How to make your first $100 from blogging: The 100×100 method

There are SO many people out there giving out advice about how to become a successful blogger and how to monetize your blog. They talk about authority sites and high-ticket products but they’re missing what it’s like for 95% of bloggers.

The hard truth is, most bloggers can’t get started with making money from blogging. So they lose motivation and give up. In some niches (I’m looking at you, beauty bloggers), it’s even harder because the path that people are trying to take isn’t the most profitable one, it’s a big shiny distraction that will fill your make-up drawer but not your wallet.

Here, I want to share my 100×100 method for making your first $100 from blogging. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to sell you anything.

What I did wasn’t remarkable or unusual. Anyone could do it. 18 months into blogging, I was regularly taking home about $400 per month. I didn’t have a huge email list (I still don’t have a mailing list for my blog because I’m managing 50,000 subscribers across 3 author mailing lists and need another one like I need a hole in the head).

I didn’t have a huge amount of views in the early days. My blog’s been running since December 2014 and along the way, I’ve learned a few things. I’d like to help you take some shortcuts to being a successful blogger and the hardest thing I found was making that first $100.

Once I’d broken that barrier, the views, money and everything else started rolling in.

And I’ve never written a sponsored post or accepted a free product from a company in exchange for a review, although I get about 20 requests a week (I usually say no because I don’t want the obligation of reviewing something I might not like although there are some things I’d say yes to that have never been offered, such as Latisse or an all-inclusive trip to Tibet).

I didn’t set out to make money from my blog.

This is important because I didn’t monetize until January 2016. There were 15 months at the beginning of blogging when I wasn’t monetized. I think this was good for me, overall, because it meant I focused on writing strong, well-researched articles and my success measure came from growing my daily views, not from how many affiliate links I’d dumped into any given article.

I actually started my blog two months after I had turned my Citroen Xsara Picasso into a campervan and taken my husband on a 16-day adventure from York to Rome for our honeymoon.

I just wanted somewhere permanent to put my travel pictures to share with my family, then I started YouTubing hair tutorials so I also wanted somewhere to write down how to do beauty-related things for people who didn’t watch videos. The twin focus of my blog – beauty and travel – made me think it was impossible to monetize, and all the advice said focus on one thing, but this just isn’t true. Focus on doing each topic WELL, don’t flit around doing half a job, would be better advice.

I think I got a lot of followers early on because I had Travel Tuesday and Beautiful Friday, and shared posts on both topics. Although it did take longer for Google to rank my site as a travel blog than as a beauty blog, it now ranks well for both.

The 100×100 method for monetizing your blog

Before you try to make any money with your site, ask yourself the 100×100 question: “Do I have a good blog with around 100 well-written posts on it and am I getting around 100 views a day?” If the answer is yes, you’re ready to take the next steps into monetizing your blog.

If not, I suggest you work on these first; let’s look at how.

Write good content for your blog

Content IS still King in 2020. What does that mean? Content is the most important thing in blogging. Your entire success or failure comes down to whether your posts are engaging for your readers, and whether your posts answer readers’ questions.

Your primary focus should be writing 100-ish posts of good content. At first, you will be shouting into a hole and wondering who will ever see these articles when you have no views. You might be wondering whether you should waste your best content on a blog which no one is reading.

I wondered these things too.

What I learned over my first and second year of blogging was those best articles with good content will soon rank in Google, and when they do, people will find them. One of my earliest posts is “Hair Bleaching 101”. It got a grand total of 15 views in the first six months after I published it.

Now, five years later, it has an average of 150 views per month. I have over five hundred posts on my site (I didn’t blog for all of 2018 and posted 6 times in 2019, or there’d be a lot more).

If each post on my site gets 150 views a month, that’s 75,000 views total in a month (rough average; that post isn’t even in my top 10 most popular, as you can see from the sidebar on the right hand side of the screen), so all those early posts are contributing to my overall success.

How to get more views for your blog

Once you have around 100 posts of good content, your viewing figures may take care of themselves if you’re a natural at SEO (getting your posts to show up on Google) but they may not. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and you need it on your site to make everything visible to Google.

SEO for bloggers in brief

In (very) brief, SEO for bloggers is all about ensuring your article titles match with what readers type into Google, your articles are the right length (over 1500 words for most articles, but change it up when you need to and don’t force yourself to ramble, Google hates that), and that your tags are all correct.

You also need internal links, so Google knows how important any given article is to your whole blog. And you need to post regularly. That doesn’t get said enough. If you don’t post at least once a week, every week, no exceptions, Google won’t rank you as high.

If you take time out of posting (I took about 18 months away from blogging) your SEO will suffer because Google penalizes “dead” sites in favour of “current” sites that are still being updated.

