Blogger Impact

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?

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  1. Wow. This is just beautiful, Wendy. You do the right things for the right reasons. That’s living at its sweetest.

    1. You’re right–it IS very easy to get burned out. And for people who are not adept at time management (like me), well, it can send the rest of your life into a tailspin because all you’re doing is reading and blogging.

      So, why do we do it?

      Because we love it! Much like you, I’ve read books that I never would have read before. Memoirs, indie lit, biographies. Prior to that, I’d veer between the classics and commercial fiction. Not only have I come to love these books, I’ve come to have a relationship with fellow bloggers. We encourage each other, we read each other, we influence each other. We matter to one another. It’s a wonderful atmosphere, especially since I live in a place where John Grisham is considered literary fiction, and there isn’t a single bookstore within 30 miles.

    • Wendy on January 19, 2012 at 07:22

    Beth: Thanks 🙂

    Jennifer: Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I agree!!!

    • A.S King on January 19, 2012 at 07:58

    “my intent is not to sell the book, but to share my love for it.”

    Yes. That’s why I love book bloggers and why I thank them on every acknowledgment page I write. I had no idea if anyone would read or like my first novel. Some did and some didn’t. But what mattered most was how some wonderful bloggers shared their love of it. As an author, that mattered so very much, and it has with every book since. The sense of community and the love of books is strong with bloggers. I can’t help but believe that’s awesome.

      • Wendy on January 19, 2012 at 14:43

      A.S. King – thank you for stopping by and weighing in as an author. I love the book blog community and I am always so happy when authors recognize the positives here.

    • Becca on January 19, 2012 at 08:05

    I totally agree with your assessment, Wendy. I think book bloggers share their love of the books they read, and that personal enthusiasm is what speaks to other people and translates into an inspiration to read. We (book bloggers) benefit by being introduced to new authors, and new reading friends all over the world. It’s a win-win situation in my book!

    This is a wonderful post…I’m sharing it on my Facebook page.

      • Wendy on January 19, 2012 at 14:44

      Becca: Thanks for sharing my post on FB! Book bloggers are some of the most enthusiastic people out there!!

    • Suey on January 19, 2012 at 08:11

    “Sharing my love for it” is exactly what I mentioned on my blog today too. You have said it all very eloquently here and I love it. I do hope we have some sort of impact, but I agree that it is mostly in ourselves that we see the positive change. The impact blogging has had on my life? Yes, it’s huge!

      • Wendy on January 19, 2012 at 14:45

      Suey: I really enjoyed your post on this topic!

    • zibilee on January 19, 2012 at 08:14

    We must be doing something right for publishers and authors to be seeking our opinions! I think we are the everyday audience for the books that are being touted, and that we bring honest reaction and unfettered enthusiasm to the table when it comes to writing reviews. It never fails to make me excited when I see someone picking up a book that I recommend, or even leaving a comment that they loved a book I have written about. I never get tired of putting myself on the line for the books that I love because reading is such an important and healing adventure for me. My eyes never dim at the prospect of all the book still to be read, and I have gotten the chance to experience so much more through reading and the people I have met. That doesn’t mean that sometimes I just don’t want to step away from all of it for a few hours or even days, but I will always keep coming back because it is my passion, and always has been.

    This was a tremendously amazing post today. Thanks for sharing it!

      • Wendy on January 19, 2012 at 14:46

      Heather: I agree – I love nothing better than to hear that my review or discussions on my blog put a book into someone’s hands! Thanks for stopping in and sharing your thoughts 🙂

    • Andi on January 19, 2012 at 08:28

    Blogging has had a huge impact on my life. I’m coming up on my 7-year blogiversary, and I certainly would not have kept it up this long (even with its ebbs and flows) if it didn’t impact me positively. While the alliances with authors and the review books are great, the impact for me is far more personal — as I’m certain it is for you and so many others based on your post here. I blog selfishly. I blog to share what I love and to bask in that love with other bloggers. I blog for friendship and community. I blog because I love to read. The rest is just icing.

      • Wendy on January 19, 2012 at 14:47

      Andi: I think you are I have been at it almost for the same length of time (I think you are a few months ahead of me!). I have seen a lot of bloggers come and go, and I am always glad when my favorites stick around!! I know what you mean about it being selfish – I get so much out of this in terms of friendships and community too.

