A bridge between lit blogs and book blogs?

I feel, sometimes, like I’m perhaps the missing link between the lit blogs of yore and the book blogs of now. (Not that the former have died out, but rather that book blogs have been making a splash.) Let me explain.

Lit blogs, as they coined themselves, mainly started years ago and were birthed out of a journalistic tradition. They don’t write personal, revealing posts but rather focus on maintaining a certain level of professionalism.

Book blogs are a more recent incarnation. Some book bloggers flaunt their amateur status and enjoy not having to fit any pre-conceived mold for what they do and how they present themselves.

[Many words have been used to attempt to differentiate between the two. First wave, second wave. Serious or not. Journalistic or chatty. Journalistic or conversation-driven. Professional vs. amateur. If you don’t know yet what I’m talking about, read the blog posts linked at the bottom of this post.]

• I started my blog 2+ years ago. That’s certainly not a long enough track record for me to fit into the first wave of online book reviewing (aka lit blogs). It’s certainly on the front end of book blogs, though.

• I came out of a journalistic tradition. I have a journalism degree, and I’ve held various newspaper jobs, including writer and editor.

• I don’t (and never have, really) write much about me personally on this blog. My voice tends toward the journalistic. Now, I recognize I’m not writing for a newspaper (and I’m not getting paid, either), so I’ve made some efforts to inject some of the new media voice into my writing, since I’m not writing for an old media.

• As much as journalism is a part of me and my blog, I never wrote reviews for a newspaper (or any traditional media outlet).

• I really enjoy the community aspect of book blogging, something lit bloggers don’t participate in at all (to my knowledge).

• I enjoy reading genre books (mysteries, particularly), something I’ve rarely seen mentioned with anything but disdain in the lit blogs I follow (and I follow more than a few, in addition to tons of book blogs).

• I love conversing about books. There’s no way I’ll ever (past or future) have the comments turned off here. I don’t think conversation, give and take, is contrary to a journalistic style, though. In my experience with journalism, there’s always been a way for readers to respond to content. Letters to the editor is one of the most-read sections of every newspaper (after obituaries), if I remember my stats correctly. Any newspaper with a website worth anything allows comments on its individual articles.

• I find it odd that one way of determining whether a site fits into the first or second wave is by word count of reviews. It’s strange to me that those of the journalistic side are insisting that a review is not a review if it’s not long; journalism is at least in part about boiling things down! Extracting the essence! My own reviews are not long (500 or 1,000 words plus), but I don’t want them to be; I don’t read reviews that long because they’re too long. (And if it’s that long, they’re likely to reveal too much of the story, something I’ve promised to never do!)

With all the recent controversy and hurt feelings between the two groups, I feel somewhat torn. In some ways, neither label fits me. In others, I could wear both. Is there a way for me to bridge this gap? How do you see me?

Notes on a distinction/controversy:
The Book Publicity Blog: Book bloggers — the old and new “waves” and what you need to know about both
My Friend Amy: This Social Media Thing
GalleySmith: Who’s Your Target

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13 responses to “A bridge between lit blogs and book blogs?

  1. Excellent post! And I agree, the community aspect is one thing that makes “second wave” book blogs distinct from “literary” blogs and helps define it as having a different purpose, different place, and therefore a distinct legitimacy in its own right.

  2. I think it all just boils down to the fact that blogs are, by their very nature, very fluid and flexible entities. Because blogging is open to all, blogs and the bloggers who write them will always be in a constant state of flux. In other words, being a blogger means living with a continually changing environment. We all know lots of people who are very resistant to change, so these types of arguments, like this one about professional vs. amateur bloggers, will always be around.

    Take a look at Dooce: would you call her a personal blogger or a professional? She writes about her personal life, but she makes a full-time living with the ads she sells on her blog, and even appeared on Oprah.

    Given the nature of blogs and blogging, these kinds of questions simply have no “right” answer. Your blog is simply whatever you want to make of it – that is the essence of what makes a blog a blog.

  3. I think every blogger will end up having the kind of blog they want to have. I was really taken aback by this whole idea that I was supposed to be a professional! I have never thought of my blog in those terms, so I guess I “flaunt” my amateur status. Never really meant to it was just that I never thought of myself as a professional.

    I think the problems arises when we tell others what kind of blog they should have or whether or not what they do is less valuable than what someone else does. (unless of course they are saving thousands of lives…than maybe their blog is more important)

    I love the many different voices and hope we can all see there is indeed space for them all.

