Friday, April 15, 2005

Blogging goes literary

While the concept of the co-op has been around in various incarnations, a group of bloggers have embraced the idea in hopes of ramping up promotion for books. With the world of literature an incestuous world of parochial protectionism, anything that gets the word out about small presses and writers outside of the mainstream is a good thing, in my book (no pun intended).

A group of 20 bloggers hope that through their weblog, the litblog co-op, they can draw attention to the best of contemporary fiction, the writers producing it, as well as the presses who publish this genre.

This group has instituted a quarterly selection they call Read This!, which will consist of five works which they will promote via their blog. LBC member Dan Green hopes that their cooperative venture will have the effect of “influencing readers.”

Said Green, “I think that all of the participants believe that litblogs have reached an untapped, or at least under tapped, source of readers for both contemporary fiction and (in my case, at least) the critical discussion of literature more broadly. I also think that most of us hope that our quarterly selection and, if it catches on, the popularity of same, will serve notice to publishers and to the editors of book reviews and magazines that this audience exists. I myself don’t have any illusions that serious fiction of the sort we’re promoting will suddenly become very popular, or that the litblog co-op will begin to wield enormous influence, but I would hope that our selections would bring additional attention to worthy books from smaller or less well-endowed presses. Probably everyone would agree that that is the main goal.”

The idea has generated enough of a “buzz” to get a mention from the Associated Press, which ran an article about the co-op.

While this won’t make a huge splash in the world of publishing, it might cause a few ripples and bring attention to writers who otherwise would be overlooked, and the small presses who labor to put out books that don’t pander to the lowest common denominator, presses like Soft Skull and others.

Mark Sarvas, a Los Angeles blogger, who runs The Elegant Variation site and conceived the idea for Read This!, remains disappointed by the "pack mentality" of mainstream media outlets, which tend to give much of their attention to the same titles. There has also been criticism about the "sameness" of National Book Award nominees.

Here’s hoping that online communities like this one can begin to make a difference and bring some welcome variety to the stodgy world of publishing.

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