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Talking About Endings

24 Feb

So, this is me pondering the need to keep on running a review-blog.

Since September 2010 I’ve witnessed a steady decline in visitors to the blog, for whatever reasons that may be. From around May 2009 until August 2010 the log was averaging 7000 hits a month, and since September the decline has been so drastic that in the past three months the blog is averaging around 2000 hits.

Now, I’m not usually a guy that follows trends and keeps an eye on numbers, but lately it’s been so in-my-face that I can’t exactly ignore it. There are probably many reasons, which I’ll spend some time going into here, but the fact of the matter is that this blog’s day is done and I’m seriously considering ending this particular ear in my life.

Now to the reasons: Content.

I’m a SFF lover and reader from South Africa who is also a bookseller who is also a struggling (emphasis on the struggling) writer. The main point, though, is that I’m in South Africa. Lemme explain – our industry supports an average of 60000 readers. That’s it. Our publishers must source books from the Uk, primarily, and then the US (if UK publishers don’t have rights); because of where we source books from we have to deal with a general lag of around 3 months. Sometimes we get lucky and are able to luck in with world-wide releases (Harry Potter, Dan Brown) and sometimes we wait 2 months or even only 1 month, but books aren’t available in SA when they’re available in the UK. FACT. That means that we’re behind, and since we’ve got so many readers in SA, we don’t get to see a fraction of what UK and US markets get to see and enjoy and sell.

Because we source from the UK, books are incredibly expensive – we have (as close as can be counted) just over 50 million people in the country, the vast majority of which don’t pay taxes because they are unemployed or can only get part-time work; this means that tax is king. Which makes books more expensive, year after year. Which means less people read, year after year. Which means less books come to SA, year after year.

What bearing does this have on the blog’s content? Well, I started this blog to give South African SFF readers somewhere to go to get their information, and I tried to provide that information. Let me put it this way – if I’ve had 2000 South Africans visiting this blog since I began it in 2008, that’s plenty. In fact, I’m probably being very generous with that number. So, tailoring the blog’s content to South African readers (those who, by absolute chance, stumble upon the blog) means blogging old, outdated information, which means losing readers from the UK and US and everywhere else because the information is old and outdated. BUT if I keep the blog’s content fresh and constantly updated I lose South African readers – because I’m ahead of the industry here. Not in any substantial, incredible way, not even in a measurable way, probably, but when you have to tell the publishers here that Brandon Sanderson was chosen to finish The Wheel of Time, you’re ahead. And if I’m ahead of the publishers, what does that say about the public? The public that can afford an internet connection, that is. 😛

So, I sit with problems – tailor the content to a South African readership (which hardly exist) and I lose; tailor the content to an international readership (which exists in an AWESOME way), and I lose the few South African readers I do have. But that’s not all:

If I completely forgot about South African readers and concentrated on international readers, how do I keep up the content? If someone posts info about George RR Martin’s marriage before I do, should I still post the news? If someone posts the latest cover art for a eagerly-awaited novel, should I go ahead and post it, too? Let’s say that I don’t; let’s say that I post my thoughts on Smallville, for instance, and how I think the show will end on a high-note because Tom Welling will finally be putting on the suit. I’ll get a minimum amount of readers, that’s what will happen. Because, in my honest opinion, I’m going against what SFF blogging has become – a “I’ll post it as soon as it hits my RSS Reader!’ pass-time. Why do people still visit Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, even though there’s been pretty vocal gripes against him and how he does things? Because HE GET’S THE SCOOPS . Plain and simple. Argue all you want, but it’s a fact. So why is anyone else blogging?

