and so will your blog!
I encourage you to lean into the process and allow your blog to change and get better over time. Done is better than perfect. And small steps every day add up to big wins. This post sets you up with the best framework for a jump start at a successful blog, and then it's up to you where you want your blog to go from there.
So, below is how to start a book blog, including why you should start one, what you should decide before starting one, how to start a WordPress blog on WordPress and what to do after your blog is set up.
Why You Should Start a Blog
First up in how to start a book blog is your "why." There are so many reasons why you should start a blog -- I had 5 major "why's" in mind when I started this blog -- and below are just a few reasons for you to consider:
- It's a creative outlet
- You can serve others by creating quality content
- It can help you preserve memories or organize content better
- It's a meaningful hobby where you can grow new skills
- You can make money and earn more freebies like books, particularly on the content you may already be creating on social media (i.e., minimal extra work)
- It's cheap and easy to get started!
Of note, if you are already spending time creating content on social media (like photos and captions on Instagram and book reviews on GoodReads), you can easily syndicate your content on a blog to get increased exposure (= more freebies) and make money through things like ads and affiliate links from Amazon, etc. If you are already "working" on social media, the real question is why not make this content work at optimal returns for you?
Also, even if you end up not posting that much on your blog, it's great to have a dedicated, professional-looking space to point people to when it comes to your writing, book reviews, etc.
It's fairly common in the book reviewing world for reviewers to work for free or minimal returns. I'm here to help you change that because you deserve to reap the rewards of your work -- it's just about setting yourself up the right way to receive them.
What You Should Decide Before You Start a Blog
Next up in how to start a book blog is what you should decide before you start a blog. I'm writing this blog post because I want readers to be happy with their decision to blog using my recommendations. And, from my experience, I believe happiness in blogging starts with the decisions below.
First, I think you should decide why you want to blog. Blogging takes time and energy, no matter how often or infrequent you post, so there should be something motivating this expense of your time (as mentioned above). This is something you can always go back to in your mind as your blog grows and you learn more about how to start a book blog.
Also, your motivations drive your actions, and since you are placing yourself in the public arena, I personally think it's important that your content has a bigger purpose -- no matter what that is! Your motivations will be what influences your blogging decisions and what helps you gauge your happiness levels.
And, if your "why" is to make money, you should know this will likely take time, and you should think about whether you are willing to give this months to years of your time to realistically make some money. (But, if you already have a following on social media, it may be faster.)
At the same time, it's a very small investment to try it out, whereas starting another type of business or side hustle could be exponentially more costly.
Second, I believe you should think about whether you are the type of person who likes to learn new things and is ok with things not being perfect all the time. Blogging requires you to wear a lot of "hats" and makes Google your best friend in order to learn and grow.
And, if you strive too hard to be perfect as you learn how to start a book blog, you will never get anything done. Your blog can and should start off really simply. You are one person, not the entire staff of Barnes & Noble's website! It's always a work in progress, and it doesn't need bells and whistles to be successful -- it needs good, authentic content.
If you are an avid learner and don't get too overwhelmed by new technology, this would be a good fit for you. At the end of the day, however, even if you struggle with technology, it's so cheap and easy to get a blog off the ground (and the recommendations I give you come with tech support), that it may still be worth the shot for you.
Third, you should think about what makes you unique. There are a lot of blogs out there, so it helps to differentiate yourself. What are you already known for in real life or on social media? What do you want people to associate you with? What names, colors and themes align with that?
If you are thinking about "book blogging" as your niche, that's a good start, but can you dig deeper than that? For example, if you are a wine lover, you may wish to pair each book you review with a particular wine. The possibilities are endless, but in order to stand out, it helps to be "you" unequivocally and to narrow down exactly who you are.
So, to recap this section of how to start a book blog, before you start a blog you should know why you are doing it and who you are. And, the technical guide below presumes you already have things like a blog name and color scheme in mind. But, don't get bogged down in these decisions. Make them with a purpose in mind, then move forward.
You can use these resources to get you started:
- Namecheckr - to see if a particular name is available for your blog and all social media platforms in one search (however, you can use different names if you choose - I do!)
- Design Seeds - to browse color palettes
- Canva - to create a logo and branded blog or social media images
NOTE: Canva Pro is especially one of my favorite blogging resources I use DAILY, and it saves me TONS of time. I love the premium version for unlimited stock photos, branding, resizing images, creating collages and more. I VERY highly recommend it.
