Saturday, 26 September 2020

How I manage my book blog for £10 a year (including domain and email)

Amanda Kennedy

Most of the book bloggers I know are inspired by a love of books. We are a passionate community who write to share our love of the written word rather than to earn a living. Precious few bloggers are able to generate a living wage from their passion, so for many of us, it is imperative to keep the costs of running our sites to a minimum.

It is entirely possible to maintain a book blog at zero cost: indeed many successful book bloggers host their sites on a subdomain provided by Blogspot.com, Wordpress.com, Tumblr or Instagram, and use Gmail (or a similar email provider) for communicating with the book community. 

My own preference is to maintain a custom domain and email address, which I manage to do for just £10 a year. This includes my domain name, email, blog and file hosting with virtually no limitations

I use Blogger for my platform

I've been book blogging since 2015 and blogging in general for much longer still. During this time, I've worked on many different platforms and gained enough experience to work as a freelance designer for several years. Yet the platform I always drift back to is Blogger. Let me explain why.

  • Blogger is completely free, forever. No matter how many blog posts you write, how many pictures you upload, or how many people visit your site, there is no charge for hosting your blog. 
  • It is safe, secure and robust. I've had no problems with any of the sites I host with Blogger in the 16 or so years I've been using it. Even when one of my posts went viral, attracting close to 3 million page hits in a day, the site did not go down, not even for a moment!
  • Customization options are limitless! Blogger allows complete customisation of our blog templates. We are not limited to the default template styles (which themselves can be easily tweaked). There are many, many third-party templates available to upload, a large percentage of which are free more on this later)while those with knowledge of web design could choose to design their own template from scratch.
  • Blogger is SEO optimised. Little if any tweaking needs to be done for Blogger-hosted sites to rank highly in search engines. Just be sure to use "keywords" in your titles and posts.
  • Use your Google account for your blog, and easily integrate other Google services. Blogger is owned and operated by Google, which makes it very easy to access and manage lots of useful and relevant services with the same account. Such as Gmail (as I'll explain later), Feedburner, for email updates, Adsense, should you wish to monetize your blog, and of course Webmaster Tools, to help optimise your site and keep track of your blog statistics.
To create a blog with Blogger, simply sign up using your Google login at the Blogger website.  You can get started in just a few clicks!

I use a free, third-party Blogger theme

Whether you are reading this post on a desktop PC or your mobile phone, you'll likely notice that my blog's theme is not a standard Blogger one! 

This particular theme is called Milano and is available to download for free from Templatism, though I have modified it slightly to suit my personal preferences. 

If you're not content with Blogger's standard themes, you can easily find a new template from third-party designers. Take a look at one of the following articles to get started:

A lot of Blogger templates are based on the "magazine" or "portfolio" style. This is generally because blog templates are produced by designers, for designers, if you see what I mean. Personally, I prefer to look at book blogs with a simpler, clean layout, where I can easily see book reviews and access posts which interest me. Here are a few of the themes I considered before settling on my current theme (all of which are free):

Couture by OddThemes


Voux by CopyBlogger Themes


Johny Casia


Plate Blogger Template by Gooyaabi Templates


File Hosting for Book Bloggers

In the course of book blogging, you may find the need to host files for downloads (such as my Kids Reading Log and Printable List of Clothbound Classics).

I tackle this by making use of the free 15 gigs Google Drive storage linked to my Google Account. To ensure links in my post point to a direct download, I use the Google Drive Direct Link generator which creates a user-friendly link. While a little clumsy, this workaround helps me to keep all of my important files in one place. 

Other options frequently used by bloggers include DropBox and MediaFire.

Setting up email updates

Feedburner is also under Google's umbrella of services, and as such is integrated seamlessly with Blogger. You can add an email subscription form to your sidebar or layout directly within the Layout section of your Google dashboard. 

Should you like more control of how your email updates appear, simply log into Feedburner and tweak the settings. 

P.S. You don't need to have a Blogger site to use Feedburner! So long as your blog has an RSS or XML feed, you can use Feedburner (which is 100% FREE!) to provide email updates from your blog.

