Wanted: Braver Bloggers
Book Bloggers, It’s Time To Raise Your Game
I have always trusted the American press over its British equivalent – that is, until Mr Trump decided to invent a new form of the fourth estate by making shit up. Now I’m not sure whom I should trust, although I tend toward the New York Times and the Washington Post, the Atlantic and the New Yorker. But then there’s the world of bloggers – and for book reviews I turn to dozens of favourite American sites analysing the written word in intelligent and original ways.
When I come back to British bloggers I find that although we have some truly fantastic sites, in general terms they’re not as detailed, fresh and fleshed out as US sites. There are certainly fewer academic literary destinations. This could be because they’re not as well connected to the publishing industry as their US counterparts, or because of the UK’s laid-back attitude to the creative arts; we have a bad habit of treating writing as a hobby. The UK market is smaller than US, so there’s less incentive, and the network that connects them to readers, deals and book clubs is weaker.
When I do a UK blog tour I take interviews very seriously and put in a lot of time over them, but I’m often shocked by the timid Identikit questionnaires I receive from some UK bloggers, as if we all fit one set of parameters and must be pandered to. Filling in a form of gentle, unprobing questions is not an interview. There’s a sense of rush, brevity and limited time about much blogging that suggests someone with passion for books is squeezing a hobby into the available hours after work, and worried about offending anyone. Perhaps it’s a Millennial thing, but we want a bit of fire from readers, not platitudes.
Sometimes bloggers lack the training and discrimination of professional reviewers, and use watery phrases like ‘well written’, which we consider insulting. After all, we’re published because we can write. What we want is an incisive, intelligent response to books in general and specifically – but it’s not to be undertaken half-heartedly; book blogging is a demanding and time-consuming task.
This could be an issue of confidence; if UK bloggers are serious about what they do they should petition publishers to make sure they receive books in advance, plus all supporting material they need to get the word out. The publishers, for their part, need to honour the bloggers who devote time, working for nothing, to review books and conduct interviews. Bloggers, you have nothing to lose by making demands of publishers. Most of the publishers I know expect and hope for a strong response from bloggers.
To be fair, agents and publicists are often not up to speed on the ever-changing world of book blogs. They tend to treat books as commodities to be shipped out to the right demographic group and forgotten. I met a respected writer today who was told she should not write in a male voice ‘because it’s not what the market wants’. Real writers employ passion and craft to present their work whether it sells or not, and are more concerned about finding a discerning audience than shifting units.
Don’t let this put you off running a blog about books; Book bloggers, it’s time to raise your game; demand more from writers and publishers, show your discernment in good writing, and you’ll be rewarded because we writers will whole-heartedly champion you and your work. Keep us informed, open new connections, don’t be afraid to flex your intellect and ruffle a few feathers.