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April 15th, 2009

6:06 PM

I'm bored with the romance community

  • I wish there are more actual book discussions by people who have read the book. It seems like everyone's more interested nowadays in talking about issues, industry drama, how so-and-so can do better than that, thisFail, thatGate, and getting the last word over everything. I miss the old Web 1.0 days when there are always book discussions on the latest releases. I can find that mostly on the AAR review forum nowadays, and that forum isn't as active as I'd have liked. Even if there are reviews in romance blogs, more often than not the comments are of the "I love your reviews! Another brilliant review! You've made me want to pick the book up!" gushing or "You are mean girls! Rot in hell! My mother will sue you!" types.
  • The book reviews that generate the most discussion tend to be those of Friends of the Blog Owners type or the generally accepted favorite of the blog community. It will be nice if books written by authors with no ties to the blog owners generate as much discussion, but it does seem sometimes that blog communities tend to be as cliquish and more insular in their own way as a long-time forum community can be. I mean, I'm not the only one wishing that people are talking more about books other than those by Kresley Cole, that Smart Bitches, Sherry Thomas, Patricia Briggs, and other authors who are smart enough to play the Blog PR game, right? That will make the community more lively. (I'm aware that negative reviews of ANY book generates discussion, but since most of them are by people who have never read the book complimenting the snark or trying to upstage the reviewer, that don't count as "book discussion" to me.)
  • A little more levity. By that, I don't mean cutting sarcasm aimed at belittling the opponent in the latest WhateverFail drama. I am talking about people relaxing, laughing at themselves, and what not instead of trying so hard to scan every word in a blog with a comb to find reasons to be offended. To find reasons to starts an Us Against Them war. I'm tired of seeing a light-hearted blog entry with the comment section filled with people arguing in TL;DR manner over semantics, people being pedantic, and people taking things so personally that they imagine everything is a personal attack on them. Sometimes an off-color joke is just that - a joke. Seriously! It is as if the Livejournal wank atmopshere has blanketed the romance community and it is not going away anytime soon, the same atmosphere where it's funny only if it's at the enemy's expense.
21 comment(s).

Posted by RfP:

"I'm not the only one wishing that people are talking more about books other than those by Kresley Cole"

I would love more diversity of both books and opinions. But I haven't had time to write reviews for several months, and I've never been a frequent blogger, so I'm not contributing to the solution.
April 15th, 2009 @ 9:12 PM

Posted by MrsG:

Lol, I don't think there is a solution. I better make this clear - I'm saying that I am bored with the state of things, I'm not saying that you or any blog out there are doing anything wrong. It's just that I miss the focus the community once had on books first and foremost rather than, say, how the industry works or things like that. I'd rather know what people (blogger, commentators, forum people) think of the latest book by an author rather than how they think the industry can be fixed. Industry news is good, but I feel it's becoming the primary focus nowadays. People seem to be interested in talking about books only when they stand a chance to win a freebie, they know the author either online or personally, or they are commenting in a bad review.
April 15th, 2009 @ 9:19 PM

Posted by Ciar Cullen:

Amen. Especially on the thisFail and thatGate. Links and Twitters that cave back on themselves and create a black hole. Yahoo Groups got that way, Twitter is getting that way, and now, alas, a few of the major "review" sites are becoming the TMZ (and that's a step down from Entertainment Tonight) of romance publishing. It's gotten so boring I'm forced to write and do my day job instead of surf. I can't even think of anything to blog about, because, hey, what hasn't been beaten to death?
April 15th, 2009 @ 11:01 PM

Posted by Jody W.:

I have hardly ever read most of the books that get nods, whether the authors are blog darlings or someone else. I can't keep up with my reading! But I do love to see in-depth book discussions on a variety of books, too, and not just "viral" stuff.
April 16th, 2009 @ 12:02 AM

Posted by Karen Scott:

I mean, I'm not the only one wishing that people are talking more about books other than those by Kresley Cole, that Smart Bitches, Sherry Thomas, Patricia Briggs, and other authors who are smart enough to play the Blog PR game, right?

