Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pulling the Trigger on "Influence" in Book Blogging

I stay out of drama. I'm not about drama in the blogosphere because, generally speaking, this site is my happy place. To put things in perspective, I've been blogging for seven years as of February 21st (I've already written the happy, gushy post). I was here before review books and NetGalley. I was here before authors and bloggers started quibbling. I was here before there was a debate over what constitutes a "review" or a "reaction." I was here before it was cool. I was here before it made money. I was here and I remain here because I love to read, and I really love the friends I've made online. I adore sharing ideas with you.

Today, however, was something of a tipping point for me. I've already had icky feelings (quietly, and in my own brain) over what feels like the publishing industry gaining (or attempting to exert)  more "control" over blogging. It started with ARCs. Everyone wanted ARCs. Publishers started e-mailing, authors started e-mailing, the review copies started sliding through the door. This was years ago, mind you. But publishers started dangling carrots! Unlike most, I have never felt one iota of obligation to review a book unless it's something I specifically requested from a publisher or publicist. Even then, I make it really clear that if I don't want to review a book, I won't. If I don't like it. If I'm too busy. Because it's my blog. And my blog is mine.

After the scramble for ARCs started, the scramble for "traffic" started. Everyone wanted to talk about how to increase traffic and "brand" their blog. We came up with lists of best practices and what-not-to-dos.  Everyone hopped on Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook and Ning and Goodreads and Shelfari and had to be plugged in all the time.

Am I different? No. I'm not. I admit it 100%. My blog has a "look," I have a Twitter account and a Tumblr account and a Facebook fan page. I used to run a 'zine for BLOGGERS (not for publishers). But do you want to know why? Because I like to talk to my friends who read. Because the bloggers I know are the only friends in my life who read.

But something that "old age" in blogging has taught me and that I see more all the time is this: we are a tool. We are an available and fertile market. We publicize what needs publicizing, mostly, for free. I've also learned that I don't want to be dictated to. I don't want to be pushed or nudged or shoved into anything.

As I logged into NetGalley the other day for the first time in months, I realized something--some publishers are getting pushy! A surprising number of publishers now want to know how many visitors visit one's blog in a day or a week or a month. How many people subscribe to one's blog? How quickly one can review a book?

And do you know what I have to say to these "guidelines" and these demands?


To the wonderful, polite, genuine publishers, publicists, and many many authors I've worked with here over the years, thank you! This anger is not for you. That's really important. But it seems like every day this idea of book blogging is becoming more mechanized and impersonal at the hands of external forces.

At the end of the day, the most important thing to me about blogging is the reading I do. It's the friends with whom I share my words. I don't want to feel pushed around. I don't want to feel purchased. I want to feel liberated because that's always what reading and blogging have done for me -- they've freed me! Freed me to open my mind and think new thoughts. They've freed me to write my experiences and send them out into the world with confidence.

Come hell or high water, ARCs, no ARCs, publisher inquiries or not. Social networking or not. Obligation or not. I will read. I will write about what I read. I will read and write what I want and what is in my heart. And I hope that as a group that is always our goal. Our ultimate and most cherished goal. To be truthful and open-minded and collegial to one another, no matter what external forces are at work, exerting influence. I can tell you this: whether it's another seven days or another seven years, this blog is mine. It is the essence of who I am as a reader, and reading is a part of my soul in a way that nothing else is. Sharing my reading and all that is literary is my job every day and my hobby, too. I am lucky. I am blessed to do what I love. I will always read what I want. I'll write what I want. And I will do so feeling strong and never intimidated by what I should do with an Internet home of my own making.

Limitations are not welcome here.

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