Almost as soon as I thought of the subject matter for this
blog I began to worry about what I like to think of as my ‘online rep’. ‘Blogging’,
one of our work experience children tells me, has been around for some time now
(it’s something to do with the interweb, FYI) and there are a few out there who
write (the verb is ‘blog’, weirdly) about literature. Now, I use email as much as the next person,
and I even have a Twitter account
(look mum, look at all those followers! Mwhahahaha…) but blow me down if it
doesn’t seem like I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants all this time… I’m a
bit worried I’ll seem like a techno dinosaur (although that would be cool).
Of course (wait for it), I’m exaggerating a bit and I do
deal with a number of literary blogs and bloggers. I’ve even commented on a few. And
I’m pretty honest about nailing my Penguin colours to the mast when I do it. Honesty and integrity, it appears to me, are
watch-words of literary blogging, even when I don’t
necessarily agree with a review or a point or anything else or
Sometimes I just can’t help myself and I have to stick my oar in. But blogs are all about discussion, at their
best, and people need to feel free to say what they want and also have an idea
who they’re saying it to, hence me putting my hand up and saying “I work at
The problem with online PR is that, it’s perhaps fair to say,
there’s been a certain amount of scepticism in the publishing world as to the
merits and affects of book blogs, and even the reasons behind them. In my time emails have gone round the
publishing houses warning of someone purporting to be from a print publication
that is, in fact, fake, just to get free books, either to read or to sell. Blogs caused suspicion because even if
someone linked through to one that clearly existed, it could be a fairly ad hoc
enterprise, one that potentially took little effort on the part of the blogger to
circulate or even write when compared to the book-y rewards they were
receiving. It’s a quid pro quo
agreement, sending review copies out, albeit a flexible one.
Two things have caused me and I’m sure many others to have a re-think. Firstly, the simple fact that there’s now less space in the traditional outlets, such as newspapers, magazines, radio, etc, and every book publicist in London is competing for it. It’s always the hardest part of the job, convincing someone that they should consider, look at, perhaps read and, if you’re lucky, cover a book and there’s less room now than there used to be, for various reasons. So as publicists, we have to look beyond where we’ve usually aimed for coverage.
(Who’s this guy with Joe the Publicist?)
The second reason is the obvious increase in the number of
serious, quality book bloggers and sites out there. Blogs such as ReadySteadyBook, Dovegreyreader Scribbles, Untitled Books or Asylum have clear aims in mind, an
important ethical and aesthetic approach to their book coverage and, most
importantly and informing all of this, a passion for books that means they take
it very seriously and do it, well, properly.
They’re not after any free copy they can get their hands on and won’t
just review a book well, or even at all, because they’ve been sent it.
discussion appeared on Twitter recently about the effect of book blogging
and online discussion. While it remains
hard to judge what sales come directly from a blog, from a particular online
review or comment, or whether one blog is ‘better’ or more effective than
another, the phrase that keeps coming to my mind is word of mouth. That phrase is mentioned a few times in the
Twitter discussion and it seems to be mentioned, at least indirectly, in online
forums. People who interact with book
sites do it more and more frequently; relationships and trust builds up; you
get to know other peoples’ tastes and they get to know yours; and it’s no
longer a closed circle for a certain type of person. In short, getting a review on a widely-read
blog gets the book you’re working on talked about somewhere, and that is far,
far better than silence. As publishers
that’s essentially what we’re trying to do.
Yes, we need to make money but we’ll never do that if no one is talking
about our books. You may not be able to
measure sales from them 100% but neither can you do that with a lead
review in Sunday Times Culture.
So I’m going to carry on with my mission of finding out more
about the sites and bloggers I already work with and do my best to cast my net
a little wider and discover more. I’m
hoping to find out what they like, what they read, what they look for from
books, and publishers, and I think I’ll learn a lot from it. As publicists, and as publishers, we need to
look beyond what we’ve always seen as a benchmark for a publicity campaign and
see what we can do to push ourselves, and our books, a little further.
For your reading pleasure (you need something to help you
get over how serious the above got, right?) here are five literary blogs I’ve
discovered and enjoyed recently:
Joe, Literary Publicity (@Joethepublicist – I know, I know)