  4. I see your blog as one I enjoy following, pure and simple. 🙂

    I did comment on GalleySmith earlier today, but I didn’t on the previous posting. It was all too fresh then and I wasn’t sure how I felt one way or the other. To be honest, I had no idea that there was a first wave or a lit blog or any other segregation before this came about. I’ve had my book blog going in one form or the other since January of 2007, but I didn’t really know about the book blogging community itself until 2008 when Devourer of Books found me and then introduced me the “world.”

    What GalleySmith had to say about target made sense to me. Define yourself and what you are setting out to accomplish. Don’t let anyone else define you. As far as bridging gaps, I don’t prevent anyone from interacting with me or my blog and I never felt that anyone else ever did that to me. I would hope that everyone would respect each other. Does that make sense? Maybe I’m missing something.

    • You and I got started at about the same time; and, I, too, was outside the book blogging community until 2008.

      Yes, I agree, targeting our individual audiences does make sense.

      About this: “I don’t prevent anyone from interacting with me or my blog and I never felt that anyone else ever did that to me. I would hope that everyone would respect each other.” Yes, it makes sense.

  5. This is an interesting part of the debate between “side A” and “side B” — the “what if I don’t fit into either” aspect of it all. The thing of it for me is that I don’t really think there are sides so much as there are differences. More than two even. There are any number of different types of book/lit blogs and labeling things only polarizes people. Of course it’s likely impossible for any discussion to take place without some sort of labeling system since it’s how we are able to compartmentalize and distinguish this from that.

    In the end, since I doubt that labeling will go away I think we are best served by self-identifying. That takes away the adversarial nature of finger pointing or the feeling of “name calling” when someone else does it for you. So I wouldn’t dream of trying to comment on where you fit in because I think we all make that choice ourselves. All I know is that I enjoy reading your thoughts no matter if you are part of first wave, second wave, side A or B.

  6. Great summary to the two sides! I actually posted a Sunday Salon today that talks about “Book Snobbery” because I was tired of the jabbing here and there. I think your approach here, discussing where we all fit, and the possible “whys” behind our choices is really well done! In the end, as non-paid (for the most part) book bloggers, we’re not doing all of this for anything more than the satisfaction of sharing great books and making friends who feel the same!

    Thanks for your overview and post!

  7. Wow, somehow I have missed this debate – I saw some of it on Amy’s site, and left a comment there, a while ago. I don’t take it seriously, the lit bloggers making fun of ‘non-professionals’, partly because I don’t care – I did my degree in English literature, and I know how pretentious that world can be. Anyone who says ideas and thoughts have to be couched in a certain form in order to be taken seriously, is a turn-off for me. I’m not interested in pleasing critics. When I started blogging, it was all new to me, and my purpose is to write and be honest about my feelings about books, and what I’m reading, and sometimes life.

    I think the book-blogging community has so much to offer – not in terms of the latest literary theory and discussions on why some metaphor was used – but because it’s like a gauge for authors and readers to know how books are really being received by the public. We’re the readers that fuel the book industry, not the critics. So I’d much rather know what book bloggers, who blog for love of books, think about a book.

    I hope this helps a bit. Very thought-provoking post, Wordlily!

  8. I also have a journalism degree though I’ve never been paid to write a book review. I do try to main a certain level of professionalism to my blog in that I never write anything that I wouldn’t want a potential employer (or my father) to read.

  9. anks for discussing this and raising your questions. I find myself between two worlds as well. I’m a writer that started in the academic community, writing journal articles and academic reviews and then a series of YA non-fiction books. I started blogging about books and the writing life in 2005, independent of any community. Simply because of my background, the reviews I wrote for my blog were more cerebral/professional/authoritative/what have you; and though I have tons of lurkers, they tend not to comment on those posts. So I have started to shift the overall tone of my blog, learning to become more community-oriented, because I really do want to TALK with people about the books we’re reading. I suspect that just being me is in itself a bridge between the two worlds. I’m not sure how my readers would classify my blog, but I agree with the other commenters here that all that’s really important to me at this point is that 1) I am true to myself and my opinions about the books I read, and that 2) everyone feel welcome at all times to join the conversation at my site.

  10. That is a really interesting post. I didn’t realise that was the definition of a ‘lit blog’ I always assumed that ‘lit blogs’ reviewed literary fiction and therefore tended to have longer reviews that analysed the symbolism/writing structure of the book.

    I thought I fell in the middle as I tend to review literary fiction, but in a ‘book blogger’ way. Now I know I’m definitely a book blogger and am proud to be one!

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