Okay, so, you guys really seemed to like my first ever edition of Let’s Chat, which is awesome! I’m so glad to see you guys are pumped about this feature as much as I am! I was originally going to publish another Let’s Chat, but wanted to push it down later in favor of something else that I thought would be more interesting to talk about, and that’s the question in the title: do we really have that much influence as book bloggers?
This topic was mainly spurred by the huge announcement that Angie Thomas’s debut novel The Hate U Give hit number one on the New York Times’ Bestseller List twice (which she totally deserves; you can check out my long, gushing review it here). Of course, even though I was very excited for her, I realized something: Veronica Roth’s Carve the Mark was second. SECOND.
I’m sure you’ve already heard that Carve the Mark was revealed to be racist and ableist, and there have been a multitude of Twitter threads and reviews calling the book out for this. Basically, the book blogging community banded together against it, because we, as a community, don’t believe these harmful books need to continue being published. Yet, it seems to not have really worked that because her book is still number two on the NYT Bestseller’s List, and will probably continue to be on there for a while. Maybe it’s because she’s a popular author already, so it doesn’t really matter what the community does, but it really begs the question: are we really influencing the reading community in general?
Now, I guess I could specifically pertain this to problematic books, but I want this to be a bit more generalized as a statement. There have been multiple times where book bloggers on Twitter or authors and such talk about an important topic in the book community that “goes viral,” in a way and gets everyone talking…but does it really? Because, yes, we’re re-tweeting and, yes, we’re participating in this discussion, and, hell yes, it’s important, but the only people listening are other book bloggers, and there’s a chance that we’ve already heard the same thing said by someone else, and then we go share it…to our followers, who are usually other book bloggers who’ve already seen it pop up in their timeline, and the cycle goes on.
I think this really old discussion from Jamie over at The Perpetual Page-Turner and the comments section (which I highly advise you to read because even though it might be irrelevant in some places, it’s still really interesting) really shows my point. Often times, on Goodreads or on Twitter or within our book blogging community, we talk about how a book is over-hyped and such because we seem to see it EVERYWHERE. But, from a regular old reader’s perspective, to someone who doesn’t know that book Twitter exists, or doesn’t use Goodreads, or doesn’t blog, they might have never heard of Caraval or The Hate U Give or The Raven Boys until they walked into the bookstore that day. Sometimes, only the fact that a book is becoming a movie is what pushes that author into incredible amounts of fame from “the outside,” much like what it did to John Green when The Fault in Our Stars movie adaptation was announced, and what it seems to be doing to Nicola Yoon and Everything, Everything (which is number three on the list, as you can see up there).
And then back to the whole problematic books thing. Recently, The Black Witch has been called out for being racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist – you name it, the book probably has it. I’m going to leave some reviews here and here in case you want to read more in-depth about it. This recently started a conversation about how to deal with problematic books and how re-tweeting is never enough to spread the word, but then what is? Talking about it on my blog just alerts other bloggers who have probably already heard about the controversy and have sworn it off already. Talking about it on Goodreads just blasts the same thing to people who have already probably been exposed to it via their own circles. Sharing it on Twitter and Instagram is just sharing it to people who are already, in some way, inundated into the book community and have, again, probably heard the news. But what about people who just aren’t on any of those platforms? I’m sure a large majority of book bloggers aren’t going to read it and that’s cool and all, but that doesn’t stop a heck of a lot of readers who just occasionally go to a bookstore and pick up a book based off its pretty cover, who don’t look at outside influences, who aren’t part of the online book community. I mean, if Carve the Mark is sitting right next to an #ownvoices novel about the Black Lives Matter movement, have we really done anything at all? Will The Black Witch still be successful despite all the reviews and Twitter threads?
And even talking about ARCs. Publishers give the most popular bloggers ARCs to get the word out there about their book. They’re out there to build up buzz and publicity. But, a large majority of the time, readers of blogs are usually other bloggers. Nine times out of ten, that book that popular blogger is advertising is one I’ve already seen popping up in my Reader or in my Twitter timeline or on my Instagram feed or even one I just tried to request on Netgalley, and there’s only so many times you can hear someone gush about a book before getting bored and skipping over every review of said book after reading just a couple of them. Are we really even generating buzz if that buzz is towards other bloggers?
Of course, this discussion seems to be super depressing and might imply that book bloggers are useless, but we aren’t (at least, I like to think we aren’t). I mean, authors think we’re cool enough to contact us if they need a boost or if they’re self-published. Publishers are nice enough to give us ARCs that are a lot of work to make, and that relationship didn’t come out of nowhere. We get to meet other bloggers and maybe gain new readers at places like Bookcon or Yallfest/Yallwest. We start important conversations that can take the blogging community by storm. We’ve been pushing for diversity and #ownvoices. We’ve managed to make some incredibly underrated authors/books popular. In some ways, our hard work is definitely paying off, and it shows me why I started my blog in the first place.
For my fellow book bloggers, do you think you have a lot of influence in the reader community? For anyone who reads my blog and isn’t a book blogger (I don’t know if you guys exist lol), who influences you? For everyone, where do you get most of your bookish news or how do you hear about new books?