The best site about SEO is Neil Patel. That guy knows what he is talking about. If you want lots and lots of advice and info on SEO, go read his stuff.

Do bloggers need to be on social media?

If SEO is too technical for you, you should focus on building a platform of readers on social media who want to see your stuff. There are many ways to do this. You could start a Facebook Page for your blog and invite your friends to like it (scary but necessary for a Facebook strategy, as strangers will be reluctant to hit “like” on a page which has zero likes).

If you don’t do Facebook, you could start a Twitter or Instagram. Twitter is better if you like writing short sentences with a link, Instagram is better if you like sharing really good photos but don’t want to link to specific articles (e.g. for cosplayers or food bloggers).

Most of us will do a bit of SEO and a bit of social media. You can’t do everything, so don’t try, you will just waste a lot of time chasing your tail. Pick one social media site and get good at it before moving onto others. Make friends in your niche e.g. other travel bloggers. Find Facebook groups for bloggers in your niche.

Some people will say you don’t need to do any of this, just be your authentic self and the readers will find you and adore you. People say this to authors, too (I’m a double USA Today bestselling romance author so I hear this garbage a LOT).

They’re lying and trying to stoke your ego into believing them so you won’t work hard on the mechanics behind blogging, won’t succeed, and won’t compete with their site. Believe me, they did all this stuff to monetize their site, too. Or they’re not making money off their site and they don’t know why. In which case, share this post with them. ūüėČ

If you haven’t got any of the stuff you’ve read so far in this post completely nailed, bookmark this (click the star in the right hand corner of the screen in Chrome and you can save this post for later)! Go take action, and come back to the rest of this post weeks or months from now, when your blog is ready for you to move forward. I’ll still be here.

I have 100 GOOD posts and 100 views per day. How do I make money?

Perfect! You’re ready to move forward.

The best way to make your first money with a blog is by joining Amazon Associates. This is a program Amazon runs, which means they give you special links which you can use on your blog, and you make a small amount of money whenever readers click on the links, if they buy something on Amazon within 24 hours of clicking on your link. It works best in review articles, in my experience, but you can also get them into “how-to” articles if there’s an appropriate spot.

The golden rules for ethically putting affiliate links in your blog:

  1. State somewhere on the page that you use affiliate links. My blog has been set to say it on every post and page on my site, at the bottom, to be sure I never forget to state it, and it’s also stated in other places, too, although I try not to interrupt the flow of any given post.
  2. Don’t shoehorn a link in or mislead readers into clicking e.g. by disguising the link. Reader trust is all you have as a blogger so don’t abuse it.
  3. Only link to things that are actually worth linking to. Don’t sell crap. Steve Jobs said that, and it’s something you should live by with affiliate marketing.
  4. Don’t put affiliate links into negative reviews. You don’t want people to buy products you hated, do you? That would be pretty scammy. Instead, link a negative review of one product to a positive review of a related product, or write a comparison between something you did/didn’t like and link to the good products only.
  5. Don’t just rehash the Amazon reviews for a product on your blog. Google will actually penalize you for this because they don’t like duplicate content. Amazon can also penalize you for this as the copyright for reviews belongs to the people who wrote the reviews.

The amount of money you will make from doing this depends on how much traffic your site has and how much your readers are looking to buy a product when they read your post. If they’re not in a buying mindset, you won’t get a sale. That’s why your honest reviews and especially comparisons of different products are the best places to put links.

That’s all you need to do to make your first $100 from blogging! But it’s not very scaleable to higher figures. Several six-figure blogging sites have said your income with this will peak around $4000 per month and it can fluctuate very heavily from one month to the next as it’s really dependent on luck, so you could go from $100 one month to $60 the next month then $300 the month after.

If $4000 a month is the amount of money that will transform your life, then fantastic. But if you want to take things further, then at that point, you need to move into different affiliate programs with high-ticket products like cars, private jets, or online courses.

I’m not doing any of those very well, yet, but when I do, I’ll write about it, so you can climb the success ladder with me.

I use three affiliate programs but realistically, Amazon is the only one making me money because I haven’t figured out how to write high-ranking articles that find buyers for the other two yet. And earlier this year, I designed an online course that didn’t sell a single copy, so I need to go back to the drawing board with all of that and work out how to take my blog to the next level.

If this article was helpful for you, feel free to link to it on your blog, or share it on social media using the sharing buttons below. And if you have any questions, ask them in the comments! I usually close comments on posts after 28 days but I’m going to keep them open on this one.

How to get a China visa if you’ve changed your name

China is famous for its bureaucracy. And when we were looking to move, this highlighted a huge feminist issue with western society. I found that most countries were happy to accept the name on my passport, but China was different. If you’re a woman having issues getting a China visa, maybe my story will help you.

