Hello and welcome to event number 16 in the Virtual Book Festival. Today’s event is a guest post by book blogger Mary Picken of Live and Deadly Book Blog which you can find at liveanddeadly.net On her hugely popular blog, Mary writes insightful and intriguing reviews of (mainly) crime fiction. And she’s her to tell us more about her book blogging life.
So welcome, Mary – and over to you.
Book Blogging – What is it, why do we do it and who cares?
Gentle reader, let me take you back 5 years to December 2014. My memory these days stretches back just about that far. I had taken six months off from my job due to clinical depression. Those days had passed in a blur of pretty much staring into nothingness. I did some reading, always my chosen leisure activity, but otherwise had done very little.
After the 6 months was up, it became clear to me that I no longer had the resilience to cope with the daily pressures and stresses of my job. My brain was working, but my heart wasn’t in it and my head wouldn’t let me get immersed in the mire again.
So I effectively took early retirement. That left me in something of a quandary. I didn’t feel able to work full time and I really did not want my little grey cells to go without a work out. So, I decided that I’d start to record my thoughts on the books I was reading.
At the time, I didn’t really know anything about blogging, far less book blogging, I just needed something that would stimulate my brain and keep it working.
Fast forward 5 years and my blog is still going. That first, tentative post, a glowing review of Sarah Hilary’s first book, Someone Else’s Skin, (if you haven’t read her Marnie Rome series please do, it is fantastic) has grown into a blog with more than 3,300 followers and a reach over continents (mainly though UK and US) that stretches to around a quarter of a million viewers. Many of my colleagues have blogs that are substantially bigger, and more power to them for it. Few of us are driven by our statistics; I’m certainly not.
I have discovered an activity that plays to my need for deadline driven activity without much of the stress that used to accompany my deadlines and I have been fortunate to have been sent books to review.
Not only that, but book blogging has given me my tribe. I have found like-minded friends online and in real life; have been to numerous book festivals at home and even one abroad and now have a life that I love.
So, all good for me, then. But what does it do for book sales and publishers? I often find that authors have no sense of what bloggers can do for book sales, but there is no doubt at all that publishers know and understand the value.
In a crowded marketplace, word of mouth is a very important marketing tool. Creating a buzz in advance of a book’s publication is a great way to heighten anticipation and create advance sales.
Social media is now a key component of organisations’ marketing strategies and for good reason. 74% of shoppers make buying decisions based on social media, according to the social media marketing company, Sprout Social.
The term ‘social influencers’, which I hate, has been coined to represent individuals who have a significant following on social media. With a large audience seeing these blogger’s posts each day, they’re often targeted by publishers to promote books. Their content has a significant effect on purchasing decisions. Essentially, they contribute to the “bandwagon” effect.
80% of consumers, we are told, are likely to purchase a book based on a friend’s suggestion. If you were on the fence about buying a book, who would you turn to for an unbiased opinion?
This sometimes leads, wrongly, to suggestions that bloggers are the pawns of publishers, overwhelmingly positive about every book in order to feed their free book piles. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most book bloggers I know have a voracious book buying habit; some even buy several editions of the same book!
Most of us choose not to post reviews of books we have disliked on our blogs. If you are, like me, about sharing the book love, there seems little point in publishing on my blog a review of a book that just wasn’t for me. I will post those reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, with as constructive a review as I can achieve.
But I’m often critical in my reviews, pointing out my perceptions of flaws as well as good things, because otherwise how can I expect my reviews to be trusted by those who read them? If there’s no honesty, what on earth is the point of a review?
I believe that bloggers can be a real boon to smaller, independent publishers too. Those who are publishing important books but just don’t have the marketing budgets to make them stand out in a crowd. Investing in a blog tour, where the tour organiser receives a small payment for organising and bloggers remain, rightly, unpaid can achieve real results for a book that might otherwise struggle to find a place amidst the bigger publishers’ noise.
Publishers like Fahrenheit, Tramp Press, Orenda Books, Unbound and Urbane all make a decent sales impact through their use of social media and that can only be a good thing at a time when we need more than ever to broaden the diversity of ideas.
I blog for my own satisfaction and to keep my brain functioning. But I have to admit; there is no better feeling than knowing that someone has bought a book based on my review. It is, for me, the pinnacle of success. If I can help contribute to book sales in however small a way, I will feel that I have made a beneficial impact on the world. And that’s more than enough for me.
Anne: Thank you so much for that fascinating insight into what book blogging means to you – and to authors and readers too. And thank you for being part of the festival.
More about Mary and her blog:
Mary Picken reviews mainly crime novels on her blog, though she also enjoys contemporary and literary fiction with the occasional dose of historical and urban fantasy thrown in. She has been blogging at Live and Deadly for 5 years and loves to visit book festivals. Particular favourites include Bute Noir, Iceland Noir and, of course, Bloody Scotland and this month’s Edinburgh Book Festival.
How to connect with Mary online:
Live and Deadly book blog is here
You can also find her on Facebook at Live and Deadly : (https://www.facebook.com/liveanddeadly/)
On Instagram as @bethsy : (https://www.instagram.com/bethsy/)
On Twitter as @bethsy : (https://twitter.com/bethsy)