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Friday, July 6, 2012

A Response to a Response

Pauline Ross, an independent reviewer and active forum participant on Westeros, wrote an essay responding (in part) to my thoughts on the blogger/publisher relationship. Those who read me frequently know I've had some strong thoughts on the subject in recent days. Interestingly, Ross begins with the blogger/reader relationship, discussing the publishing houses only tangentially while lobbing a few gentle grenades at bloggers,
...I certainly don't question their integrity; undoubtedly they write their honest opinion of every book they review. But (and it's a significant but) if they don't enjoy a book, or don't finish it, they generally don't review it. When they give ratings, they tend to use a skewed scale such that even a relatively poor review merits 6 or 7 out of 10. They tend to chase big name or hot books. They tend not to review self-published works. 
Obviously, Ross is painting with a broad brush, something she recognizes and accepts. It's a dangerous activity to engage though. For example, this blogger finishes everything he starts, he reviews everything he finishes, he doesn't use a ratings scale at all. And while he certainly enjoys a big name or hot release, he also reads smaller presses and even the occasional self-published work. She goes on to say, 
Now there are many review blogs out there which stay focused on the original objective of reviewing books the blogger likes to read, and are not much concerned beyond that. But for many established bloggers, and nowadays for many startup bloggers too, the reviews become subsumed into the greater enterprise of maintaining and growing the blog. With a little advertising, paid-for content or tie-in marketing, it can even pay for itself and enable the blogger to give up the day job.  
First off, I'm not aware of any book bloggers who've been able to make a full time living out of it. There are few enough authors who've accomplished that feat. As for me, I have no interest in selling ads, and paid for content, by and large, is anathma to credibility. I know some of the larger blogs like The Book Smugglers sell advertising, and that's a choice although one I'm not likely to make for myself. 

She goes on to compare the idea of generating readership as tantamount to "selling out",
Then the emphasis switches to aggressively selling the blog by linking to it from as many places as possible, guest blogging on other blogs, actively touting for author interviews and the like, or even deliberately provoking controversy to get a buzz going. 
I don't see quite how selling a blog and desiring a readership should be problematic as it relates to credibility. Whether I'm in a publisher's pocket or not, I want people to read me, that's the point is it not? To generate new readers I guest post , I do interviews, and I absolutely provoke discussion. If no one is reading me, why am I spending time writing?

Switching topics slightly, one of the impetuses behind Ross' post stemmed from my view of the relationship between bloggers and publishers. In my original post, I commented on the increasing concern publishers have about how to interact with the blogging community. My suggestion read,
Either way, the answer isn't creating some cockamamie bureaucracy to hold bloggers accountable, or codify some quid pro quo that will only serve to taint blogger integrity. The answer is increasing the publishers access to the community and the community's access to them. It doesn't mean spending more money, just spending it smarter. Rather than casting out wasted review copies that never get read, invest in getting to know reviewers and what they like. Give them exclusive coverage. Be pro-active. Don't expect free books to be a tool by which they can be controlled. In short, treat them like journalists.
Ross misinterpreted me when she replied,
I'm not sure that journalism is quite the analogy he wants here; journalists are paid directly by their industry, do what they're told and write to precise order.
Journalism is exactly the analogy I wanted. Because Ross is absolutely right. Journalists are paid by their industry. My industry is blogging and I write my own checks. I am independent, beholden to no entity other than my own interests and code of ethics (which again, is entirely open to my readers to evaluate). I reiterate, I am not a publicity arm. I recognize publishers will use me as such, but what's important is how I use myself. I won't run an interview, giveaway (sans my bookshelf dump giveaways), or guest post from an author I can't recommend. Nor do I link to anywhere that sells books. I'm not a book seller, and I never want to be.

