When Is A Book Blogger Not A Book Blogger?

This is probably the blog post that I have started to write and delete more than any other. I have to tell you that what I am going to say is not pretty, and to be honest, am probably totally messing up any chance of ever having any proofs ever again, but I can’t sit by and say nothing.

Ready? Deep breath..

Please don’t call yourself a Book Blogger if you don’t read and review books or as has quite rightly been pointed out, if you don’t talk about books or authors on your social media.

Collecting all the books and posting pictures of them is not reviewing them.

I am usually a mild mannered, perfectly likeable 50 year old woman, who came late to book blogging. However, in the three years since I started, there has been an issue that has got me more and more frustrated, and I’m just putting it out there.

There is a whole army of hardworking bloggers out there, who read, review and post about books constantly. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tweet, on goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, your own blog, a podcast, a YouTube video or a witty poem. You have read and reviewed a book and that is all that matters. I am very lucky that some of the Book Blogging community have become my incredibly close friends, and they understand my frustrations and it is with them that I have chatted about not understanding the shift that has happened over the last year or so.

What really got me thinking about this, was a Twitter thread I saw a couple of weeks ago, where a man was saying that he had just finished A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, and wanting to know what people thought, had sought out some book blogger reviews. What I thought was really interesting, was that he found some reviews, which acknowledged how traumatic and challenging the book was, but that he also saw many artfully staged pictures, where the book was used as a prop, a cosy backdrop with a mug of coffee and arranged props, and he questioned if the person curating that picture actually understood what the book was about. That opened up a whole debate as to whether people were really reading and reviewing books, or whether it was more about getting likes for the aesthetic of the post. People were also discussing book bloggers generally, and whether they actually read the books they received, or whether it was a case of just being ‘seen’ with the latest books in order to boost their profiles.

This has been something that has been going round in my mind for a while, and I think as a genuine book blogger, it is always really important to step back and think about what I am doing, and how I am presenting myself to the Bookish Community. I have said it before, and I will say it again, it is so easy to get caught up in believing you NEED the latest releases, when in actual fact to be a Book Blogger all you need to do is pick a book, any book and talk about it – that’s it.

Why am I so agitated that I needed to write a blog post about it? Honestly because I think I don’t understand it. How can you call yourself a book blogger if you don’t review any books?

I know how much effort it takes to post about, read and review books. How annoying it is when you have worked really hard to write a review – then no one acknowledges it. What it feels like when you keep shouting about a book you want everyone to know about, and then worry that the author and publisher will get fed up of seeing you talk about it. How gutting it is to see people receiving a book you wanted to read and review, then never hearing them mention it again. The buzz you get when the author tells you they loved your review, the joy you get when they retweet or quote your review. The fact that sometimes the publisher or publicist you contact will agree to send you the book you ask for – because they know you will genuinely read and review it. The absolute best thing for me is when you have talked about a book, and someone contacts you to tell you that they bought a book you recommended – and loved it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is ask for and collect all the books you want, that’s brilliant that you love books just as much as I do. Fill your boots – take all the pictures you want, and get all the likes you can, and show them off however you want. Just please, for all our sakes, don’t call yourself a Book Blogger – because until you start reading and reviewing those books – I don’t think you can call yourself one.

16 thoughts on “When Is A Book Blogger Not A Book Blogger?

  1. Laurel says:

    Thanks for this. The problem you describe is symptomatic of the whole online book/fiction ecosystem. It is oversaturated with people chasing audience, numbers not individuals. I don’t believe it is healthy for the trade and appreciate your efforts to be professional in your work. Would you like to review #the Draftsman? It may not be your cup of tea but if you want a copy, please let me know and I can arrange it. Keep up the good work!

