This is a long post but do bear with it and let me know your thoughts…
I have to admit until Alison Flood at the Guardian dropped me an email asking if I would comment on it that I had absolutely no knowledge of a ‘furore’ that was going in the publishing and blogging fields caused by a letter from US publishers William Morrow. You have probably heard all about it by now and I am not going to quote from the letter, you can go here and read it if you wish, but it has made me think a lot since , not just about the relationships of bloggers and publishers but also the perception of book bloggers.
Each bloggers relationship with publishers is varied and private. I am happy to talk about mine, but understand if others don’t. I think I am very lucky, I have a healthy relationship with most publishers, some who I have weekly email catch ups and chats with some I catch up with randomly here and there, but it is a correspondence, a banter and mutual love of books that makes us talk not a working relationship, because Savidge Reads and the books that are on it are not work. This is a hobby this is my space to diarise and chat about the books I have read liked and loved and also the random book thoughts that come and go in my mind.
I admit I have asked for a book or two in the past, and have accepted many in the last couple of years but always with an open and honest about the fact that I will read these on whim at some point, it might be next week it might be next month or next year, who knows. If that means I get fewer books, or publishers decide not to send them then that is fine, it is their choice – neither party is obligated at any point. That’s how it should be isn’t it?
I did contemplate the idea of publishers no longer sending me books for the blog (I guess they might always for work and hopefully for future years of the Green Carnation Prize) and whilst I would miss it I doubt it would end my world. After all I am a man with over 400 books in his TBR; I love the library and second hand book stores and will treat myself to a new book on special occasions. I don’t get every book I want through publishers and the blog, I don’t think any bloggers do, despite what one commenter said “not every print journalist and not every print publication gets review copies of anything they want” – which leads me onto the next set of my thoughts… how are blogs perceived.
I think being part of the book blogosphere you get comfortable in the company of other bloggers and the people who come and comment on your blog. You think that because you blog and enjoy reading book blogs then you think everyone does. You forget that some people have quite different conceptions about bloggers. In fact from the comments in the piece in the Guardian, which Alison had contacted me about, it seems bloggers aren’t held in very high esteem at all. So I thought I would address a few of the criticisms though some people were lovely too…
“Anyone can start a blog and publish online reviews” yes anyone can, though how many will keep going at it for years and years is limited (I welcome new blogs by the way, I am just saying). I also doubt that publishers send books to any and every blog.
“That’s certainly not the first time I’ve heard a book blogger state that they want to cherry-pick what they review… An objective professional reviewer can’t just review books of his or her personal choice” I don’t think they cherry pick, but a blog isn’t a broadsheet and the blogger doesn’t get paid, it’s done and despite what people might think journalists don’t choose what they read, actually quite a lot do (I know).
“Publishers have every right to set boundaries and as far as I’m concerned, book bloggers really have no say in the matter. They are a dime a dozen and this will sort out the reviewers who blog for the love of it, from the masses who are in it for the free books. It’s really quite simple.” Yes they do, and most bloggers would agree, but it’s not a ‘work/business’ relationship it’s much friendlier than that and maybe that’s why the letter offended some.
“Does everyone who blogs about opera demand free tickets to Covent Garden? Does everyone who blogs about fashion demand free clothing from Dolce & Gabanna? Does everyone who blogs about art demand invitations to private openings? Does everyone who blogs about classical music demand free season tickets to the Proms?” No because bloggers don’t demand books, they may occasionally ask nicely – oh and yes people who blog about other things in other fields do get freebies, not all but some.
“I don’t think anyone’s raised it, but the elephant in the room is the effect of blog versus traditional media reviews on sales. A few years back a lot of us thought established blogs would eclipse regular media but I’m not at all sure this is borne out by the statistics (which I’d love to see, however inexact, in terms of correlations between review dates and sales spikes)” I am sure broadsheets get more hits but they also only mention books first published, so after the initial sales what then? A blog can review whenever and give books a mention after the initial hype. It’s not major but it’s something, plus some blogs have huge audiences and that shouldn’t be undervalued. I would be interested to see the statistics though.
- “Certainly, to solicit finished copies of books that one has no intention of reading and every intention of reselling at the first opportunity strikes me as in bad faith, if not actually fraudulent. A blogger who wishes to remain unimpeachably independent will have both to choose what to review and to obtain it himself.” I cannot think of any true book bloggers who would do the first thing, it genuinely shocks me people think bloggers would do that. The second part provides good food for thought.
“William Morrow may have a tin ear for PR – their letter drafted by an unpaid intern, perhaps? – but I suspect that they have done no more than express an impatience with elements of the blogging community that is more widely held. I don’t think that it comes close to justifying the collective hissy fit that it seems to have provoked” oops I better be quiet then… ha, that said do publishers think like that about the community? It would be interesting to know.
Back to some positives, my favourite quote was this one which I think is spot on “With the proliferation of book blogs, there is a limit as to how many can be disbursed, and it’s understandable that publishers might start targeting those who they think might have an interest in a particular book.” It’s what I think publishers, certainly the ones I deal with do and Novelicious put it very well when she said “If a book is pitched to me, I will almost always review it. If it is sent though my door without any prior notice, I won’t.” Those unsolicited books can come in volume that said sometimes you take a risk on a book and the rewards are incredible.
I am hoping that makes sense, if not I apologize. My conclusions are mixed as I still don’t quite know how I feel. I just think publishers and bloggers should carry on communicating and being passionate about books, be that with each other or not. I simply wanted to say something because the letter, then being asked my thoughts and then seeing the reaction to the piece has made me think about the whole thing and the relationships I have with publishers (which is good as you can see from the Savidge Reads Advent Calendar giveaways, but something might change when the blog changes direction when the advent calendar is done).
What do you think be you a blogger, a blog reader, a blog hater (what are you doing here? ha) or a publisher? I would love to hear all your thoughts.