Back in 1994 when I was hunting and pecking away at manuscripts on an old Brother electric typewriter, a friend of mine told me about this new-fangled high tech thing called “The Information Highway”. Being an information junkie, my ears pricked up immediately because as he explained it, for a small investment in a monthly Internet account, I could access newspapers from all over the world for free! Naturally, I just had to find out about what the heck he was talking about, so I paid a visit to his house and he logged on using a dial-up account (high speed internet was years away) and within three minutes, we were online.
As I recall, his web browser was Netscape 1.0 and the Internet at that time was really an amalgam of hundreds of thousands of personal web pages, newspapers, and university websites with links to research papers, faculty lists and of course, college football scores. We spent a couple of hours doing something he called “surfing the net” and I was very quickly hooked. In the following months, I scrimped and saved to purchase a second hand computer that was still working on Windows 3.1 and I got an Internet account – voila! I was cruising along on the Information Highway.
Well, a lot has happened in the past fourteen years. Indeed, the World Wide Web changed everything about our way of life and quite frankly, I’d still be a struggling author without it. (Wait a minute, I am a struggling author!) As the web evolved, I first heard about blogs around 1999 and I recall finding my very first book review blog in 2000. It wasn’t pretty to look at, (a screaming fuschia background that could melt your eyeballs, as I recall) it was filled with grammatical and spelling errors, but I was impressed as heck that a fan of genre fiction had taken the time to share their enthusiasm for books by reviewing them and encouraging feedback from readers.
A lot has changed in the ten years hence. The blogosphere at present encompasses somewhere in the vicinity of 50 million blogs worldwide on topics ranging from wild fungi recipes to financial management. Heaven only knows how many book lovers are blogging about the latest title they picked up from the local bookstore or downloaded with their Kindle or Sony Reader, but my gut tells me its a growing number and this can only be a good thing for authors like me who have a debut novel coming out – if I’m going to actually sell my book, I need people who can influence other book lovers to order it from Amazon or pick it up at their local bookstore.
I currently read about twenty or so book blogs on a regular basis. Fifteen years ago, the only place a book could be reviewed was in the newspaper or a magazine and in the vast majority of cases, the books being reviewed were (and still are as we near the second decade of the twenty-first century) literary fiction and non-fiction titles. Now, I have nothing against literary fiction, but I write genre fiction and without bloggers, it’s pretty darned difficult to get the word when you’re an unknown quantity in the publishing industry.
Two things jump out at me as I express my sincere appreciation for book bloggers. First off, these are serious, serious book lovers. Think about it for a second: everyone has read a book they love, but how many of us love books so much that we’re prepared to daily write a review? How many of us are going to take the time to assemble a thoughtful assessment of a book’s strengths and weaknesses and most importantly, how the book made us feel? How many of us are going to commit to doing this, three or four times a week, still find time to read the next book on our list and of course, deal with an influx of fledgling authors like me who are dying to have our newest title read and reviewed? (Yeah, you heard me. Authors, even the bestselling ones, are hitting you guys up for publicity!) You really do have to be passionate about books to make that kind of commitment and quite frankly, book blogs are one of the top three book promotion venues that are available to authors of every stripe.
The second thing that jumps out at me is the impressive quality of reviews that I am reading. There is thoughtful analysis of a book’s plot not to mention extremely well-written thoughts about the main characters, the dialogue and even the cover art! This kind of attention to detail reveals that book bloggers aren’t mindless windbags who slapped up a blog so they could sound off on what’s bugging them. No, book bloggers are serious bibliophiles who look upon their blogs as a labour of love and an expression of the pure joy we all find in reading something we really enjoyed. There are author interviews, blog tours, contests and giveaways. There’s guest author blogging (like what I am doing right now) and blog rings that are specific to a genre. There’s social networking (vitally important if an author wants people to hear about their book) blog aggregates, geez… the list goes on and on and on.
How do we know that book bloggers have “arrived” in terms of their social significance? When literary agents and publishers are telling authors to vigorously market themselves in the blogosphere, that’s how. You heard me right: the industry has taken notice of you and they see book blogs as a critical element in not only helping drive a book’s sales, but also in promoting an author’s career path.
In closing I’d like to share some final thoughts: As an author just starting out, I can only hope that people buy my novel and enjoy it to the point where they will perhaps buy the next book I write. I also really hope that I can develop a fan base for my work because for me, that’s how I’ll know that I’ve arrived. As you book bloggers click away at your keyboards to share your feelings about what you’ve just read with other bloggers and book lovers, try to remember that while you might be a fan of what you’re blogging about, we authors are huge fans of what you’re doing. Your love of books is what motivates you to create a blog in the first place, and never forget that in a world where the written word has to compete with text messaging, reality TV, and Twitter, book bloggers are are actually promoting literacy. I can only hope the number of book blogs increases in the years ahead. You’re a barometer of trends in the publishing world, you’re a source of insight and most importantly, you’re all passionate fans of books. In my view, that’s pretty freaking cool.