why people think book bloggers shouldn’t get paid

Since book Twitter’s most recent discourse about the ethics of paid reviews, I’ve been thinking a lot about WHY people don’t think that book bloggers should get paid. This discussion has happened over and over again, as has the discussion about book bloggers being undervalued, and I think it’s important to look at why this is.

Lately, I’ve been thinking back to one of the other things about book bloggers that has been discussed many times around conferences and conventions: book bloggers and ARCs. Book bloggers have a terrible reputation at cons because we’re seen as ARC hoarders. However, on the flip side, people tell us that we should be grateful to get a free copy of a book as compensation.

People have debated many solutions to the “ARC stealing” book blogger problem, including starting some sort of “professional” organization to prove your worth as a blogger. This suggestion came about one year because a YA writer who I will not name said that “anyone can be a blogger.” This made me super angry at the time and I think after many years have passed since then I’ve finally figured out why (and I promise it’s related to why people don’t think bloggers should be paid!):

Book blogging can, in fact, be done by ANYONE. It’s not like booktube or bookstagram, where you honestly do need lots of expensive equipment, millions of books, or at least photo editing skills that come with an access to software to learn it or advanced computer knowledge that people get from having computer access. Blogging, in contrast, is the most ACCESSIBLE form of book promotion that exists. All you need is a computer and the ability to write content. There are many free, user-friendly platforms to use to blog, even if you’re new at it. You don’t HAVE to put pretty photos of your own books on a blog. Blogging is FOR EVERYONE, and there needs to be a platform that you don’t have to be wealthy to use.

And I think that is the crux of the issue when it comes to paying bloggers. Because blogging is so accessible, people think it means it’s just a hobby and not worthy of being monetized. Some people don’t even have blogging expenses, so it’s easy to subconsciously think that because of that, bloggers don’t NEED to be paid like booktubers or bookstagrammers who require large numbers of physical copies of books, equipment, and video or photo editing software subscriptions.

So really, the issue of why people think book bloggers shouldn’t get paid comes down to elitism. Because book blogging is accessible, it’s not seen as “serious” or “professional.” Obviously, those things are not true, because blogging also takes a lot of time and effort to put out good content. People see platforms like booktube as more of a “job,” while blogging is seen as something less serious and therefore less valuable, even though that is certainly not the case.

Unfortunately, I do not have a solution to pose on how to make people see the value of bloggers. We have all said again and again that we are the reason the book community exists, but it often feels like shouting into the void. I also don’t know if I see things improving, because the book community seems to be turning to these more visual platforms as their primary means of book promotion. Still, I hope that one day, people from across book community platforms will realize we all want the same thing: to share and talk about books, and maybe, someday, we’ll ALL promote both books and each other.

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  1. Several years ago, some authors were griping about how only certain people should be allowed to write book reviews, as if you needed qualifications, and the stance I took then is this: anyone can be a book reviewer because anyone can be a reader. In the vast majority of cases, we are talking about books written for a general audience (not an academic book that would be for experts in the field). Anyone is meant to read them, so anyone can form an opinion on them. (In the case of YA books, the target audience is teens; you don’t need an English degree or any “expertise” to read, understand, and write your opinion about the book!)

    One may be able to make the argument that anyone can be a blogger, but only some people are “good” ones or “successful” ones (subjective terms of course). If people only wanted to pay bloggers whose reviews they liked or who had large audiences, I think it’s fine to have some criteria for whom you want to work with. But I agree that the real beauty of blogging IS that anyone can do it.

  2. What a fantastic discussion post, Mel! I never thought about it this way, but now it makes sense why some people seem convinced that bloggers shouldn’t be paid. It truly makes me angry that the accessibilty of the platform is used as an excuse to deny bloggers compensation when it’s the thing that allows everyone to blog without any gatekeeping 😔 I reall wish people will show bloggers more love someday. As much as I like watching Booktube videos, reading blog posts will always be my main love 💕

  3. wow this was a really nice and informative read. I agree with you completely. book blogging is hard! not only do you have to create a platform of it you have to entice people in to read and subscribe to you solely with your words.

    even the shortest post takes effort and let’s not forget about reading the books and summarizing them in your own words that also evokes.

    again wonderful wonderful post!!

    1. I totally agree! I like your point about written content mattering more, because i think with other solely visual platforms they have it easier in a way because they’re more judged on how they look or how photos look, whereas our written content is what matters most,

  4. This was such a thoughtful post! I genuinely cannot understand how authors think it’s a good idea to EVER trash book bloggers. As both a book blogger and a marketing professional, my mind is just baffled at the audacity?? I totally agree with what you said about book blogging not being seen as “elitist” due to it being so accessible, which is just a shame.

    I would hope that as readers (who often read to escape, to find a place to belong) the online book community would be one of the most positive, uplifting and inclusive groups of people, but it turns out that’s not the case. Though I can say that the blogging community has been one of the kindest, most genuine and sweetest I’ve ever come across! ♥♥

    1. I agree with everything you’ve said here. I wish other platforms would boost book bloggers instead of saying they don’t have time to read blogs. Book bloggers are so supportive of each other and other bookish platforms and I wish everyone in the book community shared those ideals.

  5. I would love to be able to generate a side income from my blog. It exists in other online communities (fanart, podcasting, programming, etc etc etc etc), why shouldn’t I be able to get a little extra from something I’m working carefully on to offer my insights and skills of observations on?
    I have friends who generate money by being a part of MLM’s and selling over-priced junk that no one really wants, and they label themselves business owners. How is blogging about books less dignified selling snake oil? *grumble grumble grumble*

    1. I totally agree! I think it’s so telling of the elitism in the book community that bookstagrammers and booktubers are able to get paid and bloggers don’t. It really doesn’t make sense to me because, as you point out, basically every other online platform can get paid sponsorships. It’s so frustrating!

  6. Okay, you are so right! Honestly, I never thought that it comes down to “anyone CAN do it” because I see how much effort we put into blogging, and EFFORT SHOULD BE COUNTED. I also agree with you that it doesn’t seem to be changing, especially since bookstagram and booktube have picked up. Absolutely loved this discussion!

  7. Okay this post is so accurate and well-written! I never realized how the fact that blogging can be done by anyone “cheapens” its standing compared to other platforms and how it affects how others view our platform professionally. As one commenters point out, books are accessible for everyone: anyone can read, and therefore, anyone should be able to form and share their opinions on said books. It’s just elitism if the fact that blogging is more accessible makes us “less” competent- blogging takes effort too in terms of reading and writing the reviews, not to mention people who are self-hosting and have to maintain their blog, or those who take their own pictures but don’t open a bookstagram account. It’s really maddening.

    1. I totally agree. Bloggers often do all the same things as other platforms like the things you mentioned; it’s just in a different format.

  8. Okay I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH and I think you nailed it. I agree with you that blogging is the most accessible platform and is relatively “easy” compared to the other bookish platforms, where you need to have more material to get started. That being said, it makes me sad to think that this kind of gives us a “cheap” look and doesn’t make us look as professionnal, because it does certainly NOT ? there are so many incredible book bloggers out there, with or without their own domain name and being self hosted, either, that are doing such a stunning job while being in this “easy” platform. The choice of the platform shouldn’t lessen our worth at all. It just makes me so, so mad to think about this topic every single time. Book bloggers are book influencers, book bloggers deserve to get paid if that’s the path they want to go down to. I will always support that.
    Great post!! 🙂

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