Like Heracles, I had to perform a task that seemed almost impossible to fulfill: access and read about 500 book blogs. By the time I finished this marketing job, I was pretty punch-drunk. It took untold hours, and if at the end I had been able to bury my computer in the ground, like Heracles with the Hydra’s head, I would have done it.
What did I discover?
- I was impressed by the genuine love of reading expressed in the blogs. Whether they are carefully prepared or more informal, the writers want to tell the world about reading.
- The bloggers are often students in high school or at a higher educational level. Older bloggers can be librarians, housewives who have children and are starved for reading, and professional people who work for tech companies or teach or do other demanding work.
- Bloggers are busy people and it’s not unusual to find them saying, “I want to apologize for not having blogged for the last four months but I had too much going on in my life.”
- The bloggers are very definite about what kinds of books they will read for review purposes, whether it is YA (young adult), middle grades (fifth grade and up), fantasy, historical fiction, romance, science fiction, memoir, mystery, suspense, erotica, non-fiction, horror, women’s lit, or any other type. Many have also broken down these types so we understand more clearly: it is to be a “serious” romance rather than a “silly” one, it has to be science fiction dealing with psychology rather than technology, and so on. Some bloggers won’t read self-published works; others are more broad-minded.
- The tone of reviewing blogs can be cheerful, positive, and willing to read an author’s book: “I usually get the book reviewed in a couple of months.” At the other end of the spectrum, those who review can be cranky and threatening. “Better get this straight, I will not read anything that isn’t in the list I’ve given you of types, and don’t expect to get the book back and don’t expect me to tell you if I’m going to review it or not.”
- The graphic design of the blogs swings from wild and crazy and lots of clashing colors and everything super-size, including the fonts, to tasteful, with flowers and images of nineteenth century ladies reading and neatly placed text in a neat font. For some reason, there are many images of cats in these blogs, often the blogger’s own animal. (Cats, for that matter, are often associated with bookstores. You used to see them sitting in many a sunny window before so many independent bookstores closed.) At any rate, I got very tired of seeing backgrounds filled with huge shelves of books; I suspect there’s a Google picture somewhere of that same image because people seemed to like it.
- The bad news for authors is that many of the blogs are not offering reviews. They want to tell what they’re reading right now, how many books they read last year, or how they’re reacting to a local weather phenomenon, or what movies they saw or their opinion of a book that came from the syllabus of their freshman English classes.