The Etiquette of Book Blogging: A Growing Minefield #bookblogging #bookbloggers #bookblog #amreading

Company-Shocked-Gillray

I thought the thing that was going to get me most riled up yesterday was our exit from the European Union. However, having decided early on to focus solely on bookish Twitter and avoid the worst of the Brexit furore, I managed to stay relatively calm, if deeply saddened, on that front. Little did I expect that it would be bookish Twitter that would end up getting my dander up! (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase somewhere and never had the chance before.)

The cause of the annoyance? A tweet from an author stating that it was ‘pretty rude’ for readers  to tag authors in our reviews, and that most authors are of this mindset. They must just have been talking about negative reviews, I hear you cry. You’d think so, but apparently not. It’s all reviews, and tweets about reading their books, or in any way letting them know you are engaging with them at all, seemingly. Yes, letting authors know you are actually reading the books they have written for this purpose stresses them out and they would rather be left oblivious to the fact this is happening at all – save presumably for when their royalty cheques come rolling in.

I apologise for sounding a little narked, but it’s beginning to get extremely difficult for book bloggers to know what to do correctly in any given situation these days. I mean, what is the actual etiquette for blogging about books? Any new bloggers could be forgiven for not having a freakin’ clue what authors or readers want from them, there are so many conflicting opinions and reactions out there. The fact this is happening was borne out by reactions to the author’s tweet – lots of surprised ‘really?’ type responses.

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Now, I never write posts like this, by which I mean opinion pieces on book blogging. I don’t tend to engage in any controversy, because book blogging is a fun hobby for me and you can guarantee that sticking your head above the parapet isn’t the way to a quiet, happy life. There is a lot of viciousness out there, and all I want to do is spread the book love. That is it. I love books, I want to talk about them all day long to like-minded book nerds, discover new books and authors and spread the love of the books I’ve adored, support the authors I love – and, yes, tell them what their books have meant to me. I am a happy, little, sunshine-y bookworm who blogs about books for fun. That’s all there is to it. But a lot of the current negativity is taking some of the fun out of it for me, and I just wanted to talk about this a little.

Look, blogs are our personal spaces, we can do what we like with them, that is the joy of our little corners of cyberspace. But equally, it is a responsibility and, if you want to play nice with others and not be considered a douche, there are a few basic tenets of good manners we all understand. Don’t slag off books you haven’t read or were delivered damaged by Amazon. Don’t use book blogging as a way of scrounging books you have no intention of reviewing. If you volunteer for blog tours, do post what you’ve agreed to post when you’ve agreed to post it and, if you can’t, contact the organiser in good time to say why. And the biggie, the number one cardinal rule – NEVER, EVER, EVER TAG AUTHORS IN NEGATIVE REVIEWS!

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Aside from these, are there really any other blogging rules? I don’t think so.

Do you have to review everything you read, good and bad, to be taken seriously? I personally choose not to write negative reviews at all. This is an individual decision based on a number of factors: 1) I’m trying to write a book and it’s HARD, so anyone who has written one and got it published deserved a round of applause, not a kicking from me, even if I hated it; 2) Opinions are subjective and just because I disliked something doesn’t mean others will; 3) My blog is to celebrate books I love, not pull others down; 4) My mother always told me, ‘If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.’ However, I realise other people have a different opinion and review everything they read, good and bad. That’s fine, it’s your blog, you do you. JUST DON’T TAG AUTHORS IN YOUR NEGATIVE REVIEWS, that’s just not cool.

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I’ve received criticism for this approach, mainly on the basis that a) I’m not being honest and b) people can’t tell if they agree with my reviews if they can’t read the negative ones. I disagree. a) All of my reviews are 100% my honest opinion of the book, I just choose not to share the negative ones. This does not alter one word of the positive ones, they would read exactly the same even if the negative ones were published! b) Read my review of a book you have also read, if our opinions on that gel, you should be able to tell whether our views and tastes align or not. If you can’t, no harm, no foul, you aren’t obliged to read my blog, it is entirely optional and if you choose not to, I won’t hold it against you. My reviews are there for the people who find them helpful.