Even in the face of that, Ross would suggest that receipt of review copies somehow impugns my credibility,
Publishers are prepared to dish out free books (and interviews and other stuff), and they don't want reviewers to be seen to be in their pockets, so keeping a certain distance is part of the game. Reviewers, on the other hand, want the free stuff, sure, they want the big-name authors, they want to be the first with the hot new book, because that's what their readers want, but they also value their independence, and don't want to be poodles for the industry.
I admit, I receive review copies from publishers (large and small and "indie"). I don't apologize for it. Nor do I believe it impacts the fairness of my reviews or commentary. I also admit that if I stopped receiving them it would absolutely change what this blog covers. I wouldn't read small presses, independents, short story collections, and a host of other things because I wouldn't even know they exist. That's just the truth. I am exposed to so much material as a result of my relationship with publishing, and thus I have the opportunity to make others aware of it. 

Does that compromise me? I don't think so. But, that's my readers' decision to make, not mine. If you trust me, read me, value my opinion, and consider it when deciding what to read. If you don't... don't. I'm fine with that. Ultimately, it's my readers who will determine the value of this blog. I can't help but wonder if Ross isn't selling them all a little short.

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At July 6, 2012 at 10:11 AM , Anonymous Jared said...

I have my own blogger/publisher relationship concerns (I'm not quite the iconoclast that you are, Justin), but I strongly disagree with Ms. Ross.

Her criticism also applies to 'proper' reviewers as well - the nice people looking at books for the New York Times, SFX and the Guardian don't pay for their copies either and would be equally as 'motivated' not to say anything nasty, since they're just as 'beholden' to the industry.

At July 6, 2012 at 10:12 AM , Anonymous Brad Beaulieu said...

This isn't so difficult a formula to figure out. It's no different than movie reviews. When you go to a movie, when you read a book, compare your own review with reviewers who interest you. You'll quickly learn who has interests similar to your own, and so, who to trust. Once you have that, you have a go-to place for recommendations (probably one of a handful), and if you keep up with that reviewer, you'll compare notes from the recommendations you've received, deciding whether or not to continue the relationship.

Any reviewer who's acting as a shill, for whatever reason, will quickly be rooted out by its readership and be left behind.

At July 6, 2012 at 10:25 AM , Blogger Bryce L. said...

I think she makes some good points that are true for some people, but, like I get from your article, it's definitely being over-general.

Plus, I think the article kind of contradicts itself. If bloggers are doing things to draw attention to themselves, then a great way to do that is write up a poor review of a book. Maybe this still means you can't trust them, but I don't know.

I really just never understand when people try to tell others what to do. People can do what they want with their blogs. If it's for money, they can do that. That's what's great about the internet. There's a spot for everything because there are people who enjoy everything.

In the end I think Brad has it right - at least that's how I look at bloggers. You find out who you gel with and then you have trust.

At July 6, 2012 at 10:36 AM , Blogger Stefan Fergus said...

Well said, Justin. Ms Ross is painting with too-general-a-brush. As Bryce suggests, there probably are bloggers who act as shills or at least appear to be shills for this or that publisher (I can think of a couple who have posted things that verge a little too close to "Unpaid Publicist"), but as other commentors and yourself pointed out - people can weed these out.

I'm not sure where I stand on unsolicited books - some of the best I've read over the past few years have been unsolicited titles I wouldn't have picked up otherwise. A couple of them are now firmly on my Must Buy Everything list. But, I do also get sent a LOT of books in genres I just don't review on the blog, so that has to be expensive for publishing departments. Not sure what the answer is to that problem.

At July 6, 2012 at 12:22 PM , Blogger Chris said...

I got into a bit of a tiff about this subject this morning.

Why do bloggers review books? Its not just about the reviewing, because if that was the case we'd scribble about it in our journals, yack about it with some friends and call it a day.

There are lots of reasons to blog, perhaps we just want to be a part of the conversation, or even better, help to define the subject and set the parameters of the conversation.

I've gotten a handful of free copies since I started blogging and its never stopped me from giving a negative review if I thought one was justified. I'm sure there are exceptions to the rule, but by and large, most blogger/reviewers I know are doing it because they're passionate about the books and if they weren't doing it on their own sites they'd just be chiming in on someone else's review anyway.

