Welcome back to a whole new set of Blogletters interviews!
If you’re new here, hi! Blogletters is an interview series hosted by yours truly where I discuss with other bloggers on all the aspects of blogging. Through these interviews, I’m trying to start discussions on blogging and aim to help bloggers know that they’re not alone in some things!
All the Blogletters interviews are linked in this masterlist, so do check it out to find some new bloggers.
Today, I’m interviewing Nikole who has a lot of interesting things to say and went off with the answers like its a full on discussion. We love to see it.
Hiya! I’m Nikole (she/her) and I am a 25 year old book blogger and aspiring author from Illinois. When I’m not blogging, I can be found reading, writing, snuggling with my dog, organizing tours for Turn the Page Tours, and watching horror, Marvel, and Disney movies.
Hi Nikole! What inspired you to start a blog?
It was actually a multitude of things that inspired me to start a blog. I started out on Twitter, where I discovered the wonderful book community and so many new books (in all honesty, I’m pretty sure it was Twitter that led me to being a book collector). I was already a bookworm before, but finding this community and interacting with other book people really helped me grow and decide on what I wanted to do. I read and followed so many book blogs and I always asked myself, “Why don’t I have a book blog?” And, you know, I couldn’t find a good enough reason not to start one. But I didn’t want to start one alone. And yet, at that moment in time, I didn’t have anyone that would want to co-blog with me. So, I started my own blog. It didn’t work out (my expectations were a bit high, which I explain more in a different question), which is okay. Blogging by yourself is not for everyone, and it wasn’t for me. And thankfully, I found two amazing book bloggers that opened their door to me and gave me the opportunity to blog with them on A Court of Coffee and Books. I found my niche and I found my crew, which is pretty awesome.
Like many others, what I wanted from my blog was for it to be a place for others to discover new books and a place for myself to interact with other book bloggers. It was also a place for me to promote and discuss my favorite books. And three years later (I can’t believe it’s already been three years!), it’s still that place.
Your co-blog with two others. Can you give us any insight into the co-blogging experience and would you recommend it?
It’s such a wonderful and insightful experience co-blogging with two others. My co-bloggers make book blogging a fun and exciting journey. I was lucky enough to find two people that were looking for a third blogger and they invited me with open arms. I have two people I can rely on, two people I can talk ideas with. And it worked out great because we all bring different expertise to the blog and we’re always finding ways to improve our blog.
Having co-bloggers is definitely something I would recommend. I know there’s many bloggers out there that co-blog and each blog is different. Some co-bloggers have it where you have to post at least two-three times a week (which is awesome and I applaud those bloggers!). And then there’s some co-bloggers that are more like mine: laid back with no strict blogging schedule; you can post when you want to. And for me, that worked out perfectly. I have a demanding work schedule (don’t get me wrong, I love my job, so it doesn’t always feel like work to me), so there’s some weeks where I’m unavailable to make a blog post. And it’s great to know that even if I miss a week of posting, my co-bloggers won’t question why. We all trust each other – which brings me to a bit of advice for anyone looking for co-bloggers: you will need to build trust with your co-bloggers. Trust is an essential part of co-blogging, and without it, it could lead to miscommunication and a fallout.
Another key part of co-blogging is deciding the layout of your blog. Surprisingly, maintaining the overall vibe and brand of the blog came naturally to all of us. If there’s a change one of us wants to make to the blog, whether it be the layout design or change our logo, we always discuss it with each other. It’s important to make sure we’re all on the same page about a change, so we know what templates to use, sign offs to use, etc. When I wanted to update our blog logo, I talked with Justin and Stacy first and we looked through several portfolios before working with Vicky. She did an absolutely amazing job on our blog logo and headers and because of her hard work and the relationship we’ve built with her, we will continue to work with her on any of our future blog updates.
