Thursday, June 4, 2009

This Social Media Thing

At the LA Times Festival of Books, I attended the social media panel. On the panel, Wil Wheaton said, "Users own social media, and make the rules"

That, my friends, is why people hate blogs. It's why they are afraid of Twitter, mock facebook, and try to downplay the importance of fan communities. Because once upon a time, a few people had control of it all, and now everyone has control.

It doesn't mean that chaos reigns. It means that the everyman has a voice. And that is scary to the people who are used to holding the reigns. They don't want to hear the many voices, they want to be the authoritative voice.

I find this to be really apparent in book blogging. As those of you who blog know, we have faced all kinds of opposition. We have faced fear that our little reader reviews are replacing critical reviews. We have dealt (each in our own way) with publicists who expect positive reviews. We have been mocked. We have been told we don't deserve to receive books for review. (and not all book bloggers want to!) We have been treated as the ugly stepchild in letters and communication, we have been told we're irrelevant and don't matter, and we have dealt with the aftermath of angry authors when they can't handle our negative reviews.

Yet, we continue on each for our own reasons.

Look, I don't think critical, professional reviews are going away. They will always exist. And they will continue to not be read by me. Not because I object to them, but because I never read reviews until I read reader reviews. Reader and blogger reviews have changed everything about how I read and I am deeply thankful. I like the voice of the everyman. Sometimes I like the voice of "authority", too. I do like reading prize winners, for example.

Yesterday, a popular literary blogger posted about the book blogger panel at BEA (that I was on) with some criticism. Fair enough. I admitted earlier that the panel got off on some tangents. We never anticipated audience questions, or that members of the audience would challenge some ideas we shared. This blogger felt that since they hadn't heard of any us, we couldn't represent lit bloggers.

As a point of clarification, I was asked to be on this panel after I had already made plans to be at BEA. I did not know who the other panelists would be until it was finalized, and I was led to believe we would simply be giving tips and sharing ideas on how publishers could work with book bloggers. I'm not going to lie. I was really honored and thrilled and excited to be asked. It made me feel like my voice mattered to the book world. If you don't understand why I think it would be nice to hear this, please refer to the beginning of this post. I pretty much planned to share my experiences working with publicists and how I thought we could clear up some miscommunication. I never assumed I was taking on the voice of ALL book bloggers...there's quite a divergence of opinion even on our own panel!

Again I won't lie. I was crushed when I read that post and the comments following it. I felt the blogger and commenters assumed all we cared about was getting "free books." Any of my long time readers, I feel, know me better than that, and also know I don't think there is any such thing as a free book. But my understanding had been that the panel was meant to be about how publicists could craft effective pitches, spot blogs that are getting read, and how we could all treat each other with respect.

I can only hope that the community I'm a part of thinks I and my fellow panelists were good choices. I think really highly of the other five women on the panel and I know they are incredible people of integrity. We all run our blogs differently and have different ideas, but I'm proud to have shared a panel with them.

At the end of the day, this social media thing--blogging, twitter, facebook...it can't be harnessed. Every day new book blogs will crop up and others will fade away. I plan to stick around, because I like it here. I like that I add my voice to your voice. I like that we both get to have an opinion...whether it's what book bloggers should be talking about at BEA or whether or not Twilight is worth your time. And so even though it means the whole world of book bloggers can openly criticize me without knowing me, I would prefer that any day to a silent world where only one voice gets heard.

Users own social media and make the rules. Which means they will decide what they want to read, watch, eat, and hear. And it's not the end of the world or even the end of art. Why? Because there are many voices. And there's a place for everyone.

(I do want to say one more thing panel related. Unfortunately, an issue that I'm currently working through in my own head came up and has been greatly criticized--comments. I mentioned that I think comment quality is a good indicator that the blog is getting read. This is a result of Lisa's post on skimming, where many readers stated that if they leave a comment, they've actually read the post. This certainly trumps subscribers and traffic in my opinion. The idea that comments indicate that a blogger is engaging their audience is NOT a new one, I did NOT come up with it, and no I don't think it's the ONLY thing. I know some of you reading have never left a comment, and that's fine! But it is a good "at a glance" way to measure if a blog is connecting.)




Amy

55 comments:

Renay said...

I was really sorry to read there's been problems because of your panel. I thought it was a great idea, an excellent jumping off point for future panels similar to it, and a positive experience for book bloggers. Especially since I saw several instances where the panelists were inviting feedback in preparation for the panel from other bloggers.

I enjoy your work, whatever kind of blogger you are. :)

Stephanie said...

Very nice post, Amy!! But as I told you earlier, I really think you shouldn't take the comments too hard. Sour grapes, and all, if you know what I mean.

The most important thing is that YOU feel like you are making a difference. YOU like how your blog runs, how the reviews are written, and ultimately if the content is up to your standards. You are the only person you have to please. If you please yourself, your readers will be pleased too. And I think that shows with the number of faithful readers you have!

