Recently in Weblogs Category

Weblog Book Reviewing


There are times when I read things on the net or in newspapers and I just know, straight away, that I had better not post anything about it for a few days.  You know the line "Never drive when angry"?  The same thing applies to writing for the internet.  Once written and posted it never disappears.  Far better to walk away and let it lie. 

And sometimes a piece just sets up a slow burn that doesn't seem to fade. 

In her "Overflow" column in "The Australian" over this past weekend, Rosemary Sorenson made a number of points regarding book reviewing and the blogging world, none of them complimentary. 

Sorenson's main point is the following: "It turns out many publishers solicit reviews from bloggers by sending them free books, who then write effusive reviews about them. 'Viral marketing', the kind some bloggers help along so willingly, is not so innocent after all."  This note has, I presume, arisen because some authorities in the US have decided that there appears to be a sort of "cash-for-comment" (or in this case "book-for-comment") situation with some US-based literary weblogs. The contention being that publishers will send books to weblogs with the expectation that a favourable review will be written.  The implication is that this is a form of "viral marketing" that weblogs have been party to, but which they haven't divulged until now.  Just think of the Sydney radio jocks, in the early part of this decade, making favourable comments about certain financial and telecommuncations companies that they had previously criticised, adversely.

The point might be made that Sorenson is only talking about US weblogs and has made no implication about Australian versions.  You can argue that all you like, but I don't think the writer's intention was to be country-specific.

The trouble with this sort of argument is that it's almost impossible to dispute.  Whatever I say will be taken as an attempt by me to portray myself in a favourable light and therefore suspect: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks".  Well, "old fart", anyway.

So, herewith a summary of some relevant points I have made on this weblog in the past, and which I think are worth repeating:

1. Publishers send books to weblogs such as this for publicity purposes - just as they do with any media outlet: newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, etc, etc.  The idea behind this, I guess, is that any mention, anywhere, is a good thing.  They request a copy of the review, which seems only fair.  I've never had a note from a publisher implying that anything will follow from a favourable or a non-favourable review.  

2. Weblogs provide an additional review source for these publishers.  Not a replacement, not better, just an alternative.

3. Have I been approached to "publicise" a book for a publisher on this weblog?  Yes.  Has the expectation been that I only say favourable things about it?  Probably, but as I refused the invitation I don't really know.

4. Do I accept advertising?  No.  I've been asked a number of times, but I'm not interested.  This is a hobby not a commercial proposition.  Some webloggers feel the need to ensure their venture is profitable, or at least revenue-neutral. That's up to them. 

5. Has anyone attempted to "buy" this weblog?  Well, I'm not sure about "buy", as no mention of money or anything else was mentioned. I declined the offer before it got any further than the initial approach.  This is a hobby - see note 4 above. 

6. If I write an effusive review of a book it's because I really liked it.  I don't write hatchet jobs.  It costs a lot to get a book published, in time, money, effort and emotion. If a group of people consider that a book has enough going for it to ensure it gets in front of readers then I'm not going to dismiss all of that work as meaningless.  It's the job of a reviewer to find the worth in a book as well as to warn against the shortcomings.

There is probably more, but that's enough.  Readers have to read book reviews with a critical eye, the same way they should read the books themselves.  I identify whether or not the book under review is a "review copy", and has therefore been supplied by a publisher, or is a "private purchase".  After that it's up to you.

The Great Victorian Summer Read

A week or so back, I posted about the State Library of Victoria's Summer Reading program and mentioned the video interviews the Library had conducted with Garry Disher. Now, Damien, on the "Crime Down Under" weblog, draws my attention to the associated weblog which features a couple of posts from Garry Disher - in which he discusses his crime fiction - and posts from James Phelan.

Ashes Cricket Poetry Weblog

It's hard to believe you could put those four words into a title without it being a joke. But that is what is proposed. From the website:


To dispatch a poet, David Fine, to the Antipodes for the next five test matches between England and Australia in order to describe and explain the series in poetry, and explore the relationship between the two sides, supporters and countries as a poetical anthropologist.