Justin and Stacy are also my blogging support system. If I need to have them look over my post or have them help decide on a major change to our blog, they’re always there. We’re there for each other. Having that support system, feeling comfortable enough to talk to them about blog and personal issues, is such a wonderful thing to have. I know I can count on them for anything.
What are your favourite and least favourite aspects of blogging?
Two of my favorite aspects are definitely promoting books and engaging with other book bloggers. I could promote books every day, it’s one of my favorite things to do. And seeing people get excited about those same books is amazing. Being able to engage with bloggers has been a delight and has created some truly meaningful relationships. There’s so many people in the book community I can count on thanks to book blogging. Another favorite is acquiring books in any format. I am an avid book buyer – you take me to a store that sells books, I will more than likely walk out with one or several. Like I mentioned above, I’m a book collector and it is a very dangerous part of my life because I just don’t know the word NO when it comes to buying books. I haven’t learned that willpower yet and don’t know if I ever will. Acquiring books through authors and publishers, whether physical or ebook format, always makes me giddy. It’s a great feeling when your NetGalley request is approved or that email you sent to a publisher actually pays off. I will say what isn’t a great feeling is that ball of nerves you get right before you click Send on that important book request email. But after you press Send, you can tell yourself you had the nerve to send that email and to me, that increases confidence and keeps you motivated.
Probably one of my least favorite aspects is the amount of time some posts take. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great feeling once I hit that ‘Publish’ button, but for posts that take me days to organize, I start to lose my momentum and, sometimes, my motivation. I never get this feeling with reviews, but with projects where I need to create lists (top 10 lists are my enemy) or that require a substantial amount of time, I start to slow down. I recently created a 2021 Young Adult Debuts list which I absolutely love and I am so proud I created, but it took over a month for me to compile that list and cross reference it with publisher websites and make sure I had the right representation and trigger warnings listed. There was a full week where I was so burnt out from that, that I didn’t even make a single blog post – I didn’t have the energy. But taking that break made me appreciate that post even more, which is what gave me the momentum I needed to finish it and publish to our blog. So, a little self-promotion: if you’re looking for 2021 YA debut books, definitely check the page out and show some love to those amazing debut authors!
At what point did you actually start calling yourself a blogger?
Thinking back, I believe I felt like I was a blogger when I wrote my first review on A Court of Coffee and Books. I’m guessing that’s not what you typically hear. Being a book blogger, to me, is not based on the amount of reviews or engagement you get on your posts. It’s not based on your blog statistics or how many free books you receive or your NetGalley percentage. It doesn’t matter if you’re experienced or not (because, eventually, you will be experienced). You wrote a post, a review, a wrap-up, anything; that is being a blogger. You’re spreading the word about something you love. And, to me, that’s something to be proud of. So I basically started calling myself a blogger from the beginning because that’s what I was.
Just remember: it doesn’t matter how experienced you are in book blogging: you are a book blogger no matter what. Don’t let being inexperienced stop you from posting or blogging or signing up for that book tour. How can you learn and improve if you don’t try? Over time, you will grow and your writing and blogging will improve. You will gain experience. But experience doesn’t define you as a book blogger. If you blog about books, then you already took that gigantic step: you became a book blogger.
You also organize book tours. What got you into it and how do you like it?
I do! I help run Turn the Page Tours with Belle and Nathalie. At Turn the Page Tours, we mainly organize middle grade and young adult book tours, but sometimes we’ll sprinkle in an adult book tours here or there (if there’s a request for one). Our tours are aimed to connect readers with amazing books they love and/or identify with. We’ve had the wonderful opportunity working with so many authors and publishers so far, and we can’t wait to see what 2021 brings!
I love working with publishers and authors and I’ve always loved participating in book tours. It’s a great way to get books into readers’ hands, which is the essence of book blogging. A part of me always wanted to start a tour company. I know I had the capabilities of starting one, but then the hard question came: how does one start a tour company. Luckily, I didn’t have to dabble on that question for long. Several months ago, Belle made a Twitter post looking for a couple people to help her start a book tour company. I didn’t hesitate – I sent her a message right away and here we are months later.
