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The Value Rubric: Do Book Bloggers Really Matter?

Editorial by Beth Kephart

News travels fast in the Land of Book Blogs. That’s by design and according to passion.

Beth Kephart believes in the power of bloggers

But what is the value of book blogger news? Who does it ultimately influence? And are the publishers that are still courting book bloggers — hosting them at the BEA, sending them ARCs by the crateful — calling it right? Or was William Morrow on to something when it sent book bloggers its now notorious “your job” e-mail, signaling a possible era of fences?

It’s not just the industry that seeks answers to the book blogger value question. It’s the bloggers themselves, many of whom have been at this for years — reading those books, giving public voice to their perspectives, tweeting give-aways, running contests, interviewing authors. Book blogging takes time. And while some bloggers have certainly found ways to monetize their efforts (a move that is not without its own complex controversies), a substantial number of the bloggers are still doing what they do for the simple love of books, and for the chance to turn someone’s head toward a story they have loved.

Can they? Have they? Does anybody know for certain?

If there are statisticians working on rubrics and finalizing the math, I’m not privy to them. I am privy, however, to the details of my own book life. I can, I’m saying, report from the trenches and allegate — with more than a touch of the emphatic — that book bloggers don’t just shore up a writer’s confidences, or make her feel less lonely. Book bloggers rescue certain books. They may even rescue quite particular careers.

I began to get a hint of the power of book bloggers when my third young adult novel, Nothing But Ghosts (Laura Geringer Books/HarperTeen) was set for release and two notoriously generous bloggers, My Friend Amy and Presenting Lenore, announced the underpinnings of a book drive. It was June 23, 2009. My Friend’s Amy blog read, in part, like this:

“The book drive is an intentional effort to expand the readership of Nothing But Ghosts by driving sales…I’d love to have a measurable example of how book blogs can drive sales for a book.”

You must understand. I woke up to this, which is to say: I had not paid for it, had not asked for it, and had most assuredly not seen it coming. And yet there I sat, for weeks on end, as bloggers all around the world joined the effort — buying and reading and blogging Nothing But Ghosts because two of their own, soon joined by far more of their own, had made the suggestion.

It wasn’t simply that no one was remunerating them for their efforts. It was also this: No one could stop them.

In recent months, on the heels of the launch of my sixth young adult title, You Are My Only (Laura Geringer Books/Egmont USA), I have again born witness to the power of book bloggers. This time the bloggers joined forces months before the book was even released. This time, the sheer innovation and magnitude of their efforts — the contests, the giveaways, the urgings, the announcements, the extraordinary best of year listings — didn’t just overwhelm me, surprise me, or reassert (for me) the vital goodness of goodness. It all ratcheted the book toward a third printing while creating a context for a sale with the Brazilian publisher Editora Novo Conceito as well as dtv-Reihe Hanser in Germany.

I’m not feigning Stephen King quantities. I’m not stalking bestseller lists. I am only telling this personal story — and asserting the power of book bloggers. Without radio, TV, or newspapers, and in the absence of a tour, You Are My Only was given wings by a band of feisty, funny, lovable bloggers who, by saying yes to a book, gave breadth to a career.

There’s no rubric for something like this. And perhaps there shouldn’t be.

A frequent contributor to Publishing Perspectives, Beth Kephart is the award-winning author of thirteen books. Her fourteenth, Small Damages, set in Seville, will be released by Philomel in July. She blogs at http://beth-kephart.blogspot.com/.

DISCUSS: How Have Book Bloggers Impacted Your Book Sales?

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10 Comments

  1. Posted January 18, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Interestingly, a discussion about italian Book Bloggers and LitBlogs has been going on for a couple of days on the twitter (in Italian, the hashtag was #BlogLetterari).

    The role of Book Bloggers was questioned and many ideas came out, here’s a storify: http://storify.com/artnite/i-blogletterari-non-esistono

    It’s all in italian though :)

    I thought this may interest you.

  2. Beth Kephart
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    So wishing I knew Italian!!

  3. Edward Nawotka
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to run that Storify through Google translate. I’m looking for some good Italian correspondents, do please put out the word.

    Ed Nawotka
    Editor-in-chief
    Publishing Perspectives

  4. Posted January 18, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    So glad to read this. I know my author experience with book bloggers has been a thrill. As well as feeling supported as a mid-list author published by an indie press, I had the most interesting “conversations” about books and reading that I never would have had in person.
    Do bloggers impact actual book sales? I don’t know. But I think it’s more important to count tbe benefits in terms of how bloggers allow writers and readers to become literary peers at the same virtual cocktail party–a party that celebrates reading and books.

  5. Posted January 18, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing your incredible experience, Beth. This is the stuff that author dreams are made of, and how cool that Book Bloggers made such magic happen :-)

  6. Posted January 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Very inspiring! Thank you for sharing your story. I’m loving my experience so far with Book Bloggers and it’s great to know that they really do promote book success.

  7. Posted January 20, 2012 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    Blogging has a undertow that can move books in amazing ways. Publishers and Authors cannot afford to ignore that. Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  8. susan
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    am in early stages of learning about blogging and am much inspired by comments. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Posted August 7, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Hi all, is there a list or directory available of most active book bloggers with largest followings? I’m sure this is a fluid group and it may be growing too fast to capture with current accuracy, but if a list doesn’t yet exist, it would be a highly valuable effort. The challenge for authors is knowing who and where these folks are, who covers what genres, etc. If/when such a list becomes available and gets updated twice a year perhaps, it would be an essential piece of many book marketing plans.

  10. Posted August 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    When my publisher decided not to publish my seventh book after publishing five of the first six, I self published number one of my Lightning in the Tunnel series because of what they called poor sales. I took a look at it and decided that one thing that was making sales so slow was the fact no one knew about my books. So I decided to help get the word out. Learning my own about blogging, I started doing that three times a day on each of my books (Three blogs, one each of my six books) and have surpassed over three thousand page veiws averaging one hundred per day since I started. I don’t know if it was in time to help my sales out, I will find out in the long run.
    I decided to start blogging on my new SiFi that isn’t even in published yet a week ago and have over four hundred page views without blogging it three times, a little different part each time. I know blogging helps and I’m getting better at it all the time so your article makes perfect sense to me. Thanks for sharing. George Moye aka A.G. Moye
    http://lightninggeorge.blogspot/2012/07/stranger-comes-crawling_11.html
    http://lightning in the Tunnel.blogspot.com/2012/06/zigzagginghome.html

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