discussions genre stuff

Bloggers’ Frontlist Fetish

Some musings.

I raised this concern as a comment on NextRead:

My main concern about the blogosphere is it’s fetish for frontlist titles (those released that period). Very quickly, great books of the last few years will disappear from discussion, unless they’re part of still-running series. And when books don’t get discussed (on and offline), they die. There’s precious little discussion of classic books as it is, which means a whole new generation of readers are missing out.

Blog reviews are great. Reviewers do a great job at publicising great numbers of new titles. Where there were once gatekeepers to determining what a good genre book was, there are now hundreds of people all championing whatever worth they wish to.

But there is a fetish for frontlist titles. Frontlist – those books which are going on sale now, the ones hitting the shelves this year. The Next Big Thing. (And no I don’t mean all of you reviewers; I’m prodding the general culture, not individuals.)

What about the backlist, the great books from four or five years ago, the ones that no longer sit on table displays or promotions. What about classic genre literature? How do novels compare over time? What lineage do certain novels take, and to what do they owe their inspiration?

Questions that will largely go unnoticed, especially if bloggers are entranced on a) finding the next big thing and b) free review copies (because these will be the titles the publishers want you to read).

Not so much of an issue for the first few years of genre blogging, perhaps, but I wonder how quickly great authors will have been forgotten in ten, fifteen years, unless they’re writing successful series? Bookselling is bad enough with its focus on frontlist – that’s where online reviewers could have helped with this situation. (And some bloggers do a very good job of covering older titles – Wertzone, Speculative Horizons, Larry, and also Pat.)

Then again, does it matter to you all if classic authors are forgotten? As the blogosphere grows, more and more people will look to blog reviewers to inform their buying choices.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

46 replies on “Bloggers’ Frontlist Fetish”

The thing is, a lot of those books that are backlisted don’t necessarily *need* a lot of publicity because of the way they endure due to their association with the author.

It’s been years since their debut, but how often do people still recommend NAME OF THE WIND, THE FIRST LAW trilogy and A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series? What’s more, how often are they called that and not simply referred to as: “The new Rothfuss/Abercrombie/Martin?”

Meanwhile, you have authors coming out today that are brand new. Some of them have only obscure short stories to go off of, some of them have unrelated or non-fantasy works to be recognized by and some of them have nothing at all.

Speaking as one of these latter, I’m immensely grateful for the fact that I’m being discussed on blogs because, seriously, how else am I supposed to get out there?

I agree with the idea of keeping interest in classics alive and I think there’s no harm in bloggers occasionally revisiting classics, but there’s also the danger of falling into that unfair stereotype that plagues fantasy that the genre is stagnant and everyone is out to copy Tolkien. If we were to rave about the old-school classics more than we discussed new blood, that would cease to be a stereotype.

I suppose next time you see such an article, it might be worth wondering what kind of new author we’re missing out on by talking about a book that we just reread for the six hundredth time.

I think some people do feel an obligation to review books when they’ve been sent for free, and that’s obviously going to add to the imbalance.

Also, with a new book there’s the added incentive to review it if you’ve been waiting to read it for a long time. I don’t review very much, but I’m really, really looking forward to the new China Mieville book, and will probably want to talk about it the moment I’ve finished reading it.

Add to that the fact that you are more likely to get blog hits, get linked to, get more free books if you spend more time talking about new books than old.

I support seeing books by new writers reviewed, but I have to wonder when I see the same books being reviewed everywhere at the same time, is that really all we’re publishing? More than older books (and wrt what Sam said I think there *are* older authors and books that do get ignored precisely because they don’t fit into that stereotypical idea of what the genre is), it’s this sort of thing that makes me wonder what authors I’m missing out on.

[My favourite book blogs are not necessarily review blogs – reviews are important for the industry and I do like telling people more about books that I’ve enjoyed, but it’s just far more fun to read book blogs where the commentors have also had the time/opportunity to read the book and contribute to the discussion. But that may be just me.]

Hello Mark.

Firstly let me just say that it’s unfair of you to put up a blogpost this good on Monday morning. Some of us want to make intelligent comments (,or at least try,) and have not had time to get enough coffee this week yet.

