Recent Awards Celebrate the Influence of Independent Book Bloggers on a Changing Industry

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This article was contributed by YPG member Amy Saxon. If you are a YPG member and would like to contribute articles on publishing-related topics for our site, please contact Tara Powers at

The future of publishing is debated with varying degrees of excitement and trepidation. Yet industry professionals unequivocally embrace the inevitability of change and remain eager to prove their continued relevance and competitive impact in the digital age. The recent BookExpo America conference brought much discussion of the challenges and benefits we might expect in the months to come. One of the most notable changes has been the evolution of reading from a solitary activity to a communal experience. Publishers and editors have greater access to the minds and desires of their readers than ever before, and nowhere is this influence more apparent than in the growing popularity of book blogs.

This year’s inaugural AAP Independent Book Blogger Awards (IBBA), announced at BookExpo America, celebrated the work of those blogs whose nerdy insights and clever musings entice us to pick up our next favorite reads. Sixty finalists were selected in the categories of adult fiction, adult nonfiction, children’s / young adult, and publishing industry news. With votes from over 10,000 interested readers, and the collaborative judging of Goodreads and the Association of American Publishers’ Trade Division, four winners were chosen based on quality of writing, site design, intelligent analysis, and ability to build a community of readers.

“Book bloggers have enormous influence on the ways in which the general public selects books, particularly as dialogue has migrated to the Internet,” said AAP Vice President Tina Jordan. “The awards are the publishers’ acknowledgment of their unsung efforts.”

Patrick Brown, community manager of Goodreads, served on the selection committee and was fascinated by the diversity of blogs—even those within the same category. So why did these savvy bloggers stand out among over 800 entries? “What made each blog great was really voice,” said Brown, “that unique perspective and the ability to take that perspective and put it into words.”

YPG caught up with each of the winners to uncover that distinct voice and find out what we can learn from the world of book blogs.

Writer Beware Blogs!, an offshoot of the Writer Beware website, exposes scams and pitfalls in the publishing industry. For author and blogger Victoria Strauss, warning writers about potential dangers in the book business is about more than just fraud: “Amateurism can be equally harmful,” says Strauss. “Your un-credentialed agent or inexperienced small press may be entirely well intentioned, but if they don’t know how to do the job, the end result may not be much different from a scam.”

Despite Strauss’s commitment to shine a light on “publishing’s ugly underbelly,” the industry hasn’t shied away from her message. “One indication of how important book bloggers have become is how willing publishers are to work with them—something that wasn’t really true a few years ago,” says Strauss.

Susie Rodarme of Insatiable Booksluts knows that when it comes to a blog’s influence in the marketplace, readers can discern the difference between “sponsored” reviews and honest recommendations from a trusted source. “Being genuine goes a long way,” she says. Insatiable Booksluts reviews small-press literary fiction from indie publishers. The hilarious combined efforts of Rodarme along with cowriters Rob Blake and Amy Durant bring readers books they may not find on display at the local bookstore—diverse selections not often found on other blogs—and reviews delivered with a certain irresistible edge (“We swear a lot,” Rodarme says, “with a side of occasional bawdiness”).

The quality of the writing might bring readers back to their favorite blog, but bloggers also know their audiences and can develop or alter content as necessary in an evolving conversation with readers. Readers interact and participate with bloggers and with each other. And unlike professional critics, bloggers are able to offer consistency to their readers. As Kim Ukura of Sophisticated Dorkiness points out, “There’s less emphasis on thinking about books as Literature-with-a-capital-L and more about books as things that are loved and shared and gushed over.”

Sophisticated Dorkiness focuses on “quality, readable, entertaining nonfiction,” but Ukura, a Minnesota newspaper editor, also reviews memoirs, comics, and YA fiction, and offers thoughts about reading and writing. “Winning [the IBBA] was a huge honor,” says Ukura, “especially since the contest included both popular voting and a section where blogs were considered by people in the publishing industry.”

The incredible public response to the IBBA means people in publishing are likely to pay even more attention to blogs now. The conscientious young editor knows that book blogs offer invaluable insight into current trends in the industry, and a book’s appearance in a popular blog could generate lucrative returns. Goodreads’ Brown notes, “Blogs are still often at the center of a lot of grassroots success stories in publishing. [A blogger’s] enthusiasm can definitely push a book to the big time.”

And for those cherished works that might never make the bestseller lists, there are luckily still a few devoted bloggers pronouncing their merits. The Nerdy Book Club, organized by Cindy Minnich, Colby Sharp, and Donalyn Miller, does just that. Nerdy features contributions from teachers, librarians, and authors who focus on spreading the love of books to others. As Miller recently posted, “The only bookselling we care about on Nerdy is hand-selling Hatchet to Bobby in third period.”

As bloggers continue to build communities of readers, publishers too will benefit from publicity and increased readership. As Nerdy’s Cindy Minnich says, “We love what [publishers] do. You are the ones that give the very art we love the most the life we need it to have. And we will do our best to make sure you have lifelong readers to appreciate this art for years to come.”

Amy Saxon has a master’s degree in rhetoric and composition and currently works as an editorial assistant in English composition at Bedford/St. Martin’s. You can reach her at

Neither the Association of American Publishers (“AAP”) nor the Young To Publishing Group (“YPG”) represents nor endorses the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other information displayed, uploaded or distributed through this website by any member, user, information provider or any other person or entity. Member-generated content published on this website reflects the views of the provider of the content, and does not constitute the opinion of the AAP, the Young To Publishing Group, or any of their respective members or divisions.

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2 Responses to “ Recent Awards Celebrate the Influence of Independent Book Bloggers on a Changing Industry ”

  1. Saxon reading | Afeservicesint on August 29, 2012 at 7:43 PM
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    […] Recent Awards Celebrate the Influence of Independent Book … […]

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    […] is a little on the old side, but the Young to Publishing Group published a story about the Independent Book Blogger Awards, and quoted a “contentious young editor” — aka yours truly! — about blogs as a […]