What is free marketing worth to you?

Warning – Long rant ahead!

I normally don’t feed fuel to Internet Drama, but I’ve had just a bad enough run of luck over the last two weeks that I can’t let this go unremarked.  Spending a weekend taking care of your sick dog, and then spending the next weekend sitting by your boyfriend’s hospital bed after a medical emergency landed him in ICU will shorten your patience, so here goes.

There have been a couple of internet “incidences,” I’ll call them, over the past few weeks, that have really gotten my craw.  I will address them and then leave the floor open for comments.  
First up is the no bad reviews fear that is swirling around the blogsphere.  This happened because some agents said that they would not represent aspiring authors if they have ever posted negative reviews of their clients’ books on their book review blogs.  Aspiring authors all over the internet suddenly began closing their blogs.  Or changing how they rate and review books.  Or going on hiatus. 

Now, I’m not about to change how I run my blog because I am afraid that some agent in the future is going to ostracize me because of reviews I have written in the past.  I would  hope that the agent I submit my work to would be enough of a business person to not let a few reviews they didn’t agree with get in the way of  making some money for themselves.  Not being open to signing the “next big thing” because of something an unpublished author posted on their book review blog doesn’t seem very intelligent to me, and I would hope that an agent would be savvier than that.  I don’t see what a review, written in the past, has anything to do with an author’s future selling power or marketability.  The logic defies my comprehension.  I guess that at this point, if I ever did decide to pursue a career as an author, I would submit my work under a pseudonym before throwing  my bait in the water.  I can certainly understand published authors refraining from writing reviews of any kind, but at that stage of the game, there is a whole different level of accountability for what you say and do. 

I also disagree that negative book reviews are a bad thing and have no place on book blogs.  I have purchased many books after reading an intelligently written review that isn’t favorable to a title.  Some aspects of the plot or the writing style may not appeal to the reviewer, but they may appeal to me, so I will still give the book a go.  Now, if everyone is in agreement that a book is just not enjoyable, that’s a different story, and it doesn’t matter how many bad reviews it has gotten. If a book is that universally unappealing, odds are that I will cross that off of my list of books to spend time with.

Next up is the sudden animosity that certain authors seem to be directing at bloggers.  I missed the #YAlitchat on Twitter that got this going, so I don’t know all of the background, but I did get to witness one misguided author vent her frustrations, very publicly, against two book blogs because she disagreed with their reviews of her book.  She then edited her post so it didn’t look so inflammatory, and then deleted all of the comments.  Unfortunately, those actions won’t make the mess go away, because there are cached versions of it all over the place.  Anyhoo….

Let me share with you why I blog.  It’s not to get free books, which I do receive, and I am always overwhelmed by publisher generosity when they provide me with review copies.  I don’t do this for swag (I don’t get any of that!), and I certainly don’t do this for the pay, because the pay sucks.  It is hard to exchange a free book for a loaf of bread or a package of ramen noodles, even.

I have always been a reader.  It’s what I do.  Some people watch TV, others play video games – I read.  I read more books in one week than most people read in their entire lives.  Over five years ago, I decided to try blogging, just so I could share my enthusiasm for books with others.  That’s why all of this started, and after all of these years, I can’t imagine NOT blogging.  What would I do with my free time??

Some authors don’t feel that bloggers are helping to sell their books.  That may be true, but I don’t buy into it.  When I post reviews and covers, other readers leave comments on my blog about how much they want to read those books.  They order them.  They add them to their wishlists.  They check them out of the library.  My mom will even call me, full of excitement, because she discovered a new author to love because of my blog.  In the past, she wouldn’t have considered reading YA books; now she is consuming as many titles as she can get her hands on.

I work 60 hours a week.  I also have a family and pets that I enjoy spending time with.  My free time is very precious to me, and if I spend it with a book, I want to enjoy that time.  I can’t ever get it back.  There are so many books out there (and there are other ways to spend my free time, too!), but there is only so much time to read them all.  Believe me when I say I make an honest effort to read everything that I get.  I just don’t have time, though, because I have yet to win the lottery.

Now here is what I don’t understand, so maybe one of the authors in the “bloggers don’t help sell my books” camp can comment here.  I post about 7 reviews a week, and I also chat about upcoming releases that I want to read.  I interview authors.  I have contests, most of which I pay for myself.  What part of my free marketing of your titles doesn’t help you, or get the cover and title of your book out there?  Are my efforts really that worthless to you? 

Blogging is a lot of work.  It’s also occasionally stressful, especially when a publisher provides a review copy to me.  I have a commitment to get a review up there quickly, even given the constraints on my free time.  But you know what?  I still love doing this, years after I started.  You know what else?  Ultimately, I am a reader, and even if I didn’t receive review books, I would still read and blog about books.  I would get them from the library or purchase them.  I currently visit the library several days a week, and I still place orders with Amazon.  I would still write reviews.  I would still share how I feel about books and covers online, on Twitter, on GoodReads.

