Sunday, February 27, 2011

What Do Bloggers Mean?

Sound familiar?  I've read plenty of blog reviews like this.  I haven't ached with loss yet, but I have recommended many books.

I recently wrote an unintentionally provocative piece about bloggers and bookstore affiliates. Is it conflict of interest?  Do bloggers compromise their standards when they sign up to sell books as Amazon or B&N affiliates ?  A blogger writes about a book. An image appears in the post, or in a sidebar on a blog, and if you click on the image you go right to Amazon, B&N, or another bookstore. Then if you buy the book, the blogger makes a little money. Bloggers visited my blog to say there was no conflict of interest.

Nobody but bloggers commented. 


Corporations use bloggers to make money. Of course, bloggers can use corporations, too.  According to one blogger, she makes pennies per book sold. According to another, she made about $200 a year.  These two directly dealt with the issue and made no bones about it.  I have to admit I do not sneer at $200 a year.  I probably spend $1,000 a year on books.   

Oh, it's tempting to sign up as an affiliate.

But if I want to sell books, for God's sake, I'll open an online co-op.  The internet HAS compromised bloggers' ethics.  It makes things too easy for us.  It gives us a template:  Suddenly we find ourselves filling in the Amazon Associate gadget on the Blogger draft page even if we have no intention of doing so.  Honestly, it appears right here. I never asked for this to appear on my page.   Blogger must have made a deal with Amazon.  So click, click!  When I had a blog on Wordpress, one day I went to my blog and found an ad for my city.  It appeared without my permission.  You can imagine how I felt.

Bloggers are not journalists.  Far from it. They're not worried about journalistic ethics.   Everybody is blogging, writing on Facebook, & Twitter:  businesses (so many businesses), writers (so many writers), PR people (so many PR people), publishers (so many publishers), book lovers (professional and amateur), and who is who is who...well, we don't know.  People have different motives for what they do. 

So here are Four Three Precepts for PR Forewarnings:

1.  If a blogger lists books received from a publisher and thanks the publisher, why?  Reviewers are under no obligation to a publisher.  They are doing the favor, not vice versa, and might as well sort out the books first and review the good ones or bad ones.  My husband and I think some of these people are naive and are "bragging." Some may be quite cynical.

2.  If a blogger constantly thanks a publisher for sending a book and then gushes about it, it is a heads-up.  I'M JUST SAYING...

3.  My note of sympathy:  It IS difficult NOT to feel obligated to publicists who send you free books.  If a publicist seeks you out when you are not a professional reviewer, you feel good.  But after awhile it gets old.  You look at the packages with dismay if the books are not your kind of thing.  It isn't necessary to say, Look, I got a free book, and then to say you like it if you don't. It's heart-rending to stay silent, but sometimes you must. The publishers will keep sending them to you anyway because they appreciate your "selling" the books you like. 
4.  Why DOESN'T Persephone Books make bloggers affiliates?... [I deleted most of this paragraph to pacify the crazies.]

My husband notices these discrepancies and thinks there is something deeply wrong in the world of book blogging.  He prefers amateur sports blogs, where they share information about races, weather conditions, etc.  


Ellen said...

Dear Kathy,

As you will see I wrote about this on WWTTA: the new partial myth has now made the Washington Post: how much money one can make blogging! and perfect for women and mommies (as we see on this report)

I had a paper from a student telling me about all this. How rich I can become and how easy it is. Right.

FWIW: My sense is you can add income -- rather less than an adjunct when I did 3/3/2 (taught 8 sections a year). In other words, it's being inflated.

But to do this you have to write a boring bland blog where you keep out too much intellectual content and never evaluate the author for real.

Yes you might add to your husband and your income -- but like most part time work at an enormous cost of time; in this case on top of that integrity if you have any ... After all what are you writing for?

Ellen Moody


Interpolations said...


"Bloggers are not journalists."


I self-identify as an amateur literary journalist.

That probably means nothing, though.


When I visit a literary blog and see blinking-winking-flashing ads, I rue the site for its obscenities.

I cross it off my list - forever.

I'm reminded of E. Abbey's monkey wrench gang and wonder how a misfit like me might undertake a beauty-restoration project and blow up all the damn ads.

That is all.


Frisbee said...

Kevin, you ARE a literary journalist. I'd happily blow up the ads, too, but then THEY'D BE RIGHT BACK.

Frisbee said...

Dear Ellen,

What a fascinating article. I'm sure people read it and think, "I can be the next Heather Armstrong." The blog is FLASHING ads. Even a video ad. It's distracting.

She is giving away $1,000 in honor of her blog's birthday. I haven't seen THAT before.

I've always enjoyed the honesty of the blogosphere but there is a range of types. Most bloggers who sign up for affiliate and ad programs will NOT make much money, and you're right, if they want to, it becomes a job. It becomes PR. At which point you might as well go work for Heather Armstrong...

Anonymous said...

What these so-called money making blogs are are cheap ads for the booksellers. The blogger gets a tiny cut.

I'd say good criticism should point out mediocrity and badness; as this scares many readers and buyers away, it's bad for business so the booksellers can't tolerate it. The blogger quickly learns he or she won't be read if he or she tells the truth about any book -- most books have various flaws as do movies. The reviewer except if he or she makes a reputation for sarkiness (which is occasionally done but you have to be entertaining and somehow be perceived as "above the fray") is most of the time careful not to be too open or hard on anything.

No bloggers are not journalists. blogs are usually much shorter and less detail is tolerated. On the other hand, they don't have to follow the party line of the magazine. And they get no salary or fee and have no reputation in the way paper journalists occasionally do. It's not the integrity of what's written but its venue.

I should add that good criticism is very infrequently found in universities most of the time. The people there are usually currying favor with one another, or pushing one another's careers.

Ellen Moody

Frisbee said...

It's like separation of church and state. :)

The best thing about bloggers IS that they can be independent and shake things up a bit.