Subtitled: Should book bloggers care? And what is this bigger picture anyway?

Well we’ve definitely got into navel gazing territory now but lets run with it as it’s worth thinking about as in the end blogging is vital to getting promoting books.

And my favourite Devil’s Advocate and much blogged about author said so himself today in a post called Bloggers’ Frontlist Fetish:

Blog reviews are great. Reviewers do a great job at publicising great numbers of new titles. Where there were once gatekeepers to determining what a good genre book was, there are now hundreds of people all championing whatever worth they wish to.

But there is a fetish for frontlist titles. Frontlist – those books which are going on sale now, the ones hitting the shelves this year. The Next Big Thing. (And no I don’t mean all of you reviewers; I’m prodding the general culture, not individuals.)

It’s a bit funny seeing this from a writer who has been a darling of bloggers, including this one, if we weren’t doing it he might not have got his next book deal? I don’t know if that’s true or not as the quantitative effect on blogging is hard. It’s fractured and its audience is unknown. But it must be having some value or I wouldn’t be writing this post.

I know the rough numbers of people that might be reading this but I have no idea who most of them are really. I don’t know what influence I’ve had on most of your buying choices. I hope I have.

I don’t get that many visitors compared to others. And I see how hard they work to get them. They honestly deserve it. Others don’t work so hard but have something worth saying so they get lots of visits. Some seem to say nothing but get lots of hits anyway. And then there are the bloggers like this one for ages that got a handful of hits but that didn’t stop me blogging and I hope it doesn’t stop them.

It’s like authors really. Some get really critically amazing reviews but sales that are dire. You’ve seen that missdaisy frost blog post with the sales of the Orange book prize sales haven’t you? There are some books on their in the hundreds of copies.

Some authors write a book in a month and it sells in it’s millions – some are brilliant and sell a handful. It’s all mixed and it’s all the unknown. If publishers knew the secret to what sells we’d be knee high in best sellers… wouldn’t we?

Well no. I have no interest in most of the bestseller list. So that’s me out. I’d be looking some of the eurocrime or the lit fic novels that are more genre than they like to admit or I’d be choosing some interesting fantasy or soap opera scifi novel.

But I must be a valuable audience as I can most often than not go into a bookshop and buy a book that I’d be happy reading. Someone is writing books I like. And from this blog alone you can see form the reviews that there are several books that I love, some that are great and a few I hate.

You don’t see the books that I’ve picked up and put down. You don’t see all the books that I’ve bought through the years. You don’t see all the books that I get from the publicists that know what books that I feature send for free.

I’m not sure how I’d control that sort of conversation on a blog. Would it be a valuable post if I said that I didn’t engage with Farlander even though it’s had loads of great reviews? Would it help if I said that I struggled with reading The Quiet War by Paul McAuley? Would you like to know that I found The Cell by Stephen King as interesting as watching paint dry? Or that I feel guilty that one of my favourite series is piling up and has a publisher change and I’m still on the same page I was last year?

And blogs are a conversation, mostly with ourselves, and some bloggers are social than others. Most are passionate and time poor and all of us don’t get paid for it (if you do please let me know how!). So what do we get out of it?

Oh that’s right free books. And the reason for this post. Our new book fetish. Whether you are a new or an old blogger you are bound to be passionate about books and you want to share that passion. And it’s likely that you’ve read widely, enjoyed what you’ve read and think that sharing what you’ve read makes a completely solitary activity into something social. And it is social as you can see from all the bloggers that talk to each other and all the people that visit the various blogs.

Now what do we like knowing about? New books. And you can’t get more new than debut authors. And what get’s the least support all around debut authors? Why? Because they don’t have a fan base. They don’t have an audience that is waiting for the their next book. So bloggers are fans should support debuts. And that’s what I did for a whole year when I first started.

I still try and do it but I want to read more established authors either authors that I’m waiting for their next book or books that just look interesting.

So if I have that free choice then why do I end up reviewing similar books to my fellow reviews?

Because that’s the way discussion and buzz works. It works on me and it works on everyone else. We want to know what all the fuss is about. We want to know why something is getting good reviews and we want to know what we are missing out on.

