Saturday, October 09, 2010

Elitism-- or Just Self-Promotion?

It seems that every so often a blogger has to pick a fight with another blogger. There's really no doubt, when this occurs, that the instigator of this particular game is looking for attention. Sadly they get it all too often as the blog post is picked up by other review blogs amid a flurry of outraged tweets and Facebook updates.

Why is this such an easy game to get sucked into?

I guess we all like drama. If it isn't something that involves us personally we're only too happy to inject ourselves into the conversation as we madly dash over to the offending post and give our "I think" thoughts on the subject. I've done this more times than I'd like to admit.

But there's something very personal about review blogging. We all have our own take on how it should be done and when someone attacks us personally (though I have not been the recipient in this particular game of late), well, we take it personally. It's a strange phenomenon from my point of view. I know those who consider themselves the "elite" in our little fishbowl look upon my willingness to do giveaways with disdain; claiming that people like me are too eager to please the publishers and act as little more than advertising arms of those organizations. That's a tough critique for me to take because I fund almost all the giveaways I do here out of my own pocket. So it costs me money to be criticized... Tell me why I do this again?

I do get the hesitation to do reviews based on books sent to us by the publisher. Once the faucet is turned on and you start getting freebies, it's easy to get sucked into the desire-to-please cycle that keeps the books coming. I dance around this myself, though I have occasionally been known to tear-to-shreds a book that was sent to me. I've come to the conclusion that if I don't ask for a book (and I almost never do) then I don't have an obligation to be nice. I don't like to savage someone's work and I try to be respectful and honest; which is what I think almost all the reviewers in our circle are trying to do.

Another accusation that is frequently thrown at people like myself is that we're just not doing it right. I don't know whose rules we're supposed to be following exactly but I've repeatedly read that I should be writing more in-depth reviews-- with quotes and analysis of the subtext of the book. I hear that I'm not doing my job if the review is less than 1000 words long. To this I say-- are you kidding me? I've actually done reviews for print publications for years and I've been told repeatedly to keep it at 250-500 words because the reader doesn't have the attention span to read something longer. When I've been paid for the job I was told anything longer just meant I was wordy. I've taken it as a luxury as a self-made reviewer that I could be wordy if I want to. But let's be honest, who the heck has time to do a master's thesis every time they review a fantasy novel? I frequently hit the 1000 word mark and wonder if I lack the talent to make it more succinct. I guess you can't win in this particular game.

The rub in all of this is that the bloggers who have the most elitist attitudes make their own rules and feel they can enforce them on the rest of us. They make arbitrary declarations and put the rest of us on the defensive, and I'm left to wonder why. Whenever I see a post that piously outlines the criteria I should be following, whether on an author or reviewer site, I pretty much want to flip that person the middle-finger and childishly ask who made you God of all things blogging?

What's really silly in this whole exercise is that it would be incredibly boring if we all did it the same way. I could pour myself into the mold of the "intellectual" bloggers and follow their "rules." I could leave out the giveaways and take the fun out of everything and be dour and judgmental in my reviewing. I could declare paranormal fiction beneath me and scoff at anything that doesn't reek of erudition. How long do you figure that would last before my audience fled and I took the blog down due to my own lack of interest?

The thing is, I can do scholarly. I have a college degree and have a decent pedigree that includes study abroad and minor in Japanese. But after many years spent in classrooms and libraries pouring over assignments and drowning in academia, I'm not interested anymore. I like that my blog is on the lighter side. I don't get paid for this, so I might as well do what's fun for me. And something tells me there are a LOT more bloggers out there who can relate to my point-of-view than the high-brow stance.

The bottom line is that we are all masters of our own domain. Don't like the way we do things? Then you are welcome to leave and keep your opinions to yourself. The bald fact is that if you don't like my blog, chances are I'm not frequenting yours. Your snark might fill some needy corner of your soul but I'm pretty sure the rest of the world can read the insecurity and need for attention all that lashing out is really about. I think if the bloggers who like to engage in such back-and-forth were to stop and examine their motives before they posted-- I mean a real self-examination-- they'd be shocked at the self absorption going on. But I don't suppose this kind of thing grows out of self awareness and I'm sure the look-at-me kind of thing will never end as long as we have the safe anonymity of the internet.

But then, here I go. Having my look-at-me moment for the day.

But I'm not naming any names.


Sullivan McPig said...

And here I thought blogging was supposed to be fun. Have I been doing it wrong all this time.

