News on Sisterspooky Blog

After much thought and pondering, I’ve come to a few decisions over my blog and there are a few minor changes happening that may alter how the blog is run and the posts you’ll see.
For some time now I’ve been feeling really out of sorts about how the relationship between bloggers and publishers works.  Blogging has changed so much even since I’ve started and now I get sent things I didn’t ask for that don’t really relate to the kind of books I read.  They’re YA but so far off my usual reads that I just know I’ll never look at them.  I get asked to be part of blog tours before I’ve been offered the book to review.
I get some books that make me wonder if they have been sent to the wrong person.  I’ve chatted with a few other bloggers about my moans and groans and I know I’m not alone in how I feel.  We LOVE books and want to read great things but when you sometimes end up feeling like just a marketing tool, and not a part of the publishing process at all, then it really makes you feel like “why do I even bother?”.
I want to give you, the people that read my blog and want to hear my thoughts on books and authors, really good quality posts that I feel happy to read myself.  I don’t want to feel like I’m not appreciated for the work I do on the blog and want to write and read when and how I like.
So….
I’ve decided that from now on, when it comes to blog tours, I’m only taking on tours from authors that I’ve dealt with before and have a relationship or a blog tour for a new book that really stood out for me ONCE I’VE READ IT.  This way I’ll still be looking out for new authors and interesting books but I just can’t take on every tour going.  Blog tours are very alike in content nowadays and I’d rather not do a tour and just contact an author directly at a later date for a guest post.  No one wants to see the same old stuff on blog tours and I’d hazard a guess that authors hate repeating themselves.
I’m working on a new feature that aims to interview authors….with a twist.  Shout out to Jim from YA Contempary for the original inspiration.  I want to check around other blogger interview features first to check I’m not dupicating anything already out there, but it will be coming in the next few months and will hopefully fill a gap left by the blog tours.  I’ve been lucky enough to get to know many authors since I began blogging and so contacting them directly and sorting something out that works for us both seems more sensible at this point.
Lastly; I’m cutting WAY back on the books I request from publishers.  I have a whole bookcase full of unread books and it’s out of control so I want to take those on first.  I don’t like taking books and not providing an honest review for ages and that has happened, unintentionally.  Plus, as I said above, I get things to review that I never ask for and now they will generally be donated to local libraries, charity shops or offered to another blogger if I can afford the postage.
I wish the relationship between bloggers and publishers was more open at times because there are some truly fabulous publishers (and specific publicists) but then there are also the ones that rarely reply to emails and quite frankly I wonder if they even read my blog, based on the things they send.  Bloggers are hugely important and I’ve seen the power of bloggers opinion in action so many times now that I think it’s ok to say that I have to set up ground rules for myself.  Otherwise it’s like flying a flag over my blog declaring myself as a doormat that is easily swayed by freebie books.  It’s never been about the free books.  It’s a wonderful bonus in order to get reviews out ahead of time, and I’m very grateful for them but it isn’t why any of us blog.  We have a voice and I’m choosing to use mine and see what happens.
If any publishers, or authors for that matter, want to respond to this post then I’d LOVE to hear from you and you can email me (details on the Contact tab at the top) or leave a comment here.  Tell me what you think and how bloggers are viewed from the other side.  
BE HONEST!  
I won’t be upset or angry but I want to know what can be done to change the idea that bloggers just sit around and chat books and have no life.  Trust me.  We try to have one sometimes.  I’m not a fool and know that this post won’t please everyone and there are bloggers that will disagree with me but I’m not going to let a bit of fear stop me being honest with you all.
Are bloggers just seen as a bit of marketing for a book?  Do you pay attention to the blogs and send books that interest individual bloggers rather than a mass mail out? How do you deal with bloggers?  Are we individuals to you or are you forced due to time etc to just see us as a collective?  What do you wish would change to make the relationship work better on both sides?  

