I've struggled with what to call this post because a) I'll be covering a lot of topics b) it is only partially in response to the larger bloggy world c) It is in part just a maintenance post about where I am and where I want to go.
Ever so often--almost like a wave--there will be a sprinkling of posts popping up about why people blog, why they want to blog, why they need to blog, if they have the right to blog, what respect they deserve as bloggers, what they want from blogging, some tend to be more about what other bloggers are doing wrong, (and sometimes justifiably so) etc.
Here are the posts I've read in the past few days: Presenting Lenore's Discussion Topic: Authors Requesting Reviews; Justine Larbalestier's Stop Asking me for ARCs; Story Siren's It's Past My Bedtime; Books are Life Reviews' How This Blog Works; The Fictionistas: Email to Authors and Author Myths; B&b Ex Libris' Cool and Not Cool!? Talk to Me. Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?'s This Blogging Thing Reminds Me of High School.
There may be more. But these are the ones I've read.
I've posted about this again and again. (To Blog or Not To Blog, Becky's 5 W's, Reflections on Blogging). And I think it is important to keep asking yourself hard questions. That's why I think every blogger needs to have this type of post at least once so they can learn about themselves and explore the issue. I don't know about you, but I know that I learn by typing, by writing. Sometimes the act of writing clarifies exactly how I think and feel about something. This is just one of the reasons I love to blog. I blog so I can learn more about myself. My blog makes me think, not just about books, not just about authors, not just about reading or libraries or literacy and education but about life itself.
One question I walk away with is this: Does reviewing justify requesting books? Can bloggers who review books on a consistent basis legitimately (but respectfully) request books without it being rude, unclassy, unethical?
I struggle with this. I do. You can look at it in one or two ways. You can say "Wow, look at all the books I was able to review this month!" Or you can say, "Oh crap, look at all the books I didn't get reviewed." If you're like me, the stack of books you didn't get read will always be larger than the stack you did get to. But I try to focus on the positive at the same time. I am doing the best I can. I can't give any more than what I'm giving. I am doing something. Just because I can't do everything doesn't mean I should feel awful and beat myself up about it. I review what I can, when I can. To get every book off my tbr pile, I'd need to clone myself three or four times. One person can't do everything, can't please everyone. My hope at least, is that authors and publishers realize this that I'm doing my best but I'm human. Should I feel guilty that there are a handful of 2006 books, heaping stacks from 2007 and 2008 and the ever-growing 2009 pile? Yes and no. Yes in that I'm aware that I agreed to consider each of those books for review. And yes, the authors especially are probably disappointed that it's been too long. But also no in a way. Because while they may have given up on me, I haven't given up on myself. I still *plan* on picking up each and every book in my stack. Of course, I may have to adopt a stricter policy on myself--maybe restrict the library books, or the books I read for challenges--but I haven't given up on my impossible quest. One thing that I might consider--just toying with the idea right now--is being easier on myself when it comes to books. That is if a book isn't grabbing me by page fifty to allow myself to abandon it. Part of me wants to give each and every book the benefit of the doubt. So what that I haven't liked the first two hundred pages? What's a hundred more? But the other part of me is saying it's time to get real and make priorities. I wonder what is the most fair in this situation?
In regards to author-blogger relations...
I can see how authors can be frustrated by requests for ARCs. Especially if they don't have ARCs to begin with. I can see how bloggers could be seen as abrasive to authors. Some probably are--not knowing what their requests looked like I can't say for sure, for sure--but others are probably very nicely written with good intentions. But good intentions or not, I can see how authors might get frustrated as one request after another comes in. An author who receives five requests in a two or three month period might feel differently about it than say one who gets a hundred requests a week.