I watched a lot of the discussion and read the blog post/comments about the panel. And truthfully, I don't get it. Some good points were made in favor of not letting publishers dictate to bloggers. (too much marketing; not enough "review") But other than that, it just seemed petty and mean. To openly criticize a panel because you hadn't heard of them? Does that make what the panel discusses any less valid? No.

I'll quit hijacking your comments now, and step down from the soapbox!

(Keep up the Good Work, Amy!)

Beth Kephart said...

Amy,

For the many of us who were not at the BEA, all of these follow-on posts have been fascinating. We are learning about what was said, and we are coming to terms with it all. I think there's a huge amount of positivity coming out of the BEA re book bloggers and I think the dialogue is essential. The question about the link between the number of comments and the popularity of a blog stuck out for me because I think about that all the time myself. If I spend two hours, for example, writing a blog, and only a handful of people comment, does that mean I am not relevant? I began to study this—to look at bloggers, blog posts, and number of comments. I began to understand which sorts of posts generate huge numbers of comments—and to settle into my own aha about the topic.

But certainly (and I so hope you know this, because you know how much I value you) my thoughts on that topic do not in any way diminish my respect for what you and a million other bloggers do out here. All of your voices matter; they absolutely do.

Meghan said...

Honestly, I thought the choices for the panel were fantastic. In my own little book blogging world, I couldn't have chosen anyone better. It seems to me that this lit blogger is intent on establishing a division between us and them, which means that we shouldn't need to express their views anyway. I listened to the panel and thought that you expressed the concerns that were relevant to me. I especially resent the seeming accusation that we're all out for free books, which as you say, don't actually exist. We work to read those books, to review them, and sometimes, guess what, the reviews aren't nice! They are hard to write but they are there. We're not publisher's lackeys just because we're not journalists. I do love the relationships I have with them, though, and I thought the panel was great in discussing those relationships and how we can improve on both sides. Reviewer integrity is important and I think I've got it. I think you do, too.

Anyway, I agree with you about the threat of social media. I wonder if that is what's behind this; these people make money from their work with books and we are doing it for free. We're threatening to them if people turn from published reviews to us. There is a place for both of us, though, and I wish it wouldn't lead to the conflict that it has.

Anyway, I love your blog, Amy, as you know, and as long as you like what you're doing, I think it's all good. =)

Beth F said...

Terrific post. I've now decided not to post about the panel at all.

I too was thrilled to sit at the table with the other five on the panel. Not only do I respect each of you, but I loved the idea that we were all so different. And so I thought that because of our diversity and through an effort to talk about the broader picture, we could attempt to represent the book bloggers as a whole.

I think most of us take our blogging seriously. We may not be getting paid, but we approach our blogs with a professional eye and we hold fast to our independence of opinion while being connected to our community.

I happy to have a dialogue. I wonder why these same issues arise again and again. I am hopeful that the so-called second wave can help build the bridges and work with publishers to promote books and reading.

Anyway, even if it's just the two of us, I don't plan to go away.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Amy you said a key thing- Literary Blogger. What makes this "literary blogger" think they are better than you or myself? Sorry, I may be flying off the handle here because this blogger thinks they are literary, they have the right to criticize if you are worthy because perhaps you review books that they think are fluff and are not lit-fic. It is snobbery on their part.

In my own BEA post, I am sorry if I came across as too critical. I think the BEA blogger panel was a great sign that the publishing community is finally recognizing the worth of book review blogs.

I keep raising the question of if the NY Times disappears what will the importance of that former top 10 list have? The future is the internet and those who take hours upon hours to review and writing up thoughtful blogs, just like this one.

Pamela K. Kinney said...

Unfortunately, I am sure many readers don't leave a post. A lot of people are shy to, may not be able to figure how to (yes, I have heard from those who say they have tried to), some don't like they have to join a blog to leave a comment (yes, heard this again) and more. One thing I can say, don't post something you feel might embarrass you, etc.. as you never know who is really reading your blog.
And yes, I read many blogs I don't leave a comment on. Some are great subjects.

Hagelrat said...

Like you i never read critical reviews of books. I will take guidance from people who share my tastes, what the book blog community has meant for me is that I have access to a lot more people I have reading tastes in common with and I can trade views with them. sorry the panel caused problems. I would have been very interested to hear the discussion.

Lezlie said...

Nice job, as always, Amy! I am curious as to who this "literary blogger" is. I must not subscribe to them, as I never saw that post. If you don't want to advertise for her/him here, can you email me and let me know?

Lezlie

Julie P. said...

Absolutely wonderful post, Amy! I agree with everything you said and I really am upset by all this controversy. As a member of the panel, I too was very excited that I was asked, but in no way did I think I was a "top" blogger or someone who could speak for everyone (such a diverse book blogging community.) I did the best job that I could, speaking on what I know. And if the panel didn't represent all of book bloggers (which is pretty much a given), then I agree that many of these topics need further discussion.