I love all the work we do at Turn the Page Tours. Organizing book tours is a lot of fun…but also a lot of work. I work a full-time job, run a book blog, and run a book tour company. Needless to say, my plate is pretty full. But I wouldn’t change that for anything. It’s made me love the book community even more and it’s given me the opportunity to create relationships with authors and publishers. Even with other tour companies, I don’t see them as competition but as family; we help support each other, which is what book tours are all about. Our book tour company took off in full swing and it’s only growing, which is exciting.
If you could start over with blogging, is there anything you would change?
One of the biggest things I’d change would be time management. Don’t make blogging seem like a chore – if it is, you’re most likely in it for the wrong reasons or you’re burnt out or getting close to your breaking point. If that’s the case, take a step back and reflect on the reasons why you decided to blog in the first place. You’re more than likely going to be re-inspired to jump back into blogging (if you’re taking a break).
There may be times when blogging will feel overwhelming – it’s normal, trust me. But what I’ve figured out is that blogging should not cause you stress. You will have other stress points in your life, but blogging should not be one of them. Which is why I now set a certain amount of time each week for blogging. I want to make sure I maintain a healthy balance of work, personal life, blogging, reading, and tour company time. I’ve found that maintaining this balance does not cause me to burn out, and actually keeps me focused on the task at hand, whether that be blogging or organizing tours. It even keeps me more motivated. Time management also goes hand-in-hand with mindset. If you have the right mindset about blogging, you can tackle any challenge thrown your way in the book community.
Besides writing, what do you think the most important aspect of blogging is?
Besides writing and promoting amazing books, I think the most important aspect is making those connections with other bloggers. Some of those connections turn into life-long friendships and some even move toward amazing opportunities. Building those friendships and engaging with other bloggers is what makes up the book blogging community. It’s not just our posts or our relationships with publishers; it’s the relationships we build with those around us in the book community. I think it’s also really great to see bloggers mention the books they’ve discovered because of our reviews and/or promotion. It’s such a great feeling to know that you helped someone find a new book.
Has blogging impacted your real life in any way?
Most definitely. Blogging has helped with my writing and bringing long-lasting friendships. Blogging is how I found my book friends. Blogging is how I found my niche, my support system. It even helped me discover who I am and what makes up me and my personality. I’m pretty sure if I didn’t have blogging, I wouldn’t have an outlet to express myself.
There were days (and there still are) where I felt like a terrible writer, like my words and posts meant nothing. And I felt like that feeling would also reflect in my day job and my current writing project. But then I’d receive comments from people in the book community saying my review was amazing or they bought that book because of my words. And that really helped me believe more in myself, more in my writing, and more in the impact we all have in the book community. Our words do mean something, and understanding that really had a positive impact on my life.
Blogging has also created lasting friendships with people who can relate to what I’m going through or people who just love books. It’s been extremely inspiring to be in a community that cherishes one another and that advocates for positive change. It’s also given me confidence to tackle daily problems.
Do you have any advice for new bloggers starting out with book blogging?
Okay, this answer may be long so go ahead and take a seat 🙂 Don’t stress about the amount of followers you have, the amount of likes and comments you get, and any engagement aspect. It takes time, usually years, to build a platform, and having a blog is no different. Not many people know, but before I joined A Court of Coffee and Books, I started my own book blog. I was so excited to start something new and all I could think about was the amount of followers I’d gain. If I didn’t have any new followers one day, I’d make a quick blog post, whether it’d be a mini review or the tour schedule for a book release. To me, it didn’t matter, I just wanted followers. I only cared about the amount of followers I had because I thought that that was what was important. And you know what happened? I started to hate blogging. I spent so much time concerned about my stats that I started to lose sight of why I really started blogging: to share my love of books.
