Book Review – A kick-ass book on How To Create a Kick-A** Blog
Blogging has given me more than I could possibly have imagined when I started for real back in October ’18. There can be and are many reasons why we blog, us that succumb to that craving, be it passion, wanting to make a difference, share knowledge or make a living from your own living room, cafe or heck, even the beach, if we want to.
What I think few realize before they start blogging and connecting, is the immense love and compassion and support, you encounter daily in the blogging community. This realization touches me deeply, so occasionally, when I find myself with the opportunity to give back – I do.
Today we are turning our gaze to one of my personal big supporters, Sarah Leigh, from lifeitornot.com, who always has a kind word to share, who roots for her people and who finds her passion in empowering other women to do the same. She has written an e-book, How To Create a Kick-A** Blog – The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide for Beginner Bloggers, that I purchased after subscribing to her blog, which introduced me to her first chapter of the book as a welcome gift.
The way she wrote, I just HAD to – and I’m on social benefits barely making ends meet! So no excuses, cupcakes – and if you are a bit green in blogging, I will almost promise that you won’t regret it either.
At the time of the purchase, I was nearing the end of “pimping” up my blog from a very personal, family only, very plain looking kind of blog to a blog that had ambitions to reach beyond the foundations of the closest relatives. I had set my sight on writing, rediscovering how the crafting of words, becoming sentences and ultimately communication would set my mind at ease and make me breathe lighter. I had begun connecting to the community, but still very green – I’m still very green, but learning by the day – in this process I struggled pretty damn hard with all the technicalities. Mind you, I’m of a generation, that did not have any computers at school and what I knew about computers could be narrowed down to primarily self-taught Word and Excel skills, combined with equally self-taught internet search skills – what later in life has become equivalent to what we now know as Google.
So while the book, I’m about to tell you about, is aimed at beginners and focused on the time just before you actually set up your blog, I thought I might still benefit from it.
And boy, I was right…
Who is Sarah?
I am keeping up the suspense, I know!
But I’d like to take a brief moment to introduce you to the author and my blogger colleague, Sarah Leigh, incase you haven’t already had the pleasure of reading her blog or following her on her Instagram or Twitter.
Sarah is dedicated to empowering women, through her blog, that is focused on personal developement and parenting – and she knows what she’s talking about. Facing serious obstacles – or for a more positive approach shall we call them learning experiences – in life, she knows how to set a foot down and start re-building a life on her terms – and more importantly – the challenges you face, when you do just that. Change isn’t easy – never was, never will be. And maybe that is what fuels her fire, so to speak – being able to share her knowledge and inspire others to embrace life in all it’s opportunities.
Both personally and blog-wise have I had the gift of her support, so obviously she is one of the blogger colleagues that are very dear to me. So if you haven’t already, then go check out her blog and explore it on your own: lifeitornot.com.
No, wait – not yet – getting ahead of myself here…
Let’s talk kick-ass blogging!
How To Create a Kick-A** Blog basically takes you through every single aspect of the blogging start-up in a clear, down to earth manner (which is highly appreciated when one doesn’t know all the posh tech words, that are usually flung about – just saying!).
Apart from the introduction and epilogue the book is built on the following chapters:
- Your Blog Direction
- The Online Stuff
- Creative Killer Content
- Be Connected
- Monetise Your Blog
- The Nitty-Gritty
So as you see, pretty much all the bases are covered. The way it is covered is not by going way deep down in technicalities, but sort of highlighting the key points and offering the reader “live” examples from the creation of lifeitornot.com.
This is not a book that will teach you CSS or HTML, nor is it supposed to be.
What How To Create a Kick-A** Blog offers is practically a step by step guide (as the subtitle says) on how to get started and – maybe more importantly – things you should be aware of and advice on how to create the different key aspects of your blog page.
As already stated, although I was nearing the end of my blog pimping and already had my mind set on what I wanted to do with it (but not knowing HOW), I still had great benefit from reading the book. And quite honestly, having read it twice, I’ve not read it for the last time – that tells you something about the amount of gold available in the book.