How to Start a Book Blog with a WordPress Blog on Bluehost
Next up on how to start a book blog is actually starting your blog! Below is a step-by-step guide with the three major steps to starting your blog and getting it on the internet.
Step by Step Guide
1. Choose a blogging platform & host.
First, you need to select a blogging platform and host. A platform is where you type and input your blog content and a host is how it gets on the internet.
Some platforms and hosts are the same. For example, if you make a blog on Blogger or Tumblr, you only need to sign up once to have access to both the free platform and host.
I recommend WordPress.org
Prior to starting my blog, I did an insane amount of research to decide what platform and host to use. I really wanted to find the easiest and cheapest result, but after weeks of research, I came to the conclusion that a blog on the WordPress.org (not WordPress.com - that's a different thing I don't recommend) platform hosted by Bluehost was well worth the extra investment of time and money (which is still insanely cheap).
This is why: other platforms and hosts can own your content (meaning they can take control of it and/or take it away from you at any time), aren't as customizable (meaning you can't control the look and feel, or even the name, of your blog as much), aren't as technically robust to function as well and be recognized as easily by Google (and if you really want to build your traffic, you will need Google's help to show up in search results).
At the end of the day, I knew that, if I was going to be putting time and energy into my blog and wanted it to be successful, I shouldn't cut corners. Cutting corners tends to be more costly in time and money in the long run, in my opinion. So, I made the small initial expense of time and money for the best long-term solution, and I recommend that you do too.
The vast majority of successful bloggers use WordPress and there's a lot of sound reason for that! (Seriously, I saw a statistic with over 60% using WordPress and 1-2% using each of its competitors.) WordPress allows you to be the captain of your ship. If you've ever been burned by a social media platform, you know what it feels like to not be in control of your work.
When you use WordPress, you need to take the extra step of setting up a host, but this is a one-time thing, and it's cheap and easy.
I recommend Bluehost
And I recommend Bluehost as your host for the WordPress platform after years of learning about the blogging industry. It's quite simply long been known as the "go-to" host for new bloggers, and it's cheap and easy to use, with tech support as well! It's a no-brainer.
Additionally, Bluehost offers an anytime money-back guarantee. Customers can cancel at any time without penalty to receive a prorated refund. Full refunds are available in the first 30 days (minus the cost of domains if
canceled after three days).
So, if, like me, you believe that controlling your own destiny on a WordPress blog with Bluehost is the way to go, then proceed to step two below to learn exactly how to get your blog off the ground and online.
2. Set up your accounts at WordPress.org and Bluehost.
The second major step in setting up your blog if you decide to follow my recommendations for your platform and host is to set up your accounts at Bluehost and WordPress.org (not WordPress.com, which is different) and get your blog live on the internet.
Of note, at any time in this process, you may contact Bluehost technical support via live chat or telephone call. In the United States, call 844-213-7846. The beauty of self-hosting your blog is the tech support that comes with it at no extra charge. I have contacted them before and was pleased with the customer service.
Follow the steps below to set up your accounts at Bluehost and WordPress.org and get your blog live on the internet:
A. Go to Bluehost's website.
B. Click the green "Get Started" button.
C. Pick a plan. The following plans work for most people: Basic ($3.95 per month); Plus ($5.95 per month); and Choice Plus ($6.95 per month). Most people will not need the Pro Plan ($13.95) per month.
Bluehost recommends the Choice Plus plan, and I like that plan the best as well because it provides you with unlimited storage as well as domain privacy + protection (internet security is so important). All of these plans are very good, cheap options to get started, though, so you really can't go wrong.
D. Create a new domain name (your URL; i.e., www.[something].com) or, if you already own a domain name, enter it.
Of note, the process below is easier if you create a new domain name. (There's also a third option on the bottom to create a domain later, but there's really no reason to do that.)
E. Enter your account information.
F. Choose whether you want a 12-month, 24-month or 36-month package. I chose the longest one because it's the cheapest and I knew I wanted my blog to be around for a long time. Even if I stopped working on it, it seemed nice to think it would still be there.
G. Choose your package extras. I recommend domain privacy + protection if your package doesn't already come with it for free.