Buying a domain

Up until this point, everything I've mentioned that I use for my blog is provided for free. Purchasing the domain name (and renewing each year) is the only cost I need to pay to maintain my book blog.

I purchase my domains from GoDaddy, though this is from habit rather than simplicity. If you plan to start (and keep) a Blogger site, I would strongly suggest you purchase your domain name through Google Domains as it makes set-up (and email forwarding, which I'll explain further down) much easier. Wherever you choose to purchase your domain from, be sure you will have access to the DNS settings and - preferably - that it provides email forwarding (or better still, free domain-based email). 

At the time of writing this post, GoDaddy are offering new dot.com (and other domain extension) registrations for just 99p the first year!

Since I've owned the domain, AllMyPrettyBooks.com for several years, I pay the yearly renewal fee. When I receive the renewal reminder, I check for GoDaddy voucher codes to reduce the yearly cost (which is usually around £10 or less). If you are purchasing a domain for the first time, you may well find the cost of your chosen domain name is even less than this for the first year: a promotional hook which is likely to lead on to your continued custom. 

Google Domains have a fixed yearly fee, which depends on your preferred domain extension. Check here to see how much your preferred domain may cost


To learn how to connect your domain to a Blogger blog, you'll need to follow the instructions on this page in Blogger Help

Unfortunately, the instructions are a little confusing at first glance, so allow me to clarify:

  • If you want to purchase a domain through Google, perform the actions in Step 1, followed by "Connect to your Google Domain from Blogger" in Step 2.
  • If you have purchased a domain elsewhere, ignore Step 1 completely, then perform the actions under "Connect to your non-Google domain from Blogger" in Step 2. This will require adding two distinct CNAMEs to the DNS records in the settings/dashboard of your domain provider.
Once you've set up your custom domain with Blogger, all links to the old *.blogspot.com posts and pages will automatically redirect to your updated domain name. 

Free forwarding, to create domain-based email 

I've been able to set up my domain-based email address, amanda@allmyprettybooks.com, using Gmail and email forwarding. This means that I don't have to pay any additional fees for a professional-looking email address.

To do this, you will need a Gmail account and access to your domain's DNS settings. Also, as mentioned earlier, your domain provider needs to offer free email forwarding. A quick search tells me that most domain providers offer this, though may not publicise it well or make the settings difficult to locate. After all, they earn more by encouraging us to sign up for their own email services...

The tutorial I used to set up email forwarding with GoDaddy was written by Sean Newman Maoni for Medium. It is comprehensive and very easy to follow., so I won't reproduce the steps here.

The only snag I encountered was when testing seemed to fail - this was because I was sending emails from within the same Gmail dashboard, and my emails were being automatically archived. Be sure to test by asking a friend to send an email to your newly set up address instead!

If you're using Google domains, the process is even easier! A comprehensive tutorial can be found on this Google Help page.

To summarise...

This is how I set up All My Pretty Books:

  • I use Blogger for free, unlimited hosting.
  • A free non-standard theme ensures my site works well and looks professional.
  • Free file hosting means I can provide downloads when needed.
  • Visitors can sign up for free email updates, courtesy of Feedburner.
  • I purchased a custom domain so readers can easily find my website.
  • Using this domain and Gmail, I set up my custom email address.
All of this costs only around £10 a year, and may be much cheaper still if you are registering your domain for the first time!

I realise that my methods may not suit everyone. To set things up so cheaply requires a fair bit of work and some technical knowledge. Though I do hope it may prove useful for those looking to set up their book blog for the first time, or perhaps who are looking for a cost-effective way to upgrade an existing book blog site.

Please feel free to leave your comments, or any questions you may have below, and be sure to subscribe for email updates for future articles and news about the books I read!

Amanda Kennedy / Book Blogger, Writer & Editor

Amanda is a lifelong learner and book lover who lives in the North of England with her family and several cats. She writes book reviews, literary news and bookish articles here on All My Pretty Books.

To learn more about Amanda's own work, visit her personal website.

0 Comments:

Post a comment

Coprights @ 2016, Blogger Templates Designed By Templateism | Distributed By Gooyaabi Templates