The bottom line is this – book bloggers are still book buyers, and they are still book readers, and they are still your target market.  It is very discouraging to think that the publishing industry, and some authors in particular, think so little of what book bloggers do.

6 thoughts on “What is free marketing worth to you?

  • February 12, 2011 at 9:19 am

    This is nonsense. Bloggers only in it for free books? Perhaps there are some bloggers like that, but generalize us into one category is – pardon my word – plain dumb. I’m an international blogger and we all know how hard international blogger gets review copy (printed) from publisher, the best we could get is ebook and it’s only around 10% of all the books I’ve reviewed and it’s less than 1% of all book I have! Sometimes we held giveaway from Amazon and Book Depository, what’s that if we’re not selling books? We pay with our own money.
    Although personally I don’t care whether I sell book or not. The decision whether they want to buy the book I reviewed is up to the readers. I have no obligation to author nor publisher to help them selling books. If a publisher or author asking my help by reviewing their book, and I’m interested, I would do that for free as long as they willing to accept whatever the review might be.
    About bad reviews, what’s now? We’re dictated only to write good reviews? We’re no longer free to express our opinion? WTF??? I will write whatever I want to write because it’s my blog, regardless what the authors or publisher might do to me. I had enough with censorship.

  • February 12, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Amen and very well said. I really don’t understand the negativity. We’re readers, we’re book buyers, and we DO get the word out–some far-spread, some just close circles of other readers–but out there. Once authors and agents realize what publishers already do (since they send us books for review and use quotes from blogger reviews to promote those books), maybe things will get less contentious. We can always hope, right?
    The Book Swarm

  • February 12, 2011 at 11:33 am

    I read reviews from book bloggers all the time. I visit many, many blog each day to read what others have to say about books I may have never heard of. I buy books after reading reviews all the time. Sometimes a few bloggers will say a certain book was great and I’ll get it and it’s not to my liking or I’ll read a few reviews for a book that they didn’t really care for but it sounds good to me so I’ll give it a try and I’ll like it.

    Sure I’ll take what others who have read the book have to say, but if it looks good to me, I’ll still get it.

    So for anyone to say you book bloggers are bad for their books is kinda ridiculous, because I know for a fact that a lot of us who read all of the reviews you guys write will go buy the book or look up the author and see what other books they have. So I don’t understand the negativity when all the reviews are promoting the books, even the less than 5 star reviews.

  • February 12, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Nice article on this! I agree– I blog because I like
    recommending books to friends and strangers. Arc’s are a perk (of
    which I have not actually received many via my blog), but not the
    be all end all of WHY I blog. I hadn’t heard of the first incident
    you mentioned in your post (re: agent)! I don’t think book bloggers
    get any joy out of writing negative reviews on books because if
    they’re anything like me, it makes the review 10 times harder to
    write! And if a negative review is all I can give a book, I usually
    assume that readers, authors, publishers, and agents understand
    that reading is such a subjective thing that in the long run my
    review isn’t going to stop anyone from buying the title if they
    truly want to read it. Were I an aspiring writer and read the
    article you mentioned, I would actually rebel and NOT put my blog
    on hold. The world is changing with people being able to self pub
    easier with e-books and e-readers. Who knows how the book world
    will work in 10 or 15 years! Anywho, great post! (And I hope your
    boyfriend and dog are okay!)

  • February 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    I don’t understand why an author would say that book
    bloggers don’t help with book sales. If I didn’t read blogs, I
    would have never thought to read and buy half of the books that I
    own. If I were an author, any publicity is good publicity. If an
    agent were to accept an unpublished work then turn around and say
    “Well, I can’t represent you because of your negative review of
    blah.” that’s foolish. Now, perhaps if it was a client they
    represented, maybe, but as an author I’d like to think that you
    would query an agent whose clients’ books you didn’t like. At any
    rate, I agree with your rant whole heartedly. Sometimes people take
    the fun out of doing things when they try to dictate what can and
    cannot be done. I’ve stopped doing so many things when they started
    putting unnecessary regulations on things. (or maybe I just don’t
    like rules.)

  • February 13, 2011 at 12:12 am

    I agree with you 110% on all of this.

    About the author, I didn’t catch the chat so I have no idea who said author or said bloggers are. All I know is that it’s someone’s opinion if they don’t like your stuff and you are gonna have to get over that.

    About blogging, I know for a fact that people listen. I run a blog like you do and my friends (and followers) tell me that they checked out this book and loved it because they heard about it on my blog. Book bloggers do help with publicity. And like you and everyone else said, we still buy the books. It’s a win-win for authors and publishers!

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