Can you Monetize a Book Blog?
Part 2: Branding…
This month’s post is about branding for your business and branding for your book blog. Because honestly, when trying to monetize your blog, your branding is going to start from there. And I have to guess that if you’re reading a series about monetizing your book blog that you already have a book blog. And if not, then you may be starting with a blog to grow an audience for your services. For some of your branding will mean rebranding what you have in order to create a more effective platform on which to grow your business. If anyone wants to know more about the designing side of branding, let me know in the comments and if there’s interest I can make a special post for that.
What is branding and why is it important?
Branding, in short, is how to represent your business. When you create a blog or a business, you make a brand so you have something recognisable that people associate with your business. Branding is important because it’s how you market yourself. I’ve put two examples below of featured images from book blogs. These blogs use consistent formatting across their images such that just by seeing it, you can often identify whose blog it belongs to, even if they didn’t have the website URL. In branding, consistency is key. When you have something people recognise and are familiar with, they’re more likely to trust your product/service.
How do I start a brand?
As a book blogger, chances are, your brand will begin with your blog. Building up a reputation with great content that’s valuable to your potential customers is often how many businesses market their services. Take Canva, the free online editing service, for example. They offer blog posts that show you how to create graphics and often have top 25/50 lists of designs from all sorts of people. This isn’t just a showcase of what you can do with Canva, it’s also a great way to get ideas about creating your own graphics. If you’ve already had a book blog for awhile, you may end up rebranding. That is, taking elements of what you already have, and making it current and consistent.
Name and Tagline
I’m gonna sounds like every elementary school teacher ever right now, but start with brainstorming. I cannot count how many times I had to start an assignment with brainstorming or mind-maps. It was maddening, but it was also necessary. You want to think of a name to represent your brand, and what you want to do with it. What is your vision for your blog/business? The theme? When I started my first real job after finishing school, I finally had time to reach, but only during my lunches. And that’s still true. I don’t read much on weekends or holidays, but without fail, every lunch hour I’m reading. And so the name Lunch-Time Librarian was born. What is the core of your blog or business? What is your business all about? What can you give your audience? This is how you create a tagline. The tagline is important because it tells your potential audience what you’re all about in a short sentence. Even if you already have an existing blog, you may want to take another look at your tagline and whether it still represents what you do. Here’s an example of my taglines for the blog on Twitter and my shop SEO description (aka what shows up on Google when you search LT Librarian Apparel).
Sometimes a lunch hour is all your have to squeeze in some reading. I post book reviews, round-ups, quotes, discussions, and writing tips
LT Librarian Apparel
Features bookish and book lover apparel that puts a twist on the thoughts of popular characters and offers beautifully designed shirts for men and women.
Important things to note in the taglines is the use of keywords. Keywords are important because this is how people find you. It’s not often that someone will search your full blog name. Chances are, they wouldn’t know to. But what people will search are things like ‘book reviews’ ‘bookish shirts’ ‘quotes’ ‘editing services’ etc. So when at all possible, try and maximise these keywords when you create taglines for your blog and business. At the same time, try and avoid just doing a dump of keywords.
Brand Building: logo/header, fonts, colour palette, and more
Here’s the thing. A lot of blogs will use a header to represent themselves, which is fine. But if you want to branch our from your blog into a business then I think there’s a certain versatility in using a logo that you don’t get with a header. This is my own personal opinion. When you look at someone like Ashley @ NoseGraze she maximises her brand by using consistent colours and formatting for featured posts and her shop pages. That, and she consistently uses the same profile picture throughout her social media so it’s easy to recognise her. No logo that she’s stamping on everything, but still consistent and effective branding.
Personally, I like logos because I find it’s simpler to make variations for your purposes. For my own logo, my core symbol is these red cat-eye glasses. For the blog, I have just the top text, and when I added a shop, the logo for it was as simple as adding some text along the bottom. For my featured images, I do a variation with the glasses and the URL stuck against the bottom. That being said, a logo doesn’t need to have an image. There are tons of word-only logos that work great.
Fonts and Colour Palette
Consistent fonts and a colour palette are the most visual ways of keeping your branding consistent. Last week, I showed you a branding board I made when I first started blogging. I had two fonts, great. And then about 7 different colours, fail. Epic fail. A good rule to keep in mind is the rule of 3. Three fonts and Three Colours. Any less can at times feel sparse and limits variation and any more can be overkill. There are always exceptions of course, but it’s a good rule to keep in mind.