There are some books that I could see a million good reviews of and I’m not going to feel like reading. And there are some books that I see one review and I’ll read that. Here isn’t anything planned about the whole thing most of the time.

But maybe we should plan more. Maybe we need to think of the bigger picture and look around beyond what we get offered to review? And it’s not easy when those books are supplied by publicists that know your tastes and know what you what your readers expect.

And that’s the reason why you see so many of the same books. We receive the books that we are likely to read and want. Not that that’s any guarantee of a review. I’ve been waiting for several books to be reviewed but they’ve fallen into several TBR piles never to be seen again and no one reviewer has reviewed them.

As for older books. It’s not I don’t want to feature them it’s more a case of who will care that you’ve read and reviewed it? Have people already seen it, read it or dismissed it? What’s the likely hood that they’ve just missed it?

Anyway I could go on and on but yes we are obsessed by the new but isn’t everyone? And really does it matter? And aren’t we doing more good reviewing the new than the old? It’s for readers to go hunting it’s it? Or should bloggers really try to give a wider range of unknowns? But then one persons unknown is anothers obvious choice? Isn’t it?

17 Thoughts on “Question: Is there a bigger picture?

  1. I totally rely on blogger reveiws for my book buying choices, but only if I am going for something new- ie unknown/new author!
    Otherwise I know what I like, and I don’t read too much outside my box regarding *old* authors- old being last year! I know I should be more adventurous in my reading habits but I have limited time and funds so I stick pretty close to what I know and love unless I read consistently awesome reviews here in blog-land!
    thanks for the navel gazing opportunity!

    • Anonymous on March 22, 2010 at 9:18 pm said:

      Thanks for commenting – I thought I’d gone a little too rambling up there. Well that’s the thing. I’m at that stage where ‘old’ authors have to have some massive force to pull me in. As sad as Mark will find that.

      Glad you’re finding us bloggers helpful!

  2. “It’s a bit funny seeing this from a writer who has been a darling of bloggers, including this one, if we weren’t doing it he might not have got his next book deal? I don’t know if that’s true or not as the quantitative effect on blogging is hard. It’s fractured and its audience is unknown. But it must be having some value or I wouldn’t be writing this post.”

    Well, funny you say that – hard to tell if any one blogger can change things, but lots of them championing your book certainly helps. I had a majority market share for sales with online retailers – that implies that the online effect helped. And, in the acknowledgements of City of Ruin, I’ve made sure to mention a few who have helped me along the way – I know that the blogosphere has benefitted me greatly.

    So yeah, strange that I’m saying that, but perhaps I care for the genre, too, and am a fan of championing underrated authors. (Robert Holdstock, for example.)

    • Anonymous on March 22, 2010 at 9:24 pm said:

      I couldn’t let that pass without comment sorry. As Sam Sykes says he needs the spotlight too.

      But I do see what you mean – and I’m still digesting my own thoughts and feelings on old books -but I am very glad you got me to read Robert Holdstock. And I did see your comment on what makes you read and the text might not be the actual reason…. and that is another post!

    • Harking back to my comment on your blog, despite the publication of Avilion last year and its imminent paperback release, Mythago Wood remains out of print. Now, Gollancz did release a 25th anniversary paperback last year but it sold out pretty much as soon as I became aware of it. The previous omnibus edition from 2007 is also sold out. So it is not as if Gollancz are doing nothing but the fact remains that what is widely regarded as one of the finest British fantasies of the last quarter of a century has only been intermitantly available for at least the last decade. Again, I’m sure I could pick it up relatively easily second-hand but I’ve never actually seen it in a bookshop and this sort of thing does have a distorting effect.

      • Anonymous on March 23, 2010 at 8:42 pm said:

        Great example – but then again what makes it come back in cycles? What draws people back to it when they’ve been away for so long… publishers don’t often look back enough in SFF it seems. Gollancz do a great job with the masterworks though

  3. Well said Gav, well said. If everyone’s doing it, you can find me there. I’m horrible with peer pressure.

  4. I totally rely on blogger reveiws for my book buying choices, but only if I am going for something new- ie unknown/new author!
    Otherwise I know what I like, and I don't read too much outside my box regarding *old* authors- old being last year! I know I should be more adventurous in my reading habits but I have limited time and funds so I stick pretty close to what I know and love unless I read consistently awesome reviews here in blog-land!
    thanks for the navel gazing opportunity!

