BEA Is Here!! Miriam Gershow Celebrates With A Guest Post

I am excited to say that I am on my way to Book Expo America/Book Blogger Con!! I will be in NY the next few days for all the book festivities and I am very excited. I will report back on what I hear, who I meet, and, most importantly, any books I pick up while I am there.

In honor of BEA and Book Blogger Con, Miriam Gershow (author of The Local News and friend to EDIWTB) has written a piece about the importance of book bloggers. I am honored to be posting it here on EDIWTB – thanks, Miriam!


Why Authors Need Book Bloggers – by Miriam Gershow

On May 28, in conjunction with BookExpo America’s (BEA) annual convention in New York City, some of the blogosphere’s most prolific book readers and reviewers are hosting an inaugural Book Blogger convention.  A couple years ago, this idea probably would’ve flummoxed me. Book bloggers, in my mind, seemed superfluous.  Weren’t there already more than enough book reviewers shouting in the online wilderness via Amazon and Goodreads and Shelfari and LibraryThing?  At what point did all the voices simply become noise? 

This, however, was before my debut novel, The Local News, was published.  Having now gone through paperback and hardcover publication, having watched the marketing and publicity wheels spin–or screech to a halt–I’ve done a one-eighty.  Book bloggers, I believe, are indispensable to authors, especially first-time authors. 

Why such a radical flip-flop?

When The Local News was released, I was lucky enough to have it reviewed in the holy grail of print publications: The New York Times.  My luck (and the hard work of my publicist) continued, as reviews appeared in Marie Claire and Ladies Home Journal and BUST magazine and The Portland Oregonian among others. 

And then…nothing.  The big quiet. 

One of the most surprising things about publishing a book is that after the initial fanfare and reviews and book readings are over–all told, about a month in my case–there is almost a deafening silence. 

My editor once told me that the only two things that sell a book are word of mouth and access.  Access was taken care of–my book was stocked in all the big bookstores and many of the little ones.  But suddenly it was my responsibility to keep the buzz going. 

I turned for the first time to book bloggers.  For my hardcover edition, not being all that familiar with the blogosphere, I hired TLC Book Tours to coordinate a 10-blog tour, which included book reviews, book giveaways, a handful of guest posts and a couple author interviews.  Here, I discovered the first benefit of going the blog route:

Book bloggers extend the publicity cycle of your book.  Via traditional media, it’s nearly impossible–especially as a first-time author–to land a print review after the first few weeks of publication.  Book stores can be reticent to schedule a reading if you’re too far past publication date.  But book bloggers aren’t bound by the same timeline. My blog tour was scheduled for four months after publication, stirring up new interest when other trails had gone cold.

Still, I went into the tour with some skepticism. The Local News is the story of Lydia Pasternak, whose older brother Danny goes missing when she is 15-years-old.  While critically praised, it is admittedly dark and supplies no easy answers.  I wondered who these bloggers were, what they really had to offer in terms of reaction or insight. Once the tour began, though, I came to see bloggers as a welcome complement to the traditional book critic. 

Book bloggers respond to books as readers, though readers with brands to protect.  Book critics–if a generalization can be made–judge the quality of writing.  You can wow a critic with your sentences or your structure, as well as with your story.  This is not necessarily the case with bloggers.  Yes, there many bloggers who appreciate good writing. But many look for an enjoyable–though not necessarily light or happy–read.  Their reviews tend toward how the book made them feel, how much they liked the story or liked the narrator or liked the ending.  Some may scoff at this, but theirs is a perspective that’s of value, in that it mirrors the vast majority of the reading public. 

And book bloggers cut through the noise of the internet simply by writing detailed, thoughtful, well-supported reviews.  The best of them lack any of the snark and mean-spiritedness that anonymous corners of the internet can breed.  They’ve cultivated their voices and their sensibilities, and have ready broadly and deeply.  They’ve amassed a readership of loyal followers.  They seem intent on maintaining the quality of their blogs, and this shows in the insightfulness of their reviews. In this sense, they’re not wildly different from the best of Amazon or Goodreads reviewers–those who write in-depth, deeply-felt, reasoned responses to books.    

With all this in mind, when my paperback came out this past February, I returned to the blogosphere, familiar enough now not to need a middleman.  This is particularly important in today’s publishing climate because:

Book bloggers offer a direct relationship with writers.  Writers today are expected to hustle.  You might be expected to foot the bill of your own tour (which I’ve done), or immerse yourself in the world of social networking (done), or contact booksellers directly (done), or snag every local speaking engagement you can (done). 

But in terms of old versus new media, one welcomes a direct relationship to writers and one doesn’t.  As much as I knock on the door of People, it’s not going to increase their likelihood of including my book in their New in Paperback column.  But book bloggers, for the most part, invite and respond to author contact.  If you have to hustle, it makes sense to hustle with an eager audience.

First, I contacted all the bloggers who’d favorably reviewed the hardcover edition, asking if they’d mention the paperback release.  My publisher supplied giveaway copies.  The response was nearly instantaneous and the vast majority agreed to help. Many were delighted I had read their blog and noticed the review.  The result: for a month after paperback publication, a dozen blogs took turns helping spread the word.

Secondly, I contacted a dozen new bloggers and asked if they would review the paperback edition.  Again, this came during the big quiet after the paperback release.  And again, the vast majority enthusiastically agreed.  Reviews will be coming out in the next month or two, well past the time when traditional media has grown silent.

Some might argue that such author/blogger contact will compromise the integrity of reviews.  To that I say, I paid to have blogs review my book via my blog tour, and even then opinions were mixed.

Okay, this is all well and good, you might be thinking, but about the numbers?  My husband, an MBA and businessman, is only interested in the bottom line.  How much, he wants to know, does blog attention affect sales? To that, I honestly say, I’m not sure yet.  I don’t know if or by how much
blog reviews increase book sales.  But I do know that when a book is talked about in the blogosphere–especially by the insatiable bloggers with their insatiable readership–it keeps that book alive in the public consciousness. And I also know this:

Book bloggers are good for the writer’s soul.  It is very easy to believe–in the age of Avatar and Wiis and HDTV and YouTube and bookstore closures and book page shrinkage–that books are at best, a cultural afterthought, and at worst, on their deathbed.  To fight off feelings of hopelessness or irrelevance, I look to the blogs. I look to Everyday I Write the Book or Book Lady’s Blog or Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin’? among others, and I see people who are still passionate about books, people who consume them voraciously, people who moon over them and debate them and dissect them, people who day in, day out, devote their time to reading them and writing about them.  They remind me that what I’m doing means something, that what I’m doing matters.  And for that fact alone–even if they offered nothing else–they are worth their weight in books.