I don't get out much • 3 April 2008 • The SnowBlog
I don't get out much
Would you believe it - a whole literary festival on our doorstep, in Oxford, and I completely missed it. I only heard about it as a result of the coverage of an Oxford Literary Festival event - a panel talk debating the validity of lit bloggers vs critics. Either I'm not paying attention properly, or they need to up their marketing next year. A quick aside before I comment on the blogger vs critic debate - and an aside that is typically self-absorbed. Thinking about this made me think about the nature of the Snowblog. It most definitely is not a lit blog. We rarely review books, unless they're political. It borders on a PR alert service for Snowbooks, which is bad, really, because I'm sure readers don't tune in for that sort of thing. Thanks for putting up with it, anyway. It borders on a political commentary blog, courtesy of Rob's interests. It contains frivolous diary-like entries (cf: lambs, below). It contains a lot of geekery. It contains a lot of opinion on industry goings-on. All in all, I'd say it was the diary of a business, a real-time reflection of what it's like to run a small publisher and our reflections on the things that make us run the company as we do.
All of that navel gazing is simply to say: we're not a lit blog, so I comment on lit blogs vs critics from an outsider position.
I am not a huge fan of newspaper literary critics - mainly, I have to say, because they very rarely review our books. Since I don't know any of them personally, I don't have any reason to feel particularly warmly towards them as a result. And even when we get reviews, they don't affect sales in the slightest. Snowbooks has never been the sort of publisher that does things just because that's the way it's done, and it's plainly stupid to spend vast amounts of time and sums of money on postage and writing individual letters to reviewers a) who never review the books b) whose reviews have no commercial benefit. The only reason we ever solicit reviews in the papers is to make the author feel better, which is a pretty feeble one, even though from the off we always say to authors 'we focus on retailer promotions, not reviews".
Bloggers, on the other hand, are of more interest. Firstly, their reviews are from the heart. They are to be trusted because there's no paycheck or career consideration in it for them. And readers get that. Secondly, they are pretty much to a person thoroughly charming - by which I mean they email to say thank you, they usually review a book if we've emailed in advance and they've requested it, and their reviews sell books. I cite as an example the launch of The Needle in the Blood last year, which many bloggers were kind enough to comment on. We could tell that it affected sales because of the numerous comments after the reviews: 'DGR, you've persuaded me to buy it!' - that manner of thing.
There's a middle type of reviewer, though - the specialist press. They are lovely, thoughtful, interested - like the bloggers, I reckon, because they care so deeply about the sorts of books they're reviewing.
So that's my point of view. Read about the coverage of what the bloggers and critics thought via the links here.