In the year (and a bit) since 300 Days of Sun came out, I've been thrilled by some of the lovely reviews and messages I've received about it. Much of this has been on the newer, faster social media such as Instagram and Facebook, but this post is a shout-out for the stalwart bloggers who keep going, crafting longer, more detailed and insightful pieces about books and writing.
I know from hard experience that it's tough to maintain a great blog, and keep it fuelled with entertaining and worthwhile posts, especially when you are trying to write a book on the side! I began this blog in December 2010, and the best content dates from mid-2011 when I got into my stride, to around 2014. It simply takes a lot more effort to write a short essay than it does to share a photo with a few lines on IG.
Luckily, arts and book bloggers are both dedicated and made of steely stuff. They have to be. For just as publishing has changed in the past ten years, so has the nature of book blogging. It used to be a glorious, idiosyncratic free-for-all. Bloggers were delighted to be approached direct by a lateral-thinking author with a new novel to promote. Most of them hadn't yet been sucked into the marketing machine that sees bloggers as a cheap and very effective way of harnessing the power of reader-to-reader recommendations.
Nine years ago, when I was disappointed in the efforts of my then-publishers to get coverage for my novel Songs of Blue and Gold, I determined to go my own way. I discovered some fantastic British bloggers like Cornflower and Tales from the Reading Room, and whizzed off emails to them. It was such a rewarding experience. I can't think of anyone who didn't reply, sometimes within hours, or offer to review. Some of them became my first online friends, and some I met and we became offline friends, too.
Now, there are rules of engagement. Publishing publicists have lists of bloggers and blog tours, and what is still technically an amateur pursuit has a frighteningly professional edge. Bloggers are no longer simply happy readers, but suffering burn-out with too many books to get through and provide reviews. Bloggers worry about upsetting publishers (no more free advance reading copies of big books) and authors alike. Stress increases as the TBR mounts. More books are published, and schedules fill.
A consequence is that writers are often asked to produce guest blogs - which is great, don't get me wrong, as these often give you exposure to a new set of readers - but this does mean that there's even less time for the writer to create good content for his or her own blog.
When these work, though, it's a win-win situation. A blog I've admired for a long time, and greatly enjoyed working with is Trip Fiction, which is perfect for the kind of books I write, which have a strong sense of place and recognisable setting. Here's the link to the piece I wrote about Portugal and 300 Days of Sun.
And then there's the pure joy of finding a review by a blogger who obviously went out and bought your book and just liked it, then thought he'd write a blog review. How great is that?
"Part romance, part thriller, part history lesson, 300 Days of Sun: A Novel will leave the reader entranced and wishing for more. It’s a sensualist adventure with an ever-present malevolent edge and by the time it’s over, you’ll be a little bit smarter and a lot more aware of life’s lovely but dangerous possibilities You’ll also be mightily impressed with Deborah Lawrenson, and her graceful ability to make the English language flow and shimmer."