So, this is what I'm hearing, after the fact. I missed last week's YAlitchat, a Twitter chat for the book business. But it seems some feathers were ruffled. I confess I have not read the transcript, because I couldn't find one posted. I tried to access the Tweets, but, beyond a certain point in the chat, they were unavailable. So I'm going on blog wrap-ups of the issue by those who were there. If I get anything wrong, please feel free to let me know.
Apparently, a small handful of authors (I'm sure it was only a small handful, and I do not blame it on YAlitchat, which is generally awesome) expressed some unflattering thoughts about book bloggers, including, but not necessarily limited to:
1) Their reviews don't really sell books.
Really? Don't they? Then why, when I pass their requests along to my publicists, are my publicists always happy to send them review copies? The copies are not free, nor is the postage. Nor are publishers prone to putting money into promotional areas that don't pay back the investment. And, if bloggers don't sell books, why are authors lining up to send them ARCs (advance reader's copies)? Why are the bloggers drowning in books, rather than scratching for something to review? Book blogging is exploding onto the book scene because it's a workable model. That's the only reasonable explanation for its success.
2) They just want ARCs.
A very unfair statement unless you remove the word "just." I'm sure they do like receiving ARCs. And why shouldn't they? They work hard. There's a big investment of time in running a book blog, reading the books and posting thoughtful reviews. If the ARCs had price tags on them, I'm sure the bloggers would exceed the price by any measure with the work they invest. If I send (or my publisher sends) a review copy, and a blogger never reviews it, maybe that blogger "just" wanted the book (this is theoretical, as I don't recall it ever happening). Or maybe there's another explanation. But, come on writers. Don't we "just" want reviews? And isn't that what you call a win-win?
3) They shouldn't post bad reviews.
This is wrong on so many levels that my head might explode before I can fully counter it. Okay. Let's look at a world where bloggers don't say negative things about books. Now, in this weird new world, you're right about bloggers not selling books. Because a lack of negative comments makes positive comments meaningless. In our real world, bloggers sell books by telling the truth about how much they did or did not enjoy them. A simple system, not to be messed with. I've heard some rumblings lately about mean or attacking reviews, but they remain quite rare. Considering the lovely place we call the Internet, I think it's amazing and commendable that they are not more common. Internet civility is always an excellent goal, but it is not enforceable. There's a lot of free will built into the system of being human. Authors are welcome to read a blog before submitting a book for review. If they feel a blogger is too harsh, they need not submit. But let's all agree to leave the First Amendment in place. The most snarky, nasty review I ever got was from Time Magazine. Anybody want to go tell them it was unprofessional, and they should find something nice to say about the books they review? I'd do it myself, but I'm allergic to caustic laughter.
Though I realize the authors who criticize the book blogging community are, thankfully, few and far between, I have a bit of unsolicited advice for them. Most bloggers have more books than they can possibly review, so please do feel free to step out of the queue, leaving more of their time and space for the authors who truly appreciate their contribution to the book business.