Why Writers Need Book Bloggers

Having gone through paperback and hardcover publication, having watched the marketing and publicity wheels spin—or screech to a halt—I’ve come to see book bloggers as indispensable to authors, especially first-time authors. 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.
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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 spin—or screech to a halt—I’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.)


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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 readings—all told, about a month in my case—there 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 of—my 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 impossible—especially as a first-time author—to 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 blogosphere—especially by the insatiable bloggers with their insatiable readership—it 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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