Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What are we doing here?

This blog post over at MotherReader brings up some really good questions, like, "should we consider ourselves 'paid' for the reviews we do?' and "are we volunteer marketing machines?" Read the post and you'll understand what I'm getting at. While I agree with MotherReader that I think we'll remain just under the radar of the FTC, it doesn't get us out of the red.

While we can't provide our service without obtaining galleys, can those be perceived as payment? I think depending on which way you bend your head they can. It's a free book. All we have to do is read it and review it and we can keep it. Lately I've been seeing other bloggers branching out into bookshelves. You get to keep the product but in return you need to review it and promote it on your blog. What's next? Kindles? Coolers? Tablet PCs? Just watch it. The bigger the products, the bigger the blip on the radar we become and the LAST thing any of us want to do is start reporting what we receive to the FTC. That's a guaranteed way to whittle the book blogging world down to nothing.

Are we just volunteer marketing machines? Yeah, I'd say so. Lately I've been feeling a little bit like a contest whore too with all of the contests I've been running. But I'm not the only one running contests. Many, many other bloggers are. So does that make our followers legitimate followers and readers of our blogs or simply a number because we offer extra points to win a free book if you sign up? I often wonder on that one, which leads into wondering what kind of impact my reviews are having.

I also often see the same book sprawled across multiple blogs at the same time in a mass marketing campaign to get the word out. I understand the meaning, but like hearing the same song over and over again on the radio, it can become an overkill. Personally, that kind of marketing has the adverse effect on me. I'll purposely avoid a book that's being pimped like that simply because it's monopolizing our "advertising" space. The only product with repeat advertising that'll work on me is food. And I can't eat a book.

I'm not criticizing anyone or looking down on people because they review this that or the other thing. In all honesty, I could use a new bookshelf and would be more than willing to review one for someone! *wink wink* But in all seriousness, as a community, we do a damn good job at what we do. Word of mouth is the biggest means of selling a book and we are that mouth.

But we have to decide, who do we work for: the publisher or the public? Are we servicing the publisher that gives us the book by providing a favorable review? What if we ended up not liking it? Or do we serve the public by providing honest reviews that'll help them decide which books are worth buying? Where do our loyalties lie? If it's with the public, I feel we will never cross that FTC line. But if it's with the publisher, or the bookshelf maker or Amazon, we're in trouble.

We really need to watch ourselves because once we cross that line, we can't go back and that'll just suck. We have a really good thing going here. We get free products from people without having to report any of it and then we get to say what we want about it to let the public know about it. Not bad for a volunteer job. But we are not shills. We are not sell-outs. We do what we do because we love it. Because we love reading. Because we love books. We want to help promote them. We just have to be weary of that line.

5 comments:

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

A thought provoking post. I agree with you it's a fine line. Although I do think it's great marketers are recognising the potential of this market and the united voice we have.

I live in Australia and we don't get ARC's from Australian publishers, I have had 4 now from US publishers which is great because most of my readers live in the US. But it's not an expectation, I blog about books because I love to read, I blog about my favourite authors because I want everyone to love them so that they can keep writing. I love the book blogging community because we have a common interest and I find lots of great authors I wouldn't have found otherwise. Because of those bloggers I purchase many books from the UK and US because they are not available in Australia.

The only thing I like to know when I read a review is, where it came from i.e. ARC. Well that's my 2 cents.

WilowRaven said...

A few thoughts...

I honestly did become a follower of your blog for an added point on a contest. But I do read it everyday and I very much enjoy it. Even if I'm not commenting - I'm here.

I didn't start my blog to get free books. I started it because I love books and wanted an outlet for sharing my thoughts with others with the same love. I have received 1 free ARC from an author I contacted personally - mainly because I really wanted to read the book before it came out. Most of the books I review are either bought, borrowed or taken out from my local library.

I don't consider my blog (or the reviews I post) work and I don't consider myself unpaid. My hope is that someone would read a review of mine and it would make them want to read the book for their own personally enjoyment. I don't take into consideration the fact that the book might be bought, turning my review into a source of marketing for the author / publisher.

Just some of my thoughts! Thanks for the post - made me think :)

Interested to see what others have to say...

Marie said...

This was a really interesting post...
I feel conflicted about this sometimes too but I think we all have one thing in common- we love reading and we love to blog about reading. I think it goes beyond free books and contests... Maybe I'm just a dreamer...

Sara said...

I hate not knowing if I have "real" followers or just people who want to win in contests. I'd be happy if it were both, but the followers who just want free stuff and don't care about my reviews are real bummers. I use random.org to generate winners and I hate to give the books to people who are just looking for free stuff... but I do... because I feel too guilty generating new winners when I did say that it would be random. :S

Personally, I love reading other peoples reviews and random news. I love the book blog community - I don't know what I'd do without it really. It is such a big part of my life now...

Donna said...

I think whatever we can do to get the word out about books is an awesome thing. Reading rocks. It really does. We just have to be aware of that line because with the FTC comes the IRS and that's just way too complicated for book blogging!

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