I guess what really bothers me is the tone of some of the comments (on both sides of the issue.) In some ways I am glad that both sides (I hate that there are even sides) are talking (although I wish it were more constructive;) and I will admit that this discussion has caused me to think about my blog and what my goals are. I'm not really sure that they've ever changed, though. I started blogging because I am a stay-at-home mom who loves to read and needs interaction with other readers. I like to talk about books that I've read that I think others would enjoy and that might make a good book club selection. I really don't think that I'm an influencer, more like someone who just wants to share a love of reading.

I hope I'm not saying anything offensive against the Wave 1 bloggers because I have a lot of respect for their writing and what they've accomplished, and I realize that I will never be on the same tier they are. I just wish that I didn't feel that the "two sides" were against each other. I would love to think that this discussion will work to improve relations on both sides, but I almost think it's too late for that. As much as I love social media, I think to resolve anything, we need to really talk -- not type. This just seems to be going around and around and not working towards a positive resolution.

Nymeth said...

This whole thing made me sad. Especially because the blog in question is one I've been reading and enjoying since before I even started my own blog. And you know how much I enjoy yours and the other panellists'.

It's funny - I've known that blog and Seven Impossible Things since 2006, but I never really thought of starting my own blog until I discovered Carl's. I think it was Natasha that shared a link about a first and second generation of book bloggers, and it said that the difference is that we newer bloggers have a more social focus. That makes sense to me. It doesn't mean one type is better than the other, nor that we are completely different. But it is a difference. And I don't know, maybe that focus on relationships makes us seem more vulnerable? But that doesn't necessarily have to be the case.

Anyway, I'm hoping that this discussion will result in a more unified community in the end, in people getting to know one another and sharing their experiences. Like you said in a comment, we all love books. And if there's one thing book bloggers know, is that this common love for books brings people together.

shelburns said...

Very well put Amy. I wish I had the gift of words like you do; which is why I read your blog. I'm so sorry that the BEA blogger panel received some heavy criticism yesterday; I don't even want to read the post that started it all.

I have come to love each of the panelists through your "voice" on your blog and was so excited that you were going to speak, on behalf of other book bloggers, at BEA. I have complete trust in all of you and know that the book blogging community was well represented. Yes, the panel, and the rest of us, have differing opinions. That's what I love about blogging and reading each others' reviews. That is what makes this such a great community, that I am proud to be a part of and will continue to be a part of.
I am guilty of sometimes skimming on GR and not always leaving comments, and I know it happens on my blog as well. It is one thing that I am trying to do better at as a blogger, because I know how important it is to me as well as my blogging buddies.
I am glad you represented us at BEA and will be joining you next year!

Molly said...

While I have nothing new to add (all the comments you have received so far mirror my feelings exactly), I did want to give you a word of encouragement. I was so proud of every single one of you. You all did an amazing, professional job of representing the "2nd wave" of book bloggers (I had no idea there was a first wave). I was floored when the session was over and you were all MOBBED by the audience! That was such an amazing sight.

I wanted to let you know that the "book" bloggers are definitely reaching a large segment of the book buying population that the "lit" bloggers have never (nor will ever) reach. I am like you in that I have not read "professional" reviews - but I am totally addicted to "reader" reviews. The number of books I have purchased, read and recommended to others since reading these blogs is staggering.

You keep doing what you are doing. Keep that lovely smile on your face and head held high. You are GREAT!

Lauren said...

This is a great post! It's true - with all of the social media places, there's no way to control it. There's no way of making sure your book, so to say, will have all positive reviews online and that could be scary for some. However, I'm sad to hear that someone criticized your pannel at the BEA. I thought it was a great idea with great input - something that was needed. Because, as book bloggers, we need to be recognized as more. At least i think. :)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Great post Amy. I think there are few "old guards" who aren't threatened by new young energetic upcomers. But what I didn't like about the exchange was all the reference to "just a nobody" or "just a stay-at-home-mom" or whatever. If you buy and read books and talk about them, then it seems to me you have equal importance in the book publishing universe! Furthermore, the "literary" bloggers not only get the same (or much more) volume of free books, but they get their way paid to conferences. The "nobody" bloggers care so much about books they pay their own ways. Why are they "nobodies"? I think you are quite right - there should be room at the table for everyone. The "professional" bloggers to pay attention to are the ones who have the security and classiness to recognize that. In my opinion.

bermudaonion said...

Very well said, Amy. I have nothing new to add to the discussion either. I do want to say that I read the blogs of every single person on that panel, so I know that each of you has a unique approach, style, genre preference, goals, etc. It was never implied that you were there to represent every blogger on the web. I was proud of each and every one of you and the job you did up there. When things changed from a panel discussion to a Q & A session, you all handled it with aplomb. It almost seems that some people feel threatened by the popularity of book blogs. Oh, and if anyone starts a blog to get free books, they won't last long. Keep your chin up, Amy. I feel honored to be able to call you a true friend now.

Janssen said...

