Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Jealousy and Book Bloggers

Envyphoto © 2010 Sandra | more info (via: Wylio)

The awesome Maggie Stiefvater tweeted a link that caught my attention yesterday and I've been thinking of it all day. It was a response in an advice column for writers about jealousy. The entire advice column is made of gold and will provide you with hours of distraction if you haven't read it before, so please don't leave yet, stick around for what I have to say!

I love the book blogging community. I've found it to be a really fun place and also really supportive. I've traveled cross country multiple times to see friends I've met in this community and I've laughed and had fun, and geeked out over books, and stayed in your homes, and I LOVE YOU ALL OKAY?

At the same time, there's an undercurrent of tension I often feel that occasionally explodes out into the open in the form of attacks on other bloggers that I feel are motivated by jealousy. And I'm not really surprised by that...with the increasing attention placed on bloggers by the publishing industry we are more than just a group of friends loving books together, we are also seeing our blogs used as marketing tools, and opportunities present themselves. And some blogs have huge readerships and get every ARC they could ever want and exclusives with authors and invited to private lunches and breakfasts at BEA and are getting hired to write reviews or speak on panels or other job opportunities and that's just the way it is.

And OF COURSE we sometimes feel jealous of each other. We are all doing the same thing here, we are all giving up our time and loving books and writing about them and trying to figure out Twitter and RSS and html and paying for giveaways and ignoring the people in our lives so we can finish that book in time for the blog tour. Some of us have more money than others and can travel to conventions and book festivals. Some of us live closer to big cities where there are more opportunities.

I have to confess I am sometimes envious of what other bloggers get. I was envious of everyone that got Forever by Maggie Steifvater, Legend by Marie Lu, and Pure by Julianna Baggott ARCs at BEA. When some book bloggers got iPads to promote a TV show I was already planning on watching--I'm not going to lie I felt a little bit of envy then, too. Not because I don't think they deserve them, but how come I'm always ignored? When @atrandom was tweeting about bloggers night out in New York, I felt envious of all those living so close to such great opportunities, when I have to drive at least an hour just to get to an independent bookstore.

It's the nature of what we do. We first got on our computers to squelch the silence, to create a space that was ours to talk about books, to build bridges out there in cyber land, to find others who are thinking about stories the way we do and loving the way words are spun together to capture truths about life. We wanted to know and find the other people who were wide eyed with delight over the books we've read and loved and to come out of our bookworm closets. For some of us, this is the strongest connection we have to other readers and for the first time we discovered that those bookish habits and quirks of ours were not ours alone.

Of course we have other goals and with increased opportunities to connect with authors, publishers, booksellers, and others the landscape has changed and continues changing. We find it's possible to develop new goals for our blogs and take them into a different direction.

As this continues to happen, though, I suspect the jealousy factor will continue to play a role. There are people would blame it on so many of us being women, and others who would suggest it's just about the free stuff. I don't really think it is, though. While I'm sure we all love whatever perks we get, the truth is that I don't think we're given enough credit for our blogs. Our blogs are our babies, if we were authors they would be equivalent to our books. I know many of us spend hours a week on our blogs. We think about them a lot. Some of us bare our souls. We travel to learn how to be better about blogging, we spend money on hosting, design, and more. And when opportunities come up it feels like validation that what we're doing is important. Someone has noticed our blog is worthwhile! Our work matters. If you scale it down, it's the same way we feel when we get a comment or watch our subscriber number rising.

So that's why I think this advice column can be relevant to us as well. Our personal success as a blogger has nothing to do with anyone but ourselves. If someone else is successful, it doesn't mean we aren't and it has nothing at all to do with us. (I heard Sarah Wendell spoke on that at the Book Blogger Convention, that we have to define our own success and that's so true!) Just because we aren't getting all the big ARCs or aren't invited to be part of the hot new promotions, or being asked to moderate panels, or even if we only have ten readers, that does not mean we're not successful. If you are writing what you want to write, and reading what you want to read, and enjoying it and contributing to the larger conversation about books--then congratulations.

Are book bloggers influential? I think so. I watched some of Klout's Twitter chat yesterday and they posed the question, "what is influence?" The most popular response had to do with actionable results and that's generally the kind of influence publishers are looking for, I'm sure. Are people buying the books you talk about? And yes I've been influenced by a lot of bloggers to buy books or to read them and blog about them myself. But one person said they saw influence to be more about provoking thought and I couldn't agree more. There are book bloggers who have had a huge, I would say life changing influence on me, not because of the books they write about but the way they write about them. They've opened up their own lives and thoughts to me in such a way that much like reading a really great book, I was able to consider ideas different than my own.

You could be having that very same influence on someone without ever knowing it! You could mention something in a review that rocks someone's world, or introduce them to a book that will change their lives. I feel like this is the sweetest kind of influence any blogger can have. It goes beyond selling copies of books and it matters.

I am of the belief that one book blogger's success is a success for us all, it's why we have BBAW Awards. I think when we celebrate one of us we are celebrating all of us. We are part of something bigger, I often think, than our individual blogs. We are all part of the big ongoing conversation about stories and how we receive them and we are helping to shape and influence the future of them as a collective group.

But individually if you are loving the reading and you are writing what you want and enjoying the heck out of it, then don't let anything else get you down. When the occasion to be jealous arises, remember how awesome it is to even be able to do this book blogging thing. Remember that you matter. What you do matters if it brings you joy.


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