  2. This post is perfect, Wendy – so beautifully written and exactly to the point. I love the book blogging community, and as I look at my own favorites from the past couple of years, many were review copies, and many more were definitely authors I would not have picked up if I hadn’t been reading blogs. Thanks for reminding me of why I love it so much – and for also helping to dispel some of the guilt I feel when review copies take precedence over books I’ve paid for. 🙂

      • Wendy on January 19, 2012 at 14:48

      Thank you, Carrie! LOL re: the guilt with review copies – sometimes I have felt that as well…but, honestly, some of the best books I’ve read have come through the publicists and I love that!

  3. A wonderfully worded description of the impact of blogging. In high school, I used to just keep lists of books that I read. In college, I abandoned that until I started talking about the books I had read and couldn’t remember any specific details about them.

    My own blog started as a way for me to keep track of the books I read and be able to look back on the reviews and say “oh yeah, that’s the plot.”

    I never knew it would take on a life of its own, and become a part of such a blossoming community with its own annual Expo. Blogging definitely plays a role in the promotion of literacy.

      • Wendy on January 19, 2012 at 14:50

      Nari: I don’t think I even tracked the books I was reading in HS or college…just the other day someone asked me how I remembered so many details about books I had read and I told them it is because I write about them…so the details stay in my brain better 🙂

  4. IA Wendy, book bloggers have had a really positive impact in my life, by the very nature of introducing me to books I wouldn’t have known otherwise but also because I’ve gotten to know people I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without blogging and that has to say something right?

      • Wendy on January 19, 2012 at 14:51

      Amy: I agree – I have learned of books through other bloggers which I might never have heard of otherwise…and also met some of the best and nicest people through blogging. It is priceless.

  5. Wendy, this post is excellent food for thought! Book blogging means so much to me, but I’ve realized how much I value quality over quantity. I think I’ve found a lovely balance of returning to more backlist titles of authors I enjoy (many of whom I’ve discovered through blogging!) and still reading new releases. I care more about the conversations with those who read my blog (bloggers and non-bloggers) and conversations from other book blogs than I do about my statistics. It’s nice to know people read, but I do it more for me. That balance has been a blessing. I think the biggest impact blogging has had on me, though, is getting to know myself better as a reader. I, too, was amazed how many books I read in 2011 I rated 4.5 or 5 stars. I’m picking better books, both from reading familiar authors and reading new-to-me authors from prize lists and blogger recommendations. It’s a wonderful world we read and blog in (and I’m grateful I can mostly stay away from the drama!)

      • Wendy on January 19, 2012 at 14:52

      Carrie: *nodding* re: quality and being able to know which books will resonate. I used to read a lot of so-so books before I began blogging…blogging has made me a more selective reader too. And I am with you re: staying away from the drama – that is SO fatiguing!!!

  6. My reading has definitely been impacted by my blogging. I’ve reviewed quite a few books that I know I would never have read otherwise and like you, the recommendations from other blogs has also influenced me to read outside my comfort zone. The blogging community is such a great place to share all about books. I think we do make a difference and am so glad we do!

      • Wendy on January 19, 2012 at 14:54

      Kathleen: I am glad we do too – blogging has opened up my world. I agree about reading outside the comfort zone too – I’ve tried books I would never have picked up except for the recommendations of bloggers.

    • Serena on January 19, 2012 at 10:41

    What a wonderful post in response to Beth’s article and the linked question about book bloggers impact. I really have to agree that my horizons have opened up since blogging about books. I used to find books through fellow writers, but those often were misses or I used to read Shreve and select few authors…but last year I read 77 new-to-me authors and poets, and blogging had a lot to do with it…from review copies to copies sent to me by other bloggers and publishers/publicists. What a wonderful world this blogging is and I hope to continue reading and reviewing…and naturally talking poetry to anyone who will listen.

      • Wendy on January 19, 2012 at 14:54

      Serena: Thank you! You bring up another point – the idea that bloggers are sharing the things they love the most (in your case poetry) which is often underserved in other media.

        • Serena on January 20, 2012 at 05:56

        I find it to be grossly underserved in the traditional and (unfortunately) the blogging media as well. I hope that I can spur others to read and post about it, but I’m only one blogger, though it seems that there are more reading it now than there have been before….so there is progress being made.

        That to me speaks volumes as to the power of bloggers, especially when the BBAW added the poetry blog category to its awards…that showed to me that people are listening and do care to see other genres and books being mentioned and recommended.

