It’s right there on my kitchen counter—right there in black and white—my morning newspaper. But something’s happened to it in the past year or two. My once fat and sassy daily fix of journalism—more vital to me than my other morning ritual—an icy Diet Coke—has fallen on hard times. Advertising dollars have gotten scarce. Younger readers spurn newspapers in favor of free online news sources, and even time-challenged die-hard newsies like me are re-assessing the value of a news delivery system that involves the impossibly quaint practice of tossing a paper in my driveway every morning.
Yes, the news about news isn’t good. Believe me, I have a vested interest in seeing how all of this shakes out. Because for 14 years, I was a newspaper reporter. I made a living (not a very good one, but a living, nonetheless) from my byline. I literally learned to read at the family breakfast table, poring over The St. Petersburg Times, while my mother poured milk on my Cheerios. I take no pleasure in watching from the sidelines as my former employer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution struggles for survival.
Today, I’m a novelist, writing as Mary Kay Andrews, with 17 published novels to my credit, the last five of those having reached New York Times best-selling status. Book reviews and book publishing coverage—whatever form they take— are of vital interest to me. If I want to know what the hot book of the moment is, I can click on any one of a dozen sites tracking book sales. In addition to the reviews of both new and old books on the hundreds, maybe thousands, of book blogs around the world, book bloggers also conduct in-depth interviews with authors, run feature stories, contests, and giveaways—valuable and engaging coverage that just won’t be found in the top mainstream print outlets. I’m always thrilled when I read a blog post from a reader in a faraway corner of the world who’s spreading the good word about my books, and it’s even more heartening to read comments posted by that blog’s readers about their take on my work. I even have my own blog, THE KUDZU TELEGRAPH at MaryKayAndrews.com, where I share news about forthcoming titles, tour dates, and appearances directly with my fans. It was not always thus.
Seventeen years ago, when my first book, EVERY CROOKED NANNY, a mystery written under my real name of Kathy Hogan Trocheck was published, authors lived and died by newspaper reviews. When EVERY CROOKED NANNY, and my follow-up book, TO LIVE AND DIE IN DIXIE received favorable reviews in The New York Times, my publishers and I were ecstatic. While I was reviewed in other papers and magazines over the years, there would be no more New York Times reviews. Still, my sales climbed and my career took off. Although—Janet and Michiko—if you happen to read this, I’d really, really love a review again. The truth is, these days, while authors and publishers covet the prestige of a nod from a critic at The Washington Post or The Los Angeles Times, a print review rarely translates directly to increased book sales. The new reality is that a favorable mention from a respected book blogger can be as important as a review in any newspaper I can name.
So on the occasion of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I offer you book bloggers my respect for the hard work you are doing to fill the void being left by shrinking print coverage, my appreciation for your dedication to books and authors, and my deepest thanks for the love many of you have shown to me and my books over the years.