The OF Blog: When do you ever stop whoring yourself out?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

When do you ever stop whoring yourself out?

Lately, I've been a bit...disinterested...in following quite a few blogs. This isn't about 1 or 2 or even a handful of blogs, but more about some that are in my blogroll, others that are not. At times, I find myself wanting to take on the role of the reader, of the person who receives book suggestions rather than providing all sorts of info on the books old and new worth reading. But too often, I'm not finding that when I'm browsing through a couple dozen blogs a day.

Instead, I'm finding more and more space devoted to this contest or that giveaway. For a few blogs, that is virtually all of their content. They don't ever say much of anything about the books being pimped out. When a review is written, too often it feels rather vague and as if the punches were pulled back some. Just this sense of CYA, I guess.

Not that I've been much better lately. Been avoiding being online as much recently, in part due to my new job keeping me at work until after 5 PM and in part because of the start to a typically torrid summer here in the US South. Occasionally I'll post pictures of the books I've received and/or bought, but is that really much better than just pimping out whatever I'm asked to consider? True, I do note in fairly polite terms that a good many of the books sent to me for review purposes don't interest me any and that I might be the wrong person to send these books (usually urban fantasies, but occasionally epic fantasies). I haven't had the energy/desire to write a review in about two months now and there are few 2009 releases that I want to praise right now.

Ennui is a terrible thing. Makes the lighter-natured sites look even more like "sellouts" than perhaps they are. Leads to dropping off on what might be interesting stuff here as well. Perhaps it'll clear up soon. Otherwise, that vague sense of whoring one's self out, whether it be for review copies or to host contests just to spike reader visits for books that many don't really know if they are worthy of being read, will just continue. Hopefully, I'll regain my mojo shortly. Right now, I'm going to try and get a few things done for the next few days, but no promises on interesting posts for a while.

57 comments:

Joe Sherry said...

The promotional blog is something that is pretty well designed to make me stop following / reading it. The occasional promotion, sure, there's reasons for it. But when that's the majority of the content - it bugs me.

Not saying that I necessarily put out all the content / reviewing I want (I'm currently in a lull), but some stuff I find tedious.

Larry said...

Yeah, I agree with what you say, Joe. Doesn't help matters here when I think some of my best work will be appearing in the next 2-3 months on other sites. Kinda makes this blog hurt a bit when that happens. But I do plan on starting an interview later this week that'll appear here rather than elsewhere and I am currently working on my first full review in two months, even if that one likely will appear elsewhere.

Aidan Moher said...

I've been having the same problem with some blogs, too. Using an RSS makes it a bit easier to ignore the junk, but it's still bothersome. I can't figure out why anyone would want to run a blog if they're not going to inject any personality into it.

As for my own blog (which I hope isn't one of the ones you're refering to!), I've been having trouble keeping the content fresh lately, mainly due to the same reasons you stated. Part of the problem, I think, is just being unexcited by the what's going on in the genre at the
moment, and the way it's being reported in the blogosphere - though I suppose I'm just as much a part of the problem as anyone else.

Dissatisfied as you are, what blogs/bloggers would you say are doing a good job at the moment?

-Aidan
A Dribble of Ink

Larry said...

Good question! One blog that I know I read daily is Bibliophile Stalker, as Charles Tan does a good job of mixing in his thoughts on certain matters with a very nice daily links page, many to sites that I don't have on my Blogroll. Another one that I'll read 2-3 times a week is This Book and I Can Be Friends, as I like E.L. Fay's approach to blogging and how she'll cover about as many translated fictions as I do.

And no, you're not one of the ones I was thinking about, although I have noticed the lull of sorts lately. Just thought it might be due to work issues, just like much of mine is due to working 8 AM-5 PM Monday-Friday now, with a ton of paperwork to do in addition to the tutoring/teaching of students. I like my new (old) job, but it and the summer heat does drain me, especially when the AC has been broken all week and temps are over 30ºC in the building. Dehydration is never fun.

Terry Weyna said...

Heh. I've spent the day today writing reviews of books that are horribly overdue at the library -- obviously not review copies! Just books I very much wanted to read. I posted one today and will have another tomorrow, a third Tuesday; don't think I can write more than three book reviews in one day (assuming I even get the third completed), but I still have a pile of books awaiting my attention. Only three of the ten in that pile are ARCs.

I've been quiet for a while on my blog because I've been running around to doctors; having been to a chronic pain clinic recently, I've been taking this class and that class and the other class, all ways of coping with daily headaches and resulting (or causative -- no one seems to be sure which it is) depression. Between that and trying to earn a living and trying to get an actual, real, fantasy story of my own rewritten, my time has been pretty much full up.

So yeah, I did a few promotional posts -- one for a new book, another, which I thought more worthy, for the same workshop you recently pimped (anything that gets kids reading and writing is going to have a place on my blog, no question). I'm actually behind on blogging about new arrivals, most of which are purchases (though there are one or two ARCs; they trickle in here, compared to the flood that you get, Larry).

