This is a guest post by Terri Giuliano Long
Last May, about a month after I began marketing my novel, In Leah’s Wake, a former agent told me I’d never sell 500 books. A rookie, I had no idea what to expect. When I published my novel, I’d dreamed of selling around 3,000 – 5,000 books, hoping those healthy sales numbers might attract the attention of an agent or traditional publishing house for my next novel.
The agent had left New York, but she’d been in the business for a long time, and her words stung. I hung up the phone, feeling heartbroken, depressed. Had I not been in the midst of my first blog tour, I might have pulled my novel off the market that day.
Determined to see the tour through, I soldiered on. On the tour, I met wonderful, caring people – book bloggers – whose kindness buoyed and sustained me. Their kindness gave me confidence to believe in myself.
Over the next few months, In Leah’s Wake appeared on hundreds of blogs. Bloggers opened their hearts and spread news of this quiet literary novel across their social networks. In August, In Leah’s Wake hit the Barnes & Noble and Amazon charts. Now, seven months after my discouraging conversation with the agent, my book has been in the Amazon top 200 for over five months – and sold over 80,000 copies.
Book bloggers rock! Bloggers are, I believe, the fairy godmothers and godfathers of the literary world. They invest their inestimable talent, their tremendous energy, and their invaluable time into discovering, reviewing and promoting new books – and in keeping dreams alive.
Here are five important ways that bloggers shape the literary world:
Bloggers have taken the place of traditional reviewers
Book reviews are big business. The money paid to reviewers at publications like The New York Times is generated, at least in part, from ad sales paid for by traditional publishers. Thus far, traditional media have resisted reviewing indie books, probably at least in part because there is little or no money to be made.
Despite the stigma, indie authors continued to write. With no one to parse the thousands of new books on the market, readers who wanted to try books by indie authors were forced to buy largely at random. Some books were gems; others were not. Recognizing the need – and desire on the part of readers – for reviews, bloggers picked up the slack. Today, bloggers take the guesswork out of book buying, lowering the risk for readers.
They provide professional reviews that feel personal
Like traditional reviewers, reputable bloggers don’t just give an opinion; they offer a thorough analysis of the book under review. Bloggers labor over their reviews, spending a great deal of time analyzing the work – evaluating plot, structure, character development, and so on – just like any professional reviewer.
Reviews by bloggers, while as legitimate as professional reviews, feel more personal. Readers follow favorite bloggers. They get to know, and often share, the blogger’s sensibilities. The blogger is like a good friend; readers feel they can trust his or her reviews.
Through them you discover new voices
Unlike traditional media, most bloggers don’t stigmatize indie-published books. Except perhaps in free reads, no one pays bloggers for their reviews. Bloggers don’t answer to corporate publishers, nudging them to read books by their anointed authors, nor do they answer to a marketing team. Bloggers select books freely – their only goal is to share good reads with their readers and followers. Because they’re open-minded, willing to read books by an author they’ve never heard of, they discover new voices. This is what happened with In Leah’s Wake.
They introduce new books and authors to the world
When bloggers discover a new book or author they love, they share the news. They publish a review on their blog, post on reader and consumer sites, like Goodreads and Amazon, and share news across their social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Google +, etc.
In the old days, publishers decided which of their books to back, putting hundreds of thousands into marketing some books, next to nothing into others. In essence, by creating visibility for their favored authors and books, they controlled the bestseller lists. Today, by harnessing the power of social networks and media, spreading news virally, bloggers are putting books on those lists.
They create a community of authors and readers
On their sites, bloggers create a vibrant community of authors and readers. In the past, outside public readings, readers and authors rarely connected. Today, readers and authors often visit book blogs and dynamic conversations ensue. Bloggers also interview authors or invite authors to write guest posts, giving authors a way to share their thoughts with readers and readers the opportunity to learn more about – and connect with – authors.
As more people turn away and tune out from invasive, anxiety-inducing platforms like Facebook, the blog community will become increasingly important. Blogs are personal, and they’re typically moderated – the new literary salons, book blogs offer a safe, vibrant, comfortable place for authors and readers to chat.
In these very real ways, book bloggers are the creators of the indie revolution. Their vision, their energy, and their determination have enabled this amazing populist movement to take hold and grow.
Today, we have the great good fortune of hearing the funny, poignant, intelligent voices of new authors from around the world – voices that, only a few years ago, might have been silenced by the gatekeepers of the old guard. These new voices reach into hearts and minds, forging connections, uniting us in a community of readers and writers, as we search for and find – through the power of words – the better part of ourselves. This, truly, is what reading and writing is all about.
Terri Giuliano Long is the bestselling author of the award-winning novel In Leah’s Wake. Her life outside of books is devoted to her family. In her free time, she enjoys walking, traveling, and listening to music. True to her Italian-American heritage, she’s an enthusiastic cook. In an alternate reality, she might be an international food writer. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. In Leah’s Wake is her debut novel.