Bloggers have come in for a lot of criticism again recently for not being ‘real readers,’ whatever that means (this is a recurring debate.) Presumably this criticism is levelled at us because somehow our opinions are skewed because we have been asked to read books in advance by authors or publishers, or been given complimentary copies for review, rather than buying them ourselves. Well, I call crap on this. All the book bloggers I know are the most avid and passionate readers out there. This is why they started blogging in the first place. They read hundreds of books a year, some gifted and many not. They buy more books than anyone else. They are absolutely readers, first and foremost, and I know that the vast majority, like me, would never contemplate writing a less than honest review of a book, just because they had received a free copy. And Joanne Harris agrees.

Book Bloggers Are Real Readers

So, to the current case in point, is it rude to tag authors in positive reviews? I don’t think so and, until today, I have never had an author ask me not to tag them. The opposite is true, I am often asked to make sure I do tag the author and the publisher so they can find the reviews. In fact, in my experience, authors and publishers are desperate for good reviews and want to shout about them far and wide. They pay for blog tours and send out advance copies to generate them, they beg us to put them on Amazon and Goodreads to help boost visibility, ranking and, hopefully, sales. They share them to generate buzz about a book. For small publishers and indie authors, they are the most important publicity tool they have at their disposal. Or so we have been led to believe. Which is why tweets like this one are so confusing and disheartening. It feels like all the work we do to try and promote authors is being thrown back in our faces.

Reviews are for readers, we know this, but it would be dishonest of me to deny that engaging with authors is one of the highlights of being a book blogger. Being able to get to know our favourite authors and discover new ones, get advance notice of their new books, get an insight into their writing process, get to interact with them on social media, and even in person, is one of the joys of this. It isn’t why we do it, but it makes doing it really worthwhile. So for an author to tweet like this, in a way that makes us feel like an unwelcome intrusion in their day, that they don’t have room for engagement, or even want to know that their readers exist and are loving their books, and to assert that they speak on behalf of all authors – well, it’s a bit of a slap in the face. A ‘we’ll take your money but please don’t bother us’ vibe that is unedifying.

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Look, when I tag an author in a post, I’m not expecting them to engage with me. Don’t get me wrong, I love it if they do, but it’s not anticipated. That isn’t why I do it. I do it so they can see the review and share it if they think it will help publicise their book. I do it so they can read it if they wish and, knowing someone loved their work, feel a bit happier and a bit like what they are doing has meant something to somebody, somewhere. I do it so the readers who do read my posts can go to their feeds and maybe find out more about the author and their work and engage with them. For me, it is about being part of a community sharing a love of books. If you don’t want to engage, that is fine, just ignore me. But please don’t accuse me of being rude.

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I’m sure being a writer isn’t easy, even my limited experience so far has given me that much insight. However, insulting the very people who are your biggest fans, who are most firmly on your side and who are going out of their way to tell the world and its wife how brilliant your books are and how much they love them, isn’t the way to win friends and influence people. It’s just likely to mean the people who are most likely to buy and read your books avoid doing so. The more obstacles, insults, hurdles and criticism bloggers face for expending time and energy and love on doing something for free, the less they feel valued and and the more they feel denigrated for doing it, the more likely it is they will simply stop. Because, if it’s not fun any more, if we can’t do right for doing wrong in someone’s eyes, what exactly is the point?

There must be ways around this for authors who don’t want to be notified of book reviews. Make a note in your profile that you don’t want to be tagged, maybe? Most reasonable people would respect this, and the unreasonable ones are going to do what they want whatever you do or say in any event. Make your account private, or don’t be on social media at all if you don’t want to interact with your audience. Unfortunately, social media is not a one way street, interaction is the whole purpose of it. Just ignore those tweets, no one is going to think the worse of you for it, that is your prerogative. I fear, however, that putting your work out into the public domain is opening yourself up to some interaction with the public, however much you wish that weren’t so, it goes with the territory. It’s always a risk, a bit like this blog post in fact.

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Maybe this post is unwise. Maybe I’ll get up in the morning and delete it without posting it. Maybe I’ll get a barrage of abuse, or it will pass by unnoticed. Or maybe, just maybe, it might help us see one another’s perspective. I love book blogging. The bookish community is the happiest, friendliest place I’ve found to be and I’ll keep doing it as long as that continues to be true. If there are rules I’m not following, let me know, the last thing I ever want to do is upset anyone, truly. But, until I hear otherwise, I’ll keep doing what I do, how I do it, including tagging authors in my reviews and, I hope they will appreciate that I do it, not to be rude, but because I have loved their book and I want to tell the whole world that it was great (or at least the very minuscule part of the world that reads my blog.)

