Book Club Chat Update: I Grew My Website To 5K+ Visitors/Day [And Quit My Full Time Job]
This is a follow up story for Book Club Chat. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hi, I’m Heather Caliendo, founder, and content creator for Book Club Chat, a website dedicated to book club questions, reviews, book lists, and author Q&As. You can find my original starter story here.
My flagship content includes original and unbiased book club questions and book lists that provide lots of book recommendations.
Since starting in 2018, Book Club Chat has grown to more than 5,000 visitors a day.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
So last time we talked a lot has changed for both myself and the blog! Book Club Chat put me in a good position where I was able to quit my full-time job as a journalist for a trade publication. I’m now home taking care of my 18-month-old son while also working on growing my business even more.
Try to carve out blocks of time each day, even if it’s only 20 minutes here and there, where you can truly dedicate yourself to growing your business.
The key to my success is reading a ton of books! I’m quite picky on which books I read and tend to go more for the bestsellers as those are the most popular with book club readers. I also have added more list posts (such as this one for Reese’s Book Club) and these are generating a lot of traffic.
While the bulk of my revenue comes from ads with Mediavine, I’m now working more directly with authors and publishers on composing book club questions.
I charge $400 for each book and that includes a review, book club questions, and an author Q&A. This is an exciting and growing area of my business and I’m looking forward to expanding it more this year.
My most successful promotional outlet is my newsletter. I have almost 3,000 subscribers with an average open rate of 60%. Each time I send a newsletter, I get a huge bump in traffic. I’m currently sending it monthly via Mailchimp and plan to start bimonthly starting in September.
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
The biggest challenge is also my biggest joy—balancing Book Club Chat with raising my son. First, let me say that I’m very grateful that the site allows me to be home with my son.
However, finding the time is tricky, especially as my business relies on me reading books and that takes a lot of time. I have all these big plans but the days go by so quickly, it’s hard to tackle it all.
I will say there are days it’s hard to balance it all and I’ve had many nights of zoning out on TikTok instead of reading. Whenever I do that, I feel so guilty, even though I haven’t had a dip in revenue.
Still, while it’s good to know the site can be on autopilot on especially busy weeks, I’m quite focused on adding more content for the rest of this year. This includes my flagship content as well as more list posts and continuing to partner with authors and publishers on contract book club questions.
I’ve been learning to work very early mornings, during naps, and in late evenings. Thankfully there is always coffee!
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
When I quit my job to take care of my son and also work on the blog, I naively thought I would have all this extra time. But raising a toddler takes up all the time! So I’ve learned that I have to schedule out each day and take advantage of that precious free time as I mentioned above.
I’m also working on responding to emails quicker - I used to be the person that had a zero inbox but it’s hard to keep on top of it while chasing a toddler! I’m focused on not letting emails sit in the inbox too long each night, and making sure I answer all the emails that I didn’t get to during the day.
So I would say time management is a big lesson that I learned this year. It’s a work in progress! Thankfully there is always coffee.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I plan to continue to add more content, which means reading many more books. I plan to increase the frequency of my newsletter. And I need to finally embrace social media!
I mentioned in my last story that I was going to use it more but it still has not been a focus. I will make it a priority—after all, I spend all that time on TikTok, might as well post on there too!
My plan for the next five years is to continue growing Book Club Chat, hopefully doubling the revenue. I will get there by reading, using best SEO practices, and incorporating social media and video. I would also like to get into a position where I could hire freelancers to work on the blog as well.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
I would say try to work on time management. I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed by just about everything and I truly believe it comes down to feeling like there isn’t enough time in the day. And honestly, sometimes there’s not. But just try to carve out blocks of time each day (even if it’s only 20 minutes here and there) where you can truly dedicate yourself to growing your business.
I also think it’s important to talk with other like-minded individuals—whether it’s in your industry or a similar one. I feel the Mediavine Facebook page has been super helpful with trading tips and how to overcome struggles.
For writers and bloggers, burnout is a real problem. And I see many blogs stop updating new content and I understand the urge sometimes. Writing constantly can be tough! But just try to remember why you got into this arena. Yes, it can be hard but it’s also fun too! And I think viewing writing and blogging through that lens makes all the difference in wanting to spend the time on it.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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