I've been interested to see a little of the backlash to your panel. . . it's just never possible to please everyone and it's especially frustrating when the expectations are not very clear.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

I thought the panelists that were part of the group were well-chosen and represented a good swatch of the book blogging community that I'm part of. Someone in one comment somewhere described the panel as being more grassroots, and I like that description a lot -- most bloggers I read don't keep the blog in relation to job and haven't ever reviewed professionally. I haven't watched the BEA panel yet, but I'm confident you guys were great.

I think there's just a lot of confusion and stuff (from everyone) about how the way media is changing and how we all relate to one another. It's sorting itself out, and the panel and the resulting discussions (uncomfortable as they might be) are just part of the process. Don't let it get you down!

Jen - devourer of books said...

As the 17th comment I don't have much to say, I agree with most of what was said earlier, but I just wanted to voice my support. It seems like there is a lot of animosity towards the 'new,' and I do think that people may feel that their way of doing things is being threatened (as in the comment that bemoaned the lack of continuity between the 1st and 2nd wave of lit/book bloggers - why should we do things a certain way just because they did?), but hey, it is a BIG internet. There's room for all of us, I promise.

I also agree with Kathy, anyone in it just for the 'free' books or just to be a yes-person is NOT going to be around long, they'll weed themselves out.

Marie Burton said...

Floored. First of all.. I am sorry that you, Amy, have any reason to have felt a sort of backlash just for being included in a Panel.
You know you are awesome, we keep telling you that you are awesome... whereas I always believe in constructive criticism, I would hardly think that YOU deserve any.

That said, I had no idea about book bloggers now being put in classes.. and frankly I am not too thrilled about it. So what am I, chopped liver?.. since I just meandered this way? I am in no way as cool as a blogger as 90% of the other bookish blogs out there, but why should that force me into a WAVE or a class of my own?
So do I need to put in blinking lights at the top of my blog: WARNING: THIS IS NOT A WAVE 1 BLOG. But yes, to think of a community as a whole, I understand there are different levels of people in general, so I understand the point but I would like to know what people are classing my worth as, since I am not a wave 1 and have not a clue as to what wave I am in..

Thirdly...Many of us have created a WHY I BLOG post (probably in response to yours) Mine here and with these posts we try to establish our goals and why we are even bothering. Guess what folks? WE are not HERE FOR THE FREE BOOKS.. I am willing to bet you that those that have started a Bookish Blog did it for their own self-worth, and to keep track of the books they have read in an organized and fun manner.

Fourth-- I would love to know where this LIT BLOG PERSON is that you are referring to that is pretty snide about OTHER book bloggers. (Since you've never HEARD of us, how can you judge?) I just want to see what is so DARN GREAT about THEM that makes them think that they can Judge US BOOK BLOGGERS AS A WHOLE and not include themselves. I would like to go JUDGE them.

FIFTH--
Why can't we all just get along? Nope.. we all have opinions and we like to voice them. Which is why we blog in the first place.
Everyone's opinion counts for something, and my book review is different than others. The whole purpose of book review blogs (from a marketing standpoint) is to introduce more readers to books. Right? If we get them for free, yay for us.. If we don't, fine.. we go and buy what we want to read and review. Why isn't this simple?

Oh.. and if someone comments on my blog.. anywhere... I am THRILLED .. HAPPY!! LOVING IT!!
Even if that person NEVER returns..
Because I know that, maybe, I have about 5 people who enjoy 50% of my meanderings, and HELLO... that's 5 people I've connected to in a social media outlet that is meaningful to me. My book blog purpose has been fulfilled.

I can go on and on and continue to not make
sense so I'll stop. Thanks for the vent.

wendy said...

First of all, Amy, this is a great post. Secondly, I thought the bloggers chosen to represent bloggers on the panel were fantastic...I know them all and read their blogs.

I was a little surprised (but not much) that some old time book bloggers (and I refuse to differentiate between lit-blogs and book-blogs because it is divisive and I do not see a real difference...supposedly a lit-blog is more journalistic, but quite frankly we all talk about books) felt "left out." They feel they have been around for awhile and helped make inroads with the publishers which we "second-wavers" are now benefitting from...But the statement "I didn't know anyone on that panel" I found to be a bit, well, arrogant. So what? I don't know a lot of book blogs among the thousands out there...does that mean that the ones I don't know about are not worthy?

Here's my main point (you knew I'd get to it eventually, didn't you?):

Sadly, human nature being what it is, there will always be sour grapes when someone is in the lime light. To have longevity in this world of blogging, you have to develop a bit of a tough skin, I think. I hate that there is an "us" against "them" attitude in our own ranks (first wave, second wave, blah, blah, blah), and I hope we can bridge the gap...but in the meantime, I think bloggers like yourself (and myself) need to keep doing what they love and not worry so much about the complainers. We all have struggled with the ARC/review book thing...and keeping our integrity...and we've talked it to death. If someone hasn't done their homework and bothered to research the blogs they're complaining about, well, then I wouldn't call them all that journalistic, and I wouldn't put a lot of weight behind their complaints.