I have to agree with Sam Sykes on a couple of points.

Firstly that bloggers covering authors that have just been or are about to published is a good thing.
If it hadn’t been for bookbloggers and Twitter I would not have a clue that you two were authors (,or that you existed at all). And from what I’ve been hearing, that’s a welcome discovery.

Secondly I think mr. Sykes is correct in that talking to much about the classics of the genre is wrong. In fact I’m a bit tired of every Fantasy trilogy being compared to the Lord of the Rings.

That said, I’m interested in history. Both in general and when it comes to books, and I think we should not forget the history of the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres. Or any other genres for that matter.

Although I must say it can be quite funny, in a slightly tragic way, when people have got no clue about the history of Speculative Fiction.
Like the reviewer who described Terry Pratchett as “Following in the tradition of J.K. Rowling.”
Or all the Twilight fans who were pissed that the Wolfman Movie ripped off Twilight.

So basically I agree with both Mark and Sam. Bookbloggers should definately push the new authors who needs help getting out to the public. But in my opinion they also will do the genre service if they point people to the books and authors that came before them. Books and authors that will be unknown to those who discovered Speculative Fiction through Harry Potter and Twilight.

So a couple of reviews of the classics to go with all the new books would be a perfect mix in my opinion.

Sam – that’s a hugely limited range of old and new classics you’ve summarised there, and this ironically highlights the problem.

I’m not on about those books – or even LOTR. What about Lord Dunsany, Michael Swanwick, Jonathan Carroll, the backlist that’s fallen off the radar from the last 10 years, that doesn’t have the marketing support of the newer titles? That’s what backlist is – a huge range of books that are getting little or no attention.

The problem? Online, people will calibrate their opinions on a few popular totems. That’s unhealthy for the genre. There’s no intelligent sifting, no acknowledge of genre taxonomy, of where current authors stand, and from where they drew their inspiration.

Aishwarya – how do you think it can be explained that people should feel no obligation whatsoever? The publishers need bloggers, and seduce them with free books…

But the hits thing is another interesting notion. Bloggers want readers, yeah, but surely there are more ways than just blogging the latest titles? How about intelligent debate/opinion pieces?

Ole – surely you’ve had your coffee by now? 🙂

Thanks for your thoughts. Again, focussing on backlist doesn’t always mean classics. It’s the books of a few years ago that have been forgotten about in the new wave of reviews. Balance is the key, but I’ve not seen a huge amount of varied postings really.

I think I am going to sit firmly on the fence and agree with both sides here.

Mark – you’ve seen by bookshelves. I have brought a whole lot of fantasy books and have every intention of reading and reviewing older titles by the more obscure fantasy authors that I like.

But I also am buying newer books as well (yes, that is me buying them as well as being sent them – I can’t resist the new shiny books) because I WANT to read/review them and I know other people will too, which means I want to get my opinion on them out there and start discussions.

I also want to support newer authors – if you like their books but you don’t write about it or publicise them, then they might be dropped rapidly because sales are low.

It’s a balancing act between the two.

I’ve noticed no discernable affect on my number of website hits whether I review old or new books – although this might be down to the fact I’m still getting a small number of visitors.

I think bloggers need to decide why they’re doing this (almost the same way as authors: do you write to get published, or do you write because you can’t not write?) Are bloggers doing this for the visitors or are they doing this because they want to put their opinion out on the books they’ve read?

For this year, I want to do two challenges: reading the complete works of David Gemmell and Charles de Lint. I suspect they’ll both garner a fair amount of interest and hopefully introduce some newer spec fiction readers to these two giants of the genre.

Exactly how is this different from the previous situation? I don’t recall seeing a huge number of people talking about backlist books before the sff review blog became popular? To be fair the blogs you mentioned as the exception to this are pretty much the blogs I read, but reviews have always been focused on the new books coming out and have always been seduced by the promise of freebies.

I suspect that as the reviewers become more experienced they will also reference older titles more often meaning that older authors will become discovered by new readers through reviews of new titles.

The other issue is forums. While they certainly don’t have the readership of the blogs, you will often see discussions of older books on forums, with people specifically asking for recommendations.

