Monday, February 23, 2009

Blogging about blogging

As he does so well, Roger Sutton touched off a good debate on his blog last week with a post called “Why aren't they called adults' books?” Don’t be confused by the title. The heart of the debate is blogging and authors, and the comments are where it’s at. No, not mine, though I obviously feel strongly about the subject. What bothers me are two things: First, the anonymous comments. Why bother? I don’t see the point in anonymous commenting. If you’re going to say something interesting, by all means, get credit for it. More importantly, I am troubled by the characterization of author blogs as self-centered, boring busy-work foisted on authors by publishers. I will say right off, that I absolutely respect authors’ decisions not to blog. There are good reasons not to. It’s not for everyone, and if it distracts you from your work, then don’t do it. But it seems like some commenters are rejecting author blogging for the wrong reason: perceived uselessness. Yes, there are dull and useless author blogs that aren’t much more than posts about what the author had for breakfast. Big deal. Don’t read them. That’s the beautiful thing about the Internet. It’s relatively easy to filter the junk and it costs nearly nothing to do so. (You could say the same thing about books: any given person probably thinks the vast majority of books are uninteresting, but we don’t reject book reading on that basis.) Before you reject blogging as a waste of time, you need read some of its better practitioners and judge for yourself whether the world of children’s book writing isn’t well served by their existence.

It might have been possible in decades past for books to succeed without the long-term advocacy of their authors (and in rare cases, it still is), but I don’t think we should take for granted that the end of those days is entirely lamentable. I think a book culture that fosters more engagement between authors and readers (particular young readers, an inherently mutable readership) is probably a healthy one, and I’m pretty sure that authors stand to benefit eventually from their status as key role players in the promotion of their books. This is not an easy time to be an author in some ways—but then again, it’s not an easy time to be [fill in the blank] in the book industry. But the online community that has sprung up around books for children is a good thing and a huge bright spot for the future. Of this, I am confident.


Kevin D. Hendricks said...

I always think it's kind of funny when people act like they're forced into new technology (and forced into using it the way everyone else does). Blogging is what you make of it. If you think author blogs are boring, write a different kind of blog. Or just don't write one.

It's also kind of amazing that people miss out on the connection blogging offers. That's the real bonus of blogging and where it can be so beneficial to authors.

Will blogging sell books? Maybe. But that's the wrong question to ask.

And yeah, Anonymous commenting. That's kind of silly.

Hope Vestergaard said...

Great post, Andrew. (And I'm not just scratching your back because you scratched mine! Your comment on my commentary reminded me you have this blog so I checked it out. The internet: it's intertwined.)

Solvang Sherrie said...

I started blogging last summer and I'm amazed by the friendships and support I've found online. I'm not a published book author yet, but when I get that contract, I know I'll have people around the country excited to read and spread the word about my book. And that's such a cool thing!

Sally Apokedak said...

On Roger's blog, you said, "At best, I think we can say good blogging can affect the purchasing habits of someone who was already going to read/buy a book. The question is which book. I feel like the online book community does a good job of serving committed readers who are only wondering what to read next."

I agree with this.

I suspect that if a book lover bumps up against a book several times wherever he reads, be it newspapers or blogs, he will tuck that cover image in the back of his mind and the next time he's in the bookstore looking for a birthday present for his nephew he'll see that book cover and have warm feelings toward it. It will feel familiar and he'll think it's popular.

Others of us, those who love books, will buy off of blog reviews immediately. I do it all the time. Read a review, go to Amazon and buy the book. I also know people do that from my blog. Amazon pays me when they do it do I know people are doing it. I have a blog with not much traffic. But think of what Technorati makes off of Amazon sales. In order to get listed on Technorati's "popular books" page you have to use their Amazon link. Why? They want to make money and they are making money off of sales of books, I'm sure.