So, I took a step back from blogging and closed my blog. Others may just take a break, but it was better for me to shut mine down. I gave myself time to reflect on my past decisions in blogging. I knew I needed to stop focusing on numbers and more on providing actual meaningful blog posts. A couple months after I closed my blog, I decided I wanted to get back into the blogging community. I felt I finally had the right mindset to give my all to blogging. And that’s when my co-bloggers came in.
But trust me, changing your mindset and not just being in blogging for the numbers will not only improve your blogging experience but also how you blog and also give you these amazing friendships.
My co-bloggers started A Court of Coffee and Books in 2016 (I joined in 2017) and we just surpassed 1,000 subscribers a couple days ago. It’s a great feeling to have that many subscribers but it didn’t happen overnight (it took 4 years) and it happened because we post about books we love and engage with the community. And best part? Seeing that number didn’t change how we blogged. Our main priority stayed the same: posting about books. Yes, we became more conscious of our followers after we hit 980 because 1,000 subscribers was a long-term goal we set for ourselves; we never expected to reach it in 2020 but we did. And one day, you’ll get there. It’s a lot of work and a lot of commitment, but everyone has the capability to succeed and grow in the book community. And there will always be people that believe in you, so don’t give up.
Besides that, you need to also have heart. You need to love books and love this community. Don’t start a blog just to get noticed by publishers or to get free books. Yes, it’s definitely a nice bonus working with publishers, but it shouldn’t be the reason you start a blog. Start a blog because you love books and want to shout into the void about all things books. Start a blog because you want to see positive change in the book community. Just whatever you do, don’t start a blog for the wrong reasons that may create a toxic environment for you.
And, finally, always edit your posts. I treat my posts like how I treat emails and social media posts at work: I write out the content, review the text and make any edits, review any hyperlinks, then when I feel there’s no more edits I can make, I publish the post. Editing can be the difference between someone misinterpreting what you wrote and someone loving what you wrote. When you edit your posts, you can potentially prevent that from happening. Plus, you may catch spelling and grammatical errors when you edit. And if you have a wonderful support system, I’d definitely recommend reaching out to them if you need another set of eyes to review your post.
So, in short: Don’t stress about blogging, be in blogging for the right reasons not the wrong ones, engage with other book bloggers, have heart, and always edit your posts.
Name some bloggers who inspire you!
I have so many, I could create a list miles long! And this is definitely because I’ve had the amazing opportunity to get to know these book bloggers. Here’s just a few that inspire me.
I love Shut Up Shealea. Shealea is such a bright light in the book community. She’s done so much for the community and she continues to be an advocate for diversity and inclusion. Her blog is beautifully designed and fits her personality. I haven’t had the chance to meet her in real life but I’ve interacted with her online and she’s one of the nicest people out there. She also runs a book tour company, Caffeine Book Tours!
I also love Belle’s Archive! I’m always jumping to Belle’s blog to see what’s new. She’s an absolutely wonderful person and fantastic co-owner of Turn the Page Tours. She’s always full of amazing ideas and provides some amazing advice. Belle is someone I can count on in the blogging community. And I’m basically obsessed with her bookstagram. Her photos are beautiful and so unique!
Vicky at Vicky Again is an absolute ray of sunshine! I am obsessed with her blog (it’s so beautiful!) and her designs. She’s the same Vicky that created my blog’s logo, headers, and signatures. Her reviews and posts are insightful and like Shealea and Belle, she’s an advocate for this book community.
(hi, this is Sumedha jumping in to say: I’ve interviewed Belle @ Belle’s Archive too! She’s awesome!)
Thanks for doing this interview, Nikole!
I loved hearing about Nikole’s love for books and blogging. She has me convinced to consider co-blogging, mostly because of the work-sharing haha. Anyway, do check out her blog and socials to follow her journey!
If you want to check out other Blogletters interviews, click here to see the masterlist!
Talk to us!
If you have a blog, why did you start it? Do you like the idea of co-blogging? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!