I totally disagree. I think the whole SBs viral thing was totally predictable, and to be fair, seeing as they've spent years cultivating a community, and have been strong advocates of the genre, I think the support they're getting for BHB was only to be expected.

Yes, there have been quite a few Patricia Briggs/Kresley Cole reviews, (never read either one to be honest) but I can point to loads of other reviews of books from authors I've never heard of.

Of course you're always going to get the likes of Nora Roberts' books reviewed here, there and everywhere, but I think authors like her, have earned that right.

As for people playing the PR game and reaping the benefits by being reviewed by all and sundry, well, that just means that they're more savvy than the rest, and quite frankly, that's a good thing, seeing as so many authors wouldn't know good PR if it slapped them in the face.

I don't mind the viral stuff, because I think there's a good enough mix of popular and less popular authors out there.

I think Dear Author's reviews are as diverse as one is likely to find within Romanceland, and actually, when you look at other romance sites, other than some of the main ones, I think they also cover a wide range of authors who aren't typically run of the mill.

When you talk about "the community", I suspect, (of course I may be wrong) that you're thinking of a few of the more prominent blogs, rather than the community as a whole.
April 16th, 2009 @ 7:05 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

Karen, if you think I'm thinking of Dear Author and Smart Bitches, yes and no. Yes because they are the sole romance conglomerate out there at the moment, apart from maybe AAR, and in fact some would say that it won't be long before DA and SB merge into one, seeing that they are so in sync with each other. They ARE the biggest non-author specific fan community out there, barring perhaps the RT forums. So it's unavoidable that I am thinking of the prominent blogs.

And no, because this isn't a Mrs Giggles vs DA/SB thing and also because I think you may be talking about a different thing.

Sure, books are getting reviewed, but what I am missing is the element of discussion. In the AAR review forum, for example, there are still some long debates and discussions over a book, and I find that missing nowadays in blogs. As I've said, more often than not, a review entry is followed by comments that are typically of one of the following nature: "Great review! I'm picking the book up now!" or "Eeeuw, that sounds terrible!" Sometimes someone will disagree, the blog owner may or may not come in to discuss, but the discussion never goes on beyond the "I say this. You say this. That's it." stage.

Reviews versus book discussion. Two different things, IMO.

Of course, we have the literary analysis of places like Teach Me Tonight, but all that deep thoughts go way over my head, and besides, discussions tend to be more about the genre than the book itself.
April 16th, 2009 @ 9:27 PM

Posted by shirley:

I haven't seen a book discussion in I don't even know how long, either. That would be fantastic.

You know Mrs. G, you could always start your own. What book are you reading now? Set a date to discuss the book, post a short set of questions, you know just to start, and see what happens.

I haven't read a book worth discussing in a while, Mrs. G, so I'm definitely open to suggestions :)
April 17th, 2009 @ 2:43 AM

Posted by B:

Glad to know I'm not the only one getting sick of Failgate.
April 17th, 2009 @ 2:59 AM

Posted by K. Z. Snow:

The copycatism sometimes gets on my nerves. The same books being reviewed (and usually lauded, because it's the allegedly "good" ones that go viral) here, there, and everywhere; the same issues being discussed--often, with little dissension--all over the place; the generally serious tone. When I run into this stuff, I click off and go elsewhere.

I greatly appreciate humor when I run into it, and I'm even happier to find reviews of out-of-the-way titles by relatively unknown authors.

Real book discussions, though, I rarely find. And when they do crop up, they're essentially more of the same glomming onto and squeeing over some popular author. Nothing new.
April 17th, 2009 @ 10:44 AM

Posted by Ann Bruce:

Mrs. G, maybe it's time to change your review site into a blog format and allow comments. I know I've been spending less and less time on blogs because there are more discussions about issues about books than the books themselves.

