You may not know this about me but once upon a time I was a book blogger. I ran a book blog for four years (2010 – 2014) before I finally abandoned that part of the blogosphere. I quit. I gave up. I bailed. I’ve also never looked back. It wasn’t the right world for me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved blogging about books. I met some amazing new author friends, made great contacts in the publishing world and read 100’s of books I never would have read if I hadn’t been blogging about books. The problem came when I started to receive far more requests to review a book than I could manage.
Once you read and favorably reviewed an author’s book you were on a list. As soon as that author published another book there seemed to be this underlying expectation that you would accept it to read and review as well. Once you made a contact with a major publisher they would offer and send an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of books on their upcoming release list. They expected reviews as well. They always said there was no obligation to read and review the books but there was and if you didn’t you didn’t receive quite as many in the future. The problem was, it wasn’t just a review on the blog that was expected.
The authors, publishers, publicists, etc all expected a review on the blog, on Amazon, on Barnes & Noble and on other retailers that they may have selling their book. They also wanted photos, graphics and social media promotion. This all came after spending a solid 6 – 10 hours actually reading the book.
Let’s keep that straight. I was being asked to invest 6 – 10 hours reading the book, another 2 – 4 hours taking pictures, creating graphics and preparing a book review in a blog post, another 2 – 4 hours publishing that book review on various retailers and scheduling social media promotion. That is a total of 10 – 18 hours PER BOOK. If I was charging for my time by the hour I would be charging between $150 – $270 per book based on a rate of $15.00 / hour and I’m not even certain that is enough.
The problem though, is that authors, publicists, publishers, etc don’t offer compensation for book reviews. They offer a free book. Think about it – they are offering a book (value ranging from $0.99 to $25.00 depending on format and publisher) in exchange for 10 – 18 hours worth of work promoting their product. Breaking that down by the hour book bloggers are making anywhere from $0.09 to $1.38 per hour (based upon a 10-hour investment).
How much are you worth per hour?
I started charging for reviews before I left the book blogging world. I started charging $50 per review and there was no guarantee the review would be favorable. I was still selling myself cheap at a rate of $5 per hour (again, assuming a 10-hour investment). Considering I almost always tweet quotes from a book while I’m reading it and talk about the book on social media it was pretty obvious the book was going to get exposure. Everyone balked. There was backlash from the book blogging community and people in the publishing industry were upset.
I eventually left book blogging. I haven’t missed the “perk” of free books and I enjoy having the time to myself to read what I want now. All those books I was getting for free? I didn’t have the space to keep them all so a lot ended up donated to literary charities, local jails or prisons, local youth charities, schools, nursing homes, hospitals, etc.
It just feels like book bloggers don’t understand their value. Why work for free? I’ll tell you right now that lifestyle bloggers (like me) don’t work for free. We don’t promote products or companies without being compensated for our time, effort and creative marketing. Fashion bloggers don’t work for free. Beauty bloggers don’t work for free. Business bloggers don’t work for free. Parenting bloggers don’t work for free. Why do book bloggers? The publishing industry is reaching out to bloggers because they know the value of going viral, generating a web buzz, and having online reviews. They know that bloggers are important but the bloggers aren’t recognizing their own importance and they are selling themselves short.
I reached out to a few friends that I have in the book blogging world. I told them that I did a book review earlier this year and, in exchange for that review, I was compensated with a free copy of the book and $200. I did not guarantee a positive review but I was investing a lot of time and effort into the post. In total it took me 11 hours to read the book and complete all of the requirements negotiated between me and the publisher. I was paid at a reasonable rate of $18.18 per hour.
I asked my friends if they charged for reviews and, if not, why not? Every one of them told me that they do not charge but only because it is frowned upon in the book blogging community and they knew they would receive a lot of harsh backlash if they tried to charge. It made me sad to see these wonderful, educated, talented, and important friends working for free because their own community doesn’t recognize their own value.
Help me out book bloggers. I don’t understand why you’re working for free. I don’t understand why you aren’t demanding compensation in exchange for the service you provide.
You’re important and you’re valuable! You deserve to be compensated.
Do you believe that bloggers should work for free? What’s your opinion on bloggers being compensated for promotional posts?