Okay - sorry about the length of this comment *laughs* I guess I should have written my own post!!!

Michelle said...

Amy, bravo to you. Eloquently said.

As a new book blogger I feel extremely excited and honored to have been so easily welcomed into "the second wave" and can't help but feel slightly resentful of "the first wave" for how this debate was approached.

I don't fault he/she/them their opinions but have to wonder why they were stated in what I took as a pretty adversarial and condescending tone. Now I don't know this person from Adam so I'll admit that perhaps I'm reading that tone wrong. Having said that I have to wonder if I should bother to question myself since others before me (both on Twitter and in these comments) have expressed the same feelings quite clearly. Ultimately I wish that when approaching the issue the first-waver had done so in a way that didn't cause you and other panelists to feel slighted or hurt. Moreover, I’m sad that any felt they needed to "defend" this second wave, themselves, or the hard work they've done. It’s my strong hope, though, that as the issue continues to be discussed some common ground can be found and any ill-will that's been dusted up will calm back down.

As it relates to comments made, one thing I think that gets my blood boiling is the free book comment. Sure, are there people out there looking to get free books....no doubt. But I'd not lump the majority of book bloggers into that category. Certainly no one on the BEA panel or in the community I've been participating in fits that mold. In fact I'll go out on a limb and say that for every free book any one of us may receive each of us also goes out to buy ten more. It's ludicrous to lump everyone into that category when in actuality there is only a minute subset of bloggers who are there solely for that purpose.

At any rate, I'll say that I have been enjoying book blogs because I can relate to them. I LIKE the community that has been built through commenting and social media. It's what makes it FUN. It's the reason I'm working so hard to get my blog going. I'm not in it for free books I'm in it for free friends!

ANovelMenagerie said...

Amy,

How "popular" could this blogger be if I don't subscribe to him/her? I subscribe to over 200 book review blogs and I didn't get this post. So... obviously, in my book (and, I know this sounds egotistical)... this person is not a popular blogger.

I request that you reveal the post that you are referring to. Your readers, co-bloggers, and friends would like to read this garbage that's being thrown out there and let him/her have it! I can imagine that you don't want to give this person any additional traffic (because they are undeserving)... but, consider my request...

Sheri

bethany (dreadlock girl) said...

Comments are important, I agree...and so I am leaving one now :) Sometimes I don't take the time to comment even if I think it is a great post, but more and more I am realizing the importance of commenting too.

Great post amy!

Marie Burton said...

Thank you Sheri for also requesting the REVEAL :)

MotherReader said...

I might be crazy for putting myself in the mix, but I only want to help. Let me start by saying that I know your blog and also that you, Amy, may not need to take the criticism personally. I know that's impossible to do, but it's not about you.

See, if I were asked to be on a panel, I would be honored. If I were joined by my Blog Friends Forever, I'd be thrilled by the prospect. If then I was asked which panelists to drop to make room for a more diverse representation of book blogs in general, I'd be horrified because I wouldn't know who to pass up among fantastic people who are great bloggers and represent different points of view in my own little blogging world.

What I've seen in the comments here is reflected in the italics. In fact, it's a quote. I didn't pull that phrase out to make fun, but to emphasize that we all get caught up in our own communities, somewhat isolated in our own communities, and it becomes hard to pull back and see the big picture.

The panel was billed at a National book convention as "Book Bloggers - Today's Buzz Builders," with the phrase "six top book bloggers" in the description. As someone attending that session, yes, I'd expect it to cover more than one swatch of the book blogging community. And in covering a broader spectrum, would then be better able to address the topics and questions because the perspectives, the history, the experiences online would be different.

I suspect all the book blogging communities have gone through various discussions of "why I blog" or professionalism or conflicts of interest. I know that we'll share common ground on these issues, but the differences in perspectives, in priorities, in history will still be a factor in how we relate to authors, publishers, readers, and other bloggers. And even to the other communites - some of which we may only be somewhat aware.

In the scenario I described , I'd be given the names of bloggers and forced to kick five of them off the panel. Terrible - and where you are now in defending each blogger's importance for being there. Now step back and think if you were told that you needed to pick one person from your community to be on a panel with book bloggers from Romance, YA, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, KidLit and Literary. Maybe there would be a natural choice -someone who's a good speaker or a bigger name or the most time on the web. Maybe it would be discussed among yourselves so that you could best represent your group. Still a difficult decision, but less personal.

Actually, your thoughts about comments and the relationship to evaluating a blog are evidence of the need for different perspectives from other communities. It does seem to me, in your group that there are a lot of comments. In the KidLit community, not so much. I don't know why that's the case. Maybe there's more overlap with "Mommy Bloggers," where I've also seen a lot of comments as a way to connect with and support each other. Maybe your community is less diluted than KidLit where I know of over five hundred bloggers and blogging authors. Back in the day, when KidLit was smaller, there was a lot more back-and-forth in our comments. I don't see that now, though I see it in some of the newer YA blogs. If there had been that perspective on the panel - and I can't even guess as to the POV of Romance, Sci-Fi, etc bloggers - then the discussion would have probably stayed more confined to the panel and less to the audience.

