Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Sticky Author and Blogger Relationship

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Discussing the upsides and downsides of the author and blogger relationship is nothing new, but it's something worth doing every once in awhile since there are constantly new authors and bloggers arriving on the scene. I've also heard some interesting stories from bloggers lately which I will share here for discussion.

The more book bloggers have gained acceptance as a way to publicize books, the more complicated things seem to get. Book bloggers are usually fans of books. We love reading, for a lot of us it's a hobby we've always done and book blogging was an unexpected delightful find--a chance to share about the books we're reading with other people who care about them as much as we do! Sure we might have to endure comments like, "I wish I had time to read." and "Got your nose stuck in a book again?" at social and family functions, but online amongst our book blogging friends we can be our total bookish nerdy selves. This is sacred ground.

In addition to that, a lot of us have had a certain reverence for authors who write books we love. An unexpected perk of book blogging has been the opportunity to interact with authors. It's so much fun to tweet with authors and exchange emails and also yes, get together in real life. It's not uncommon now to hear that book bloggers have had lunch or dinner with authors, or even hang out more regularly than that. I like to think the authors enjoy this as well, as more than just building good publicity.

What does it all mean, though?

I've been giving this a lot of thought recently, as I've also been thinking about this blog. When the best of 2010 lists started coming out in early November, I felt a wave of frustration. "There are still two months left!!" I plan on publishing mine the final week of the year! Granted, my best of lists (and there will be more than books) are not tied to a year, they are instead, the year as I experienced it. But this rush to move everything a season ahead fatigues me. And that's when I realized I'm not really interested in my blog fulfilling the function of a newspaper--i.e. having a best of 2010 list and objective reviews, but rather being what book blogs can be best. Something new. A place where books are talked about on a personal level. A space that does more than talk about the artistic achievements of books but also talks about the very real way reading matters in our lives. And that ties in nicely to hanging out with authors.

I say this because if I were to believe that book blogs could be objective places than friendships with authors would have to go. And relationships and friendships are the framework of social what would the point be? Now that's not to say that there aren't bloggers who don't talk to authors. I know some bloggers simply don't care. I'm just saying that I think it's okay for bloggers to embrace relationships with authors.

But there are potential problems. There are certain lines that shouldn't be crossed. As a book blogger, you have to decide if readers' trust or an author's feelings are more important to you. I believe you can be friends with an author and love their book and share that, but I also believe you can be friends with an author and hate their book. So at that point you have to decide if you're going to review the book, and if you do, if you're going to tell the truth. So I do think a certain amount of caution is wise. The line that shouldn't be crossed in this case is your conscience.

Also, just as a reminder, it's never polite for a blogger to badger an author for review copies, giveaway items, or anything else. Also, personally attacking an author in a review is a big no-no. We're all people, and we should treat each other civilly.

Now authors. I love you, but let me tell you about this blog.

I spend a lot of time on it and the modest readership took a lot of work to get. I think the very best thing I can do is ask you to consider that my blog is to me what your book is to you.

In other words, if I read your book and love it, I will very happily talk about it on this blog and twitter and if you ask me, after you have read my review, I'll post it other places as well. I know that when you see bloggers get books, you think they are free, but they are not. Receiving review copies means a book blogger has agreed to give up hours of their time to read it and then formulate a sort of response to it on their blog. Book bloggers can get dozens of such requests each day. Don't get me wrong, we love it, it's flattering, but it's not free.

So here are some things to please avoid doing (all things bloggers have recently told me have been done to them):

*Please don't ask me or pressure me to give you a five star review on Amazon. First of all, my blog is my priority, it's unflattering to feel like you're really using me for the retail site reviews. Secondly, I want my reaction to the book to be as pure as possible. If you ask me to give you a five star review, I'll never know if I did it because I felt that way genuinely and you made me feel guilty, or if I gave it less of one just to be untarnished.

*If I give you a negative review, please don't try to convince me why I'm wrong or misunderstood your book. Also, please don't comment on the review if you're going to say something, like "well you can't please everyone." It's not about you "pleasing" me it's about my interaction and response to a book. Furthermore, the internet is not as big as you think it is. If you hold a contest, which I win, and you say I will get the prize, and then later tell me there was a clerical error and I won't, I will be forced to conclude that this is some kind of vengeance for my negative review. It's really best, even if I haven't reviewed your book negatively, to incur the cost of giving me the prize anyway. That's just in the good public relations area.

*Please do not copy/paste from my blog. You wouldn't like it if I put your whole book up on the internet! It's completely okay to use snippets from my review, but when you give me a guest post, an interview, or see a review of you book--those things belong to me unless other arrangements have been made. If you want to use a blurb from my review, great! Please remember to link properly to my blog to credit it. Copying and pasting whole blog posts hurts a blogger similar to the way pirating hurts an author.

*If you happen to be a publicist and an author, please don't bring up my negative reviews of your book in emails when you're pitching me other books. Really that's just uncomfortable. It might be better if you just stop pitching me.

So those are just some of the sticky situations that have recently come up, I'm sure there are more. Book bloggers..what would you add to this list? What are some things you'd like authors to know to avoid doing?

On the flip side, what's the best thing that's happened in an author/blogger relationship with you?

Authors: What else should book bloggers know about you? Do you have any questions for us?


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