Some Thoughts on Book Twitter

POSTED ON December 6, 2016 BY Austine IN Discussion

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Several times in the last 30 days or so I have contemplated leaving the book community.

Not because of something in my life or anything like that. No, because of the community itself, specifically on Twitter.

(This is going to be a long one so bear with me.)

I came to this online group because I had nowhere else to go when I was younger. I had no friends and everyone thought it was weird that I enjoyed reading. And then I found y’all and suddenly I could fangirl about all the books I loved and learn about new books from people who read different stuff than I do. I loved the diversity of readers. You could like or dislike a book, even a popular one, and that was okay. You could discuss and learn and grow as a person.

For a while, I thought things were going well. Then I took a semi-hiatus in college when my workload got too high and came back this past spring/summer. It took a bit to get back into things especially with the new blog, new media accounts, building that back up again, but when I did I wasn’t as happy about what I saw as I expected.

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ARCs

To start, I learned about this thing called #BooksForTrade on Twitter. It sounded amazing. And then I watched some of the members (not all of them) lust and beg for ARCs. Combined with what I saw people post about in general, I couldn’t believe how coveted they had become. ARCs had become a status symbol. Like you’re a better blogger because you got a certain ARC. People essentially auctioned them off online.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the point of ARCs early reviews? Promoting the author and the book prior to release to get the hype up (as well as pre-orders)? Why are we spending so much time getting nasty about them? I get wanting to re-home ones you’ve already read but the way that they’re used as bargaining chips to get OTHER ARCs is crazy.

Then there are the reviewers that get all upset because they didn’t get an ARC they expected to, or whatever the case may be. Can someone explain to me when we became entitled to ARCs? Because I don’t remember that ever happening…

I’ll be honest. Yes, I collect editions and ARCs for certain authors. Does it make me a better blogger to have those books? No. Do I need them? No. Will I likely ever get them? No. Collecting them is a hobby and I salute everyone else who also collects. But the ones that get upset over ARCs or feel they HAVE to have them, I’m just wondering… wtf?

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Diversity

The ARC-craze has been on my mind since the summer and really bothered me that ARCs have become a currency of sorts, but diversity (in a way) is the main issue that sparked this post and made me hesitant to post anything at all because it’s become such a point of discussion lately.

This isn’t a new topic and I wrote about it back in August but it’s flared up with a vengeance this past month.

Earlier in November, a debut author was attacked for the portrayal of a race of people in her book that suggested a white supremacy theme. More recently another author was called out for the same issues. And in the last day or so, yet another for the depiction of a group of people in their fantasy novel.

First, let me state that I am ALL for pointing out problematic fiction. I think discussion is important and if a book has themes that are questionable or negative toward a group of people then they should be discussed. That’s where I stop.

I’ve seen POCs call out white readers because of a book they read that had problematic elements (not even if they enjoyed it or not, but because they either did or want to read the book). I’ve seen POCs call out POCs because some didn’t find a book problematic. I’ve watched people attack each other over and over again for this idea that fiction needs to be inclusive, that everyone should feel represented in books.

If your book includes “these words” it’s a problem because they may be offensive to one group of people (never mind that those words are that — words — and may have a completely different meaning to other groups of people). If your book includes a race of people that aren’t your own, it’s probably a problem. If your book doesn’t include a race of people not your own, it’s a problem.

This community has become so focused on pointing out what they perceive as bad in literature that all the good has been lost.

I think it’s important to discuss books that may be harmful or offensive so that readers can be informed. But that doesn’t mean attacking the authors over it because that isn’t constructive. “Your book is terrible and you should be ashamed of yourself.” Wouldn’t it be better to educate them on what you found problematic instead of yell at them? How else are they supposed to do a better job in the future?

And now I watch bloggers and booktubers and everyone else in the community apologize for something they said, or something they read and enjoyed, because the mob mentality says that those books are bad and we shouldn’t like them for some of the elements.

We’ve begun censoring not just authors but readers.

I know that I am privileged. Because of how I was born, I have not dealt with the same issues that others have. I understand that and I don’t speak for them or even for other people period. I speak for myself and what I see is that those wonderful discussions have become extreme and full of hate.

What’s worse is that readers are telling other readers what they can and can’t read, or else they’re racist. You’re contributing to the problem. Whatever the reason may be.

Just because someone reads a book doesn’t mean they agree with what’s written. 