          • Wendy on January 20, 2012 at 08:19

          I have seen a lot more bloggers reading poetry and posting about it in the last year+, Serena – so I do think that blogging (especially your blog) has gotten people to pay attention to the art. I think poetry is a challenging genre to read and understand which may account for some of the lack of attention it gets. I, too, was glad to see the BBAW add a blog category for poetry.

    • gavin on January 19, 2012 at 12:36

    This is a beautiful post, Wendy. I think we all have to decide what we do with our blogs. I decided a couple of years ago not to accept ARCs or book from publishers because I didn’t like the pressure I felt having to read and review those books.

    I know book blogs have changed the way I read, introducing me to new books and new authors, to books published in other countries and books in translation I never would have found otherwise . And my blog allows me to share my thoughts about books with others who love reading.

      • Wendy on January 19, 2012 at 14:55

      Gavin: Thank you! I agree that we all make decisions very individually re: our blogs…which is what makes the whole thing so great and interesting. I never used to read books in translation either – and now I gobble those books up.

    • Jeane on January 19, 2012 at 14:09

    You have said it so perfectly. Most book bloggers I know blog because they love the books and simply want to talk about them! I know blogging has changed the way I read, and what I read- so many many books and new authors I’ve been introduced to in the past few years. And I know for sure I never would have picked up my first graphic novel if it wasn’t for bloggers’ enthusiasm for the wonderful format, which I’m just beginning to explore.

      • Wendy on January 19, 2012 at 14:57

      Jeane: I agree about changing the WAY we read…I am a much more perceptive reader because of blogging…I also tried a graphic novel because of the bloggers out there who were talking about them (and also the Graphic Novel reading challenge).

  7. Almost all my reading now comes from blogging recommendations, and almost all of it consists of books I never ever would have considered five years ago! And even when a post doesn’t convince me to read the book, I love reading the posts anyway, to see how other people are thinking about the books they read. There isn’t much about it I don’t love (except coming up with my OWN reviews – LOL)

      • Wendy on January 20, 2012 at 08:20

      I am right there with you, Jill! I also love just reading the posts and I am always amazed by the creative ideas and projects out there.

    • Teresa on January 19, 2012 at 18:22

    A wonderful post, Wendy, and I share a lot of your feelings. One of the biggest improvements for me is not just that I’m reading more better books, but that I’m reading books better. I’m thinking more carefully about what I read, both as I’m reading and after I’m done, and I’m remembering what I read even better.

      • Wendy on January 20, 2012 at 08:21

      Teresa: YES! I totally agree. I have to pay more attention when I am going to review a book, and I find myself looking for the metaphor and symbol, for the underlying meaning, for how the characters were developed and how the narrative was structured…it makes me a better reader!

  8. “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.”

    Wendy, you have stated what drives all book bloggers IMO. All we ever want is to share our love for a book (or several). What a wonderful post. Thank you for that!

      • Wendy on January 20, 2012 at 08:22

      Michelle: You are quite welcome…I’m glad I was able to put into words something that seems to be resonating with a lot of bloggers.

    • Amused on January 19, 2012 at 19:25

    Such a fab post! I agree, it is so easy to get overwhelmed by the vast quantities of books getting thrust at us but your right, they must be thrusting them at us for a reason right? Because we can promote them well! For me, I usually forget that and it’s more about me wanting to talk about books I love just look you. Always good to step back and remember our impact can be additionally positive.

      • Wendy on January 20, 2012 at 08:23

      Leah: I think the enthusiasm of bloggers (which is abundantly clear in the comments on this post, I might add) is a large part of what makes us good promoters of books. It is nice when that gets recognized, isn’t it?

  9. Honestly, I don’t know how people find out about what books to read if they don’t read blogs. I know I’ve read so many different kinds of books once I started reading blogs. Most of the books I read are because of blogger recommendations. I know I wouldn’t be reading as much because of blogging.

    I totally agree with you about intention. It is mine as well.

      • Wendy on January 20, 2012 at 08:25

      Chris: I know what you mean! It’s funny – before I blogged, I hardly ever read a book review – I used to find them dry and boring in the print media. Now, I read them all the time – I think the fact that the bloggers feel like friends, and the conversational tone of their reviews, is why people like to read them.

