There are plenty of reasons to bemoan the changes in blogging – the pressures to review books, the controversy over monetizing or not, lack of transparency, author backlashes, and demands to track stats and increase traffic. So, it was with a great deal of gratitude and not a little pride to see book bloggers get a boost from author Beth Kephart in her article (posted yesterday to Publishing Perspectives), The Value Rubric: Do Book Bloggers Really Matter? Beth shares her own personal story of how bloggers impacted the sale of two of her books and asserts “I have again born witness to the power of book bloggers.”
It got me thinking about the value of what we book bloggers do. Do we make a difference? Does what we say on our blogs positively impact the sale of books? Do more people read because we promote literacy? It is not something that is easy to measure by the numbers – and yet, I think, the perception is that bloggers do make a difference. How else to explain the wooing of bloggers by publishers and authors alike?
I also started thinking about why I blog. It is easy to get burned out, to find myself discouraged or overwhelmed. It is hard to set boundaries and find my comfort level between review books sent to me and my own personal library. There have been moments when I have pounded my fist and declared, “No more. I can’t take one more review book.” But then I do because I love what I do here on my blog. I love finding a book I can get behind – one that sweeps me away, breaks my heart, takes me to someplace I have not been before. And I love sharing those kinds of books with other readers.
Two years running now, my reading has consisted of more than 75% of new-to-me authors. That is in large part due to blogging – not only because new writers’ books are being pushed into my hands by publicists, but because I am discovering new voices from reading other people’s blogs and being involved with this vibrant community of readers. Last year I rated an astonishing 25% of the books I read as five stars. Nine out of the fourteen books which made my Best of 2011 list came as review books (either ARCs or finished copies offered up for review) – more than 50%. Would I have read these books if not for blogging? Probably not. Before I began blogging, my reading consisted mostly of books from the best seller lists or those which garnered top spots on the bookstore shelves. Most of the books I was blown away by in 2011 were not on those shelves or lists.
The bottom line is that I can credit blogging with introducing me to the best books out there. I depend on my blogger friends for recommendations…and I have made connections with industry professionals and authors who I never would have met if it were not for my blog.
I don’t see myself as a marketer of books. The truth is, when I write a review or gush about a book I loved, or host a giveaway, my intent is not to sell the book, but to share my love for it. If at the end of the day, that results in improving sales, all the better because sales mean that more people are reading, and in this day and age where independent bookstores are going out of business and the news stories tell of how reading has declined…sales are a positive indication that reading is not dead after all.
All this ruminating has led me to the conclusion that for all its challenges, book blogging does have a measurable, positive impact – not only for authors like Kephart who has forged an alliance with book bloggers which has expanded the reach of her wonderful books, but for bloggers and readers too. When I open my Google Reader and begin browsing through the hundreds of amazing book blogs there, I find myself inspired, intellectually stimulated, and eager to pick up my next book. Book bloggers help authors (and by extension, publishers), but we also enrich our own lives through this endeavor – clearly this is a win-win for everyone.
What do YOU think? How much impact has blogging had on YOUR life?