Good point about backlist vs classics.

Maybe the publicists could slip a book or two from the publisher’s warehouse into the packages they send to the bloggers.

It may be that a book that wasn’t that big a hit two, three, or five years ago could be given a new chance with som fresh reviews.

Compared to other creative industries, I don’t think this is an issue. Really I don’t. In the collectibles industry, especially in America, if you’ve not sold your production run in 6 weeks, you’ll be discounted until the only place you’ll find stock is on Ebay. There is no such thing as a backlist.

A lot of bloggers (not just in books) receive review copies and obviously this focuses a lot of their time on the frontlist. That’s OK, because in the big scheme of things, they’re one of the places where opinion gets seeded, where the debate starts. At least with books, you have things like Goodreads and Amazon reviews which keep debate and attention about books going for years. Even the book blogs themselves do a much better job of highlighting the backlist than other creative industries.

You mention about Dunsany and say he hasn’t got attention, yet based on your very blogging, I’ve checked out some of his stuff.

Adrain – you mention it’s not an issue, but the book industry depends upon range and backlist, particularly bookstores (i.e. not supermarkets, which are all about frontlist). Range is essential. But I’m glad you’ve got some Dunsany. 🙂

Nick – you answer your own question, I guess. Forums were before blogs, and they discussed – like a good ol’ reading group – classics, backlist, and frontlist. But I think you’re right about reviewers growing and wanting to discover older titles, certainly.

Amanda – thanks for the comment, and yes, balancing is the key, and perhaps you’re one of the rarer ones. I think it’s an important debate to have, and even planting this seed, perhaps more bloggers will consider the backlist.

I’d be intrigued to know what you think of de Lint – I keep meaning to read some of his stuff.

I think it is a terribly difficult situation. On one hand I agree with the idea that there should be more reviews of backlist titles, but I think they need to be more varied, and not as Sam points out, more Martin and Tolkien.

There are a lot of good points over on the nextread post about why people choose the books they do, most of which are valid, but I can only talk for myself when it comes to book selection. The books I review I buy because I don’t receive review copies, and because of this I tend to get books that I either know were well received critically, or that are by authors I liked, or have been recommended by authors I like. I try and pick small press books, because I figure they need the exposure more than people who are with major publishers. I also try to pick authors who are accessible, because if I like their book I want to be able to tell them so. A lot of this goes back to what was said in the other nextread blog post about reviewing books that you like. I’m not going to say how I choose what to read is right or wrong, just that I have a limited amount of money and a limited amount of time, and I would rather spend both with something I think I will like. I consider myself to be a “nice guy”, and I’d rather write reviews to help writers who need exposure than criticise those that I don’t like. I was also under the impression (I admit I could be wrong) that writers in general tend to need their new book to sell well more than their back catalogue.

While I tend to review newer books, I do read a lot of older books in between. As I said over on the other blog post, in between things like City & the City, Finch, etc. I have stuff like Ford’s The Dragon Waiting, the second volume of Conan stories, and the Hainish books to read. I’m currently reading Wolfe’s Latro in the Mist, and t is going to be my next review sometime this week. I’m going to try to find more back title books to review because I do think it is important, but I agree with Sam when he says it has to be not at the expense of the newer writers who need it more. One thing I do try to do with reviews of newer books is talk about the older books that I feel influenced them. For example, for Nights of Viljamur, I’d talk about Gormenghast, Viriconium and Perdito Street Station. Stardust, I’d talk about Dunsany, and so on.

What would be really interesting I think would be a sort of post-1990 desert island fantasy/sci-fi books list were you could only choose ten, or five if we were being nasty. I think it would tell us a lot about the writer’s taste, and force some pretty difficult choices. Arcturus or Ouroburos? Dying Earth or New Sun? Gormenghast or Viriconium? Conan or Elric?

I’m really pleased you raised this. I recently wrote a review of a book that was printed ten years ago and my editor was concerned that there was little point and that there wasn’t a high priority to publish it as a result. She was wrong, the review garnered a great deal of interest despite the fact that the book hadn’t been frontlist for a while.

