inBlogs: Young Adult Book Bloggers And Their Rising Power
A decade ago, when I signed my first book deal with a major publisher, the term “book blogger” barely existed. They constituted only the tiniest blip on the radar of book publicists, publishers, and authors seeking to promote their work. The ease of blogging and the huge range of quality in the blogosphere tainted the practice with justifiable skepticism. Most people in power assumed only professional book reviewers could move readers to take a chance on a new or unknown author. Consequently, that’s where all the energy went: publishers continued targeting traditional media outlets, even though book review sections were shrinking.
Today, book bloggers have become one of the most powerful forces in the industry. In particular, the Young Adult sector of publishing has a very close and sometimes controversial relationship with bloggers, many of whom are high school or college students themselves. These days YA books often feature blurbs from bloggers on book jackets rather than Publisher’s Weekly or other time-honored review publications. Why? Because in the brave new world of social media marketing, the opinions of peers carry more weight than those of the so-called “experts,” especially with the under-thirty demographic.
Melanie, the blogger behind Reviews of YA Lit recalls her initial surprise as this shift started to become more pronounced: “I can still remember the excitement and shock of seeing one of my own review blurbs on Jennifer Echols’ author website. When I came across Robin Benway’s Audrey, Wait! with book blogger quotes on it, I nearly fell over in my local Barnes and Noble. I remember thinking, Hey, I KNOW these people.”
Many credit bloggers with playing a crucial role in the overnight success of indie wonder kids such as Amanda Hocking, including the author herself. In Hocking’s blog about her meteoric rise from an unknown, unpublished author with no agent or book contract to an international bestselling phenomenon, she describes their role in her ascent: “Then…I discovered book bloggers. I had no idea such people existed. I asked several if they would be interested in reviewing my books, and most of them said yes, even if they didn’t generally review self-published work. Then something surreal started happening. My books were selling. Like, really selling.”
Authors seeking to get the word out about self-published books or those put out by micro-publishers find a more receptive audience among bloggers than they ever will among traditional reviewers. Since the number of book bloggers grows every day, many up and coming newbies are eager for books to review and take pride in helping discover new voices. This shift in power should be seen as wonderful news for everyone who craves an expanded conversation about books, but it also comes with its share of controversy.
In the next installment, we’ll explore the more contentious aspects of book blogging and the ongoing debate about both the efficacy and the ethics of Advance Reader Copies in the blogging world.