The Book Blogging Project #2: Free Hosting or (Paid) Self-Hosting?

The Book Blogging Project is a regular feature on I Heart Reading in which I provide tips and tutorials for newbie bloggers. This blog post series offers a wide range of topics, such as: how to receive ARC copies, how to set up a Facebook or Google+ page, how to organize a successful giveaway, social media promotion, the benefits of Goodreads/LibraryThing/Shelfari, what to include in a book review, etc. Guest bloggers are welcome to write a post for this series as well.

If you want to write a guest post for this series, or you have a question you wish me to address in The Book Blogging Project series, please email me.

Click HERE to view all my ‘The Book Blogging Project‘ posts.

You somehow miraculously possess all, or most, of the distinctive set of qualities that separate us, Book Bloggers, from the rest of the world. Hurray! That means you are ready to create your amazing, gorgeous, super, uber and extremely hyperactive Book Blog! The only question that’s left is: where. And how? But no worries, my minions, your trustworthy leader will explain to you the wonderful world of paid and free hosting.

Question numero uno: do you know anything – and with that, I mean anything – about HTML and CSS? If you are somehow thinking HTML means Hot Teen Male Lifeguard and CSS means Cute & Sexy Schoolboy then you are, sadly, mistaken. In that case, trust me when I tell you that you will need to know that HTML is short for Hyper-Text Mark-Up Language and CSS actually means Cascading Style Sheets. Yes, I know, it’s a lot less fancy than what you had in mind, but that’s the way things are.

Being serious now, if you don’t know the basic of HTML & CSS, trust me when I tell you, you will need to learn it. At least the basics. Lissa Explains gives HTML tips for kids – I’m pretty confident that’s the appropriate level of teaching for all of you. No, I’m kidding, but in all honesty, I did learn HTML from that website, and it’s still a very valuable source for HTML newbies. This is another good tutorial to introduce you to HTML and here we have one for CSS.

There are two possible choices. You can either choose to host your Book Blog yourself, or you can choose to let third-party sources like or do the hosting for you. There are some good and some bad things accompanied with both choices.

Self-hosting usually comes with a price, but not necessarily. I do have to admit that you get better service if you pay for your own hosting, and you get nifty gadgets like access to a cPanel and 24/7 support, etc. The good news is that you have total control over everything, from your layout to your blog to your databases, to every thing. But there’s also bad news. Not all host registrars out there are reliable, some have a lot of down-time, others offer no support whatsoever, etc. If you want to go for a paid hosting service, I would advise Holdfire. Go to shared and buy the smallest plan possible. Trust me when I tell you, you’ll have more than enough space and bandwidth, at only 45$ a year. Bargain. If on the other hand, you would rather be hosted on a subdomain of a reliable, friendly host, I recommend The people there are friendly, generous and trustworthy.

Thumbs Up for Paid Self-hosting:

  • You can do whatever you want. Your hosting won’t just dissapear one day, you can install whatever blogging program you want, and you are not tied to a limited amount of layouts (like on or to a limited amount of nifty things you can do (
  • For the more coding-savvy people, self-hosting does offer a lot more flexibility to change things to your own preferences.
  • Domain names are shorter, and more catchy, than subdomains. People are more likely to remember your domain name, than remember if you’re on a subdomain of wordpress or blogger. They also look more professional.

Thumbs Down for Self-hosting:

  • It usually comes with a fee. Some hosts are seriously over-priced for the things they offer in return, and not all hosts are reliable. You will probably need to spend some time researching the net to find a decent and trustworthy host.
  • You need to set up everything yourself. That means, no standard website already in place, you have to create your own databases, upload files through FTP…Not exactly easy for newbies.
  • It’s a lot more work putting up a self-hosted blog than just creating one through WordPress or Blogger.

If you want your blog to be free however, the two most advisable options for you are either WordPress or Blogger. Below I’ve tried to make small lists comparing WordPress to Blogger. It’s a personal choice though, which one of the two of them you prefer. They both have advantages and disadvantages.