So here's hoping you don't mean me. I do admit, though, that I had a twinge of guilt on reading your post -- and also a good feeling that I was spending today writing some new reviews.

Larry said...

Sorry to hear that you're still suffering some pain, Terry, as I seem to recall you mentioning that in passing once or twice before. No, I wasn't thinking of you at all - having an occasional contest isn't a bad thing (although when I arrange those things, it's usually for wotmania and not this blog), but when the contests overwhelm everything else, I think it might be going a bit too far. From what I've seen, you're nowhere near that level. But if you were to visit some of the blogs on my blogroll and scroll through them, it's hard to find something that's NOT a contest! That's what I was blogging/bitching about :P

I'm taking a break from a few things right now before resuming in a few minutes, but later tonight, if I have the chance, I'll have to peek in and see what you're blogging about!

Mike said...

Growing more involved in reviewing authors (only mentally, as of yet), I am finding the 'sphere acting a bit more casual in their approach to content.

Various aspects of a lit. blog entertain me. I enjoy industry discussions, reviews and healthy debates but retreading the recycled content from one site to another is growing tiresome. Repeat performances and promotional events for authors whose work I know nothing about does little for me.

Diversity's spread is growing thin as more blogs attend to the celebrations of fewer authors and their work. How is it that a fandom dedicated to a product bound in Creation and Thought produce such boring commentary?

Despite our love of personal favorites, the praise or complaints for a genre rarely convince anyone to extend their gaze beyond the ambit of the genre's most recognized celebrities.

A shame really, some of the most active and imaginative minds subjugated by the comfort of their own familiarity.

While message boards still provide a small degree of diversity, personal blogs are failing to produce what the viewer often seeks: A personality.

Larry said...

Good points. That's what I worry about the most about my own self, and reading/blogging taking up only a small part of that worry. I distrust complacency, especially when it comes to myself, and I like to push the envelope when I can. The repetitiveness of many reviews/interviews/promos/etc. does get old. I think I manage to avoid much of it by concentrating on a wider array of authors, genres, and even languages, but there are times that I find myself trying hard not to fall into that damn rut (see this blog's header for that reference).

But as for the "celebrity" angle, could I interest you in some Ysabel Wilce, D.M. Cornish, or Fritz Leiber? ;)

Mike said...

I've always found your blog to be quite unhip Larry, have no fear. You're your own man through and through and that's why I continue reading here.

A personal/literary blog should cater to those seeking 'colored reason'. We're not always looking for the facts, we're out to understand why this work is worthy of Dylanfanatic's time or why everyone else thinks he's an elitist =P

As for your recommendations, trust me, I've got plenty of them already (from your offerings in the Westeros thread) alongside many works, authors and angles I'm completely unfamiliar with.

In fact, to be quite honest, I have a general dislike of your recommendations because they're often made 6 months to a year before us monolingual non-reviewers can get our hands on them! *shakes fist in anger*

Annnnnyways, keep up the good work =)

Larry said...

Ha! :P

Well, these are all available in English and have been for years, thankfully. Although there is that Ildefonso Falcones book, La mano de Fátima, that I'll be reviewing shortly which won't be available in English for a year that so far, 1/3 in, is quite good ;)

OnlyTheBestSciFi/Fantasy said...

Interesting post and insightful comments.

I have one of my own, or maybe its more of a question.

How non-whorish can any review/suggestion blog be? Given that reviewing is, essentially, not a creative act, you can boil any review post down to a single YES or NO. Original content aside (interviews and such) maybe what you consider whoring is just cutting through the shit and giving the 'modern' reader what they want? I don't totally buy this argument myself, but I do believe it has merit. The only originality you can get in a review post comes from the reviewer's voice, and that always takes a fair amount of work to squeeze out. Failing hard work, you are left with a few drab and empty words that any monkey could have written and a picture or two. It isn't hard to see why giveaways are popular.

Most of the internet is about click-through rates and page views. I will agree that it is refreshing to find blogs in the SF/F genre that don't whore out, as you put it, and post actual content, but sometimes a shinny picture and a giveaway get you where you want to go quicker than a stack of well written reviews. I guess it all depends on what you want to get out of the process.

Not sure where I was heading with all this, but it felt like a waste to delete the whole comment...

Larry said...

I think what you're describing is a sort of Mephistophelian bargain, where some "put out" in order to gain something (kudos, money, shiny objects like books). It's something that is very ubiquitous in most societies in most eras of human history, which is why I titled my post the way I did; it's akin to asking when do bad/good things stop happening.

But I disagree about reviews ultimately being yes/no binaries. If they were, then I wouldn't bother with them (not that I review all that much anymore as it is). I see reviews as being essays of sorts that reveal as much about the reviewer (when done correctly) as it does about the book (albeit in different forms). It takes a lot out of me to write a review (and even more to do interviews) and perhaps in the near future I'll elaborate further.