I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do with my blog and where I want to take it eventually – but Sarah Leigh helps putting it into well crafted boxes. My mind, being autistic, is somewhat all over the place and I can find it very difficult focusing on one point at the time, when the fire takes on (I want to do it all – NOW!). The epiphanies I had while reading was not “oh, I would like to do that!” – but rather “oh, that’s how you do it. Great, now I have something to work with!”. But if you are a new blogger – meaning, completely new, still searching for your path and aim and stuff – I can guarantee you that Sarah Leigh will give you plenty of cool ideas to put into play.
Focusing on Your Aim
It was Sarah and her book that taught me to think about my aim, rather than my niche – a famous blogger word I was stressing about, because I couldn’t really place it for Rocking the Spectrum. By introducing the word aim to me, things suddenly fell into place, like, while I was reading those specific lines. And it’s not that it was “new”, I just suddenly found the words to actually describe what I wanted for Rocking the Spectrum. It was always about just showing the world what being autistic means, beyond the medical concepts and usual suspects – letting people into the mind of someone autistic and hopefully show, that while there are differences and significant challenges compared to neurotypicals, there are also plenty of areas, where we are the same. And I believe in building inclusion and acceptance through focusing on what we have in common, rather than pinpointing the difference and dividing us.
The very reason I am able to write the previous paragraph and putting exact words to a – ’til then – wordless but strong passion, is due to reading the book at hand.
(article continues after subscription section)
Connecting Through Newsletters
I knew from the get go that I wanted to create newsletters for my followers, because I wanted to CONNECT with them. I wanted – and want – Rocking the Spectrum to be a place that in time is not only created and shaped by me, but also the followers, by them feeling open enough to ask questions or request me to write about certain subjects.
But I had not the faintest idea on how to pull it off. I had been searching through numerous plug-ins on WordPress and none of them did what I wanted them to do. Before reading the book, I had come across the Mailchimp plug-in, but it’s description confused me and I thought that maybe it was too advanced for my current skills.
By reading the book, I for one recognized the name Mailchimp (and having had received newsletters from Sarah at that point, I also knew what it looked like and that it was that kind of thing I’d imagined for Rocking the Spectrum) and secondly, by the way she managed to describe it, I grew confident enough to give it a go anyway.
This is touching directly back to her aim of empowering her readers – and she does it so well.
The Gift of the Sidebar
A new thing I learned and that I started to really use after reading the book was about my sidebar. I’m not done improving it, but before I really didn’t know why it was there – and quite honestly it annoyed the shit out of me, that it was there in the first place. I’d seen bloggers fill it up with advertisements but I didn’t and don’t want Rocking the Spectrum to be a full-blown advertising space stuffed with commercials and affiliate posts and if you do find advertisements on my blog, sidebar or otherwise, you can be sure that they are there, because I firmly believe in both the product and that my readers could have interest in it. I approach reviewing books in the same manner, by the way – I don’t review a book, I don’t like or see a purpose with for my readers.
So the sidebar was – to me – a waste of good space and my mind isn’t very tolerant to waste. I’m the kind of person that arrives at a bus stop, see the bus won’t be there for another 6-7 minutes – and then I walk instead!
I’m somewhat allergic to waiting and wasting.
My point of course being that I suddenly saw the benefits of a sidebar. What you could put into it to heighten the reader experience and the possibilities for further navigation on the site. Sarah taught me to use a sidebar (Sarah, if you evaluate my skills as your blog student, just keep in mind – I’m not done yet! Oh shit, where’s that monkey emoji covering it’s eyes when you need it?!)
The last thing I will draw your attention to is actually a couple of paragraphs up…
The Midsection Subscribe Bar – and Owning It!
Of course, I had to get my newsletter into place first and the subscription gift ready – but while I may have thought about putting it there previously, I had this idea that … “no, I don’t want to bother people too much when they read – and why would they subscribe anyway? I’m not that interesting!” – you see, in Denmark we have this odd idea, that people shouldn’t think too much of themselves. It’s called Janteloven (The Law of Jante) and let me tell you about the 10 rules of Jante:
The Law of Jante
You’re not to think you are anything special
You’re not to think you are as good as we are
You’re not to think you are smarter than we are
You’re not to imagine yourself better than we are
You’re not to think you know more than we do
You’re not to think you are more important than we are
You’re not to think you are good at anything
You’re not to laugh at us
You’re not to think anyone cares about you
You’re not to think you can teach us anything
(exact phrasing found via Wikipedia)
… tough, right?!
While rationality may tell us that this is not how it should be, we still tend to fall victim to it – on both sides of the fences. We involuntarily find ourselves occasionally judging people if they get too cocky – just as we tend to restrict ourselves because we don’t want to be judged.
So basically the great conundrum is – how can any Dane possibly think that he or she would have something to offer that would qualify for making a blog?
It may sound ridiculous to other nationalities, but remember; these “rules” are somewhat part of our DNA. If we get a good idea, many of us don’t really put it outthere, because “what would people think?”.
And those that do, sometimes take a bit of heat for it.
And trust me on this one: there are definitly people, even in close ranks, that although not telling me to my face, are thinking theirs’ about the fact that:
1) I started a blog in my own name,
2) It’s in English, to reach as many as possible (we are very protective and passionate about our national legacy and heritage, including but definitly not limited to our Danish language)
3) I even created a logo and stuff, like <scoff> what is that all about?!
Not all of them think like that, maybe not even the majority – but they are there!
So please keep that in mind, when I say that I hesitated a great deal about advertising for my subscription page, my free gift and heck, even when adding a link to one of my posts on some Twitter follow train – I have to work my way through all of those rules, take a very deep breath, close my eyes, finger’s crossed – and then press ENTER.
The gift by reading this book again lies within the empowering nature of Sarah Leigh. Every sentence of her book just oozes that cheering on “come on, you can do it and you’ve earned it!”.
The Tip of the Iceberg
Up until now I have taken you through four reasons to read the book, four benefits I’ve had to sharpen up an already existing blog, with an already planned out end goal. There are a few things, I regret a bit – one of them being not having Rocking the Spectrum in my domain name. But I’m sure it’s possible to change up… but being green, it might just take a while! If you, my dear reader, are privy to down to earth and easy accessible text or tutorials on how to do just that, feel free to pop me a link and a line in either the comments or by mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
But as said, four reasons – but don’t for a second think it stops there (looking a bit beyond the book you’ll also find numerous blogging treasures on her Pinterest).
Like I said further up this post, I haven’t read the book for the last time, although having read it twice already. There are so many things to learn from and take into account and consider possible future implementation of that it’s almost ridiculous (in the amazing and positive meaning of the word). There has been numerous places where I went “gotta remember this when I get to that part of the journey” – and here you might stop and say, “but Linda, wasn’t this a book for beginners?!” – Yes it is. It is aimed at blogger-to-be’s to ensure that when they hit “publish”, they have an as full and sharp blog as possible.
But – as you know – I didn’t go that way. It started off as a hobby project, trying to put some words to my thoughts on autism and my recovery to primarily my family – and I hate waiting, remember? So from the point where I thought, “hey, I could put it in some blog thing” to the point where I made the blog public – I mean – we are talking hours, not days!
So I can’t say that I ensured I had all the right features installed from the get go – hey, I’m STILL adjusting and modifying, because something I thought captured what I wanted, turned out not to.
And this is where – even as me being an established however new blogger – Sarah Leighs How To Create a Kick-A** Blog comes in handy, not only for beginners, but also for bloggers like myself, who’s working out the kinks as they come.
So – really, honestly – there are no excuses. How often do you have the opportunity to buy gold for $4,76 ?? Check out the preview below from Amazon, if there is still a tiny bit of doubt…
And with this – I’m out!
You already know but I’ll tell you anyway…
Luv ya :-*