The Website Dedicated to Lesbian Fiction
This is the story of how The Lesbian Review got started and plans to grow into the foremost site to get your lesbian fiction recommendations. Sit back, relax and enjoy while I regale you with a tale of two lesbians and one website.
Starting A Blog
My name is Sheena and in September 2014 I finally got sick of reading bad lesbian fiction. I figured other lesbians were finding the same problems and so I decided to start writing reviews.
It began as a WordPress blog because I didn’t want to try and figure out how to drive traffic to such a niche website. It was, after all, just a fun project to help me keep an element of joy in an otherwise really difficult year. (The company that Tamara, my wife, and I worked for closed and we found ourselves rather jobless.)
So I started this blog and became really excited about it. Poor Tamara heard endless updates and ideas on reviews. I think I even made her read a bunch of them.
She had always been a better business person than me so she suggested I sign up for the Amazon.com affiliate program because, hey, why not benefit financially from purchases based on my recommendations? So I did. I am a big believer in listening to people who are smarter than you. This, inevitably, leads to me listening to my wife a lot. It is no hardship, though, she is super hot and her ideas rock my world.
The 30 Day Challenge
In mid October my wife, who had her own site, decided to do a 30 Day Challenge. This is a challenge where you do something every day for 30 days. In this case it was a blog challenge, we would write one piece of new content every day and post it. A brilliant idea on two fronts, firstly, content volume is key in having a successful site/blog and, secondly, it gets one in the habit of writing content every day.
So I spent November writing my first NaNoWriMo novel (it was lesbian fiction, of course) AND writing a review every single day. I was stretched but really enjoyed the challenge.
This was brilliant because by the time December hit I had around 50 reviews already.
At the beginning of December I went on to my blog to add a post and there was a message saying that WordPress was shutting down my blog. They had decided that I was spamming because of my affiliate links and that was the end of that.
You know, I bet a lot of people would have said, “Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.” And just gone back to their lives, but not me. Creating content is in my blood and I loved every bit about reviewing.
I was really sad to lose the several hundred people who had subscribed to my blog, but I had 50 reviews worth of content and I said, “Fine, I will move on to bigger, better things and start a website. Who needs a blog anyway?”
My Secret Weapon
A lot of work I had done earlier that year had been refining my SEO skills and I already knew how to set up a site. Plus I had a Secret Weapon on my side: she is about 5’1”, has long dark brown hair and a gorgeous olive complexion. Not only is she brilliant but she is an excellent designer as well.
She helped me create the branding for the site and my social media platforms, helped me resize pictures and generally make my site look professional.
By the end of December 2014 The Lesbian Review was in business. I had loaded the content and was working on creating more.
Readers Like Me
Come January 2014 I started a Twitter account and by May 2015 I had set up a Facebook page. My hard work was paying off and visitors were not only coming to the site but engaging with me on social media. I was thrilled.
I am not new to creating content, I was in the magazine business for around 10 years before I started the site, but this was unlike anything I had created before. This was personal. I was putting my opinions and thoughts out to the world and the strangest thing was happening, readers were enjoying it. People were agreeing with me on reviews, buying books that I had recommended and generally loving what I was doing.
On occasion, readers disagreed with me, mostly about my Top 10 Books list. And it was an interesting process having to figure out how to deal with that. I literally had one lady say – These would not be my top 10. But then again, I suppose these are all marketing lists anyway.
I have been a magazine Editor and I know that you get responses and feedback and the more extreme you are the more people love and hate you. I have always said, when you get haters you know that your venture is a success. The difficulty, though is figuring out how to deal with those responses while maintaining brand integrity. This was particularly important to me because The Lesbian Review is a deeply personal site for me. I am a lesbian. I am a reader and great lesbian books made it easier for me to come to terms with who I am. I wanted to bring that to the world.
So, I thought about my response and decided that the only way to address this sort of thing was to be really open and honest about who I am and what I do. I also decided that no one would ever consider my list the definitive list because I am the only person who has had my experience. This was my response to her:
Hi (Insert name) I understand your feelings about advertising based lists, but I can assure you that no one paid to be on my list. I do run an affiliate program with Amazon where I get a small commission off the books that I sell but you are talking a few cents per book, if that. The books in my top 10 lists are books that I loved. I have read and enjoyed every single one of them. Lesbian books helped me come to terms with who I am I want to share that with the world.
I encourage you to make Top 10 lists of your own favourite books. There isn’t nearly enough exposure to good lesbian literature. The more Top 10 lists there are for lesbians the better.
To this day I stand by my answer. I am happy for you to disagree with me because it means that there are more books or movies that I can enjoy. But, I also challenge you to read a couple of the books on my list and not enjoy them.
Monetising The Lesbian Review
More than a year down the line and I have tried advertising on the site and the Amazon affiliate program. Here is the problem with them:
Amazon.com will give you a commission on anything that a user buys when they click through from your site. However, this is only valid for a 24 hour period once the link has been clicked.
Kindle books tend to be downloaded as samples first and it often takes a few days to read a sample before deciding to buy. Sales are minimal as a result. In fact, as I write this on 21 November 2015, I have not received a single cent from Amazon yet. I can see that people are buying and my commission is accruing, but you need to reach a certain amount before they send you a cheque.
Advertising only pays a small amount to the website host every time someone clicks on an advert. This is why sites literally have adverts in the middle of the text, to draw your attention away and make it more likely that you will click. I hate that because I am working on providing you great recommendations, not driving you away from my site.
So, I am going to look at new ways to monetise the site. I will stick with the Amazon affiliate program because it doesn’t hurt but I will also be putting in place other ventures to see how I can earn enough to do this full time.
Site use tips
You can find your favourite lesbian fiction authors and publishers by using the tag cloud in the sidebar or you can use the search function.
But the best thing to do is sign up for our weekly lesbian book list. This will give you weekly recommendations on books.
You can also click on the favourite tag in the tag cloud to get a list of books we absolutely loved and highly recommend.
This is an easy way to boost your reading list with only the most brilliant lesbian books.
Another badge we use is the one that tells you that we received a review copy of the book. Not only is this useful to you but the law sees a review copy as currency and reviewers are required to disclose that they received a review copy.
We do not charge for reviews and believe that this is an unethical practice.
Trolls and Posers
As we get bigger we get an increased number of trolls and posers. Please note that we do not own
TheLesbianReview@nullgoogle.com email address – So if someone approaches you and says they are us and gives you that email then please report it to us. Our email address is LesMedia@nullTheLesbianReview.com
Some awesome things to do on our site:
Keep in touch
- Be part of our community by signing up for our Weekly Lesbian Book List – a fantastic weekly email with recommended lesbian fiction.
- Stay in touch with us on twitter
- Like our Facebook page