Monday, June 16, 2008

Catching Up

Cruising through Bloglines to see what I've been missing over the past ten days, I was stopped by Colleen's post about blog tours wherein the author ponies up cash to a third party who then alerts its squad of bloggers to review the author's new book. Holy crap. I share the outrage but feel that this concept is going to thrive just about well as the just-announced Progressive Book Club, which will fail not because America has been taken over by benighted republicans but because book-of-the-month-type book clubs are an anachronism. The blog-squad concept will fail because buzz-generating reviewers won't join in and will make mock of those who do. Jeanne duPrau, pull out now.

Then there's Frank Cottrell Boyce's comments about YA publishing, but I think the worthy arguments advanced against them are missing the funnier semi-scandal of one Guardian children's fiction award longlister (Boyce) queering (albeit probably obliviously) the chances of another (Patrick Ness) by saying his really isn't a juvenile book at all!

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Roger, not even with my scandalometer turned way up could I read Boyce's comments as trying to queer the pitch for Ness.

Non

Roger Sutton said...

I don't think that was his intention (I did say "probably obliviously") but I think it's a necessary corollary of his point.

Anonymous said...

Oh! My bad. I read "obliviously" as "obviously." I thought you were accusing him of heavy-handed electioneering.

Non

J Scott Savage said...

Roger,

Love the Golden Gate pic. That has to be one of the most enjoyable runs there is.

As an author of a new fantasy series who organized his own blog tour, I'm curious if you are opposed to blog tours themselves. Or only if they are through a for pay service?

When I set mine up, I figured it would be another good way to get the word out. I focused on book review blogs and e-mailed the bloggers to make sure they reviewed YA fantasies.

Roger Sutton said...

No, not at all. As we debated sometime last year, I do think that blog-touring can compromise blog-book-reviewing (not saying it always does, just that it can) but the problem with Kidsbookbuzz.com is their insertion of a for-profit middleman in between authors and reviewers. I understand that authors hire publicists, who present the book and author to various media in hopes of coverage. But those publicists don't orchestrate coverage, which is what's being proposed here. Any blogger who participates in this is going to look like a shill, which does nothing for the reputation of either the blogger or the author being promoted. That's why I think this concept is self-defeating and not long for this world.

J Scott Savage said...

Thanks that makes sense. It would be like telling a newspaper when to run a story. You can pitch the idea to them, but what, if anything, they do with it, and when they run it is out of your control. I'll look up your comments on blog tours. There's a lot to learn.

gail said...

The bloggers will look like shills, and yet they will be getting none of the real compensation that the middleman receives. It's a business that's success is dependent upon the laborers working for nothing. So I wonder how long this set-up can last, too.

Susan T. said...

Roger, I believe that sometimes publicists DO organize blog tours. Is that what you mean by "orchestrate"?

Roger Sutton said...

This is what I mean, quoted from the kidzbookbuzz site:

Q. Do you guarantee results?
A. We guarantee that if you send out fifty books you will have fifty bloggers posting on your book using the proper links on the proper days.

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Anonymous said...

While the for-pay aspect is disturbing, I think blog reviewers do have their place. There are any number of books out there which do have a potential readership but which are neither written by TV stars, thus generating publisher support, nor "literary" enough to be reviewed by Hornbook. If the author is savvy enough (for this sort of guerilla marketing does take savvy if it's not combined with payola), and the book good enough to generate legitimate buzz among bloggers, why not try for this sort of grassroots publicity?

I ask because some of your past comments have indicated a dislike for any type of blog reviewing. But meanwhile, I have my doubts about whether your editors even read many books before declining to review them, considering that many of my own books have received positively glowing reviews in HBG after being neglected by the magazine itself. So what is an author to do -- simply give up if he's not featured on the front of the catalog? Surely, there must be some middle ground between authors who become millionaires and authors whose books fizzle for lack of publicity, and perhaps those blog reviewers generate that middle ground.

Roger Sutton said...

I'm not at all opposed to blog reviewing or blog touring or book promotion via blog. What I've criticized is the blurriness of the lines between them, an inevitability of the medium but something to keep an eye on nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Granted there is a certain amount of networking involved in blog reviewing, as in most of life. Are bloggers more likely to mention books by authors they "know?" Possibly. But if the blog reviewer was such a shill that he loved and promoted everything by the author, people in-the-know would quickly begin to ignore the blogger.

It's much like an author attending a conference and making connections there. If an author attends ALA and meets award or list committee members, does that mean that the author will win an award or make a list? Um, no. But he might find some readers who will talk about his book to their friends.

But new, struggling authors can't always afford to attend conferences, and their publishers don't usually send them. So blog reviewing is a small leg-up which might allow a deserving book to establish a grassroots or cult following. Bad books will likely still tank.

When my first book came out, it was reviewed by seven review journals in its first few months even though it was definitely not one of my publisher's featured titles. Friends who have first novels coming out now, even from major publishers, can not assume that their books will be so reviewed. Indeed, one of this year's Printz Honor Books was missed by not only Horn Book, but also SLJ and Booklist.

So there is something to be said for finding alternative sources of reviews. Will they ever replace traditional reviewers? Not unless there is a blog out there with 100,000 readers and the respectability of SLJ (It's a bit like a florist friend who gets angry with roadside sellers -- but people who bought the $5 roadside flowers weren't going to buy from my friend anyway). But sometimes a few readers is all one needs to get some word-of-mouth going. That's what the blog reviewers do, hopefully, I think we agree, for books they actually like.