How Book Blogging Has Changed Part 2 (content)

My totally subjective and anecdotal impressions of how book blogging has changed over the past few years. My views are formed from my own blogging experience and my observations of blogs I read, mainly genre fiction blogs, especially romance, but also some SFF, YA, and general fiction blogs.

For readers who have no idea who I am, I started a book blog, Racy Romance Reviews, in August 2008. I changed its name in 2010 to Read React Review. In August 2012, I stopped blogging there altogether. I started blogging irregularly here in January of this year.

[Once I began writing this, I realized it’s too long for one post.  In Part One, I discuss awards and contests, ARCs, cross-platform blogging, and sponsored blogs.]

Here is another set of opinions, mostly having to do with content. I spent a decent amount of time looking at older blogs that have been around 5-10 years, and to my surprise, I found the content, especially when it comes to reviews, hasn’t changed much.

1. Reviews

It always amazes me that the book blog review format is so uniform. The vast majority of reviews begin with the book cover and a blurb or summary (some reviewers specify publisher, year of publication, etc.), followed by the blogger’s opinion of the book. Looking beyond that relatively fixed form, reviews can be long or short, more analytical or more focused on the reviewer’s own feelings. Reviews, especially in romance, often focus on the characters and whether their actions and motivations are believable or sympathetic. Reviewers often talk about characters as if they were real people (I am one of these). A smaller group of reviewers, many of them either trained in literature or students of the craft, spend more time on language and structure. But despite these differences, I think someone who knew little about books or book blogging could learn to identify a review by being exposed to just a few.

There are, of course, outliers. For example, the conversational or dueling or joint review is a recognized alternate format.

I could not find any obvious differences in reviews posted 10 or 5 years ago and today. At first I thought today’s reviewers might write with more assurance and savvy, because the importance of online book blogs is more recognized. But I found that early book bloggers tended to be incredibly well versed in their genres, and started out with a tremendous amount of confidence. If anything, now that “everybody has a blog” (and, I, for one, started a romance book blog within months of discovering the genre), newer bloggers are more likely to write reviews in a tentative and less assured way.

There isn’t much open discussion of what counts as a review. In my opinion, it has to include more than a basic expression of approval or disapproval (“I liked it” “The hero was hot.”), but alas, I don’t get to march around the internet with my mallet of Stop Saying You’re a Review Site.

2. Grades

Many reviewers use a grading system. The most common is letters or numbers. Sometimes bloggers use stand-ins for numbers, like teacups, roses, books, pairs of pants, ice cream scoops, etc. Other reviewers eschew grades, but offer a quick and dirty summary at the beginning or end of their review.  With the rise of Amazon and Goodreads, there has been much discussion about what grades mean in different contexts, the most obvious case being the difference in what a 3 star review (“I liked it”) actually means. Especially given that some bloggers will downgrade a book on factors not related to the book itself (for example, author’s online behavior, price of book, etc.), most bloggers recognize that what a reviewer means by a grade or rating is so subjective as to be almost worthless without some text explaining the grade.

3. Tone

When I started this post, I planned to say something about the decline of the snarky review.  I also planned to say something — separately — about the rise of the visual review post, i.e. the GIF-laden reviews that populate Goodreads. But then I realized that GIF-laden reviews are typically snarky reviews. So snarky reviews haven’t gone away, they’ve just migrated formats.

Also, snarky reviews just don’t stand out as much as they once did because no one is shocked by them, and so while they are still around, they just aren’t as noticeable.

I do think there is less snark overall, though. And so here’s another theory (I am now up to three in this bullet alone!). One thing snarky reviews rely on is a strong authorial voice (because the snarky review, more than most others, relies on a funny description of the reviewer’s reaction to the book to be effective), and as more and more blogs publish more reviews by more contributors, we are less likely to get that strong reviewer’s voice in the review.

My fourth and final theory on the decline of snark is that like any writing style, people have gotten tired of it.