I guess my point is, that I don't think that people are saying that the panel was intentionally leaving people out. I know I'm not saying that. But that when we're in a community - of any sort, really - that it's easy to think that we've worked through the answers, when we really have to have a broader reach to even know all the questions.

MotherReader said...

Sorry, I didn't realize how ridiculously long that comment was.

micheleis said...

The idea that comments=traffic is silly. I get 400-500 hits a month on my review blog and only 1 or 2 comments. But I have writers and readers email me, or tell me in person all the time that they picked up a book because I recommended it. I even recently had a publisher tell me that a reader at a convention told them they were buying a book because I'd recommended it.

I'm not saying I'm an Oprah or anything. I'm saying even if they don't respond we have an audience that is listening to us.

Florinda said...

I think your point at the end of this post - about how comments can be a measure of how a blog is connecting with its readers - is proved by the fact that as I write this, you're approaching 30 comments on this one!

But it's a measure that makes me uneasy, because if I get over 15 comments on a post (excluding entries for giveaways), it's a LOT, and it doesn't happen often. (And the count's probably inflated by my own reply comments, anyway.) I have decent subscriber numbers, though. Am I not connecting? I keep wondering.

As you know, I wasn't at BEA, but I've been following the back-and-forth post-mortems with a lot of interest. It's been enlightening. I don't think I even realized this whole "first wave/second wave" thing existed, for one thing. I guess it shouldn't surprise me, though, to discover that the community isn't monolithic. I have a foot in the mom-blog community as well, and it's the same way there.

As usual, well said, Amy. I'm not sure there's ever going to be a fixed set of social-media "rules," by its very nature - and that's probably as it should be.

Jen Robinson said...

Amy, I certainly know that you're not in it for the free books, and I think that you've done a tremendous amount of community-building through your blog. I think that it's wonderful.

Here's part of the text of a comment that I put on that other post last night (before seeing your post here):

"If it helps with bridge-building at all, I've been having comments and discussions back and forth with Colleen and Pam and Sheila and with Natasha and Amy for months and years now. This lit blogosphere is not a club or a hierarchy or an us/them thing. It's a network, filled with different relationships, all of them valuable, and all of them offering ways that we can learn from each other. I agree with Amy - what we all have in common is a love for books. It seems to me that taking a step back from time to time to discuss some of these common issues, like publisher relationships, is a good thing."

That's what I think, anyway. Painful sometimes (as in this case), but ultimately a good thing.

farmlanebooks said...

Very well said!

I read the critical blog post you refer to and tried to leave a comment sticking up for all you BEA panel members, but for some reason (something about minimising abusive comments) my comment wouldn't post to his site.

Keep up the good work!

Chris said...

I'm going to try to be brief- lots to do today, which is often why I don't comment but I do read. As for the comment, thing, I don't know I'd have to take a closer look at GA, but I can get maybe a dozen comments in a day with 150 visitors. I don't know what that means.

The Panel: Considering you were a small group put together in a short time and it was the first time bloggers were at a panel on BEA- you guys did excellent! How could anyone predict how it was going to go? Next year I'm sure everyone will be better prepared for questions you didn't expect but I bet there will still be surprises. Even if there were dozens of bloggers on the panel, I'm sure someone would feel they weren't represented. How can everyone be represented? And yes, if I was on the panel, I would be miffed by the controversy, but you can't please everybody. I enjoyed listening to the panel online- lots of food for thought.

Litblogs?: I don't really know the difference but really who cares. A book's a book. Read it, review it. Also this whole Old Wave/New Wave, wtf? I hadn't heard of that until yesterday. Whatever 'wave' I belong to, I would be flattered if people saw my blog and started their own. I've decided to let all this stuff about who did what when and why go and just do my own thing.

Anyway, I gotta go plant some flowers with my girl. That's a good way to release some tension, gardening! ;)

Peter H. Fogtdal said...

Oh my God, maybe there's something seriously wrong with me, but I enjoyed the panel. I'm a Danish novelist who is pretty new to the world of blogging, except for the fact that my novel, THE TSAR'S DWARF has been reviewed quite a bit on blogs in the US.

So Amy, you're welcome to trash my novel any time you like, I won't even complain. Your voice DOES matter. And the panel was just fine!

Thomas said...

Great post Amy.

Thomas

OnlinePublicist said...

Great post, Amy! I understand the hurt feelings over some of the comments that came to after the blogger panel, but please know that the people that really matter are those who support you in what you do, not what you 'should' do. I adore and appreciate all online book lovers because your enthusiasm for books is real and genuine! And that's what is important to me. The conversation about our favorite medium.