Because they offer their opinions, that’s why. And most opinions in SFF are well-informed; they are the opinions of fans, people who have been reading SFF for decades, at least, and each and everyone knows what they’re talking about even if they say different things. Here’s the thing – and probably the reason I’ve seen a decline in readers / visits: I’m too behind (news-wise and connection-wise) to keep up. Everything you see on the blog you’ve seen somewhere else first. That’s a fact. So, what if I give you news from the South African SFF scene? Hehehehe I made a joke. It doesn’t exist. The scene is trying to exist, though, trying it’s damndest – there are plenty of SFF-authors that are South African, I won’t argue that at all. BUT THEY DON”T GET SOUTH AFRICAN PUBLISHER-SUPPORT. And when I do post news about South African SFF authors almost no-one readers the posts: international readers haven’t heard of these authors and local readers can’t read their work because South African publishers don’t carry / distribute their work. 😦

So do I carry on blogging and 1) hope that SA SFF readers / fans will start using the internet to find out about SFF (because, and let’s be honest, booksellers in SA don’t have a clue), or 2) try and get a blog-post out before anyone else? My point of view doesn’t even matter, if we’re all being totally honest – I’m a fan / reader that is too far away from the scene to have a point of view that actually has merit.

So, the logical conclusion? Become a reader again. Stop blogging. Or agonize over what to blog so that I can try and tell myself I’m actually contributing something. Either way, I’ve got some deep thinking to do about the future of the blog.

And I’m also not the only SFF blogger in South Africa – Lauren runs an excellent blog. 🙂

Be EPIC!

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23 Comments

Posted by on February 24, 2011 in Musings

 

23 responses to “Talking About Endings

  1. Mark

    February 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Dave – you’ve got to do what you feel is right for you. Don’t keep blogging if you’re not happy with it, or feel the pressure to perform in ways that conflict against your beliefs. I think it’s great that you can cater towards SA readers, and any international readers like myself understand why you’re blogging about stuff specifically to SA.

    You do a damned fine job of everything, and I for one would miss the blog if it were to go. If you do decide to call it a day, you know you’re more than welcome to join us over at WoW if you still need that blogging outlet 😉

     
    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      February 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      Thanks Mark, you rock Mate! I guess I’ve got to learn to blog for myself again, huh? 😉

       
      • Mark

        February 24, 2011 at 5:43 pm

        “I guess I’ve got to learn to blog for myself again, huh?”

        Hit the nail on the head there 😉 At the end of the day, if you’re blogging simply to get hits, it will depress you to an extent. I’ve been there, and realised that I want my blog to be one that gets the word out on all sorts of titles, not just new ones. My numbers rose continously for close on 18 months, but started to drop at the end of last year when I felt depressed over the whole situation and slowed blogging considerably. Now the blog is on a new course with more contributors on board spreading the word on what they love. And I love doing it too 🙂

         
  2. Amvri Rowles

    February 24, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Dave

    I’m sorry you feel that way about the numbers, I do understand your reasoning in this case, but I categorically disagree with some of it. Nevertheless I still do hope that we can visit this blog for years to come. In my case you send all the latest posts by e-mail so no reason for me to really visit the blog, but I will also visit the blog itself in future and see for myself what extra or logged information I can get.
    The DEMI MONDE was not at the store, but I am willing to wait (and it was nice to know beforehand what is coming to SA)

    Waarom nie lesers van jou blog aanspoor om jou ook meer bekend te stel nie. Wel na die e-pos met die nuus, gaan ek beslis probeer en ek hoop meer SFF blog-lesers doen dit dan en hopenlik gee dit jou die moed om met hierdie hoogs interessante, informerende blog voort te gaan.

    Sci-Fi Groete

    Amvri

     
    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      February 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm

      Hey Amvri, thanks for the comments and the encouragement. 🙂 I’m still thinking plenty about this, no hasty decisions for me at this point! 🙂

       
      • Amvri Rowles

        February 24, 2011 at 6:22 pm

        Good think about it and don’t be hasty. I liked what Val commented about the most important question. But even if you like it no need running yourself haggard between reading, writing, working and stressing about a blog.

         
    • Val

      February 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm

      Completely off topic but it always amazes me how Afrikaans can sound so familiar yet be so difficult to read.

       
      • Amvri Rowles

        February 24, 2011 at 6:27 pm

        Val if you asked it, I would have translated it to Afrikaans 🙂 Yep!

         
  3. Val

    February 24, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    I think you are skipping the most important question. Do you actually like to blog about books? My own blog has about a thousand visiters a month, it used to be about half of that. Having readers is nice, getting feedback awsom and having authors and publishers pay attention to what you’ve written is very gratifying but it is not why I bother to read between five hundred and a thousand pages a week and write two full reviews if I can manage.

