#amreading: Literature and Social Networks in the United States

Coffee cup and books

Could it be that we’ve reached the point at which blogs are considered a ‘traditional’ form of online media? The world of book blogging in particular has matured considerably in the last ten years. Publishers and bloggers have established a well-defined infrastructure for working together – and it covers everything from clear review policies and thoughtful book pitches to sharing digital ARCs and tracking the impact of reviews.

Bookstagram

Just a few years ago, social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram were a means of driving more traffic to one’s blog. Now, social media posts can be the primary content. This change has given rise to ‘Bookstagrammers’, who offer new forms of visually-driven book recommendations. The top-level influencers have reached five- and six-figure follower counts. You’ll find more than 22 million Instagram posts under the hashtag #bookstagram.

The most successful bookstagram posts are thoughtfully composed photographs – taken in various locations and sometimes including props – meant to visually capture what’s inside a particular book or the experience of reading it. Bookstagrammers sometimes include mini book reviews with their photos, and sometimes they let the images do the talking. Given both Instagram's rising popularity (the platform hit one billion users in June) and a tendency toward shorter text on social media, it's not a surprise that bookstagrammers have established themselves alongside book bloggers as a significant community.

And let’s not forget the coveted celebrity endorsement. When a book gets recommended by a celebrity on social media – especially on Instagram – publishers can see a jump in sales.

As this online realm of book recommendations beyond mainstream media has proliferated, it has also become more diffuse. While it offers publishers and authors more opportunities to promote their titles, it also adds ambiguity to the work of book promotion. In the United States, ‘traditional’ book bloggers do continue to have a big impact on book sales, particularly in the young adult and genre fiction sectors. Publicists and marketers do regular outreach to these online communities of book fans. But what about for literature in translation?

Blogging and translated literature

US editors and publishers remark that mainstream media seem more open to writing about translated books today than they were, say, a decade ago. And while book reviews in publications like The New York Times are still the gold standard, there are a number of online channels that regularly feature translations. Here are a few of our favourites:

ALTA Blog – the official blog of the American Literary Translators Association

Book Riot – online site featuring regular coverage of translated titles

Center for the Art of Translation Blog – a non-profit organisation that publishes translations, organises events, and regularly updates information about translated titles

The Millions – online magazine covering books including translations, as well as art and culture since 2003

Literary Hub – features original literary content as well as content from its many partners (book publishers, magazines, bookstores, and others)

Literary Saloon – Michael Orthofer’s long-running blog that includes book reviews and other literary news, with an international focus

PEN America Blog – includes news related to PEN’s freedom to publish advocacy, as well as translation reviews and updates

Reader at Large – book reviewer Tara Cheesman-Olmsted’s blog dedicated to international literature

Three Percent – this blog, affiliated with publisher Open Letter Books, regularly reviews literature in translation from many languages and publishers

Translationista – German-to-English translator Susan Bernofsky blogs about literary translation, with news from translators, awards and publishers

WWB Daily – the blog of Words Without Borders which publishes interviews, essays, and commentary on world literature and translation

World Literature Today – from the University of Oklahoma, a magazine that publishes writing in translation as well as interviews, news, and commentary

By Publishing Perspectives, an online magazine of international book publishing news