Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Why Become a Book Blogger

Last Autumn I took part in another Celebrating Bloggers Blog Hop. In that post I talked about how important book bloggers are as a way of finding good books, especially those by independent authors. At the time I was only just starting out as a book blogger with my magic realism blog, so I did not truly appreciate all the hard work that goes in to creating a good book blog nor the rewards that book blogging offers to writers.

Let us start with the hard work. When I first set up my book blog, I set myself the target of reading and reviewing one magic realism book a week. I thought this was quite a difficult target to hit at the time, but I now realize that it is nothing unusual. In fact there are many book bloggers who manage a book a day. I could never manage that without giving my life to reading. I have many other things to do with my time, not the least being writing my own books. I find reading and reviewing one book a week to be surprisingly doable. I am capable of reading more than that and on slack weeks I sometimes read extra books, which I bank against weeks when my job or my writing take precedence. My reviews tend to be quite long and so I like to read each book and then think about it for a day or two before I write my review. I believe that consistency of posting is important. As a result my readership is steadily growing and can be confident that there will be a new review up every Wednesday.

Why is my book blog important to me as a writer? I know some writers would say that I should be concentrating on this blog -my writer’s blog – and to building my platform. Others might say that I should focus on writing my books, rather than reading other people’s.  To the first criticism I would say that, whilst I know people enjoy this blog, the magic realism blog is also an important part of my platform building. I write magic realism and so people who visit my book blog are my target audience. In addition my blog has provided me with all sorts of useful contacts, such as publishers and writers of magic realism and magic realist websites, which I can approach with more authority than I would have simply as an indie writer.

There is a simple answer to the second criticism: in order to improve as a writer one needs to read more as well as write. I have learned so much about both my craft and about magic realism through my book blog, that I would never have discovered any other way. I am lucky that magic realism is less of a genre and more of an approach to writing. This means that the books I have read come from many genres – women’s fiction, horror, short stories, speculative fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, young adult – so many that I just cannot get bored. Nevertheless it helps me to limit my reviewing to magic realism books, because otherwise I would be overwhelmed with the choice. As it is, I have three years of books on my to-be-read list.

I hope the above gives you some ideas about why you might start a book blog. Here is another: after a while you will start getting books for free. If your criteria for reviewing books are too wide and unspecific, you could find yourself overwhelmed with writers asking you to review their books. Even though my criteria are limited I do get approached by writers whose books are not what I would define as magic realism: because they lack either magic or realism. The clue is in the name, guys! Another source of books is Netgalley, which is a website where publishers offer advance review copies to bloggers and which has produced some gems for my blog. Because of my blog I have met with some fascinating writers and had interesting conversations with them.

And finally a confession: reading was a pleasure that I had allowed to slip under the pressure of work and family. As a child I worked my way through every book in the children’s section of the local library. But after a while it became something to do when I had leisure time, which was seldom, usually only when I was on holiday. I knew if I was to write well, I had to read again. I tried and succeeded up to a point. But the discipline of having a deadline for the blog means that the habit of reading is now firmly established once more.

This all sounds very self-centred. One of the important reasons for my book blog is that I am able to give back to other writers what many wonderful book bloggers have give n to me: a fair review and publicity for their books. To the readers of my blog I give intelligent (I hope) and honest reviews of books, which they might be inspired to read.

This blog is part of the Celebrating Bloggers Blog Hop. To visit other blogs involved in the blog hop, please see links below.