Message in a Bottle

When I wrote my latest article I expected reactions that would be strong, heated, even hostile – but reactions nonetheless and hopefully some buzz that would finally put this blog on the map. As of the writing of this post neither has materialized yet. Even the Golden Age Detection board is silent, with only one people liking the link to my essay.
Frankly, I don’t know what to do anymore.
I once attributed the Villa’s relative obscurity to my not posting enough – you can’t build a faithful readership when you’re posting something every two centuries or so – but my recent boost of productivity didn’t change anything. The numbers stay the depressing same old.
Stop pulling punches (assuming that I did before) and taking increasingly radical positions as I have been doing lately proved equally fruitless. I didn’t lose readers, but I didn’t win any either – and the « crime fiction » web community remained as politely indifferent as it had always been. Conversely, the only palpable effect of moving from Blogger to WordPress has been to make comments easier – but it’s always the same people commenting! (Thank you folks by the way, your patience and presence make it all worthwhile)
This is not to say that no one reads and enjoys this blog at all outside my immediate circle. There have been good if rare reviews and some prominent people in the community have recommended it, one of them going as far as to call it « superlative ». I’ve also met « fans » in unexpected places such as eBay where on two separate occasions people I traded with turned out to be readers. These are heartwarming experiences.
Still, I’d like this blog to expand its audience outside the « vintage mystery » community as I think it can be of interest to other « crime fiction » buffs as well. Most of all, I’d want it to engage and be engaged, to have my ideas tested and refuted when needed, to know whether I’m a kook or what little I have to say about the genre is worth thinking twice over.
The problem is, I don’t know how to do that. Social networking is not my forte; FB gives me some visibility but my presence on Twitter amounts to shouting in the desert except when one of my friends there is kind enough to retweet my ramblings.
So I turn to you, my dear readers, be you a long-timer or a newcomer, talkative or more of a lurker, enthusiastic or (why not?) critical – to give me your opinion and advice if you have any. Don’t worry, I don’t plan to retire once again; I’m having too much fun for that and besides I don’t write because I want but because I must. It’s just that I have high ambitions (much as I hate this latter word) for this blog and would like to see them finally fulfilled.

10 commentaires sur “Message in a Bottle

  1. Some suggestions:
    1. Write book reviews intead of general articles.
    2. You may concentrate on a particular sub-genre (like locked room, mystery, GAD etc) or cover the entire range of crime fiction (however you define it !)
    3. Whenever you write the review in French, provide an English translation also.(I myself follow this rule at Goodreads)

    Aimé par 2 personnes

    1. Thanks for dropping by and for your suggestions.

      I have – infrequently – done reviews in the past and have long considered making it a regular feature of this blog. I actually started my « career » as a reviewer of sorts, posting monthly roundups of my readings on the many Yahoo groups of which I was a member. The catch, for there is one, is that most of the books I read prove hard to impossible to find for most of my readers unless they can read French. For some reason we Froggies have a better access to some English-language crime fiction than the native speakers themselves. It isn’t necessarily a problem: Curtis Evans and John Norris have showed you can build a strong following while mostly discussing books that are sometimes very obscure and hard to obtain. It bothers me however that only half of my readers will be able to read the books I recommend to them. Also and on a more mundane level, I have hated writing summaries since high school, and how can you do a honest review if you don’t tell people what the book is about?

      As a reader I have never concentrated on a single subgenre, in large part because I’m unable to stick to one. I have my favourites and my pet peeves of course, but overall I spread my love all over the place – well, almost: I hate noir and I’m not very fond of stories dealing with serial killers and narcos either. So I’d rather not make this blog a one-issue one, however it may appear to be so already. 🙂

      Aimé par 1 personne

  2. Personally, Xavier, I love what you do here: yours is a distinct and impassioned voice in a sea of the rest of us simply writing book reviews. I’d love you to keep doing exactly what you are — yourself and Noah are two people who can never post enough for my tastes — but I understand your frustrations. It can be challenging writing something that’s both meaningful and likely to catch the attention of a lot of people — I myself do neither — so my advice would be to post what you’re passionate writing and forget about the views/likes/comments. We do appreciate your efforts, and I’d be sad to see you dilute your focus purely to play to the cheap seats 😉

    Aimé par 3 personnes

    1. Don’t worry Jose (and also Mike!) I am not going anywhere for now. It was a long time in the making but I have finally found the right rhythm and tone for this blog and I won’t let go of it. I’m just trying to find out how I might expand both its scope and its audience, hence this message.

      Aimé par 2 personnes

  3. A few suggestions …
    1. Add reviews, instead of only featuring essays (similar to Santosh’s first suggestion). Have your reviews included on ‘Friday’s Forgotten Books’.
    2. Ask questions; ask for suggestions. Just stating your positions, esp. if they are fairly radical and curmudgeonly, can be of great interest to your readers (esp. fellow cerebral curmudgeons!) it is less likely to stimulate a reaction than inviting answers or suggestions (I.e., a response).
    3. Given your current preferences for 1950s and 1960s work, are there other groups/fora besides the FB GAD group that would be a good fit for you to participate in?
    4. Think about ‘how can I help others find great books or authors, or enjoy their reading more’? I think Noah got quite a bit of response to his extensive coverage of works by Michael Gilbert a few months back. I think folks like Nick Fuller, JJ and the Puzzle Doctor have made lists of « which 5 books of author X to start with » which I found quite useful. Can you, say, occasionally inform readers about interesting work from France or Europe (ideally, from authors of whom at least some work has been translated into English)? I much apprecIated your answers to a request for pointers on Steeman, for instance.

    Aimé par 2 personnes

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