A little while ago, Jeann wrote a post about consumerism in the book community, which in summary basically said “if book bloggers/tubers/ influencers can afford to and want to spend money on books, good for them! Let them spend their money on what they want!” Which I whole heartedly agree with. But it also gave me the idea of writing this post about how it’s still possible to be a book blogger/ tuber/ influencer without having to spend lots of money on books.
In high school and during uni, when I became an avid reader, I had a very small budget. I grew up in a low to mid middle-class Australian family of five. Between my Dad’s income and benefits from the government we could afford basics and never went without, but we also weren’t just given everything we ever wanted. My parents scrimped and saved to buy us expensive electronics and other things we wanted for birthdays and Christmas. We never had a pet. We bought all our clothes and shoes in affordable department stores. So, a pretty average household really. Even after I started working as a vet and earned my own salary, I didn’t really splurge that much (the average salary for veterinarians is lower than you think). Now that I’m unemployed, I’m back to scrimping and saving and not really buying too many new books.
Long story short, I’ve lived most of my life on a budget. That includes pretty much my entire career book blogging and bookstagramming. And I’d like to think that even without having the advantage of being able to buy a lot of new releases, I’ve still been fairly successful.
Is it easier to be a blogger/ bookstagrammer when you can buy a lot of books, especially popular editions? Yes. But it’s still possible to do well without having a big budget.
*Just a note, I’d like to acknowledge that as a middle class Australian I am still quite privileged compared to many international bloggers, particularly when it comes to my access to English books and publishers.*
Here are some of the ways I manage a blog and bookstagram account without spending a large amount of money:
Blogging on a Budget
Websites & Themes
I don’t have to think about this anymore, but when I first started I used free blogging platforms. There are so many free website platforms available now where you can build and host a blog. WordPress and Wix are the first two that come to mind. I first started blogging on Blogger (does that even still exist anymore?). These sites often have a few free basic customisable themes for you to use.
When it comes to creating extra graphics for the website, Canva is what I use for pretty much everything. It has a lot of free features. I can’t think of anything else that has as big of a range (if you know of something, you can comment to tell me about it!) I’ve used Photopea and Pixlr, which are Photoshop alternatives, a few times for bookstagram edits.
Gaining new books
There are a few different ways I accessed free books when I was on a budget, and NOT ONCE WAS IT PIRATING! Pirating is not acceptable (you’re robbing an author of payment for their hard work. And decreased sales means decreased chance of being published in the future).
The main ways I accessed books were:
- The library – This was the biggest way I got books. It’s even easier now that most libraries have ebooks which you can download and read on your phone. I’m lucky enough to have a Kobo which syncs with Overdrive, so that’s how I get most library books now.
- Charity stores & secondhand books – So many charity stores sell second hand books for cheap! And a lot of the time, the quality is pretty decent! I’ve bought so many books from Lifeline Book Sale over the years. I also grab some books from people selling secondhand for cheap on Facebook marketplace or friends.
- Giveaways – I used to enter pretty much every single giveaway I came across, just for the chance to win some books! You have to be in it to win it!
- Presents and favours – For every birthday and Christmas I asked for books, or for money to spend on books. When I did favours for my family, I ask for books in exchange.
- Sales & Freebies – One of the good things about the growing number of Indie books and ebook stores, means there are usually some great ebook sales and freebies available at any given time! You just have to keep an eye out and keep checking. Some of the best reads that surprised me have been freebies!
- Savings/ allowance – I used to put a little bit of money away every week to save up for a specific book. I’d try my best to take advantage of sales when buying that book (sites like Booko are perfect for this).
What about new releases though?
At first, I never really got them unless I was lucky with the library holds or won a giveaway. Occasionally, I’d get one bought as a gift or saved up for a specific new release (usually by an author I loved). As I got more into blogging, I was fortunate enough to start receiving review copies, first eARCs from Netgalley and eventually a couple from traditional publishers. My biggest book haul recently was mostly comprised of review copies Jean gave me because she didn’t have time to read them or wasn’t that interested! It’s nice having friends who give you books.
You don’t need to feature new releases to be popular though. I’m currently trying to carve out a niche for featuring older and underrated books. They’re hidden and forgotten gems! And honestly, it’s your voice, style, and taste in books that will bring me back more than current releases and ARCs.
Book Photography & Bookstagram on a Budget
With Instagram and Youtube being such aesthetic and imaged based platforms, it’s not surprising that people can put a lot of money into their backgrounds and props. It’s also usually new releases that are usually the most popular posts. But just like blogging, spending a tonne of money isn’t absolutely necessary.
Getting books to feature
Most of my points for this are exactly the same for the how to gain new books in my blogging section. But with photography, you can also edit in book covers! Canva allows you do it on a basic level, but there is also free photoshop alternatives such as Pixlr and Photopea (this is what I use). An example of a photo where I edited in the covers:
If you have a smart phone, you have a camera in your hand
Most people own a smart phone. And pretty much every smart phone has a camera built into it. Nowadays, phone camera quality is actually pretty decent too!
Free Photo Editing Apps
There are SO MANY free apps that allow you to edit the look of your photos. I used to use Snapseed, but recently changed to Lightroom (since I started using a preset. If I didn’t have the preset, I’d probably stick with Snapseed). There’s also VSCO which I never really used.
I always like seeing a nice clean background in photos. Currently, I use some vinyl adhesive that looks like wood, which cost me $3 per roll. Before that, I used a lace doily from my house because it looked nicer than my desk. Another option, which I’ve never done, is bookshelves! Lots of people use bookshelves as backgrounds.
Utilise items you already own as props. Or make them!
I don’t think I’ve bought a single bookstagram prop aside from the stuff I got in a couple of subscription boxes and some cheap fake flowers. Everything else I either already had in my house or made. My parents used to be into candles so we had lots of those around. The origami stars were made by my sister from my mum’s scrapbook supplies. And my dad grows roses, so I’ve started incorporating more of his flowers into my photos. Every now and then I remember to include a bookmark in my photo.
Other things I don’t use often but you might like are things like jewellery, stationary, other craft pieces. I also have some nicer fake flowers that I found for cheap/ on sale or were bought as gifts.