Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What Should a Blogger Do?

Last week I mentioned the litblog co-op, a group of literary weblogs that try to draw attention to "contemporary fiction, authors and presses that are struggling to be noticed in a flooded marketplace." A few days later, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators: New England's newsletter came with a notice about The Great Blog Experiment, in which agent Nadia Cornier (that's agent as in literary agent, not Jack Bauer-type agent) is encouraging bloggers and readers to promote a book (Teach Me by R. A. Nelson) in order to see if blogging can have an impact on sales.

I don't know how I feel about all this. Certainly bloggers pass info around through whatever community they are part of--in our case, kidlit, but there are also on-line communities for every kind of interest. Part of the point of blogging is to give a voice to everyone, to those who are outside traditional power structures who wouldn't normally be heard. Sometimes we're just giving a voice to ourselves. Sometimes we're giving voices to the people we're writing about. And I think we should be giving a voice to books and authors the mainstream press doesn't cover because what's the point in just repeating what can be read in a newspaper or magazine?

But if bloggers are uniting, aren't they creating another power structure that's going to speak with just one voice--or at least on a limited number of topics? The litblog co-op describes itself as "uniting the leading literary litblogs," suggesting a little elitism that's going to elbow out litblogs that aren't "leading." I know they're looking for power in support of a good cause. Many good books are ignored because there just aren't enough venues to promote them. But maybe creating a hierarchy on the democratic Internet is going to limit the venues, too.

"Word of mouth" promotion for books is real. But it's word of mouth, enthusiasm for a book that spreads because, well, individual readers were enthusiastic and spread the word. We're talking power to individual readers here, not organized ones.

Oh, jeez. I'm afraid I'm turning into some kind of anarchist.


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