I was kindly sent a copy of The Human Script by Red Button Publishing, and I will review it as soon as I tackle my mahoosive TBR pile for October! However, in the mean time, I have the amazingly talented Johnny Rich here on Delightful Book Reviews to talk about one of the things closest to my heart... book bloggers! I hope you guys enjoy it :)
What if The Perfect Novel had just been published? How would you expect to know about it?
The newspapers would be full of rapturous reviews. Social media would whip up a force 9 storm. Book awards would dispense with the formalities and surrender their prizes without ceremony. Bookshops would clear their window displays in anticipation of the flood of demand for That Book.
How sure are you about all that? How sure are you that The Perfect Novel has not just been self-published somewhere, perhaps as an ebook?
The newspaper book reviewers haven't read it because, well, why would they? After all, there's no hype from a publishing PR machine and the newspapers’ readers aren't demanding opinions. The media moguls and editors have no commercial interest, so why would the newspapers bother?
Meanwhile, the bookshops have no deals in place to stock the book, let alone to promote it. Being a self-published ebook, it's not eligible for most awards and the ones it could win aren't taken seriously. As for the word on the street, the word has to get out of the front door first.
Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect novel. Different books appeal to different people for different reasons. Even if we could all agree on a perfect book, it might still be hard to hear about it. So how much harder it must be to get to hear about a novel you would love when it isn’t released with an expensive fanfare.
This is the problem of ‘discoverability’. Depending on whom you ask and how you count it, there are upwards of 10,000 novels published in English every week. That’s more than were published in a whole year two decades ago. Add to that novels in other languages and non-fiction. A few of these books arrive amid a fabricated buzz of publicity. But most do not.
Most of these books, we have to admit, may fall far short of perfection. Discovering quality has never been harder and – for exactly the same reasons – never more necessary.
And yet most newspapers have given up on serious book reviews. Between the three or four in the UK that still do it, there's no more than a couple of dozen books featured per month, many of which are different reviews of the same few books. What’s more, in the last ten years readers have abandoned newspapers like the air from a whoopee cushion. Those who do still read them don't necessarily read the books pages. So the once all-powerful book critic may now reach an audience of only a few thousand, many of whom might well work in publishing anyway.
What then is the key to discoverability in the digital age? If a book can start to gain a little foothold with a niche audience, Amazon's recommendation algorithms might bring it to your attention. But even they require a book to fit neatly into a genre to get rolling.
Enter the book blogger. Readers – passionate devourers of books – have taken the task of discoverability into their own hands. Unlike the more established critics and literary editors, they read according to their own tastes, not a publicity cycle. They read books of all genres and none. They read looking for quality, but also for entertainment. They read for the love of it.
And then they write. Their passion for consuming books is matched only by their passion for sharing their thoughts, their enthusiasms. These are honest reactions to the literary landscape, guiding other readers. No matter your own reading preferences, there are bloggers out there who share your tastes.
Amid all the cacophony, they are the still, small voices.
My appreciation of book bloggers comes from my own experience. My debut novel was published as an ebook by a small independent publisher, who, like the bloggers, was far more passionate about my book as a story than as an investment opportunity. It is largely thanks to bloggers loving it and generously sharing their enthusiasm that The Human Script has recently been described as a ‘whisper hit’ – a book that has caught readers’ imaginations on the strength of recommendations – and, as of this month, it’s finally made it into print.
Johnny Rich is the author of The Human Script, published by Red Button Publishing, available now in paperback (£9.99) and eBook (£2.99) formats. To celebrate the launch of the paperback the author will be reading extracts from the novel followed by a Q&A on 17 November 2015 at the Betsey Trotwood, 56 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3BL. To find out more and to book tickets, visit http://bit.ly/humanscriptlaunch
Until next time :)