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Random Thoughts: Book Bloggers

Whatever we choose to call ourselves – bloggers, reviewers, wordsmiths – essentially we have a blog and we like to talk about all things books. For the most part we post reviews, participate in bookish memes, reveal trailers, excerpts and covers, have author interviews, or discuss topics of interest. Oh yeah, and for some fun and sharing we also have contests and giveaways. (Free goodies, what’s not to love?)

But a large part of what we do is promote books and authors. Whether intentionally or unintentionally that is what we do. From reviewing (hopefully honestly) their works, to revealing covers, linking to excerpts, blogging about their contests, posting their trailers, each person that views our sites has the potential to read (or even buy) a book based on what we have to say or what information we provide. So what we have to say may just be important to someone.

When I fall in love with a book, I will try to get the word out there as much as I can. I’m happy to provide links to purchase, links to descriptions, images of the book, and on. After all, if I love the book, I want the author to keep writing and in order for them to do so, they need to sell their books. As much as they may love to write, the reality is that in order to be published they have to have a marketable commodity.

I do not mind, at all, being called a promoter of books. I know I am a promoter of reading. I certainly think individuals who don’t read are missing out on something truly special. And they are also missing out on a way of thinking and communicating that can only be learned from reading.

If I am also seen as a promoter of books, that is completely fine by me. I do not consider that a derogatory term. That does not mean that I will like everything I read, but I will still promote that book in the same fashion as my favorites. I will still provide all the images and links and goodies, so that someone else, who might still enjoy that book could purchase it just as easily. In this I do not discriminate.

Though we may be promoters, we are not paid marketers, although marketing is the end result of what we do much of the time. We are not compensated for our reviews, for our posts, for our time. And believe me, it takes time. Even the shortest of reviews, the quickest of posts, takes time. It’s not easy to constantly be updating a site with fresh and interesting content. Just tracking down accurate information to include with each review can take some time.

But I do not mean to imply that we get nothing out of it. We do. Whether it’s to meet new people, to talk about books with other like-minded individuals, or just as a creative outlet or hobby, we are getting something back. And when an author or other reviewer or reader likes our review, comments on our site, connects with us on Facebook or Twitter, it can be the most wonderful form of flattery. Just knowing that there is something you’ve done that others appreciate and enjoy can make this all worthwhile.

However, in order for our sites to be truly successful, just as with authors (which I blogged about a few months ago), bloggers have to network and market themselves in order to be seen and heard.

There are tons of blogs out there, and almost every single one of them offers up something different, so visiting just the most popular blogs will not give you everything. After all, one lone blogger can’t possibly read everything. Heck, they might not even like to read everything. I know I don’t.

But it’s not so easy to gain visibility in this crowded community. (Kristi at The Story Siren offers up great tips for new bloggers.) Search Engine Optimization is one way, although I never found a new blog that I visit regularly by just happening upon them on Google. Being present on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, LibraryThing, RandomBuzzers can also help to get you noticed. Visiting and commenting on other blogs is another.

The two things I’ve learned in my short time in this blogosphere are that word of mouth and time are what it takes. If you are actively connected with other reviewers and writers your name will start to be seen and heard. If you take the time to blog regularly – be it daily, or just a few times a week – you will start to become visible.

If your content is positive and thoughtful your audience will most likely be the same. Although if you are always positive in your outlook, you may get dissenters. But that’s okay, as everyone is entitled to their viewpoint. If your content is snarky and bitter, your viewers will also be of that ilk and you may just be deluged by angry viewers. And that also may be exactly the feedback you want. It is your blog after all, just be prepared that no matter what stance you take you will get a reaction.

I know there has been a tremendous amount of backlash against bloggers. The only thing I will say about that is that most of us work very hard on our blogs. Between blogging, reading books and other blogs, writing reviews and articles and popping in to Twitter and Facebook, I spend at least seventy to one hundred hours a week on my blog. And I have a full-time job and a life outside of blogging. And I know there are others who are just as dedicated. I’ve also found that I have doubled my spending on books, which already was my largest “non-essential” expenditure last year.

Some have said we’re in it for the free books, and that may be the case for some, but it certainly is not the only reason. Bloggers, I’ve found, love reading and talking about the books we read. We want to be connected with others who see things our way, and we want to engage with the authors that write the things we love to read. And for some this is just a status symbol – if you get an ARC in the mail that means you’ve hit a level of popularity that publishers want you to read their books even when you don’t ask.

Sure, I’ll admit that I would love to get an advance copy of any book – who doesn’t want status points, but for me it’s really just for the opportunity to read a book well in advance of release. (I do not like waiting!) But I don’t see this as a freebie. I will always buy the finished copy, unless I hated it (which is so rare it’s hardly worth the mention). So, if I’ve received an ARC of a book I hadn’t heard about elsewhere, it just means that the publisher has guaranteed at least one more sale.

But for some, who may not be able to afford the book, it gives them a chance to read it, and then spread the word out to those who can. That’s a win-win in my book.

And finally, yes, there may be some malicious bloggers, and as with anything it’s unfortunate when just a few bad apples spoil the bunch. But in life there are malicious people. People who like to start controversy just because. People who choose to be mean in order to hurt someone because they can. It’s unfortunate, but is not exclusive to the word of book blogging. How many times has someone scoffed at a piece of art, or ripped apart a new song. The problem with being creative is that there will always be envious people who like to spread their pain onto others.

But more often than not, I’ve found that bloggers are an author’s best friend. They also have the most insight into the world of books and give the most honest viewpoints about what they read. I have yet to read a book reviewed by a paid reviewer unless directed there by another blogger. While they may have an opinion of value, which still holds great cache in the industry, I don’t see them as readers or fans, even if they are. As I am a reader, a huge fan and a consumer, I’d prefer to get my information from others just like me. If I’m spending a significant amount of my hard-earned dollars on books I want to be sure that I’m getting the most honest and straightforward opinions and those, I believe, come from bloggers!

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