Personally, I almost always only contact authors to see if they are interested in being interviewed. (This happens after I've read their book. And even then, I don't always get favored with a response. I don't always expect a yes, or assume a yes. But it sure is fun when authors do agree!) I say almost always because I have contacted authors--within the past year--to ask them to pass along my name/email to their publicist. I will express my interest in reviewing their work, tell them that I don't have contact information on their publicist, and let them know that I would appreciate any help they can give me in reaching/contacting the publicist. But I stress the I-don't-expect-you-to-buy-me-a-book-and-ship-it-to-me side of it. Now when I was a relatively new blogger, about nine or ten months in, then I don't think I realized how authors don't really have ARCs to send out. So in my first year, I probably contacted a dozen authors asking for an ARC. And a few said yes, to which I was grateful. A few didn't, and that was fine too.
But as I grew as a blogger, as I learned, I did change how I go about things. I'm sure I'll know more a year from now then I do today. I never claimed--in any way whatsoever--to know everything there is to know about blogging and the right way to interact with authors, publicists, publishers, and other bloggers. I learn new things all the time. And I think it's also important to understand that things DO change all the time. Things on the publishing side can and do change. And things on the blogging side change as well. I think people are constantly evaluating and reevaluating the purpose of blogging, the benefits of it. It sounds like some authors/publishers approach it more positively than others. I've read comments here and there--sometimes by anonymous folks--that state that blogs are useless and that publishers shouldn't waste their time with bloggers because a book being reviewed on blogs doesn't really have an impact on how it sells. Then you'll hear people say otherwise. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Everyone has the right to voice their answer to the question "Do book bloggers make a difference when it comes to selling books increasing author/book recognition?"
Topic Change--A Big Topic Change--
I don't know if there is a bloggers' creed out there or not. One of my rules I'd adopt is: To strive to be the kind of blog you would want to read. If that makes sense. It's a spin on the if you want to find a friend--make a friend--you've got to be a friend. People will want to be your friend if you know how to treat others. So essentially, if you want to grow your blog, you've got to put some thought into it. Think about what your readers would like to see, hope to see. Don't become a slave to them--your blog is yours after all. But always be open to feedback. Be welcoming. Be friendly. Be receptive. Be kind and treat others with dignity and kindness and respect.
Right now I'm struggling with comments. Do I leave enough comments on other blogs? Do I have to leave comments to show I've been off reading others blogs? How do I balance writing posts for my own blogs with leaving comments on others blogs? What should comments look like anyway? Do they have to be in-depth and thoughtful? Should they be personal? Should I expect a response? Are they invitations to start a conversation? Are comments an opportunity to dialogue back and forth with others?
There are two sides to the comment issue.
First, what is my "policy" on leaving comments on other sites? Do I need to set a goal to comment on each post I read? Should I only feel obligated to leave a comment if I *want* to leave a comment. If I have something to say. Or should I feel obligated to leave a comment just so the blogger will know I've been by. Because it's the polite thing to do. Because it can be encouraging to others to see people leaving comments. Is it okay to just lurk?
Second, what is my "policy" on comments left on my blog. Should I respond to each and every comment left on each and every post? Should I respond only if the comment is engaging in conversation or asking a question? If I'm not consistent in replying to comments, then isn't that a problem? People will assume that I never reply at all...to any of my comments. They won't know when/if to check back. It's a wasted opportunity in a way. Right now, I'm inconsistent. Some days I'm good. I reply to all the comments I receive. Other days, not so much. I might be good a day or two in a row. But it hasn't become a firm habit yet. Not really. So this is something I need to work on.
This comes back to expectations. Do you expect other bloggers to reply to your comments that you leave them? Do you check back at their blogs to follow the conversation to see if they do? Or is it out of sight out of mind? I think people are different. I think many bloggers don't reply consistently at least to comments. And I think many are used to doing the same. But I think there are always some bloggers--bloggers who I appreciate and respect--who go out of their way to have conversations in their comments with others. And I love seeing this. I admire the time they put into it. Now it's just time to see if I can do it, if I can commit to being a better blogger.
As always, please share your thoughts.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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