Doing it for the love of it: the life of the unpaid Book Blogger

Kate Ward e1446920677674

This is a guest post by Book Blogger, Kate Ward. Kate’s a keen supporter of literacy projects and firmly believes that reading of any sort should be available to the masses, no matter the genre or medium. Determined not to pigeon-hole her site, If These Books Could Talk, Kate covers and reviews everything she possibly can and will always thump the tub for independent authors and publishers.

A few years ago, after a long stint of home study, taken over by enormous chunky text books, I made a vow to myself to get back into reading for pleasure – something I’ve been doing since I was a young’un. Then, I discovered Goodreads, and the ability to share my thoughts on what I was regularly devouring. Early on I was messaged by a ‘friend’ who told me they liked what I was writing and the idea of a blog pinged into my head, so off to Blogger I went. Armed with minimal knowledge, but a truck-full of stubbornness and determination, I set up my page. Then altered it, several times…. It was a great way to air my thoughts as an independent voice, away from the bustle of a huge site like Goodreads (and that was in it’s pre-Amazon days – the noise is even worse now).

After about six months of joining in with ‘blog hops’ and trying to garner new followers and readers, I realised that just reviewing what I was borrowing from the library, or my own collection, wasn’t going to cut it. And that’s when I discovered NetGalley, then Edelweiss. Floodgates didn’t so much open, but exploded – all over my ereader. Over-enthusiasm for ARC requesting followed (and if you haven’t done the same, you’re fibbing) and then I realised that Blogger just wasn’t cutting it. I’d have to go self-hosting via WordPress, utilise all the tools at my fingertips and go bigger.

It’s been eighteen months since If These Books Could Talk was born. Since then, I’ve built up relationships with publishers and authors that I never imagined, got my first press pass, and not a week goes by when I’m not contacted for a campaign to launch a new book or author.

But it’s not easy

Doing this, takes time. A lot of time. And not all of the publishing world is aware of this.

Most book bloggers are fanatical about their schedules, myself included, but there are times when that email from one of the big publishing houses will pop into your inbox, asking if you can read and review a new title, and of course you say yes – you’re not mad. And you shuffle your calendar around, move that review, scrap that idea, put that book a few places further down your ‘to be read’ list. Because, unlike ARCs requested through NetGalley or Edelweiss, these titles have often got such short turnaround times between saying ‘yes’ and the review’s required publication date, that everything else goes out the window. Including sleep. Many a night I’ve sat up trying to get a novel finished to reach deadlines. It’s not perfect, no, but not being a speed-reader, and as a copious note-taker, I get involved in everything I read. It’s also essential as a lot of the time I’ve also got Q&A sessions with authors, so extra time is spent drafting questions and getting them out in time.

Then there’s the time it takes to draft a decent looking review. Unless you’re lucky enough to have taken a course in HTML, or have a pet monkey to do it for you, then there will be something that goes wrong, or doesn’t look right and we have to sort it ourselves. And it doesn’t end with writing the copy – there’s the author bio, the purchasing links (making sure you use the correct affiliate links as you’d hate to lose the chance of 4p per copy sold) and, when all that’s done, you still have to hit up every possible social media site.

All. Of. Them. Even Google+. At least three times a day.

And what does the blogger get in return?

If they’re really lucky and it’s a fab author or publishing team, you get a few ‘thank yous’, a retweet or two, maybe a follow. That’s if you’re lucky. Sometimes it’s a cursory single retweet, and off to oblivion you go. Yes, it’s a busy, loud, and pushy world out there on the internet, and there’s a lot of books, and a lot of bloggers. But boy is it disheartening when weeks of work goes by with nary a mention.

Often I’ve heard ‘But you get free books…stop moaning!’ thrown at book bloggers. Yes, that’s true, but if you were to translate the work put into getting a review, interview, or even a promo piece online, into basic hours, I reckon the average blogger easily puts in a 30hr week. Add in the cost of running the sites (which are nowhere near covered by affiliate links) and it’s clear that we’re actually running at a considerable loss.

Does this deter me?

Nope, not in the slightest, mainly thanks to the growing love out there for what bloggers do – especially in genres such as Young Adult, but it needs to spread to other genres and types of bloggers. Several smaller independent publishers are very pro-bloggers and are extremely appreciative, and there’s some great publicity departments out there, but I think it’s high-time some of the bigger names credit what is possibly the largest free publicity machine out there.

You can follow Kate on Twitter, Facebook and GoodReads.

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  1. I could kiss you. You have, in this post, pretty much summed up what we’ve been doing for the last 5 years and loving every minute of it.

    Sometimes it’s frustrating – sure. Sometimes you wonder if anyone’s out there even reading what you’re writing, if anyone really cares. If Authors, Illustrators and Publishers are just paying you lip service by liking or retweeting your review links.

    Truth is though, in general, book folk are the most wonderful people in the world. Fellow book bloggers are never competitive, never nasty, and always hugely supportive of each other. Publishers, authors and illustrators are always lovely folk (but I sometimes worry that they think we’re a bit stalker-ish tbh – or a bit creepy / obsessive!) PRs are in a class of their own and they don’t get nearly enough praise for the hard work they do.

    Keep on keeping on what you’re doing, and congratulations on a heck of a fantastic post.

    Phil (and Charlotte) over at ReadItDaddy

    1. Thank you *so* much.

      The blogging world is indeed a wonderful place! And I agree completely about the anxiety over feeling like a complete stalker, especially with bigger ‘names’.

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