It is that very justification that has allowed me to delay reviewing Nights of Villjamur until I can get the version I want i.e. paperback/Kindle.

I try and do both – frontlist titles if I get hold of a copy (which in practice means it has to be something I’m particularly keen on anyway, since I buy nearly all mine) and anything else I’m reading or re-reading about which I can find something interesting to say.

I tend to focus on interesting books rather than necessarily good books, so thankfully that’s not usually difficult.

So far this year, I’ve been doing about equal proportions just-published, recently-published, and could-be-anywhen books, and the two posts that have got the most attention have both been on books from the 1980s.

Granted, they were being reprinted, but I didn’t know that when I wrote the posts!

I particularly love it when I bring neglected classics to peoples’ attention, or point out an if-you-liked-X-try-Y they won’t have heard of. Of course, there’s then the problem of where they can get hold of them…

Oh, I don’t at all disagree that flocking to “totem” authors is outstandingly bad for the genre. One of the most aggravating things I can think of is when a review’s chief criticism isn’t: “Well, this isn’t ANYTHING like this other author!”

Really, I think we’re in agreement here in that we need to cover a diverse range of authors. I still maintain that new authors should be given at least a bit more priority, though, considering they need it more and it’s a more immediate dose of diversity in the gene pool (genre pool?), so to speak.

But perhaps bloggers could benefit from a revisit of authors they feel did not get the kind of publicity they felt they should. We talk all the time about “criminally underread” authors, perhaps now is the time to actually do something about it.

I used to review books for “The Seattle Times” where each book has to appear in the paper the same month it’s released. This is part of why I stopped. It was great to get an early crack at books like “Perdido Street Station” and “The Scar,” but so many other months there were awful books I had to not only read, but then write something sensible about. This model was controlled and fed by the flood of advance reader copies from publishers, and author tours. It seems most review blogs have just adopted it.

On my blog, I’d love to rediscover some obscure, or even better out of print, author. Lord Dunsany definitely merits a gander (thought you were making him up at first). I recently gave Fannie Hurst a try. She’s not a genre author, but was hugely popular before WWII and reportedly sold one of her novels to Hollywood for $1 million in the 1930s, yet today is almost entirely out of print. It turned out her writing is horrendous, just awful. But I loved thumbing through her mildewy books, trying to understand what made her so popular in her time.

I hear Sam’s point though. Fannie and Dunsany are dead, and wouldn’t need the money anyway. Finding new authors is a thrill too. It was beyond cool to get a chance to gush about Mieville’s “Perdido” when no one had heard about it.

Bloggers can’t win! If they complain about bad covers they are told to face the realities of the market. Now, when they capitulate to the front-list focussed market they are told they should push back.

More seriously, I agree entirely with your post and bloggers should always strive to provide broad and deep coverage. However, publishers could help them out. For example:

What about the backlist, the great books from four or five years ago, the ones that no longer sit on table displays or promotions.

Where is that backlist? Consider Gwyneth Jones. A highly respected SF novelist, her latest novel Spirit is being talked about as an award-winner. It is set in the same universe as her Aleutian Trilogy, the first two volumes of which were shortlisted for the Clarke. A blogger might well want to check out the earlier trilogy but they can’t because although it isn’t particularly old (1991-1997) it is currently out of print. As are the first four novels (2001-2005) of her more recent, award-winning Bold As Love series.

Just because they are out of print doesn’t mean they are impossible or even hard to find but the lack of any midlist longevity does make it harder to look beyond the new.

I like to think that MFB straddles the new / not so new and old pretty well. Personally, I review a lot of brand new books for other sites and keep the less new for MFB.

It does almost feel like there’s a competition sometimes, to be the first to review something, but to be honest, I am honestly beyond caring. Unless a publicist has asked me personally to review something to accompany the release, I’ll try to do it, otherwise, I’ll read it when I get to it and the majority of publishers love it, because they get to spread the coverage for their author across a wider time-period.

As a reviewer I get very antsy about reading the same book as others and I purposefully try not to, but sometimes there are some people you just gotta read as soon as you get it through the post – be it from the publisher or Amazon / Waterstone’s – because you are a fan of the writer / genre.

