Thursday, June 23, 2011

This Book Blogging Thing of Ours, Explained

Oh, what the hell ... here we go again.

Is it me, or does it seem like we can't go more than a few weeks anymore without someone ripping bloggers (be it mommy bloggers or book bloggers or what have you) a new one? 

Every so often, someone who thinks they're allfreakinthat puts out a piece of reportage on a subject they might be only merely acquainted with and gets folks all riled up.

In the most recent case, I speak of the brouhaha that has erupted from a certain piece in the Santa Cruz Weekly from one Daniela Hurezanu who believes, among other things, that we book bloggers are 20 year old "girls" with hundreds of Twitter followers espousing our thoughts about three types of books: romance, horror/vampire or paranormal.

Wait, don't take my lowly book blogger word for it.  Take Ms. Hurezanu's, particularly the first sentence:

"Book blogging has become a subculture whose members are mostly women between 20 and 50 years old, often known as “mommy bloggers” because they are housewives who blog about romance novels, horror/vampire stories and paranormal novels. Many of them have hundreds of followers on Twitter, and the result is that they have the power to establish new trends. And the publishing industry has started to take them seriously. They receive review copies from publicists, and the authors court them assiduously. At the Book Bloggers reception I met many girls in their early twenties who already have hundreds of followers on Twitter. As far as I could tell, I was the only person at the convention who doesn’t tweet. All these 20-year-old bloggers form a community that is replacing the traditional book reviewers; they know each other, read each other’s blogs and blog about the same books. So, in a paradoxical way, this subculture is even more limited in its interests than the mainstream media. Though, in theory, the Internet is a space of infinite diversity, in practice many communities reproduce the patterns that exist outside cyberspace. The main difference between the new book bloggers and the old book reviewers is that the former don’t have any literary “prejudices.” They are children of pop culture and the mass media, and have transferred their interests onto the realm of books. Their electronic chatter will soon cover whatever is left of book reviewing." 

(First of all, what kind of a paragraph is that?)

Let us take this one stereotype at a time and break this book blogging thing of ours down, shall we?

1. We're a subculture whose members are mostly women between 20 and 50 years old often known as “mommy bloggers” because they are housewives who blog about romance novels, horror/vampire stories and paranormal novels.

Well, speaking for myself, I do happen to fall into that broad demographic of being a woman between ages 20 and 50. But the reality is that some book bloggers are, in fact, younger than 20 and some are older than 50.  Some book bloggers are even ... men. 

And I'm far from being June freakin' Cleaver. (Well, technically, this summer I kinda am the very embodiment of Mrs. Cleaver because I'm unemployed, but I don't want to give Ms. Hurezanu any more ammo to take potshots at me.)  When I'm not in housewife mode, I'm hustling up some consulting and freelance gigs and launching a business and working on a novel.

So, imagine that. We represent all demographics.  Much like the clientele at, say, a bookstore or a library.  The last I checked, reading is something that doesn't usually limit one's enjoyment to whether you are a certain race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, or economic class.

I could forgive Ms. Hurezanu that generalization, though - if it was her only one. The problem, though, starts when the mommy blogger label gets thrown and when our collective book preferences are whittled down to only three. That's when this "article" veers from a piece of journalism to ... well, a barrage of stereotypes, really. It makes the assumption that we're all sitting at home in our pajamas doing nothing but reading crap (in Ms. Hurezanu's view) and ohmigawd-ing about it in 140 characters or less.

Give me a break.

2. "Many of them have hundreds of followers on Twitter, and the result is that they have the power to establish new trends. And the publishing industry has started to take them seriously. They receive review copies from publicists, and the authors court them assiduously."

Hundreds of followers on Twitter hardly makes one a player in the social media sandbox, Daniela.  To "have the power to establish new trends," it takes a little more oomph than that and I'm not even going to get into the high-falutin' statement a few lines down about how you're the only one who doesn't tweet.  That's your choice, but the reality is Twitter is a vital and vibrant component of the book blogging world.  If you don't personally tweet, fine - but you come across as a doddering fool by knocking a social media outlet that is a force to be reckoned with.

You're right in that the publishing industry has started to take us seriously. As someone who has been blogging about books for almost 3 years, there was a time when this was most certainly not the case. How else do you explain the increased number of publishers, publicists, and authors at the Book Blogger Convention this year?  Because you couldn't turn around without meeting a publisher, publicist or author ... and that was and is a very good thing.

3. "At the Book Bloggers reception I met many girls in their early twenties who already have hundreds of followers on Twitter."

I'm pretty shitty at small talk, but had I been at the Book Bloggers reception, I highly doubt I would have been asking my book blogging peers their age and number of Twitter followers.  I can tell you inquiries about such vital statistics never came up among those I met and talked with at the Book Bloggers Convention held the next day.  Nor would I have expected it to.  I might be reaching here, but is it possible you might be generalizing about people's ages just a tad, Ms. Hurezanu?  Some "girls" (how derogatory!) who appear to be in their early 20s might actually be in their early 30s, or older.  And what does it matter, anyway?  In college, I knew plenty of people ("boys" and "girls") who were perfectly capable of expressing their views on a book or an issue despite their age.

(And oh ... it takes like a freakin' nanosecond to get hundreds of followers on the Twitter.  Just in case you were thinking about trying it out someday.)

4. "All these 20-year-old bloggers form a community that is replacing the traditional book reviewers; they know each other, read each other’s blogs and blog about the same books. So, in a paradoxical way, this subculture is even more limited in its interests than the mainstream media.

