A recent blog post from an author I follow sent me to another blog written by yet another author. In her post she was complaining about bloggers behaving badly, at least in her opinion, and upset at “bloggers swindling her.” That’s what she calls it when a blogger “promises” a review of her book and the review isn’t forthcoming. In a follow up post she provides a short list of bloggers who have “swindled” her.
This is only the latest in a growing trend I’ve seen in the indie publishing world that I find disconcerting. This trend is calling people out in public (it doesn’t get much more public than the internet) for perceived wrongs. You can find threads in the Amazon forums for outing authors alleged to have behaved badly and reviewers who are supposed to have done the same. There are numerous lists and shelves on Goodreads for those badly behaving authors. One of the latest is a site devoted to “Goodreads Bullys,” (which “fights back” against readers accused of writing vindictive reviews on the popular reader review site by posting personal information about them). The Huffington Post has had at least three separate articles about this site.
I’m not going to comment on most of these other than to say that some of the problems being addressed may be legitimate (others, maybe not), but that the solutions are often at least as bad as the problems they’re trying to address. At least that’s my opinion. (My cohorts at Indies Unlimited will probably want to distance themselves from my opinons.) But I do have some thoughts about the post complaining about blogger follow through, both for book bloggers (as well as anyone thinking about starting a book review blog) and for authors.
First, for my fellow bloggers, while I disagree with much of the post, not all of her points lack merit. One is that while she is really stretching to call a typical (or even atypical) review blog a business, showing a minimal level of professionalism isn’t unreasonable. Most important, make sure your submissions process sets reasonable expectations for authors and be careful about over committing.
For authors, I know many of you appreciate the service provided by review blogs, however, if you view the situation the same way this author does, you’re going to be disappointed. A typical review blog is more like a small volunteer organization than a business, usually with a single volunteer. What little income most receive (probably from being an Amazon affiliate) is unlikely to be enough to fill their car with gas once a month. Very little of that income comes from purchases of your book, but from the breast pump or marital aid a reader decides to purchase after clicking through to your book listing. While there are “professional bloggers” who make a living from their blogs and related pursuits, these aren’t bloggers who regularly review books from indie authors. Any blogger who starts a book review blog with any financial goals on his or her list of reasons for doing so, is going to be disappointed and won’t be around for long.
As with any volunteer organization, volunteers sometimes have to back out of their commitments. If the boss at their paying job needs overtime this week, they have a family emergency, or they just need a break to recharge their batteries, their volunteer work will suffer. It’s basic prioritization, and everyone, not just bloggers, sometimes can’t accomplish something they planned on doing.
In the year and a half since starting my blog, I’ve posted more than three hundred reviews. To say each one is time consuming would be an understatement. It takes several hours to read most books, writing a review consumes much more time than people who haven’t done it would guess, and all the other activities to keep a website going are an unbelievable time sink. No reviewer is going to do this for any amount of time for the chance to “swindle” an author out of a copy of their book.
Since I’m objecting to the reaction of one author, it seems fair that I offer suggestions for how I think she, or any author who feels the same, should approach this situation. First, do your homework. Before submitting your book or sending a query to a review, read some of their reviews. Follow the submission policy. Make sure you know what they appear to be committing to do. Make sure they are actively reviewing. See that this site isn’t one that mostly does hit pieces – there are some of those out there and your book is not going to be the exception. A little homework will help insulate you from the less reliable. If you are sending ebooks (which I’m assuming the author of the post in question does, since she doesn’t appear to have paper books available on Amazon), don’t look at this as an expense. It cost you nothing. It didn’t cost you a sale. Last, for the author of the complaining post, I’m sorry some of my fellow bloggers dropped the ball, but please, whatever you do, don’t send me your books.