Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Book Blogger, Stay in Thy Place
Occasionally, like after an event like Book Expo America, a discussion of blogging for money and "professionalism" breaks out. These conversations have gotten fairly boring and repetitive over the years, but the general gist is that book bloggers don't charge money to publicize books. Some people think we should; some say we shouldn't. And the people who do give voice to making money from their blogs are quickly labeled sellouts.
This is a many-tentacled beast, to be sure, but here are a few reasons why insisting that bloggers remain martyrs to reading--suffering for the cause--is bullshit.
Publishers won't value bloggers until bloggers start insisting that they do have value. However, we have erected a culture of do-gooding and martyrdom, so we will never start charging. Are you seeing the catch-22? We've been The Man's doer of free things for too long. This paragraph makes authors, publicists, editors, and everyone down to the interns sound like assholes because they've "used" us, but that's not entirely true. They're just doing the smart thing from their end. Also, I know we're not really suffering in the name of books. We read because we love it, but we are also free advertising for publishers. Those are the facts. Don't lie to yourself and insist otherwise.
Our community is at once too big and too small to attract sponsorship dollars. We're too "big" because there are too many blogs for any to rocket into the stratosphere with huge followings and gobs of monthly unique views thereby prompting continuous bookish sponsorships. We're also too small because reading is not beauty, or lifestyle, or fashion, or food. The audiences for those, in general, are far bigger. Most people are seeking content on topics that are, frankly, not books. And if we're being really really real, sponsorships are happening on BookTube because the audiences for video are bigger and easily verified as subscriber numbers are public unless creators change their settings.
There seems to be a complete and utter disbelief that people can provide honest opinions if money has changed hands. This is a prolific attitude across content creation niches, but it's a little more militant among the book people. Personally, I think it's silly. Receiving compensation does not automatically render one dishonest. I've known a few people in that category, but I wouldn't assume most book bloggers fall into it.
The up side is that you can still do a lot with your blog professionally. Making some dough on the side from ads is always a good time (it's never much for anyone), you can funnel your content toward a great product (Ashley from NoseGraze is a great model for this), or you can roll your blogging and social media experience into new opportunities that will bring in some supplemental income.
For me personally, in 2011 then-5 years of blogging led to a job in social media which led to a job in PR. It's also helped me professionally in higher education as professors and administrators appreciate people who are doing professional and semi-professional things of their liking outside the classroom that may inform what's happening inside the classroom. Finally, writing leads to writing leads to writing. There's something to be said for letting it all hang out to the world when you want to let it hang out for income later on.
Maybe one day the opportunities open to our sister (and brother) creators on YouTube or other niches will be open to us, but you know what? We won't know until we recognize our value and stop being jerks when bloggers want to try.