Again with the 20 year olds. What happened to being between ages 20 and 50?  Now we're all back to being 20 years old? (Oh, girlfriend, you don't know how I wish.) Yeah, we bloggers know each other.  Yeah, we read each other's blogs. Yeah, some of us have literary (there, I said it!) tastes in common. 

Actually, we're even tighter than that. Some of us are even Facebook friends and some of us even - hold onto your holier-than-thou literary street cred!  - get together in real life.  (Like, put on real clothes instead of pajamas and venture out behind out laptops and meet our imaginary friends from the Big Bad Internet in real life. And for the most part, we come back home intact, unscathed by urban legends, in full possession of our kidneys and all.)

And the problem with all that is ... what, exactly?  That's how community is formed. You're telling me that the world of the traditional book reviewer ISN'T one where everyone knows each other's name and that the reviewer from the New York Times ISN'T reading the reviewer from the Washington Post? Well, knock this bookmommyblogger out with a bon-bon, already. Bad me for assuming.

5. "The main difference between the new book bloggers and the old book reviewers is that the former don’t have any literary “prejudices.” They are children of pop culture and the mass media, and have transferred their interests onto the realm of books. Their electronic chatter will soon cover whatever is left of book reviewing."

I don't even know what the hell these first two sentences MEAN. What does it mean, exactly, to have a literary prejudice?  Is that the same as being familiar with a genre, interested enough in a genre to write about it? If so, then I guess I defy that stereotype too in that I do have certain preferences in my books - just like everyone else does, whether it be about books or music or what have you.  The "children of pop culture" statement makes us all sound like we're only interested in reading Justin Bieber's latest memoir. 

But here, finally, is something on which Ms. Hurezanu and I can agree.  Yes, I absolutely believe it is true that the book bloggers' "chatter" (and tweets and posts and podcasts) is the future of book reviewing. All one needs to do is look at the 700 souls who were employed by Gannett at the beginning of this week to see what the future of book reviewing, much less print media, is. I think we're seeing the dawn of a very different world in publishing - one that encapsulates the new media of e-readers and bloggers and new technologies and mediums that have yet to be invented.

And the good news is that there's room in the book blogosphere for all of us, regardless of our preferences in books or our ages or our life experience. 

But what there isn't room for is journalism that deals in generalities, for those who judge and stereotype rather than do basic research, for those who cast stones at the pioneers of a new world instead of joining them on the wagon.







copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

10 comments:

Elizabeth said...

That kind of pablum should be relegated to the same wastebin that holds all the back and forth about working mothers and non-working mothers as well as helicopter parents versus laissez-faire ones, ad nauseum. I don't know if it's because I have so much on my proverbial plate parenting a child with severe disabilities as well as two others, but, frankly, all those arguments bore me to tears.

I'd never dis a book blogger, though, and certainly not you! Your points were well taken and while I don't think you should bother, your defense a spirited one!

Florinda said...

Nice point-by-point breakdown/rebuttal!

Mandy said...

I love your response! I was pretty fired up about that article too.

Wendy said...

Bravo, Melissa - wonderful post (and funny too, in a sarcastic and totally relatable way for this fifty-one year old blogger who has never pushed a child from her womb, but still manages to *gasp* talk intelligently about books on her blog...oh and I have some twitter followers too - bad me). That column was so far removed from real journalism as to be a joke.

Book Dragon said...

I'm so sheltered! I totally missed the original article but have absolutely LOVED reading the responses! Your's is a favorite and I'd love to put on something other than pj's and meet you in the real world. Since you're too far away, I'll join you here. Laugh, cry, and cheer you and yours, and count you friend.

maphead said...

I can only speak for myself, but I'm doing my part to smash the book blogging stereotypes. I'm a 40-something year old male who mostly blogs about non-fiction books. My tastes run from comparative religion to history to international relations. In addition, almost all of my books come from the public library.

Melissa said...

Great follow-up, Melissa!

Jennifer O. said...

The low point of tht article was when I realized that no only am I a SAHM, but I'm in my pajamas at 5 pm on a Saturday afternoon. SHITE!

BUT, I am far from fitting into any stereotype and I am bothered when some simple minded fool puts us in a box to fit in his little worldview.

I don't blog about vampire novels (except the original Dracula), or paranormal, or romance novels.

I blog mostly about Literary Fiction. Some chick-lit, which I'm actually suprised the reporter didn't denigrate.

I'm amazed and grateful that these publicists takes us seriously: I've actually had a couple of authors link to my reviews via their own personal website.

But I'll tell you why I love to do what I am doing. I love books. I love to read. I love to write. I don't have real time friends who enjoy the same, so this is a real sanity keeper. I wish I could get paid for something as time consuming as this, but I know it's not going to happen.

Melissa said...

Thanks, everyone! I sent the link to this into the site with a comment, but since they are moderating now, apparently I'm not troll-like for them. (Which makes me even more convinced this was a sloppy attempt to get hits on their site - if not initially, but when they realized what a brouhaha they had on their hands).

Elizabeth ~ at first I wasn't planning on responding, but then changed my mind. It is very much of the working mom/stay at home mom nonsense.

Florinda and Mandy - thanks!

Wendy ~ exactly!

Book Dragon - I'd even meet up with you in my pajamas.

maphead - you book blogger stereotype-smashing rebel, you! :)

Jennifer O. - you have nothing to be ashamed for!

Booksnyc said...

This response is great and made me laugh out loud! Great job!