4. Sexy times

It’s no surprise to me that two of the oldest romance review sites, All About Romance and The Romance Reader, signify a book’s level of sensuality in their reviews. At AAR, this used to be called the “blush factor”, which says something about how far the community has come in terms of its acceptance of sexuality (or of certain kinds of sexuality) in books.  I think that in romance, as well as in other genres, like YA, the books have become sexier and more explicit and in many cases, so have the blogs, with pictures of “man candy”, sexy excerpts, etc. Some blogs even combine book reviewing with reviews of sex toys, free pornography, etc. But bloggers today, while they may mention the sex in the review, are less likely to view the heat level as so important that it needs to be singled out up front.

Arguably, the fact that, in the old days, sexier books could only be purchased in digital format from independent online publishers gave rise to book blogs. And vice versa, of course.

Also, m/m romance was, at one time, dominated by erotic story lines. The growing popularity of m/m romance is a piece in the puzzle when it comes to the embrace of sexier books by romance readers.

So, in sum, I would say the books are sexier and readers have a greater comfort level in discussing them on blogs.

5. Reading across genres

Another anecdotal impression: I sense that genre is less important than it once was, at least for romance bloggers. Romance bloggers will review YA, NA, SFF, and women’s fiction without apologizing for it or explaining it. I sense less willingness of non-romance bloggers to pepper their review roster with romance.

Although I realize that YA and NA don’t have to be romance or even have a romance subplot, romantic NA and YA, written by female authors for a female audience, tend to be what I see getting the hype, and I wonder if at least some of the marketing of those books is intended to sell romance to people who don’t think romance is cool.

6. Blogging across media

Was it always the case that book bloggers would blog TV shows and movies? Especially now that binge watching is possible (thanks Netflix!), posts on Veronica Mars, True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Switched At Birth are as likely to show up on a book blog as on a film or TV blog.

In addition to the internet changing viewing habits, I think in part this is the influence “geekdom” in general, and speculative fiction in particular. There’s a kind of cool vortex in which Neil Gaiman, Joss Whedon, Star Trek and the Marvel Universe –movies, books, TV, comics —  are in a continuous swirl. It’s a model for following your interests across media.

7. Besides reviews

What are bloggers writing besides reviews and how has this changed? I feel that book bloggers are much less likely today to talk about their personal lives on their book blogs. Some book bloggers have separate blogs for that, or they just use Twitter or Facebook to talk about their new haircut or their kids’ grades (I know I do the latter).  I think this is due to (a) the increased professionalization of blogging (the subject of part 3), and (2) the fragmentation that we are all experiencing in many aspects of life and especially on the internet.

The bigger and more established a blog or review site is, the more focused it is likely to be on books and book reviews. That said, there have always been non-review posts. And, in my nonscientific study of posts from 1998-2005, it looks like there are some topics that romance bloggers, at least, keep coming back to: strong heroines, unlikeable heroines, TSTL heroines, how alpha is too alpha?, the tortured hero, rape and forced seduction, double standards, sexuality in romance (and abortion, birth control, etc.), the reading slump, disability, race, sexual orientation in romance, historical accuracy, saving the mid-list author, breaking up with an author, the fate of specific authors, publishers, and subgenres, romance covers, the neverending series, etc.

Since the age of the digital book, there is more discussion of editing, formatting, back lists, price, and, of course, piracy, than ever before.

I also feel that, although political aspects have always been a part of the romance community, we are currently in a period of high interest in the political aspects of reading and writing fiction.

As the book blogging community has exploded, and as Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook has thrown everyone together, there is more discussion of the community itself than ever before. Plagiarism by bloggers and authors, author incursions into reader spaces, civility among bloggers, ARCs, and other topics abound. Recently I have seen people complain that “we used to talk about books, and now we talk about talking about books.”

Another side effect of the growth of the book blogging community is the ubiquitous “links post.” (That sounded critical. I love links posts, actually.)

And finally, as the role of book bloggers in the marketing of books has grown, there are many, many more blog tours, author interviews, cover reveals, and giveaways than there were ten or even five years ago.

8. Blog versus website?

I think of a website as more comprehensive, although the line is not hard and fast. I also think of a website as bigger, in every way: content, contributors, traffic.  My thought is that the difference doesn’t really matter, but if you don’t do blog tours, participate in memes, have a blog roll, or generally recognize you are part of a blogging community by linking to other bloggers, you are more likely to be a website.

