The Writer-Blogger Connection

A year and a half ago, people who wrote blogs about books seemed mysterious, organized, technologically savvy, funny, creative, opinionated, and distant to me.  I was surprised and grateful when any of them reviewed my novel positively, and I learned quickly to stop reading when a review was meh because it stung.  As a few bloggers began to contact me about interviews and as I emailed a handful to thank them for their kind words, I discovered some incredibly nice, generous people who love books as much as I do.

The good thing is, I feel like I have more nice friends.  The bad thing is, their opinions matter more to me now that I know them, so part of me squirms knowing that my publicist has been sending out review copies of Prized.  I hope the bloggers will remain as honest as they were the first time around.  I also can’t help hoping they like my book.  There’s the rub.

The writer-blogger connection makes me question whether a blogger can be impartial once he or she knows a little of the writer behind the book, and if that compromises reviews.  Is it possible to say something nasty about a friend’s latest book?  Ouch.  Yet if nastiness isn’t possible, the positive comments aren’t credible anymore, either.

With hired reviewers selling fake reviews to the likes of TripAdvisors and Amazon at $5 to $10 a pop, I’m feeling shaken with new distrust.  I want to be able to believe genuine people like me are sharing honest opinions, with nothing motivating us but goodwill and concern for our fellow consumers or readers.  As a reader, I want the purity of the unbiased review.

I’ve read that a positive or a negative review in the New York Times can make a measurable short-term impact on a book’s sales, but beyond that, it’s hard to be convinced any single review has much influence.  When bloggers reach 100-2,000 followers at a time, the power of bloggers lies in their collective ability to spread awareness and a general impression of a book.  Even though one blogger alone in this buzz may have a very small voice, the integrity of all the bloggers, with the grass-roots, free-speech, devil-may-care honesty and humor that abound, is what we value.

That honesty is what I don’t want to undermine.  So I’m adding my honesty, my own disclaimer, to the mix.  It’s preposterous to think I would ever pay for a positive review.  I’d never trade my friendship for a positive review, either.  Yet at least a subtle influence seems unavoidable when there’s a writer-blogger connection.  Over this past year, more than once, I’ve ended up having funny, friendly exchanges with bloggers behind the scenes.  I’ve discovered several of them are writers, too, and they get what I’m going through while I’m working.  We like each other.  They matter to me.  I’ve had kind, unexpected emails arrive just when I’m pulling out my hair with gnarly revisions, and these notes make me think There’s hope.  All I can do is my best.  I just have to keep trying.

My blogger friends make me a better writer.  If our friendships also influence their reviews of my books, maybe it’s because we’re human.  However, knowing that my friends are people I respect, I suspect I’m due to read some pretty honest reviews.  I think that’s why I’m squirming.

Many thanks to my blogger friends, especially Steph of Steph Su Reads, Kari of A Good Addiction, Enna of Squeaky Books, Precious of Fragments of Life,  Katie of Mundie Moms, Georgia of Eve’s Fan Garden, Rachael of The Book Muncher and most recently, Katie of Simply Kate, who shot this unbelievably sweet YouTube review.  I’m delighted to count you my friends.  You certainly don’t need me to tell you: go ahead and be honest.

9 Responses to The Writer-Blogger Connection

  • I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as well, and I think the conclusion to which I came was this:

    They were bloggers before they were my friends and if their friendships with me influence their reviews, their credibility as bloggers would be undermined. They have reputations outside of me to uphold, so I would hope they are being as honest with me as they are with authors who are not their friends.

  • Trish ~
    Good point. You’re right about bloggers having reputations to uphold. It also seems like we become part of a community, and a supportive community is a good thing. Especially if it’s honest, too.

  • Interesting read. I’ve done soul-searching on this too, and come up with a different perspective. For me, just as it felt wrong to review books on the Internet once I became a published author (though I’m happy to gush about a book I love), it also felt necessary to back off of forming friendships with bloggers who review, because I do think it affects both the reviews and the bloggers. I felt like I was putting people in a strange situation, a very uncomfortable one for them sometimes. And to be honest, I do think it can affect the honesty of reviews. That said, I bet there are plenty of bloggers for whom it isn’t a problem at all.

    One other thing–you ask “Is it possible to say something nasty about a friend’s latest book? Ouch. Yet if nastiness isn’t possible, the positive comments aren’t credible anymore, either.”

    I truly believe that nastiness has no place in any review, yet so many seem to think that snark (which, to paraphrase one writer I know, “thinly veiled meanness”) is the name of the game and that using words like “atrocious” or “drivel” to describe books has some value.

    Reviewers should be giving readers a fair look at a book, what its problems and strengths may be. I may not like a book at all, but calling it drivel is something that isn’t helpful to anyone.

  • Teri ~
    I agree the writer-blogger connection could lead to awkwardness at review time, but it would feel pretty unnatural to me to eschew friendships that are evolving just because of potential awkwardness down the road. I certainly see where you’re coming from, though, and like you, I think friendships are likely to influence reviews, at least subtly.
    On the nastiness issue, even though I have been crushed by words such as those you describe, I respectfully disagree with your stand that “nastiness has no place in any review.” First, I think the nastiness says more about the reviewer than the book, and second, I have the right to look away. Is nastiness hurtful? Yes–very. Does it add value? Not really. Do I like that bloggers speak their minds? Absolutely.
    Thanks for chiming in with your perspective. You always make me think.
    All best,

  • I’ll be honest, when I read Prized, I was worried that I wouldn’t like it, or something about it would put me off. And because you have been so incredibly sweet, I didn’t want to say something mean, or down-putting in my review.

    But honey! You outdid yourself with Prized! I don’t have a bad thing to say about it. Except… Peter. Sad day. But even that was handled awesomely! You, my friend, are a genius!

  • Also, thank you so much for sharing my review on your blog! It means so much to me!

  • Katie ~
    See, your honesty is proof that Teri is right: there is definitely potential for awkwardness. Still, I respect that bloggers can figure out a way to be fair. If something about Prized had put you off, I think you would have found a nice way to say it, and I would have handled it. I certainly don’t expect to be called a genius every day. (Teri knows I’ve had my days of discovering I am not one–ha!)
    All best,

  • I watched Kate’s book review and now want to read this book. She does a wonderful job of reviewing books on video. I suspect she will be fairly honest with her review of your 2nd book.

  • Booklogged ~
    I’m so glad you thought she did a wonderful job, too. I like when she laughs.
    All best,

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