Yeay! My guest post on reviewing the classics is up on the Book Bloggers Appreciation Week site!
I wrote it in response to Amy’s query on Twitter for what parts of book blogging are underrepresented. I said without hesitation, “Classics,” and I’ve been pondering that thought ever since. (This post is, therefore, rather long.)
The more I think of it, the more I believe classics are underrepresented on the web. My thoughts are these: For every classic reviewed on blogs, there are (at least) 10 ARCs reviewed. After all, those ARCs were free books, and the blogger has a schedule to meet in reviewing it.
I have strong feelings for how important classics are in our continued reading. True, some people just don’t like them, and I wouldn’t want to force the classics on someone. However, there is a reason they are still on our radar after 200 years: they’re usually pretty good, both in terms of how they are written and in how we can all relate to the stories. I don’t think people know what they are missing, now that they aren’t in school being encouraged to give something more challenging a try. Classics can be very rewarding.
ARCs and Blog Tours
Last week, I wrote about the history of my blog and what I’m hoping for. I mentioned ARCs and why I don’t read them. I said,
For me, reading is about the book’s impact on me. I don’t accept any ARCs because I am not interested in meeting someone else’s schedule or reading plan. Besides, Jane Austen and Mark Twain and company aren’t writing much these days.
I realize now that’s not true. It’s not “not wanting to meet a schedule.” Rather, I don’t accept ARCs because I don’t want to read the books that are offered on a schedule. That’s not the say the books are “bad,” and I don’t think blog tours are wrong. A blog tour is a great marketing chance for the lesser-known authors. Besides, those who read ARCs typically have great things to say about the books. They often love the ARC books they read. I personally am not interested. But blog tours get the books into the hands of those who want to read them, and get the word out to other, similarly minded people.
I personally don’t read a lot of modern fiction, and then I only read it when I really want to. All fiction ARCs (correct me if I’m wrong) are modern. If Victorian literature were being offered via the ARC method, I’d probably jump on the band wagon and read to meet a schedule.
So then the following comments came to my post:
Chris@bookarama: A blog tour for Jane Austen would be fun but yeah, not much new there. Plus I don’t think she needs any help.
Me: Chris, that’s such a great idea! We should start a “dead people’s blog tour” where we take a book (say Jane Austen’s S&S or something) and each do an author interview and review the book on a schedule…..sigh. Sounds complicated, and I couldn’t send you a free book. If only…
Eva: I LOVE the idea of blog tours for classic books Chris and Rebecca! If you ever start something like that, I’m completely in on it.
I don’t know how serious I was when I mentioned this idea, but the encouragement from Chris and Eva got me thinking. I’ve wished for something like this for a long time. But I don’t have a budget for buying myself books, let alone buying other people books. Besides, buying someone a book promotes a publisher, and a dead author blog tour would be about the words a dead person wrote, not about marketing a particular publisher’s publication of a book.
But the classics are easily accessible. Project Gutenberg has the etext for thousands of classics. And if someone doesn’t want to read an etext, local libraries normally contain at least one copy of a classic work.
Why NOT start a dead author blog tour?
It’s true that Jane Austen and the others probably don’t need our publicity. There are plenty of people out there reading the classics. But are they blogging about them?
Sometimes I wish that I saw “Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen” or “A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens” or something else (probably that I haven’t heard of) a bit more frequently on the Google Reader subject line in addition to these other, also wonderful, modern literature books.
Jane Austen does not have any new books this year, that’s true. But how many of us have read the classics and would love to share that love on our blog? How many of us really didn’t like a particular classic and want to explain why it should be taken out of the school classroom? Please note that I’m not saying a dead author blog tour needs to be full of only positive reviews. I, obviously, have a love for the classics, but my point is to get the titles out there. We could critique the classics just as we critique modern fiction.
The more I thought about a concept like this, the more I wished there was a way to promote the classics just as modern authors promote their books. These dead authors didn’t and can’t pay an internet promotion company to promote their books today. But I personally would love to be their advocate. And anyone who loves a classic by a dead author could nominate it for inclusion in a blog tour. You could be their advocate too!
The purpose of a dead author blog tour would be a little different than that of a “regular” blog tour. A dead author tour would highlight a classic text for other, similarly minded people. It would not be to help sell a book or promote a publisher. It would not provide the blogger with a free book for their shelf. The only reward a participant would have is an experience with classic literature, and a chance to be a part of a group of other classics readers.
How would it work?
There are lots of logistical problems with this concept. First of all, I’ve never been a part of a blog tour, so I have no idea how the “real” ones work. Second, would readers be motivated to post on a certain day without a free book to remind them?
One potentially good thing about a dead author blog tour (or a “classics blog tour,” whatever we want to call it) is that people may have already read the books. I think it would be fun to have such a “tour” open to all kinds of posts, including some of these things:
- For those reading it for the first time, general reviews of a book
- For those who have read it before, reflections on a first reading of a book
- Also for those who have read it before, comparisons of the book to the movie of a classic book
- Fake “author interviews” or “character interviews” where a blogger recreates what they think the author or character would say to questions
- Debates about the reasons a certain book is a school text or not
- Comparisons of a classic book to other favorites, new and old
- Anything else that celebrates a classic or otherwise advertises it for bloggers today
What I would love would be for a few people to take responsibility for a book. We’d “assign” a different day (or maybe a certain week) for each of those bloggers to post their thoughts about the particular book, whether that would be thoughts about their first read or other things about the book, as mentioned above. At the bottom of each post, we’d see a list of where the book is going in future “tour” days.
My dream is that this would allow bloggers to follow a chain of discussion through the blogosphere. Also, classic books will show up on Google Reader radar over a certain period of time, and classic authors will be celebrated more frequently on blogs along with the new books. Bloggers could be a part of an on-going discussion group about classic books.
Note: I’m currently (in this post) considering this as an idea for “dead authors” simply because there is no clear way to define “classics.” Anything written can be considered “classic!” “Dead” just seems to put a more reasonable limit on the idea. Besides, if an author is alive, they technically could pay for their own publicity. I’m talking about the dead people who may need a little help from beyond the grave to get on the web more frequently.
But I’m open to suggestions, and I could be persuaded in any direction. What do you think? How should “classics” be celebrated on the web? Would you ever participate? What books would you love to see promoted via such a tour?
And what would you call it? “Dead author blog tour” is a bit dense (a little morbid sounding).
P.S. Sorry for the double post today; I’m going to try to limit my posts as well as I can this week, but today I’d really like to get this out there.