9. The rise of the self-published book

A major change from the early days of book blogging is that reviewers are more likely than ever to read and review self-published books. I think romance blogs have always reviewed book from independent publishers (like Ellora’s Cave. This is connected to the erotic romance thing.), but the self-pub is a newer phenomenon. As recently as two or three years ago, I was blogging to the effect that I just wasn’t going to read self-published books. But in the past year, some of the best books I’ve read have been self-published. As more and more authors who are currently with traditional publishers choose to self-publish, as more and more established authors self-publish their backlist, as more and more self-published authors get contracts with traditional publishers, and as more savvy self-published authors hire those editors, copy-editors, and publicists who have been fired from or left jobs with traditional publishing houses, the distinction practically vanishes.

I have two comments on this: (1) self-publishing has not, in general, led to a renaissance in publishing, with more daring or experimental or genre busting books. The most popular self-published books, at least in the genres I read, tend to be pretty mainstream. (2) Bloggers and readers in general are even more important to self-published authors, so the rise in self-publishing has had the effect of enhancing the role of the book blog in the marketplace.

Ok, I’ll stop there on this one.  I opined a lot. Please feel free to disagree with my opinions or correct me on my facts.

34 thoughts on “How Book Blogging Has Changed Part 2 (content)

  1. I must ponder and see if I have any opinions, but for now all I can say is “great post!” I’d forgotten about the heat ratings people used to use….

  2. Hey Jessica,

    Another GREAT post. I enjoyed reading it. You’ve made me think. I read this post before I had to run an errand and had specifically wanted to say something and completely forgot. One thing I can say is that I think it’s somewhat jarring to post about other stuff other than what your blog is about. Just recently I read a blog that’s like mine, talks about mysteries and he posted pics of trees. Nice post though but completely unexpected but not unwelcome.

    1. I agree it can be jarring. I like it when a blogger is either focused, OR is known for being eclectic, but it can be hard to be consistent, at least in my experience.

  3. It’s fascinating to see all this in a comprehensive form. I think about a lot of these issues, but not usually in anything approaching a systematic way.

    Apart from the professionalization of blogging, I think there might be a second reasons why we see less personal stuff on blogs. When bloggers first started, they had the sense (erroneously or not) that they knew who they were talking to. Now the audience is more diverse and we all have experiences with people finding out blogs in serendipitous ways. I never put much personal stuff in my blog posts, but I would probably put even less now, just because you never know who is reading it, and I think we’re all more aware that we can’t be sure that everything ever goes away for good online. And especially for women bloggers, we have too many examples of how personal material can be used against us.

      1. LOL. Who can keep track? These things are so overdetermined.

        Re: the danger/privacy issue, good addition. I realize that if some disgruntled student (or parent, or patient, or co-worker, or whomever) wanted to, they could take bits and pieces of my blogs or tweets and make me look very unprofessional. I just have to hope I don’t cross paths (or cultivate) any such enemies, but there is no guarantee.

        When I am writing a post, I have a very clear audience in mind. I am talking to you, and to Rosario, and Victoria, and Keishon, and Liz, and Janet, and Maili, and Vasiliki, and… etc. — basically, the group I regularly converse with on Twitter, and our blogs. It didn’t hit me until about two years into blogging that some of the people who read my blog may actually really dislike me and hate everything I say. I ignore those people, of course, but it’s good to be aware of how things I write might be taken up by people who do not wish me well. And personal material is more likely to be harmful.

    1. Very true! The only thing I’d add is that personal material doesn’t necessarily have to be a non-review post. You can put quite a bit of personal stuff within a review, which is what I love about having my own place. If I reviewed in a more professional venue, I’d feel like I have to make my reviews just about the book, and anything that’s about me would be seen as irrelevant and self-indulgent. On my own blog I can make it much more about *my* reactions to a book and why, which can include things like personal experiences that inform those reactions.

      1. Agreed. I think “personal” as in “my reaction to books” is often different than “personal” as in “here’s how I feel about my boss, here’s how my best friend made me mad” etc.

        I love the personal reaction component on online romance reviews. Any risks there might be in sharing my feelings about a book are outweighed by the benefits.

  4. On #3, there is also the glowing GIF review that fantasy-casts the hero and heroine (always with model-beautiful specimens) and/or reflects the reader’s fan-girl flail. I love these reviews because I know right away that books with a high proportion of them won’t be to my taste. I suspect the increase of professionalism/promo is another reason for the decline in snark, but I agree that some sites or people who used to do it seem to have tired of it (see also the death of Romfail on Twitter), even though they still write negative reviews.

    I wonder if the decline of snark also relates to the rise of small e-press and self-published books, and readers becoming more adventurous in seeking out variety from many sources. I don’t mean that all self-published books are bad at all, but readers who set out to really wade through what’s out there in search of something exciting are going to read a lot of bad/mediocre stuff, and I suspect that they just lack the energy and will to snark it all (snarky reviews are often long).

    I agree with Sunita about the third reason for less personal stuff in blogs. I did feel when I started blogging that a handful of people I already “knew” might read it, though of course I knew anyone could. But pretty quickly I realized that you never know who’s finding their way there–which is rewarding, but sometimes disconcerting. In some ways I’m more open than at the start–like using my real name–but I’m also less likely to post things about my personal life. I still do sometimes, because my readership is quite small, and because I enjoy it when other people do.

    1. I’m glad you added that about the positive GIF reviews. Yes, absolutely. I find the way the more visually oriented younger readers have adopted gifs into their reviews fascinating. I actually have a hard time “reading” them because I often do not have any awareness of the source material.

      And yes, I’ve been sitting on the sidelines at soccer practice, or doing something at the student records office, and had a parent or coworker mention my blog. Sometimes I want to talk about frustrations at work, but I resist for that reason. As Sunita says, what I put on a blog lasts forever. I may be angry one day at something about my job, but it’s typically a fleeting feeling that lasts an hour or a few days. I’d hate for someone to think that’s my steady attitude.

      1. I can see yours and Liz’s and Sunita’s POV regarding personal stuff on blogs because you guys write under your real names. However, I found when I was blogging regularly,more people commented on the non review posts that were more personal or included personal opinion about a #7 “Beside Review” topic.

        They usually create more discussion than reviews unless the blog has a lot of followers and or have many followers that have read the book and know enough to discuss it. Otherwise, comments are usually “oh this book looks good” or “this one is not for me,” which doesn’t spur further discussion usually.

        Also, when you offer a chance to chit-chat on a blog about different issues people feel comfortable and friendly and want to come to your blog to hang out. So when you do post a review, more people might respond to it or at least attempt to discuss some of it even if they haven’t read it or have no interest in reading it.

        On a personal level, I enjoy commenting on non review posts… such as this one! It gives me more opportunity to engage or share what I think or feel based more on personal experience and what interests me.

        If I used my real name, however, I would feel very restricted in what I could post or talk about. So I can see the point of keeping a blog less personal in that case.

  5. M/M being originally dominated by erotic storylines is an interesting issue, a bit the-chicken-or-the-egg. Some websites and blogs would automatically label M/M as erotic, whether the content was particularly explicit or not. I guess they saw an ‘erotic’ label as a warning to readers that the book contained sexual content they might find offensive in some way, and thought M/M required that warning. So I wonder if that created that unspoken assumption that all M/M had to be erotic (or even, if some authors just decided to write erotic M/M as they knew it would get shoved in that category, anyway). This might imply that as same-sex relationships have grown to be more generally accepted by readers, that ‘warning’ label has become obsolete and more sexual content in M/M has become more diverse.

    1. Rosario, that’s a great point. I think the way I wrote it was probably misleading given what you’ve said here. Thanks very much for clarifying.

  6. Reading across genres is becoming a dilemma for me. In Australia, what gets called romance isn’t always Genre Romance, imo. So I find that I’m not always consistent in what I call romance. And now we have YA, erotic and urban fantasy fiction with a romantic arc across several books, which are marketed as romance or across romance communities, and it can all get a bit confusing!

