Friday, June 17, 2011

What to Look for In A Book Blog

I find Klout, the website that measures your influence via Twitter and Facebook, incredibly fascinating. According to them, I have a Klout score of 45, influence 133 people (all on Twitter since I don't have a Facebook account), am a "specialist," and am influential mostly about blogging and authors. Aside from Klout thinking I'm also influential on the topics of Facebook, relationships, and moms, it all seems pretty spot-on to me.

I mention this by way of a discussion on influence and true reach on the internet. Those 133 people I influence are what Klout considers my "true reach." It's less people than the 361 that follow me on Twitter, but still way more than I'd expect considering I don't have a hugely popular blog or a book deal. And this brings me to the main point... book blogs. More specifically, the "true reach" and power of book blogs. Thanks to a conversation on Twitter and this post, I've found out that some publishing companies really prefer a blog to have at least 1,000 followers before sending review books.

The reason this bothers me (and it definitely bothers me) is probably the same reason it's bothering a lot of other book bloggers: because a flat follower count is not an indication of a blog's influence or quality. As I write this post Ten Cent Notes has 263 followers -- a modest amount that I'm happy with, but definitely not the 1,000+ I've recently come to feel like I should be aiming for. This doesn't include any email subscribers or people who actually type in the URL, of course, but more than that it doesn't take into account content. I know that there are some people -- even with all the other blogs and reviews out there -- who rely on my reviews and trust what I say about books. I put a lot of time and thought into my reviews (as well as the rest of the blog) and having readers who appreciate what I say is an amazing thing. But knowing that my blog, based solely on follower count, isn't popular enough to build a relationship or be considered by publishers is incredibly disheartening. And if I'm being honest it kind of makes me angry.

Because -- and I'm not saying anything that my fellow bloggers don't already know -- the easiest way to get new followers is by running contests that require or give extra entries for following. And while I love blogs that run giveaways, there are a lot of blogs that have thousands of followers based solely on the giveaways they host. It has nothing to do with content and it's obvious because, often, there isn't much content. I definitely agree that, especially with how many book blogs there are now, there needs to be some standards in order for ARCs/review copies to be sent. I just think that the 1,000 follower mark leaves out too much information and more often than not targets the wrong blogs.

Publishers, if you're listening, here are some things (I think) you should actually be looking at:

  • Time. How long has the blog been up and running -- three months? Six months? A year? Blogging is one of those things that doesn't really seem like it would be work until you go and do it; in my experience most bloggers who stick around after the 6 month mark are doing this because they honestly love books and want to share that love. These are the bloggers who are going to stick around and build a readership.
  • How often do posts go up? Different people have different opinions on this one but for me unless there's at least a post a week I'm going to lose interest... and I'm betting a lot of other readers will as well.
  • Quality. This is, of course, unquantifiable, but generally posts should be fairly well-written and thought out. And interesting.
  • Stats. Follower count, site hits... whatever. The tricky thing here is that I'm not sure any one form of stat counts includes everything and some bloggers don't keep track of counts. That's why there are so many other variables that should be looked at.
  • Reader participation, a.k.a. comments. Blogs that get comments are doing something right.
That's about all I can think of right now, aside from the obvious common sense stuff like making sure the blog actually reviews the genre in question. Bloggers? What do you think of all of this -- should follower count be the be-all-end-all? What else should be considered? Did I miss anything?


  1. Great post, Jordyn!

    I totally agree that number of followers per sé doesn't say much. Of course people will follow blogs that offer prizes often, but do they read the rest of the blog?

    I am extremely proud of having 300 subscribers on my blog that subscribed because they want to read my blog (and not because of something they could win). They were never asked to subscribe, although I do run giveaways every now and then (open for all!).

    I think hit rate (number of visitors on your blog, e.g., per month) is a much better indication of how many active followers you have. And of course, for publishers it's important to know how frequently do you post, and what is the quality of those reviews?

    And while we're talking about publishers: there are bloggers about that get so many ARCs that they can't possibly read them all and thus, it's a total waste of effort for the publishers. Yes, this tends to be the blogs with the many subscribers that get overloaded with ARCs (they can't help it, maybe). But what a waste!

  2. leeswammes
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I agree with what you said re: hit rate, but I admittedly don't know much about stat counters (I almost never even check my Google Analytics) and I wonder if the hit rate reflects readers who do read the blog through GFC, Google Reader, email, or RSS feeds like feedburner.

  3. There's one blog in particular that has a ton of followers because they're always running giveaways, but when you look at reviews it's always "I totally loved this book!!!" and most of the review is really just a plot synopsis...

    I have a little under 200 followers, but for my giveaways I almost always make it an optional entry to follow. I've been very happy recently to see an increase in comments on reviews.

  4. I have a lot of thoughts about this and am having trouble articulating them, but I know that 1)I'm kind of angry about the whole thing; and 2) the number of followers has nothing to do with a blog's actual reach, especially when the numbers are inflated by requiring a follow in order to enter a contest or giveaway.

    Also, the number of followers thing doesn't work for bloggers who aren't working on a blogspot platform. Ugh. Ugh.

    This is stressing me out, obviously. When I feel stressed about this, I remember that I blog because I love it, because it makes me a better reader and a better writer, and I try not to get competitive about it.

    Great post (as usual), Jordyn.

  5. This whole thing is so irritating. I mean, there's nothing wrong with having over 1000 followers, but at the same time it's an arbitrary number. I know this because I 'follow' tons of blogs, but I disconnected 'followed' blogs from google reader and only read blogs whose feeds I specifically put in. And that's just ONE example of why the follower box is an inaccurate number.

    I honestly think what you bulleted should matter much, much more than some arbitrary box.

  6. Hi,

    I'm new to this blog, but this is such a great post that I needed to comment.

    I am a book reviewer (The Book Muncher), but I also intern in publishing currently. Sometimes I get to go through long lists of blogs that the publisher has or thinks it should reach out to. I definitely don't think that follower count is the sole statistic that publishers should look for (because, honestly, there are some crappy blogs with huge amounts of followers). Everything that you listed above contributes to whether or not I think it's appropriate to keep a blog on the list. I definitely hope I'm one of many who look beyond follower count!

  7. Susie Bookworm
    Exactly -- the huge following/little content blogs are a big part of my worry with the follower count thing. And I think comments are a great indicator of having a quality post, at least in most cases.

    Clementine Bojangles
    Yes! This is something I totally meant to mention (but then forgot about) in the post -- blogs that AREN'T hosted by blogger don't have GFC counts and with how hard it is to tell how many RSS/email subscribers you have (at least it's difficult for me and probably others) that makes it nearly impossible to know how many "followers" you have.

    Thank you!! Yep, that's a good example of how even for subscribers follower count isn't always accurate.

    The Book Muncher
    Ahhh thanks so much for stopping by and shedding a little light! I can imagine how difficult it probably is to go through a bunch of blogs and surely having a follower requirement DOES cut down on that, but I definitely think that along with the requirement books might not be going out to blogs that are going to spotlight them the best. I'm so glad you look beyond follower count!