inBlogs: Trouble in Book Blogger Paradise?
Did you read Jody Gehrman’s first installment about the rising power of book bloggers?
The rise of self-publishing—increasingly labeled with the scrappier, less stigmatized moniker “indie publishing”—has been touted as a true game changer. Hordes of aspiring authors are more optimistic than ever about making a living selling their books online. While many of these authors generate little revenue, the dream of becoming a bestseller—in theory, anyway—seems more attainable than ever.
There’s a spirit of revolution in the air, and in this new publishing landscape, book bloggers have become the town criers. While traditional book review publications become scarcer every day, book bloggers are multiplying rapidly. Indie writers willing to do outreach find a much warmer reception on blogs than they can ever hope to receive from traditional review outlets. While many bloggers, especially those with great content, get swamped with requests, there are always brand new bloggers popping up who are eager for Advance Review Copies (ARCs). Most are also enthusiastic about conducting author interviews, featuring guest posts, and hosting giveaways. The vast majority of bloggers are passionate about discovering new literary voices and creating buzz for under-recognized books. For indie authors, this tribe of book lovers is like a built-in marketing team hitting the streets by the thousands.
For anyone seeking a more expansive, in-depth conversation about books, this shift in the industry is exhilarating. But book blogging also comes with its share of controversy. In particular, accusations of book bloggers taking advantage of free books at the most recent American Library Association and Book Expo conventions prompted an ongoing discussion about ARCs and their role in the blogging community. In a twitter-based debate referred to as #ARCGate, librarians and book bloggers accused one another of snatching up ARCs greedily, displaying a lack of professionalism that made their respective communities look bad. The discussion included a Publisher’s Weekly article on the topic and countless bloggers expressed their views via posts and comments.
Further controversy has been generated by the questionable ethics of reviews for hire. The vast majority of book bloggers do not receive compensation for reviews and state this categorically on their policy pages. When author Michelle Gorman posted the following on her blog, it prompted considerable debate: “A book review blog offered me a ‘favorable/good or even excellent review’ in exchange for $95. I said no, thanks, and when I exposed their practices, they threatened to sue me and ruin my reputation amongst reviewers.” Scores of bloggers posted comments in support of Gorman’s skepticism about the practice, many expressing outrage. One comment reads: “As a book review blogger, I was really shocked to read this. Surely this turns a legitimate review site into just a collection of advertorials?” Nearly every comment expressed similar outrage.
Despite these controversies, overall the future of book blogging looks bright. Most bloggers channel their enthusiasm for reading into heartfelt reviews. Since book marketing has always been driven by word-of-mouth buzz, there is no substitute for a sincere bibliophile’s passionate endorsement.