Book blogs – useful or not?

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about whether book blogs are a good marketing resource for authors to promote their books. I mean, after all, how many people read a book blog?

Kristi at The Story Siren recently posted a conversation she had with an anonymous author over whether or not book blogs were helpful in terms of selling books. Jennifer R. Hubbard (The Secret Year) says she thinks book blogs are a “fantastic idea”. Lindsey Leavitt, author of Sean Griswold’s Head, also enjoys book bloggers, but explains why some authors “may be jaded”.

I’ve been a book blogger for a little over seven months, but I’ve been reading book blogs for over two years. “So?” I can hear you say. “What’s that got to do with what authors think about book blogs?”

Well, quite a lot, when you consider that a lot of the books I read are a direct result of the reviews I’ve read on other book blogs.

Take, for example, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. If it weren’t for Shannon over at Giraffe Days, I’d have never read this book, and it’s such a great book. I borrowed it from my library, but it went straight to my “need to buy” list once I was done with it. There are several books on that list, and it keeps growing with such ferocity I can’t always keep up, but I definitely try.

Genre Reviews (OCD, Vampires, and Rants, oh my!) have had several books on their reviews that I have purchased. Not borrowed from the library and added to a list, but full-tilt purchased. Leviathan by Scott Westerfield is one. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey is another. I loved that second one so much that I went out and bought the sequel, The Curse of the Wendigo.

A book blogger (I can’t remember which now) was hosting a giveaway featuring Dianne Sylvan’s Queen of Shadows, the first in her Shadow World series. I called around to book stores, found one that had it, and had them hold it for me. I went out and purchased it that night, all because a blogger hosted a giveaway of a book that I had to have right now. I’m waiting for the second in that series to come out so I can purchase it, also because I have to have it right now.

What about hype? Book bloggers create a lot of hype about books; take the book Beautiful Creatures. It has a gorgeous cover; it really does. I purchased it based on all the hype, and turns out I didn’t really like it at all. Will I purchase the second one? Probably not, although my OCD will at least have me borrow it from the library and read it, because I can’t not finish a series.

The point is, I spent money on a book I didn’t like, because I’d heard a lot of good things about it, from reputable bloggers. How many other people, blogger or no, have done the same?

I’m not much of an impulse buyer. I can go in book stores and ignore every single set-up except the ones I really want to see. Usually, I’ll by-pass the huge racks of t-shirts, lunch boxes, and whatever else marketers can think of to get people to buy their author’s book over someone else’s (The Hunger Games, I’m looking at you). Seriously. I looked at all that extra stuff and thought, “what the hell does that have to do with books?” I wouldn’t buy a t-shirt with something book-related on it, just like I didn’t buy a shirt with ‘Nsync on it, although I was a young teen when the bubblegum pop fad started (again).

Am I alone in not wanting to purchase books because the marketing companies shell out a lot of dough on things like shirts, backpacks, and whatever else? Probably not. But I’m probably in a minority, and I’m really okay with that. I love reading other bloggers’ opinions on a book. Hell, I’ll read multiple opinions and make a decision from there. Sometimes a book will go on my “borrow from library and test out first” list, and if I like it, it’ll go on my “buy” list from there.

“But you’ve already read it!” Yes, well I like re-reading books. I really do. Plus, having a mini-library on the floor of your closet is a great conversation starter sometimes, especially if I’m talking to someone who loves the same kind of books I do.

I’ve listed five books above that I purchased (without first reading), because of book blogging. I’m sure other bloggers also see reviews from other bloggers and go out and purchase books based on their reviews. But the big issue is whether it generates enough revenue to be helpful.

How many blogs are there right now, that are active and still reviewing books on a regular basis? For the sake of keeping numbers simple, let’s say twenty. Now, if each blogger bought just five books based on another blogger’s recommendation, that’s 100 sales, which doesn’t look like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but when you look at true figures (such as the actual number of active book blogs out there, which ranges, if I’m not mistaken, in the hundreds), that’s a lot of book sales. I guess whether it’s significant in terms of “well, this many people bought the book because of the display that took up half the YA section”, it probably pales. But without the blogs, there’d be a lot of books unread because people either don’t want to step outside their comfort zone, or because they’ll never see the book in their library or on the shelves of their local book store, and that’s a sale lost.

Not to mention blogs that go out of their way to advertise books they review on sale sites, such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Borders online.

My whole point is, maybe blogs aren’t as useful as, say, a huge cardboard display that sits at one end of the YA section, where there are t-shirts, pens, paper, backpacks, etc., but no books in that series in sight (yes, really), but without them, there’d probably be a lot less book sales, regardless of whether it’s digital or hardcopy format.

(I know I tend to ramble in my rants. I tried to keep it all on point.)

Have anything to add? Disagree? Please post your comments. I love feedback and discussion.

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