Monday, March 28, 2011

The Impact of Book Bloggers

Since passing my one-year mark as a book blogger, I am finding that I feel more and more strongly about defending my fellow book bloggers against bad press and negative opinions. The short description is that book blogging is all about combining free speech with a love of literature, but I am finding that there is nothing that people want to control more than free speech. The more I find those opposing it, the more I want to use it and voice my own opinion.
I recently came across an article at The Story Siren in which she interviews Author X, who wanted to remain anonymous in the interest of avoiding self-promotion. Honestly, I don't believe that was the real reason. Anonymity on the internet is about protecting one's self. In this instance, it became clear to me that the author simply did not want any negative backlash coming from the community he/she was condemning - which is book bloggers.
There are many assumptions that Author X makes about what happens to a book in a bookstore, which I believe she got said information from an agent who would be handling all of these technical details. Author X writes "What's going to move copies is store visibility and marketing on the publisher's part (springing for table space, displays, and stuff)." Throughout the entire article, the author's focus is what works in a bookstore, because that can be tracked and factored as so many numbers and figures on a print-out. The internet is basically too big and constantly evolving to be charted and recorded so simply. Although Sniffly Kitty's Mostly Books made an excellent attempt at quantifying it.
In today's modernized digital age, the bookstore is no longer the only way to get new literature, and print is no longer the only format to read a book by. Especially with the bankruptcy and closing of Border's locations across the U.S., people are relying more and more on the internet to buy books. My own small town up in Canada had a bookstore years ago, but it did not make enough money to survive.
I managed in a bookstore for a number of years in the U.S. before moving up here, and really, individual books have to rely on randomness and coincidence for the average bookstore pedestrian to be interested enough in said book to buy it. Book bloggers have a way of focusing that aimless wandering that a display table or featured spot in the store just can't achieve.
The thing about all those fancy displays is (a)they get changed pretty quickly and quite often, so a single title is not going to stick around very long, and (b)they never feature only one title (though they may feature only one author) -- which means choices. Though the assumption is that people love choices, too many choices tend to overwhelm someone who does not already know what he wants when he walks in the door. The book blogger and book reviewer simplify the decision-making process.
In today's world of financial distress and recession, people want to be certain that they will enjoy the book they spend good money on. Book bloggers help with that certainty.
As for the average bookstore customer, they come in all shapes and sizes, with a good portion never reading anything but the newspaper, their favorite magazine, or the latest best-seller and just as many only coming for the coffee. Browsers will pick up random books and sit in a chair to read, but never purchase. Just as many of the younger generations will come in with mom and dad, but not have the pocket money or the persuasion capabilities to make a purchase, either. With the internet, the push of a button is infinitely easier than shopping blind or standing in line, and cheaper than the rising cost of gas combined with the very-real chance that the bookstore won't even carry what the shopper wants. Not to mention, the internet makes buying books possible for even those who can't leave home, whether sick, handicapped, without transportation, or no bookstore location for hundreds of miles. Desktop computers, laptops, e-readers, cell phones, etc., all have  the ability to shop online for anything, and so easily that even a four-year-old can do it. (No really, a four-year-old taught me how to use I-Pad.) Few bookstores have the ability to sell e-books from the store location, and bookstore employees don't work on the store's matching website (with the possible exception of indy bookstores). But book bloggers are on the internet, and will oftentimes know much more about books than the average, minimum-wage employee of a bookstore.
Book bloggers are the enthusiasts, the collectors, the bookworms, those who have turned reading into a profession unworthy of any paycheck. I already know I can and do sell books, and that started long before I ever wrote a single blog post. I wish I had known about the world of book blogging when I worked in the bookstore, I likely would have sold even more. I turned my whole family into avid book readers and buyers, as well as many of my friends, and I believe I will always have that effect. My book blogging is merely the record of my enthusiasm. Book blogging is the after-effect of falling in love with literature, and a way to turn that love into productivity.
Author X condemns common practices of book bloggers, such as giveaways and memes. Memes are merely ways to funnel and focus certain topics that are common to book blogging, such as the newest book purchases, and giveaways are yet another way to pass on the love of books to fellow book lovers.
Really, the community of book bloggers has much in common with the typical book club, but operates on a world-wide scale. I've come to think that the negativity against book bloggers is not because some think that book bloggers don't sell books, but because book bloggers impact the market in both unpredictable and unprecedented ways, and very little of the impact of book bloggers can be curbed, controlled, or encouraged by methods that may work for other venues.
Luckily, not every author thinks so harshly of book bloggers, Amanda Hocking is one of them. Some of the other responses to this interview are at Reading Teen and Maniac Manga Cafe.

Please share your own opinion. I'd love to hear what you think!


Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

I totally agree with your opinions here. It sure would be interesting to know who this author is! I will say that some valid points were made in the interview at The Story Siren, but I still think Author X tremendously underestimates the value/power of book bloggers.

Karen said...

I don't think there is any one tried and true way to sell books anymore and I too was put off at her perception of bloggers. There seems to be a growing disconnect between authors and bloggers and I'm not sure how it gets resolved.

Candace said...

I agree that bloggers do sell books. I know I buy WAY WAY WAY more books now then I did before I came into the online book world. I was on shelfari years before blogging and that upped my buying books cause I suddenly had direction and I wasn't randomly getting books that would end up being the third book in a series or something. But once I started blogging it went crazy! I mean I'm ordering books probably 3 times a week now and it's ALL from seeing them on blogs. It doesn't even have to be a review. I see a book enough times I generally have it in my head that I have to have it! Since Sunday when I saw that post with Author X I've paid close attention to what books I've ordered from blogs and to what people have said when reading my reviews. I know that I ordered 4 books just because of bloggers. And I know that at least 3 people have bought books (or said they were going to) because of my review or post about certain books (I think one was from my IMM post even). And my blogging goes way beyond just other book bloggers. I have friends and family that read my blog, they just don't comment. I also tell them they HAVE to get certain books and they do. They all joke that they get to skip the bad books cause I lead them straight to the good ones. I've already weeded out the bad! Some books I read I don't like that much but I know it's exactly right for my mom and I tell her she should read it. I'm not just reading for myself. Every book I read I'm thinking of who would love it. I have 2 sisters, 4 sister in laws, 5 (or sometimes more) friends, my mother and father and 2 brothers who I'm always recommending books to and sometimes my grandmothers and my mother in law. I say sometimes cause we generally have a different taste in books, but I sometimes run across something perfect for them. Oh, and my aunt. And when they read books I've recommended and they love them they tell their friends and family and it just spirals out. I know I'm the go-to person for my friends and family when it comes to books and I'm sure with a combination of them all they buy $100's of dollars of books a month.
I know I'm preachin' to the choir here but I'm avoiding this whole thing as much as possible so I'm leaving my good rant here. LOL.

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