Thumbs Up for WordPress:

  • Clean and professional design and coding. Easy to use admin panel, strong, solid back-end coding.
  • You can add a gallery and slideshows plus 3GB of image storage.
  • Posts can be implemented from a large number of third-party websites: Blogger, Yahoo, Typepad, Posterous, Livejournal, etc.
  • Optional static front page, unlimited other pages.
  • Easily implemented contact-form, Akismet spam protection, Team Blogs, password-protected posts, categories AND tags.
  • Numerous widgets already included: Facebook Like Box, Goodreads, Latest Tweets, Subscribe by Mail, Delicious, Flickr, etc.

Thumbs Down for WordPress:

  • No third-party scripts allowed. That means no Google Friend Connect, for example.
  • Limited number of designs to choose from, unless you want to pay for the service.

Thumbs Up for Blogger:

  • Unlimited number of designs. The sky is the limit. You can design your own template from scratch, or take a look at the literally thousands of Blogger designs out there.
  • Third-party scripts are allowed.
  • It’s owned by Google. That means that it has access to all the nifty things Google provides, like Google Friend Connect.
  • Numerous widgets already included: Subscribe by Mail, Profile, Latest Tweets, Google Friend Connect, Facebook Like Box, etc.
  • Other widgets from third-party websites can be added.

Thumbs Down for Blogger:

  • You can only implement posts from other Blogger blogs.
  • No gallery options, although there is a Slideshow widget.
  • Maximum of ten pages.
  • Tags/Labels only, no categories.
  • Team Blogs aren’t possible.

In the end, it all comes down to your own choice. Do you want freedom or an easy-to-use platform? Are you up for something new, wild and potentially difficult, or would you prefer to stay in the comfort-zone where there’s no HTML, CSS or anything of that sort?

Now you’ve asked yourself that question, go register either a domain name for your paid hosting, or join or for your own blog. Do keep in mind that not all domains are available, and that you might have to think of a couple of back-up names for your blog, in case the one you initially wanted isn’t available anymore.

Book Blogging Project #1: So, you want a book blog, eh?


The Book Blogging Project, thanks to lack of a more suitable and less cheesy sounding title, is a project in which I will take newbie book bloggers on a journey through Book Blogger land. In this series, I will cover everything from why you would want a book blog, to how you can receive ARCs in the mail, get people to comment on your blog posts and write quality reviews. Inspired by Book Blogging 101 written by Parajunkee, and feeling obligated to do this due to the rather large amount of newbie bloggers emailing me questions, I have decided to write my own series covering the how-to’s and the how-not-to’s of book blogging.

The Book Blogging Project is featured every thursday on I Heart Reading with a new post and new but exciting content!

You feel like you have been reading since beyond the beginning of time. There is no book in your local library you haven’t read, or at least glanced at, and you feel like it’s time for the bigger work. Inspired by the huge amounts of book blogs on the internet (trust me, some days I think there are more book blogs than there are people in the world), you decided that you want a book blog yourself. Well, good for you. Now you can join us here in Book Blog land, and quarrel with the other book bloggers over who has the most followers and who you have to kill around here to get an ARC. No worries, I’m just kidding. Sort of.

First of all, you have to ask yourself why you want a Book Blog. Now, here are all the wrong reasons why you’d want one:

  • Your best friend, book junkie #1478978 has one.
  • You want FREE books, of course! Because, you know, they’re like, FREE!
  • J.K Rowling is your idol, and since you didn’t find of any other suitable way to contact the most famous author in the world, you’re pretty confident that book blogging is the way to go! I mean, she will know it when you write a review for Harry Potter, won’t she? Won’t she?