At July 6, 2012 at 12:27 PM , Anonymous Sarah (Bookworm Blues) said...

I'm going to kind of bitch and moan and go on some epic sort of tangent here.

I'm going to be honest. Stuff like this pisses me off. Look, first of all, if anyone decides to criticize my reviewing, then screw them (and yes, I know I have issues. I use a rating system, which I don't even take too seriously and my grammar is atrocious). I get review copies, but I don't think that means that I'm obligated in any way to be nicer to those books than I would otherwise. In fact, a HUGE reason I DO NOT review self-published books is because I have a tendency to be NICER to the self-published or small press books because I feel like those books rely on good reviews more than books published by big publishing houses. It's an issue of me being afraid I wouldn't be able to be as honest with self-published books.

Secondly, everyone has a life off the internet. My 10 month old keeps me incredibly busy. I just started working and I'm still dealing with hormonal cancer treatment that toys with my energy levels in a big way. I'm not saying this as an excuse, I'm saying this because we all have lives off the internet. I used to review books I didn't enjoy but now I tend to not read books I would rate below 3 stars. I just don't have time anymore, or the energy. I'm not sure what other reasons people have are, but just because someone doesn't review a book that they don't enjoy at all doesn't mean that they are a shitty reviewer. It probably means they have a baby, cancer, and a new job they are dealing with and just don't have time to read crap.

Yeah, there are issues in the reviewer-publisher relationship. It's not perfect, but painting with a broad brush will ruffle feathers. I know she wasn't even talking about me, probably doesn't even know who I am, but a lot of her complaints are patently ridiculous. Hey, if she has an answer to fix all the problems, I'd love to hear them.

My last point, please, if anyone can tell me how to make a career out of this so I can work from my castle writing reviews people bribe out of me, then please, do it. I'd enjoy a cushy life like that. My only compensation is review copies, and I'm so THANKFUL that I get them. My local library isn't the best and cancer treatment is EXPENSIVE so I don't have the money to buy books to read anymore. Without review copies, I'd almost never have a chance to read all the amazing books I've had a chance to read recently. Hey, if that makes me the industry's lapdog, then fine. Just make sure you keep my fur brushed.

-- end of pointless tangent --

At July 6, 2012 at 12:35 PM , Blogger Paul Weimer said...

I try hard not to have anyone even imagine that I am a shill. Getting a review copy of something does not obligate me to give a favorable review, and any publisher or author who thinks it does should not send me stuff. (Not that many do, thanks to my particular situation)

At July 6, 2012 at 12:35 PM , Blogger RobB said...

My last point, please, if anyone can tell me how to make a career out of this so I can work from my castle writing reviews people bribe out of me, then please, do it. I'd enjoy a cushy life like that.


At July 6, 2012 at 12:52 PM , Blogger Kameron Hurley said...

I do find it funny that the "secret, mysterious cabal of gatekeepers" that must be heckled and railed against has moved on from "publishers" to "people who talk about books on the internet."

At July 6, 2012 at 1:07 PM , Blogger Bryce L. said...

Well put, Sarah. It may just be the statistics nerd in me, but there are far too many things that influence my reviewing and others' as well. I try to review everything I read, but 1. I don't like wasting my time, so I choose things I know I'll like (for the most part) and 2. I tend to prefer enjoying my life and what I'm doing (including reading). I don't think anyone can accuse me of being a critic. :)

At July 6, 2012 at 1:09 PM , Blogger Neth said...

it's because we don't talk about self-published books enough

At July 6, 2012 at 1:10 PM , Blogger Neth said...

Yeah, all of my bribe money dried up years ago after we all got bribed so much to give Scott Lynch positive reviews.

At July 6, 2012 at 1:33 PM , Blogger Teresa said...

