Greg Zimmerman writes The New Dork Review of Books and was willing to answer a few questions on his experience as a blogger.
Kourtney: How did you get started blogging about books? What interested you in the idea of a blog?
Greg Zimmerman: I started my blog last October as a creative outlet. I love reading, but I felt like I was missing out on discussions about the books I read, and I had no desire to join a book club with 10 middle-aged women who spend most of the time discussing diaper brands and play dates. The idea of a blog was also interesting in a professional sense – I’m not looking for a new job (I’m an editor for a trade magazine) necessarily, but I figured that if I started looking anytime soon, creating a portfolio of online, independent content in the “medium of the times” could only help my résumé.
K: What is the hardest thing about having a blog? How do you make it easy for readers to find your blog?
GZ: The hardest thing about the blog is responding personally to each comment. I don’t find it hard to find topics or post twice a week (always Monday and Thursday – no real reason for that, just seemed like the right frequency). But when readers respond, I have to really think about something creative to say to their comments, to ensure that they’ll comment again. The comments are my favorite part of the blog – that’s where the discussions happen, which again, was the original reason for starting the blog.
I make it easier for readers to find by commenting on other book blogs as frequently as I can, by tweeting my posts, and by joining and participating in other social networking sites about book blogs.
(He suggested the site Book Blogs)
K: What’s the best part of having a blog? How do you decide what to write about?
GZ: The best part of the blog is e-meeting people from all over the world – which gives me quite a rich, diverse perspective on books. Here’s an example: I posted once about obscure books that I love, but no one else has read. One – which is my favorite book of all time – is by Australian writer Bryce Courtenay titled The Power of One. I got several comments from Australian readers who couldn’t believe he’d be considered an “obscure” author, because there he’s like, I don’t know, John Grisham is here. I also love getting recommendations from readers – I’ve read several books this year (The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, Lamb, by Christopher Moore, The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak) that I’d never have picked up had it not been for recommendations from my readers. I love that! Beyond on that, I really just enjoying putting the creativity into writing each post. When I started, I figured I’d do it for a year or so – until it got boring. But a year and a month later, I’ve only missed one weekly post – and that’s ’cause I was stuck in Germany by that stupid volcano. I still love writing it – and would even if no one was reading.
The blog content is a mix of book reviews and other book-related topics. For the latter, coming up with topics is just a matter of keeping your eyes out for interesting literary stuff. I guess there’s no real rhyme or reason to how I decide what to write about – just what seems interesting to me at the time. Book awards, literary links, high-concept ideas (should you separate the art from the artist), or grouping books by a common theme all are over-arching “themes” I guess.
K: Have there been any unexpected outcomes from having your blog?
GZ: I’ve been offered a sh!tload of free books! I never saw that coming. I’ve tried to keep my blog “independent” and at-my-own-pace, so I usually decline when I get emails from publicists or individual authors asking me to review their books. In my professional life, I’m very used to pitches from PR folks – and can usually push them off politely. (You never just want to ignore people – that’s rude, right?!) But I had no idea that’d be a skill required for the blog, too. A few weeks ago, some drug treatment center in Florida even offered me $50 to post a link to their facility on my blog. I had to say no to that, too. I want to maintain my amateur status, for at least a little while longer. 😉
Zimmerman did explain that “true” journalism can become blurred in the world of blogging. Although he is a professional journalist, he uses this blog more as an outlet for his creativity and thoughts, with less “journalistic rigor” than others might demand if employed by a company or a publisher to review books. But perhaps that’s part of what’s great about blogging. Individuals can share their opinions in a different way when they’re not accepting the $50 from a drug treatment center in Florida, than when they are.