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29 thoughts on “The Etiquette of Book Blogging: A Growing Minefield #bookblogging #bookbloggers #bookblog #amreading

  1. Please don’t delete this post!

    I was cheering inside as I read it. I need you; we need you. Authors need book bloggers! You’re writing a book yourself, and you know how much hard work it is. Bloggers help authors with discoverability, with those oh-so-precious reviews that are so hard to come by when you finally release your baby into the world.

    I’m on my first ever official blog tour with a book (released last year) right now and I’ve another coming up when my new book comes out in February. I leapt at the chance to do them, even though I was nervous about the books’ reception, not just for the reviews, but to be able to connect with the book-loving blogging community. I WANT to interact with bloggers, especially if they’ve enjoyed something I’ve written. Just one person telling you they loved your book means the absolute world.

    If I’m not tagged in Tweets or posts, how can I discover what bloggers think of my book? I believe in being kind too. I can’t, no matter how I look at it, see how this could be considered rude! I want to share the love, I want others to see the reviews, I quote from them in my retweets and FB posts. If I’m not tagged, I can’t do this.

    Right; now I’m off to share your Tweet! Happy reading and good luck with the writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great blog post and a really interesting read. I’m new to blog tours, though I’ve written and self-published over 20 books to date. As an author, I was terrified of taking part in my first blog tour, but I found the team of blog reviewers to be amazing in the service that they offered – not only did I get 15 x blog features, the reviewers also left detailed Amazon reviews, and that’s like gold dust to an author. I also found the reviewers incredibly supportive and professional in the way they reviewed the book. I do agree with you about tagging an author in on a negative review – my view as an author is, why would I want to broadcast a negative review to my followers, I’m in the business of selling books not killing my career? However, as a book reviewer, you have every right to hate my book and give it a bad review – that’s part of the deal you enter into with a book reviewer. However, I would hope that a book reviewer would select books which they’re more likely to be more positive about – for instance if you prefer cosy crime, there’s no point reviewing a book that features violence and graphic descriptions. If a reviewer has found something which I can easily correct – maybe spelling mistakes or a simple error – I’d rather they dropped me an email directly as I can have it put right by the time their review gets written and published – and that helps to enhance the reader’s experience. Finally, the words of Thumper in Disney’s Bambi are extremely pertinent, as you rightly say: ‘If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.’ This is an excellent talking point, I’m sure there will be many different opinions, but it’s a great read, thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mybookthoughtssite

    I totally agree with all you’ve said here, and can’t understand why an author would not want to see positive things about their work – at the end of the day it’s free advertising for them. I am very much of the same mind and have only ever once wanted to discuss a book I struggled with. Sadly when I typed the author’s name, Facebook in its wisdom linked the lady in question to the post – I was mortified when I realized what had happened. Since then I have never put negative thoughts on to my blog.
    Excellent post, echoing what many bloggers are thinking. Thank you for sharing x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When I read that author’s tweet yesterday I was reminded of those celebrities who want all the trappings and glitz of fame and then complain about being in the public eye or having to deal with fan mail. If you don’t want to interact with readers- don’t write! Or at least don’t have a social media presence. There’s no point using social media if you are anti-social.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mai Taylor

    Love this! You have said everything I have been thinking lately but put it much better than I could. Like you, I would never tag an author in an even slightly negative review, but if I love someone’s book, I want to tell them. I never expect a response but when I get one it is the highlight of my day. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting post. Many bloggers write with the publisher or author in mind and if this is the case, yes, they should be tagged. If you write for the reader the author doesn’t need to be tagged.

    I review books and and use a brief system that I was taught to use in school when studying literature: plot, theme, character and atmosphere. I will look at style, topic and diction – briefly, because it’s not a school analysis – but this is in my mind. Every book has something good about it and similarly something that could be improved. That’s the teacher in me I suppose!