Hell, how am I supposed to understand another’s struggles without reading? Y’all who are part of this say we don’t understand, so let us form opinions so we can. I like reading problematic books because I think it’s a way to understand something I’m not familiar with. I don’t necessarily like those books, but yes, I want to read them before stating an opinion.

And you know what I don’t see as much of? People promoting good books, ones they feel represent a group of people or a particular topic well. Yes, there are readers that do, I’m not saying there aren’t. But the good gets pushed aside by the bad.

I’m not trying to make light of other people’s suffering.

What I’m trying to say is that I think the community can do better to be critical without being hateful. 

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What does all this have to do with leaving?

Yes, my original opening statement. Well frankly I’m tired of everything being so negative. We’re book lovers and now we’re bashing authors AND readers. (I’m not talking calling them out, I mean the openly hateful comments.)

I’m an aspiring author and I’m afraid to write anything anymore. Even if I do my best, do the research, do the work that it takes, I’m still a white woman. I’ll still probably make a mistake because I’m human but lately mistakes mean that you’re a terrible person.

I’m a book reviewer but I’m afraid to review certain books if I don’t like them because, even if my issues with them aren’t about race or sexuality — in fact, those have NEVER been reasons why I don’t like a book — I’m afraid that’s what it will come back to.

I’m a reader and I feel pressured to read certain books and ignore others.

Though I may not leave the community completely, I may take a step back from social media (primarily Twitter) for a while and just pop in and out.

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I want to hear your thoughts. Whether you agree or disagree with what I’ve written, I’d love to discuss with you.

I don’t believe that hate is constructive so please be critical in your responses. These are my personal views and do not reflect on this blog or my co-blogger or anyone else. 


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10 responses to “Some Thoughts on Book Twitter

  1. Austine, I love you and love having you as a part of the community. I hope you’ll choose to stay. I have to disagree with you on the diversity section, though. I think it’s really important for people to call out the books that have representation that’s harmful, because the readers who are privileged like us don’t know what’s harmful to others in our community. Sometimes people get a little angry, but it’s usually because their concerns are being dismissed. Honestly, I don’t think it’s okay to call a group based on a real life group of people savages, because of the history of that particular word when it comes to literal legal oppression – which is much of the issue with the books you mentioned being called out (I assume you’re talking about The Continent and Nevernight, specifically.) I know in TC’s case, a lot of emphasis was put on not blaming the author, nor was she specifically called out by anyone that I saw. Perks of twitter, though, is that you can’t always see what’s going on. If you don’t see a lot of people saying “hey, this is great representation,” I highly recommend following some of the people in the #diversebookbloggers tag. I’ve learned a lot of great things through them and their recommendations in the last year. And of course, you’re always welcome to come talk to me about things. I can’t always guarantee I’ll know anything, but I’ll be a listening ear, at least! I’d be happy to continue this discussion via DM as well, if you’d like.
    Ceillie @ CandidCeillie recently posted…Top Ten New Authors to Me in 2016My Profile

    • I appreciate your comment and I do love this community. I may have worded it badly as I do think that books should be called out for harmful content. I think it’s important for readers to know that when forming an opinion going into the book. What I don’t agree with is doing so in a negative and nasty way. Attacking instead of educating. There is some great discussion out there that talks about these problematic books in a constructive way but there is also a lot of hate in the mix. That is the part I don’t think is helping this community.

      Yes, I understand certain words have certain connotations based on history and I don’t think those should be ignored by any means, especially if the word is used in context with a certain fictional race that draws from a real world one. But I’ve also seen a few people mention that words like “savages” shouldn’t be used ever and I find such an extreme censorship a bit limiting when it comes to fiction as it could be applied in other directions. In the cases of books like The Continent and Nevernight, no, I don’t think it should be used. My point is that I think context is important in the usage of such words.

      I’ve actually started following that tag more and yes, there is some great information (and books) on it! And I appreciate your offer! 🙂 Thank you for your views and insight!

