Small Community, Big Voice

POSTED ON March 15, 2017 BY Austine IN Discussion

What is our role as book bloggers? BookTubers? Bookstagrammers? 

It’s a question I ask myself more and more lately. What kind of impact do we make on the book world? What is our place? Is our work worth it?

I can only speak about blogging and marginally about bookstagram so my thoughts are more centered around those but blogging is hard. Much harder than just reading books to read. Not only do you read the books but then you’re writing reviews and analyzing them, posting discussions (like this one) about the books or the community or some other related topic. You have to come up with post ideas and think critically about what you’re reading.

Before I started reviewing, I read books for pure entertainment and was far less critical. Far less harsh. Books I loved years ago I’ve re-read and wondered how I could possibly have liked it (looking at you, Divergent).

Now, when I read a book, even for fun, no obligations to post a review, I’m thinking about all the elements. The plot, the characters, the writing, is it a good representation of the cultures and peoples included, etc. Especially that last one, I’m learning about reading books with good rep versus bad, learning to recognize that bad rep so that I can talk about it even though I may not be a part of the group represented. I talk about this briefly in my (very) recent review of The Black Witch. It’s an education that I was sorely in need of and am constantly expanding on.

I mention this because I have been reviewing books for over 6 years now and the reviews have become more critical — both the ones I write myself as well as the ones I’m reading from other bloggers.

We write these thought-out reviews to share with the world and it takes effort. We’re reading books we may not normally read, books that may be harmful and hard to get through, so that others can learn and make their decisions about whether to read a book or not.

No, I don’t know what our impact is on book sales or the general success of marketing. But there are a few things I do know.

  1. Reviewers receive ARCs of books early and post those early reviews before the masses get to read the book themselves. That means that we, as reviewers, are the ones sharing those initial thoughts that might determine whether someone buys a book or not, especially when it comes to debut authors who don’t have an established fan base yet.
  2. Last year, the discussion in this small community ended with a book release being pushed back an entire year. The book was found to contain problematic and harmful elements that were found during early reviews and was sent back for extensive revisions.
  3. We are small, but we have a big voice. Do I think every reader out there reads our reviews or watches the videos or follows in instagram? Absolutely not. Do I still think we make an impact pre-release? Yes.

When I started blogging, I saw myself as just another book lover sharing that passion with the world through my reviews and other posts. Now I feel like it’s also a part of my role as a reviewer to be critical about what I’m reading so that there can be discussion, so that problematic books can be labeled as such and that amazing books can be promoted like no other.

I hear the word “gatekeepers” tossed around in regards to publishing and sometimes I wonder if we aren’t gatekeepers in our own right. I definitely don’t think that reviewers like ourselves have a LOT of power but we do have some. We have a role in this community.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Do you think bloggers/booktubers/bookstagrammers play an important role in the book world?

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5 responses to “Small Community, Big Voice

  1. Without sounding big headed, I think we do play a big part in publishing, but the crucial part is we shouldn’t have to. Publishers can surely afford the correct sensitivity readers to make sure books that are coming out are not racist. It’s not hard, since there are at least 50 people I follow on Twitter who could do that job. Again, not that *they* should have to do that, but since they’re the ones alerting us readers to these issues, they should be paid for their time. There would be no need for all the big blowouts on Book Twitter if publishers just did their damn jobs in the first place. I just don’t get how books can still be published now that are racist? It kinda blows my mind. Hire people who can pick up on this stuff.

    It’s even worse when book bloggers then say, “Well, I’ll make up my own mind.” Because it might not be racist? All these people could be wrong? Are you freaking kidding me?!??! Or, if you want to form your own opinion, go ahead and do that but keep it to yourself, we don’t need your racist views on Twitter, either.

    It all just makes me sad, sad that people are having to fight their corner to not be seen as savages or inferior to white people, or villains, that publishers can’t see the big picture. That all the controversy over The Continent seemed to prove nothing, since Harlequin are doing it again, that it’s about time authors took a step back, and stopped trying so hard to make their books diverse, when they haven’t got a clue what it means, and I like that their are authors and reviewers on Twitter willing to call a racist a racist so I know what books to avoid like the plague. I would always much rather support someone like Angie Thomas than someone who is racist.

    /End rant

  2. I absolutely think that we are gatekeepers, and that we need to be. Book reviews have always been a vital part of the publishing industry for exactly this reason. We should be out there promoting the great stuff and pointing out the terrible stuff. That’s exactly the point of book reviewing.
    Reading has always been an education source for me. I learned so much early on, and even still, through my choice of novels. Why would I include books that would teach me garbage? That doesn’t make any sense. I absolutely don’t want them in the hands of my younger cousins and friends.

  3. I definitely think we play a part. Bloggers provide an inexpensive marketing outlet and it works very well. If a book blogger I know and trust writes a raving review, I’m more likely to pick a book up. Likewise, if a blogger who’s never steered me wrong tells me they didn’t enjoy a book and why, I’m less likely to read that book. We post beautiful pictures, chat on and on about books on social media, and spread the word on our blogs about books that may or may not be released yet. We do all of this for free or, often, at our own expense, meaning the most the publisher/author usually has to spend is the amount included in shipping a physical ARC. So, in short…. yes. The blogging/vlogging/bookstagram community plays an important role in the publishing world.

  4. Awesome discussion Austine! I think bloggers are very important for bringing awareness in the bookish community to problematic books and to give critical feedback to authors on their books which they may not receive as much from readers as they don’t share their opinions directly. Since joining the book blogging community I have found so many amazing reads and learnt to say no to books that have been found to be racist or problematic!

  5. This is something I’ve thought of a lot lately. I haven’t been blogging/reviewing books as long as you – only about 2 years – but I can still feel my reading/reviewing changing. I started a blog because I thought it would be fun (which it is!) but I didn’t know ANYTHING about the community. I went in blind and now I see that our reviews do matter. Even if it’s just to your readers, your readers trust your opinion and will make decisions based on your reviews. That’s a big responsibility to me! I just recently published a discussion about how I want to be a little more critical with my reviews because I was never like that in the past. I never looked at those details that might affect another person because it just wasn’t something I thought I needed to look at. Now I notice all sorts of things when I’m reading and I still have room for improvement and to become more aware of certain things. I agree, we do have a big voice in this small community (which doesn’t feel small because I’m in it every day hah!)

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