Book Review Blog Carnival

Authenticity: or Write What You Know
December 23, 2008, 1:01 pm
Filed under: blogging tips

I am happy to present the first of what I hope will be many guest posts on Book Review Blog Carnival. KindleDude, who writes Kindelicious, has written this post about being a successful blogger by being authentic.




When I’ve had a Grey Goose martini or two, I love to imagine that I’m funny — if not in the Chis Rock sense, at least in the sophisticated, Vermouth-dry New Yorker sense. I do this until it’s clear from the way people are looking at me that I’m just making a jackass of myself, then I pay the tab and go home. But in my imagination, I’m the life of the party and everyone is hanging on my every word.

I’ve been a citizen of the blogosphere since November 2 of this year (2008), or about 6 weeks as I write this. As such, I’ve visited many, many blogs. I have found a couple that really are funny. I mean if I read them at work I have to keep my mouth closed to hold in the laughter. These are the I Do Things So You Don’t Have to blog, and the Junk Drawer blog. For example, read the “I Faked a Concussion” post from the former. Now these ladies are funny, and, rightfully, they get lots of hits, and lots of comments. When I consider these two excellent humor blogs, with their fancy hits in the tens of thousands and their fancy lists of dozens of comments per post, it may be possible that, after I stop laughing myself, I get just the tiniest bit jealous.

As for my blog, I’m not getting as many hits. I do get some, and have had a few comments, like two, which is nice. Even though one was from my brother and I asked him to make it. I mean, he could have said “no.” Hits and comments for a blogger are like the adulation of fans to a rock singer, and in my case, the arena is mostly empty. The blogosphere, unlike my work buddies at happy hour, is not going to pretend to enjoy my blog to make me feel better. So this state of affairs made me think: What is it about blogging that I like? Why am I doing this?

Well, I love books and always have, and since my English Lit major days have always been a good analyst and expounder upon things literary. Also, I am amazed at, and enamored of my Amazon Kindle and the fact that I can be anywhere, at the beach for example, and be in the mood for a mystery novel, for example, and just grab one out of the air. So that’s what I blog about, and I enjoy it, just as I enjoy telling my friends about good books and cool gadgets.

But then there’s still the matter of hits, or lack thereof. Reading the humor blogs and the comments of their fans, I started thinking: ‘KindleDude, maybe you should try writing some humor.’

But then I began thinking about the blogs I hate and why I hate them. Beyond the obvious (shallow, self-indulgent posts; lack of focus; and generally being nothing more than a way to generate clicks on ads), the problem with these blogs is that they not authentic. Even on the anonymous web, particularly in a blog, lack of authenticity shows. You wouldn’t think this would be the case, since on the Internet, we know that people can pretend to be anything, sometimes with disastrous results. By “not authentic” I mean that when one reads them, one gets the sense either that the author has no serious interest in the subject or perhaps has only a superficial and falsely sentimental sort of attachment to it. This kind of blogger may not post anything for 6 months at a time, but will spend hours entering various indexes and clicking on Entrecard links just to generate numbers; or will post every day but the entire post will be a statement like “I love flowers. Don’t you? Click on these ads.”

But if one wants to sustain a blog — a real blog with something interesting to say and an audience that will take the time to read it — for a length of time, my experience is that authenticity wins out. I don’t mean you can’t craft your online identify or use a nomme de blog. What I am saying is that, to be successful long term, a blogger will be more successful if she or he has an honest and abiding interest in the subject and can express that interest in a way that is not merely superficial A blogger who writes just to get some hits and collect money from ads obviously does not care what is on the screen, and it shows. A blogger who just wants to push personal preferences out of an unexamined, mawkish sentimentality cannot have any real appeal to an intelligent public. But a blogger who loves a subject so much that he or she can write about in depth, is always willing to learn more about it, and can share what she learns with others, that is the blog that has the potential to be a good one.

Nowhere is this need to be authentic more evident, I think, than in the book blog. The subject does not have the inherent click-ability of a blog, say, featuring pictures and lurid gossip about Angelina Jolie. One would think that in the current entertainment environment a purely literary blog would go nowhere. Yet, because of his insight, love of books, excellent taste, and depth of understanding, Nigel Beale’s Nota Bene Books has a nice following (and has snagged author interviews to die for). Similarly, Breeni Books by Sabrina Williams is a popular, multi-award winning site, and again, if the site author did not both obviously love and have the capacity to write intelligently about books, it would not work and she would not have amassed her large following.

I could perhaps sustain a humor blog for a few posts and get some cheap clicks. And I appreciate humor in others. But ultimately, I’m not interested in humor as a form of writing nor am I generally funny. Sometimes clever, yes. Analytical and widely read. Eclectic–I’ll read Isaac Asimov as soon as read that famous and wonderful novel whose first line invokes the name of Ishmael, the brother of the biblical Isaac. That’s what I am, and that’s what my blog reflects.

I will continue to write about what is of real interest to me, and to be authentic. I won’t pretend to be too “literary” to review a Buffy book, but I’m also not going to pretend I don’t enjoy and appreciate truly literary works such as Rivka Galchen’s wonderful Atmospheric Disturbances, even if others think that is pretentious. I believe this kind of authenticity will win out, and that I will develop an audience. And, if it doesn’t and I don’t, I will have not wasted my time but rather will have spent it involved with what I love and appreciate.


9 Comments so far
Leave a comment

how true, how true. the blogs are read most attentively are the ones where I feel like I get the bloggers true opinions on things. oh, and since i’ve never been to your blog, i’m heading there now to check it out.

Comment by Heather J.

Many thanks for your kind remarks! All the best for the holiday season and 2009.

Comment by Nigel Beale

Clark, thanks for allowing me to sound off in your space! I appreciate it so much.

Comment by Steve | Kindledude

Heather: Thanks! Hope you like it!

Nigel Beale: You’re most welcome, and all the best to you as well.

Comment by Steve | Kindledude

So, is there a problem with sand getting in the Kindle when you read at the beach? I’m a mom, I worry. . .

Comment by bookfan

I wouldn’t let my kids take it to the beach. Sand gets into everything.

Comment by rotus

Bookfan, rotus: Good questions. I wouldn’t take it out onto the sand unless it were inside a ziplock bag, perhaps. By “The Beach,” I mean the whole beach geography: The boardwalk, the little stores and restaurants, the beach condo balcony. In the particular case, I was sitting on the boardwalk (on a bench), looking out at the ocean. No problem there!

But yes, I would be worried about the sand. And if Amazon would send me an extra Kindle to test, I’d hop down to a beach right now and see about the sand situtation!

Comment by Steve | Kindledude

What a great post. And you make such a good point, which is the importance of writing about what you love and what you know. I thought long and hard about various topics for my blog, but all my thoughts kept coming back to one topic: ME! Honestly, I admire your blog because you CAN write about something you love in an interesting and knowledgeable way. I love books, movies, music, other stuff besides myself, but I can’t seem to write effectively on those topics.

And — judging by your comments on my blog, I’d say you have a definite future in humor, should you decide to ever go in that direction.

Thanks for the shout-out! Happy New Year!

JD at I Do Things

Comment by wellthenhowaboutthisone

JD: Thanks so much! I admire both your humor and the self-knowledge that is the basis of it. I predict a successful book one day!

Really, though, no way could I do the kind of writing you do–a joke here and there, yes; a whole post? Or 50? No, I could only wish.

Comment by Kindledude

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