As someone who helps out with book reviews at my library's blog, I would like to address this portion of the post:

"But (and it's a significant but) if they don't enjoy a book, or don't finish it, they generally don't review it. When they give ratings, they tend to use a skewed scale such that even a relatively poor review merits 6 or 7 out of 10. They tend to chase big name or hot books. They tend not to review self-published works."

Book reviews aren't the only part of my job. As a matter of fact, they are a very, very small part of it, so I am going to devote my energy toward writing about novels that I feel strongly about. Other book bloggers are running their sites on their own dime, and I know it takes a lot of time to write an insightful review. So I don't blame you guys for writing reviews about books that you really enjoy.

We have a standing policy at our blog to not review self-published books, because there simply isn't enough time to review the published books awaiting our attention.

On the rating system and the complaint that there are too many high ratings: some book bloggers seem to enjoy writing turgid, snarky reviews--I don't. I don't find them informative or amusing. I also don't follow blogs that support those kinds of reviews.

I'd rather read reviews of books that other people enjoy, even if that means reading reviews of "big name or hot books." Those novels are "big name and hot" for a reason: those authors are connecting with their audiences, and I want to know what they're doing right.

And then everything Sarah and Kameron said.

At July 6, 2012 at 1:38 PM , Anonymous Gav Reads said...

I've kept out of this discussion until now. But I'm in a grumpy mood so I'm going to raise my walking stick a little (I've been blogging about books off and on for 7 years so I think I'm entitled a little old man reference).

What's the best form of advertising? Peer to peer I'd say. I tell every writer I know they should use a Mac and use Scrivener. I wish I was on commission. Actually, I just want to them to use tools that make their life easier when they write.

As a book blogger I want people to read the writers I love. I could give you a list now: Mark Chadborn, Neil Asher, Gary Gibson, Pamela Freeman, Storm Constantine, Terry Pratchett, Jim Butcher, Mike Carey, China Mieville, Camilla Lackberg… actually I'm going to stop because I have a blog and you can judge for yourself. But I also get that might be kind of boring to read about the same small circle of either writers or genres so I try and read around.

I was speaking to another blogger this morning (hello Jared) and dissed one of his favourite authors. I just don't get KJ Parker. But that's OK. He loves them. I don't see it. That doesn't mean that Jared has been brain washed by Orbit and even less that he's able to brainwash me.

I want to be able to brainwash everyone to love Charlie Stross's Laundry books as they are amazing. Blogger's are book pushers. We might be critically amazing or full of puff but it's not hard to tell if what they love will be books that match your taste. Or if we have a passion that you want to keep visiting. I do drift away form some blogs and drift back to see what they are reading. The good ones always keep me drifting back again and again to see what their current reads are.

And yes publishers put books in the hands of passionate readers. Think of it as market testing. I constantly get 'I'd love to know what you think' and I think they genuinely mean it. It does also mean that it's easy to get swamped with too much to read. But it also means that I found a passion for translated crime after just one book from a publisher - a love I've gone onto share - as if that's such a crime! Telling people to read books that they might like is shocking thing to do!

I don't think I know of many bloggers who don't in turn buy a lot of books (if they have the means). My kindle is full of novels, short story collections and magazines, as are my shelves, of things I've bought after hearing about them or just thinking they are interesting. This applies more to back catalogue stuff, which is like mining for gold or rediscovery or just plain russian roulette.

And getting to interview authors you love? You know after 17 years of reading Terry Pratchett I got interview him the other week. And he was lovely and a huge highlight in my life. As a reader I want to know more about what's behind the words in a book. The Readers Podcast I do is in the middle of a book club and I got to ask authors about their books. Each made me understand and appreciate their work differently. And I hope that listeners of the podcast either had a new insight or it helped decided if the book was one for them.

Reading is something that more people need to do. And book bloggers champion it day in and day out. Of course publishers are looking at getting their books part of that conversation but also bloggers are readers that like exploring and want to read around their loves or discover new ones. It's a bit of a win/win frankly.

And at the end of the day if we didn't as a group have anything positive to contribute we wouldn't get any views.

