I am constantly wondering if my blog is useful. I am constantly wondering about other things--are the children are eating properly, if the universe is constantly expanding, what is it expanding into, etc. but, inspired by the recent conversation about ARCs and bloggers and librarians, I am taking advantage of the fact that the power is out over much the country and it is a Saturday in June (so no blog readers around) to be Sincere (to the best of my ability), or perhaps, more acurately, Self Indulgent, to think about usefulness out here in public.
Now I certainly don't want to be part of an Island of Sodor bloggisphere, where every blog is "a really useful engine." There are many blogs I love whose authors seem motivated primarily by the joy of sharing whatever thoughts they feel like sharing, with out anxiously wondering if they are a "resource." But I am an INFP, and in as much as INFPs are "driven to help people and make the world a better place" (which, being an INFP, I believe, cause that's what we do), I can't help but wonder, in my own Special Snowflake way, is my own blog useful? And more specifically, do authors see that I have their books on my review pile, and weep or gnash their teeth (depending on temperment?), or might they be, dare I hope, pleased?
The problem with this line of thought is that the word "useful" makes one ask--to whom? I know I am useful to the readers (and there are at least five of them) who like the same sorts of books that I do. I love being useful to these readers! They are useful right back at me! I know that my blog has features that are useful to people who are looking for certain kinds of books. People who google "time travel books for kids" find them here, by golly. I know that some librarians (at least two) read my blog, and may use it in their purchasing decisions. And I know that I have given some small measure of publicity to books that weren't being blogged about much, because I don't see other reviews of them.
But I have no clue if anything I have written has actually caused anyone to go buy a book (as opposed to getting it from the library), which is presumably how useful is construed by publishers and authors....That being said, it's a fact that reviews have a cumulative effect, so I'm quite happy to believe that I've contributed to book buying decisions. There is, of course, absoulutely no way to measure this. I want my blog to send people out into the world to read in a general kind of way, but also it makes me happy to think of people buying books because of something I said. If no-one bought books, there wouldn't be publishers and the wonderful books they publish. There would be no money for authors, and so fewer books would be written. This would be sad.
I'm not, at this point in my life, a librarian, or an author, or a publisher. The only place I have at the public table of books is the place I am making for myself with my blog, and when I get review copies in the mail, it becomes a more happy place. Review copies make me feel that I am a useful contributor, a person who has something to share that's of value.
But then I wonder if I truly Deserve them. I feel that I should desperately be making an effort to increase my readership, to justify the review copies I get. I know I'm not obligated to do anything, but I can't help but wonder if I could do more. I tell myself that the YA book bloggers will always have more comments and followers and excitement than I, with my middle grade focus, can hope to have. But still...
How do you feel about being useful (and am I alone in worrying about this)?
postscript regarding stats: It seems to me that stats are not a useful way in which to measure a blog's impact (except perhaps for the blogs at the very high and rather low end of the scale). In June and July, when my stats plummet (from a high of 8,000 plus unique visitors in November to a low of barely 5,000 per month in July), it's hard to feel that the particular reviews I post are "useful." There are, of course, lots of other people (dunno how many) who follow me in various ways.
But what constitutes a lot of readers, keeping in mind that this would differ depending on the types of books you review?
* I went back and looked at the pile of books I brought home from BEA from the point of view of the authors...and I'd just like to say that I do plan on reviewing Gold Medal Summer even though it's not mg or YA sci fi/fantasy...I like books about gymnastics and ballet and music too!