But right now, it's midnight here and I have a couple of things to finish before I crash for 6-7.

OnlyTheBestSciFi/Fantasy said...

"The only originality you can get in a review post comes from the reviewer's voice, and that always takes a fair amount of work to squeeze out."
ME
=

"I see reviews as being essays of sorts that reveal as much about the reviewer (when done correctly) as it does about the book (albeit in different forms). It takes a lot out of me to write a review (and even more to do interviews) and perhaps in the near future I'll elaborate further."
YOU

I think we are saying pretty much the same thing. A reviewer's Voice (maybe the caps will help) is what gives a review its originality. A review is a creative act, or act of creation, only in the sense that it is personal.

And this, I think, is where we disagree. I personally think if a reviewer is unable to boil one of their own reviews down to a yes or no (don't get me wrong, I don't think its a good thing) then they have not thought about what they have read enough/what it means to them. Of course there are nuances between the YES or NO, and exploiting and analyzing them is what makes reviews actually worth reading. Ultimately though, there is a yes or no, and if you haven't found it, it is because you haven't bothered to dig deep enough inside yourself.

Sleep well, I am past my bedtime myself...

Larry said...

I disagree, in large part because I don't even think in that sort of fashion. There are elements that I enjoy and elements that I dislike about almost everything and in relating them, I'm not going to try and create some sort of false "objective" viewpoint when I see my own PoV as being ultimately subjective. I can (and usually do) discuss the hows and whys of my interpretations, but since I view books as being composite texts rather than singular entities, I never do more than what a lawyer tries to present before a judge in a civil law court: preponderance of evidences does not equal yes/no claims, but rather a finding whether or not a work might be more of this or that than the other options.

Of course, this presumes that I don't just write reviews with myself being the first, most "ideal" audience for such essays ;)

SQT said...

Ah well, I guess I should comment in my own defense.

I get too many books to review-- period. I have gotten as many as 20 books in a day. I don't ask for them, I just ended up on mailing lists and they flood in. I have the contests so as not to be greedy. I'm really not trying to suck up to the publishers to get books and I do try to be honest (though not brutal) in my reviewing. But the giveaways are often in lieu of reviews because I just can't get to all the books. Sorry if I'm contributing to your ennui.

Charles said...

SQT: I don't think the problem is the giveaways themselves, but when the number of giveaways outnumber the actual editorial content.

I think format also plays a factor here, such as several individual posts on book giveaways, instead of 1 weekly post mentioning that you're giving away several books.

SQT said...

Charles-- you know, I seriously had never thought of one weekly post with all the contests at one. That is a great idea.

I read Larry's comments with some guilt because I know the giveaway have gotten to be too much. I just get overwhelmed with all the books and throw them up on the blog to clear them out. I prefer to have blog content that isn't overwhelmed with contests-- so I think I'll be implementing your weekly contest posts.

Dark Wolf said...

You always know how to put pressure on somebody ;) But it is very useful to find such articles, because it is closer to an editing on blogs (although you don't name any of them).
I try to keep my own voice on the blogosphere. I enjoy being a part of it and I made many new acquaintances and friends through my blogging. As I said I try to keep my own voice and some original content. I don't know if I always manage to do it.
But in the near future I'll have a couple of Romanian novels reviewed (I ordered some of them last week) and hopefully an interview with one of the authors. Also I am trying to write an article and maybe bring that type of post on my blog too.
Thank you once again for putting me on thoughts :D

Jonathan M said...

It's interesting to suggest a link between this growing devaluation of genre blogging and the reaction, the other week, to Martin's review.

People click through page after page of promotion and taste-pandering that when they come across a review that genuinely disagrees with them they respond like wounded animals.


On a side note though, I do find SQT's comments about getting too many books quite comical. a) take them to a charity shop or b) ask to be removed from the mailing list and only request the books you want to review. I remember I used to get boxes full of books that I didn't ask for and didn't even want in my flat. I'd take them straight to the charity shop.

Nobody's forced to do give-aways.

Martin said...

I guess the question is, who are you beholden to? If you feel an obligation to keep your stats high you going to write posts that are nothing but click bait. If you feel an obligation to the publishers who provide you with books you end up doing contests. You shouldn't really feel either of those as obligations though.

Obviously everyone checks their stats but you read posts saying, for example, "Let me take this opportunity to thank each and everyone of you for helping me make Pat's Fantasy Hotlist the most popular SFF book reviewing blog on the internet" you have to think "Well, yes, but to what end?"

The related question is, why blog at all? For most people reading this I think it will be for the same reason: a passion for books. But to have a readable blog you need more than this. In particular I would say you need to passionate about books as a whole and to be able to articulate this passion in a way that goes beyond simple enthusiasm. Too many blogs give no impression of life outside a narrow subset of one genre and because of this there is a danger of a) becoming too close to publishers and b) falling into a rut.

Jonathan M said...

Pat has certainly been influential. Given how well his promotions draw crowds (they're certainly not going there for his writing) it was unavoidable that loads of other people would start doing it too. Especially given how free a lot of publishers are with their review copies.