      • I would have replied sooner but I didn’t get an email about the reply! Guess I should check to make sure my buttons are clicked. Context is absolutely necessary for words like that, and what I’ve seen a lot of groups ask for is in-text call-outs of words like that, so that un-knowledgeable readers won’t absorb it and think it’s acceptable to use. I don’t think I’ve seen people saying it shouldn’t be used ever, but I’m sure someone’s saying it out there. People tend to go a little overboard online, especially when they feel like they’re being attacked.
        Ceillie recently posted…Top Ten New Authors to Me in 2016My Profile

        • Yes, exactly! I think that’s a really good way to handle it to show that it’s not being accepted as okay in the book. And yes, they do, and this post was mostly directed at those more extreme posts than anything as I’ve seen a few floating around that got some traction. It’s hard to talk online when you have no idea if a person is serious, joking, what their general tone is, etc.

  2. Hey novel knight!
    I totally get where you are coming from. I’m pretty new to the scene and find it very difficult to navigate sometimes. I’m just here to have a good time, make some friends and talk about books but sometimes find that everyone else seems to be on a whole other wavelength and I missed the memo lol. When it comes to the ARCs topic I wholeheartedly agree, I tried to communicate with others on the thread to do a book swap and maybe get some books I’d been excited to read and review, but seeing as I had no ARCs myself quickly found myself ignored so gave up on that! The diversity thing is a difficult one. Being a gay neurodivergent woman i was so happy to see the book community embracing the need to raise up and support margenalised authors and books that handle diverse themes, I’ve recently started my own website which is a platform for amateur diverse authors and spotlights new and existing diverse lit out there, but sometimes I find myself worrying that I’m not highlighting the right books or that I’m helping the wrong authors… But it’s my passion and I’m learning to be confident in my own opinions.
    I hope you remember your love for the community despite its internal issues <3

    • I’ve been around for a while, and am here for similar reasons. ARCs have definitely made their impact, that’s for sure. And I think it’s wonderful that everyone is recognizing problematic books and supporting marginalized authors and diverse reads! I think it’s been needed for some time and am glad that it’s happening (despite some of the not-so-positive side effects).

      Good luck with your website and thank you for stopping by! 🙂

  3. I’m not super active on Twitter, so every time there’s a scandal of some sort, I come to it a week late and am confused by what’s happening, so I usually just let it go.

    I definitely agree with what you wrote here – I understand why careful representation of certain topics is of the utmost importance, but it’s difficult to take EVERYTHING into account. I’m really sensitive to feminist issues, for example, but might miss diversity issues (like you, I’m a privileged white woman).

    But do I need to feel guilty because of what I am? I try to educate myself and be sensitive and all, but like you said, I’m just human. And I agree about the writing part – how do you know people won’t attack you for writing what you love?

    Luckily, I haven’t had bad experience with bloggers yet, though that might be because I tend to avoid weighing in on debates like these.

    Let’s hope 2017 will be more tolerant – critical, yes, but not rude.

    • That’s generally what I do when I come into it late but sometimes I watch it unfold live and it can get pretty aggressive.

      It really is hard to be considerate of every single topic, every single group. You want a book that’s inclusive but it’s hard to include everyone sometimes. We can point out problematic books for what they are but still keep reading, I think, because what’s a problematic book for some people may not be for others.

      It’s hard to know what people will and will not like, I feel. And yes, I haven’t had any bad experiences with bloggers either, for the most part. I’ve remained more of an observer in many of the larger discussions, listening, trying to learn (though sometimes I just have a lot of thoughts to write down like this post).

      I hope so as well. Let’s be critical and constructive with our discussions because I believe that THAT is what we need to strive for.

  4. I definitely agree with you how “book” Twitter has changed. I am barely active on Twitter anymore. It got to the point that when I sat down to catch up on a day’s tweet activity from friends, bloggers, and authors, I wouldn’t last long. The community has changed and people are very greedy. It’s just not fun anymore.

    I definitely have more fun just checking in with friends on Twitter and subscribing to author and blogger websites to keep up. I am just as happy reading my eARCs and minding my own business. ?

    I do have a feeling this wave shall pass and the bookish Twitter community will prevail. There are way too many awesome people out there writing books and amazing bloggers discussing those books for it to fade away or for the bad apples ruin it. I have faith the bad apples will either go away…or more than likely, they’ll grow up. ?

  5. I’ve done much of the same thing, keeping in touch with those friends I’ve made in the community and spending less time in general on the app. And I agree. This will pass in the sense that the negativity will move onward. I think the discussions will remain which is great because that’s what we need. Though I can’t say I believe that the bad apples will “grow up” lol but I generally have a lack of faith in humanity anymore SO…. 😉

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