Friday, July 07, 2006

This Is Major Tom To Ground Control

Needs, wants, expectations and desires: what defines the blogger/reader relationship? What makes you read one blog over another? What keeps you coming back?

And what’s with all the questions already?

When I started this blog it was for me to bitch about Harry Potter for the amusement of a couple of friends (nothing against Harry Potter, I love the money it brings me, but a few thousand repeated questions a day can make a girl a little cranky). My feeble little brain understood that other people might find my internet diary, hence the anonymity, but I never expected this interesting community people who’ve shown up in the last year. When I started I didn’t know that were other booksellers out there blogging away about the same frustrations and joys I had, or that there were authors—new and old—still trying to get a handle on the seller half of the world. It’s wonderful that we can all come together and share information, opinions, and our hopes for the future of books and I hope that we continue to do so.

What I’m saying is that I think that you guys are pretty damn cool.

But the questions above weren’t meant to cause a group hug moment (if only because someone inevitably cries out “I love you, Man” before making a groping pass at the closest person’s ass at which point everyone realizes that maybe they shouldn’t have tapped that second keg and who the hell is going to drive Mr. Happy-Hands home now?).

No, these questions are meant to be focused not on this blog (y’all have told me what you want and I’m just slow in getting to it), but those written by members of the publishing industry. Take a look at some of the blogs from the publishing drones:

  • Anna Genovese, an editor for TOR, who writes about her everyday life, love of Lex/Clark fanfic, and explains the crazy publishing concept of Profit and Loss statements.

  • Carl Lennertz (HarperCollins Publishers) runs Publishing Insider, a weblog about “books, music, movies, the big picture, and absurd rants” where he contemplates the little questions (which famous author did coin the term nerd?) and the big (why does one book sell and another fail?) while linking you to others who do the same.

  • Anonymous blogger E is for Editrix of the Analytical Knife contemplates the world of children’s books and—most recently—why shouldn’t squander your book two.

  • Evil Editor focuses not on what will get you published, but why you won’t, and uses his/her anonymity to rip apart query letters and put them back together in a more coherent format.

  • Formerly anonymous Mad Max Perkins used to blog at BookAngst 101 about the ins and outs of publishing before outing himself to support Sara Gran’s book Dope. (I do wish he would return.)

They all focus on books at some point, but are just as apt to wander off on tangents about real life, Johnny Depp, and obscure factoids. They are a mix of the personal and the professional, walking the line between informative and too informative. Does it work? It depends. Do we all come out smarter people having read about P&L statements, having helped come up with kid’s books ideas, getting our queries ripped apart or learning about the intricate inner workings of the publishing world? Sure. Knowledge is power (or at least that’s what GI Joe told me as a kid).

But what about Publisher blogs (written and supported by an imprint)? Do you give them the same openness and receptiveness that you use to take in the information from the editors above? At the moment (after a quick internet search) there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of them out there:
  • Harper Perennial has people blog (and guest blog) in the Olive Reader, discussing books, music and the grandiose statements that the news world often makes about our generation. (Harper also has the Cruelest Month, a poetry weblog.)

  • Simon and Schuster just started Trade Talk and it is still in its infancy.

(I would appreciate links to any other publisher blogs if you know of them.)

Would/do you treat publisher blogs differently than an editor’s blog?

Would you expect more from a publisher’s blog?

Do you lose some of the personal intimacy you build with a single blogger when you can’t tell who is running the thing?

What can a publisher give you that a single editor/marketer/book drone can’t?

I’m interested in how we perceive a publishing blog vs. a single writer/editor blog, and why that may be. I know that I have certain expectations for one that do not apply to another, but I want to hear what y’all have to say first. Take a look at the blogs and think about what you like or don’t and back that up (if you can).

Let’s make the world out there a more informative place.


Robin Brande said...

It's just preconceived prejudice, but I assume that any blog supported by the publisher is more marketing than honest opinion. What I like about insider blogs is the sense that they're being naughty, telling us secrets they're not supposed to.

Again, I could be totally wrong (publishing blogs may be more independent than I think, or individual blogs may be more sinisterly tied-in to The Company than I know), but that's the bias I bring to them as a reader.

For instance, I would feel totally betrayed if I found out BSC were blogging in response to a company directive saying every store must have a blog. It would be like finding out BSC is really a prison inmate making it all up as he goes along--shelf placement, co-op agreements, etc.

E is for Editrix said...

Thanks for the plug, BSC!

