Saturday, September 26, 2009

Simon & Schuster Blogfest 2009

Let's file this under "fab publisher idea."

Simon & Schuster is having a "blogfest" from September 21 to October 4. "40 authors, 14 questions, 2 weeks, 1 blog." The blog is Simon & Schuster's own blog. The questions were submitted via the publisher's Teen Advisory Board, Pulse It. The list of questions is at the site, so you can handily see what questions have been asked so far and what questions will be asked.

Why do I think this is a great idea?

Well, there is the obvious. It's like a bunch of mini interviews with authors, and I love the different answers, and seeing what authors share (and don't). I like that it is structured around the questions, not the authors, so that the authors are all treated equally.

But, as long time readers know, I am also concerned with the relationship between publishers and bloggers, and the blurring of lines that includes the loss of blogger independence. It's not entirely one sided; it's not just publishers who act this way. Publishers/publicists tell bloggers when to post items and what to post. I've gotten those emails, and for the record, when I politely say "I'll review if it fits into my review criteria and if it gets reviewed, post it when it fits into my posting criteria" the response has been "fine, we'll send the copy, post or don't post, we just find that some bloggers like being told how to do it." So while I still snarl at the idea of someone coming into my house and telling me when to have a party (thanks, Roger, for that perfect analogy!) apparently some bloggers like that.

And then, on the other hand, bloggers use sales copy on their blogs, cut and pasted from the publisher (or from another site that gets it from the publisher, such as a bookstore) and call it a review. Maybe adding if they liked or didn't like the book.

Running a blog is a lot of work, often unpaid; so for someone to come in and tell you how, what, when, and where to do something, when you're doing it for them for free? All for the glory of an ARC, a link, a chance to interview an author? To me, its rather one-sided with the publisher getting advertising at very little cost and the blogger running into serious burn out issues down the road. Plus, the line between review and paid advertisement starts to blur as the content comes more from the publisher's requirements rather than the blogger's choices. Is the blogger doing this with the audience of the publisher or publicist, to make them happy? The audience of the author, to make them happy? Or to provide an objective review of the book and other bookish things?

Blogfest, on the other hand, is brilliant because it removes that blurring and keeps it, well, pure on both sides. This is publisher run and at a publisher site and is very nice indeed. Everyone knows it is the publisher's baby, and of course part of its overall sales and marketing plan. It's their Second Annual Blogfest. My reason for not knowing about last year's is simple; not only was I buried in Printz Reading, I had decided to keep my initial readings of books as "pure" as possible by deliberatlely avoiding interviews where I would run the risk of falling for an author and carrying that emotion over to the book. This looks like the website for the Simon Pulse March 2008 Blogfest.

I sometimes miss stuff like this because of work or vacation or life in general. What other publishers done this?

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


Wendy said...

Interesting--I've never thought much about the publishers who request us to post after certain dates. Thinking back, I see that my unspoken rule has been that if I ask for an ARC, I'll wait until then-ish; if it's unsolicited, I'll review it whenever I please. If I love a book or have loved an author's books in the past, I definitely have a desire to post a review at a time when other people will be able to get it--either buy it or put it on hold--for the author's sake (not the publisher's, necessarily).

Jen Hubert said...

Thanks for this, Liz. As someone who just posts plain, boring old book reviews when and if I want to, I appreciate your words of wisdom:)

Liz B said...

Jen, there is nothing boring or plain about your reviews!

Wendy, I go back and forth with posting timing. Blogger's ability to schedule posts ahead of time has helpd tremendously on this. Still, how early do I want to post? Do I wait till more people have read the book? Wait till its available for sale? But, I also don't want to wait until so many others have posted that my review will look stale.

What I don't like is publishers telling me when to post. And I think some bloggers don't know they can say "um, no, I'll post when I want to." Or, they even prefer being told when a post should be made.