    • Laura on January 20, 2012 at 05:51

    Wendy, I enjoyed this post. This quote particularly resonated with me:
    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..

    As you know, I read more classics than new fiction, so my motivation could hardly be about selling books. I began blogging as a purely personal endeavor; a journal that I never expected anyone else to read. But then I discovered the community aspect. I began amassing book recommendations from other bloggers, and have come to enjoy the interaction that comes from visiting, commenting, and responding to comments on my own blog. It's definitely a win-win!

      • Wendy on January 20, 2012 at 08:27

      Laura: The amount of book recommendations I have piled up from bloggers is amazing. My amazon wish list started as a way for me to keep track of the recommendations – it is now a HUGE list of books! I agree, community is what makes this such a great environment. I might also add, that although you read more classics than new fiction, you are still selling books…in many ways, it is the classics that need that boost more than contemporary fiction 🙂

    • Anna on January 20, 2012 at 05:55

    Well said! Like you, I blog because I love to read and want to share my love for books with others. It doesn’t feel like marketing, though I guess in a way it is. Blogging certainly has broadened my reading horizons, and I don’t regret that at all!

      • Wendy on January 20, 2012 at 08:31

      Anna: Thanks! I agree that blogging does not feel like marketing – but of course it is to some degree. I notice you just reviewed Maus II – and it makes me smile because that is a great example of a book I read solely because of blogger recommendation – and I loved it!

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing such a great and positive post about book blogging. I was really discouraged yesterday after seeing a couple of bloggers sniping at each other on Twitter….it made me sad to see. Book blogging to me has always been about community and you stated everything that I would have wanted to say. This post made me smile…thanks for having such a great blog and being a positive influence to the book blogging community!

      • Wendy on January 20, 2012 at 08:33

      Samantha: Thank YOU for stopping by and leaving such a great comment – it made my morning!! I steer clear of Twitter much of the time because of the negativity and drama…it makes me sad to see that kind of behavior in our community. Lately, it seems that there has been a lot of negative posts about blogging…so I am glad I was able to share the positive side to what we are doing.

    • Susan on January 21, 2012 at 12:24

    Lovely post about blogging and reading, Wendy. I agree that we do it for the love of reading, and sharing the books we like, with others.

    I early on made the decision to not accept arcs, and only rarely accept author’s books, because I wanted to read what I wanted to read, in the end. It’s not to say that Arcs aren’t wonderful – your total of 11 new to you authors last year is testament that they are! it’s that I wanted to concentrate on books I want to read. I think blogging is powerful, and as a community we are still learning the ways in which it is good to use, for everyone.

    Thoughtful ideas you’ve presented here, Wendy. Most of all, I’m glad that blogging – and the internet – exist, so that we can connect over books.

  11. Well put Wendy – I totally agree. there are so many books i would never have been introduced to if not for reading my fellow bloggers thoughts on books. AND my gushing about a book always thrills me when someone else picks it up too off of my gushing…. the domino effect….

    blogger to blogger to blog reader… we pass books on. My book purchasing has went up the past few years due to book bloggers….LOL… I always tell my husband, there are worse habits I could have… it reading A LOT is the worst thing I do in this life… I would say – that is a pretty good life.

  12. Excellent post, Wendy. I’m not sure I have much to add that hasn’t already been voiced here. I’m coming up on my 6th blogiversary and I can’t begin to list all the reasons I love and continue to blog. The main purpose is to keep a record of my reading, but it goes so much further than that. The community of friends has been incredible, through the good and bad that life tends to throw one’s way. The amazing books I’ve discovered thanks to my blogmates is something I never imagined, but can’t imagine living without. The inspiration to find my creative side (whether it be through photography or cooking) is something I’m grateful for. In spite of the slumps and lack of time, I can’t imagine my life without my blog and all the blogs I follow. I’ve been sorry to see bloggers slip away without a goodbye and I’m grateful for those who return after long absences. And…one of these days, we’ll have a blogger retreat for us old-timers! 🙂 xoxo

    • Trish on January 26, 2012 at 19:43

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot, Wendy. Not just from the book blogging perspective but from a simple blogging perspective. I honestly CANNOT imagine my life without blogging. It has enriched my life in so many ways and pushed me to become a more creative, more conscientious, more purposeful. And I’m eternally grateful for the friendships forged. Really–it goes leaps and bounds beyond the books–though I’m glad that’s what brought us all together.

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