I try to keep my blogging about blogging at a minimum, but last week I ran into a post from Ashley at A Silver Twig called Book Bloggers Should Charge for Book Reviews that had me typing without reserve. As a former book blogger, Ashley uses her post to explain why she feels we should be charging for our reviews, citing the time and creative energy it takes to read a book, write a review, and produce blog content. While I absolutely agree with Ashley that book blogging can take time and work, I’m not sure that attaching a price point to reviews will highlight the value of book bloggers. Instead, I couldn’t help but notice how her post pointed out common problematic thinking about ARCs and reviews, particularly those Kim was getting at in the post Blogging for Books versus Blogging Because of Books from last year.
“Why are book bloggers working for free? I’ll tell you right now that lifestyle bloggers (like me) don’t work for free. We don’t promote products or companies without being compensated for our time, effort and creative marketing.”
This is not work. This is not a job. I am not assigned a task by a publicist with a due date, nor am I required to promote a product. While I certainly respect everyone involved and feel thankful that I’m able to read well ahead of publication, a book for review is not a contract—something I’m very clear about in my review policy.
Ashley mentions in her post, “They [publishers] expected reviews as well. They always said there was no obligation to read and review the books but there was and if you didn’t you didn’t receive quite as many in the future.” Is there a reason we need to be flooded with more books than we can possibly read? Maybe my refusal to create this false contract is why I’m not receiving boxes full of unsolicited books, but I am receiving books I’m actually interested in. I’m reading what I would otherwise be seeking out and have the freedom to write about the books that best fit my blog without ever feeling like there’s an obligation.
Offering up that time and space for money would take me away from the books I choose to read, and very quickly turn something I enjoy into something I do just to get paid. I don’t frown upon anyone who chooses to blog for money, nor do I frown upon bloggers who post sponsored content (as long as it’s noted as such) or are paid to write for third party sites (which I do). But for those of us blogging for our love of books and the community, significantly altering our reading and writing because someone is willing to pay just doesn’t add up.
Ashley is right in saying that many book bloggers don’t know their worth, but value isn’t found in charging for reviews. The problem is the mindset—the idea that reading and reviewing is assigned work with a specific deadline—that so many bloggers get trapped in. So much of our worth is in our genuine love of books; in seeking out titles and excitedly sharing what we’ve discovered. Instead of devaluing our time by allowing it to be dictated by the demands of a paying author, we should highlight our value by remembering that our blogs are our own spaces, even if we choose to accept ARCs from publishers.