Book bloggers are real readers

Chocolat author Joanne Harris has defended bloggers from claims that they are marketers, not real readers. Irish blogger Margaret Madden spells out their role

Bloggers do it for their love of books. No agendas, no bias and no pay. If  bestselling authors can see the benefit, why can some readers not?

Bloggers do it for their love of books. No agendas, no bias and no pay. If bestselling authors can see the benefit, why can some readers not?

 

On Saturday, February 4th, Chocolat author Joanne Harris started a hashtag on Twitter: #tentweetsaboutbookbloggers highlighted some of the misconceptions that surround the world of book blogging and online reviews.

Recently, there has been a backlash against bloggers in general, but the attitude toward book bloggers has seen some bizarre comments surfacing in Facebook groups.

Some well-known glossy magazines, aimed at middle-class women who take pride in their homes and all they contain, have thousands of members in their online bookclubs and the concept is (in theory) a good one; members share their thoughts about their favourite books, photos of their current reads or ask for recommendations from like-minded readers.

However, things took a nasty turn last week when a member of one of these online bookclubs announced she was leaving the group as there were too many book bloggers posting and not enough “real readers”. There was an almost audible gasp from the online community and it was not long before the replies came back, thick and fast.

Members were quick to point out that book bloggers are in fact readers. They may even be the most qualified to post recommendations (and indeed books to avoid) on the page. There were then plenty of comments from “real readers” which suggested they had no respect for book bloggers as they are being paid to promote certain titles and are in effect just marketers. Despite many bloggers pointing out this was not the case, the “real readers” refused to back down. The usual online banter associated with these bookclub pages was thrown aside and the bullying took on a new level. As much as it was tempting to jump in with gusto, I left the page and opened up an actual book instead.

It was not long before Twitter was ablaze with the hastag #BloggersAreRealPeople. Authors and publishers joined forces with book bloggers in an attempt to dispel the myth that bloggers are paid for their posts. Joanne Harris began her campaign shortly afterwards and the reactions have been overwhelmingly supportive. Her tweets addressed the myths and untruths that we book bloggers/reviewers are constantly battling, unlike print journalists and critics:

With so many people writing reviews, it’s sometimes easy to take book bloggers for granted. Don’t.

When you do a quick search on Amazon or Goodreads to see what people are thinking about a new release, it is mainly book bloggers who have read the book in advance, and left their review and star ratings. The build-up of conversation which you see on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook happens because a book blogger has read the title before publication day.

Book bloggers are avid readers, and are often more passionate about books than professional critics.

Bloggers tend to be extremely well-read, often in a specific genre and can spot an outstanding read very quickly. They are selective about what they review and are not just reading titles because they were handed it by an editor. They are almost like an academic, insofar as they have studied their genres with care and dedication and feel more than qualified to have an opinion. It is also worth noting that dedicated book bloggers rarely blog about anything other than books.

They’re not paid to review. They do it mostly because they enjoy discussing books with like-minded people.

This is the biggest misconception surrounding book bloggers. They do NOT get paid to read and review books or to promote them. They do not get paid. Full stop. Bloggers receive free books (how else are they going to read them before they are in the shops?) and are often invited to book launches or events. Let’s be honest here. Often it ends up costing the book blogger more to attend these events than it would to buy the book in the traditional way. There are travel expenses, food, childcare and sometimes accommodation. All this in return for a glass or two of warm wine and occasionally a cheese stick or a chocolate sweet. The blogger usually buys a finished copy of the book, getting the author to sign it with a personal message. Multiply these events over a 12-month period, and you can see a financial loss. However, the non-monetary rewards are priceless. If you are a genuine book-lover, there is no way on earth you could put a price on spending time in a room full of like-minded people who can end up being some of your dearest friends.

Unlike many professional reviewers, they don’t have an agenda. What you get is a genuine reaction.

There is no agenda with a book blogger. As previously stated, there is no financial gain, no allegiance to one publishing house and reviews are often cross-genre. A print publication often uses the same journalists or critics for a specific genre and it can sometimes lack sincerity or even imply bias. A book blogger is not there to promote their own work, unlike some reviewers who can manage to mention their own books, in a review of someone else’s. NO agenda tends to mean more honesty and less bias.

Book bloggers don’t owe you a review, even if you send them a book. They don’t have time to read everything.

A book blogger gets ridiculously excited when the post arrives. The hashtag #bookpost will show just how many titles they receive per week. Not all of these books have been flagged in advance, some random books arrive unsolicited, and it is physically impossible for a blogger to read up to 30 books per week. We CANNOT read every single book.

They do a terrific (unpaid) job of promoting books and reading.

Promoting books is seen by “real readers” as being a marketing tool that we are paid for. We are not. We do it for the love of books. It is similar to sharing the latest trailer for a movie that will not be released for months yet, or like telling a friend that your favourite band has a new song coming out soon. We also share articles from newspapers, magazines, reviews from other book bloggers and often book-related posts such as upcoming TV or film adaptations. This is a personal touch, not a marketing job.

You won’t always agree with them. You don’t have to. (Polite) discussion is a good thing.

Not all reviews are good. Some book bloggers will only post positive reviews, whilst others will stick to their genuine and honest voice. An author or publisher knows that the book blogger may not like the book they are sending them, but from researching the blogger they can see their preferences and tastes, thus avoiding an obvious mis-match.

Bloggers are not an amorphous mass. They are all individuals. Follow the ones whose style suits you.

Each blogger is a human being, not an algorithm. Most likely they are working full-time, raising a family, studying in third-level education or a blend of all three. Do not just follow the hashtag #bookblogger as we are a diverse bunch. Read some blogs, reviews or even our twitter feeds. Some bloggers are just about sharing each other’s reviews; some are witty and humourous; others tweet about politics and current affairs or share literature based vignettes. You may be surprised at how entertaining bloggers can be.

Anyone who reads is a “real reader”. But bloggers are also real advocates for literacy and diversity. Value them.

If money was no object, would you choose a personal shopper over rooting through the rails in TK Maxx? Would you have lessons with a golf pro to improve your swing? Would you pay a tutor to help your kids get better grades in the subjects they struggle with? The book-blogger is like an unrecognised, unpaid and often overlooked professional. They know their stuff. Like all professions, there are good ones and bad ones. However, they are free of charge and you don’t have the awful job of firing them if they don’t work out. You just move on, quietly, to the one that suits you best. In short, there may be no better qualified “real reader” than a book blogger. They do it for their love of books. That’s it. No agendas, no bias and no pay. If the bestselling authors can see the benefit of book bloggers, why can some readers not?

Margaret Madden blogs as BleachHouseLibrary.ie

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