So this is something that has been on my mind lately, and I just can’t shake it. It started with this video (which you should totally watch, by the way), and has evolved from there. There have been a lot of things involved in this massive thought process I’ve been having, but two questions have come out of it:
1. Does book blogging actually have an effect on the book world?
2. If we do have an influence, what could we be doing with it?
(Hold on to your hats folks, this is going to be a long one.)
When you start actually trying to find numbers and statistics in regards to sales and figures related to book blogs, there’s a whole lot of nothing. Which makes sense, since it would be incredibly difficult to track who was buying books based on the influence of a blog they read. You’d have to be asking at checkouts, doing constant surveys, and that’s a lot of work for everyone involved.
But fear not! Because there are a fair few articles online about the role that we play in the book world. It’s all opinion articles based on experience, but it’s something.
This article, for example, talks about how book bloggers critique a book from a readers perspective rather than a professional critic, giving the author a better idea of how readable the book is to the general public. She goes on to talk about how bloggers keep a book more current and talked about, even after the initial publication.
This article talks about how book bloggers not only don’t get paid to do this, but we invest a lot of our own money into it. It talks about how we don’t have an agenda, but we do have a lot of genuine reactions and are great for promoting books that we fall in love with. No comment on the actual affect, but rather what we offer to the literary community.
This blog post discusses how publishers and marketers have definitely taken notice of us, and strive to include us in their conventions, as well as providing us with review copies and promotional materials.
There are lots more articles out there, but those three cover most of what I’ve come across in my searches. So it sounds like we’re definitely getting notice in the community (those are somewhat older articles/posts), and in my own experience with my blog, I’ve definitely felt that someone has put importance on what I have to say about what I’m reading.
I’ve worked with authors who have actually taken into consideration my comments on a book of theirs, and tried to incorporate them into their next one (which is so cool, by the way). Not to mention, every hardcopy ARC I have received to date has had ‘blogger outreach’ listed in the major marketing campaign section (usually on the back cover, sometimes inside).I get regular emails from authors and publishers requesting a review, cover reveal, interview, etc. to be posted on my page. And I know I’m not the only one, because I read a lot of book blogs and watch a lot of BookTube.
While numbers and figures related to the effect that book bloggers are having on sales and marketing may not be available, we have to assume that there is some effect, because we are being welcomed into this community with open arms and gift baskets, even though most of us have given no reason to be trusted as a book critic.
So now that we’ve acknowledged that for one reason or another, we are influencing the book community, we arrive at my second question: What are we doing about it, and, more importantly, what can we do with it?
You may have your own opinions on this, but hear me out, okay?
What we are doing about it is promoting the books we love. We talk about our favourites, we share them with our peers, we give them away, and we trade them back and forth. We want everyone and everything to read them. When I go to Chapters and see the top 40 books in the country right now, it’s not uncommon that I’ve already heard about them on book blogs. And same goes for the books that end up on displays ‘Best of YA’ or ‘Books You Can’t Miss’ or whatever the case may be. So I assume we are having some effect in this area.
But could we do more?
Here’s the thing: when a book gets talked about, people want to read it. It doesn’t even have to be positive stuff. Just look at Fifty Shades of Grey. Back in 2012, everyone was insulting this book, laughing at how bad it is, but that book sold 60 million copies (more than the first Harry Potter, for the record). There was so much talk about that book that people went out and bought it, just to see if it was as bad as everyone said it was.
So if we have the ability to force books into the limelight simply by talking about them, then we have a next step to take: stop talking about bad books.
That’s a hard thing to do. It’s hard to see something we find offensive (what comes to mind now is the photos related to Carve the Mark, though I’ve never read the books, just seen photos) or just bad literature (such as Fifty Shades of Grey), and say nothing about it. But every time we comment or talk about these books, it peaks someone else’s interest. They want to go out and read the book, just to see if they agree. I’ve been there, and I’ll assume you’ve done it at least once too.
If this is the case, then we could completely change which books are getting the spotlight, at least in our corner of the book world.
To use an example I’ve seen a lot around the blogosphere and BookTube: what if, instead of talking about how certain books have absolutely no diversity in their characters, we started talking about how certain books have a wonderfully diverse cast? If the books we talk about in any light are the ones getting attention, it would be reasonable to assume that those books with the wonderfully diverse cast are now the ones people are itching to read.
Now let’s take this one step further (you’ve come this far with me, bear with me a few moments longer), and say that we all try this experiment and it works. All of a sudden, people are talking about these amazing books, and the ones with major flaws are getting lost in the shuffle. This means that if an author wants us talking about their book, they need to meet our standards, as the readers of their books. We reasonably could push authors to improve their standards and their writing, and improve modern literature.
So maybe that last bit is a bit of wishful thinking. Maybe most of this is wishful thinking, I don’t know. But wouldn’t it be cool if we could change the standards for books?
TL:DR – talking about books has a huge effect on what is popular, so we could probably do something with that.
If you made it to the end, awesome, thanks for reading! What do you think? Agree, disagree, have a totally different idea? I want to know! Please leave it down below!