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Besides it being a chance for me to catch up with my online buds, I enjoy the annual RWA conference because it gives me a chance to put my ear to the nearest wall and catch the latest buzz. This year I once again roomed with KristieJ from Ramblings On Romance. Kristie has spent the better part of the last year promoting the heck out of Broken Wing by Judith James and berating badgering coaxing her fellow members of Romance Blog Land to read the book that she so fell in love with. The result? Kristie has almost 30 bloggers listed on her sidebar of those of us who have read the book.

Highland RebelIt was while we were at RWA in Washington D.C. that Kristie had the opportunity to chat with some people from Sourcebooks, the publisher that will be publishing Judith James second novel, Highland Rebel, in September. They told Kristie that Broken Wing was the highest selling title in Medallion Press history. At this point Kristie hasn’t had this confirmed with the folks over at Medallion, but why would Sourcebooks make something like that up? The answer is, they wouldn’t.

There was a brouhaha several months back involving an interview an editor and VP from Harpercollins Avon did over at All About Romance essentially dismissing the value of online promotion and bloggers. My response to this was that if Avon was waiting for the day when a blogger was going to be solely responsible for “making” a book, they’d be waiting a long time. Listen, I’m a librarian. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that there are two ways to “make” a book. 1) The publisher’s PR department puts in a lot of long hours and 2) Oprah picks it for her book club.

This naturally brought up a lot of discussion on how “important” reader bloggers are and how much “traffic” we get.

Horse hooey ๐Ÿ™„

The minute reader bloggers begin losing sight of what their purpose is, and why they got into the game to begin with, is when they start feeding a corporate machine. Most of us started blogging for one reason, and one reason only. We wanted to connect with other readers who loved the romance genre as much as we do. I started blogging because 1) I like to hear myself talk and 2) there was no one in my real life who I could talk books with. Yep, that’s right. The librarian didn’t have a soul to talk to about romance novels. No joke. I was a drowning woman. I was desperate. So I went to the web.

Kristie has never lost sight of this. I also know that she’ll never think that she was the sole reason that Broken Wing sold well for Medallion. Hey, the pretty good review the book got in Publisher’s Weekly didn’t exactly hurt matters. No, Kristie didn’t “make” that book – but she did jump start what most authors and publishers kill for.

Word of mouth.

Broken WingKristie got close to 30 bloggers to read that book. And some of them loved it as much as she did. They blogged about the book. They told friends who aren’t online about the book. And then those friends told other friends.

Do I think bloggers can “make” books? Not entirely. But they can build momentum. Broken Wing is the best example we have so far. It helps that it was from a smaller publisher, who doesn’t have the same sort of name recognition as say, Random House or Harpercollins. It also helps tremendously that it was KristieJ promoting the hell out of that book. Why? Because I’m not sure any other blogger could have done what she did.

People read and like Kristie’s blog for one reason – because Kristie is the one blogging. She’s a genuine person with a genuine “voice.” She’s “regular people.” That’s attractive as hell to a whole lot of readers. When they read Kristie’s blog it’s like meeting their best friend for coffee. So when she got really excited over a debut author’s book for a small publisher? The people who read and like her blog listened. Hey, people read and like my blog too – but I can say for certain that me loving a book and giving it a glowing review doesn’t have the same impact. Why? Because Kristie turned promoting Broken Wing into an event.

Super WendyI think as the online romance community continues to grow, and new social media platforms come to the forefront, there will be more opportunity to observe what impact bloggers and readers have on the publishing industry at large. Reader bloggers can be a valuable promotional tool for authors and publishers if utilized the right way. It worked in this instance because Kristie loves Broken Wing, she is genuine about that love, and it showed through in her blog posts about it. The moment reader bloggers try to morph themselves into publicity machines is when we fail. It won’t be genuine anymore and it will be really blatantly obvious to people reading our blogs. We all got into this game because we love books, we love reading, and we love the romance genre with an unflinching loyalty. We should all take a page from Kristie’s book and remember that.