Authors: How do you view bloggers?  What do think about the way bloggers are treated/dealt with via publishers, good or bad?  Do you prefer dealing with bloggers directly instead of using middle men?

XOXO

14 Comments

  1. This is interesting to me as it's something I've thought about a couple of times.

    I sometimes wonder if the fact that some bloggers/reviewers (including me!) get to choose the books they read is actually a very representation of the books. I mean if you review certain genres that you like, you're already half way 'sold' on the book, if you know what I mean? So I think reviews then tend to be more positive. When I pick books from Viv, lately I've tried to go for a range of stuff I wouldn't normally read or buy in the hopes that will generate a fairer review from me and that I'll maybe enjoy something I didn't expect to!

    Having said that, I can understand you wanting to cut down, you get far more books than I do! As you say, it's probably a case of you asking for certain books you want to review rather than just the deluge you get at the moment!

  2. Personally I think it should be a dialogue between publishers and bloggers – respect on both sides. Bloggers show an awareness of a publisher's list – a publisher should show awareness of a blogger's posts.

    BUT, it takes time to read posts and understand people's tastes. Just as bloggers have time pressures, fitting in reading and reviews around day jobs, so too do publicists have extreme pressure on their time: these guys are the ones who spend their evenings working late and attending events; reading papers not (only) for pleasure, but for pitches; networking with charities and organisations etc. This might be their day job, but it bleeds into all aspects of their lives and it's understandable that not everyone doing this job has developed an online reading habit.

    It's currently an imperfect system, because it's still evolving. I see you guys as champions of books, people who can help launch an author's career online, people who aren't jaded by politics or swayed by budgets. Our reward is your support; yours the joy of discovering something new and being integral to someone's career.

    But if you're not feeling the reward, you need to draw the boundaries so you can feel it once more! At the end of the day, your blog is for fun – it shouldn't feel like a chore.

  3. From a smaller publisher POV – we only have a limited amount of physical ARCs, so I like to send an email out to the people who have joined the mailing list to send them to people who actually express an interest. That way, the books will hopefully connect with bloggers who most want to read them. In the most part, it seems to work okay, although there have been bloggers who ask for the book and then never review, which seems a bit naughty. I mean, sure, if the books were coming out unsolicited to a reviewer, then no need to expect a review. But if they're coming after a direct request, then it feels like poor form not to review it, y'know?

    In terms of blog tours, well, it is hard. There are limited locations now for authors – especially debut authors – to get exposure to potential readers. It is deathly hard to set up events with a debut author, because bookstores/libraries/newspapers/magazines really only want to feature authors they know are a draw. So we turn to online bloggers as an alternative, in the form of blog tours. But I agree that these seem to be just 'blog filler' at times. I'm never sure how many people read them. I remember that, as a blogger myself, my page views for blog tours would be much lower than for reviews. The only difference was author interviews, where the questions weren't just generic questions and tried to ask something different. Unless there is a giveaway attached, I'm not sure blog tours achieve what we want them to. But how else would you suggest that authors are allowed space on blogs? It's a tough one, I think.

    Anyone, I burbled on for way too long!

    Amanda

  4. This is totally fair, Laura! It's your blog, and the publishers that respect you as someone whose review can make a difference to sales will appreciate it all the more when you do review one of our books. The main reason we send out an email previewing what we have coming up is so that we can send copies to people who actually want them.

    Unfortunately we probably flood traditional print reviewers with unwanted books more than we do bloggers, but at least they are getting paid for it! Sometimes we make mistakes, as mentioned above, due to time pressures and also expectations from authors and editors, but we never knowingly take you guys for granted.

  5. Good on you! I've been completely changing the way my blog works for a couple of months now and it's really helped to rekindle my love of blogging AND reading. I've put my foot down on the vast majority of blog tours who'll come along EXPECTING you to post regurgitated content, the same content everybody seems to post, in a timely manner, and when I couldn't live up to that due to real life, been made to feel like something they stepped in. Well I'm not standing for that. This is a hobby I love, and I refuse to be made to feel stressed and crappy for doing it.

