It has been a while since I posted a random opinion piece. This one percolated following a number of discussion threads on social media last week about book bloggers who post negative reviews. Some of the threads became quite heated and even personal at times. Umbrage was taken and participants were blamed for not behaving in a way others desired. It was all very unfortunate – at one stage a publisher became involved. My experience of book bloggers is of a supportive community. As numbers have grown I wonder if it has factionalised. Individual’s views will inevitably differ but infighting and its corollary, taking sides, is never good PR. We are, after all, trying to draw attention to the books, not to ourselves. At least that is where I am coming from.
I post a review for every book I read so, unavoidably, some will detail negative aspects. Whatever my thoughts I try to maintain balance. Few books are perfect and some flaws grate more than others. I will always try to explain why. The purpose of my writing is to inform readers. Even a book that I adore will not appeal to everyone.
I don’t have a problem with those who choose to post only positive reviews – their blog, their decision. What I object to is any attempt to force others to follow suit. The start point for last week’s discussion was the increasingly ubiquitous blog tour. As these are used as marketing tools – the organiser, although not the participants, is paid by the author or publisher – I can understand why there is pressure, even when not explicitly stated, to create positive posts. Most book bloggers will not have had a chance to read the book being promoted when participation is agreed. Suitable alternative content is not always readily available. Once again I felt relief at my decision to withdrew myself from blog tours at the end of last year.
Most of the books I now read are sent to me by publishers. Book post delights me and I am grateful for every parcel I receive. It can take some time to get to a title so when I post my review I will tag the publisher on social media. I do this that they may be aware that a book they have sent has been reviewed as requested. What they do with my words is up to them.
I only tag the author if the gist of my review is positive – few are entirely so because perfection is rare. If I have enjoyed a book I hope that knowing this will please its creator.
No reader, and book bloggers are first and foremost readers, wishes to spend time reading a book that leaves them dissatisfied. This is why I have a review policy – to try to limit books sent to me to those I will be happy to endorse. I derive pleasure from working with publishers to spread the book love but I am not in their employ. I neither ask for nor receive payment. My reviews and recommendations are willingly and freely provided.
Once I have reviewed a book I like to check out other readers’ opinions on a variety of sites. Whether or not we agree I will share many of these on my own social media timelines (although only rarely if part of a blog tour due to repetition – my choice). I enjoy reading reviews that are well written and reasoned; I want to know why the reader thought as they did. I will also share author interviews or related articles. Having read a book I maintain an interest and do my small part to increase visibility of the title.
The book blogging community has grown and its power is being recognised and harnessed. On this site, my site, I am more than happy to participate but I will not be shackled. I hope that the camaraderie amongst bloggers, and friendly relationships with publishers, can be maintained even if we do choose to run our blogs in different ways. Books are my passion, but I will not love them all.
A very measured and well-argued piece. I do take part in blog tours but only for books that I genuinely think I might enjoy. If not, I won’t even post other content because that seems to me to be stepping over the line to promotion. I think that when you start book blogging you’re so keen to get involved with publishers and authors it can be easy to be tempted to cross that line, often without realising.
Now I’m extremely wary of getting involved with book blitzes, especially where content is provided in pre-prepared html. I don’t want my blog to be effectively an advertising hoarding. I do see some book blogs that seem to be just that.
By limiting my involvement to just a few tour organisers I trust, I’ve not had problems so far and can genuinely say I’ve been introduced to enjoyable books I wouldn’t have come across otherwise. Hand on heart, I’ve never published a positive review just because I was on a blog tour but I do try to find positive, constructive things to say about each book I read. I also point out things that could have been better as well but, I hope, in a way that is mindful of the author’s feelings.
I think in every online community, sadly, you’re right that there develop factions and pockets of nastiness. Tagging authors in negative reviews is a prime example of that.
Well said! 💖📚🤓