Keep up the good work! ;-)

lilly said...

Wow! Awesome, awesome post. Definitely worthy of being read all over the place (I would say of being publishe in a magazine but I actually think that the quality of blogs and bloggers like you is way better and is definitely replacing anything a social magazine or a newspaper may offer). Here I said it. You are absolutely correct on all counts. We may be disregarded by some but we are here to stay and the sooner publicists, writers and everybody else realize that the better for them.

Colleen said...

Amy:

I said several times in comments to my post that it was not about the panelists not representing me personally - it was no panel being able to represent the lit blogosphere, period. There are just too many from too many genres, too many styles, etc. Mother Reader pretty much says the same thing above and that is what I wrote and what I meant.

It's not sour grapes - it never was. It's about how I think the publishing industry would like very much to find a representative group to explain how blogs work but the sheer size of this lit blogosphere (and its diversity) makes this impossible.

I am tired of people putting words into my mouth or suggesting I was unking or mean. The post is up - it never says anyone is better or worse (in fact I go out of my way to say you guys are probably great bloggers). It is convenient to suggest that this is just about an "us vs them" conflict but it's not. This notion of being against "nobodies" or stay at home moms is really insane when you consider that right this moment I am homeschooling my son.

From my perspective I pointed out in a couple of paragraphs that a representative panel at the biggest industry gathering was odd to me because of the composition. And then I went into what publishers might be looking for in terms of classfication, etc. And now it is somehow that I attacked people personally?

Never happened. Never wrote that. Never said that. Went out of my way not to say that. And now I'm frustrated as hell that even though my post is up, it's still being misconstrued.

Paula Krapf said...

Great post! Change is difficult for some, but the wonderful thing about social media is each person can make the rules, as you note above. Sure, some might protest, but if you believe in what you're doing, that's all the matters. I think the publishing world reaps great benefits from book bloggers' fresh, enthusiastic voices; just as lit bloggers provide their own value albeit in a different way.

Letters on Pages said...

Beautifully written Amy - great job! Maybe this is why you have 688!

Kristina said...

Great post Amy! I'm so sorry for this upsetting you, I just want to say that I agree with everything you've said. Especially the part about being ok with someone criticizing because it means they have a voice. You are so right!!

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

I haven't heard much of what's going on, but I'm sorry. I would have been thrilled to be asked, as you should have been.

Having been a part of book blog reviews for over 2 years now, I love it. Yes, I love getting free books, but I also love the opportunity to spread the word about books that I love.

I don't always write positive reviews, but in general if I don't love it, I just don't finish reading it and don't review it.

Whether or not blogs are "replacing" professional printed media doesn't really matter. The point should be that people are talking about books, and that should be a good thing.

www.5minutesforbooks.cocm

JC Martin said...

Opinions! When it all comes down to it, blogging in itself is one person's opinion. An a person's opinion about a book is their opinion and they are entitled to it. I don't believe or feel it is right to judge another person and say that they are not a lit blogger. If you are blogging on the written word, then you are a lit blogger. What constitutes a person to be a lit blogger? Payment? Names in PW?

Keep doing what you do, because if you were bad then no one would read your blogs. And clearly you have a following. Lastly, if we all believed, acted, and commented the same the world would be a dull place. So keep being uniquely you.

Mary said...

Amy, personally I was pleased when I saw who the panel members were - all articulate, intelligent, respected bloggers. I was happy to be represented by such a group.

Anna said...

Well said, Amy! I attended the panel and didn't think any of the panelists thought they were representing the entire community of bloggers who review books. To be honest, I never knew there were different waves of book/lit bloggers, didn't know there was a distinction between the two either. I never posted a "why I blog" post because I thought it was obvious that I review books and talk about books because I love to read. And a majority of book bloggers I know aren't in it for the free books. I blogged for over a year before I was offered a review copy, and it's certainly not free when you think about how much time and effort we put into reading and reviewing. Most of us take it seriously. Personally, I think review copies are a great way to check out books/authors/genres I might have otherwise overlooked. And I'd honestly rather read reviews from "everyman"...like someone pointed out at the panel, book bloggers are like friends recommending a book. That's more helpful to me than a review that is more analytical. Anyway, sorry if I got off topic and sorry for the long comment. I wouldn't take this person's comments to heart. Just do what you love doing and who cares what anyone else thinks.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Jenny Girl said...

Excellent and insightful post Amy.

Unfortunately, some people judge the book blogging commuity by one or two people, and not the whole. There are all different kinds of bloggers, and commenters, and for someone to say, that we don't have a right, or are not reviewing or blogging correctly or appropriately or something is ridiculous.
I'm sorry, but who made these controlling people king of all media and creative outlets? Oh, was I supposed to get permission before I had some free thinking thoughts on my own about books and other subject matter?

I think some of the established persons who may not have enbraced blogging and social media are jealous and afraid to admit they were erong about these forms of communications. I'm speculating, but they probably thought these outlets wouldn't take off, and now that they have are kicking themselves for it. Whatever, get over it and move on. Nobody said you had to blog or tweet to get your point across or meet new people.

