Yes, I wish this blog made money (beyond the token amount via Amazon Affiliates, see sidebar). But do I want checks coming in from publishers and publicists?
While I know some people prefer to believe that artists (including writers) live on air and that the acceptable way of doing business is the hobby model (i.e., having a full time non-writing/art/music job to pay bills OR being married/ supported by someone who pays the bills), I do not. But how does that fit in with something that IS a hobby to begin with, like blogging?
I think it's perfectly fine, if not downright admirable, for the writer to think of things like hard numbers (see, for example, John Green's musings on the advance/royalty structures). At the same time, I understand that not everyone is a self-promoter or marketer, either from temperament, interest, or time (see Lara Zeises's recent comments about this business end of writing). When I say, "think business," I don't mean, "ignore quality." I wonder about book reviews in mainstream media and professional journals; and when I see the thriving online book reader community, I wonder why the media hasn't done more to tap into that.
Anyway, that's quite the wordy introduction to this interesting post I read at KidzBookBuzz (via the Kidlitosphere Carnival at Melissa Wiley's blog) which links to hard numbers. And which ultimately asks, "Why should PW be allowed to sell advertising space to publishers while bloggers are looked down upon for doing the same thing? Why should bloggers be accused of lying in their reviews if they sell advertising to publishers?"
Before I get to the real question, something that needs to be remembered is that when it comes to numbers, they can be manipulated. Also, a lot of book readers don't read blogs. I just spent a lovely day with various family members who are readers and the only blog readers amongst them? Yours truly. So yes, some people do; but a lot of people don't. It's the rare "real life" person I meet who is a blog reader.
Would I love to get paid for blogging? Hell yes. Should that money be paid by an author, publisher or publicist? Hell no.
Argue amongst yourselves in my comments about how if you accepted a check from a publicist or publisher your individual review would still be objective and critical; I do not believe that basically becoming an employee/independent contractor of a publisher/publicist (let's be realistic, authors don't have that kind of money) would ultimately allow for a website/blog, in its entirely, to remain objective, critical, and uninfluenced by the publisher. Now, if a publisher sought to add paid bloggers to its own in-house blog? In a way, like SLJ has? Now, that is a different story. But for right now, let's keep the discussion at the local, self-owned blog, not an industry blog. (And for the record: if you are an industry blog, please be transparent about it. Flux, Scholastic, are all crystal clear that they are industry blogs.)
Have my readers pay? Sure! (Not sure what would be a good model for that). But it would be like magazine subscriptions. Ah ha, you say! What about magazine advertisers! They pay for advertising, why can't a blog have a publisher pay for a banner ad?
Because that magazine has separate divisions handling those different areas. The person with the "selling ad space" hat does not wear the "what books get reviewed" hat. So, if I turned my blog into an online magazine (with appropriate start up investors to cover all the costs, email me if you're interested!), and I had enough staff to have those separate divisions, then I could do it. But *I* wouldn't be doing it; Tea Cozy Inc. would be. Or, if we're doing a start up, to attract more investors, it would probably be more than one blogger involved in this online book magazine. We can discuss the actual name later. And that difference IS important; is critical; is, and I know some bloggers hate this word -- ethical.
And before you say, "I wouldn't lie just because a publisher paid for a banner ad".
Really? Neither would I.
So let's not talk giving a great review for a book the blogger hated. Let's take "lie" off the table completely.
Ask instead, how would that ad impact how many of that publisher's books are reviewed or mentioned at all, since any exposure is good? Would that publisher now be disproportionately represented on the blog? What is the business model for ensuring that doesn't happen? How often would that publisher's authors be highlighted, as opposed to others? Again, what is the model for making sure that the blog doesn't just happen to mention the banner payer's authors more than other authors? Let's take books that are only "liked". As an independent blogger, the blogger may or may not blog these reviews based on a number of factors. Did one of those factors to push to post that liked-it review just become the banner ad?
And when you're used to that paycheck coming in, and the publisher decides not to buy the ad anymore, because they've decided it's not a good business decision, what then? We're all so quick to judge (yours truly included!) when there are rumors about publishers and who they send ARCS to and why. Now ARCS (which have no real independent value) are off the table. Instead it's money. In the business world, publishers pull ads all the time because they don't like the content of a TV show. Just as an advertiser can rightly cut his advertising on a show they don't like because of the sexual content (Swingtown), a publisher with ads could base their decision not to do more on, well, just about anything. And the blogger is left to then either say, "don't give me the money" or to change their blog to preserve their cash flow. And again -- this isn't about what is said in a review. It's about the entire philosophy and mission of the blog.
Here's the hard reality about blogging. It's a hobby. And like any hobby, whether its fanfiction or scrapbooking, it means putting in time without a paycheck.
Writing can be done to make money. And using your writing on a blog can be a basis to find ways to make money. There is the obvious, get a book published based on the blog, which Sophie and I did. Get your blog picked up by a site that pays for your blogging. Write articles for magazines.
But getting a check from a publicist or publisher? Sorry. Yes, I will judge how it impacts impartiality and independence.
Note: For right now, for the sake of argument, let's take paid blog tours off the table of conversation. While readers know I'm not entirely comfortable with this model, independent blog tour arrangers act like a buffer between the blogger and the author/publicist/publisher, so it removes some of that pressure, intentional or unintended, about what appears on the blog. Also, based on all I've seen, most bloggers are transparent about the tour, so the end reader is aware of why that author/book was selected by the blogger. And (again based solely on my reading) the participants don't promise glowing reviews; what they promise is a mention (with mention defined in various ways depending on the tour). So all of the above? Is NOT talking about the paid blog tour model. It IS talking about, "you wrote a review, here's a check" or "here's $$$$ for a banner ad." But I'm not talking about things like Google Ads, just because I don't quite understand them so cannot rant about them and, like the blog tour organizer is a "buffer" so the blogger isn't involved in direct business soliciations, so, too, is the Google Ad participant not directly soliciting adverstisements.
© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy