Being a book blogger is awesome, but not all the time. I’ve found that along with the receiving free books, and the excitement of getting books before they are released to the peasants of the public, getting to participate in blog tours (and knowing that authors actually know you exist!), there can be a lot of guilt.
Last month for example, I committed to writing a post about ebooks, and in return for this post $40 was to be donated in my name to Books for Africa. I did not write that post. Poor children in Africa did not get that donation, and I feel terrible about it. I did have a good excuse (what with my father being gravely ill – He is back in hospital unfortunately), but I still feel terrible about it. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
So I have decided to list all the things that make me feel like a guilt factory when it comes to blogging, and how I avoid dissolving into a puddle of guilt.
1 – Not reading ARCs
This is probably the biggest guilt factor that affects bloggers (or at least me) who receive these magical advanced copies. I feel like receiving these books is such a privilege, and I do feel like the worst person who ever lived every time I fail to read one before the release date.
Sometimes you may only have a week or two before the book is released, and with life, sometimes it’s just not enough time. But there have been ARCs I have received MONTHS in advance, and yet I still fail to read them. I think to myself, I have ages, but time always flies by so quickly, and you have received a number of other ARCs, and they all start piling up.
There are also times when I receive ARCs I didn’t request, and I have no interest in them. But these aren’t as bad as when I request ARCs and by the time I receive them, I’ve lost interest (curse my fickle heart!). Browsing publisher catalogues with a little “request review copy” button can be a dangerous operation for a book blogger with no control.
The worst is when I receive ARCs from self-published authors, and I don’t read them in a timely fashion (there is one I’m slowly chipping away at at the moment – and really enjoying – but I’m trying to get many sent by publishers done as well). As a self-published author, I do completely understand how frustrating it is to send out copies of books and have them remain unread. But sometimes we just get sent more books that we can cope with.
So how do I stop the guilt from swallowing me whole?
Firstly, I try to have some self control in an attempt to avoid the guilt in the first place, when that inevitably fails, I move on to my second option, and that is to at least promote the book with my photography. Although not too many publishers see the value in this, I’m pretty certain that I have sold more copies of books through my photos than my reviews. I’m pretty sure that because of my Penguin Drop Caps photos on tumblr, there are some little penguins out there with a few extra storeys on their igloo.
2 – Giving bad reviews
This is always tricky. No one (except perhaps the top Goodreads users) like giving bad reviews. Especially when you know there’s a good chance that the publisher will read it (and even perhaps the author). I really hate giving bad reviews. I hate the idea that the author will see those reviews and feel like crap. I really, really do. And I also don’t want to discourage others from reading a book they might love. I have put off reading some really great books for ages due to bad reviews. I just don’t want to be the reason why someone doesn’t find their favourite book.
So what do I do?
I will actually often forgo reviewing a book if I really didn’t like it. I will usually only give something a really bad review if I was particularly offended by it, and I believe it’s failures need to be called out. What I DON’T do is say I like books when I didn’t. I think there’s a huge difference between deciding to not say anything at all, with flat-out lying. This doesn’t mean that people just shouldn’t write bad reviews, but just that I don’t really like doing it, unless I have a really big urge to pull out my good old soapbox. I believe that publishers actually don’t look too negatively on bad reviews, as their main goal (particularly with ARCs) is to collect little quotes from bloggers they can use to sell books to distributors. So it’s easy enough to just use the good ones and ignore the bad. I haven’t heard of any bloggers being removed from publishers reviewer lists due to giving bad reviews. It could have happened, but not to my knowledge.
3 – Rejecting review requests
I hate rejecting review requests, but I sadly do it all the time. I receive a lot of review requests, especially from self-published authors (and I am totally happy to read self-published books) but I do get so many of them that I can actually accept very few of them. I get several per week, and even sometimes more than one a day. I just physically can’t read that many books. I also often get them from people who clearly have not read my review policy and offer to send me books that I clearly state I will not accept for review. This is extremely frustrating, but it’s all just part of the business.
So how do I deal with these?
I try to reply to ever review request, and explain that I am just currently buried under a huge pile of books and don’t have the time. I try to make it clear that it’s not because their book looks uninteresting, but simply because I’m swamped. I try to be nice and not too dismissive. I understand how scary it is to reach out to reviewers, and no one likes rejection. But I think accepting them and not reading them is worse.
4 – Receiving requests for follows and blog promotions
I have this thing where I only follow blogs if I decide to, and I don’t like to be pressured into reposting other people’s content (this is mainly tumblr related). I just don’t. I don’t think it’s good to pressure someone into following you. I don’t see what you really gain in that situation. If you haven’t received followers on merit, I don’t really see how they count.
Although I did recently reach out to some people on tumblr and ask them to reblog one of my posts, but only to people I knew well, and only because I was campaigning to try and have some seriously depraved blogs removed from the site – unsuccessfully, unfortunately. But I don’t think this counts as I was trying to signal boost a serious issue. But I would never message someone and ask them to promote my photos or reviews.
So how do I deal with such requests?
Honestly, I mostly ignore them. At first I tried to be nice and do as they asked, but many times when I went and looked at those blogs, they weren’t to my liking.
5 – Giveaways
Giveaways can be tricky endevours. I often do them on behalf of publishers and therefore don’t have control over the conditions (e.g. when they are Australia only). The main source of guilt I find is when someone wins, only to find out they are ineligible (even when it’s clearly stated in the conditions). Another massive source of guilt with giveaways is when someone doesn’t respond. I have had this happen in about 80% of the giveaways I’ve done, and it is one of the main reasons that I don’t do too many giveaways, because it’s really stressful. When people don’t respond and you’ve forgotten to put a response time limit (I always forget this) in the conditions it can be really stressful, because you need to make a call of when it’s appropriate to cut them lose and draw another winner, and then know that when the person does respond, they may get a bit shirty with you, and how do you deal with that? There are also issues with some people thinking that giveaways are rigged. I recently ran a giveaway, and one of my favourite bloggers won. Then about a week later I also won their giveaway. This actually wasn’t that unlikely, as many of both of our giveaways are Australia only, and therefore don’t have that many participants, but I can understand how it can look suspicious. Also with mine, although “AUSTRALIA ONLY” was clearly stated, I did have to go through about 20 non-Australian entries before reaching my final winner. But what can I do? I clearly stated Australia only, and the publisher was shipping out the book. Not much I can do.
How do I deal with this?
Well, firstly, I’d say to remember to put a time limit for a response, but as I always forget to do that, I just give the person a good chance (about a week) and tell them that if they don’t respond within a certain amount of time, I will have to pick someone else. As for ensuring people that giveaways are fair, using something like rafflecopter helps a lot, because it can display the winner, which gives some transparency. But as I’ve been specifically asked to do instagram giveaways (which you can’t really use rafflecopter), sometimes other methods are needed (usually me numbering all the entries and asking my husband to call out random numbers). What I mostly do is avoid giveaways, as they are just really stressful.
I actually can think of several more things I could add to this list, but it’s getting rather long, so I think I will stop there. There are many awesome things about being a book blogger (we wouldn’t be blogging if we didn’t enjoy it), but it is sometimes good to remember that being a book blogger can also be quite stressful, and that we do have other lives, and feelings. This is a hobby, not our livelihood.