A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Ten Years of the Book Foxes, and where we go next …
When, in the late summer/early autumn of 2007, Leena Heino first sent out the round-robin emails to her friends asking them if they’d be interested in joining her in a collective book blog, she could have had no idea of what it was she was about to set in motion. I’m sure if you’d asked her then how long she hoped the blog would survive in an online universe overflowing with people wittering away (with varying degrees of readability) about books, she’d have shrugged, looked clueless and taken a punt at something like five years, with a bit of luck and a following wind.
But here we still are: 19th of October 2017 and still standing.
And those ten years have been quite extraordinary ones for all of the Book Foxes – both the founder members and those who joined us later in the journey – because Leena created not only a successful book blog with a distinctive and original ‘voice’ (crucial in such a crowded field) but also – as Jackie indicated in her touching piece earlier this week – a genuine community. Bonded by our shared friendship with Leena and our love of books we have somehow managed to rise above the ego-driven personality clashes and factional in-fighting which eventually fells so many online groups. Of course we’ve had our colourful moments: a bunch of gobby articulate and opinionated people will inevitably have disagreements, but those disagreements have been thrashed out in often lively but always civilized behind-the-scenes discussions and almost invariably resulted in a stronger, better Vulpes Libris.
Personally speaking, VL has helped me through the most tumultuous and difficult decade of my life. When I now remember that I left Leena’s email sitting in my inbox for several weeks and almost said ‘No, thank you’, my blood runs a little cold. Through illnesses, deaths and the usual traumas which punctuate everyone’s lives (plus a few which I sincerely hope don’t) I always knew that there would be sympathy, advice and – often – material help waiting in the Den (the private forum where we gather to chat, organize schedules and whine about the general unfairness /lunacy of the world). When the Foxes say ‘Let me know if there’s anything I can do’, they actually mean it.
The Book Foxes are, and always have been, an extraordinary – and extraordinarily talented – group of people.
I’m sure we all have our favourite VL memories (and I hope you’ll share them with us in the comments), but some of mine (in no particular order) are Robert McCrum being terribly nice about us in his Guardian piece Ten years that shook the book world: Richard Armitage’s dedicated fanbase very nearly crashing the site when we interviewed him in 2009; Rosy and Lisa conducting an online interview with Scott Pack with hilarious consequences and all of us gathering in the Den to watch in wide-eyed excitement as the bidding war for Lisa’s YA story Blue (the first book of the Blue-Air-Ride trilogy) unfolded in real time … with Lisa rushing in and out (in an advanced state of shock) to update us as the story developed.
It’s also been wonderful watching the writing careers of so many people close to us blossoming. I’m not going to start naming them because I can guarantee I’ll forget someone and cause massive offence: but they know who they are – not only the Book Foxes (current and past) but also our friends and incredibly faithful supporters.
It’s been quite a pony ride.
Not unnaturally, given that we now stand at an important milestone in our joint lives, we’ve been giving some thought to the future of Vulpes Libris and where we might go from here.
Just as we have changed over the years, so has the world of book/arts bloggers. When we started out, blogging platforms were definitely the way to go and our current one (WordPress) has served us well (albeit with some minor irritations) these past ten years. What no-one, however, could have foreseen was the rise in social media use, or the way that they would increasingly become fora for everything from bonkers cat videos and cod Dalai Lama quotes to small businesses, political debates (or knock-down-drag-outs, if you prefer) and social awareness-raising campaigns.
Our stats told a story which is no doubt being repeated across the blogosphere (a term I hate, but it’s useful – so what’s a girl to do?): our reviews, interviews and feature pieces are still being read as widely as before, but people are talking about them not on the Vulpes Libris WordPress site itself, but on Facebook. It has in fact become apparent that a huge percentage of our readers also have Facebook accounts.
We have therefore, after a lot of discussion, taken the decision to move Vulpes Libris to Facebook. This is for several reasons, not least of which is that it makes interacting with us (and vice versa) very much easier. We can also post shorter arts-related and books-related pieces, general comments and observations as well as our usual reviews. It will, we believe, enable us to be more spontaneous and reactive to events around us while retaining our trademark in depth (and sometimes highly idiosyncratic) reviews.
It will come with its own problems – not least maintaining our visibility – but we still believe it’s a sensible move.
The WordPress site, with its archive, will not be disappearing … although what, if any role it will play in the future, we haven’t yet decided.
So there you have it. As 2018 dawns, Vulpes Libris will be reborn on Facebook and we hope you’ll join us there.
Between now and then everything will continue as normal and, of course, we’d welcome all comments, observations and suggestions.