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Sunday, December 04, 2011

We're Not Your Bitches -- Signed, A Book Blogger

Dear Mr. Morrow and Publishers Thinking of Doing the Following:
Book bloggers read and review books for the love.  We are not paid.  At best, some of us will sell a review here or there, or we might earn a little cash from advertising.  But almost all of us do this because we love books, and we do it knowing the only form of compensation is the thrill of getting a new book in the mail.

But this is not a job.  We are not employees on the tab or paid under the table.  Free books does not equal compensation, in part because free books is an unequal relation of value.  You give us a book, but we have to read and review it, which means the value of the book in relation to the time spent working on it averages out to less than minimum wage.  Effectively, if free books constitute compensation, then those of us who blog about books are making less than someone who works at Taco Bell.

The point is:  this is not a job.  We do this for the love.  Most of us will never have jobs at magazines as reviewers.  Most of us will never get beyond sharing our love of books with people who share our interests. That's just the way it is.

In other words:  we are not your bitches.

While you might think your new policies are about efficiency, what they tell the rest of us is that you do not value what we do.  As @MotherReader has already pointed out:  "Can you imagine them sending this to Horn Book or the NY Times?"  Exactly.  The language of the letter is a double bitch slap to the face:  first, you tell us that what we do is a job, despite the fact that we are not paid for it, and then you treat us as less worthy of the kind of attention afforded to a place whose job it is to review books.

Don't get me wrong.  I completely understand why publishers want to streamline the process, and I sympathize with it.  But turning book blogging into a "play by the rules" game is far from streamlining anything.

Instead of treating us like review slaves, you might consider asking book bloggers for their opinions.  Surveys are a wonderful thing, and book bloggers are usually quite happy to offer their thoughts on a range of topics related to -- you guessed it -- books.

Just don't treat us like we're your bitches.  Because we're not.  We're lovers of books who enjoy sharing our love with others.  Slapping us in the face with these kinds of policies, written with such words, is not a great way to keep us interested in talking about your books.

As Larry of OF Blog says:  "I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more."

Signed,
A Book Blogger

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Thoughts from others:  Larry at OF Blog; LA Times Blogs.

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5 comments:

  1. Wow!! For people who works in communication the William Morrow Marketing Team are certainly in need of a few classes. I understand where they are coming from; it is implausible to send review copies out to every book blogger - I get that I really do. However it is a damm shame that they never stopped to consider whether book bloggers actually want to receive all their books. I cover books on my blog and I get an awful lot of titles sent to me in the post, some are relevant and are featured on my blog and sadly some are not the sort of books I cover. All William Morrow had to do was drop an email to all the bloggers on their mailing list asking them to state the type of genres or even authors they will be covering in the future. They might have found that a lot of their books are going to the wrong bloggers hence no reviews. It really is a shame because since I started blogging five years ago I have found book PRs the best to work with because not only are they passionate about the product they are promoting, they are the ones who get blogging. Still there are some wonderful book publicists out there and lets hope it stays that way.

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  2. Ondo: The letter does state that they want to give bloggers a choice about the books they choose. I don't have a problem with that. In fact, I think giving us a choice about what we want to read from their release schedule is a good idea.

    The problem comes when you get to all of Morrow's stipulations and his language. Changing your policies is fine. Just don't do it by disrespecting the people who do the reviews.

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  3. You're right of course. I've blogged about this too. Actually, your comment about 'this isn't a job' is something I overlooked. Perhaps, for me, because while I blog for free, I do also work as a journalist where I do a lot of reviews. In that respect, reviewing always has been a job for me, so I recognise the trade-off of writing a review if I *request* a freebie unsolicited. However, where things are sent unsolicited, I feel no compunction to do anything.

    But you're right to point out that I'm not most book bloggers. Most book bloggers aren't getting paid to do reviews of any kind, and as such they shouldn't be treated as if they are doing a job. It's silly to insult the people who generously donate their time to promote your books and make money for you, when all they get in return is a cheap advance review copy or two. William Morrow should see it as *their* job to make sure they build the right relationships with book bloggers so that they know where to send books and what kind of response they'll get. If they're sending review copies out willy-nilly, then not getting reviews in return, then that's their own fault for not doing their homework.

    Between the marketing staff and the book bloggers, only one of them has a job to do.

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  4. Totally understand where you are coming from and agree, but there will be plenty of book bloggers glad to do whatever is asked. I just was never one of those people. :)

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  5. Oh, I'm sure. But they're chumps :P

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