Twenty five poems, one for each day's play in the five tests between 23rd November 2006 - 6th January 2007. This would be the key outcome. An example, Gardening With Afridi, from last season's overseas' tours, is included below:- · Working with The Barmy Army and others to review literary horizons and appeal of poetry... · A poetical-anthropological series of essays; style between Bill Bryson & C L R James · A regular end-of-play radio programme reflecting the atmosphere and feel around the game itself - a radio essay for Radio Derby after the end of play each day and Peak Support will provide all equipment and training for me to do this. · report back to National Association of Literature Development on Australian literature development.

There has been some cricket poetry written in Australia with the most notable probably being How M'Dougall Topped the Score by Thomas E. Spencer. Needless to say C.J. Dennis a number during his period as resident poet for the Melbourne "Herald". We'll keep an eye on this one.

New Australian Literary Weblog

THE magazine of Australian literature, Australian Book Review, has started a weblog, with its first entry posted yesterday. It was foreshadowed in the August 2006 issue of the magazine, but I didn't think they'd get it up and running so fast. The first entry is written by the magazine's deputy editor, Jo Case, though whether or not she'll remain the sole contributor is yet to be seen.

Ads for Australian Books

Some literary weblogs accept advertising, and I've never had a problem with that. I've clicked through on a few of the ads when a book catches my eye. Which, I guess, is exactly the point of the things. Over on the Bookslut weblog is a first for me: an ad for an Australian novel. It's at the top of the page on the right-hand side. You can't miss it. It's been there a week or so (maybe more, it is summer after all) so I doubt it will be around much longer. Check it out. Here's hoping The White Earth by Andrew McGahan gets a good reception in the US. I'll keep an eye out for any reviews.

Best Australian Young Adult Books

Over on Read
, the blog about Australian Young Adult literature run out of the State Library of Victoria, a number of authors and book-people have been asked to nominate their favourite novels of 2005. You can see what authors such as Nick Earls, Cassandra Golds, Richard Harland, Kirsty Murray, Chris Girdler, Cath Crowley and Barry Jonsberg have to suggest. Think of them as Christmas present suggestions.

New Innovations

It was always my intention that this weblog should concentrate on the Australian side of the literary scene, if for no other reason than to keep the workload down to reasonable levels. I can't for the life of me figure out how some weblogs maintain their output. Burnout seems a likely outcome. At least it would for me.

So I've tried to keep the boundaries tight. Though, occasionally, the edges get a little blurry. I reviewed a website based outside Australia a while back and have mentioned prizes for which Australians are only vaguely eligble and managed to fudge it enough so as not to worry too much. But sometimes some things come up that strike me as outstanding examples of what weblogs can do. And it is at those times that I think this weblog should just salute the innovation and not be too worried about parochial geographic boundaries.

The first of these has been taking place over at Ron Hogan's weblog Beatrice. Ron has moved away from the tradition nodding-head interview to get two authors to basically interview each other about their respective work, and to frame the "interview" as a conversation between the two. Not so great you reckon? Well, give it a try and see what you think.

I guess the whole concept could fall completely flat if Hogan chose his participants unwisely. So he has chosen carefully and picked authors who are lively, informative, interested in the other's work and who come across as someone you'd like to read. Haven't heard of any of them? Doesn't matter. The whole point of the exercise is to give these authors a forum to discuss items of mutual interest and for us to sit back and eaves-drop. Great stuff.

The second innovation comes to us from the Largehearted Boy weblog. The Boy has created a new feature, title "book Notes", in which "authors whose work I admire will create mix CD's based on their latest book. There are no ground rules, I plan to just let these creative masters work their own magic with words." The first one he has persuaded to participate is Tom Bissell, and the work is God Lives in St Petersburg and Other Stories. It's early days yet but I see good things ahead for this idea.

[Link via Bookslut and GalleyCat.]

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Weblogs category.

Unknown or Forgotten is the previous category.

WebSite Review is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en