I think blogging is partly about self expression ad partly about being a part of a community. It's easy to get discouraged writing into the void.

I think people like Pat and the others who do as many give-aways and press releases as they do interviews or reviews clearly place more importance upon the "being part of the community" side of blogging. I suspect that being really popular is far more important to Pat than being recognised as a decent critic or any sense of satisfaction he might get from really 'nailing' a review.

To a certain extent, this duality between being-for-oneself and being-for-others is universal in human activity.

Mark said...

I think one can worry too much about this sort of thing.

I disagree with Martin's assumptions: to criticise what's bad about any blog generally misses the point of online activity and popularity.

If you don't like a blog, then don't read it. It is that simple. There will never be any firm rules for is good or bad for online content - only really in terms of fuction (how easy a blog is to read etc).

Blogs find their own, relevant audience over time. Growing one's popularity isn't merely a case of click bait and / or giveaways. (Giveaways, to publishers, are merely quick commercials in-between review shows.)

Google rankings are decided by the flow of traffic, and whether or not you get good linkage; which is determined, generally, by how much you yourself link to others (even to your own review from forums especially), the keywords you use, and whether or not you have anything worthwhile for others to link to. Popularity, I'd say, is more a case of how relevant you are for a particular audience. But these things need time to become true.

I don't think you have anything to worry about yourself, Larry: you're easily the most consistent and cerebral of reviewers, yet you maintain an accessibility and vast understanding of genres (as well as how the internet fuctions).

I agree whole-heartedly with Jonathan M on the community aspects (and especially that final paragraph), although I'd guess that Pat was one of the first entertaining bloggers, hence his popularity - that consistency and longevity.

But I disagree with suggesting that he's not interested in being a "decent" critic. Again, online, there's only the appropriate audience - people decide for themselves what is good or bad. Pat's popularity might also suggest that, online at least, this is of most interest to the vast majority of readers.

Jonathan M said...

So in other words Mark, there's no such thing as good and bad, there's only more or less popular?

Mark C Newton said...

I think "good and bad", and "more or less popular" are very much mutually exclusive terms in this case.

Popularity is perhaps a loaded word, I suspect: on a discussion of the internet, things are ultimately reduced to *relevance*. That's what search engines are built on; that's how bloggers find their niche. Appropriateness, relevance between reader and blogger.

There's a tendency for many people (myself included) for solipsism on this subject, but one must be aware of the realities of what the internet is and does, and the power of crowds in steering opinion (whether or not that in itself is good or bad is another debate for another day).

I'm not sure if that was a "yes", "no"or even "maybe".

Jonathan M said...

I was concerned as you seemed to think that talking about Pat's failings as a critic was some kind of category mistake.

If you define "good" purely in sociological terms then I suspect that Pat is one of the best critics out there because he's one of the most widely read.

Where I disagree with you is in thinking that only sociological terms are relevant to matters of aesthetics. Pat may well be one of the most widely read critics but he's not the best by any non-psychotic yardstick.

I'm happy to say that the internet is a pretty weak selection mechanism for quality. The best sites are seldom the most popular and degree of popularity has only a tangential link to quality.

ediFanoB said...

I read your post and all the comments with interest because I'm a reader. That means I'm one of many for whom you write or not.

I think first of all it is YOUR blog. You are responsible for the content and of course you are responsible for your own expectations and ambitions.

Of course you can carp at other blogs BUT in the end it is YOUR decision whether you read an other blog or not.

To be honest I like that there is a large choice of different blogs and different kinds of reviews.

So I can choose which one I want to read and follow.

In the end every blogger must answer your question for himself/herself.

And I'm convinced that finally every blog gets the readers which the blog deserves.

Mike said...

Where to begin?

For starters, I'll say that no blog or blogger is beholden to anyone. The time between posts should matter little so long as the content (and quality thereof) is always one's first priority. Gawd knows the existence of one's own blog can be attributed to any number of factors from the personal to the financial, so the type of blog kept is certainly one's own business.

My problem with giveaways - aside from the fact I never win them- is that it seems a process overcomplicating itself. When the primary function of a site becomes promotional, you remove your initial value to a publisher and turn yourself into an extension of the P.R. department.

Occasional promotions can be a great way of exposing readers to new material, but again, is this a personal blog or a thoroughfare for publishers? Are you a gateway or a destination? I just don't see the use in getting too big. What use is there in popularity if you're left with little to say?

Community is all well and good supposing it is a collection of self-referential voices and not the literary equivalent of a Clear Channel radio station. When the community grows too tight-knit you start seeing intellectual wife-swapping and the sharing of power tools throughout the neighborhood. Maintaining some disparate voices and intentions can prove valuable at times, I guess.

As for reviews, I would argue that a true review should say as much about the blogger as the author of the work. While all content could possibly be distilled to a yes/no, that does not explain the "why". "Why" in itself is subjective, a vague detail unless we find value in the "Who" that offers it.

