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Don’t dismiss influence of the book blog

By Barbara Henderson

Black Water by Barbara Henderson.
Black Water by Barbara Henderson.

Ouch! Burnt myself again.

I mutter something under my breath and hover the red candle over the folded paper again. It’s a labour of love all right, and a painful one at that.

Having successfully sealed all my old-fashioned-looking handwritten notes to book bloggers, I can finally send the advance review copies of Black Water on their way. It’s a smuggling novella set in 1792, so sealing my notes with wax feels right, and they’re supposed to look good, right?

I still vividly remember the phone call with my publishers the first time I went through the publication process, back in 2016. ‘Book bloggers, Barbara! Don’t tell us you don’t know about this. You need to find book bloggers to be part of a promotional blog tour.’ I had heard of blogging before, of course, but I had never organised a blog tour before and didn’t have the foggiest idea of where to start. How does one put together a blog tour?

Start with social media, I decided, and began a search. There were various relevant groups on Facebook, including one promisingly titled Authors and Book Bloggers in Scotland. Book Connectors was another excellent find.

I requested to join and attended the very first social occasion, an authors and bloggers lunch. If ever there was a meal which deserved the title ‘working lunch’, this was it! I made my way from table to table, handing out bookmarks and business cards, chatting and smiling, rounding each conversation up with a verging-on-desperate ‘I have a book out in a few weeks – would you like to review it as part of the blog tour?’

Thankfully, a handful of kind bloggers took pity on me and gave it a go, including Linda Hill of Linda’s Bookbag, who made it one of her 10 top reads of 2016. When she was subsequently voted Britain’s Best Book Blog, I had a foot in the door!

The process fascinates and terrifies me in equal measure. This is how it works: book bloggers receive their advance copies from publishers. It’s worth making these packages look pretty if you can. If they look good, bloggers will often tweet pictures of the books as they receive them, giving a new title much coveted coverage ahead of its release. And then the nail-biting couple of weeks for the author begin. Everyone is reading your book and all you can do is wait for the first reviews to appear online. Bloggers do their work in secret and as an author, it is out of your hands.

The fate of a book is often decided by these unsung heroes of the book trade, about whom I knew next to nothing when I got started. If an influential blogger loves a book and says so online, it can have a knock-on effect far beyond the individual. Buyers for Waterstones and other wholesale booksellers keep a close eye on these blogs, for example. Amazon bestsellers and their ratings are often decided by online reviews as most bloggers also post their opinion on the online giant’s page. At the end of the ladder, the humble shopper will then take notice of reviews and ratings and decide what to purchase.

As an author, I am incredibly grateful to book bloggers for what they do – not just for me but for the book industry in general. Some festivals now invite bloggers-in-residence to cover their events and with so many of our opinions being shaped online, their influence is only set to increase. This, by the way, is a good thing, because these bloggers are ordinary book lovers like you and me, whose honest opinions we can rely on and who champion bestsellers from the big publishers alongside small independent presses without bias. A good book is a good book – and they will tell us what’s worth reading.

Having Black Water in the hands of these (often semi-anonymous) reviewers is worth every bit of spilled wax.

Look out for: The Secret Life of the Cairngorms by Andy Howard. Crammed full with utterly stunning nature photography, this gorgeous book it would make a fantastic gift.

Look out for mountain hares, otters, red squirrels, as well as the birds of the Cairngorms, alongside knowledgeable commentary throughout.

The Secret Life of the Cairngorms by Andy Howard.
The Secret Life of the Cairngorms by Andy Howard.

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