Also, sometimes it's hard to have discussions about books because DA and SB review the books before the general public can get their hands on them. I've tried to revive discussions about certain books once I've read them, but everyone else has moved on so I just converse with the voices in my head.
April 17th, 2009 @ 1:31 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

While it takes only a few mins to install a blog, the work needed to shift the reviews to the blog will be way too much for me to handle!
April 17th, 2009 @ 2:02 PM

Posted by Meljean:

I wonder if discussion has decreased in part because of the number of readers and blogs -- I'm tired, so my brain isn't giving me a better way of saying this -- but essentially that there might be the fear of blowing one's wad in the comments of another blog, and not leave much content for their own.

And so when there was just AAR and a few other discussion listserves, the discussion went deeper (and you could *see* the depth of the discussion on the threaded message boards (although I can't remember those discussions focusing on more than a number of popular books, either. A hidden gem now and then, but in general, sticking to the popular authors)).

Now it's spread across several (or many) blogs, in the form of reviews and "this was my take on it," with maybe a link or reference to differing opinions, but not as a response to those opinions. So instead of the deep deep Nora/Kleypas discussion in a centralized location, everyone heads to their blogs when they get their copy, and might pop over to another blog and leave a short comment or opinion (and maybe a link to their review) but not a lot of back and forth.

Maybe the blogosphere killed the message board star?
April 17th, 2009 @ 4:42 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

I think you nailed it. I also think it's the nature of blogs in general. A message board allows a "free-for-all" environment where anyone can start a discussion. In blogs, the topics are determined by the owner (or owners). And I also feel that in a blog, you are more closely reminded that the blog owner will be monitoring your post so maybe some people feel even more reluctant to say anything.

And on the flip side, most blog owners may feel that it's better to post on their own blog than on others to draw traffic. I've see so many responses in the nature of "Great blog entry! Click my link to see my response!" The fragmented responses that require one to visit so many blogs just to get the big picture also makes it hard to have a centralized discussion.

OT: Go watch the Susan Doyle thing!
April 17th, 2009 @ 5:07 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

Ant and Dec are ALWAYS annoying. The Brits must love those annoying prats so much because they just won't go away.
April 17th, 2009 @ 6:35 PM

Posted by carolyn jean:

This is an excellent post. I agree with the commenter above that maybe numerous blogs have sort of decentralized the discussion.

And I know I'm influenced by what my blog friends are reading, and while I agree that can contribute to sameness in reading habits, I think it also allows really excellent books to bubble up to the surface--way more so than print review vehicle.

As for vapid comments, I'm a main offender there. Eep. I see people running book groups now and then, and I wonder if that's future of the meaty, centralized discussions.
April 17th, 2009 @ 10:42 PM

Posted by RfP:

Mrs Giggles, I didn't take it as personal criticism. I was just feeling wry about my own whiner-not-contributor status.

Meljean, Jessica at RacyRomanceReviews has also commented on how diffuse the romance community is, with so many blogs to keep up on. It's interesting to hear the same observation from a relatively newcomer.
April 17th, 2009 @ 11:06 PM

Posted by Angela James:

I agree with the person above who suggested you open your own reviews to comments. I think it's a great solution to your desire for more commentary and discussion on a variety of books. I think you've had reasons in the past for not wanting comments on your reviews, but maybe this is a good time to change that and find what you're looking for?

Also, I agree with what Karen was saying about the SB's book. In fact, in non-fiction it's difficult, if not impossible, to get a book deal without a platform. Sarah and Candy spent several years building that platform and their publisher would naturally expect that they would utilize and capitalize on that platform to sell books. I think what you're seeing in action is really a perfect example of non-fiction publishing and why platform is needed/why it works.
April 18th, 2009 @ 11:46 PM

Posted by jaq:

I honestly don't think opening up the comments on her reviews will result in anything less than a train-wreck.