    Now the relatively small number of readers my have something to do with my tendency to review old books or thow in Dutch language titles which 80% of my readers can’t understand but it’s what I like reading. If a dozen people connect with me over that I am happy, if it is a thousand, that’s great too. The internet enables me to find those dozen people, whereever they may be on the globe. My taste would have been positively wierd two decades ago.

    Do you like to write this blog? Answer that question first. Getting the scoop, traffic numbers (have you had a look at how many people you have on feed btw?) or local markets don’t really matter all that much until you figure than one out.

     
    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      February 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm

      Hey Val, thanks for the comment. 🙂 I absolutely *love* being able to blog about the books I read, I do, and in many ways it’c changed my life, introduced me to plenty of incredible people and led me to read books I otherwise wouldn’t have read, but I guess I’m feeling the need to compete a bit more lately – and of course, the numbers not looking good adds to the despondency. I’m just not able to read as much or as quickly as other bloggers out there – between writing and working I’m running myself ragged as it is, but those things have a concrete purpose and lately the blog’s been in limbo, so I guess I’m going through a bit of an emotional dip (and feeling the frustration of living in a country where non-readers would only have to fart to kill off the readers). I’m definitely going to give this some heavy thought and soul-searching (mushy as that sounds), so thanks massively much for commenting, I appreciate it. 🙂

       
  4. AlexJCavanaugh

    February 24, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Be a bummer to see it end! (And I certainly don’t mind late reviews.) You don’t want blogging to become a source of stress though. I guess find the balance of what you want and to whom you want to cater. Maybe cater to both sides?
    I often worry that people coming to my site will ask “This guy’s an author? He talks about movies, music, iPads, and other bloggers, but rarely about writing, promoting, or his book. And who the heck is Kate Beckinsale?” But I blog about what I enjoy and don’t worry about it. Since my followers and comments continue to grow, I guess there’s others out there that enjoy it as well. So, I’ll continue.
    Maybe that’s the balance you seek?

     
    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      February 25, 2011 at 11:04 am

      Hey Alex, yeah maybe I should try and balance everything out, or at least try and focus again. We’ll see what happens either way. 🙂 Thanks for the comment, much appreciated! 🙂

       
  5. Sunny

    February 24, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Dave –
    Having just finished reading your thoughts on your current situation, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for what you have done here. You do great work, and folks appreciate it.
    I started a sort of book blog several years ago, which lasted all of a month or so, then let lapse and ignored it for a couple of years and just re-started it this last summer – at which point I also discovered your blog.
    I love reading, I am never without a book close at hand, and I love talking about what I’ve been reading. Trying to transfer that into a blog is complicated sometimes, as “reviewing” is different from “OMG I totally love it!”
    But thanks to you, I’ve discovered quite a few new books to add to my To Be Read list, and your posts have encouraged me to try new authors that I might not have been brave enough to try on my own. Through you and your site I’ve also discovered other great book blogs. There are so many book blogs that focus primarily on YA/paranormal/romance (not that I don’t enjoy that once in awhile as well) that it was refreshing and wonderful to come across your site that focuses on SciFi and Fantasy, which will always be my first loves!
    You gotta do what’s best for you, of course, but I for one would hate to see you go. For me, it doesn’t matter whether you scoop the cover shot, or are the very first to review a book. I don’t buy / read books the week they’re first released, (generally, anyway), as I most often wait until they go to paperback, so if you review older books that I’ve never tried, I for one appreciate that. Even if I have read it, it’s still great to hear someone else’s viewpoint. So while I can see why you’d be concerned about being behind other regions of the world, that doesn’t make your voice any less relevant. Remember that…and follow your bliss! If that leads you someplace else, so be it, but know that you’re appreciated, even though many of us don’t always take the time to say it.
    Thanks!

     
    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      February 25, 2011 at 11:06 am

      Thank you, Sunny! I really appreciate your thoughts. 🙂 You gave me plenty to think about, steering me in the direction I should be focusing on. Thanks!

