Friday, 4 February 2011

What book blogging has given me...and I am not talking "free books".

I am worming my way out of blogging Siberia to give my two cents on the claims that book bloggers don’t sell books. 

I agree.

Most book bloggers don’t sell books.

But some of us do. 

Some of us get the word out about a previously ignored books that didn’t get attention when the bookselling realm was blog-less. 

Some of us bring attention to titles that aren’t being pushed hard by publishers because another title with a sparkly premise is. 

Some of us hand ARCs to a bookseller in another country and have the international book rights sold.

That being said …
Some of us revel in the ARCs as they’re competition fodder.

Some of us sell our ARCs for large quantities of cash on eBay.

Some of us review positively solely to get more free books.

If I received any positive comments on my blog I am normally quick to brush them off.  Why?  I’ve bought into the stigma somewhat.  The stigma that bloggers are the bottom feeders of the publishing world.  We’re not…but some of us are.  

Some things I know for sure about the influence of a blog from a personal standpoint:
  • A US title found distribution in Australia because of me.   (Books sold.)
  • A book that was not being distributed at BEA 2010 was demanded by a large reading audience forcing the publishers to hand out the ARCs they were sitting on because of perceived lack of interest.  (Awareness created.)
  • Quotes from my reviews have been used on the reverse covers of several YA titles because my (earned) opinion helps sell.
  • The many personal emails I’ve received in the past two years thanking me for enticing them to read Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road.  (Books sold.  OzYA awareness created.)

Why do I know this?  The authors told me. 

Now I don’t believe that my reviews sell books on a consistent basis.  Heck, I am one of those people that pollute book blogging with negative critiques!  (Ridiculous claim – why are people voicing outrage about bloggers receiving free books and attacking those that read critically?)  I know I sell books (or interest) in a title if I am glowing in my review of them.  If a book earns my respect, my readers typically wanted to read it.  

While I recognise that there are bloggers out there who aren’t in it for the good of the written word, there are many that are. 

I’ve even managed to parlay my blogging (and professional skills) into a position where I have greater influence.  I am now the Program Coordinator for the Centre for Youth Literature.  An Australian organisation situated in the State Library of Victoria that runs events, websites/blogs and conferences that include teachers, publishers, librarians, students and the larger community.

If blogging means nothing.  If what I’ve done on my blog means nothing. If the only purpose of a blog is to sell books (that’s another issue completely)…then that doesn’t explain my current position.

Blogging helped me find a career doing what I love.  I get to review, recommend, speak directly to teen literary stakeholders and manage special events.  But you see, I was doing that all before from my laptop.  Sure it was on a smaller and simplified scale but I was doing that without money, without a wage, without a team and I was helping to sell books. In my new role, books will be sold because of what I have recommended or held functions for but that isn’t my goal.  It’s not my organisation’s goal.  We’re here to facilitate reading. I am here to facilitate reading.  And the right kind of book bloggers are here to facilitate reading.  

When you reduce blogging to dollars and cents you are robbing it of its true worth.

Teachers, librarians and bloggers aren’t at odds with one another.  We all have the same aim – to facilitate reading in our teens.  To recommend great books that strike a chord and create an appetite for the written word.  To cast them out into the world and go on adventures, fall in love or slay a dragon.

ARCs aren’t the focus.  They aren’t free either.  With ARCs come an expectation to review, to create discussion, to make connections, to encourage reading.  They aren’t free to the publisher, they aren’t free to the author and they sure aren’t free to the blogger.

ARCs aren’t something bloggers, teachers, librarians or booksellers have control over.  We can ask but the ultimate responsibility in ARC distribution comes from the publishers.  A few well placed ARCs will promote selling and interest in the same way that an ARC flood of the book blogging community will.  You just need to find the right blogger, with the right interest, with the right intention.

While I appreciate that some accusations against book bloggers might be true in some cases I would ask that they aren’t thrown around willy nilly.  Book blogging started out for me as a means to grow my school’s non-existent library and create excitement in my class.  It grew my passion for youth literature.  It grew my knowledge of youth literature.  It grew my network of booky individuals in a diverse range of book related industries.  It allowed me to find a career where I could reach more professionals and students about the worthy books out there.  Book blogging was a priceless experience for me and it gave me a new direction in life.  Money or free books were not in the equation but my heart and passion for youth literature were fully invested.

So while some people might take issue with book bloggers…know that I love it.  Know that I love my trusted group of friends that I’ve made through blogging and know that Persnickety Snark gave me a new lease on life.

*Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent my employer's stance.


Donna K. Weaver said...

I agree with you! I've found scads of books through blogs that I'd normally have missed out on.

Ynysawdre Elderly Residents Association said...

I started blogging just to keep track of what I was reading. This then grew to being noticed by 1 particular pulisher who I adore. Making similar minded friends in the blogosphere. Increasing my reading wish-list by hundreds & yes, like you, leading to a career I love. School Librarian.
Now I try to grow outr school library & that of the local public library. Create literacy programs in a fun way so they dont think they are learning ;D
While promoting the excellent work that bloggers do.
If I have a sort after ARC I either pass it onto follow bloggers or to UK Book Tours so that more people get to read/review it creating more publicity from a single ARC.
My other option is that it goes in the school library. I get a real kick out ot the excitement new books brings the pupils :D
Terrific post thanks Adele.
As always it is a few rotten eggs that spoil the community for the rest.

Jane said...

I love reading book blogs for ideas on books I may not have heard of. Even if a book blogger doesn't make a book suddenly famous world-wide - they may be helping a few more people find something they want to try out!

Pam Pho said...


Jaime said...

Wonderfully written! I am a newish blogger and my friend and I do it for the love of reading and passing on our love of books.

Splendibird said...

Way to come back from the wilderness, A! Such an interesting post. Like @asamum I started blogging because I love to read and discuss books. However, like several bloggers out there I have a background in publishing and marketing and have been enjoying re-introducing myself to that world.

Recently, I'd been feeling a bit down blogging - I'd been picking up on the negativity around recently and had started to question whether this was something I wanted to continue with. I'd like to re-start my publishing career and was concerned that my blogging might hamper this rather than help. However, your post has made me feel so much better. I love my blog, I love interacting with other bloggers and I certainly agree that bloggers can help raise awareness and sell books (on several occasions I have been told that a reader has bought a book specifically because of a review I have written - small numbers, I know, but it's something, right?).

I think that the book industry is also aware of the value of bloggers (an article in last week's Sunday Times quoted Carla from the Crooked Shelf and made some salient points about the influence of book bloggers) and publishers must be fairly savvy when choosing who to send ARCS to.

Kathryn from Schoolmarm Style said...

Book blogs are one of the only ways I'm able to keep up a weekly YA reading habit so that I can put great titles in the hands of my students. Your blog is even a class resource. Thanks.

Brittany said...

What a great post. It is a little sad that some people don't love blogging and reading but rather love free books. I am so grateful when I get asked to review a book. As a YA librarian blogging has been such a great outlet. The blogging community helps me find titles that I may have otherwise never heard about. ARC and other bloggers reviews that I trust help me get excited about books so I can get my teens other librarians excited about the book so when it comes out no one can wait to read it. Blogging is just a great thing, and there are bloggers I know I can trust a review of, because they aren't all positive or if they touch upon points that I completely agree with. Without blogging, I would have probably forgotten some books that I completely loved, because I read so many. Thanks for this great post!

Helen's Book Blog said...

Right on! I, too, have bought large numbers of books (and gotten my book clubs to buy and read them as well) from posts I've seen on blogs. In every group there will be abusers, shining stars, and, in the case of book bloggers, potential to help a portion of the economy

Classic Maiden said...

I ALWAYS check different bloggers opinions on new books before buying. They're the reason why I become aware of MANY great books.

I believe Bloggers sell more books than they're credited for.

Sarah Ogden said...

I love reading your reviews. As a HS English teacher with a classroom library, I have to stay current on what is new and exciting. I cannot read everything. I take your reviews very seriously and buy for my classroom accordingly.

Steph Su said...

"Some bloggers sell books" -- yes, like you.


Anonymous said...

This issue bugs me for SO many reasons. Of COURSE book bloggers sell books. Some may only sell a few, but every blogger I talk to buys books because of other bloggers.

But really, our evidence does not matter. The authors opinions of this does not matter. Publicists are what matters. ANd publicists would not be sending arcs to bloggers if it didn't work. They don't get a ton of resources for publicizing books. They wouldn't waste it on something that doesn't work.They see results and keep doing it for a reason.

Thanks for a fantastic post!

Lenore Appelhans said...

There are always going to be haters. Whatever. Book blogging has also given me many things - a network of friends and industry professionals, a platform to talk about books and genres I love, and a sensibility for what works and what doesn't in YA. Do I sell books? I am sure I sell some. But since that was never my explicit goal, if I don't...well that's fine. I'm doing this on my own time without pay so as long as I feel I am benefitting from the blog, I am going to continue. No matter what the haters have to say.