Flash back to 2017. Rainy northeastern England. No skilled job opportunities for people with Polish last names (I had a lot of phone conversations with agencies that went like this: Thanks, but my husband with a PhD actually doesn’t want to work in a warehouse, he’d like to work in his in-demand field, also stop being so surprised I speak English, I was born in South London).

My husband had been offered a job in China, and I’d decided to go along with him. This wasn’t an easy decision because I was finishing my master’s degree and my own career as a writer was taking off exponentially at the time. This was something I didn’t know if I could do in China, because I wouldn’t have a tax identifier (required to earn money from any US company), which was a whole separate saga and which took me to San Francisco the following year to sort it all out.

We went across to the other side of the country to the Chinese Embassy’s visa office in Manchester, which was a day’s expensive travel from where we lived. We had taken all the documents we had been told we would need. Passports, our marriage certificates, and my husband’s qualifications. I was travelling on a spouse visa so wouldn’t need proof of qualification, but I know many women who had the same problem I did with their degree certificates rather than marriage certificate.

We went to the office and took a ticket to wait in the queue. We first were denied our visas because we hadn’t photocopied our visa application forms and they wanted two copies. Then we were sent away. We photocopied our application forms. We took a ticket and queued again.

I was denied my visa this time because our marriage certificate had my maiden name on it and my passport had my married name on it. My husband, because this was a joint application, either had to apply again separately and leave me behind, or we had to find some way of proving I had legally changed my name.

I tried to explain that the marriage certificate should be enough and I pointed to where my old name was and where my new name had come from but they weren’t having any of it.

I actually had done a deed poll when I changed to my married name, because I had double barrelled (put my name then my husband’s name, which is common in Spain and other Latin countries, but not in the UK, so I’d been prepared for all sorts of nonsense), but I didn’t have a copy of the deed poll because no one had ever asked for it before; all the banks, even the passport office, had always accepted my marriage certificate because double-barrelling is actually an acceptable (if unusual) thing to do in the UK after you get married. As long as you take your husband’s name somehow, they don’t care. If you want to really confuse people in the UK, phone the bank and tell them you’ve changed to “Mrs” or “Ms” but that your name is the same as before. Heaven forbid you get used to your identity as a woman.

We didn’t have the time or money to go back across the country to try and dig out this deed poll then return before the office closed, our home was too far away, so we thought we would have to abandon this attempt to get the Chinese visas. We talked about how bad would it be if we separated for the two years and I stayed behind, because I didn’t want to stop him going.

Then, inspiration hit. I found a local newsagent down the road which, despite this being 2017, still had internet access and printing/photocopying for customers to use, and I went online, found an online deed poll, filled in my name and the date we got married, and printed it.

We hurried back to the visa office while the ink was drying. We took a ticket. Waited another 45 minutes to speak to someone. Got to the front of the queue. FINALLY handed over the last document and waited to find out what they would deny the visa for this time.

They approved it.

Relieved, we stepped out into the sun with our Chinese entry visas now glued into our passports. And in that moment, we both looked at each other and with dead certainty said the same thing: This was only the beginning.

As it happened, this was the only time we had a problem like this and this was the hardest piece of bureaucracy the whole time we lived in China. Once we were actually in the country, the visa process worked efficiently.

I did hear of other women having problems where their degree certificates were in their maiden names and their passports were in their married names. Again, I would encourage deed polls to show what went before and what your name is now.

It’s completely rubbish that the situation is like this because only women get stripped of our names, and identities, in western society, for the sake of having a permanent relationship with someone, and we are paying the price here for the patriarchy.

China doesn’t understand this as well as other countries because in China, you don’t change your name when you marry. Your family name as a woman stays the same. You have permanence. You exist as an entity separate from your husband. Whereas in the UK people wonder what’s wrong with you if you don’t take your husband’s name at all. I didn’t especially want to because his name isn’t good and mine was amazing but I felt I had to.

So if you need a visa for China and have changed your name, or if you’re looking to move to China and you’ve changed your name due to marriage, especially if you’ve then divorced and have some documents in both names, I’d suggest making a paper trail to prove it. Get deed polls if you need to, like I did. They are accepted.

Mailerlite vs Mailchimp: A warning (it’s not what you think)

So about 12 months ago, I was using Mailchimp and there was suddenly a huge drama because they changed their fee structure and got a LOT more expensive. Customers started leaving them in droves. I didn’t understand the issue until I got my new bill and it was suddenly insanely high compared to how much money I was making.

I asked around and everyone told me it was so easy to switch to Mailerlite, and that they were better in a number of ways that no one could explain. I was pregnant and knew I needed to reduce my overheads.

So I exported my contacts and imported them into Mailerlite, where I grew my list to over 15,000 subscribers.

