Sunday, 13 February 2011

Book Blogger Controversy...again?

The bloggerdom must be pretty bored at the moment as there has been controversy after controversy these past few weeks.  I’ve been asked to contribute my thoughts in response to claims last week by a self-published author that bloggers are lacking in objectivity and professionalism etc etc.

While I could give my thoughts in similar lines to last week’s post on the viewpoint that book blogger’s don’t sell books…I won’t.    Ultimately writing blogs and reading blogs come down to one singular thing.  Choice.  You choose to read them or you don’t.  You choose to read worthy blogs or you don’t.  You choose to paint all book bloggers with the same brush or you don’t.  You choose to flame others based on your own subjectivity or you don’t.  Objectivity has nothing to do with reviewing, blogging or flaming.  Everyone can provide reasoning for their choices but that doesn’t mean they are correct.

I often get caught up into the negativity that surrounds the dregs of book blogging.  It takes up much more time than I have to give and it doesn’t have any bearing on my personal blogging.  Except when I blog about it.  You see I’ve chosen to harp on and on about it numerous times.  It’s time for me to let it go.

The only thing in life (and blogging) we can control is ourselves.  Our choices.  I choose not to read blogs lacking in a voice or that present memes and contests as their only point of view.  I choose to read bloggers that are passionate, strongly voice their perspectives and pitch books that are worthy of a readership.

Authors have no power over what a reviewer writes but they do over their reaction. Similarly a blogger has no control over an author’s reaction to their reviews.  This is where professionalism comes into play - side with the person who demonstrates the most integrity.  The individual that wrote a review justifying their opinions or the person flaming someone for not appreciating their work and blanketing an entire community with a broad stroke.  Who showed the most finesse in this situation?

I would argue no one did in the outcry following.  It got messy and emotional and stirred the anger of many.  This is the primary reason I choose not to write anything about this situation in the days immediately following.  It has happened before, it will happen again.  But there is a fine line between having the right to speak your thoughts and be attacked when another doesn’t agree with them.  Ugliness abounded this issue.  Even some commenters, with who I agreed, were particularly noxious in the way they chastised the author in question.  It made me feel a little dirty - there’s a huge difference between righteous, well expressed debate and outright hatefulness.  While the author was a little sheltered in her ideas, she didn’t deserve the barrage of tut-tuts she received either.

Authors can’t control what a reviewer writes but they can influence the decision on which bloggers receive their books.  Whether it be identifying a selection of bloggers who might respond favourably (and with influence) to their work and presenting that to their publisher or asking that a specific blogger not receive a copy.  Perhaps ask that a marketing campaign not target bloggers as they are unprofessional (if you feel that way).  I would be curious to see if this was a position the author held before or after her work was critically examined.  Regardless the author wasn’t reviewed by a blogger lacking skills; in fact she received a critical yet not unkind review.  It’s a pity the author didn’t show the same restraint towards the blogging community and the reviews in question.

What is becoming more and more apparent to me is that bloggers who receive ARCs need to be identified specifically for each title. (I understand this creates work, which takes time, which costs money but it’s an idea).  Until there is a more selective approach to who receives ARCs we will continue to have these issues.  Sure authors might continue to feel betrayed by less than positive reviews regardless but good marketing is knowing your audience.  (Had the reviewers bought the author’s book then this is beside the point.)  Until publicity departments stop seeing all book bloggers as the same, we will continue to be seen in entirety as the lesser of ourselves. 

There are more and more book bloggers coming into the community with every week.  Fantastic!  But with that come thousands of different subjective perspectives, genres preferences and specific issues.  The controversies of the past fortnight point to a larger issue - the community and its sheer volume.  A year ago there were murmurings that there should be blogger guidelines, rules if you will.  But that was never going to happen.  Who has the right to tell you what is right for your blog?  No one does.  It’s not the answer.

But there are standards of decency.  Reading Lindsey Leavitt’s post about a specific person (who identified themselves as a blogger) simply horrified me.  But that happens to be a person without common sense or any freaking clue…who also happens to be a blogger. Had I been the publicist nearby (there would have been), I would have written that name down and removed them from EVERY list known to man. Authors can be generous, warm and delightful, they can choose not to be.  The same can be said for bloggers.  All publishers aren’t the same, all agents aren’t the same and neither are all public restrooms. There are many pizzerias, not all of them can make a great pie.   I am a YA blogger, as is Lenore from Presenting Lenore*.  The only thing we have in common in regards to our book blogs... is that we blog.  She likes dystopian, I like contemporary.  She lives in Germany, I live in Australia.  She’s married, I am not.  She loves cats, I am allergic to them.  She doesn’t get Jellicoe Road, I don’t get Before I Fall.   I could go on and on.  What Lenore and I do have in common is a love of books, a sense of decency in the way we interact with our blogging brethren and author community and a love of Dexter and Mad Men.  I might be over simplifying but to be honest, I am making this more complex that those that throw blanket statements of unprofessionalism and accusations of worthlessness.
*Lenore chosen randomly.

As for the claim of unprofessional behaviour, bloggers aren’t.  Professional implies it be a profession (aka job) and a salary.  Bloggers will tell you that the hours are like a job and the payoff doesn’t come in the form of a pay check.  I will speak for myself as I’ve chosen to talk specifics - in the height of my YA blogging days I was devoting 40 hours per week to my blog between reading, writing, emailing, interviewing and networking.  That’s a full time position.  The only thing guiding me was my own ethics and standards that directed my choices in reviewing and my behaviour toward others. 

I am not saying I am an angel.  But I think I’ve mostly made good choices.  Choices that I can stand by.

In the end that’s all you’ve got.

And I think a few bad ones were made this week.  

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


Ynysawdre Elderly Residents Association said...

Thank you so much for writing this post Adele. I knew you would be able to express it clearly & put it into perspective.
With the vast amount of new blogs springing up & requesting ARC's I would like to point out that publishers & authors have the oppurtunity to send their books to tour sites where there are rules to follow and will get a minimum of 10 reviews for one ARC. A bargain I think.
Thanks again

Anonymous said...

So apparently I love under a huge blogging rock, as I only just heard about this.

Just wanted to say (again) thanks for such a thoughtful and intelligent post Adele :)

CarlyB said...

Brilliant post, Adele. I couldn't agree with you more.x

Kathryn from Schoolmarm Style said...

Great post, Adele. I will probably never really encounter this level of controversy personally, but if I do, your words can help guide.

Also, thanks for the comment to my students. You made their day!

Booklady said...

Very well said. Thanks for a wonderful post.

Anonymous said...

I really like what you have to say about choice. You're so right - it's all a choice. Well said.

Gina @ My Precious said...

A very long post, I read it all the way through. It was well spoken with strong agruments. I agree with your point of view. Happy to hear you feel free to voice your opinions, which btw I agree with!


Lisa Schensted said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. It's important for all of us to remember that individuals make a group - so lumping everyone together, authors or bloggers, is not the best idea.

In related news, I chatted with a publisher recently who shed some light on the methods they use for approving ARCs. Check it here:

Krissi Dallas said...

I don't know the circumstances that led to this post (and I'll happily stay out of it), but I do appreciate the insight on a book blogger's perspective! Thank you for posting. :)

Alicia Foodycat said...

I'm a food blogger, not a book blogger, but the same controversies come up with us. Thank you for your thoughtful post.

martha said...
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