    As for review books, if I haven't requested it, it goes on a "maybe" pile and those rarely get a second look. I just don't have time to read all the random stuff that comes my way, so much blokey war-focused historical fiction for some reason as well, especially if I want to maintain my love of reading and read what I'm in the mood to read. I'm avoiding slumps. This is the way for me. Of course, occasionally they do send a real gem and I'll pop them on the pile but yes, I'd much prefer to be asked first. It saves my ever-shrinking space, and their time and money.

    So I fully agree with you. You have to do what works for you and your blog to keep going else it loses the fun. At the end of the day, it's a hobby not a day job.

    However, I don't expect publicists and authors to read my blog. If I found out they were I'd be amazed to be honest! They're incredibly busy peoples and the reason they asked for the genres we're interested in to begin with are so that they know what we're interested in. If they read the blogs of everybody they sent books to, they'd have to create another position for a blog reader, I'm sure. Still, an email and the idea that they care about where their marketing is going would be lovely sometimes. 🙂

  6. Very interesting blogpost, missy! We also put a stop to blogtours on MFB because we had no one bother reading them and no one bothered with entering competitions. It was a tough choice because I know that blog tours help debut authors get exposure, but at the end of the day, if no one reads it…then there's just no reason to bother doing them.

    But now that I'm on the other side, with Grimm coming out next year, I'm dreading the whole blogtour thing because I know there'll be an even bigger fatigue by that time. But I'm hoping by that time something new will have cropped up to help spread the word, you know?

    I think also you're being wise cutting back on book requests. I think the generic email out via newsletter from various publishers saying: these are the titles we have out this month, which would you like? really helps a lot. But then some people are greedy and will say: we want everything!

    I was worried about perceived greed I noticed a few years ago amongst newly minted bloggers – also a one-upman-ship in the case of some very sought after proofs. That's one of the reasons why we never ever took part in the "in my mailbox" blogposts. Yes, it was one way to attract people visiting your blog but really, at the end of the day, it's about content and how you write your reviews that should draw and hold your readers, not you bragging about stuff that's come in and then not actually reviewing them. Admittedly I enjoyed adding the occasional photo on twitter or FB about titles that have come in and yes, to brag a little, but mostly it stressed me out because I thought: HOW AM I GOING TO READ ALL OF THESE???

    It's a tough job being a blogger but in the end I think it's up to each blogger to decide their own parameters. And to tell publishers about them and hopefully they'll pay attention to what you're doing. I know the "old guard" publicity people whom we all know and lovely are VERY on the ball when it comes to sending out books to bloggers – they are aware of our likes / dislikes and if they are unsure, they will email on the off chance that you might want to take a chance.

    Bloggers sometimes, I think, are under pressure needlessly. They think they have to accept everything that comes their way. It adds a lot of stress. We have to learn to say "no" and why you're saying "no" to that book. And be honest about it. When we started scaling back on reviews on MFB the publicity people we spoke with were super supportive. They will still send you the stuff you like and want to review, but there has to be transparency!

    Anyway, I've waffled on too long. Bloggers are important, as is the relationship with publishers and authors. It has to be a symbiotic relationship and there has to be clarity and no Chinese whispers – so this blogpost is one step in the right direction.

    Good luck with it, Ms. L!

  7. This is an interesting and much-needed post. As a reader I know I hardly ever read blog tour posts properly unless they're for an author that I've already read books by, and as a blogger, it bothers me that you always need to sign up before you've read the book. How will I know that I want to take part in a blog tour until I've read the book? It seems dishonest to agree to help promote a book that you haven't read and may not even like.

    I don't have a problem with recieving unsolicited review copies (though I prefer to pick them), though I feel guilty when I get something that doesn't appeal to me at all and have to pass it on. Unless I give it to another blogger to review then it's a lost sale for the author. One thing that's been an issue for me lately is getting unsolicited review copies of later books in series that I haven't read before. Unless the earlier books are available at my local library, then it's going to be a long time before I get around to buying or borrowing them. No matter how interesting the series sounds, I have a limited budget, and it could potentially be years before the review copies get read and reviewed!

  8. Such a valuable post!

    Personally, I've cut right back on the number of requests I make for books (and that's saying something as I've never really requested many books unless I've really wanted it.)

    I have to say I do prefer the request / here's what we have on our list emails as opposed to books turning up – sometimes a gem will turn up but others I just know they're going to end up at my old school library! I do get that publicists are busy and putting together those emails takes time.

    As for blog tours I think I'm not sure I'll keep having them anymore – as like has been mentioned above, they get far fewer views than other posts and tend to be the same kinds of posts for every tour – I know as a blog reader I skip over more blog tour posts than I do anything else.

    At the end of the day – blogging is a hobby, it's supposed to be fun – if it's starting to feel like a job then it's time to change how we do things to re-inject the fun 🙂

  9. As Jesse said, blogging is supposed to be fun, and it's sucks to hear that you're feeling under pressure! It's great that you've written this post, so publishers can try and improve how we work together. There's nothing that beats that rush of excitement when we read blogger reviews – usually you guys are the first outside our office to read our books! – and we wouldn't want to lose that.

    The monthly preview emails we send out (instead of a blogger proof mailing) seems to be working well for us – hopefully it mean that you only get sent books you are interested in : ) And if you don't see anything you fancy, that's ok – one of the best things about reading is the sheer range of genres out there, and no book is going to be for everyone!

    This is a great step in letting people know how you feel, and if there's anything specific you ever want to chat about, never hesitate to email us – as Lauren said above, sometimes publishers make mistakes, but we would never, ever take the blogger/ publisher relationship for granted.

  10. I personally don't have too much trouble with being sent books I've not requested as I'm not on many blogger lists and to be honest the ones I've tried to join/sign up for never seem to get back to me.

    As you know I work at Waterstones and I run the children's section and I use to get sent all sorts. I know this is slightly different as it's for work but the stuff we use to get sent was crazy. But now, as things change and reps and becoming a thing of the past, we get less and less at the shop. What is happening now is we gat a monthly proofs list which you can request books for and although this is good it is also bad. It might cut down on what comes to the shop but when there are only 10 copies of a book on offer and over 300 branches you never really get what you want anymore.

    I know a few publishing houses have gone this way, with a monthly news letter and we get to pick which is brill. We may not always get what we want but a few of us bloggers share and pass books around which is brilliant. Maybe these requesting news letters as it were are the way forward?

    I've just added a post to my blog about being ill and not reviewing. I've noticed a few comments about people requesting books and not reviewing them but as I said in my post, with a sudden 2month illness I won't be reading and reviewing but does that mean I should be judged for it and be taken of a list and not be sent anything again?

    You should do what makes you happy, this is your blog and you do this for fun and for you. I think most publishers understand that.

  11. Great post! Personally I never request a book out if the blue. I did do in my early days and sometimes if kne is mentioned on twitter ill send a helpful little tweet or DM their way, but normally I only ask for ones that I get emailed about, like in the blogger bulletins/newsletters. I was just getting to many with ones I'd asked for and ones I was sent randomly so stopped it unless its a book that I know I might cry myself to sleep every night while waiting for it.

    Great post and point. It's something I think all bloggers need to be aware of and think about carefully!

  12. I think at the end of the day it's YOUR blog, YOUR slice of the internet, and a hobby- not your job. Do whatever you want with it. Post what you want, when you want. Never feel like it should be obligation because then you won't enjoy it. We enjoy reading your passion and enthusiasm for something you love.

    I personally haven't had any bad experiences with publishers, but I do frequently get irritated with indie authors who approach me as if my only function is a free marketing/ publishing tool.

    Nicely expressed post though Laura!

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