I also think that between the various blogs that I follow online, the amount of writers and books that get covered, readers will find something that suits them. Be it old or new.

I will always champion new writers because these are the guys who probably don’t have a marketing budget allocated to them. So if I can stand on my soapbox and give them a shout-out, I will. And if people think it’s frontlist fetish, then so be it. MFB’s motto is, after all: reviewing books indiscriminately.

I’ve raised this topic (pretty much) on my blog a couple of times in the past..where I had mentioned a plan to read more older books. I ran a poll asking if my visitors would find the blog less relevant/interesting if I focused more on older books, and almost 40% said they would find it less relevant. So its hard to know how many potential readers are checking blogs for older reviews. Regardless, I plan to alternate between old and new books going forward to equal things out a bit. That way I can still keep current, yet read some of the older (and complete!) series I have on my shelf.

Wow, are you all bloggers? By the time we finish reading blogs about what to read we won’t have time to read the books recommended:)

It’s all about balance and doing all things in moderation if at all possible, no? I read widely, even more widely than what some might think after seeing 90% of the books I’ve read over the past two weeks being reviewed in full on my blog. I’ve found that the visits stay about the same, my Feedburner stats are consistent, and yet what’s interesting is that the comments drop whenever I do a lot of reviews.

Of course, it’s probably due to most readers not being familiar with the works, but sometimes, I like conversations (which I suspect you do as well, thus the plethora of such posts in recent months ;)).

As for the topic of reviewing old/new books, it’s really just personal preference. Here’s a side of it that I haven’t really heard you say much about: What about short fiction? SF as a genre coalesced around the short story/novelette mode. Yet there are so few reviews of short fiction, whether it be individual tales or collections and anthologies. And yet there is a larger and larger market for short fiction (even if the pay rates have stagnated or even decreased over the past 30 years). Aren’t those just as vital for the storytelling forms?

Of course, I’m asking this while taking a break from reading lit journals and genre magazines for BAF 4. I wish I could review each of these in turn, but I fear that would run counter to my series editor position. Perhaps after the ToC is released in late autumn I’ll discuss selected stories and tales that almost made it into the anthology.

How ’bout that rambling, no?

As the blogosphere grows, more and more people will look to blog reviewers to inform their buying choices.

But as reader if that your only source what to read is a blog that would be worrying right? Bloggers are probably more sensitive to new books than general readers.

We’re also passionate readers on the whole and older books are not that exciting as we’ve been there and done that.

As for the classics or older books well I guess that will the hundreds of books you could be reading you just have to set a limit somewhere or you might go mad!

Wow, lots of comments. Apologies if I miss anyone out, and/or am brief in response. I’ve just been trying to sort out my parents’ webcam over the phone (an unsuccessful and frustrating mission, it seems…)

Paul – glad you’re reviewing older stuff betwixt new titles. That’s all to the good, especially when you go into the influences – that’s something too few reviews mention. And a pre-90s desert island idea is excellent. Do run with it!

Phillip – great stuff. (Apart from not reviewing mine yet. 🙂 )

Sam Kelly – I think buying your own books tends to allow you the luxury of choice somewhat, wouldn’t you agree? And that’s a good thing.

Mr Sykes – I am in two minds. Yes, I think new authors need a push, of course, and I think your idea of plugging underrated authors is a good one.

D.J. Morel – what a great reviewing gig that was! I know exactly what you mean about obscure authors. There’s something immensely personal about that read – as if you’ve unearthed some mystical tome. Even if it’s shite, there’s still something special about that type of reading. (Hope you enjoy Dunsany, too.)

Martin – indeed, the print status is probably the main issue. An excellent point. I suspect many reviewers would like any readers to step right into a bookshop and purchase the recommendation. I wonder how digital publishing – ebooks, Print on Demand – will change all that?

Liz – “It does almost feel like there’s a competition sometimes, to be the first to review something” yes, I have noticed that. Is it a bad thing inherently? I don’t know. It certainly encourages a bad habit of reading a book for reasons other than the text itself. (And keep standing on that soapbox.)

Jeff – that’s an interesting question to ask. I wonder what the response would be if you rephrased the question though? Something along the lines of: “Would you like you attention brought to some amazing and underrated authors?”

