What makes a great lit/book blog

UPDATE: I recently realized that I had the comments set so that only typekey users could leave comments.  This has been rectified so anyone should be able to leave a comment.  Sorry for the inadvertent extra hurdle – ironic ain’t it.  Please feel free to add your thoughts below.

One of the things I have noticed during the last year is that I no longer am able to interact with blogs in quite the same way I used to.  And I wonder if this doesn’t have a big influence on the traffic and the nature of the traffic at this blog.

I have a gut feeling that interaction between blogs produce a kind of connection and/or relationship which then drives readers.  For example, general book reviews don’t generate a lot of comments or interaction.  They are sort of passive that way.  You simple read the review.  Unless you have read the same book and have passionate feelings about it, or take issue with what the review said, there is little to comment about.

In contrast, posts that provide links and commentary are much more likely to create comments and feedback.  Any long time blogger will tell you that some offhand joke or comment seems to end up driving the most comments and traffic in a way that they never anticipated.  In this way, its seems that blogs about the world of books and publishing – links, opinion, gossip, etc. – create a lot more buzz than blogs that focus on reviews.

It also seems that bloggers who interact within the literary blogosphere garner more buzz and create more connections and thus readers.  Leaving comments and linking to other blogs is a sort of indicator that you are part of a group; that you are a part of the conversation. By participating in these discussions you become part of a group and are included in people’s reading lists.  Hang around blogs long enough and people feel like they know you and they develop sense of your taste and style.  This in turn leads people to check out your blog; add a sidebar link; etc.

As I have become more and more busy with a growing family and a change in career I have had less and less time to read and comment on other blogs.  Forced to choose between spending time reading more blogs and reading books I have chosen to keep reading books (throw in football season and it gets tricky).  As a result, I no longer feel like I am part of the conversation or part of a group.  It is an odd place to be.  I still communicate with publicists and get books sent to me.  I still post to a “lit blog” and yet the vast majority of my traffic comes from Google searches related to books and authors not from other blogs.

I honestly don’t mean this as a big pity party for me.  The situation is of my own creation and stems from my own unique interest and habits (bad and good).  And I am not arrogant enough to assume that what interests me interests lots of other people.  Or that my quirky take on books is of a style and quality that should generate a large fan base.  Things are what they are.

No, what this long winded discussion is leading to is a question: what makes for an interesting lit/book blog?  What mix of content do you look for in such a blog?  What type of blogs are you more likely to visit on a daily basis or even throughout the day?

This is not a plea for traffic or attention.  Or at least it isn’t any more so than having your own blog to begin with . . .

I really am interested in what readers find interesting and compelling.  Perhaps, I can start a conversation and learn something at the same time.

UPDATE: According to Ed this book isn’t going to be much help in answering this question.  I will hold off on my assessment until I have read the book.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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4 Comments

  • Community – there’s the word. Small ‘villages’ of bloggers build up over time – you consider them to be (virtual?) friends, friends that need to know that you are there.

    As for what I read every day, well, what can I say. We are a worldwide tribe of blogging writers, poets and people with a few sandwich’s short on the picnic front!
    I probably read them for the same reasons that they read me – diversity of subject. Although I am basically a lit blogger (I am published) and I use the blog as a platform for news and updates, I also vent my spleen regularly, have a sense of, err, humour, and am quite rude on occasion! You decide.

    Liked your tactic, btw, piqued my interest just enough to stop me dumping you in the spam tin!

  • Community – there’s the word. Small ‘villages’ of bloggers build up over time – you consider them to be (virtual?) friends, friends that need to know that you are there.

    As for what I read every day, well, what can I say. We are a worldwide tribe of blogging writers, poets and people with a few sandwich’s short on the picnic front!
    I probably read them for the same reasons that they read me – diversity of subject. Although I am basically a lit blogger (I am published) and I use the blog as a platform for news and updates, I also vent my spleen regularly, have a sense of, err, humour, and am quite rude on occasion! You decide.

    Liked your tactic, btw, piqued my interest just enough to stop me dumping you in the spam tin!

  • Let me be clear about this response: I don’t mean to suggest here that litblogging can only be what is is now, but here’s what I think it is: In a New York Sun article from June 12(http://www.nysun.com/article/56368), Adam Kirsch finds litblogs something other than a community of sharing: “Often isolated and inexperienced, usually longing to break into print themselves, bloggers — even the influential bloggers who are courted by publishers — tend to consider themselves disenfranchised. As a result, they are naturally ready to see ethical violations and conspiracies everywhere in the literary world.”