At July 6, 2012 at 1:46 PM , Anonymous gavreads said...

Oh THAT POST contains 200 comments on that very thing...

At July 6, 2012 at 1:52 PM , Blogger Mieneke van der Salm said...

Neth: Point in fact:

She mouthed off to me when I declined her offer of a guest post on my blog, since I don't review self-pubbed books. *facepalm*

At July 6, 2012 at 1:58 PM , Blogger Paul Weimer said...

So in the end is that what this is really all about? Book bloggers don't review self-published books enough? Gah!

At July 6, 2012 at 2:00 PM , Blogger Neth said...

Yes, that is her MO. I'm surprised it took so long for her to get to it in the essay, but I knew she'd get there in by the end.

At July 6, 2012 at 2:02 PM , Blogger Mieneke van der Salm said...

I won't run an interview, giveaway (sans my bookshelf dump giveaways), or guest post from an author I can't recommend.

This! I told someone the exact same thing today, well with the addition of being interested in reading their work, then I'd post an interview or guest post as well.

At July 6, 2012 at 2:05 PM , Blogger Neth said...

Well, I'll admit that I once ran a giveaway on my blog just so I could turn 'Windbags of Dune' into a promotional phrase. But if I can't amuse myself, then why do I have a blog?

At July 6, 2012 at 2:16 PM , Anonymous Sarah (Bookworm Blues) said...

Addendum to my last post.

In an effort to be completely honest, there are times that I probably am a huge publisher/author sellout. For example, my last K.J. Parker review I think I sang the author's praises up to heaven and back again. I am OVER THE TOP with my K.J. Parker fandom. I've read almost all of her books and every time I finish one I am convinced that it's the best book ever written, period and my reviews reflect that.

That being said, when I hit my sellout points, I'm pretty obvious about it. I'll write about how this is not a review... or how I just cannot be unbiased with this book/author/whatever. I try to be upfront about that stuff.

I think all reviewers have moments like that with authors/books/whatever. The thing is, I don't think that makes us all complete sellouts. I think that makes us human, and I, personally, love it when reviewers go on over-the-top-fests like that. Seeing someone else's passion for a book/whatever, usually sparks my own interest and/or broadens my horizons.

At July 6, 2012 at 2:22 PM , Blogger Neth said...

Well the best bloggers have momments like those - and they admit them. IMHO, passion and personality make for blogs worth reading. Gav says it well - sharing our passion about the books we read with others is all sorts of win.

At July 6, 2012 at 2:42 PM , Anonymous Sarah (Bookworm Blues) said...

I think I laughed for about 10 minutes about 'Windbags of Dune'

At July 6, 2012 at 3:05 PM , Anonymous Tim said...

I think I am with you (and Sarah) on this one. My problem is that I work a full time job, I have a baby at home that I get to spend about 2 hours a day with, and I like my wife, so my time for reading books, let alone reviewing them, is very limited. I get paid NOTHING to do it, except for maybe free books, many of which I have received from contests and giveaways anyway, not from asking the publisher for review copies. If they want to pay me to review books full time, maybe we can work something out, and then I might consider myself a shill. As it stands, if I ask for books I might put those closer to the top of my growing pile of books to read, but even then I have a life outside of reviewing books. If the publishers don't want to send me books because of this, then they can just say no. Until then, I'll review books when I get around to it.

At July 6, 2012 at 5:02 PM , Blogger Travis said...