Larry – yes, I suspect reviews aren’t always ideal to generated debate (depending on the book, perhaps). As for short fiction… that’s interesting. It’s a small side of the industry, admittedly, and a publisher will always sell much less of a short story collection than a novel. Is that proportion equal in review coverage? I’d say possibly, yes. Though a good chunk of original stories are in magazines – and their readerships are in big decline (though I hope digital publishing reverses this). Do blog reviewers find short stories difficult to talk about? Not enough chops to really discuss?

Gav – you would be surprised. Where else are they going to get their opinions from? A handful of other review outlets? And then what? The bookstore, and then we get onto the cover art debate…

Older books are not exciting? What?! That implies that the reading experience of excitement is not about the content of the book at all, but the discovery of the new. And an older book may be forgotten about for reasons such as: no marketing budget, shit cover – nothing to do with the excitement level in the text.

Imagine, though, the excitement of plugging an author that’s underrated? Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist did this with Paul Kearney, who lost his deal with Transworld, only to be picked up by Solaris…

I think short fiction is so spread out these days that it’s hard to say what the aggregate readership is. Yes, the print publishers are in decline, but there has been a relatively explosive growth in the visibility (and presumably, readership) of online ezines like Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Chi-Zine, and others over the year. Yes, there’s a high failure rate as well, but there also seems to be a more concerted effort by some publishers ( in particular) to promote the short fiction standard by having an online wing devoted to it that pays extremely well compared to the competition.

I think this is starting to be reflected in the number of online stories that made the Nebula ballot and might soon takeover the Hugo ballots as well, as the membership there shifts more to the Gens X/Y/etc. This is not arguing that as a percentage that short fiction is comparable to bestselling novels, but rather that it is still a viable segment, one that is neglected by a few segments of the SF blogosphere. I would cover more of it, myself, but I have to maintain at least a semi-veil of secrecy over what stories I’m submitting for the guest editors to consider for the BAF series. But it is nice knowing that I literally have close to 100 magazines and journals to read through for this, including the ezines. Some of the better stories this year have come from those smaller parts of the overall lit circles.

I can only speak for myself, so I’m not saying this is how it should be for everyone, but I try to find a balance in my reading in general across the genres. I have gaps in my reading knowledge (I blame my English Lit. teacher at high school for putting me off people like Shakespeare for fifteen years) and now at a slightly more senior age, I’m going back and plugging the holes with a book club. So whilst trying to keep up with the new kids, I’m currently enjoying the pleasure of rediscovering classics that I knew about but never read, like Slaughterhouse 5, The Caves of Steel, The Handmaid’s Tale etc.

The other point is I’m also making connections, joining the dots and seeing how new authors were influenced by the Great Ones, be it fantasy, sci-fi or other genres. It’s giving me a deeper understanding of modern fiction and I can enjoy the stories on more levels than previously. So in terms of relevance which someone mentioned earlier, the older books are still definitely worth it. And if I post a review of a modern novel, I can mention who I think it is influenced by and if people enjoyed the new, they might go out and see where it came from. That’s my hope anyway.

Aidan – whose? generally curious.

Mark – well before the internet we had to go find out own books in Libraries and bookshops… maybe more people should go look at the shelves of their local Waterstones or Smiths (which has a great SFF selection at the minute)

I grew up prior to the internet in a city without a bookshop, only a WH Smith’s. In one way this helpful because its limited and eclectic selection of SF ensured I took a catholic approach to the genre. At the same time, I wouldn’t wish this situation on anyone.

The scope for grappling with wider contexts and riffing critically across time and mediums on the internet is just immense, which is why I love it. But I agree, it isn’t done enough, because the other great thing about the internet is it is faster, hence the innate obsession with the fresh, new, latest, greatest etc. because it kind of has the monopoly when it comes to speeeeed.

But I must agree and say that as a reader I do find the focus on new or upcoming titles on many book blogs slightly alienating. They make me feel like I’m in a perpetual race to keep up. When I do read new book reviews, I’ll tend to note down the titles they reference as an inspiration or as comparison, often over the new book itself. I guess it’s because I’m a context and reference girl and I like to experience things in the midst of a larger fabric. It’s a labour-intensive way to read, which I guess many readers (and I imagine reviewers) don’t have the time for.