Quick and dirty tips for font choosing:
- Pair a thick font with a thin font
- Pair a sans-serif with a serif: click here to learn the difference
- No more than 3 fonts on an image
- Choose readable fonts
In terms of coming up with a colour palette, something I considered was that different colours produce different emotions. Which sounds super hokey to say now, but I believe in it. There’s also a lot of websites to create colour palettes. My personal favourite is design seeds. Jessica is a master of putting together gorgeous colours and I would recommend looking at her palettes and choosing 3 colours.
Some of us out there like to add little graphic extras to our websites. This is completely up to you. For example, Cait @ Paper Fury uses arrow and watercolour graphics. And Clare @ A Book & Tea has these adorable social media icons that look like teacups. My own social media icons are designed to look like different food items. I’ve also seen other people use custom icons as menu items or just different graphics for their rating systems. This is up to you and is a great way to embellish what you have and drive home your blog and business theme.
Once you have all these elements in place, it may be helpful to create a branding board. I did a more updated version below. What I like about having the board is that when you’re starting out with your brand, or you’ve just rebranded, it’s a great way to show yourself what you have at your disposal. And it will also help with keeping you consistent. Great sites for seeing more branding board examples are Salted Ink and Elle&Co
*click to see a full-sized version
Featured Images aka getting matchy-matchy
I remember when I was younger and my mom told me I couldn’t match my shoe colour with my purse colour because then I would be too matchy-matchy. I was blown away by this revelation. I wanted to match! What’s wrong with matching? While faux-pas in clothing, in the case of branding, matching is more than okay, it’s encouraged. What this comes back to is consistency. When you create your featured images for blog posts, or when you create advertisement graphics for your business, try to have a consistent style. I’ve used the featured images and shop advertisements for my own blog and shop below to demonstrate.
None of these images are exactly the same. You can definitely do great branding that way, but I wanted to use these as an example of how you can have variations and variety in your images and still keep consistent branding aka being matchy-matchy. Things you want to keep in mind when you create featured images and adverts:
- Logo and/or Website URL are visible
- Content description or post title
- Consistent fonts
- Consistent colours
Branding on social media is where your tagline comes into play. You can use the same tagline or variations of it throughout your social media accounts. What I would also suggest is using the same profile picture throughout. This means that on any one of your social media accounts you have a recognisable picture that people associate with your name and your business. Using a different picture for every account makes it harder for your audience to recognise it as you. For my own accounts, I use the same picture on all social media and all blog commenting systems, and a different picture for my blog sidebar. Why? To be honest, I kind of craved the variety, and since my picture was the same on literally ever other social media platform, it didn’t matter that much. But also, my blog profile picture is giant and highly visible. The difference is that often social media accounts and commenting pictures are super tiny, and having the same picture at least across those just makes it easier.
And that’s all I have to say this week about branding. If you have any more questions feel free to let me know in the comments!
Updates @ LT Librarian Apparel: aka business re-thinks and changes
I thought it would be helpful/wise to share with you all any changes I made with my own business, things I tried out and how they went, etc. Mostly, this is to help you learn from my mistakes, because honestly, I make a lot.
Switch to USD Currency: Last month I was using a paid RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) chequing account in anticipation of having any sales go there. I realised it was kind of silly to pay for that, also courtesy of Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight‘s horror that I was paying for it. So I cancelled it. I will say, I spent $10 on parking downtown to try and go to an RBC that turned out to be closed. And when I tried to do it over the phone they said it would be $20. THERE WAS MUCH ANGRY STOMPING ON YONGE STREET. I was livid. So I finally went to my branch on the weekend and somehow got upsold on a line of credit. How did that happen? Hell if I know. ANYWAY, I got a USD e-savings account and now all my shop transactions are in USD and therefore all the costs match the USD prices my suppliers give me. Which saves me the trouble of converting to Canadian and losing money during the conversion and generally confusing myself. Make your shop currency match your supplier currency and save yourself the headache.
Added new shop items: I added tote bags!! I was supposed to add mugs too but we won’t talk about that right now… Okay, nevermind we will. The shipping costs on mugs are MUCH higher than on shirts and tote bags. In fact, the shipping costs on mugs is downright criminal, like $11 USD for one mug, which would be like $15 CDN. So I don’t think they’ll be in the shop anytime soon. The bottom line is that now there are tote bags yay!
Advertising: I launched several ad campaigns over Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (through Facebook adverts) and Reddit. I also had a chat with my friend who works in advertising who told me that it’s better to spend more money for a shorter amount of time, than a smaller amount over a long period of time. So instead of doing 7 days to reach 300 or so people, I did 3 days with the same budget and reached like 1000. Also, I dallied on launching my Twitter campaign and so they gave me $35 in credit as a kick in the butt! Yay! So I didn’t have to spend the money. Pro Tip (laughing as I write ‘pro’): set-up your campaign, then let it sit for a week and maybe Twitter will throw some credits your way.