With Mailchimp, the only issue was the cost. Everything else about it worked perfectly, I never had a failed send or anything. They always just sorted out payment and everything was smooth. I don’t know what their customer service was like because I don’t remember ever having to contact them after the day I first signed up.

Also, Mailchimp works in China, and Mailerlite does not. I was living in China when I started emailing my list through Mailchimp instead of using batches via Google mail.

With Mailerlite, it seemed like every time my mailing list grew, they wanted me to re-verify myself, to fill out a tedious questionnaire (for the fifth time) about what I was using their services for, and they threw in some mandatory market research questions as well, which honestly is offensive but you do what you gotta do to get a half-price mailing service to email your newsletter for you.

The best part? They do this when you want to send an email, instead of when you hit the new subscriber threshold. This means, if you’re sending about something time-sensitive, like a flash sale or 24-hour deal, you will not get to send your email in time especially if you want to send according to timezone.

I didn’t like the fact that a lot more of my emails seemed to go to the spam folder when I used Mailerlite, either.

I sucked it up.

Then I had a baby, so I deleted my contacts because no-one wants to pay $150 a month for a mailing list they’re not actually sending any emails to for a year. I downloaded and carefully saved my 15000 contacts in a CSV file that I never actually looked at because I had more important things to do like keep a small baby alive.

Obviously.

Ready to get back to work, I uploaded my email list to Mailerlite and guess what? They wouldn’t let me re-verify because I’d already uploaded this list and deleted it.

So in desperation I went back to Mailchimp, thinking that paying $200 monthly is worth it if you actually get the service you’re paying for. I uploaded my mailing list.

Then I found out why you should never, EVER move your list to Mailerlite.

We’re always told that our mailing list is the most important marketing asset for our business because it is ours and we get to keep that no matter what happens to service providers, right?

WRONG.

Mailerlite has deleted so much information from the downloaded copy of my mailing list that Mailchimp actually doesn’t have the data it needs to let me upload to them.

So I opened the file to look through it. There’s email addresses, but then all the other columns are empty. No first names. No last names. No opt-in timestamps or IP addresses and no confirmation timestamps or IP addresses (all of which you need to be compliant with data handling, CAN-SPAM, and GDPR rules). It’s a mangled, useless CSV file that is as useless as a phone book comprising of phone numbers but no names.

I am effectively stuck with Mailerlite who seemed able to re-connect all the data when I uploaded the email addresses (presumably they’ve stored the rest of the data on their server and can access it by using the email addresses as a “primary key”, but I obviously have a right to have all that data, it’s not theirs, it’s mine, so they shouldn’t keep it like this). Who won’t let me go through their stupid validation and approval process. And anyway, I resent all the bullshit they’ve put me through so I’m not going back to them.

This means I have no mailing list. Mailerlite has destroyed it by deleting key data. Five years of hard work down the drain. Fifteen thousand fans of my business, who I cannot contact because Mailerlite have ensured I can’t go to another service provider.

God I wish someone had written about this before I switched to Mailerlite.

Please, please, PLEASE be careful. If you want to switch to Mailerlite, be sure you’re going to stay with them forever. Because they will not let you take your mailing list when you leave.

I guess that’s what you get when you go with a cut-price mailing list provider. I have learned my lesson the painfully, devastatingly hard way. I have no business to come back to after maternity leave. I built my business to give my baby a future, and now our situation is more precarious than ever.

If I am very, very lucky, I might still have an old version of my mailing list from when I switched from Mailchimp to Mailerlite in the first place. But obviously, that could have people on it who have since unsubscribed, so I have to weigh up whether I can use that old version or not.

This is my honest review of two companies I’ve spent thousands of dollars with, over the past half-decade. Verdict? I’d rather spend more money on a service that actually does what it says it’s going to. Your mileage may vary. If you have a different perspective, or a solution for this issue, please let me know in the comments.

Waiting

I’m now signed up with two different ways of working in the health service and I still haven’t been deployed anywhere. Hurry up and wait seems to be turning the days into a miasma of ennui. Getting out of bed has reverted to being very difficult. It’s rare for me to manage it before 2pm and I don’t see that improving until I have a reason to get up. At 8 months old, Jellyfish is having a sleep regression. Every time he wakes up in the night for milk, he decides to spend an hour playing. Crawling. Making noises. My husband has just put him down for a nap and said it was like trying to tire out the Energizer Bunny. I’d ¬†agree with that.

I planted some pea seeds. They have sprouted. They are in tiny pots.

I’m trying to put an application in for university, to retrain in a proper healthcare job. I want to be a dietitian, or a midwife. I’m going to talk more about that in an upcoming post because I want to get my head on properly before I apply.

Everyone is getting restless. It’s a brilliant sunny day today, and I can hear a cacophony of hedge cutters, lawn mowers and other such things. Staying indoors would be harder if we had anywhere to go.

