Random

Dear Authors and Book Bloggers

I had no plans to blog today, but after an email I received sometime in the last 48 hours I wanted to get on my soapbox and write a little PSA. I’ll get back to semi-regular blogging with Stephen King’s The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) on Monday.

I am not going to name and shame (Vlogger hotel scandal article Daily Mail link), but if you received the email you’ll know what I’m talking about. Please do not name and shame as that’s just more promotion for them. That is not the goal, this is just free advice for authors and bloggers so take it or leave it. I apologize for the length, click here for the TL;DR.

Dear Authors and Fellow Book Bloggers,

Authors, you want your books read, right? Bloggers we want our sites read, right? It’s natural—it’s why we do what we do.

Authors, you desperately want to write the next best-selling sensation and bloggers we all want to be the one to say: “I discovered that before it was big.” And we all want our names to be recognized, I get it. We’re all content creators, we’re all content consumers, we’re marketers through our books or our blogs, we’re all hustling to make an impact in the larger world. Why else would we be doing this so publicly?

This being said: don’t try to make a quick buck off the industry that feeds us, or your fellow book bloggers. Far too many book bloggers/ideas (including some of my own) have come and gone because the thin veneer hiding the steaming pile of excrement faded away very quickly, or more often than not the long seemingly masochistic grind that is book blogging was more than expected and wore down the spirit of those that have been archived. [See what I did there—maybe book comedy/punnery is my real calling.]

I don’t want to go into specifics about the email I received. I just want to share a few general pointers from my nearly seven years (aka a hell of a long time) in the book blogging community and some of my professional experience. This advice comes from years of plodding along doing my thing and writing about what I read and reading what I want. It also comes from the 10-plus years I’ve spent working in data, fundraising, marketing and communications.

  1. No author should pay to have a book reviewed on a blog.* Authors also should not pay for access to bloggers.
    • We blog on the internet, a mostly public and, for the most part, freely accessible space, for a reason. Most of us are not professional writers or bloggers, and the few that are have put in the legwork to get there.** If you are paying for a review or access to bloggers, you either need to rethink your marketing strategy or you need to rethink your belief in and passion about your book.
    • Since I started tracking review requests in late 2015, I have received over 250 review requests, 100+ of those were last year alone. (And that’s chump change compared to many bloggers.) I did not charge, nor did any of the authors, publicists, publishers or agents offer to pay me for my review. I received beautiful final print copies, horribly formatted digital copies, and some interesting pre-print printed ARCs. That’s it. I was offered many of the same things that this email purported to offer as “exclusive content for their reviewers” from author interviews to exclusive reveals. There is nothing special about this. If you want these things reach out to the publisher ask about an ARC or review and chances are you’ll get a package that includes these things with the books, if you’ve done the leg work and have an established audience.
    • If you REALLY want to offer these services to the community there is already a career for you: PUBLICIST (Wikipedia link). Go review that generic article, I’ll wait. Don’t pretend you’re offering these services out of the good of your heart or for the good of the community. Say what you want and do it, say that you want to represent bloggers to publishers. Charge bloggers for your services, charge publishers for your services. Don’t mask this in the guise of community building and exclusive access.
  1. No self-respecting blogger should be a part of a “community” that provides these services to authors.
    • Why did you start blogging? If you’re like me, and like most of the bloggers I’ve interacted with over the years, you’re here for any number of reasons: to keep a record of your reading, for the love of reading, for your love of books, for the awesome community you discovered, to find new books or authors, or to develop your technical skills by learning how to build a blog and then later a self hosted site. You didn’t join to make money, sure you might make a few dollars here and there with an affiliate link, and maybe you get money from your local bookstore after you trade in the free books you receive, but that’s about it.
    • If the primary reason you got into the book blogging community is to make money, to make a name for yourself, or to gain experience for the industry, move along. There are much more lucrative blogging communities (personal finance and technology are just two) out there. If you think so highly of your blogging/reviewing/writing, that you deserve to be paid for a review or that people deserve exclusive access to you, take your show to the big leagues. Apply to be a professional writer for The New York Review of BooksLiterary Hub, the London Review of Books, or any number of other established review sites. Most provide internships, all provide jobs. Start hacking and get to it. At least once you’re a professional, someone else is paying you to review works and it’s not the author or the publisher.
  1. If you are going to do reach out to people or offer a service like this it needs to be perfect, you must have done the leg work in the community, and you have to show you’re qualified.
    • Seriously, don’t half-ass it. Make sure that everything on your site is perfectly proofed, that you have a list of actual bloggers, authors, and publishers that you’ve previously worked with. Make sure the photography is on point. There is nothing wrong with stock photography or even public domain photography, but make it match and use similar photos. Chose one social media platform and perfect it, then move to then next – don’t half-ass all of them.
      • As a technical note, and yes I’m getting nit picky, by not connecting to your personal site to show you’ve done the leg work to offer your services and have the connections to bloggers that are exclusively connected to you, people can easily use ICANN WHOIS to see how long your sites been around. In this case it’s been around less than 9 months and is anonymously registered. I get the anonymity for business and personal reasons, but not linking to your personal site on an infant project and establishing credibility tells me that you’ve either a) jumped on the bandwagon, b) are trying to make a quick buck, c) don’t want people to know who you are, or d) all of the above.
    • Put effort into your outreach to book bloggers. What pissed me off and started this whole thing was the informality of your original email and the lack of information.
      • Don’t assume we want to be included in your service. No gimmicky email is going to pull us in. Make it personal, see below.
      • Don’t assume your service is unique or even exclusive.
      • Do include information about who you and your service are – don’t make us click on it. Provide a one-sheet that gives all the pertinent details and why in the hell you’re reaching out to us.
      • Do send a personal email. Don’t send a mass generic email, put my name on it (it’s in my damn url)
      • Do treat this as a professional outreach and proof/edit your email appropriately. In the first paragraph and greeting alone there were six exclamation points and two presumed interrobangs (Wikipedia Link – one of my favorite punctuation marks).
    • Even if you don’t do the following, at the very least explain who you are and why you are qualified to those you reach out to. Not only does it make it personal, but it gives background on you and builds trust/relationships. At the minimum include an about you, as a person – not a business, section. Explain why you, as an individual, can pull this incredibly diverse and disparate community together to provide this sort of resource.
      • Don’t hide behind “the team” and “the family,” put a face to your business and explain why you are QUALIFIED to offer the services you offer at the costs you offer.
      • Don’t use generics like benefits “too numerous to mention” or “exclusive offers.” Be specific unless it’s proprietary (99.9% of the time it’s not.)
      • Provide a public list of who you are working with: bloggers, reviewers, publishers, authors, and publicists. Make it known that there are people who believe in you and your service. I get there won’t be many at first, but if there are none or two few, you haven’t done your outreach and market research appropriately. If you have, you’ll have plenty before you launch and will continue to grow.