Each reviewer has their own standards for review. The question is, are you as a reader looking for three hundred 5 star reviews from Amazon as anonymous encouragement, or are you seeking advice from a trusted friend?

A good book should effect you, leave some type of residue behind. What does this book add to the genre, what have you and the author learned about yourselves through this experience? Without knowing how a blogger sees things within themselves and the work, you're missing one of the essential components often found within your own friendships.

My apologies for the rant, I'm fighting off boredom of the unrelated type.

vacuouswastrel said...

Personally, I don't see the appeal of all of these review blogs. In the great majority of cases, there's little enough to be said of a book that two or or maybe three reviews will cover everything that might be reasonably said. The reviewing function can equally well, if not better, be performed by chatter on internet forums.

On the other hand, what there does not seem to be much of is more considered criticism. There are thousands of superficial reviews of the torrents of books being pumped out, there are dozens of reviews of genuinely good book, and there is almost nothing, at least immediately discoverable, that goes into more depth.

When I read A Canticle for Leibowitz recently, I found myself rather mentally thrown by it, and looked online for some sort of analysis to help me get my thoughts in order - but all I could find were a dozen or so 'yes this is a classic' book reviews, mostly repeating themselves. The most interesting discussion was, iirc, actually on message boards, which is a bit ridiculous considering how inimical that format is to in-depth consideration of anything.

Summary: less 'it's good', more actual thoughts, analysis, personal reaction etc.

---

To an earlier poster: reviews don't have to boil down to 'yes' or 'no', because there isn't always one question. Yes, I suppose the underlying question is 'should I read it?', but that's not one question. That's a different question depending on who's asking it, and different questions demand different answers. A review should do its best to answer as many of those as possible.

Mark said...

I'm not sure I said that sociological terms are all that is important in determining aesthetic value: it's certainly one factor, of many - on that, we very much agree; but one must be aware of the fact that this is the business of being online - a sociological framework that is dominated by sociological values, and these are, over time, shaping what people think. (For better or worse, that's not for me to say.)

As an aside, what do you mean by "best", "good", and "quality"? You speak of them as objective, whole parameters.

"I'm happy to say that the internet is a pretty weak selection mechanism for quality. The best sites are seldom the most popular and degree of popularity has only a tangential link to quality."

Hmm. Biting tongue on much of this, but by that, you infer that Larry's site - one of the most popular ones on the internet - offers little to the world of quality. You hear that, Larry? ;)

SQT said...

@Jonathan

Glad I could make you laugh. I didn't realize I would have to answer so much criticism by trying to pay-it-forward with the giveaways. I don't have one of the most popular blogs I'm sure. The giveaways have not noticeably upped my traffic and I had to throw some obnoxious advertising on the blog to cover shipping. Boy, am I jerk.

I was simply trying to offer the books to an audience that would appreciate them. I get a lot of stuff I'm not interested in, but I know people who do read my blog who do. I suppose I could drop it off at a charity shop- but why? Why is that more desirable than letting people, who really appreciate the books and the genre, have a chance to get a book they've been waiting for?

I guess this is where I reiterate a point someone else made. If you don't like my blog, don't read it.

I change my mind. I'm not changing a damn thing. I'm going to be judged no matter what-- so why worry about it. I do what I do for my enjoyment and if I let someone else's snotty attitude get to me, then I should just pack it in and be done. I'm not ready to do that.

Martin said...

I think blogging is partly about self expression and partly about being a part of a community.

I certainly blog because I have something to say (self expression) and because I want to take part in a conversation (community). However, if you aren't doing the former then you can't do the latter. Otherwise you end with an echo chamber or white noise.

When I started on the internet all this was fields or mailing lists and usenet anyway. These were all about conversation and you would get the concept of ghostspeakers: people who forwarded links or reprinted articles without providing any additional commentary. It was recycling rather than contributing. Ghostspeaking seems to have become prevalent with the advent of blogs as the primary platform for conversation. Book porn, release dates, competitions, reviews that are blurbing and so on all feed into this. What is the added value that the blogger is providing? There is a place for the links post; we all link to each, that is part of the whole point of the blogosphere. However, if you do it indiscrimately and compulsively you are poisoning the well, the superficiality of some blogs can end up being a problem for everyone. Returning to Mark's point about the function of the internet this is about maintaining the signal to noise ratio.

Jonathan M said...

VW - I kind of agree with you.

Rubbish reviews really don't serve any purpose beyond internet chatter. A bit of plot synopsis, a couple of weak jokes and a mark out of five flaming broadswords... you might as well post on a forum.

However, I think that proper criticism is something that can't be replaced with word of mouth because it's all about analysis. What's more, this kind of writing can return again and again to the same works and find new meanings in them as new generations rediscover old works.

There's not nearly enough of the second category online and what there is tends to be wedded to new titles so, as you mention, I imagine it must be tough finding decent analyses of books that are more than a few years old. Particularly if said books haven't benefited from a recent relaunch such as Gollancz's future classics or whatever they're called.