Dana said...

wonderfully written!

Beth S. said...

"Book blogging started out for me as a means to grow my school’s non-existent library and create excitement in my class. It grew my passion for youth literature. It grew my knowledge of youth literature."

This is exactly how I feel. I blog not only because I love books, but I feel like I'm being a responsible teacher by finding what's new and exciting in the world of books. I'm trying to create a class full of readers and lovers of literature. That is my reason for blogging. Do I like getting free books? Um yeah. I'm a TEACHER. Teachers need free stuff to survive and thrive. My ARCS (if appropriate for 6th graders) are housed in my classroom, not sold for scads of money on ebay. I'm using this blogging tool for my students, not just to gain readers and free stuff for the fun of it.

R Williams said...

This is a great post. Many thanks for writing it, I think it's an important hot-button issue that's not really getting serious attention.

Maw Books said...

Here, here! Well said Adele.

Sarah Ann said...

Excellent post! I agree completely! While I offer a review service on my site mainly geared toward new, self-publishing authors, my other reviews are simply to promote authors and books I read and purchased myself. Even if I disliked the book, I'll still promote author's work using links to Amazon for my readers in case they want to purchase. Reading is my passion and favorite thing to do in the world and I started blogging about it knowing I'll have great recommendations for readers (considering I've read upwards of 800+ books since 2004 alone, whew!). Keep the faith, I'm right there with you!

Tales of Whimsy said...

Awesome post. I think it's totally beautiful that blogging helped you find your way! :D

Jessica Penot said...

I think this a great post. I get alot of my book ideas from blogs. If there is a book blogger I like and trust I buy the books they review. I love to read and the best way to chose a good book is by reading what others have said about it. Book bloggers sell books and help readers choose books.

Allison said...

Awesome Post!! I totally agree with you!! I love reading and reviewing books by authors that self publish or have small publishers..I love getting the word out!!
Thank you from all us book bloggers!

Kristen said...

You go girl! :) I'm not one for drama, but I think people need to read this as opposed to whatever drama is going on on twitter. We can make a difference if we're serious about it.

And I had no clue about your awesome job, cheers to loving life and having a job that is meaningful in so many ways. Keep doing what you do hon.

Unknown said...

This post is very timely for me... I am relatively new in the book blog world. I started my blog to get books in the hands of my kids, and quite by accident, I have received ARCs by people finding me... I don't intend to "sell" books, but I do intend to put get kids to read them. I love your post- and I laughed out loud about the sparkly comment... : )

Lindsey Leavitt said...

This is great, Adele. So many thoughtful points. I especially like this line:
When you reduce blogging to dollars and cents you are robbing it of its true worth.
because the same is true for authors. Yes, we have to make money to continue in this career and that takes book sales, but we should always think of our audience as READERS over BUYERS.

BookChic said...

I love this. Great post, Adele! There are bad apples in every group but that doesn't and shouldn't diminish what the good apples do.

ImageNations said...

Though I read many types of books I review thoroughly only African novels. Ninety-nine percent of the books I have reviewed were purchased by me. I love what I do as I try to tell the world how beautiful and lovely African novels are. Yet, if they are bad, I say it.

Robby said...

You are so intelligent. I love reading your blog and your writing and your reviews, not only because you read and review great books, but because you write so fluently and so well that I just can't stop. You influence me, as a blogger. You are great.

jonyangorg said...

I've been reading reading all this negative stuff about book bloggers but it's all ridiculous. Book bloggers have been really amazing for the industry and the YA genre in particular, if only because it gets people excited to read and share books. As an advocate of blogging and reading, having your blog on my blogroll (and many others) has made the book community so much better. Great post!

Ashleigh said...

I had no idea all this negative stuff about book bloggers and the things some of them do was out there! I just got started book blogging in September and (literally) started following other book blogs/reaching out to other bloggers yesterday! I suppose I'm an idealist for thinking all book bloggers would be honest and not sell their books (because I don't think you're supposed to do that).

I started blogging because I always have so much to say about books and talking about them to my friends in real life (most of whom aren't big readers) wasn't enough for me. I wanted to tell people about the books I read and maybe direct them to some good books. I want to praise the great books and critique the bad ones so that readers can decide whether or not they want them.

No one has sent me an ARC or asked me to review their novel but even if someone one day does, I know better than to try and sell it for money. Book blogging isn't about the money and I hope I never meet someone who genuinely thinks that it is.