  5. “It’s a bit funny seeing this from a writer who has been a darling of bloggers, including this one, if we weren’t doing it he might not have got his next book deal? I don’t know if that’s true or not as the quantitative effect on blogging is hard. It’s fractured and its audience is unknown. But it must be having some value or I wouldn’t be writing this post.”

    Well, funny you say that – hard to tell if any one blogger can change things, but lots of them championing your book certainly helps. I had a majority market share for sales with online retailers – that implies that the online effect helped. And, in the acknowledgements of City of Ruin, I've made sure to mention a few who have helped me along the way – I know that the blogosphere has benefitted me greatly.

    So yeah, strange that I'm saying that, but perhaps I care for the genre, too, and am a fan of championing underrated authors. (Robert Holdstock, for example.)

  6. nextread on March 22, 2010 at 9:18 pm said:

    Thanks for commenting – I thought I'd gone a little too rambling up there. Well that's the thing. I'm at that stage where 'old' authors have to have some massive force to pull me in. As sad as Mark will find that.

    Glad you're finding us bloggers helpful!

  7. nextread on March 22, 2010 at 9:24 pm said:

    I couldn't let that pass without comment sorry. As Sam Sykes says he needs the spotlight too.

    But I do see what you mean – and I'm still digesting my own thoughts and feelings on old books -but I am very glad you got me to read Robert Holdstock. And I did see your comment on what makes you read and the text might not be the actual reason…. and that is another post!

  8. Well said Gav, well said. If everyone's doing it, you can find me there. I'm horrible with peer pressure.

  9. What’s the likely hood that they’ve just missed it?

    Huge. Look at this year’s Arthur C Clarke submissions, for example. I keep on top of the genre but there are a clutch of novels there I’ve never heard. Now, mostly these are from independant/self-publishers so we could guess they aren’t very good but we don’t know. Some of them are from major publishers though, Halfhead by Stuart B MacBride (Harper Collins) which I may well have missed because it is aimed at the thriller market. And then looking at the comments there is a lot of praise for books from smaller publishers like The Accord by Keith Brooke and The Babylonian Trilogy by Sebastien Doubinsky which I’ve vaguely heard about but haven’t really seen any coverage of. I’m sure a lot of those borderline cases like The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor slip through the cracks too. And this is just taking one submissions list as an example.

  10. Harking back to my comment on your blog, despite the publication of Avilion last year and its imminent paperback release, Mythago Wood remains out of print. Now, Gollancz did release a 25th anniversary paperback last year but it sold out pretty much as soon as I became aware of it. The previous omnibus edition from 2007 is also sold out. So it is not as if Gollancz are doing nothing but the fact remains that what is widely regarded as one of the finest British fantasies of the last quarter of a century has only been intermitantly available for at least the last decade. Again, I'm sure I could pick it up relatively easily second-hand but I've never actually seen it in a bookshop and this sort of thing does have a distorting effect.

  11. What’s the likely hood that they’ve just missed it?

    Huge. Look at this year's Arthur C Clarke submissions, for example. I keep on top of the genre but there are a clutch of novels there I've never heard. Now, mostly these are from independant/self-publishers so we could guess they aren't very good but we don't know. Some of them are from major publishers though, Halfhead by Stuart B MacBride (Harper Collins) which I may well have missed because it is aimed at the thriller market. And then looking at the comments there is a lot of praise for books from smaller publishers like The Accord by Keith Brooke and The Babylonian Trilogy by Sebastien Doubinsky which I've vaguely heard about but haven't really seen any coverage of. I'm sure a lot of those borderline cases like The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor slip through the cracks too. And this is just taking one submissions list as an example.

  12. nextread on March 23, 2010 at 8:42 pm said:

    Great example – but then again what makes it come back in cycles? What draws people back to it when they've been away for so long… publishers don't often look back enough in SFF it seems. Gollancz do a great job with the masterworks though

  13. Pingback: Book-o-sphere Round–up: 28 March Edition – NextRead

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