Apparently, putting a couple of bits of gardening equipment outside the back door was a mistake. Like a dog marking his territory, the landlord and his adult son decided to use my back door (which is all glass) as target practice with a football. I know everyone is going stir crazy but it literally felt like the house was being invaded, like they were trying to say, “you can’t put things in the space around your house. That’s our house and we can do whatever we like with it. You have no garden. Not even that concrete outside your back door.” The ball kept hitting the gardening equipment and my back window as well.

Timmy, our last surviving rabbit, lives just inside the back door, where we have set up his hutch opposite the fridge and the tumble dryer. We leave the hutch door open nearly all the time, and just outside it, he has a little pet pillow and a pile of hay to snuggle in. I got quite hacked off about the fact the football was stressing out my beautiful orange rabbit, although I didn’t know how to go out and say anything without being confrontational so I just stayed indoors and seethed. I’m actually doing an anger management counselling course online at the moment so I’ll be able to help people through their anger soon. One big part of it is it’s okay to be angry sometimes.

So the house is basically an island surrounded by shark-infested water. We can’t go out, except to walk to the car and drive somewhere, which you’re not supposed to do right now.

The sun is an ongoing concern. I read in a reputable newspaper that a giant hole in the ozone layer opened up over winter, and apparently it circles over the northern hemisphere. It will be over us for the next month while it takes time to dissipate. On the map, Ireland looks so small compared to this circling threat of cancer and death.

I haven’t fully looked into the dangers of sun exposure without the ozone layer, but it worries me. There are three types of UV radiation that goes from the sun to Earth; UVA, UVB and UVC. The ozone layer usually protects us from the worst, which can cause skin cancer, blindness, sunburn and cataracts (although the cataracts presumably aren’t going to concern you if you’re already blind).

What I’m not sure on is how this will affect plants and animals. They’re outside all the time, and our ecosystem is already hanging in a delicate balance because of man-made problems like pollution and global warming. If species get irradiated and wiped out, the whole ecosystem could fall apart.

I’m worried. It would be easier not to worry if I had some work to do. I can’t write my books right now, because they just seem so frivolous and self-indulgent, like a complete waste of time, but I don’t have anything else to do because I’m waiting for the phone to ring to know which pharmacy needs my help. And then there’s the feeling, underneath it all, the one from the part of me that hates myself.¬†No one needs you. You have nothing to contribute. Why did you even try and help? Like anyone would need you in a crisis.¬†

I’m glad I have my little jellyfish. Those sort of thoughts got really bad in the 6 months after his birth but generally, the fact he exists and is so dependent on me means the thoughts pass eventually.¬†Someone needs me. Someone wants me around, even if he doesn’t show it. Someone is sad when I’m not near him.

The thoughts return after a while. They’re like waves. Sometimes the tide is high and I’m drowning, battered by wave after freezing wave of dark thoughts, clinging to a slippery rock, trying not to fall into the sea, wondering why I’m fighting it so hard. Other times, the tide goes out and there’s sunshine and a mile of golden sandy beach between me and the water. The less obvious danger then is when I forget how bad the sea becomes at high tide.

Is there such a thing as an Emotional Support Baby? [there would be a laughing emoji here if I knew how to get one on WordPress]

 

So many things going on!!

So I totally planned to put up a tutorial video last week, did my make up, got my camera out and everything, then I never got a chance to film it. This past week and a half, I’ve been swept up in the current of events again and haven’t had any time to think about filming/editing a video, or doing much else, either. Here’s why:
1. My dissertation: The big thesis project thing that I have to write at the end of my Master’s degree. Guess what? That is now. And it needs my full attention. But it’s not getting it, because I am lazy and/or ADHD, so decided it was more important to do the rest of this list…
2. I wrote a #1 bestselling lesbian erotica story last week, edited it, got a friend to proofread, designed the cover myself and threw it at the Internet in the hope that it would land somewhere half decent. It did. I have shifted 500 copies in the last 8 hours alone. Why did I do it? To see what happened if I did. Wish Ulla was here to see this day.
3. I’m going on an away weekend with the sailing cru this weekend. It’s gonna be hella awesome (always is) and probably exhausting (always is) and hopefully nothing will capsize this time, but obviously there’s this tiny voice in the back of my mind, telling me to get on with my research.
4. My husband has accepted (like, on Wednesday) a fantastic job half-way around the world, and we have 4 months to empty the house, rent it out or sell it, and emigrate abroad. Emigration is the week before my MSc dissertation is due, so… no pressure to get THAT done early.
5. I have been researching glitter eyeshadows. I really want to buy some glitter eyeshadows and didn’t know where to look (there’s a difference between shimmer and glitter… shimmer is bad as you age, but glitter is good. And we’re talking grown-up glitter here). The options I’ve found are Make-Up For Ever Glitter, Make-Up For Ever Diamond Dust, Stila Magnificent Metals Glitter and Glow Liquid Eye Shadow, Sephora’s own brand glitter eyeshadows and Urban Decay’s Moon Dust Powder. Has anyone tried these? If I can’t find any info on which ones will give me the look I want, I’ll buy a selection (expensive though!!) and report back to y’all on what’s good. It’s sorta ridiculous that this is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN MY LIFE right now, given the points listed above.