I feel like I need to chime in here... Maybe even for just the sole purpose to point out that one of the only reasons that I feel justified enough to chime in is because I know you people. Of course I don't know you personally, But some of you I have been reading your blogs for a long time. Maybe it is just me but that has to be one of the most exciting things about having a blog on books and reading in this day and age. I was fortunate enough to discover a love for books from a very young age. Back before there was a thing called the internet. That meant I had to go on intuition and yes that meant I read some not so great books. As a result of all you great people, I rarely read bad books anymore. Thank-you all for that very very much. That doesn't mean I don't step out of my comfort zone and read my not so favorite genre's or even self-pub'd books. I do it all the time. Like it or not, I don't review books that I could not finish or really didn't like. That was a personal choice I made a long time ago. I want to lift people up, not bring them down. I don't know many, well, not even one author on a personal level. Chances are they like their book enough that they wanted other people to read it. Chances are they had to do some work to get it published. Who am I to rain on their parade if I didn't like it. People can see my currently reading list on the side of my blog. Am I doing a disservice to my fellow readers if I don't review it? Chances are it was my own personal reasons for not liking it. But I don't want to be responsible for someone else not liking it because of a review I put on my blog. AND my email is right on my page folks! I put it on there to encourage communication. If you sent me a book and I didn't read it. I am perfectly ok with discussing the reasons on a one on one level. But to bash a book on a public forum, that just isn't my style. Sorry. Bottom line is I am going to buy books. I will try to review as many of them as my life allows. But the main reason will always be getting people to read. I gave a book to my nephew (he wasn't a big reader) and told him just to give it a chance. If he makes it half way through the book and didn't like it, he could give it back. He now reads probably more than I do. That will always be why I do this. Not for free books. Not for money. I wrote this because you all encourage me everyday to read something. You're my friends and book reading buddies. Please keep reading and reviewing no matter what anyone says.

At July 6, 2012 at 7:00 PM , Blogger James said...

I counteract this sort of stuff by being such a terrible blogger that publishers don't send me books.

At July 6, 2012 at 7:16 PM , Blogger Bryce L. said...

Nicely put. I think Gav (the one from above) has been known to make the argument that Twilight was a great thing because it got so many people reading. Kind of opened my eyes, so I definitely salute you!

At July 7, 2012 at 5:27 PM , Blogger Stefan Fergus said...

I've had a lot of people inviting themselves to write for mine. It's really weird.

At July 7, 2012 at 5:34 PM , Blogger Stefan Fergus said...

I don't think it's selling out to be a fangirl/-boy about an author. That's just being... well, a fangirl/-boy. I have plenty of authors I eagerly wax lyrical about to anyone who will listen, or jabber at until they listen.

As Neth and Gav say, it's all about passion for reading and books and everything related.

At July 7, 2012 at 5:38 PM , Blogger Stefan Fergus said...

I'm with Gav, there - if books like Twilight, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Dan Brown or any other mega-selling series instills a new love for reading in any of their readers, then that is something to be thankful for. Doubly so if it means they start putting effort into finding other stuff they may like, rather than waiting for the next mega-seller.

At July 7, 2012 at 11:51 PM , Blogger Mieneke van der Salm said...

'Windbags of Dune' is hilarious! And yes, I think we (publishers and bloggers alike) tend to forget that we do this for fun and not obligation.

At July 7, 2012 at 11:55 PM , Blogger Mieneke van der Salm said...

I agree with Neth and Stefan here. Nothing wrong with being a fangirl/boy, as long as you acknowledge it. I love Mercedes Lackey's stuff to bits, but I'll be the first to acknowledge that not everything she does is amazing, but I st
Ill find it hard not to gush!

At July 8, 2012 at 5:17 AM , Anonymous Bibliotropic said...

On the plus side, I seem to be doing everything that person recommends against or says that bloggers simply don't do. For the most part, anyway. I don't always cover only new and hot books, nor do I limit myself only to big-name authors. I don't do much in the way of author interviews. I don't cross-post on other blogs. I don't usually do massive giveaways. I'm never first when it comes to major news. I very often buy books to review because I don't get all the ones that I'm desperately coveting as free copies from the publishers. In the past, I used ads on my blog, and I still use affiliate links to places where others can purchase books. I may not always finish what I'm reading, but I certainly try, and if I didn't like the book, then by damn people are going to hear about why! If I do an author interview at all, it's because I really like what the author has written. I'll do giveaways without having read the author first, but not very often, and I certainly won't do a giveaway of someone's work if I hated it. I may not review much indie or self-published books, but a good part of that is because my reading list is already insanely long, and my past experience with self-pub has involved a lot of books that really needed a lot more work done to them.