    1. That’s interesting to know that in Australia the labels might be different. For me, the covers and publishers are additional clues to whether the book is Romance. I sympathize, because if I want Romance, it is very disappointing to get a “romance” that lacks and HEA.

  7. Great point about NA/YA and marketing as “cooler than romance.” I’ve noticed the prevalence of initials over female first names in self-pub NA. These authors aren’t hiding their identities or using male pseudonyms. Their author pics are typically “romancy” (smiling woman, friendly, in color). But the use of initials seems like a subtle clue that the author isn’t “girly” and her book isn’t “your mother’s romance”/Harlequin/old-fashioned (and therefore uncool). Interesting to contrast that hip image to the popular themes which don’t strike me as more progressive.

    1. I hadn’t noticed that, but good point. I also find the names of the authors, when they don’t use initials, often sound younger to my ear: Jamie, Lexi, Katy, Abbi.

  8. I’m really enjoying your posts on how book blogging has changed. Here are a few of my own opinions:

    I too miss the snarky review. I think that they have slowly disappeared as the blogger has developed more personal relationships with authors. They are more guarded with criticisms and maybe feel the adage “what goes on the internet stays on the internet” more keenly. Also, seeing bloggers move into publishing industry jobs is like an awareness of not slagging off someone that may offer you a job in the future.

    As for Sexy Times – I have librarian love for All About Romance and The Romance Reader who deliver an invaluable tool in signifying level of sensuality on their reviews. This helped me out many times with borrowers who either requested “no sex scenes” or “lots of sex please”.

    Blogging across media also shows in the way that readers advisory is shifting. Tara Bannon Williamson over at Reference and User Services Quarterly calls it ‘whole library advisory” http://blog.rusq.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Readers-Advisory.pdf People are focusing more on their love for a type of story and less on the format. This seems to be a cultural shift.

    1. that’s a good point about the decline of snark being related to closer contact with authors and more clear paths for employment in publishing. Also, thanks for that link. “Whole library advisory” is exactly what I am talking about. Glad it’s not just my imagination.

  9. “alas, I don’t get to march around the internet with my mallet of Stop Saying You’re a Review Site. ”

    I would happily fund this Kickstarter.

    What I see trending in the last couple of years is the multi-reviewer site, which is not really my favorite thing. I like blogs that have a distinctive voice.

    I think a lot of romance blogs have had the occasional movie or TV show review, but again, those are more apt to be the single-voice blogs.

  10. I miss well written snarky reviews. I loved Emerald Jaguar’s reviews. Mrs. Giggles as well. She’s still reviewing but not as much in the limelight as before. There are still lots of snarky reviews on GR but many of them are more or less mean rather than snark. Those who wrote snarky reviews in the past were entertaining and clever in the way they wrote. Even just posts they wrote on romance related topics went the way of intelligently written snark.

    I think though that much of that has changed due to what Shallowreader said, readers and authors are more intimately engaging on a regular basis and this affects a lot of things. Also, who wants the hassle of getting pooped on by fangirls and authors on a regular basis, which is happening over and over on GR and AMZ. I know I cringe if I post a neg or critical review in a sea of 5 star reviews, fearing a gang up.

    Sexy times! heh. I still write a heat level. I know there are some readers who don’t want to read erotic or too much sex in a book. So I post a rating on it. I used to be more specific about what’s in a book, but am less so now. Maybe it’s like you say erotic has become more mainstream and less shocking. However, I like when there is a rating or inclusion of what’s in a book. There are certain things I don’t care to read about in books and if I know the book includes it I would think hard about buying it.

    #9 Self pub. I’m currently mostly only reading self-pubbed books. I’ve always seemed to read outside of the mainstream offerings from major publishers, but have recently found some really amazing self-pubbed books. Very well edited and also excellent writing. So at the moment most of my reviews are of books not many people are reading. I also tend to gravitate towards bloggers who review such books as well.

    1. I still read and very much enjoy Mrs. Giggles reviews, but as she has abandoned her blog and has not embraced the new platforms fewer and fewer people really know of her, I think.

      I agree 100% that increased reader-author interaction has had an effect on reviewers. And, yes, fangirls.

