Blogging also enhances your ability to describe and distill complex information. How do you explain what happened in a 300 page book? How do you point out what made the point of the book work or not work? This requires a lot of logic and a lot of higher-level thinking to do. Whether or not you write a good review or a critical review, you’re putting a lot of thinking into the content and expression of those thoughts.
In addition to being able to point to the actual writing (or video), those who blog also have an opportunity to talk about communication via readers. You respond to comments and follow up. You also maintain communication with those who you work with, if you’re working with publishers or authors on different promotions. These seem like little things when you’re doing them, but they’re evidence of understanding the importance of two-way conversation and engagement.
The more work you put into blogging about a topic, the more you’re educating yourself. If you’re researching post ideas, staying on top of trends and influences in the field, making contacts with people in your interest area and allowing them to share their expertise, attending industry events, you’re furthering your knowledge on a topic area.
For book bloggers specifically, expertise is demonstrated through review writing, too. The more you’re able to discuss why a book did or didn’t succeed, the more you’re expressing expertise and knowledge of writing and story telling. If you talk about a book’s appeal factors or what similar books in the field are, you’re also showing off your understanding of the field.
Expertise sets you apart because it’s knowledge that isn’t always easily trained, and if it’s something you’re learning about because you’re passionate, then it will show through by virtue of your blogging about it. But more specifically, by being knowledgeable on a specific topic such as YA books (or picture books or middle grade books or adult books — you get the idea), you’re acquiring reader’s advisory skills, sales skills, and pitching skills.
A big aspect of blogging is networking. Good networking skills come through strong and effective communication and they play a huge role in developing expertise. When you attend industry events or make contact with people who are important in your world, you’re growing your expertise.
While the notion of networking can feel a little cold, it doesn’t have to be. I like to think of it less in the sense of trading business cards in hopes of getting somewhere and more in the sense of getting to know people and establishing actual connections with other people. It’s not about acquiring or achieving influence but rather sharing and interacting in meaningful ways that leave you and the other person with something you didn’t have before you conversed.
One of the biggest and scariest aspects of blogging — at least for me — is reaching out to someone new and communicating with them. It’s weird to reach out to someone who you do not know and try to open the lines of conversation, be it because you’re interested in interviewing them or because you want to talk with them about their book (even if I love a book, rarely do I ever actually reach out to the writer and tell them that because it is hard to put yourself out there like that!). Fortunately, social networking has made networking much easier in some capacities.
Events at places like BEA and ALA are all about networking and establishing and growing relationships. These are networking events, not “book” events. It’s through these you get the chance to practice your networking skills and it’s through these that networking can end up paying off for you (and the person you’ve made a connection with — remember, networking shouldn’t be cold and unfeeling).
However, there’s a fine line between networking and name dropping. When talking about networking your focus should be a willingness to reach out and meet new people, to establish connections, and create meaningful partnerships with others. Building relationships with other people is huge — especially in many service-oriented jobs — so it’s a huge asset. But don’t name drop, unless you’re asked specifically.
Your network is yours and yours alone, and it can be a huge benefit to you. And if you’re doing it right, it benefits the people in your network as much as you.
Public Relations and Publicity
If you’re doing any sort of blog tour or cover reveal or other publicity-driven promotion on your blog, then you are honing another skill set. But beyond those things, if you’re working with publishers or authors or third party marketing/publicity agencies, you’re helping out on publicity campaigns. Sometimes this means you have creative control and sometimes it means you’re following a specific request.
In either case, you’re minding deadlines, following a schedule and routine. But more than that, you’re taking part in spreading the word through your blog and through whatever other social mediums you use to publicize your content.
Bloggers who have review, contest, or any other policies are also practicing their PR skills. Writing these requires considering what your blog is about, defining your interests and audience, and delineating what you do and do not do (including things like whether or not you respond to all emails you receive, whether or not you participate in blog tours, and so forth).
Sharing your blog’s content, even if it’s all your own and not a part of a bigger campaign, is still publicity. You’re putting your work out there and spreading the word about what you’re doing. This is an important skill. You’re thinking beyond your own building (your blog) and finding new ways to reach readers.
Something so obvious but easy to overlook is that blogging requires using and learning technology and tech skills. Aside from becoming familiar with the ins and outs of a particular blogging platform, you’re learning how to best use the platform to your advantage. You learn how to tag and organize content, how to present it, how to optimize it for search engines. You also learn how to design for a digital platform and keep an eye to the mobile platforms through which people reach your site. If you pay attention to stats, you know how to use analytics, too. Depending on whether you do your own hosting or not or how much you’ve put into your blog’s appearance, you probably have a handle on a number of different web languages, too, including html and css. If you’re a vlogger, you’ve got a wealth of skills relating to using recording tools, editing tools, and you’re learning how to produce good quality video for web consumption.
Then there’s anything you do to promote your content online. If you use Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest or any other tool, you’re learning how to use the tool and how to use it to spread your content (and hopefully communicate beyond that to include networking). If you host contests, you likely use a third party program to use it and depending on how you write or schedule your posts, you may be an expert at cloud services like Google Docs. There are any number of other ways you’re using technology or learning new tech skills while blogging.
Highlighting These Skills
First and foremost, own what you do. Be proud of the fact you put work into a blog and that you invest not only your time, but also your mind and your heart. Once you are confident in who you are and what you’re doing, you’re more willing to talk about it with other people in a way that’s not self-defeating or belittling of it. It’s easy to consider what you’re doing “just a blog.” It’s not — it’s much more.
This sounds obvious, but it’s not: share your blog address. You can put it on your applications, on your resume, in your cover letters. How you choose to do it varies, but the key is to have it down so that other people can find your work.
When asked about what you do with your blog, talk about it openly and without shame. For whatever reason, many feel shame and embarrassment about being a blogger, but there’s never a reason to feel that way about something you love doing. Especially if it’s something that provides you legitimate marketable skills.
Use professional language when discussing your blog. The words and concepts are all there. You don’t have to invent anything new for what you’re doing — instead, think of how what you’re doing fits the skills required for a job, for a scholarship, or for other opportunities.
Highlight your achievements. If you’ve served on a Cybils committee, had your content shared on a big-name platform, started a feature that fills a niche in the blogging world, share that information. It says a lot about you as a person if you’re an active, engaged member of a community — as much, if not more, than if you’re operating in an echo chamber.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Use your name. If you want to talk about your blog professionally, then look the part.
- Mind what you say. If you are using your name and talking about your blog professionally, then always think about what you’re posting. Never post something you’ll regret. Remember that your name is attached to it.
- Don’t be shy. It’s easy to hide behind your blog, even if it can be one of the biggest assets in setting you apart. But you do it, and if you’re proud of it, show it off. Blogging is a huge undertaking and huge responsibility and it shows a willingness to commit, to engage, and to devote yourself to a passion.
- Play fairly. If you don’t own something, don’t take credit for it. Give credit where it is due and always ask before you simply take.
- Sell your skills. I’ve outlined a ton of things I think about in terms of what blogging brings professionally, but there are plenty more and they can vary by blogger, depending on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Never undersell the knowledge and skills you acquire on your own.
- Your blog is your portfolio. It is something you can point to, show off, and talk about. It is a tangible product. Make sure you’re producing a quality product. If this is something you want to point to as a professional tool, then make sure your blog works for you and not against you.
- Believe in yourself. This above all else is what will take you furthest.
Kelly Jensen is a former librarian turned editor for Book Riot. She's the author of IT HAPPENS: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader and the forthcoming Feminism For The Real World (Algonquin Young Readers, Spring 2017).