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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Should bloggers get paid?

Having read enough about this now to feel the necessity to write about it myself, I figure I would take a wholly different approach to addressing the question. I don't agree that we should be paid, but I also don't disagree that we shouldn't be paid. The problem for me is that some of us--bloggers, that is--might go on to do other things with books: we might become publicists, editors, publishers, professional reviewers, etc. Some of us might even become "professional bloggers", if that even makes sense, and start making a living from blogging alone, with the occasional freelance project on the side.
The one thing that I think people aren't addressing is that quite a few of us already are getting paid, it's just not in a monetary form. Some bloggers are fortunate enough to receive review copies from publishers, preventing them from having to go to the store to buy them at retail price. I'm one of these bloggers, and I know many others. Take into account that many of the books bloggers receive are hardcovers or trade paperbacks and you're talking about a lot of money saved. So, in a way I am actually paid by publishers, although not in any traditional form of money and under no contractual obligation to perform. Think of it as "good faith bargaining", if you will. They give me the books, I give them the reviews unless I die or my time suddenly becomes too restricted or other obligations take precedence.
I've thought about this whole issue enough times now to wonder if perhaps those of us demanding/asking for payment might find ourselves in a position where we are no longer receiving free books. I'm particularly fond of the way publicity is working in terms of getting books to bloggers, and I'd like to see it continue to be a big thing for publishers--sending us books, that is. But some of what we're demanding/asking is somewhat ridiculous. I say "we" only because the blogosphere is a community, and because I fall into a certain group of bloggers whom I feel somewhat connected with and some of us are talking about being paid for something we once did for free, which is sort of like the airlines telling you they're going to charge you $15 to check a bag now, even though for decades before it was free. Do we not see a problem with this?
So, in the spirit of things, whatever spirit that might be, I thought I'd talk about how much money publishers have saved me from spending, broken down into categories (hardcover, trade paperback, mass market--all of which are rather arbitrary categories when you consider that there are various hardcover sizes, etc.). It should be noted that to provide accuracy I am using the cover prices and not the Amazon prices.
  • Hardcover
  • Trade Paperback
  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Total
    $1360.86 (w/ tax = $1456 roughly)
To put that into perspective, that is about two months of rent and one month of groceries (and I only rent a room, not my own place).
So, in all fairness, I'm being compensated very well, thank you. I get free reading in exchange for an hour of my time to write a review. Since I already like to read, this is a double benefit on my end because I couldn't afford to pay that much for books. I wish I could, but I can't. The only downside is that I don't have a lot of choice in what I read for publishers, which can be a bad thing, but isn't always. I've read some great works from Tor and from several small presses (like Aio, Arkham, and several others). So, I think it works out, don't you?

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