Regardless of what you might think at first, creating and maintaining a Book Blog, is a lot of work. If you want a consistent reader base, you will literally spend hours a day writing up new posts, participating in memes, commenting on other people’s blogs, twittering, marketing your blog, emailing authors and publishers, and scratching your head wondering where all your spare time went. If, on the other hand, you are happy with a smaller reader base, and you’re confident that your Book Blog will grow enough over time, then you might only have to spend an hour or so a day working on your Book Blog, and perhaps even less. Just don’t expect the readers, followers and authors to just come strolling in. The Book Blog community is way too large for that.

The other classical idea newbie bloggers have about Book Blogging isn’t true either. We don’t get tons and tons and tons of FREE books. And even if we do eventually receive a couple of review copies in our mail, those books aren’t free. They were send to you by the author or the publisher in exchange for an honest, and hopefully constructive review. It’s not saying you have to review every single book you find in your mailbox, but if you own a small blog and are just starting out, you better review Because if Publisher X sends you Book Y and never heard from you again, you can be positively sure they’ll never send you another book again. Publishers, contrary to popular belief, aren’t idiots.

Another myth I want to dispose is the “it’s my chance to meet my favorite author ever’ one. Occasionally an author will reply to my review of their book (especially if the author was the one sending me the book in the first place), and I can tell you that when Gretchen McNeil commented on my Waiting on Wednesday post in which I mentioned her upcoming novel Possess or when Maureen McGowan commented on my review of her novel Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, I was on cloud nine. But I’m not delusional. I have written reviews for novels by authors like Lauren Kate, Suzanne Collins, Julie Kagawa and Raymond E. Feist. They haven’t commented on my blog yet, and I’m pretty sure most of them never will. But that’s alright. Because I’m not blogging in the vain hope one day J.K. Rowling will notice me and send me a fruit basket.

Alright, so now you know all the wrong reasons, let’s take a look at some of the right reasons:

  • You LOVE books. You actually live, breathe and eat books. Yummy.

Yep, that’s all. Or well, that’s enough. Loving books is enough reason to start a Book Blog. If it’s a good enough reason to keep up the Book Blog, now that’s another question entirely. If you want your Book Blog to become successful, there will be other qualities you’ll have to possess as well:

  • You will need to be assertive. You have to market and promote your own blog on all sorts of outlets: Facebook, Twitter, BookBlogs.ning. At some point in your Book Blogging career, you will have to contact authors (and in an even worse case scenario, publishers) and actually ask them for a review copy of their book. Don’t wait until authors/publishers/other book blogger come to you. Contact them, let you know of your very existence, and get them to visit your site.
  • You will need a giant amount of professionalism. You can’t just email an author and say “Yo! I want to review your book, yo!” or something along those lines. You can’t risk to ask author interview questions like ‘What is the color of your underwear?’ and most of all, when someone (author, publisher, other book blogger) makes a fit about a particular review, your website, or anything else that makes you feel personally attacked; you need to remain professional enough to handle the issue without causing even more e-drama.
  • You need to be a social, outgoing person. And if you’re not, then you have to pretend to be. The Book Blogging community is all about giving and taking. You follow, they follow back. You comment, people comment back.
  • You need to be as interesting as possible. Imagine the most interesting person you know. Now try to be just as interesting. Be catchy, fun, entertaining. And not only when you’re writing blog posts or book reviews, but also when you’re talking to other book bloggers on Twitter, book groups, etc. If you want your visitors to return to your website, you will need something that interests them enough to come back.
  • You need a lot of patience. Rome wasn’t built in one day, and a Book Blog isn’t built in one month. You won’t get +1000 unique visitors a day after one month of blogging, and you won’t be added to HarperCollins’ regular reviewers list (if there’s even such a thing). Consider yourself very lucky if you receive your first ARC and have 50 Followers after one month of blogging.
  • You need discipline. If you blog one day, and then don’t blog for another two weeks, you will see your number of visitors dropping faster than flies. You need to be consistent and disciplined, and if you cannot be, then you need to schedule a couple of posts beforehand. Blogging regularly is the key to success.