Thursday, 5 September 2013

we're not in it for the fame.

I've seen it a lot now: authors are saying that book bloggers who are extra-snarky or extra-inflammatory are doing it for the views.

Just check out the prize selection of comments on Nathan Bransford's off-kilter post on GR bullying. And when James Dashner tweeted something akin to "Reviewers shouldn't be so mean", right after he tweeted this at me (which he has apologized for), author Leigh Ann Kopans (who also later apologized) replied with something akin to "I've heard they do it for the views ;)".

(Please note I am not attempting to "call out" the two latter abovementioned authors for their words, since they have already apologized; I am merely using them as real-life examples.)

It seems that this is an argument authors are circulating amongst themselves: cruel book bloggers are just doing it for the fame. And in thus labelling them so, the atuhors allow themselves to summarily dismiss whatever point the book blogger may have been making (albeit in an ineloquent/sarcastic/crude way) and also dismiss the blogger's credibility itself.

Okay, I'm not:
  • denying that such book bloggers exist
  • condoning inflammatory reviews which attack the author
  • attempting to encroach upon anyone's freedom of speech.

What I am saying: book bloggers don't do it for the fame. I'm also saying that good book bloggers sometimes have justified, inflammatory opinions about a book which they want to share. And finally, I'm saying that fame from snarky reviews doesn't actually exist.

I'm going to use myself as an example.

A while back, I wrote a review of Lauren Kate's Teardrop. Blah blah blah, you already know this story, but if you can bear with me I'll get to my point. The review was harsh; I like to think it was just and fair. In fact, I was fully aware that I might veer into near-author-bashing territory since I disliked it so much, so took steps to ensure I wouldn't. I mentioned Lauren Kate once in the review, and not in a criticism.

Why did I write that review? Because I disliked the book so much.

Why do I write any review at all? Because I love books, and I want to share books I love with my like-minded friends. At the same time, I want to commiserate about books I don't love with them. It's cathartic to relieve one's tension through a scathing review, and even more so when your friends laugh with you about it, transforming the experience into something you can look back on without feeling so frustrated and disappointed in the book.

So by now I've convinced you (hopefully) that I didn't write that review for the fame. And yet some might say that fame is exactly what I got. And how did I get it? Not by writing it. I got "fame" because a famous author read my review and decided to comment on it.

Do you see? If James Dashner had never commented on my review, I never would've achieved any kind of "fame". I believe my Teardrop review had about 7 likes before he engaged with me. If you take a look at some of my other angry reviews regarding well-known books, they've received no more than single-digit likes.

What about those other popular snarky reviews, then? Well, their writers already had a large readership. Thus their reviews were exposed to tonnes of pageviews already. It wasn't the snark, though perhaps that had a factor in the number of people hitting "like". (I understand there are reviewers on GR who are known for being snarky, e.g. Kira, but from what I know, this is rare.)

My wit and sarcasm hasn't captured this large an audience before; why this one?

This one did because it was an outlier: a famous author chose to engage. He essentially conferred some of his fame to me. On its own, my review had no way of garnering me any "fame" at all.

Now: can you actually say I'm famous?

I'm going to look at Novel Sounds, a book blog I admire very much in terms of creativity of content. Let's say they're a reasonable standard for "fame", for this argument's sake, and let's take a look at their statistics. (That is how you judge fame on the Internet, right?)

Twitter followers: 1,845. Average blog post comments (very rough): 8-10. Goodreads friends: 272.

Now, myself. Twitter followers: 145. Average blog post comments: 0.5. Goodreads friends: 33.

And how many of those followers/friends interact with me in a meaningful way? I'd say about five or six--mostly people I knew from before my "fame" arrived. People like Elena from Novel Sounds are naturally going to have more fans (like me!) interact with them because they're genuinely respected by those followers. I'm okay with this. I'm not crying out for more followers. I'm making a point:

This "fame" is nothing.

It's nothing more than what your average blogger can achieve by producing creative, quality content and engaging with the book blogosphere regularly--and I didn't even achieve it with that. Thus, no genuine respect from follower numbers. I get that. I understand that. I've been a small-name book blogger for two ears prior to this; I understand how popular or not my content is.

My "fame" isn't fame at all. I seriously don't even expect many people will find and read this. (Would it be nice if a high-profile blogger tweeted about it or something? Yeah. But that's happened once, in a much more important situation, and I wouldn't trade it at all for this post. My lightning's struck already.)

And you know what? I don't mind. I'm not in this for the fame. I'm in this for the books. Sometimes that means really gushing reviews; sometimes that means really negative, cutting reviews. But in the end, I review for te books. Not for the view of readership.

So to recap: a) I don't review for the fame, and that's good because b) there isn't any.