I often scroll through /r/selfpublish, which is a subreddit for self-published authors. One of the themes that often comes up is book bloggers and the difficulty that self-published authors face when trying to get reviews.
In most cases, authors are usually very understanding of the book blogging community. But in a few cases I’ve seen, authors are much more combative. They complain that book bloggers need to accept reviews from self-published authors because they have a tough time getting their works seen. They complain that we’re asking for too much when we write a review policy or ask them to read it.
The implication behind a lot of these comments is that book bloggers should be doing those things because we have an obligation to support authors.
That’s something I want to explore in this post today. Whether it’s coming from a self-published or traditional author, it’s not a statement I personally agree with.
Everyone blogs for different reasons
It’s true that authors of any background often find it very difficult to get attention for their books. And it’s nice to support authors by reviewing their books or writing about them on your blog. However, I don’t think it’s something that all book bloggers should have to do just because they’re book bloggers.
For me, blogging is a hobby that enables me to express my thoughts about books and connect with the bookish community. I see my book reviews as a record of my thoughts. I hope they’re useful to other readers who aren’t sure about whether to pick up a book or not.
Maybe authors might find value in my reviews, but it’s not something I intend to have happen when I review. I like spreading the word about authors whose work I love but promotion isn’t the goal of my blog. And in reality, there are some authors who I don’t personally support and who I don’t wish to promote, even if only indirectly.
Promotion is often a one-sided relationship
I feel like there’s almost an unspoken expectation by authors and publishers that book bloggers will be there to promote for authors. ARCs are commonly part of the marketing plans for authors, whether self-published or traditional. But those ARCs aren’t really useful if there isn’t anyone on the other end to take them! Yet, there’s always an assumption that someone will pick up an ARC and someone will post a review.
To be fair, many authors and reviewers often defend bookish content creators by emphasizing that we shouldn’t be expected to support any author. Authors are often very appreciative of the support they do get from their readers.
But generally, I think that conversations around the book blogger/author relationship often centre around what we can do to support authors – and not the other way around.
I believe that whether we’re helping self-published or traditional authors, we’re unpaid marketers. And I also believe that our time and happiness is important!
In some cases, I think that the idea that book bloggers must support authors can lead to a slippery slope. It can lead to a situation where a blogger feels pressured by the community, or by an author, to accept an ARC or do more work than they’d otherwise like. It can lead to a situation where a blogger feels pressured to speak positively about an author and a book, even if they don’t feel that same way.
If doing ARC reviews, retweeting book release info, and so on is something you don’t want to do, you shouldn’t feel pressured to do it. If that’s something that you enjoy, go for it! It should be your choice what you want to do, not a choice that stems from the idea that book bloggers are all promoters and all people that must be supportive of authors.
I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are on this. What should the relationship between book bloggers and authors be? Do book bloggers have an obligation to support authors?