My Big Mistake: I messed up guys… I realised that I had a typo on one of my shirt designs. I hesitate to say that in case it somehow makes everyone worry about my business skills, but the whole point of this series is being transparent and so I’m airing all my dirty laundry. And I messed up. Thankfully, I was the only person that bought a typo shirt hahah. See? Sometimes there are benefits to no sales! I’ve since then fixed the error up and I relaunched the design on Twitter to entice the masses. The bottom line is: check your designs before finalising them. Because it’s not the responsibility of the printer to check your stuff, it’s yours.
June Financial Report
I shared this information in my June round-up, but I’m repeating it here also. The shop now has tote bags and a brand spankin’ new Six of Crows themed line for June. This month I focused a lot more on advertising and getting the word out there which is reflected in my costs for the month.
Facebook Ads – $ 78.47
Twitter Ads – $ 0 (Twitter gave me $ 35 in free credits)
Reddit Ads – $ 39.51
RBC USD E-Savings Account – $ 0 (got rid of paid chequing, got free e-savings)
Hosting on Arvixe – $ 9.31
Giveaway Shirt – $ 28.51
Buffer – $13.40
Shopify Fee – $ 44.13
Graphics – $ 0 (I used FreePix graphics this month)
Total Costs = $ 213.33
LT Librarian Apparel – $ 4.53
Total Revenue = $ 4.53
Profit* = $ -208.47
Profit since store opening = $ -565.81
*all values in CAD
The advertising has been getting people to the store, but less successful with pushing actual purchases. So I’m thinking soon that I may do a giveaway to try and build some more steam.
My First Sale
For those of you that saw my financial report in my June-Wrap up I reported no sales, but I’m a dummy, and my first sale was on June 30th, not July 1st, so I did make a sale this month, YAY. Now onto the more sobering topic, I’m sure some of you will be looking at that amount with your jaw on the floor. I sold a tote bag to a customer in the US, and my profit is roughly $4.50. That may seem like a really small profit, but to put that into perspective for you, if I sold that same tote bag on Society6 (as far as I understand, anyone can correct me if I’m wrong) I would make no more than $2.40 according to their policy. I sell my 14.5″ x 16″ tote bags for $18 USD, and on Society6 tote bags tend to go for around $22 for a 16″ x 16″ and $18 for a 13″ x 13″. I know that I’ve really been struggling to make that first sale, and the profit doesn’t seem like much, but I’m ultimately happy I went with my own self-hosted shop. And I can’t wait to see what the customer thinks of the bag!
The Big Costs:
Advertising. This was my largest cost this week, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I still hadn’t quite mastered getting the most bang for my buck. On Facebook in particular. You get better results doing a shorter 3-day campaign. Because I did a 7-day one first, I ended up needing to do a second campaign. In the case of Reddit, I didn’t realise the currency was set to USD because there wasn’t a currency code (thanks, Reddit), so I thought I was spending $30, and ending up spending $40 instead.
That being said, below you can see a screenshot of my shop stats for the month. I can really see the difference that the advertising made. To be honest, it took me ages to manage to get anywhere near that amount of page views on my blog. So I can see the benefit of the paid advertising in getting people to the shop, and I just need to work on getting people to buy. Also, Facebook is apparently the most effective advertising out there, at least for me. That being said, I spent also double the amount of money on Facebook advertising that I did on Twitter or Reddit advertising.
*click on the image to see an enlarged version
I decided that it would probably be the most helpful to share with you guys the stats for my shop that come in. This shows you where most of my traffic comes in, where it comes from, and any spikes in activity. NOTE: It says 2 sales, it’s counting my giveaway winner as a sale (even though they got their stuff free). Also, it shows the price that the customer paid after shipping, but doesn’t calculate how much the shirt costs to produce. I didn’t make $23.50 off that sale, I made $4.53.
That spike at the end of June was a 3-day Facebook advertising campaign I did. The first spike is the 7-day Facebook campaign. So yeah, shorter time, more reach = way better.
Read the first post in this series Part One: Starting Out + May Financial Report right now
If you’re interested in seeing what my shop LT Librarian Apparel has to offer, click the logo below:
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Is branding important to you? Why or why not?
What would you want to see featured next month? E.g. advertising, Shopify tutorial, etc.