Mark - Yes, I do think that there are universal principles of how to write a review and certainly how to write a book. If I didn't think that I wouldn't work as a critic :-)

As for Larry's blog, it's one of maybe 5 or 6 genre blogs that I still subscribe to. But in truth, I think that Larry's blog fails to do him justice. He's thoughtful and insightful but - due to time constraints I'm sure - I don't think he pushes himself frequently enough. Yes there are good posts and he certainly argues for a higher standard than most seek to live their intellectual lives by, but I also think that Larry's blog could be a lot smarter and lot more ambitious than it is. I also think that he himself realises this :-)

But, having said that, I wouldn't argue that popular necessarily means stupid or bad.


SQT - Write the blog you want to write. I just think that distributing free copies has more to do with boosting hit-rates and sucking on the publisher's tit than it does community service.

Ultimately you have to look within yourself. If you think that what you can offer the SFF community is free books and PR then that's fine... we can't all be John Clute. But if you actually have an independent voice, a voice that would benefit the entire community should it be heard, then I think you might find that you're short changing the community by simply serving as a means of generating hype.

Jonathan M said...

Martin - Well said.

It's a bit like Youtube in a way. Now, if you try and track down a particular song or film trailer you'll have to wade through page after page of alternate music videos, recut trailers and idiots lip-synching. It makes Youtube a less useful tool as a result.

Blurbing reviews have much the same function. All they do is clog up google with PR masquerading as honest evaluation and commentary.

Ultimately, I've found that the good stuff does rise to the top but when it's a new book it can take a while for a proper review to surface from beneath the PR.

SQT said...

SQT - Write the blog you want to write. I just think that distributing free copies has more to do with boosting hit-rates and sucking on the publisher's tit than it does community service.

Think what you want.

lianemerciel said...

"I just think that distributing free copies has more to do with boosting hit-rates and sucking on the publisher's tit than it does community service."

Wait, what? It gets free books into the hands of people who might appreciate them. How is that any different from donating them to a charity shop? If anything, it's better; you can be reasonably certain that there's someone out there who wants the book, whereas it might just sit forever, unclaimed, in the shop until finally getting thrown out to make space for new stock.

It seems awfully wrong-headed to pretend that it's somehow more virtuous to throw something away rather than giving it to someone who might appreciate the thing. SQT explained that she gives away the books because she can't read them all. That seems entirely reasonable to me.

Jonathan M said...

Um... Charity shops don't just throw things in the bin. They sell stuff on to people who really want it and generate revenue for the charity as they do so.

There was a time when I'm sure my area was a great place to be a fantasy fan. A trip to the local Red Cross shop would yield all kinds of advance copies months prior to release and way cheaper than retail :-)

lianemerciel said...

To address the main point of the blog entry, though... eh. Personally I have no interest in giveaways, and I do tend to stop following blogs where that is most or all of the blog's content. A weekly giveaway post strikes me as a great idea just because it would give me one post per week to skip past rather than one a day.

But to charge that blogs which host numerous giveaways are "whoring themselves out" seems, to me, to conflate two issues:

1. Whether a blog that hosts frequent giveaways is therefore going to have less substantive content;

(Here I think the answer is "yes," because there's a very human temptation to toss up a giveaway and say "well I've put up a post for today, guess I can put off writing up a longer one until later." I don't think hosting giveaways somehow causes people to shut down their critical faculties. I do think it can enable laziness by allowing the appearance of productivity/frequent updates without requiring any actual work from the blogger. This is more insidious than the IMO overblown belief that posting unfavorable reviews will cause publishers to stop sending ARCs and bloggers who receive ARCs are therefore less honest than those who don't.)

and 2. Whether bloggers who are on publishers' mailing lists are therefore less honest/are "whoring themselves out" in exchange for favors.

I strongly suspect that the second point is unfounded. Most bloggers are very conscientous about expressing their honest opinions, although sometimes this can come out a little mealy-mouthed when they're trying to be polite about it. Furthermore, I don't think publishers have time to follow each individual blog and blacklist the ones who write mean things about their books, or to reward the ones who only say nice things. I'm pretty sure they just scatter ARCs like dandelion seeds on the wind, hope they fall on fruitful ground, and don't give it any further mind.

Anyway, a bad review can be a good thing for raising the book's profile overall. Nights of Villjamur got tons of Internet chatter thanks to that Strange Horizons review. All publicity is good publicity, etc.

So: does hosting a ton of giveaways compromise a blog's content? I'd say it can, but probably not for the reason suggested in the post's title.

Whoo. Longwinded much? Sorry!

Adam Whitehead said...

As I said a few months ago, my concerns over this very issue is why I've never done a competition at all and have no plans to at this time (although I've been asked by several publishers several times if I'd consider doing them).