So I will definitely get a half-decent article out at some point this week (it’s a shame because I’d just started posting more often than once a week or fortnight then life happened again). It will probably involve glitter eye makeup or a review of the exciting Korean sheet masks I bought today.

Review: Dracula and Frankenstein: Penguin Clothbound Classics

I spotted these Penguin Clothbound classics on Amazon, and I decided to take a look at them.

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

I’m a voracious reader. I always thought I would be the last person to embrace the new trend of eBooks. I still write some of my books on paper before I type them up, and I do all my planning on paper, too, and type that up. There’s something reassuringly solid about a nice book, with pages that can be turned. However, there’s distinct advantages to ebooks when you read in the quantity that I do. If you only have 1 chapter left, you don’t have the dilemma about whether to cram¬†2 books into your handbag for the day, or whether to risk having nothing to read at lunchtime. Physical books¬†take up far too much room if you can’t afford a large house. Before I moved in with my husband, I moved around a lot, because I didn’t really have anywhere permanent to live, which meant that about once every three months, I would have to fill up a stacking crate or two with books, and carry them (I didn’t own a car) to a charity shop. I feel sad when I think of all the books I no longer have, books I liked, and would like to read again, because I simply didn’t have the space to keep them all. I still remember dragging those heavy boxes of books, my arms nearly falling off under the weight, to make sure they found a new home.

I had a very strict rule, though; if I couldn’t carry it, I couldn’t keep it. That was borne from being homeless and destitute a few too many times, because when you get somewhere to live after being homeless, especially if some charitable agency donates clothes or books to you, it’s easy to accumulate a lot of things again in a short space of time, but not necessarily the most useful or appropriate things. You feel bad about getting rid of them, though, and so I wouldn’t. Then, every time I ended up homeless again, usually because my mother hadn’t paid our rent, or she’d threatened to stab the landlord/lady who owned the place we were living in, or she’d been offensive or violent toward another resident in wherever we lived, we’d end up homeless again. And when there were so many objects, it was hard to know what to take when we had limited space and only very short amounts of time.

As an adult, then, I held fast to that rule, and because I had to move so frequently for work, I found it difficult to let the books go, but sometimes you have to make hard decisions when you haven’t quite found a place where you and things go together (shameless Breakfast at Tiffany’s reference… another book I no longer have).

Then, one day, about six and a half years ago, I found a place where I and things might go together, only my husband had already filled it all with his things and there wasn’t really any room for me and I didn’t feel it was my place to say anything. So about eighteen months later, when we had to move to a different city for teacher training, we¬†upsized and rented an enormous house, many times the size of the one we have now. That house had about 4800 feet of floor space excluding the garages which the landlord retained. It had two kitchens, a laundry, servants’ quarters (we kept the bunny down there), and the sort of staircase with a huge sweep to it. We accumulated a lot of stuff but I was still reluctant to indiscriminately bring things into the house. I will never forget the time¬†I came home from a long day and found that my husband had ordered eight enormous bookcases to turn one of the huge rooms of the house into a library for his 2000 books. To match, he added a handmade wooden dining table which seated twelve. I was initially apoplectic at all this unexpected furniture, but I got used to it.

This was when we had money, and prospects, and all sorts of other wonderful things (like a future). Those things have all been in extremely short supply for the last few years.

We moved to this (much smaller, but still fine for 2 people, at¬†600 feet square) house in late 2013 and because we were both working 14 hours a day, five days a week, we had to move overnight (we did it ourselves as we had no money for a removal van) and we literally just moved everything with no thought as to what to keep. I put in a lot of hard work clearing out our house over the last couple of years to declutter it of all the things we had accumulated when we lived in that¬†proper house. One of my hardest tasks was to read the first three chapters of every single book in my husband’s 2000-book library to decide which ones were worth keeping. I pared it down by about 60% (and ended up reading most of the books we kept). The thing is, those 2000 books (now about 800) were all sci-fi and fantasy novels, of varying quality and noteworthiness, so we didn’t have copies of quite a few very common books, but we did have¬†duplicates of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, amongst other things. Since my husband came with such an enormous library, I haven’t felt able to buy books for myself. Ebooks came to the rescue, on that score, and before I got Kindle for PC/iPhone, I missed so many new book releases because I felt bad for adding to the unmanageable collection of books we already had.