H. Enter your payment information and click submit.
I. Pick a theme. Two good options are "Astra" and "GeneratePress" because they are well built for function and security. Take note of the layout when choosing a theme and not so much the "look," as you can customize things like colors and fonts later. You may also wish to upgrade to a premium theme at a later time (You can do this at any time; don't stress about it now!).
L. Next, you need to remove your temporary domain and install your permanent domain name (your URL). Don't worry, we are almost done!
If you created a new domain upon signing up with Bluehost, then check your email inbox for a domain activation email. Open the email and click the button inside of it. Bluehost will automatically activate your permanent domain!
Then, wait up to 24 hours for the change to become effective. You can test your permanent domain by typing your URL (your permanent domain) into the bar on your web browser and seeing it stays the same or forwards to your temporary domain.
M. Lastly, once your permanent domain is live, you should get an SSL certificate. An SSL certificate changes the "http://" at the beginning of your domain name to "https://". It has the important purpose of telling both visitors and Google that your site is secure.
If you created a new domain name when you signed up for Bluehost, then log into your Bluehost account and click "My Sites." Find your website and click "Manage." Open the "Security" tab. Under "Security Certificate," toggle the free SSL that comes with your Bluehost package to the "on" position. It should take effect within a few hours.
If you used an existing domain name when you signed up for Bluehost, then you should contact the company where you registered your domain name and tell them you want an SSL certificate.
That's it! Your blog is now live and secure!
3. Customize your blog.
Now is the time to customize your blog. If you are a newbie or not great with tech, I suggest you keep it simple at first.
Like any new system, WordPress is a learning curve. Spend some time poking around on it and allow yourself to become acquainted with it. It's really not that hard once you get used to it.
Click "Appearance" and then "Customize" to play around with your header logo, color scheme and fonts.
Add some "Pages," like an "About Me" page, and set up your navigation for these pages by clicking on "Appearance" and then "Menu."
Customize your sidebar by clicking on "Appearance" and then "Widgets." Widgets are simply the bits of info that appear in your sidebar, like your bio, popular posts, social media buttons, etc.
Research what "Plugins" you want to install on your blog. Plugins are things you can add to your website via your dashboard to have "back end" functions, like speeding up your site, or "front end" functions, like adding your Instagram feed to your sidebar.
I recommend that you download as few as possible, and focus on ones that make your site run better on the "back end." Plugins can really slow down your site. Try not to stress too much about this at first though! Just do a bit of research, add what you want, and be willing to adjust later if need be.
Once your layout is set up, start writing blog posts! You can add images to your posts by clicking on "Media" in your WordPress dashboard.
A few tips about customizing your blog, many of which I am repeating (because they are that important):
- Keep it simple, especially at first. More is not more.
- Make decisions with purpose, but be decisive, and then move on. You can easily get stuck in creating an elaborate layout or site structure. When you do, your blog never moves forward. (It's called "analysis paralysis.") You are likely not a web designer or a large brand, and your blog doesn't have to look like you are, especially not at first. What it does need is really good content. Make that your focus in the beginning.
- Rome wasn't built in a day. You and your blog will grow and change over time. Be okay with that.
- Google and/or YouTube everything about WordPress you may have a question about. There are simple, easily accessible answers to everything out there, but since there is no "one size fits all," I simply cannot tackle all of them in one blog post. Remember, you can figure it out. I promise you that this is what virtually every other blogger has done.
- If you are blogging as a business, it's up to you to make sure you are doing so legally in your country/state: i.e., making proper disclosures, paying taxes. Again, start by Googling it and go from there.
- Remember that every small action adds up. If you have big plans for your blog on Day 1, you may get overwhelmed. I started my blog in very small daily chunks of times. I was amazed by how quickly these small chunks added up to a real website. And, once you do something, especially in the beginning, it's done and you can just focus on creating content afterward.
- Do the "musts" now and do the "would be nice" tasks later.
What to Do Next
Lastly, there is a treasure trove of resources that can help you customize and grow your blog. If you like my website,
I highly recommend you check out my blogging resources page to see what has worked for me, after years of learning about blogs, focusing on doing things the "right" way while using time-saving tools and experiencing growth every month over month!
My blogging resources page contains everything from the Plugins I recommend, to the theme I use and the tools I use to grow my blog and make money. It's quite simply a must if you are looking to learn and grow!
I also recommend you check out my post on how Bookstagrammers can make money to help you start monetizing your blog and your book reviews!
That ends my easy guide on how to start a book blog and make money on reviews.
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