    Like

  2. Melanie’s reads says:

    I’ve noticed the changes and I feel the same. If it’s down to taking photos I’m screwed as I’m the one who always cuts the heads off. Unfortunately some publishers want numbers and the prettier the post the more numbers they get. I struggle with numbers but I’m happy to carry on as I am as I prefer substance over style x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Linda Hill says:

    Ha! I’ve just started on Instagram and haven’t a clue what I’m doing so your post has given me a really positive boost as I thought I was failing by linking to my reviews and blog features and not producing a photoshopped image.
    I spend a very long time on my blog posts and try to do a book the best service I can. That said, I also receive books I’ll never get round to reading so I think it’s best to bring them to others’ attention on as many platforms as I can, including Instagram. I have, on occasion, refused books only to be told that I’m being sent one anyway because they know I’ll tweet about it and that will give it exposure.
    I do agree though – there seems to be an entitlement culture of everyone expecting ‘free’ books because others seem to be receiving them and then never doing anything with them.
    An awful lot of time and effort goes into a book’s birth. That deserves full recognition – not just a photo, but even that can help x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. annecater says:

    You know how much I love you!

    I really think people should stick to one main platform. I love Twitter, it’s my best place to chat about books. Facebook is great, but groups are exclusive, whilst Twitter is not. You say it on Twitter, and people see it.

    I do have Instagram, and I’ll post a picture of a book now and again, I’m not great on a mobile, I much prefer the laptop, so I don’t post my review on Insta.

    Working with publishers; I see both sides. A good instagrammer will get lots of views for the book. What I object to, are the people who call themselves ‘reviewers’, rather than ‘bloggers’, After all, if you own a blog, you are a blogger, we can’t alter that. No, it’s the so called reviewers who grab that annoy the hell out of me.

    I am also sick to the back teeth of the moany bloggers. The ones who vaguely Tweet about how badly they are treated, they want people to ask ‘what happened’ so that they can bitch. I know when someone is talking about me, even if it’s vague. Those people annoy me. I don’t tell the world that they haven’t posted on nine blog tours, yet had the book, or that their ‘review’ quite clearly shows that they didn’t read the book.

    I think I may be coming to end of my blogging life and you know what? I will go out with a bang. I will NOT hold back
    A x

    Liked by 5 people

    • BookerTalk says:

      Really appreciate your perspective Anne given you talk both as a blogger and someone involved in the promotion side. Focusing on one platform is very sound advice and is what many of the blogging “experts” recommend. Like you I’m not a great user of Instagram because I find it frustrating to have to type on my mobile so tend to keep the word count very low. Plus I don’t see how Instagram presence leads to any more traffic to my blog which is where I really put my effort.

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  5. Carla says:

    This is a great post. I try and review all books that I read. I am not eloquent, so my reviews are not the greatest, but I say what I like, how I felt etc. I agree, just to post a picture is not a review for sure. I have instagram and twitter, but they are not my platforms, I am not comfortable with them. I am not worried about my numbers, but it sure feels good when someone comments that they are getting the book and when they post their reviews, I am thrilled.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. janetemson says:

    There’s a great deal of difference between reviewing a book and just asking for a copy of each and every proof going because it’s seen as some kind of symbol or because it’s “free”. That’s blagging not blogging. Yes, we all receive far more books than we can get through but there’s a difference between being sent a book unsolicited and jumping onto every publisher tweet or book post tweet asking for a copy. And it can seem like a little slight if you’ve not got a copy of a book everyone else seems to have, especially if you loved and raved about a previous book by that author. But then I tell myself I’m not entitled to any book. The ones I do get are a privilege and the ones I don’t are there to be bought or borrowed for years to come.
    A photo will show you what the book looks like. It won’t tell you what the reader thought of the book, of the emotions it generated unless there are some thoughts that go along with that, be it a tweet, a blog post or an Instagram post. Besides, I’m rubbish at making pretty pictures, it looks like I’ve dumped a book on a pile of washing or unmade bed, with dirty pots instead of an attractive looking latte!

    Liked by 7 people

  7. MarinaSofia says:

    Hear, hear! Very much in agreement with you and with Janet in the comments. I have felt the pressure to ask for a book that everyone is talking about or an author that I love, even though I couldn’t possibly humanly find the time to read and review it at present. I take (largely rubbish) pictures of when the books arrive, but the reviewing might take… months or (shock, horror) in some cases years. I will always get around to it in the end, but I am clearly too greedy for my own good. Or else too unrealistic about the amount of time it takes to review something.
    But maybe publishers are OK with just a mention on Instagram or a pretty picture, if that gets sufficient likes…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. DistractedFlick says:

    Such a great post Clare, it’s very interesting to hear how things are changing. I don’t use Instagram anymore, and I’ve never used it for books so I’m completely out of that loop. I do sometimes wonder how folk have time to review every single proof they request and I guess the answer is they don’t. Really love this, and Anne abs Janet makes some great points too!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Claire 'Word by Word' says:

    I write about what I’m reading, mostly off my shelf and love chatting about it with others and supporting their reading/writing efforts, but I really feel no emotion whatsoever towards those who take pretty pictures and get likes. My blog and the genuine relationships it has facilitated really sustains me.

