For What It's Worth

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Book Blogger Confessions

Book Blogger Confessions is a meme that posts the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month, where book bloggers "confess" and vent about topics that are unique to us. Feel free to share, vent and offer solutions.

Just keep it respectful - no bashing authors or other bloggers!

If you want to participate just grab our button and include it in your post with a link to either Tiger's All Consuming Media or For What It's Worth.

Question: What do we owe publishers and authors? If we accept ARC’s do we “owe” anything to them or just an honest review to our followers? As book bloggers are we obligated to do more than just review books? Post covers – participate in book tours – host guest posts - promote authors?

Relationships with publishers are a tricky thing. One I have mostly stayed away from. I don’t see an issue with requesting books for review or forming relationships with publishers as long as you stay professional and remain honest with your followers. It's when you start blogging in a way that you're more worried about offending the publisher than being honest with your followers that I think leads to problems.

In just over two years of blogging I have only requested a handful of books. (10 tops) from publishers and on Netgalley I've requested @20. Even after finally being brave enough to make a few (3) publisher contacts, I’m very hesitant to request too many books.

For me it seems fairly simple. You owe a honest and timely review. That’s it. Most publishers give you a time frame of when they want your review posted, usually within a month of the books release date.
I do think the publisher has the right to give deadlines and require links to the review or the right to turn down future requests if the blogger repeatedly misses those obligations. We shouldn’t be requesting more books than we are able to read and review during their required time frame. It’s a privilege to be offered free books (often 6 months in advance of the public) for review. Being overwhelmed with 30 books to read doesn’t seem like a good excuse to me. You kind of know you can’t read & review that many on time so only request what you can handle.

I have to admit that this happened to me early on in my blogging days. I accepted too many author requests and couldn’t get to them all and I felt horrible. Lesson learned.

Publishers are usually very flexible and even understand if you don’t wish to review a book after you've read it or if something came up and you really didn’t have time to meet the review deadline. Just make sure you keep the line of communication open with your contact if you have one.

The follower/stat requirements for which bloggers get on their mailing lists seem quite arbitrary & frustrating at times but that’s their prerogative. We aren’t owed a damn thing just because we have a blog. ARC’s cost money and publishers expect to get something in return. There’s nothing wrong with that. It's up to them who the books go to.

The question of whether we owe more than reviews was brought up during the Book Blogger Con 2012 in NYC (coinciding the same week as BEA). I did not attend the Blogger Con but from the blog posts I read from those who attended, it seems that publishers think we should be doing much more than just writing reviews. (correct me if I'm wrong BBC attendees)

I do have a problem with that. Not the idea of participating in cover reveals or blog tours or anything like that but the idea that we SHOULD be doing it to be taken seriously as a blogger.

This is a hobby for almost all of us. I promote books because I love reading, authors because I love their work. I do not do it out of any sense of obligation or as quid pro quo. One problem I see with becoming a conduit for publishers is that your followers quickly get turned off knowing you haven’t actually read the books your pushing. It’s just promotion and they can sense that. One of the reasons for the explosion in popularity of book review blogs IMO is that our passion and joy of books shines through unlike the traditional press. We connect and discuss books in a way that they can't. Once you only become a publicity machine on behalf of publishers you lose that credibility.

Please don’t get me wrong – if you want to host guest posts or hop on a book tour because you enjoy doing it – go for it!!!! I do all of those things. I mean don’t do it just to get on the publishers good side so you might be able to score yourself an ARC. Oh…… those ARC’s make some bloggers behave in very strange, mysterious ways…

I don’t think we should be obligated to do any of those things to prove our worth to the industry though. This may come off rude or arrogant and I apologize if it does but we’ve become a huge enthusiastic fan base that basically provides free publicity for books and authors. We shouldn't have to prove anything. We don't *work* for publishers - we blog for ourselves.

I think it's tough for the publishing industry to deal with such a diverse group of people with an unknown outcome when they hand that book over. I think we'll hit some rough patches figuring out what we want from vs what we owe each other but I'm hopeful that it will work out in the end. I was very pleased with the interactions that I had with every publisher at BEA this year. Past years hadn't been so pleasant. I think we need to start listening to each other and have more realistic expectations from both sides.

So that’s my long rambling way of saying I have no problem with the publisher/blogger relationship. As long as you are respectful of their requirements and don’t view it as something they *owe* us. Also blog honestly – not for the next book score.

What do you think? Even if you’ve never received a book for review do you still think it’s a bloggers *job* to promote books for publishers?


  1. I don't want to be a 'free publicist' for publishers, I do this because I want to talk about books! Of course I'll tell anyone that will listen about a book that I love, but I don't want to feel obligated to do it.

    The bloggers I respect the most are those that let their love of books and reading shine through, and don't get bogged down with promotional posts.

