Why Writers Need Book Bloggers

Before my novel, The Local News, was published, I was flummoxed by book bloggers. I didn’t get them. Weren’t there already enough reviewers shouting in the online wilderness via Amazon and Goodreads and Shelfari and LibraryThing? At what point did all the voices simply become noise?  

But having gone through paperback and hardcover publication, having watched the marketing and publicity wheels spinor screech to a haltI’ve come to see book bloggers as indispensable to authors, especially first-time authors. 

Miriam is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Cynthia won.)


     


Guest column by Miriam Gershow, who lives in
Eugene OR, where she is at work on her second
novel, Knock Knock. Her first novel, The Local News,
was called “an accomplished debut” by Publishers
Weekly, and “deftly heartbreaking” by The New
York Times. See her website here. A list of book
bloggers who reviewed her can be found at
the bottom of this page.

 

BIG REVIEWS … THEN BIG QUIET

When The Local News was released, I was lucky enough to have it reviewed in Holy Grail of print media, The New York Times. My luck (and the hard work of my publicist) continued, as reviews appeared in Marie Claire, Ladies Home Journal, and BUST among others. And then … nothing. The big quiet.

One of the most surprising things about book publishing is that after the initial fanfare and reviews and readingsall told, about a month in my casethere is almost a deafening silence. My editor once told me that two things sell a book: access and word of mouth. Access was taken care ofmy book was in all the big stores and many of the little ones. But suddenly it was my responsibility to keep the buzz going.  

Here, I discovered the first benefit of book bloggers. They extend the publicity cycle of a book. Via traditional media, it’s nearly impossibleespecially as a first-time authorto land a print review after the first weeks of publication. But bloggers aren’t bound by the same timeline. For my hardcover, I hired TLC Book Tours to coordinate a 10-blog tour four months after publication, stirring up new interest when other trails had gone cold.

Still, I’m a natural skeptic, and even with the tour scheduled, I wondered who these bloggers were and how much insight they would offer.

WHAT BOOK BLOGGERS OFFER

I came to see bloggers as readers versus professional critics, though importantly I also saw them as readers with brands to protect.

Book critics, to generalize, judge the quality of writing. You can wow a critic with your sentences or your structure or the ambition of your aim. This is not necessarily the case with bloggers. Yes, many appreciate good writing. But many look for an enjoyable read. Their reviews tend toward how the book made them feel, how much they liked the story or the narrator or the ending or … This sensibility is of value in that it mirrors much of the reading public.

And book bloggers cut through the noise of the Internet simply by writing detailed, thoughtful reviews. The best of them lack the snark that anonymous corners of the internet can breed. They’ve cultivated their voices and sensibilities. They’ve grown a loyal readership. They seem intent on maintaining the quality of their blogs, which shows in the depth of their reviews.

When my paperback came out, I returned to the blogosphere, familiar enough now to approach bloggers directly. Writers today are expected to hustle. You might be expected to foot the bill of your own tour (which I’ve done), or immerse yourself in social networking (done), or contact booksellers (done). But in terms of old versus new media, one welcomes a direct relationship to writers and one doesn’t. As much as I knock on the door of People, it’s not going to increase their likelihood of a book review.  But bloggers, on the whole, respond to author contact. If you have to hustle, it makes sense to hustle with an eager audience.

OLD FRIENDS & NEW ONES, TOO

I contacted the bloggers who’d favorably reviewed the hardcover edition, asking if they’d mention the paperback release. My publisher supplied giveaway copies. The response was nearly instantaneous. The result: for a month after publication, a dozen blogs took turns helping spread the word. Additionally, I contacted a dozen new bloggers and asked if they would review the paperback. Again, this came during the big quiet after initial publication. And again, the majority agreed.

All of this brings us to the big question for many: How much does blog attention affect sales? Honestly, I’m not sure. But I do know that when a book is talked about in the blogosphereespecially by the insatiable bloggers with their insatiable readershipit keeps that book alive in the public consciousness.

And I also know this: Book bloggers are good for the writer’s soul. It’s easy to believe, in the age of bookstore closures and book page shrinkage, that books are an afterthought. I look to book bloggers to find people who are still passionate about books, who consume them voraciously, who day in, day out, devote their time to reading them and writing about them. They remind me that what I’m doing matters. And for that alone, they are worth their weight in books.

(This essay originally appeared on the book blog, Everyday I Write the Book.)

Miriam is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the print book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Cynthia won.)


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16 thoughts on “Why Writers Need Book Bloggers

  1. KimberlyFDR

    I actually AM a book blogger (well, media reviewer in general) for a number of blogs. I love getting new materials to review because I get exposure to new writers that I never would have noticed before. Additionally, it’s good for the writers because they get the publicity for their works. It’s a win-win situation.

  2. Sandy Young

    I guess I’m not very smart, but I had never heard of book bloggers. My cousin blogs about books that she has read, but I just didn’t know that a person could hire people to write blogs about his or her book. Very interesting! If and when I ever write a book, I’ll remember your article!

  3. Tiffany D.

    I love book blogs and read them on a daily basis. There have been some negative comments made towards bloggers in the last few months and I don’t think they get the credit they deserve. I find so many books through blogs that I would never have heard of otherwise. I definitely think bloggers have a positive effect on the book industry. Thank you for the excellent post!

  4. Lisa Munley

    Hi Miriam! Thanks for the shout out! I loved working with you and coordinating the tour for The Local News – so happy to hear of its continued success and ‘buzz’ on the blogs!! Hope all is well with you and yours..

  5. Kirkus MacGowan

    As an aspiring author myself I have been wondering how much of a difference book bloggers can make. It’s good to hear your take on things.

  6. Mare

    Miriam: What a great post, and this is helpful as I dance toward publication myself. I have friends who are book bloggers, and I, like you, love that they love books.

    I agree with Kathy: I never would’ve thought to do a reminder/second appeal for a paperback release. Thanks for the great ideas!

  7. Richard Bush

    I had a book blogger interview me about my debut novel (which will be released Fall of 2011 and I enjoyed a bit of positive feedback from that. Certainly the book bloggers are held in as high esteem as someone writing for the major daily news.

  8. Margay

    This is great advice for any author to remember, not just the ones just starting out. Word of mouth is one of the best promo tools out there and what better way to get word of mouth going than via book blogs? There are some really great ones out there.

  9. Kathleen

    I echo Ashley; as a reader I like to hear the opinion of book bloggers I respect. There’s so much out there, and the book bloggers can help cull through it.

    From the writing perspective, I have to "Amen" this: "And I also know this: Book bloggers are good for the writer’s soul." I had a short nonfiction work published to help families celebrate Advent & Christmas, and it was such a boost to be able to see how people reacted to it.

  10. Vicki Hudson

    As long as the reviews are honestly provided, blog reviews are helpful. Is there a conflict if the blogger doesn’t like the book but was asked to review it and got their copy free? Are they obligated to a positive review? I post reviews occasionally, always of books I’ve found and enjoyed.

  11. Ashley

    As a blogger myself, thank you! There has been a lot of talk about this in the blog world lately. I know that a lot of the books I’ve read and purchased lately are books I found through blogs, that I wouldn’t have otherwise read. I greatly prefer reading blog reviews to professional critical analysis, because of what you mentioned. I’m much more concerned with how I feel while reading. Honestly, if I’m noticing a lot of editing errors and being overly critical, it’s because I’m not enjoying the book.

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