I am a book blogger.
Pssh, no, really? Would NEVER have guessed that.
Well, with blogging comes certain… expectations. It didn’t used to. I started out in 2011 and the only books I reviewed were ones I owned or borrowed from the library. After the first year, I would receive review requests here and there for primarily indie titles, some traditionally published, but mostly I still read and reviewed and promoted books I bought. There was no expectation to read the latest releases or review ARCs. At least, not like there is now.
Before any of y’all comment that you think I’m terribly wrong for saying that or anything else I mention in this post, please keep in mind this is my opinion, not me stating a fact. Agree or disagree all you want but I’m not lecturing here.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
For a time, bloggers who received ARCs were like the “best of the best,” at least from my perspective. They were such good bloggers that people wanted to send them books to promote. How cool is that?! As a newer blogger, I aspired to that level of greatness.
Jump ahead a few years and we’re to present day. ARCs are pretty widely distributed. We have ARC trading now. No longer is it strange to receive ARCs as a blogger. NOW it’s all about WHICH ARCs you have, and even whether you have a print or electronic version. The status symbol has changed but, with it, the expectations I feel as a blogger have too.
To keep up with everyone else, to be relevant, you have to review the newest books and be on top of your book news game. You’re not JUST a blogger anymore. You’re a social media manager, a reviewer, a book pusher. And when it comes down to it, why are you doing all those things?
I love blogging. If I didn’t I wouldn’t continue doing it. But what are we putting in all that work for?
Frankly, I don’t have an answer for you. I’ve been questioning this myself. Why do I request books? Why do I prioritize ARCs above all other books? Why do I even care? What’s the point?
I see the blogging community as competitive, always attempting to stand out whether you realize it or not. Always trying to reach the next goal, trying to figure out what it will take to get that book you really want. And at the end of the day, it leaves me an unhappy and stressed blogger. But I keep doing it.
So what is that driving force?
Recently, I polled the book community and asked what they thought was a “good” blogger as well as what kinds of expectations they think bloggers deal with (from the community, the industry, themselves, and so on). These responses were completely open-ended, voluntary, and anonymous. I wanted to share a few of the responses with you that captured the general consensus submitted:
What is a “Good” Book Blogger
I think as long as you’re blogging honestly about books, you’re a “good” book blogger. Beyond that, everyone has different preferences for what they like or dislike and I don’t think there’s a “right” answer. For example, I personally don’t like to read (or publish) promo posts or blitzes. But that doesn’t mean people who do post those things are “bad” bloggers.
1) Interaction. I love seeing bloggers that take the time to comment back, actually view other people’s posts, comment on their posts, reply, etc. I think that people who maintain great interaction with viewers, other bloggers, and authors is a great blogger.
2) Great, well-thought posts with pictures. Timed every few days but not frequently, or timed on specific days of the week. Professionalism and thoughtfulness is key.
3) A pleasing web design. Not just something that looks like it started yesterday. Something that looks like it’s been there for a while. I want a blog that makes me want to surf the page more!
I think what makes a good book blogger is quality content (original, discussions, etc), interacting with followers and replying to comments and having a distinct style.
When they actually read and write reviews. I’ve seen quite a number that seem to only “collect” books, getting so many per month, but only read and review 1 or 2. What’s the point? To anyone reading the blog or looking at their pictures, it comes across as a very passionless way to just get free books, and I prefer blogs/bloggers who actually take the time to read what they’re sent and write a thoughtful review. “I liked it because of x, y, z” sucks.
A good book blogger, to me, is someone who genuinely enjoys the craft and will blog about whatever makes them happy — not just for or about ARCs. A good book blogger is someone who loves the community and does it because they enjoy it, not just for free stuff.
A good book blogger is someone who is completely open and honest about what they read and their views on it. I think personality is important to make a book blogger successful.
On Blogger Expectations
Of course. There’s an expectation for the blogger to always be correct in their book choices (problematic vs not, for example) and then their own expectations are to gain a certain amount of followers/notes, etc
Always reading the latest releases, and posting regularly. There’s a lot of focus on taking good photographs too which, while pretty, doesn’t really add much to the community. But I think a lot of the most popular book bloggers are the ones with good photography skills on tumblr and instagram, while the less popular ones are the ones that don’t post many photos
Absolutely, it seems like every blog has author reviews and ARC reviews. I think it gives this image that EVERYONE is in contact with all the authors and are so big they get all the ARCs, but that’s not true. Honestly, the only thing I expect people to do is actually post on their platform. Other than that, hopefully they do it for themselves (I know that’s an ever uphill battle); do it for your writing and personal growth; do it because you like it. Hopefully that’s all anyone expects.
I think we get focused on numbers to meet (books to read, festivals to attend, free ARCS received, etc) and it’s a false indicator.
I think there is too much pressure to be popular. YA bloggers in particular seem to be on a non-stop battle for popularity. That on itself makes blogger over do the effort and can easily burn them out.
There are definitely expectations about being successful. There’s always another milestone to reach (followers, followers on Twitter, pageviews, x # of arcs, contacts at publishers, etc). There’s always someone else who has been doing this longer who seems to know everything; there’s always someone else who has been doing this for a SHORTER amount of time who seems to be “rocketing up the blogger ranks”. It can be incredibly frustrating because sometimes it feels like you’re doing all the work but not getting half of the attention being a blogger used to get. I think it’s just a matter of the community growing larger…. which makes you feel even more like you’re floundering in a crowd, unable to stand out. Most of this pressure is definitely internal. I know I put way more pressure on myself than anyone else places on me, and I expect other bloggers feel the same way.
It was interesting, for me, after reading all the responses to my poll about these two subjects. What people considered “good” blogging conflicted with the expectations that we feel we have to meet. It makes me wonder if maybe we need to shift the focus as individuals, and even as a community, but I’m just one person with some thoughts.
And I’d like to hear yours! What do you think makes a “good” book blogger? Do you feel like you have to meet certain expectations set by yourself or the community? Thoughts on this post?