Six years ago, around the time this blog was born, Sir Peter Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement and chair of the judges for that year’s Man Booker Prize hit out at book bloggers, insisting that our little corner of the internet would be to ‘the detriment of literature’. He was of the impression that the rising number of book bloggers – an industry that, incidentally, was still in its infancy – would have a negative affect on the book buying market, saying that ‘people will be encouraged to buy and read books that are no good, the good will be overwhelmed, and we’ll be worse off’.
While he never made clear who exactly the ‘we’ he was referring to was, suffice it to say I disagree entirely with his stance on book bloggers and our impact on readers as a whole.
When I first started my book blog – then called The Unlikely Bookworm – it was many moons ago. I was a recent graduate trying desperately to infiltrate the world of publishing and this blog served purely for my own gratification. Soon after completely a degree in double English, I had set myself the challenge to read my way through the BBC Top 100 in its entirety, and launched my blog as a way in which to record the books I was reading, and how I felt about them. It, too, was a vain attempt to get myself noticed by publishers, so that one day I may acquire a job in the publishing industry.
It was a much more simple looking site in its early days; there was no side bar, I didn’t have an email list, and the pictures I used to illustrate each post where simply screen grabs of book front covers – a notion that makes me shudder in horror in the midst of the Instagram age we’re currently inhabiting. I never promoted my posts, had no idea what SEO even meant and truly didn’t care how many people were reading my blogs – if indeed any one was at all.
And then a couple of years ago something happened; and something started to shift. I wanted my site to grow, I wanted it to be read, and I wanted it to influence and encourage others to read. I started learning the basics of coding; I experimented with a new blog theme, and started taking my own – albeit awful – photos. I’ve since found a theme I love, a design I’m happy with, and I produce content that I’m proud to put my name to. In my six years of blogging, my blog has undergone two facelifts and a rebrand, when last year The Unlikely Bookworm became The Literary Edit. It’s a site I love, and one I spend ample and endless hours honing, nurturing and growing.
Book blogging has, undoubtedly, grown exponentially in the past five years; gone are the unsophisticated sites, the pages filled with never-ending text; the blurry pictures of books. Book blogging, Bookstagramming and Booktubing (the photographing and filming of books respectively) are a marketing tool in themselves, and an easy, inexpensive (often free) and authentic way for publishing houses to sell and market their books to wider audiences.
Because for most of us book bloggers, this book blogging thing is largely – if not completely – unpaid. I remember a few months ago, when I was in the midst of the rebrand of this site – up until the early hours tapping away on my laptop, my mum lamenting the fact that I dedicated so much time to this site, yet it didn’t provide me with a salary. And while I can’t deny that I would love my blog to generate a steady income, that few things would please me better than to get paid to do what I love the most, even if I was never to make a further cent from this site, I would still work as long and as hard on it as I currently do. It may not be a money maker, but I’m all the richer for it; for the books I’ve read that I otherwise wouldn’t have, for the people I’ve met, and the places I’ve been, and most of all for the ability to share and spread my endless love for reading..
I’m proud to be a book blogger. My book blog is my passion project; a true labour of love and a platform that has opened up a world of opportunities; from landing my dream job, to meeting my favourite authors, to forming friendships with fellow bookworms and countless more besides. And if it’s encouraged just one lone person to read one single book that they otherwise wouldn’t have, my job as a book blogger is done.
I’ll be speaking about the art of book blogging with Mariella Frostrup on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book Program on Sunday, 15th April at 4pm and would love for you to listen in as I discuss my very favourite past time.
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