So with all that in mind, it feels a little bit ridiculous that I recently realized the value in having a nice set of decorative novels around the house. So when I learned about the Penguin Clothbound Classics, I was very taken by the design. I took a look through the list to see which books had been clothbound, and imagine my surprise when I found they’d picked Dracula and Frankenstein.

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

Frankenstein is a¬†book that made a big impression on me when I first read it at fourteen (ditch the popular version retold a thousand times in film). It’s about a construct whose story reflects the otherness and isolation of trying to live in a world which often seems as though it’s made for a different type of person.

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

What I really love about this version is it has anatomical drawings on the cover, of hearts, but they’re not pretty puffy hearts, they’re biology diagrams of hearts. I thought that was especially appropriate for the subject matter.

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a story I started reading on my Kindle for iPhone about a year ago. I love that you can get free ebooks of all the great classics, but the Kindle version of Dracula that I got was really badly formatted and I gave up after about 30 pages. I think some books are better suited to being in paper form, so I’ve bought this version. The cover is all black, and while the design is not as inspired as that on the Frankenstein, I still rather liked it:

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

Here’s the title page inside each book:

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula bram stoker

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula mary shelley

Here’s a page at random from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to show the text size and layout quality:

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula mary shelley

I’m really looking forward to reading Dracula next!

I’ve got a bunch more of these on my mental wishlist, but at ¬£11.99-¬£14.99 I could only let myself have 2 this time. Perhaps I’ll have the whole set before we emigrate, which¬†is very likely to be¬†August now, but probably not. There’s about 40 of them all told, which is ¬£800-¬£1000, and there’s no way I can spend that much money on books!! I can’t talk about where we’re emigrating at the moment because it’s all working out, for the second time in my life something is actually working the way it ought to, and I don’t want to jinx it all, but I promise I’ll tell you all before we depart.

Here’s Dracula on Amazon.com. Apparently Frankenstein is out of print in the US but it’s here on Amazon.co.uk.

Good Luck America!

Just a little picture I made for all my American readers today:

Good luck America go vote!

What are you waiting for? Thanksgiving?

Is it me or was the last election way more exciting? I stayed up through the night listening to live radio broadcasts of the vote counting and I cried a bit when Obama won because I knew he was the right guy for the job, but there’s so much institutional racism in America that I honestly didn’t expect him to get anywhere.

Also if you happen to stick a sticker on Susan B Anthony’s grave* I’m pretty sure you get 1000 points to Gryffindor and a pair of odd socks.**

*Pretty sure that would be some sort of crime in my country, and that you’d find¬†angry people yelling at Matt Le Blanc about it.

**Or double, if you get this reference.***

***Potter for President!

First frost of winter

Hello lovelies hope you are all wrapped up warm and toasty this morning. I got up and looked out of the window, only to discover that all the car windscreens are frosty! Unfortunately, the sun is low in the sky but really strong so if there was any frost on the blades of grass, it has melted and they all just look soggy/damp. Hello, world, this is not photogenic! So instead of sharing beautiful landscape photographs, I’m going to will the postman to bring my new tripod sooner, and I’m dreading that moment in twenty minutes when I have to put my tea down, cast off my blanket and venture out into the freezing cold world and cycle to my work placement (we still don’t have a car).

Frozen winter meme cold winter is coming Elsa
I don’t own these images. Top: Disney. Bottom: CNN

What’s the world looking like where you live? Is it winter there yet? Let me know in the comments (and link me to any photos you’d like to share! I love seeing people’s photos)!

The psychology of choosing a color scheme for your website

I was reading (as I’m sure many of you do, too) Neil Patel’s blog earlier today when I came across this interesting article about the psychology of choosing a color scheme for your blog or website. I quite like reading articles that go into psychology, because while I doubt they’re applicable to everyone, everywhere, I usually find something of value in them (unless they’re truly terrible).

Most of Neil’s article was very interesting, and I liked spending time thinking about how color schemes affect the way my readers feel when they’re on my site. I don’t want anyone to get distracted by a jarring or stark color scheme and I do sometimes wonder if my black-and-white format is too harsh for my usual content.

I found his take on the “color wheel” (part-way down that article, looks like a flower) and at first I was interested, then I felt I just had to disagree with the “meanings” assigned to color. Purple, for instance was associated with revulsion. It’s my favorite color, so of course, I don’t feel revulsion when I see purple. According to the color wheel Neil had posted, the exact shade of orange which is part of his own branded color scheme, was a color which evoked mixture of vigilance and rage. It just doesn’t add up, does it?
I decided to search for some more interpretations of how color affects people, and I found these:

This one has been done phenomenologically and it’s sounding very authoritative but it has no evidence on which it’s based its conclusions, which appears to be an endemic problem in this topic.