And my blog suffers for it. I have a tiny readership. I've accepted by this point that I'm always going to have a tiny readership. It bothers me sometimes, but ultimately, I'd rather have quality content and honest reviews than a huge following. I've accepted that as my lot in life. For the most part, I'm reviewing on my blog because I enjoy it as a hobby rather than anything else. I may approach some of what I do as professionally as I can, but that doesn't mean that I don't have a 42-hour-a-week job to go to, an apartment to clean, food to cook, and other priorities that get in the way. What I do, I do because I like to. If that means I don't have hundreds of followers, then so be it. It's the price I'll pay for keeping my blog the way I like it.

I'd love to meet these people who've apparently turned blogging into their day jobs. I know that some people have gotten new jobs due to bookblogging, as they get more contacts within the industry, but I have never met one who says that their blog is their primary source of income. Whatever their secret is, I'd love to know it. I think we all would!

As for the issue of selling out, I really think that Ross needs to learn what that actually means. Paid reviews could be seen as selling out, sure. But I don't see paid advertising as such (though granted, if someone wanted to run ads on my blog that was advertising a book as the next Twilight, I'd refuse; if I'm going to run ads that I actually have some say over, then they're going to be for books that at least sound interesting to me), because people don't visit blogs for the ads they run. They visit for the post content. Ads are a sidebar. But accepting review copies means you've sold out? Accepting a review copy does not guarantee a favourable review from 99.99% of book bloggers. I've torn some review copies into metaphorical strips once I was through with them, because the book was so horrible. I may feel a little bad because I know the publisher or author gave me that book in the hope that I would enjoy it and write favourably about it, but I'm not going to lie. If a book stunk, I'm going to say why.

Honestly, it seems like Ross has actually spoken to very few book bloggers about what they do, and thus is making a lot of assumptions about how it all works. Sadly, it's an assumption a lot of people make. There are a lot of people who view what we do as either insanely easy, or as nothing but a mouthpiece for whatever publishing companies want said.

At July 8, 2012 at 5:20 AM , Anonymous Bibliotropic said...

Agreement with everyone above. But I can especially relate to Mieneke's Lackey-love there. I love Mercedes Lackey's books. If she's written it, then there's a good chance I'll enjoy it. But that doesn't mean that I can't acknowledge that her books have flaws, or that she's written some stuff that's dull and tedious to read. But I'll still squee like a fangirl whenever I get a new book of hers!

At July 8, 2012 at 12:38 PM , Blogger Elly Zupko said...

"She mouthed off to me when I declined her offer of a guest post on my blog..."

So, this is the email I sent to Mieneke in its entirety: "Thank you for your reply. I hope in the future you will consider opening your doors to hard-working independent authors. Best regards, Elly Zupko"

That's "mouthing off"?

At July 8, 2012 at 4:52 PM , Anonymous Peter (Odd Engine) said...

Good comment thread.

I think the biggest benefit I have received by blogging about books is learning how to read better. Reviewing media forces one to think critically and on a much deeper level.

Yes, it would be fantastic to receive a pile of books in the mail and to interact with authors on a more intimate level. I've really only been reading genre fiction for about five years, so much of my reviews have been focused on the classics (there are just too many, but I feel the need to be better grounded). I don't know how many people care that some no-name blogger was delighted in reading Bester's THE STARS MY DESTINATION. In any case, I wouldn't do any of it if it wasn't enjoyable.

At July 8, 2012 at 11:53 PM , Blogger Mieneke van der Salm said...