  11. I know I’m late finding these two very well thought out posts but after seeing them I simply had to point you towards something I found on Tumblr about “social media explained” (http://rainfelt.tumblr.com/post/55819907733/althor42-misha-in-the-tardis-at221b) because it is a great illustration of the “blogging across media” point you make in this post as well as the “cross-platforming” one in the other. I think the illustration, or something like it, has been around for awhile but it keeps morphing itself as the number of platforms available and the media change.

    I’ll probably comment more once I’ve had a chance to read and digest both posts fully, but the one thing I will say up front is that it’s an interesting discussion I’ve had with myself internally a lot over the last few years. It usually only brings up more questions than it answers and you’ve covered a lot of those questions in this post(s).

    1. Hi Bev! I *love* that graphic, yet, as you suggest, it is already outdated … no Tumblr (and when you figure out what the heck Tumblr is for, please enlighten me). No worries about commenting. It’s just so nice to see you here.

      1. Isn’t that graphic on the mark? 😉

        I think of Tumblr as being sort of half-way between Pinterest and WordPress. I’ve used WordPress for many years (http://bevsbooks.com/notes/) and while it’s powerful and adaptable to many uses from simple blogging to just about any kind of website, it’s not necessarily a quick process. Recently I fell in love with Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/bbmedos/) which is literally all about posting images quickly with very little blog-type commentary. Tumblr, OTOH, while graphic intensive is still mostly a blog format, if a very user friendly one, which makes it perfect for both long and short posts related to extremely visual topics like, say comic books or TV/movie stuff (http://loislanemyhero.tumblr.com/).

        What I find fascinating, though, is that nowadays they all either already incorporate social features a la Facebook such as favorite (like) or reblog/repin (share) or, as in the case of WordPress, can be adapted to do so. And, for what it’s worth, that’s where I believe “blogging” and for that matter a lot of interaction on the web in general is truly changing. It’s not the posting or even having a site that’s different – it’s how things can be shared almost immediately that’s so radically different from years ago.

  12. I’m arriving very late to this party — just getting back on line and catching up with blogs I follow after a busy week, and also in the meta sense of starting a romance blog so recently. I have a feeling I will return to your posts more than a few times as a sort of catalog or structure for organizing what for me has been a nearly overwhelming jumble of impressions and notions about what book blogging is about, what it accomplishes and for whom, why I do it. Or rather, why I sort of do it, with infrequent, overly long posts being the norm for my fledgling blog.

    Now that I can officially call myself a blogger, have experienced the chain letter phenomenon of “winning” one of the old school folksy blog “awards,” enthusiastically and hastily embraced the opportunity to participate in a sponsored reader/blogger program (Avon Addicts), and have begun to receive the occasional ARC, I’m finding the urge to write about what I’m reading, or to read what’s “assigned,” strangely diminished. Yet I’ve entered this world where there are literally hundreds of review blogs making posts daily. I admit there is a part of me that is drawn to the professional side of book blogging, and I think it would be great to be part of a community with conferences and workshops, etc. But I am lucky to make a post once a week, because it only works if I’m feeling on a tear about something that’s stirred the pot for me.

    I’ve been reading romance blogs for a long time and frequenting the big sites like AAR for nearly a decade. I talked about books in online forums, but they were mainly focused on a particular author or subgenre. I’m not sure I am ever going to review dozens of books a month — over the years I rarely ever posted reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. I do put my review posts on Goodreads now, since I recently realized that’s what many book bloggers do, and I have succumbed to the cross-platform peer pressure. But, as you noted, there is something wonderful about having your own space to natter on about books when and how you choose. The thing I didn’t really anticipate or expect was how overwhelmed I’d be with this feeling that I need to “keep up” with reading other blogs, following twitter conversations, etc. That part of the “job” of blogging — if I want my posts to be relevant beyond just journaling what I read — is taking the time to be online and that takes away from the time to write posts.

    Beyond this logistical issue, which has a lot to do with limited time and being easily distracted, I can’t help feeling that I’ve started blogging in a way that would have been a much better fit for the pre-professional era of romance blogging. These past several months have shown me how much I really wasn’t ready for prime time… but I’m planning to keep at it, for now at least.