    In the end, you should review how you want to. It is, as you say, your hobby and your space. Don’t stop what you’re doing the way you want it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve seen this argument before and I think that we all have to just do what we think is best. If we know a certain author doesn’t want to be tagged, then fine, we should abide by their wishes. Tags on negative reviews isn’t cool, so perhaps it would be best to avoid doing that. But as you said, what one person dislikes about a book might be the very thing that others would love about that same book. If we are constructive and not insulting in our reviews, and we aren’t tagging authors who have said they don’t want to be tagged, then just – as you say – do you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a fabulous post. Please, please, please keep doing what you’re doing. There will always be people with a different view of the world but it doesn’t mean they’re right! As a writer I deal with fear of rejection every day, so to have someone want to interact with me or my writing is wonderful and humbling in equal measure. Well done you for your post, keep doing what you are doing, be true to yourself and you can’t go far wrong 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a great post and I think its absurd an author wouldn’t want interaction when it comes to reviews… interaction is what drives book sales. As a reviewer I pretty much know if I am going to like a book by the blurb and sample pages, if not I will be as constructive as I can and even then if the review of the ‘negative’ persuasion I wont reach out which is the rule you mentioned. As an author being approached and thanking someone for a review is possibly the best thing about writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is a great post, and an important topic, so please don’t delete it.

    The author who wrote that initial tweet certainly does not speak for most authors, and I think it’s rude that she did. Most authors I know (myself included) love hearing from readers, and we especially love book bloggers. How would anyone know about our books without book bloggers? The vast majority of us are never going to be reviewed by the major newspapers or Oprah’s book club, so how else are we going to get feedback or find new readers without you? You’re a vital part of today’s publishing landscape.

    Even bad reviews are important. Not all readers will love all books, and with so many books available it’s hard for readers to find books they might love. Reviews by other readers help them do that. A bad review that says “I hated this book, it was too light and fluffy and I prefer angstier stories” can help the author because someone who is in the mood for light and fluffy might actually buy the book based on that review!

    Though I can’t speak for other authors, I think most will agree though with that request please not to tag us in negative reviews. I’ve been unable to write for weeks after having someone contact me to tell me how much they hated my book. We’re just human too.

    Thank you to you and every other book blogger out there for the important work you do. No one knows better than a writer how long it takes to write blog posts and reviews, and I for one am grateful that bloggers take that time and make the effort to do this for no other reward than a love of books.

    Like

  11. Excellent post. I was gobsmacked by the tweet that inspired you. I love doing blog tours. I’ve encountered so many fabulous readers through them. And it makes my day to be mentioned on Twitter–positively. You are spot on about steering clear of tagging authors for negative reviews, and even avoiding the negative altogether. Thanks for this! Blog on!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I enjoyed reading your thoughts! Thanks for sharing! I’ll continue to tag authors but only in 5 star reviews. Angie Thomas is another author who does not want to ever be tagged in any review, positive or negative. Her tweet caused a twitter uproar last year!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wonderful post Julie, I think most authors and bloggers agree with you & I was taught not to say anything if I couldn’t say nice too. Although, I think it was Thumper’s mother in Bambi that imparted the lesson first!

    I love your reviews, keep doing your thing, your passion for books & blogging shines through. X

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Frankly, Julie, I don’t see what the author in question is moaning about. All the points you make are valid, and I’d be delighted to be tagged for reviews of my books on a regular basis. That aside, I’m always in awe of the effort put in by book bloggers, so I’m just grateful you’re all out there doing your bit. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great post! As an author I agree with most of the points you’ve made, and am also vlogging about my opinions on this as I feel so strongly about the respectful and appreciative symbiotic relationship between authors and readers/reviewers/book bloggers.

    Thank you – Nikki 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Well I made a mess of my first attempt to leave this comment, haha. Let’s try this again.

    You said everything I felt about this kerfuffle much more eloquently than I did. It was such an insane thing to see happening on Book Twitter- hurtful, too. At least it distracted us from Brexit, I suppose!.

    “Well, I call crap on this. All the book bloggers I know are the most avid and passionate readers out there. This is why they started blogging in the first place. They read hundreds of books a year, some gifted and many not. They buy more books than anyone else. They are absolutely readers, first and foremost, and I know that the vast majority, like me, would never contemplate writing a less than honest review of a book, just because they had received a free copy.”

    ^^ Hear, hear!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Paul’s Podcast Diary 187 (Saturday 8th February, 2020)

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