Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Business of Blogging

It's Thursday, and once again I'm feeling ranty because of a confession from Indie Authors & Book Blogs. For those of you that don't know, these confessions are submitted anonymously and they do not necessarily reflect the views of the admins at IABB, the lovely people at IABB just provide the platform for their airing and have taken the time to make the arrangements for the graphics to be created. The graphics artists are also not responsible for the confessions, they have simply donated some of their time to create the images to be shared. 

The confession pictured above has me ranty for so many reasons.  Now, I'm not a big blog (I don't think I'm really a small blog anymore either. I'm kind of a medium sized blog like Mama Bear) and I don't consider my blog to be a business. I don't accept money for advertising, and I typically make enough money through Amazon Associates to get a payout once every three months (that's right, it takes me on average 3 months to earn $10 from you guys clicking the links to books I share. Ain't no way I'm making a living off of that!) This is strictly a hobby for me, and considering the fact that I spend more money on it than I make, the IRS would agree with me. But I do have a business connected with the indie book community. I'm a freelance proofreader and work with several indie authors currently. So I'm going to be making comparisons between the way I act towards my blogging and my proofreading. 

So lets start at the beginning of the confession. This confessor is well within their right to resent the big blogs. They really don't need my validation for their feelings. And I'm sure they're correct that the bloggers with 20K followers or more do treat their blogs as a business. I've seen talk that some of them earn thousands of dollars a month through Amazon Associates (I don't know if that's true, but I can believe it because they've been around for years and built their followings and their followers surely trust their recommendations at this point.) But that's the thing, they're not getting their money from authors. Authors are not paying them for their services (it is actually dishonest to accept money in exchange for reviews). Any money they receive is from Amazon (or other sources where they earn advertising dollars for their posts.) What we bloggers mostly get from authors as compensation for reviewing is books; sometimes paperbacks, but most often ebooks. I can't pay my rent with books any more than I could pay my rent with the compliments I sometimes received from tables that then failed to leave me a tip when I was a server. Surprisingly my landlord didn't accept things like "You're the best waitress we've ever had" as payment. So I'm sorry authors, but even if I did consider my blog to be a business, you are not my customers. My followers are my customers. My blog subscribers are my customers. The people that sometimes click my Amazon Associates links earning me a few pennies each time, they are my customers. 

So yes, most of us blog in our free time, and we receive compensation in the form of books, but like I said, books don't actually pay our bills. I really don't think that the big publishers are providing any further compensation to bloggers than the ARC copies of books that the send. Honestly, they probably don't need to because the dream is to be one of the cool kids that gets unsolicited books from the Big 5 publishers (or even just one of them). At least that's my dream. The reason posting links for Big 5 books helps bloggers is that you get more pennies for each of those purchases, but the readers are still the customers, and it still takes a LOT of clicks to get paid. 

So these bloggers don't respond to messages. Is it rude to not respond to emails etc? Absolutely. It's always rude to not respond to people, regardless of the scenario (except cat-callers and their internet equivalents, it's totally understandable to not respond to them.) But I don't respond to emails. My review request page clearly states that I do not respond to emails. Do you know how many emails bloggers get in a day? We were getting so many emails for blog tours, cover reveals, etc. that when we decided to stop signing up for those things, we created a whole new email address for review requests and abandoned the old one because that was easier than emailing all the different people that sent requests for blog tours etc to ask to be removed from their promotional lists. The kicker, I still get emails with promotional requests even though I state on both my review request page and my Facebook page that I do not accept them. Here's the thing though. One of the reasons I don't respond to emails is that I'm a mood reader, and I read a very wide variety of books. There is no telling what kind of a reading kick I will be on when I get your email (currently it's a historical fiction, particularly WWII era, kick). Your contemporary romance isn't going to pique my interest when I'm on a historical fiction kick, but in two months when I'm historical fictioned out, it might be just what I'm looking for. And unlike business bloggers, I don't schedule my reading out months in advance (contrary to what my Platypire Read-A-Thon list might lead you to believe. Then again, considering the fact that I have books on that list that have been there for a whole year, you should be well aware that I'm not good at planning out my reading by now.) 

This confessor is absolutely right that when you have a business you answer your emails. I answer every message and email I receive for proofreading, and I try to answer them quickly. If I posted advertisements (where I was paid to post the advertisements), I would absolutely be responding to all of those emails as well. The emails that stand to actually earn me money are the ones that I respond to. Surely you can see the difference between these emails and review request emails. Sure, I could set up an auto-response, but I don't want to do that because of all the promo requests I get to the email. The last thing I want to do is have an auto-response saying "Thank you for your request" going to people sending me emails that I have specifically requested I not receive. And the time I would spend individually responding to all review requests, just thanking authors for sending a request, would be better spent actually reading and reviewing books. 

If I sent an email to an author like Colleen Hoover or Stephen King, I would not expect to receive a response (and if I did get a response, I would assume it came from a paid PA.) A blog with over 20K followers is certainly comparable to Colleen Hoover or Stephen King, because EVERY author wants to get their book on the big blogs. I don't blame you for that, because there is more exposure that way, but you need to remember that everyone else wants their book on that blog too and responding to all those emails would be a full time job in itself, one that results in no money being earned. So can you really blame them for not responding to you? To me, it just makes sense. - Katie 

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