Elly, taken in isolation that response isn't mouthing off. Taken in the context of your blog post linked to above and your original request email in which you acknowledged you knew I don't review self-pubbed authors, but still wanted me to participate in a blog tour by hosting a guest post or something similar, yes, I found it to be mouthing off. You could have just said thank you for the reply and moved on. Should I have posted the mouthing off comment here in the comment thread? Perhaps not, but it was the end of a long and tiring week, I was feeling knackered and I'm only human, so I posted, perhaps, unwisely. But I'll stick to my point that the second part of your email was unnecessary and a bit condescending, not in the least to the hard working traditionally published authors I do read and review.

At July 9, 2012 at 7:31 AM , Blogger Scott said...

Mieneke, Self-pub author's REALLY don't like it when you take them to task for their attitude. I can see the snarkyness in her email, especially coupled with the blog post she wrote, so I'm on side with you there.

I've actually emailed self-published authors back who email us asking for reviews of their books...who haven't even bothered to look at our site, and check out what books we like and review. So I will actually email them back and tell them if they wish to be taken seriously, then don't just email bloggers willy nilly hoping to get a hit without bothering to check what they read first. Chris and I aren't known to review romance novels (for example), but we've gotten a number of requests to read an review self-pubbed romance books. Give the site a 5 minute once over...that's all I'm asking. I mean hell, we even have a page that shows all our favourites...and nary a romance to be found on those lists.

The internet is turning out to be a mouthpiece for author's and self-pubbed authors alike. The difference being that when a published, and well known author says stuff I don't care for, they already have fans who will buy their work regardless of if I shun them or not for their attitude...but when a self-pubbed author says stuff like that it really looks bad on them and will most certainly hurt their book sales and attempts to get into the industry. You have no fanbase yet, so try not to be a jerk.

At July 9, 2012 at 9:09 AM , Blogger Neth said...


At least half the time I've engaged with self-pub authors through my blog (either email or comments), things turn bad and unprofessional. This lead to the policy of me simply not engaging unless I feel I absolutely have to. My recommendation - don't engage, just ignore - you'll be happier as a result.

At July 9, 2012 at 9:16 AM , Blogger Neth said...

Your blogging strategy is quite similar to mine in ways. I avoid doing purely promotional posts unless it's a big interest to me (then I don't really consider it promotional, but something I care about). I simply don't do posts with a motivation of getting attention (or at least not very often). I don't do guest blogs. I don't even do interviews very often anymore. I pretty much only discuss books. I have an extremely busy and complicated life, so I have very little time for this sort of thing anymore. Basically, that means I post rarely and my reviews these days are pretty limited in number.

So, that means that my readership has remained fairly modest compared to some of the other blogs that have been around as long as I have and in the same circles. But, that doen't bother me (at least not anymore). I just do what I do and people can read or not.

And changing the subject - Ross has engaged with quite a few bloggers for quite a while over at Westeros. It hasn't made a difference in her thinking. With her, it really is all about self-publishing and the lack of respect it receives (in my opinion, as an aggregate, it still hasn't shown that it deserves any).

At July 10, 2012 at 10:57 AM , Blogger Mieneke van der Salm said...

Thanks for the support, guys!

At July 10, 2012 at 2:07 PM , Blogger beccabooklover said...

Great post. I actually review a lot of self published books sent to me by the author and 9/10 are actually good books that I enjoyed but right now I am in a bit of a self published reading rut. I just want to pick up one of the books on my shelf to read that I know I will enjoy. I think I need to mix it up a little as right now I feel as if reviewing such books is taking over my life and see it as some kind of obligation to blog about the books instead of for fun. I also see no problem in writing a bad review of a self published book but I always try to keep it constructive and polite. I've also been contacted a few times by self published authors who so obviously haven't taken the time to look at my blog and notice that I enjoy science-fiction, fantasy and historical fiction not contemporary fiction or romance like some have asked me to review. I'd also just like to point out I am so grateful that I receive books by self published authors and being a student I can't afford to buy a lot of books so I get to read some great books for a review that I spend a lot of time working on. I also totally agree with you about getting a readership for your blog as although I usually write with just myself in mind, I'd like to think other people are reading and if they aren't, well what is the point?


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