As others have said though, you write the blog you want and you get the response you get, and it's up to you if you adjust your blog accordingly. I have to say, given that even Pat has reported that it's virtually impossible to make money from your blog through hits alone, the actual point of 'whoring yourself out' seems lacking in the blogosphere. Whores, at the very least, get paid ;-)

Neth said...

So, when do you stop asking introspective questions to get discussion going and popular genre 'thinkers' to link to you?

As others have said, it's all about the balance of content that each individual blogger settles on - people who like that balance will read, the people don't, wont'.

That said, I think that too many bloggers fall into the trap of feeling they need to publish something often - I'd rather it be less freqent and more 'interesting' than more frequent and less intersting. But then, it matters what I find interesting, so we come back rather quickly to personal taste.

Anyway, all this is really just the latest example of the epic existential quest of SFF bloggers ;)

gav (NextRead.co.uk) said...

Hehe - I'm running the 2nd competition on my blog right now. The first was an amazing copy of Tolkien (that about 10 people entered). The current one is a signed copy of Thicker Than Water and bought myself. (about 10 people have entered that too)

Probably my last ever competition. They aren't working for me in terms of hits or feel good factor.

Mark Chitty said...

I think that are a lot of valid comments here, and each applies differently depending on what the blog editor actually wants to put out there.

I'll quite honestly admit that the blogs I read regularly are ones that give a variety of topics, but mainly reviews. I'm getting to the point that I'm just plain ignoring some blogs that I used to read religiously when I joined the blogosphere, simply because their content is verging on the repetitious. Original content, whether reviews or simple thought-filled posts, are what I like to read.

One the other hand, I'm not one to go over the top with loads of content. I like to post reviews, bring news on upcoming stuff and do general stuff depending how the mood takes me. I know I haven;t got a blog with the highest daily visitors, but I hope that those that do visit appreciate my thoughts on anything I do post.

ediFanoB said...

Gav, I take part in a lot of giveaways.
I live in Germany and this is a great opportunity to get books from US and UK before I can order them. But there are still a lot of giveaways with restrictions. Your Thicker than Water giveaway is a good example. It is just UK only - which I fully understand due to postage. But that means a lot of people from other countries can't take part.

Larry said...

It is 6:30 PM in my time zone as I begin writing this. I've been either asleep or at work for most of the past 18 hours. It is that pressure (when one loves what s/he is doing, s/he tends to devote more energy to it) to make sure my job responsibilities (teaching, writing weekly progress reports on over 30 students, filing, etc.) are done right that's left me drained recently. Jonathan is right when he notes that time constraints are affecting my output here, as I really have been dissatisfied with my blog output lately.

I'm a rather ambitious person in some regards; I don't like "settling." It was that sense of "settling" by myself that led to the boredom/irritation rising. Neth/Ken is very astute in noting that this sometimes leads to such posts (it's also the self-accusing thought behind this post's title).

I personally couldn't care less the justifications for having contests, giveaways, etc. That's for each individual blogger to decide. I was noting that as a reader, especially when I'm struggling to rediscover my posting mojo, that seeing a domination of content by such things can be rather off-putting. It's not a condemnation or a personal attack, but rather an admission that I'm wanting something else when I read blogs.

And as I stated afterward, I was hard on myself because I can get by with it ;) Just like I'm harsher on a B/A- student that slacks off, I tend to judge my output here as being rather average compared to what I'd prefer it to be. Problem is, right now I'm so utterly drained that it's almost impossible to muster the mental concentration enough to write out reviews like the ones I wrote for the first two Gormenghast novels earlier this year, for example.

What I'd love to do, once I have the time/energy again, is to make this blog even more international and cross-disciplinary in nature. To have more discussion pieces that would touch upon things such as a decent review of Walter Miller's book, for example. But at the moment, I'm frustrated because my energy has been sapped and I'm left at times trying to find it elsewhere and too often failing to do so.

SciFiGuy said...

The majority of the comments seem to agree for the large part with Larry. I have no plans to jump in but I do offer one observation. I find it very interesting that the naysayers are almost exclusively men and more than likely white. Gender bias on this issue gentlemen?

OnlyTheBestSciFi/Fantasy said...

Seriously on that last comment?

Larry said...

Naysayers for what? And as for ethnicity, I'm not exactly 100% Caucasian...

Terry Weyna said...

And I'm female, despite the spelling of my first name (which is short for "Therese").

Charles said...

I just want to add that people should understand this:

It's not that "blog catalogs" (as I'd like to call them) don't have value--they do (otherwise, they wouldn't have an audience in the first place). Rather, it's content that doesn't appeal to Larry personally. And more importantly, this was a gradual shift of "literary blogs" (ones that started out with reviews and editorial content) rather than a blog that started out as a "blog catalog" in the first place, hence the disappointment in expectations.

Of course of this is due to formatting. My own blog could easily have been a "news blog" if I made my links individual blog entries, instead of compiling them into one post per day.

Larry said...

Exactly. I have to admit it's a bit odd to see the vehemence in some quarters to what essentially was a personal confession rather than a personal attack. And formatting goes a long ways toward shaping opinions.