    The comments posted to Kirsch’s article demonstrate that lit-bloggers are indeed paranoid, thin-skinned, and vastly overconfident of their importance. Lit-bloggers tend to assume that the newness of their medium guarantees their own avant-garde credentials, but actually lit-blogs are mostly very conservative. (Check out the real conservatives at neo-con sites and their hysterical demands that we return to the old ways). Lit-blogs almost invariably presume — unconsciously and ineptly — models of intellectual autonomy, aesthetic purpose, and auto-didacticism that writers worked through and abandoned before the end of the nineteenth century. Lit-blog criticism is never (so far as I can tell) radical. In fact it’s seldom even critical; the lit-blogosphere is much more an arena for invective than criticism: http://noggs.typepad.com/the_reading_experience/2007/10/throwing-in-the.html. The analyses and insights I find in lit-blogs are most often bland and formless(http://maitzenreads.blogspot.com/2007/10/actual-literary-critic.html ), vaguely generalized and poorly exemplified (http://www.wetasphalt.com/?q=node/228 ), horribly written (http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/2007/01/18/doomed-from-the-beginning-a-review-of-on-chesil-beach-5152007/ ), and, of course, drowning in self-importance and gravitas (http://www.quarterlyconversation.com/TQC_7/Postmodernism.html ). Lit-blogs really have the same kind of cultural value as undergraduate essays – particularly those of undergraduates who are not interested in taking instruction. For now, the work of lit-bloggers remains, almost without exception, dull and solipsistic – check out this comment from http://noggs.typepad.com/the_reading_experience/2007/10/responding-to-v.html#comments: “it’s a hot-house, incestuous world this lit-blogosphere, and therein lies part of its potential for greatness!”

    The challenge for litbloggers is not to win the fight with other media; it’s to get over the new-media idealism and understand that blogging is, like any other discourse, contested and troubled by all kinds of problems, ethical, intellectual, and political.

  • Let me be clear about this response: I don’t mean to suggest here that litblogging can only be what is is now, but here’s what I think it is: In a New York Sun article from June 12(http://www.nysun.com/article/56368), Adam Kirsch finds litblogs something other than a community of sharing: “Often isolated and inexperienced, usually longing to break into print themselves, bloggers — even the influential bloggers who are courted by publishers — tend to consider themselves disenfranchised. As a result, they are naturally ready to see ethical violations and conspiracies everywhere in the literary world.”

    The comments posted to Kirsch’s article demonstrate that lit-bloggers are indeed paranoid, thin-skinned, and vastly overconfident of their importance. Lit-bloggers tend to assume that the newness of their medium guarantees their own avant-garde credentials, but actually lit-blogs are mostly very conservative. (Check out the real conservatives at neo-con sites and their hysterical demands that we return to the old ways). Lit-blogs almost invariably presume — unconsciously and ineptly — models of intellectual autonomy, aesthetic purpose, and auto-didacticism that writers worked through and abandoned before the end of the nineteenth century. Lit-blog criticism is never (so far as I can tell) radical. In fact it’s seldom even critical; the lit-blogosphere is much more an arena for invective than criticism: http://noggs.typepad.com/the_reading_experience/2007/10/throwing-in-the.html. The analyses and insights I find in lit-blogs are most often bland and formless(http://maitzenreads.blogspot.com/2007/10/actual-literary-critic.html ), vaguely generalized and poorly exemplified (http://www.wetasphalt.com/?q=node/228 ), horribly written (http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/2007/01/18/doomed-from-the-beginning-a-review-of-on-chesil-beach-5152007/ ), and, of course, drowning in self-importance and gravitas (http://www.quarterlyconversation.com/TQC_7/Postmodernism.html ). Lit-blogs really have the same kind of cultural value as undergraduate essays – particularly those of undergraduates who are not interested in taking instruction. For now, the work of lit-bloggers remains, almost without exception, dull and solipsistic – check out this comment from http://noggs.typepad.com/the_reading_experience/2007/10/responding-to-v.html#comments: “it’s a hot-house, incestuous world this lit-blogosphere, and therein lies part of its potential for greatness!”

    The challenge for litbloggers is not to win the fight with other media; it’s to get over the new-media idealism and understand that blogging is, like any other discourse, contested and troubled by all kinds of problems, ethical, intellectual, and political.

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