Hi everyone! I'm so excited to be guest-posting today on Carrie's blog! Before we get started, a little about me. I'm Rebecca and I blog over at Unbound Pages. I've been blogging for a little over three years now. I started out as just your standard book blogger (if there is such a thing) and now I'm a resource for book bloggers trying to grow their blogs. Other important things: I love pizza. I pretend I'm a runner. I love zumba. If I could have one superpower it would be flight. And I wish I could have a pet dragon.
Way back in the day (3.5 years ago to be exact...) I started a book blog. I was a naive little blogger who knew nothing about blogging. I look back on that girl and am proud. Because I had the courage to start something. I also look back on that girl and think "What were you thinking? You didn't even do any research on how to start a blog before diving in." I knew nothing when I started my book blog. And when I say nothing I mean nothing. I didn't know anything about coding. I didn't know anything about SEO. I had literally never used Twitter before. I didn't even know what Goodreads was. And I certainly didn't know anything about graphics. I learned stuff here and there, but the graphics continued to elude me. I didn't start making my own for a long time and once I did they were... embarrassing to say the least. I had plenty of reasons and excuses for not making my graphics. But I'll let you in on a little secret. All of them were wrong.
Believing I had to be a designer.
I am not artistic at all. Like, I can't even draw a stick figure. I don't have an eye for design and I've never been good at imagining and creating visual things. I'm a word girl. Even if I have home decorating questions, I consult my sister. She's much better at that than I am. So I kept telling myself that because I wasn't a designer, there was no possible way I could design my own graphics. It simply wasn't in the cards for me. Oh how very wrong I was. I want to go back in time and tell that girl that she can do anything she puts her mind to. That the reason she wasn't a designer was because she believed she wasn't a designer. The first thing you need as a book blogger is a small dose of confidence. If everyone else can do it, you can too. Trust me, if I can design and create beautiful graphics, you are more than capable.
There are programs out there that make it easy to create your own graphics. Programs that make it intuitive. Like Canva. I had never used Canva until the beginning of 2016. But now I use it for every single graphic on my blog. And I am in love with it. It made me the designer I'm not and will never be. The combination of Canva with Pinterest has finally helped me figure out what I want my graphics and brand to look like. I mention Pinterest because there's all kinds of inspiration on Pinterest. Just browse around for a while and take a look at the graphics you like. Start to generate ideas. I like to look at the big bloggers out there who blog about blogging. Blogger like Melyssa Griffin, Regina, XOXO Sarah and Mariah Coz. Those bloggers are raking in big money every year. I'm not looking to become rich off of book blogging, but obviously what they're doing is working. So I look at their graphics for inspiration.
Telling Myself that Graphics Weren't Important
I used to tell myself it didn't matter that I didn't use my own graphics or that the ones I did use were terrible. Because graphics weren't that important. Content was. Who cares about the graphics as long as you have fabulous content? I wish that was true. I really do. But it's just not. People are very visual and we like pretty things. So if you don't have pretty graphics and a nice blog design, they're never going to read that awesome content. I know that's harsh, but it's true. As book bloggers we talk about judging a book by its cover all the time and I think most of us would admit to having bought a book just because it had a pretty cover. And skipping a book because the cover wasn't that great. We know we shouldn't do it, but we do.
An ugly blog design and lack of graphics in a post don't make for a good reading experience. Your blog should be clean and distraction free and your posts should be speckled with graphics and images to break up that text. Make it easy for your audience to read your blog posts. It sounds obvious, but to many of us it's not. It wasn't to me. I was just lying to myself for years. Don't make the same mistake I did.
Visual content is important for social media as well. People are much more likely to click or share something that has an image attached to it. The image is what draws them in. You know how important first impressions are? Your blog graphics on social media are the first impression. If people don't like them, they're never going to get coffee with you (i.e. click through to read your post). Make a good first impression and you'll gain loyal followers.
Lack of Technical Knowledge
Okay so this excuse was really the only legitimate one. I literally just had no idea how to create graphics. I didn't know there were free programs out there. I was sitting over here trying to create graphics in Paint. Yes. That was me. But I know a lot of people are in the same boat I was. You don't know how the other bloggers are doing it. You have no idea where to start. So you just don't. It pains me that other people feel that way because I remember how it felt. Like looking through the glass at a room full of "real" book bloggers and sitting on the outside, not invited to the party.
I finally discovered Picmonkey after probably 6 months of blogging. I remember being super excited at first, until I started to use it. I would click around, create something terrible, get discouraged and just use the terrible graphic because I didn't know how to make anything better. I kept trying, but none of my graphics seemed to live up to the rest of the book blogging world. It was discouraging, to say the least.
And finally towards the end of 2015, I discovered Canva. The life altering graphics program. Yes, I said life altering. Not being dramatic, just being honest. The first time I logged into Canva, it just clicked for me. Suddenly graphics didn't seem so scary because they have free templates you can use that already look awesome. At first, that's what I went with. Free templates. But eventually I decided that I wanted to brand my blog. So I browsed Pinterest for inspiration and finally got together an idea of how I wanted everything to look. Once I had that it was easy. I created a standard template in Canva and now I use that every single time I need to write a new blog post. It takes me less than five minutes to create my graphic. No joke. If you haven't tried Canva out you definitely need to.
I also created a free 8-day e-course called Create Your Own Graphics to help book bloggers get started creating their own graphics. This course is for new bloggers and veterans looking to improve or start working on their graphics skills. It'll teach you things like mistakes you're making, how to choose fonts and more. And if you want a great example of branded graphics look no further than Carrie's blog. She does an incredible job with her branding! Just click the image below to register for the course.
Thanks again for letting me take over your blog, Carrie! And thanks to all you awesome people for letting me into your lives for a day. I hope to see more of you in the future.
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