    I’m off the grid because of not living in the right territory, which helps to release all expectations and obligations, reminding me to stay in my own lane and to be grateful for it. If people buy books like collectors item to photograph, that is still good for the author I guess, however readers soon know who they can trust.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Helen Williams says:

    I’m not a blogger at all, but really empathise with what you are saying. As a reader of blogs, I love the considered reviews you, and others post about books you have read – if you love a book, chances are I will too! Blogs that simply list a bunch of books are annoying – but what was it like, you hear me cry! Just posting photos, with no review or anything else drives me demented. No way is that proper book blogging.

    Like

  11. Annabel (AnnaBookBel) says:

    I am behind you totally on this. Overly staged pictures without write-ups make me irritated too. I don’t have time to do that and go to work, write my blog and run Shiny New Books, as well as manage my profile on other multiple multiple platforms and take pretty pictures. I often take days to write my blog posts, sorting out my feelings about the books I have read as well as summarising them. Blog posts that simply cut and paste the blurb and author bio with only a couple of sentences of ‘review’ also irritate me. I do think it is a symptom of my age though, I like a good read in a blog post. There weren’t lifestyle bloggers and bookstagrammers even a few years ago really. It’s the ‘influencer’ tag that really gets my goat though – hate it!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. BookerTalk says:

    Kudos to you for highlighting this. I too get frustrated with “bloggers” who simply copy the publishers blurb, add an extract and a picture and call that a review. They blog every day usually so their site looks very active and they get higher traffic as a result which they then use to get ARCs. I suppose some publishers are happy with that since it means the book is at least getting mentioned but from an author point of view, wouldn’t they be happier with a genuine review showing the person has actually read the book? It’s irritating because I spend hours writing my reviews, wanting to give a balanced perspective and some insight.

    As for Instagram, I have an account but hardly use it because I have no interest in just sharing staged photos with props etc. I’ve seen some IG users complain about how much it costs them to blog/IG because they have to buy props. Unbelievable! No-one needs these arty photos – they don’t tell me a thing about the book which is all I’m interested in.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Davida Chazan says:

    Yes, I have found this as well, and it does bother me. There was one blog where the person only put up the summary of the book, and never any review or opinion. I stopped following that one! As for the artistic pictures, that’s something I dislike about Instagram – people try to be arty but the presentation doesn’t always match the book. I try to make mine fit the subject matter.

    Like

  14. Jonetta (Ejaygirl) | Blue Mood Café says:

    In the past year, I’ve looked around and wondered where a lot of my book blogger friends have gone. After some research, I realize that many have flocked to Instagram, opting to post the pretty pics of the book rather than engage on their blog platforms. I review every book I read, new and older. My reason for blogging was to talk about books in a meaningful way. After three years, I’m considering quitting because I have no interest in joining the flight to Instagram. I have enough books to read that I already own or could be sourced by my library.

    Thanks for a thoughtful message. I thought I was alone in my isolation.

    Like

  15. nickimags @ Secret Library Book Blog says:

    A brilliant post Clare thanks for voices your concerns. I know a few bloggers moved to Instagram because they find it easier to post reviews and there’s no formatting and etc to do, but I find Instagram a bit boring at times as it’s just photos . I love taking photos but it just gets so monotonous and it’s too easy to just scroll past posts without really reading them. I love my blog and the whole book community around blogging and prefer it Instagram as I know it’s not being controlled by an algorithm or advertisers or indeed Facebook. I think the publishers have a lot to answer for if they’re just interested in images and stats, instead of reviewers and maybe they’ll realise this in the future. Who knows!?

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