    It’s fascinating to read how other bloggers choose to divide their personal (eg. family/friends) online presence from their professional and/or fangeek presence. I have another blog for family events and trips, which I’ve been doing about a year now. That one always gets immediate “action” from other WordPress users every time I post. Lots of likes from strangers — even though it’s supposed to be basically for our friends and family. Some of the likes are from spammers, but plenty are not. The romance blog, on the other hand, gets virtually no traffic unless I tweet it (I don’t tweet from the family blog), or link to a cool, trending post from another blog, or from the 3 or 4 friends who regularly comment. Not even the spammers find it. That’s been making me think that there is just an incredible saturation of romance blogs. Or that there are not as many romance fans on WordPress. I guess it just keeps coming back to the question of who you’re writing for – who do you want your audience to be; how do you define your blog’s community?

    Apologies for this ridiculously long comment. Your parts 1 and 2 posts have been incredibly helpful, and well-timed for where I am on the journey of book blogging. Looking forward to part 3.

    1. Never apologize for a long comment! I’ve just been sketching my impressions but it’s really not until everyone chimes in that we get a fuller picture.

      I completely understand where you are coming from. I think part of it is being new at it. When your blog is new, you aren’t as sure of what you are doing, so what everyone else is doing looks somewhat appealing. For me, the desire to grow an audience waxes and wanes. There are positives about being caught up in the blogging rat race, but there are negatives, too, as you point out. But blogging only for yourself is a mixed bag too: you are in control of your time, and follow your desires, but you feel less a part of the community and it’s less fun to have fewer readers and commenters.

      What’s helped me is stepping away and thinking about what I like about blogging. that usually helps clarify my goals. Asking those questions about audience is key.

      I do think blogging on a regular schedule is good for your readers (not that I ever do it), but I believe that infrequent posters can still have a widely read blog. Other bloggers may be putting out three posts a day but seriously, who reads all of them?

      1. And certainly never apologize for a long post! I love the long posts on BadAR and not just because Miss Bates is guilty of that very thing 😉

        I’m very grateful for these two (yay for a third!) posts. I’ve learned from them; they’ve clarified many things for me. And, they’ve made me think about what I want from this blogging thing.

        There is no doubt, as Pamela says, that any endeavour that involves a creative pursuit is coupled with aggrandizing dreams. It’s human to dream big! Reality sets in and quickly does a little humbling, thank goodness! What I’ve learned from these posts and after three months of posting on The Blog is I don’t have the style or interests that appeal to a large, or broad audience. But the audience I do have is perfect for me. I try to stay true to myself and people respond most generously. Frankly, I’m surprised every time even one person reads a post I’ve written! I feel committed to those ARCs I’ve received, but I have so much more fun writing about books I take a fancy to read.mI decided I’d only infrequently request those authors whose work I follow anyway. I’m not interested in Facebook, the haiku-like strictures of Twitter and I quite dislike Goodreads, even though the two or three reviews I posted there immediately resulted to traffic on The Blog. I deleted my account from Goodreads: frankly, I felt I was cheating a bit. So, I set myself a very modest goal of 10 views per day and am delighted! when I see a comment that leads to a “conversation.” I try to return the courtesy as much as I can. Like Pamela said, I’m going to “keep at it” as long as I’m having fun.

        1. Good point about not having a personal style that has a mass appeal. If one of the joys of blogging is self-expression, what would be the point of trying to ape a popular style? I keep going back to the fact that in real life, I have almost no one I can discuss romance novels with. That’s what blogging does for me: gives me a place to have that conversation.

  13. I’m really enjoying these posts on blogging. I nominate you as official historian of online romanceland.

    I think one reason for the decline in snark is that it’s much harder to write good snark than it looks. Mrs Giggles’ trademark snark is consistently on point, wicked sharp, and funny. It’s a gift. For a while there was a lot of snark that was not on point, sharp, nor funny from reviewers who were trying too hard. To get noticed I guess? Anyhow I’m happy to leave snark to those who have the gift.