I love your review and don't need them to be more indepth and what not and I love your giveaways as well. Keep going at it as you were!

SQT said...

@Sullivan-- Isn't that the truth. Oh the lectures I've read on what I should be doing since I have the hubris to think I can do reviews.

What got me going on this though was a post on another blog that griped about several reviewers. Apparently this person was peeved that the reviews didn't dissuade him from buy a $25. Because we all know the reviewers held a gun to his head and made him buy the book. Seriously. This guy can't take responsibility for his own choice to buy a book?

I spun off on another tangent, but it's really all the same thing. I also didn't want to link to any articles because that's what the guy is obviously fishing for.

Seak (Bryce L.) said...

I was debating doing a similar post. Great point about blogging being something we don't get paid for. Why would there be rules on that? I support the, If you don't like it, don't visit the blog approach. If they've done you wrong, then I guess you can't trust them anymore.

This isn't a profession, bloggers are doing this for fun.

Seriously, if you wanted to save $25, wait a year for the mmpb, read a review by someone you trust, etc. etc. You can find something to complain about everything, don't be that person. Crap, I'm complaining about the complainer. :D

BTW, I thought WoK was really good. :)

SQT said...

@Seak-- It's kind of irresistible isn't it?

This comes up pretty regularly and I'm kind of to the point where I think the critics should just be ignored. There's always a plethora of reviewer blogs out there and it's not hard to find one that suits the individual. The marketplace of ideas and all that...

But I couldn't help notice that the complainer had a blog that was fairly new-- compared to the bloggers he mentioned. Maybe he's been around elsewhere; I don't know. But it sure seems like he's trying to springboard off of everyone else. Not many blogs last that long either. I've been here four years and I'm not about to let anyone tell me I should change.

Xenophon said...

I have noticed this trend and it saddens me. People with lesser known blogs will post condescending or trite comments to the owner of more popular blogs. Or just outright attack them.

I always saw this as petty jealousy or a pathetic cry for attention on the part of the poster.If they are doing for self-promotion there are many better ways to achieve that end without making a douche out of one's self.

For my part, if makes me want to visit any reviewer blog less and less. Some people thrive on reading catty, snarky comments. Sitting on the sidelines with the Fight! Fight! Fight! attitude. I am not one and just want to know what's out there and what people think about it.

SQT said...

@Xenophon-- I'm with you. Whenever I see someone do this, I stop frequenting their blog. It has the opposite effect of what they intended.

Abby Minard said...

I just don't understand why someone would attack a blogger on anyones blog. Its out there now, for EVERYONE to see. And most of the time it will receive negative feedback. I don't understand why people have to be mean all the time- there are so many bloggers out there, and so many different blogs, there is something for everyone.

Sullivan McPig said...

Blaming a blogger for buying a $25 book? Ergh...
If I would blame every blogger who likes a book that I don't like I would have a new dayjob doing that. Tastes differ and you just have to try to find likeminded spirits.

M. McGriff said...

Loved your post!

As a blogger who not only blogs in this arena but in another, completely different one (beauty and fashion) you get the same thing to - except the elitests are journalists who no longer are the sole authority on what's beautiful and fashionable (and they're kinda bitter about that!)

But I digress - I think your reviews are just right, because if I wanted a million words, you might as well tell the entire story! LOL

The great thing about having your blog is that you can do it how you want to! :)

Janicu said...

"But I'm not naming any names. "

.... DARNIT! :)

Yeah, blogging can get competitive and I think sometimes people make assumptions and sweeping generalizations which get out of hand. I try to stay out of the drama. Some days that's harder to do than others.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Hey, all bloggers settle the hell down or I swear to god, I'm turning this boat around and we're heading back home.

Budd said...

psst, after you read this go over to my blog and leave a bad comment, the ensuing war will be good for traffic.

"I disagree with your writing style."

SQT said...

@Sullivan-- If I complained every time I bought a book off of a review and didn't end up liking it... I've learned who I trust and who I don't. But it's no one's "fault" for having different tastes that me. Sheesh.

@M McGriff-- You bring up a good point. I think a lot of mainstream review sites don't know what to make of the little-guy phenomenon going on. The game is changing and they're not sure how it's going to affect them. I think you'll see a lot of lashing out before they just accept that it's not going back to the way it was.

@Janicu-- Nope. Not feeding that beast.

@Stu-- Just stick us in the corner.

@Budd-- a mock war? I like it.