I could go on, but I won’t. The more I write and the more I dig into it the angrier I get.

Does this email and what they offer matter in the scheme of things or to me personally?

No. Could I have just ignored and deleted the email? Yes.

However, I took it as a personal affront for some reason and even worse as an affront to the book community. This community is built and thrives on mutual respect (most of the time) between bloggers, authors, writers, publishers, publicists, agents, and everyone else.

Will I get over it? Maybe.

I tend to hold grudges. I’m still not happy about the rude self-published author who reached out to me with a poorly written email with an even worse written book and then when I explained why I wasn’t going to review the work was incredibly rude. AND I’m still disgruntled about Riptide Publishing taking a drastic turn on how they treated reviewers and setting unrealistic expectations of reading “every galley made available.”

Sincerely,

Geoff

P.S. If you made it this far you deserve some sort of treat so, imagine yourself with a good book and nothing on the schedule here:


TL;DR: Authors and book bloggers are symbiotic and anyone trying to take advantage of either is a parasite. Don’t try and make a quick buck and especially don’t half ass it once you’ve verified it’s something the community needs. Make everything you do personal, professional, and unique. Also, I hold grudges and am considering becoming a book comedian.

*I have thoughts about Kirkus Reviews, that I’ve not shared, but suffice to say it rubs me funny even though they’ve been around and doing it for a long time.

**I have blogger friends that have become published authors (self and traditional) and I have friends that make decent amounts of money off their blog traffic through advertisement. That being said, many that make money have shifted to move away from book blogging because there are other much more lucrative blog subjects when it comes to advertisement and traffic revenue.

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10 thoughts on “Dear Authors and Book Bloggers”

  1. I don’t know about the email that inspired this post, but I agree with the advice you give. My blog is a hybrid one (books, writing, law), but I do it for fun and not to make any money. I don’t accept anything in exchange for reviews, not even free ARCs (and as a writer, I don’t ask people to read/review my books for the same reason I don’t accept ARCs). That said, I don’t have a problem with others trying to make money through their blogs, but I hope they understand how doing so can impact the quality of their blog as well as their credibility (and I also hope they brush up on the FTC guidelines).

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  2. You had me at, “Seriously, don’t half-ass it.”
    Of course I don’t know the email that sparked this, but it sounds like I’d agree with you. Reminds me of the conversation we had about job applicants. Any professional outreach should be proofread, edited, and personal. I can’t stand gimmicky anything. But I do love a good exclamation point!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You taught me something new. I had no idea there was an official name for an interrobang. I also love a well placed one!
        Checking for too many exclamation points has become a routine part of my personal proofreading process. I tend to overuse them, but I try to recognize it and simmer myself down.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t get the email that you received but it does sound like a badly conceived communication. As you said Geoff it wouldn’t have taken much effort to find out who you are and tailor the email to your interests.. The advice they are getting via yiur feedback is something they should really take note of unless they want to annoy the very market they are targeting.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on The Oddness of Moving Things and commented:

    I’m going to repost this. I recently received a series of emails from yet another ARC amalgamation site/processor who are charging authors to share their reviews. The emails are unprofessional (purple font and just poorly written) and the website is atrocious. I would not pay to have my book on their site. I will say they are honest in what they are trying to do, so not all of this applies, but seriously people come on.

    Like

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