Recently, Publishers Weekly convened a panel at Penguin Random House offices in Manhattan to talk about the phenomenon that this blog is a part of–the internet of books, or bookternet. I am not usually a big fan of neologisms but this one was interesting, as is the phenomenon that it represents.
What publishers are talking about is the realization that there is an online book culture that exists in a number of places around the ‘net where people are talking about books. One of the most interesting statements in this article is this one by Rebecca Schinsky of Book Riot:
“Online book fans aren’t looking for reviews or longform essays about books. ‘No one is interested in reviews on Book Riot,’ Schinsky said. ‘They want conversation. People want to talk about what they’re reading and what book they’ll read next.’ ”
That’s an interesting statement for reviewers as well as publishers. Publishers can learn a good deal, it was suggested, by listening in on these conversations and offering content that connects with the interests in these book communities. It also means that the “buzz” about a book is not something that can simply be generated by Madison Avenue. To some degree, it is in the hands of people who are talking about books, and there is a serendipitous element about that. Here’s a book publicist who has figured how this works, and coined the word, bookternet:
What about us reviewers and book bloggers? I think what this suggests is the idea that for a review to really become a conversation, it needs to be something other than a seemingly definitive description and opinion of the book. A conversation that is not a conversation stopper is open-ended–with questions, provocations, and laughter. And maybe sometimes, it is just sharing what we are wondering about as we read a book and whether this meshes with the experience of others who are reading it. It’s cool sometimes just to find out what the Book Riot folk are reading and why.
One of the most interesting challenges in this online world is finding those interested in talking about the books you are reading. Some groups where I’ve posted are mostly just self-published authors promoting books. Hardly anyone engages what others post. Sometimes the interested people find you if you’ve tagged your post well and it comes up on searches–still learning about that one.
I have found that if you can point to a body of work, some level of viewership, and turn around reviews and other material on books, publishers will work with you, at least some of the time. Actually you are exchanging your work of reading and writing for a free copy of their book. The trick I’m learning is to do that for books I’m really interested in reading.
If you are a book blogger or otherwise involved in online conversations about books, what are you learning about the bookternet?