Wednesday, 5 September 2007
Navel-Gazing: What is the Literary Blogosphere For?
Having launched this blog less than two months ago and still feeling my way I was interested to see a thread in the Book Depository Editor's Corner about a meeting in London of book trade people to discuss literary blogs that seemed to suggest some weren't of much value. I am sure this is true - some are pretty poor and some of the discussions at, for example, the Guardian books blog are ill-expressed drivel as far as I can see - but it does raise the question of what criteria you use to determine whether a blog is good or bad. Or put more simply, what are literary blogs for? In my case I was attracted in the usual internet way by the fact that it was possible, that it was there. By a few keystrokes, using design templates, one could create a reasonably stylish blog in a few minutes and using it is as easy as falling off a log. But what is it for? That's harder. Two key features of blogging - anonymity and extreme subjectivity - didn't attract me in the least, which probably means that for some people it isn't a real blog at all. Anonymity in particular (apart from those who are writing under censorship or who are whistleblowers) completely baffles me. As a published author I wanted to use it to maintain my profile and inform potential readers about what I was up to but that raises another question: who is the audience? Serious literary readership in the UK is very small as print-runs (I am also a small poetry publisher so I know all about that!) and sales of poetry and new literary fiction demonstrate. These are pitifully small so if you get a few thousand readers of a blog you are doing well (I have had less than 150 hits so far in nearly two months!). It's also quite fun to do which shouldn't be dismissed as a motive but I suppose one does want to stimulate a bit of debate and get some responses (other than those from people trying to sell their T-shirts) and that is proving harder. Some literary blogs are excellent and thought-provoking though some are very poorly written which is unforgivable for literary material and some are a bit manipulative - excluding posts because the comment doesn't fit rather than using that tool to keep out the flaky or obsessive. But on the whole they give a chance for some views to be ventilated and that has to be a good thing. So I shall press on for the time being. Please join in!