S.M.D. said...

Hopefully this post has absolutely nothing to do with me, because I've only had one giveaway, and it was in celebration of reaching my 1,000th blog post...I don't intend to have many more.

I'm way late in getting to this primarily because I was moving and what not. So I'll just give my thoughts on the issue and not delve into all the comments, because there are simply too many for me to deal with.

I get the argument against giveaways. I generally don't follow places that ONLY do giveaways for exactly the reasons said here. It's not entertaining for me and I just don't have the time to follow the giveaway-mills out there. Most of the places I follow that do giveaways also have a lot of other content that interests me, so the giveaways act more like a bonus than anything else.

That said, I also get the other side of things: giveaways work decently as promotional tools, in my opinion.

But a lot of this is personal preference, to be honest. There are a lot of things people do to promote and drive traffic; this option seems to be one that pushes your buttons (and other people as well, obviously). My buttons get pushed by bloggers intentionally lying...though that's not always for the purpose of driving traffic...

Basically, just stop following them if you don't like it. Nobody is obligated to read anyone's blog.

Larry said...

No, actually the post dealt with a few blogs that haven't been mentioned here, so I wouldn't worry about that. And yes, it was just a personal observation about a passing reaction that led me to think about how what I've done lately really isn't all that much better, if that even. Didn't think some would have taken it as a personal attack, since the focus of the post (I thought) was on myself, my favorite topic :P

Dark Wolf said...

You know something hit me last night. I was thinking that I should include some books from different genres from time to time. That not as a change of my general approach on my blog, but as a relaxing in my review approach. You see writing mainly about fantasy and horror books might turn out that my reviews are stereotypical. I mean I write in my reviews about the things that attract me the most while reading these genres, worldbuilding, character development (fantasy), tension, the situation that inflicts the terror (horror). So, it is possible the reviews to seem the same. I still have to think about it and maybe that will be a solution, who knows?

Anonymous said...

I think Martin raises an important point when he says basically "to what end?" Popularity cannot be a goal in and of itself. That's not a mission statement. That's nothing real. It's also largely tactical. The point really is to create a blog with content you believe in and then, of course, you want an audience. But it all has to be grounded in something real first.

For the record, I didn't object to the negative nature of Martin's review of that book--I objected to some of the elements of the review, which if fixed (for this reader) wouldn't have made me blink twice reading it. - JeffV

Larry said...

Jeff,

I agree. Wish I had more to say than that, but I'm trying not to think before I go back to work in a few minutes. I certainly don't blog to be "popular," that's for sure.

kaolin fire said...

This is to @OnlyTheBestSciFi/Fantasy ~ if a review boils down to a simple yes/no and the rest of fluff, then I would say that reviewer is doing the reader a disservice--unless that reviewer is specialized to the point where all his/her readers would agree with his/her opinion.

The reviewer's preference so far as "would rather have read" or "would rather not have read" is only one facet in a good review, imo. The bulk of the review is to give relatively concrete context for that opinion so that anyone reading the review can form their own opinion--so that they can see the reviewer's bias and see how that fits with their own.

ediFanoB said...

A lot of comments. I also added one before this one. I don't want to add another pro/con statement.

But there is something which I find worth to mention: Most of the comments have been written by ...... blogger.
What does this mean? "Normal" readers or lurker are not interested in? Is this an academic discussion between blogger?
I'm not sure. Would be interesting to know how many people read the post and the comments.
Anyway my conclusion:
Blogger are human beings who have different understanding about their blog. That was/is interesting for me and I recollected an interesting post from 26th of April 2009 by Harry Markov who runs Temple Library Reviews.
Reviewer Time: The Official Blog Post!!.Harry started a series with reviews of ....BLOGS !
To be honest I really appreciate the Review of Blog Results so far and I hope he will continue. You learn a lot about the people behind blogs.

nathanieldesh said...

EdiFanoB

I am not a blogger, but I have followed this post and many of Larry's posts closely. Yes, the comments are included in that. A lack of comments from the readers does not mean that we are not following things.

I am not one for commenting, I do not do it all that often, but in this case I will. As a reader, I agree with Larry. The blogs that have actual content--be it reviews, interviews, or posts such as this--are the ones that I am going to visit often. I have relatively little interest in giveaways and similar lackluster content (the need to add "In my opinion." to that bothers me to no end) and so those blogs tend to be passed over.

That being said, I feel that though this may not be a topic strictly for discussion amongst bloggers, it certainly concerns them more than the average reader. There are a few (perhaps several?) posts on this blog that are similar. Whilst a reader can read the post and agree or disagree or just shrug their shoulders and move on, it provides a blogger a chance to step back, check out his or her blog, and think. Whether something positive comes out of it is another story.

I'm a normal reader and a lurker and I find all this interesting. I could probably go on as well, but I have a niggling fear of having posts as long as Wastrel's.

~ James

 
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