This article from Entrepreneur.com has a good summary of the debates surrounding the psychology of colour and highlights the need for more evidence.
There is no doubt that color plays a huge part in buying behavior in marketing, but no-one seems able to agree on which colors are best to do what.

Personally? I think the most important thing is to use a color scheme that goes together properly. The color blender color matching tool often gives surprising results, but overall I think it works very well. In some instances, the coloring might be obvious (this erotica author’s writing site, for example, is themed monochrome and pink, and it’s easy to tell that it’s a steamy romance author’s site with exciting books) but in other cases, the role of color is ambiguous and complicated.

Different colors mean different things to different people, but we can associate color schemes or sets of colors with the things we know they represent – for example, fire is orange, water is blue, so is sky. If we see those colors, with other associated colors (orange with brown for the logs on the fire or black for coals, and grey for smoke, for example) it will definitely ensure people make links between a brand and a concept or thing.

I have no idea how to apply any of this to Delight and Inspire, but it’s been interesting to research how other people have thought about the psychology of color.
Isn’t color theory fascinating?

This post was scheduled; I’ll reply to comments tomorrow ūüôā

What actually happens when a content farm steals your handmade content

Today I want to talk about something that very regularly affects writers, beauty bloggers and photography bloggers, and occasionally affects travel bloggers too: Content theft. How does it happen and what can you do about it?

I am a moderate traffic website; according to both Amazon and Alexa, I am not yet in the big leagues (I’m in the top 1,000,000 websites, but so are 999,999 other sites). I do have some very good SEO, however, and I score first result on the first page of Google for at least 10 different search terms, because I work very hard to make my content relevant to what people are searching for. Because of this, I’m not blind to the crappy games some other sites play so they can rank higher in Google.

The past two days, however, my single most popular article has taken a nosedive. My traffic has plummeted and I have lost more than a hundred visitors a day. When investigating this, I discovered that a content-farm type website has basically stolen my top ranking article, reworded it and dumbed it down, and posted it on their site. They aren’t ranking above me, but they’ve got enough relevance that they’ve taken some of my traffic away. The thing is, despite the fact they’ve directly paraphrased my article, and added in some photoshopped snazzy pictures (that they also haven’t attributed), they’ve not actually said where they got it from. And they haven’t asked me if they could steal my stuff.

content theft statistics
Picture showing my most popular page; this page was most popular, day in day out, for months.

content theft how to tell
The stats for the blue circles page have¬†increased, proving this shouldn’t have been a “quiet day.” It’s only¬†my most popular page that’s been affected, and all the other stats were just the usual day-to-day fluctuations. That’s how I knew it was probably a content theft issue.

I get by solely on my income from this website and from the books I write (on my author website). This website (Delight and Inspire) generates 20-100% of my income on any given month. Needless to say, I don’t make much money. So when someone steals my personally researched and written articles, changes a few words to get past Google’s duplication penalties, and, by proxy, prevents visitors from finding my site, it makes me feel worried. If people took every article from my site and did that, I’d have no income. It would be like someone putting the PDF of my books on torrent sites, and it’s obviously not a nice feeling.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about it because they haven’t just copied and pasted my work. So this is an exercise in pragmatism more than a solution. I am usually not remotely precious about copyright, and when people email me, asking if they can, for example, translate my articles into Italian, I am usually happy that the information is getting shared. But that’s the difference. The cool Italian guy asked, and I knew they were using my content in that way, and I’m happy with the result, which is that Italians can now read that information in their own language. I now get 1-2 emails a week from Italians trying to cross the Bering Strait (true story). Generally, I think sharing information is the way forward.

When someone does it without acknowledging the source material, however, they’re just trying to make themselves look good with other people’s hard work. And that’s not ok. I would bet money that the person who stole my content was paid by the content farm for “creating” my content. But since half the internet is run by automatic bots and computers these days, with little user generated interaction on sites like Livestrong (a content farm), there’s no-one I can contact about this issue (normally, you can contact someone and ask for the page to be taken down or attributed).

So after the initial infuriation has worn off, I am left with the truth of the situation. Someone stole my stuff, they fooled Google (and whoever paid them to “write” it) and my income has been affected. I cannot do anything about it, so I can either go crazy (crazier) with rage and fury at this daylight robbery and turn into a pathetic dribbling ball of tears, or I can choose to let it go.

Imma let it go, and looking to the future, I’m going to try to ensure that I keep producing fresh, relevant content for my readers that ensures I always rank first on Google for other things. Like my lip plumpers review or my eyelash serum comparison reviews that I have written.

How have you dealt with copyright theft? Let me know in the comments!