Good questions too...
I agree with Robin about thinking publishers' blogs are marketing based. In a way I wish I was comfortable blogging by my real name, and plugging the books I work on that I love, but on the days I need to bitch, I wouldn't be able to do that. (I've had authors I work with who have bitched about me on their blogs, and gotta tell ya, that stings. You never know who's reading your blog. We don't always leave comments...)

I can only speak for myself to explain why I like the online forum and why I'd rather be reading about individuals than organizations and companies. I like hearing what writers out there think, and how things look from their end. It helps me do my job better. I like hearing what agents think for the same reason.

I want to know what's selling, what people are interested in, how the world reacts to stories--especially stories I want to tell. So for me, I almost don't want the official publisher perspective. That part I hope I already get.

Marta said...

BSC, I haven't checked out the publishers' blogs, but agree with the above. A blog on a publisher's website will have to abide by certain rules and content will be controlled.

In response to your initial questions, I will bookmark a blog if it is updated frequently, informative, entertaining, and useful. When I wanted to learn about publishing, I searched the net and this blog was a happy discovery.

I've also like blogs that do some of the homework of web searching for me, by putting in useful hyperlinks to current publishing news. That way I can justify reading a good blog as saving time. It's all about efficiency, baby.

Robin Brande said...

I agree with Marta that one of the things that keeps me reading someone's blog is regular--preferably daily (give or take)--updates. And I agree that the links to other websites and articles are great. None of us can know everything. Word-of-mouth is the next best thing.

I also enjoy your interviews with authors like Ayun Halliday. I bought her book today, solely because of that interview. I never would have heard of her otherwise.

Kendall said...

I tend to think if the publisher has a blog, then it's mainly for marketing purposes. That's fine -- if they publish stuff I like (or believe I'll like), then I'm interested. (So the ones you linked to don't intrigue me.)

I read (skim) two publisher blogs you didn't mention:

1, Pyr's (SF/F/H publisher, imprint of Prometheus) - basically a marketing tool (links to reviews & interviews of their books/authors)

2. Science Fiction Book Club's - plenty of SF/F/H-related news, and some marketing (links to reviews & interviews of their books/authors)

At least in my preferred genres, author blogs tend to be about writing, their writing, getting published, and their lives; unless I know them, everything except the latter is what I'm there for. I read author blogs by authors I actually read, plus one or two who write SF/F/H and have a very good blog.

Agent & editor blogs (that I read, anyway) tend to relate strongly (if not wholely) to the publishing industry; this usually interests me a lot. I tend to read these even if they aren't related to my preferred genres; the info frequently cuts across genres. E.g. Genovese's blog -- I don't read romance, but her publishing info's great.

Lyn Cash said...

As a writer and reader, I only go to the publishers' blogs if they're informative without marketing to me. I go to the editors' blogs if they're blatantly honest and down-to-the-bone candid.

We all (readers, writers, editors, agents) are biased to a certain degree, but that doesn't mean we can't/don't learn something now and then, and that is the primary reason I lift my fingers from the keys long enough to read anyone learn. Maybe the info I gleen will work for me or get passed on to someone I know who might use it wisely. As long as it doesn't go unread or unappreciated, I can live with it. *grin*

Interesting blog.

ME said...

I have a theory that Evil Editor is Dan Conway (AKA Mad Max). Think about it… the “evil” blog starts just as BookAngst ends. The timing is too coincidental to me. And if you read their posts together they have the same sense of style. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

Monica Burns said...

Considering the politics of this business (or any for that matter), I would only be comfortable commenting about something openly with an anonymous ID. So I generally don't post actual opinion, just general observations, but I do read a lot.

Some blogs are vent forums, some are opinions, some are marketing. It depends on who's visiting where.

If I wasn't in the industry, I could easily speak my mind under my own name, but I learned the hard way in my day job that being open and honest can see you nailed to the wall faster than Lara Croft coming at you in those amazing back flip moves.

PBW said...

Publisher blogs are no different than newsletters or any other form of online marketing, nor should they be. Intelligent online marketing represents the publisher's best interests, not their authors' or the readers'.

Blogs by individuals can be just as carefully designed and targeted (and are becoming common as pros grow more leery and blog-shy), but generally they're more approachable. Visitors who go to individual blogs feel as if they're connecting with a person, not an anonymous corporate entity -- like getting a real person on the phone instead of an automated answering system.

Jilly said...

Cruelest Month is harper collins' poetry blog.