I think we've all seen the messages on private loops about how Mrs G doesn't read the books she reviews, she hates romance, 'who the heck is she anyway?', etc.,. I'm sure her email is overflowing with those responses as it is.

Opening up the comments won't result in any sort of in-depth book discussions. It's either going to be peeps who read Mrs G for the entertainment value of her snark, so will post a lot of OMG that was too funny!!! comments or you'll get peeps who prefer if Mrs G kept her 'din't-read-teh-book-anyhow-romanzzz-hatin' mouth shut and will derail every single comment thread re-stating that opinion.

I too miss the AAR discussions, but I don't think we'll ever get them back again due to many of the things Meljean mentioned.

As for the viral books, no argument there. Seems only a handful of books get the lion's share of the online buzz. On the other hand, I've discovered a number of authors/books I wouldn't have known about if there had been no discussions.

Ditto what Angela said re the SB. Given that they have the platform, they would be expected to utilize it to market their book. In the same way a debut author for a small press would be expected to have a web-site/blog that could be utilized to sell their books. The difference is, the hard sell for SB seems/is more pervasive because of that platform/readership is fairly dominant within the online romance reading community.
April 19th, 2009 @ 1:06 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

If I want to start a book discussion thingy, I wouldn't turn my website into a blog due to the limitations of the format. I'd set up a message board instead. However, my website does not get the number of visitors that AAR get, and their forums are pretty dead compared to their traffic, so I don't know how my own effort will fare.

I think I will see how AAR's canwetalk list is doing. Maybe there are more book discussions there?

About the SB book, well, I'll say what I want to say in my review of that book. o:)
April 19th, 2009 @ 2:15 AM

Posted by Angela:

I burnt out on blogs, even though I just restarted mine, because of the reasons you and others detailed: conversations spread too thin over scores of reader blogs; blog owners "running" the conversation; too much emphasis on scandals and soap-boxes; etc. I hang out at AAR because as you said, a forum is pretty much democratic. Sure, a lot of conversation can be centered around the popular authors/books, but at the same time, if I happen to read a book that was discussed three months ago, when I post on that thread, it will come back to the top of the first page--something that can't be done on a blog (once the page has moved, the convo's done).

I think your review site is fine just way it is--after all, wouldn't a Mrs Giggles Review Blog only contribute to the dilution of book discussions? Blogs also killed the yahoogroups, as well--canwetalk, btw, is pretty dead, as is the RRA-L and AAR's initial yahoogroup.

But I feel what's occurring in the online blogosphere merely reflects greater society of today. What with YouTube, Blogs, Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, et al, everyone has the ability to make themselves and their views known--essentially to have the potential to become a star (hello, Susan Boyle!) from one's own home. I'm not suggesting everyone who blogs does so because they want attention or to become a romance blogosphere celebrity, but there's less emphasis on community and more on creating a space for yourself. However, wanting to pull ahead of the collective isn't wrong either, so *shrug* what can we do?
April 22nd, 2009 @ 5:32 PM

Posted by Karen Scott:

The copycatism sometimes gets on my nerves. The same books being reviewed (and usually lauded, because it's the allegedly "good" ones that go viral) here, there, and everywhere;

Hmmm, would you feel the same if one of those viral books happened to be yours KZ? I think not.

Copycatting happens throughout all media. A story breaks, people pick up on it, and discuss it to the nth degree. Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat.

You want greater, more in-depth book discussions? Then why not start the revolution yourself? Why wait for somebody else to start it?

Personally, talking nothing but books and the genre is incredibly boring to me, so I make sure my blog isn't so one-dimensional. Some people like it, some people don't, but the most important thing is that it's what I want to do.

Every now and then, I would like to see political commentary on some of the romance blogs that I visit, but I know that's not going to happen, so I just tackle some of the issues that I'm interested in, myself.

Everybody gets blog fatigue, from time to time, but I have to say, I don't see much point in finger-wagging when you could just as easily lead the pack in changing the status quo.
April 22nd, 2009 @ 10:05 PM