Mark – I’m not sure “luxury of choice” is the best way to put it. I’m not going to stop buying the books I really want to read (and I can’t afford to buy others, at least not new) if I do start getting sent a pile more. I read faster than almost anyone else I know, so my reading time is not nearly as much of a constraint on what I review as the supply of books is.

Gav – I think if people browse their bookstores, that’s all for the good – though their buying decisions (for the most part) will be influenced by cover art then, more than anything else.

Martin – does that mean you worked your way through the Wheel of Time then? 🙂

Talitha – Yes, the race to keep up. It does seem to be like that doesn’t it? Whatever happened to slow enjoyment of a novel, rather than squeezing hundreds of them in a month?

Sam – you’re one of those fast readers that make me immensely jealous!

You know you’re gonna have to give some titles besides the Holdstock now, just to give them that extra bit of motivation.

You could just say Čapek’s War with the Newts might be a good starter. I’m reviewing that later in the day after I sleep and do some networking calls.

Martin – and you didn’t convert ‘religion’ after that?

Larry – I’ve been plugging Lord Dunsany recently, and Michael Swanwick. I seem to be constantly championing this dying earth malarkey – Viriconium, Book of the New Sun, Vance’s tales… What more do you want?!

Squirrel fiction. That’s what I want. Can you provide it? 😛

Good authors, but what about Lindsay? He ought to be mentioned there with the others. Might re-read and review Voyage to Arcturus in the near future, but I have several other books in mind first, including some Angela Carter and Edward Whittemore, I believe.

I think the speed of the internet only encourages the latent cultural drive towards the newest & shiniest. And the way the industry (publishers, awards, booksellers) are set up, there’s very little reward for bloggers to talk about books from several years ago.

From personal experience – if I can review something that hasn’t been released yet, my traffic spikes. That spike is far lower if review something at the on-sale date. And continues to flatten out until 3-6 months after launch.

At that point, I might as well review a pulp paperback from the 1950s – from a quantitative point of view, I’ll get substantially more visitors from the long tail of niche fan-groups than from reviewing a best-seller in 2008.

Always thought the internet was all about the long tail rather than just the shiniest and the newest.

I for one will back to the hilt any bloggers wanting to take a look at Gollancz backlist titles – any enthusiasm should be nurtured and we ALL know there’s stuff we’ve missed.

I wonder whether a blog dedicated to unearthing hidden treasures would draw readers? It would certainly have a USP and I bet publishers would back it (more enthusiastically if the titles were in print at least I grant you but nevertheless).

Excellent debate on a very interesting point! Certainly I look to blogs for reviews on the latest books, but that is also where I have learned about authors such as Charles de Lint. A healthy balance of both old and new is good!

I do find, however, that new releases get reviewed but authors get profiled and interviewed which introduces their back catalogue to new readers.
But it is worth noting that I found YOUR 1st book via SFF blogs, so they can be a very valuable source of (free) publicity for new authors trying to get established.

Musing aloud, it may just come down to content. It is easier to add “new news” to the collective interwebberbastorium if you’re writing about something that’s… new.

The long tail is good for keeping things ticking over, but it is much harder work to add something new to a debate that’s been going on for years (or decades).

Less theoretically, I started blogging to talk about hidden treasures and the vast majority of our reviews are still of older books. BUT, I can guarantee at least 10x the visits if I’m reviewing something that’s not yet on the shelf.

Practically speaking, there’s a magical balance out there. If someone finds it, please let me know.

Well, I’ve been reviewing online since 2001 and have a number of catalog reviews up. Indeed, it’s my policy when a veteran authors’ newest novel comes out to tack on reviews of a couple of their catalog titles as well.

Millenium / Gollancz deserve some credit for trying to encourage readers to sample older material through their Fantasy and Science Fiction Masterworks series. These series began in 1999 and have re-released a good number of “classic” titles. I think they are a good way to try something different and high street bookshops generally carry a few titles.

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