    I embraced Goodreads because with the book description right there on the top of the page, I felt free to skip including a plot synopsis in my reviews. I find that incredibly liberating. I think of my GR space as a place for mini rants or raves and my blog as a place to expound on books that left a strong impression on me. I am digging my own new blog (10 Years in the Making!) because I get to make my own rules, blog on my own schedule, choose what I want to review, and NOT write synopses. I’m not signing up with NetGalley nor looking for big traffic but I do love interacting with romland people whether I’ve just met you or “known” you for ten years. Mellower than ever, I am. And I’m still not rewriting pefectly good book blurbs.

    1. I agree about snark. Mrs. Giggles came to reviewing with a massive knowledge of the genre that informed her reviews. It wasn’t just about her feelings of disgust.

      I can see that appeal in GR. For me, the author intrusions were too much. It was even too much work to fend off author requests. Then again, I am lazy.

      Yes, it’s the interactions that make blogging fun. When people comment on my blog, I feel like a friend has just stooped by my house to chat. Sadly, comments can also make it unfun, but when a blog is smaller it is less likely to generate angry threads, or visits from trolls.

  14. Hmmm. Great post.

    Here’s my short response because my own response was much, much too long.

    I disagree on sexiness. Think Woodiwiss, Small, Rogers, Hagen, Devine, etc.

    Wonder how RWA’s creation comes into the mix and how “we aren’t porn writers” plays into the sexuality ratings and early bloggers.

    There are many sites with sexuality ratings some are pretty general, others give insights into sexual content such as anal sex, threesomes, toys, bj(s), etc.

    Also consider how many more romances are published now vs. in the past. Many more niches (or subgenre with specific elements) as well.

    Besides Reviews: TV/movie reviews have always been there.

    Self-Pubbed: Most readers are casual readers (less than 5 books a year actually probably less). If you want to make a living as a writer you have to appeal to the casual reader not the elite reader who has seen everything and claim to want something different but don’t seem to ever review anything truly different.

    I don’t think most casual readers want to be pushed outside their comfort zones. Most people in general either. It’s like wanting that “exotic” restaurant dining experience. If the restaurant is going to a success it has to appeal to a broad spectrum unless there’s an already developed accessible niche market.

    Besides which, look at how many books are already published by publishers in a year. Exactly how different could a self-published author be from those already published on average.

    I think most aspiring authors are looking for that casual reader as their audience because they haven’t already seen it all. The experienced author (multi-published author) may bend the rules but I’m not sure they are really going to push the boundaries too far. Just like movie producers (The Golden Compass I’m looking at you). It’s that restaurant thing. Make the reader feel like they are edgy as opposed to dropping them into a complete foreign world without a paddle.

    Romance is welll very pro-Christian, pro-capitalism, pro-elite establishment, pro-male patriarch, pro-marriage and babies, pro-black / white lines of good and evil, especially when it applies to the female. (gross generalization on the romance label based on my reading of online reviews)

    How have romance books which don’t follow those tacit rules done as a whole?

    A lot of aspiring romance authors don’t come from nowhere. They are actually cultivated by RWA which helped establish many of the tacit rules such as the emotional justice ending in order to be considered a romance. The happy ever after ending wasn’t a requirement when I read the “romance” label as a kid. Of course the “romance” label also didn’t mean courtship ritual either.

    So self-published author already know the tacit rules of their chosen genre. They may bend the rules but out and out break them?

    SnarK. Still very much exists. More competition for an audience as well as changing audience tastes and consistency of the reviewer. Off the top of my head, I still like to read AnimeJune and Mrs. Giggles.

    A blog is a website. How would you categorize the following: RT Book Review, AAR, Dear Author, The Romance Reader, Mrs. Giggles, and The Good, The Bad, The Unread?

    I’m only asking because I’m trying to use other terms than blog v. website.

    Reviews: I think there’s a lot less formality in general on the web than there was fifteen years ago. A new generation has grown up online. Text messaging, Twitter, etc. shorter attention spans, 15 minutes of fame, having to grab an audience or simple waste your time talking to yourself online.

    What’s really sad is this is supposedly the short response. Ugh. I had comment creep. Oh, well, Good day.

    AQ

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