I'm very sorry to read that your feelings were hurt, but unfortunately there are some really mean people out there, and ususally with no good reason. I'm so sorry you got kind of ambushed.
Please know, that many people enjoy reading your blog and connecting with you. I think your posts are always pretty interesting and spark my interest in different areas. Makes me explore things and books I may not have before.

So here's to keeping free thought and discussions going about everything under the sun. And to making online friends as well :)

Tasses said...

Great post. Follows my own thoughts on the divisiveness of this topic and the need for a database. As I replied to your kind email, I'd like to initiate something of this nature where bloggers, publisicts, authors and readers can all find specific styles/topics in an easier manner.

Stephanie Newton said...

I'm so far out of the loop as far as book blogging goes, but I'll give you my opinion as a reader of books and a reader of book blogs, mostly as a lurker who doesn't comment. :)

I enjoy reading book reviews written by real readers. And I love reading yours, Amy, because they are always thoughtful and fair. Though I'm fairly new to reading them, I've bought quite a few books because of people's recommendations that I've learned to trust. As a writer and a former English teacher, how can anything that gets people reading and discussing (both blogs and books) be a bad thing?

There's a part of me that wants to jump up and shout "Power to the People" and I just can't figure out why...hmm.

Jennifer @ Quiverfull Family said...

Hi Amy

Just a note on comments - I rarely receive comments on my reviews unless they are extraordinarily inflammatory. However, I know people are reading because I see folks buying books through my affiliate links. Most of these people have NEVER left comments.

Perhaps due to the fact that my reviews are less personal and more formal? In any case, comments are not always indicative of readership :).

I'll just keep blogging away into a commentless void and hope for the best (besides, my website stats say I have visitors in any case) ;).

Rebecca :) said...

Great post, Amy. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if sometimes said opinion is biased or unfounded. I have not come across the blogger who you mentioned basically bashed the panel. I don't know if it is because I do not know them or because I haven't had time to read many posts this week. At any rate, I happen to believe that if this other blogger had been on the panel instead of you every one would have had a problem with him/her. You can't please everybody.

I am like you. I have never cared much for professional critics. For one, I have nothing in common with them. With blog reviewers, I have found many connections. Two, professional critics get jaded quickly. I probably would too if I was constantly forced to finish every book that was handed to me.

Three, in my "unfounded" opinion, professional critics often seem to have a chip on their shoulder, as if their opinion is the absolute gospel about a book or a movie or whatever they are reviewing. There have been bloggers who are the same way. But unlike pros, whose reviews are pushed at you, I don't have to read the blogs of those reviewers who act like they are god's gift to reviewing (and I have come across a couple).

The last thing I wanted to say was a lot of people feel threatened by social media because, like you said, the power has been shifted from the few to the many.

Amy Btw M said...

Well, this post certainly got a lot of comments. I find it hard to always leave comments. I read a lot of blogs, but don't want to spend any more time than needed at the computer. So I'll leave comments every now and then on blogs I read, if I have something to say. I wouldn't assume people aren't reading just because the number of comments is low. At least I hope that is true, because I don't get many comments on my blog, so I hope if nothing else that someone out there is reading. :)
Personally, I would rather read an opinion of an everyday person or someone whose tastes are similar to mine rather than a professional review of a book. Keep up the blogging!

bkclubcare said...

Hi Amy! Your blog is terrific, your passion and enthusiasm for books and the book blogging community is contagious, and I'm just here to comment my support. YOU ROCK. (all the bloggers on the panel ROCK - it is thrilling to 'know' them all.)

Iliana said...

Wonderful post Amy! I think it's great that you got to go to BEA. I haven't caught up on all the posts so don't really know much but I guess I'd say try not to let that take away from your experience. The whole lit blog/book blog thing I guess will go on forever but I think what is important is that you are blogging for the right reasons - because you love it. You are part of a wonderful community and I say just keep at it. You are doing a great job!

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

I support you Amy and I agree with your remarks and ideas.

nbbaker1102 said...

I haven't heard too much about the panel controversy. However, I was in the audience and I was impressed with how you all handled yourself and your opinions. I got ideas for my blog and even started using Twitter.

I'm not sure why people get so worked up about these things. You said during the panel that the six of you did not represent all book bloggers. You weren't even trying to.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to put my two cents in as I am both a book publicist and a person who attended the session at BEA. I and my fellow publicists at unnamed book publisher view bloggers and treat them as we would any of our regular media contacts. As such, we do not expect you to review every book we approach you with, we do not always expect positive reviews, why would we when the "media" does not always do so. I have not worked with you personally, because I work with business books and it wouldn't be appropriate for your blog, but publicists (good ones at least) are flexible, respectful, and don't let new technology intimate them. In fact, they get excited by it. A book is still a book, and a review is still a review, despite the medium.

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