       
  6. inkspot

    February 24, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Wow, thanks for the mention, it made my day! Especially after a long and tiring day 🙂
    Although now I’m feeling a little embarrassed about how infrequently I post…

    I think it’d be a pity for you to end your blog, so I’d like to offer my own opinion here, although I suspect I might be in the minority – as far as blogs go, I don’t care much about news, but I do care about insight. So what if some new cover art has been revealed? Unless it’s exceptional, I’ll forget about it within the next 5 minutes. It’s nice to know about new releases, but if it’s something I care about I’ll hear about it eventually, and whether I buy the book hot off the shelves or pick up a battered second-hand copy 5 years from now, I’ll still want to read it.

    What I value is an interesting perspective. I’d much rather read an insightful essay-style review about a 30-year old book I’ve read 5 times over than a run-of-the-mill review about the latest release. If you’ve been reading SFF for decades, offer me your expertise! You have knowledge and ideas that my greedy little mind wants to swallow whether it’s a reading list for sci fi about games, a comparison of a recent release with the classic that inspired it, a survey of fantasy monsters etc.
    Yes, this will take a lot of work and you won’t be a prolific blogger, but I think quality trumps quantity, regardless of what blogging memes and WordPress challenges seem to imply.

    Regarding SA SFF: it’s true that there is hardly any SA SFF news, given that our publishers have little interest in the genre, but as you said there are South African SFF writers out there, yourself included. They may not have published novels, but they have opinions and ideas about what it is to write genre fiction in South Africa, as a South African. Ask what our cultural contexts can bring to the genre and publish the answers. I for one would like to read that. If SA writers have fiction available online, tell me about it. Or publish it on your own blog. International readers may not have heard of these writers, but you can give those readers a reason and a chance to find out more.

    In conclusion, I’d say that before you decide to end your blog, consider changing its focus. If trying to keep up with the news is holding you back, then let it go. If you enjoy blogging and you think you have something worth saying, forget about the stats.

     
    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      February 25, 2011 at 11:08 am

      Thanks, Lauren. 🙂 Yep, there’s lots of routes I can take but focusing on the destination, and just what that destination is, is the most important thing for me to do. 🙂 Thanks, much appreciated! 🙂

       
  7. Benito Corral

    February 26, 2011 at 4:00 am

    Dave,

    I’m sorry to hear that you’ve come to this crossroads; like everyone else, if you feel its time to end the blog, I’d encourage you to do what makes you happiest but I would definitely miss it!

    You’ve been especially encouraging to me since I’ve started my own blog and I’d hope to continue that relationship- for this newbie, YOU’RE one of the awesome people/bloggers I’ve been able to read, enjoy and learn from!

    Hope to keep reading for a long time!

    Benito

     
    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      February 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm

      Hey Benito, haven’t made s decison yet, really taking my time on this. 🙂 But thank you for coming through and commenting, I really appreciate it. 🙂

       
  8. Patrick

    February 26, 2011 at 5:11 am

    Blog because you like what you do and don’t worry about anything else. As long as you’re having fun, it’s all good.

    It’s not about numbers (hits, visitors, etc). If you no longer get a kick out of blogging, then it might be time to quit. Otherwise, just hang in there and have fun doing it.

    Cheers,

    Patrick

     
    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      February 26, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      Thanks for coming through and taking the time to comment, Patrick, much appreciated. 🙂 You’re totally right, hitting the nail on the head along with everyone else. 🙂 Thanks again.

       
  9. ediFanoB

    February 27, 2011 at 1:00 am

    Hey Dave,

    I think there is nothing to add to Patrick’s comment. I fully agree with him.
    I think it is important to challenge the own motivation. I did it today on my blog.

    I hope you still have enough fun to continue your blog. It would be sad when you leave the blogosphere.

    Enjoy reading

    ediFanoB

     
    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      March 1, 2011 at 11:33 pm

      Hey Michael, thanks for visiting and commenting. 🙂 You’re completely right – I’m thinking long and hard about the blog and what it means to me. 🙂

      Hehehe I don’t think I could ever leave the blogosphere – it’s just too damned cool! 😀

       

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