After 6 years, a couple of millions of visitors from over 100 countries, 263 book reviews and counting, many fun and interesting interviews, and countless giveaways and related SFF material, maybe it’s time to hang ’em up. . .
It would be sad to see Pat’s blog end. I paid close attention to the blogosphere over the years, from my days setting up Solaris. I’ve seen so many reviewers come and go. Back then, it was easy to see the potential. We were a smallish publisher who relied upon people power, since we couldn’t afford massive marketing campaigns or to spend thousands of pounds on advertising. Without getting too quixotic, I liked to think of blogging as a bit of a grassroots literary community. It was about a few people who loved the genre and loved talking about it, who did not have an agenda. More importantly, it was not influenced by publishers – they were busy courting print reviewers. At Solaris then, we wanted to be part of that debate. We happened to be fans in a good place – fans in charge of an imprint. There existed a mere handful of bloggers, not many more. As editors, we got to talk to most of them, got to know them a little too. To chat about books with others was a wonderful job.
The difference these days? As I said on Twitter:
I think the difference in book blogging is that 4 years ago publishers ignored you. Now they realise you can make them money.
Whether you like it or not, bloggers, all publishers now want to make money from you. Whenever you mention their books, there is a chance they will sell more copies. While for the most part publishers love being in the community and probably would anyway (don’t forget, many are geeks too), it’s also ridiculously simple to see the awkward corporations blunder about to focus debate in their court (they’re the ones that use terms like “networking” and “building communities”). They started to realise this potential only a couple of years ago, and who can blame them for trying to get you on their side? Their business depends upon it. Margins are tight. Supermarkets are screwing them for discount. Life is tough on the frontline. So free books started being sent out to bloggers – to this new reviewing middle-class, in order to monopolise word-of-mouth publicity. And more people realised they could join the debate and start their own blog. Some did it for the free stuff, and they kind of fell away quickly because they couldn’t keep up with the sheer volume of demand from publishers.
Why I am waffling on like an old man? I don’t know. Twitter was abuzz last night with people commenting that the community wasn’t what it used to be, and that there was a growing distance, even growing rudeness. Also, people seem to find it increasingly difficult to find things to talk about, and I understand that.
Some random thoughts on those points:
1) You are not a slave to your blog. If you want to talk about other things, then that is perfectly fine. I’ve had stacks of people contact me in one way or another to say they’re glad I talk about other stuff – politics or the environment. There’s a whole world out there, and if you ignore it constantly then you’ll become tired of blogging. Also, it’s a helpful reality check. We do quite often blog in a bubble.
2) Don’t worry about hits. When you start worrying about hits, you’re not doing it for the love of reading. You’re doing it for the attention, and these days, you’ll likely be disappointed – because there is more white noise out there than ever before. You will possibly never achieve the level of hits Pat achieved – because he got there early and maintained it solidly for years.
I suspect the blogosphere is having another growth spurt. Soon it’ll settle down again, and cliques and niches will form naturally, but I’m afraid it still won’t be that cosy little place of a few years back.