  2. "It's when you start blogging in a way that you're more worried about offending the publisher than being honest with your followers that I think leads to problems."

    It would be a shame if that happened on a large scale. In many ways, it seems like the relationship between agent and publisher has gone that way. It seems many agents are so afraid of offending the publishers, they forget their clients are the authors.

    Before this question, I hadn't even considered publishers went into the relationship with an attitude of "You owe me." In my mind (the author's side), it's always been "Please help me!"

  3. I am at a crossroad with helping publisher and finding my love of reading. Because it often feels like a job. I love to read but I feel the pressure of a timely review LOl

  4. Once again, you've pretty much expressed my exact thoughts on the subject.

    I have felt as if I was being used as an outlet for free publicity. I had a publisher contact who started asking me at least once a week to do promo posts. I started feeling uncomfortable w/this. For one thing, she would ask me at the last minute, putting me in a bind. For another, I hadn't read the series she wanted me to promote, so that bugged me as well.

    I went along at first, thrilled at being asked. But when I didn't put a post up that she sent me , the relationship cooled. And that's fine , really, b/c my blog shouldn't be used as a marketing tool for one specific publisher, but still, her reaction stung.

    Wow, I rambled. Sorry about that. ;-) Thank you, as always, for your honest words.

  5. I was going to quote exactly what Reena did. This is an AMAZING post and I thank you for sharing all these thoughts. I did go to BBC but don't remember anyone saying Bloggers should do more than what we are. However, I do think publishers would like it if we did. It's a great supplement to a blog, but not what I'm about. I just don't have time!

    I also totally agree with your thoughts about what we supposedly have to do to be taken seriously as a blogger. Well if that is their opinion, there are plenty of blogs out there that they can take seriously. Mine is for what I want to do. I'm serious about books and reading.

    1. I believe it was the speaker from Amazon that said that bloggers should do more than write reviews to be considered professional - such as posting cover reveals etc. I could be wrong. i would have to find the original wrap-up posts again.
      That's interesting that you didn't feel like publishers at BBC said we should do more. I had read so many posts afterwards that interpreted the speakers that way.

  6. Great post, Karen. I read a lot of posts about BBC and I'm not sure many people were happy with it. Like you said, I didn't go, so I could have just read into it wrong.

  7. Damn. I wish I could have been at Blogger Con. I really want to know what more they expect out of us, as a whole. In my eyes, we do a damn amazing job at promoting books. We each have our own style and niche and follower base, but we all do the same thing: let others know about books that we read, and why we did or did not like them. That is the point of reviewing, no? As far as promoting books in any other way, I think that is entirely up to the blogger and there is no requirements. None of us signed contracts and none of us get paid. Period.

  8. I do not really have a problem since few would send me books anyway when I live when I do, so I request or a get a few. Very managable. And Ng and 1, I just had an ereader meltdown today so..

    But owe, why should we owe them everything? To have your blogs swamped with things

  9. "We shouldn’t be requesting more books than we are able to read and review during their required time frame"

    This! We should request responsibly. Right now, I'm requesting nothing and accepting absolutely nothing because I know I can't review new books in anything like a timely fashion.

    On the "extras" in blogging--I love doing the "extras" but I don't think we should be expected to do it. We're discussing a passion. We don't exist in order to be perfect marketing machines for the book industry! :-)

  10. I was at Blogger Con but I must have missed that! It was probably the blogger-publisher relationship session at the end of the day, and I had to leave early to do a school pickup.

    I'm like you -- I feel a lot of freedom because I don't request or receive many books from publishers. I counted up my 2012 reviews thus far, and 2/3 came from books I'd bought, borrowed or traded. The other 1/3 came from NetGalley and Edelweiss.

    Thus far I have never received a physical ARC for review from a publisher, unless you count BEA. I have done a few "decline to reviews" on NG. I do that only if I'm really not liking the book and just don't want to finish it. It rarely happens, and I don't feel guilty about it.

    I have not done any blog tours, because I'm not sure what the expectations are. Is the author paying someone, and therefore does he/she expect positive coverage? If so, that would make me uncomfortable.

    I agree with you and Tiger (above). I don't want my blog to be a source of stress or feel like an obligation. I prefer to read what I want to read, rather than have to plow through a stack of books that I'm not really interested in.

  11. Great post madam, I agree completely! To me when something is a job it means you are getting paid for it and mostly all of us are not getting paid so I don't think bloggers should feel they must do more than review a book on time if they WANT to do more, then that is up to them.

  12. I pretty much agree with everything you say here. To me, the most important things when working with publishers and getting free books are what you said: act professional, be honest, and don't overload yourself to where it's impossible to get things done on time. I have to admit, I constantly have to remind myself about the last one. I'm always sorting through review requests, and I've always found it hard to turn them down! I've gotten much better over the years, but I still sometimes over click that NetGalley button.