I know this is something which often gets bandied about – book bloggers get free books. It is a partial myth which creates a lot of ill feeling in the community, making it seem to some that it is fashionable and acceptable to simply ‘blag’ a freebie from authors and publishers, and appear to bloggers that this is how we are viewed in general. Some people are genuinely confused about the process, some are just plain tight and do want a free lunch so to speak, but in the world of a true book lover, blogging is more than just an opportunity to get something for nothing.
Now I’d be lying if I said that I don’t get free books. I do. Nowhere near as many as some who get dozens of unsolicited packets of books on a weekly basis. I am relatively unknown in the blogging world (thankfully) and have just a couple of publishers who may send me a copy of their latest books, for which I am eternally grateful (but I should point out I had been blogging for five months before I got my first ever book post). I am also very grateful to have the opportunity to get books from another two publishers via e-copy and to be auto approved by another two publishers on NetGalley. From all of these sources I could probably keep myself in books quite happily and never buy another book again.
But being auto approved or on the email reviewer list doesn’t mean that I abuse their generosity or download everything I can just because I can. I only download titles I genuinely believe I can and will review. I already have well over 300 titles on my kindle waiting for attention, the last thing I need is dozens more I have no intention of reading or little or no interest in just because they are free.
The relationship between a blogger/reviewer and a publisher or author is, in my eyes, sacred, and relies heavily upon trust. Authors spend months of their lives creating their novels, writing, editing, rewriting, panicking over launch etc, so it is not fair of me to expect that all of that should be done for nothing. For every physical book a publisher or author sends out, the cost has to come from their commissions, royalties and profits. For every e-book they give away, that is a royalty payment they do not earn. It may seem only pence but if hundreds of books are sent out, those hundreds of pences soon add up. Those freebies I get are hours of entertainment for me, but a little less salary for the author. Imagine if your employer asked you to work for 60 mins but only get paid for 58. You’d not be best pleased about that now would you?
Now, it is entirely possible to blog about books for absolutely no cost whatsoever. You can join a free blogging site such as WordPress and it doesn’t have to cost you a bean. If you are happy having a wordpress.com address and choose one of their free themes you can be ready to rock and roll in minutes for zero pennies. I know. That’s how I started. But then I decided to upgrade to lose the wordpress part of the web address and allow myself to have a fully bespoked url. Oops. That’s nearly £100 down the drain for private hosting and the domain name, So much for freebies huh?
So, it’s okay that I get free books then because, you know, I pay for the site. The authors I feature are getting valuable free publicity (as I only feature positive reviews on the blog) so why should it cost me and not them? Well… That’s a nice theory but I can’t get all the books I want to read for free. Oh wouldn’t that be nice but I am in no way a big enough blogger for that opportunity and doubt I ever will be. Even when I do get a freebie I feel guilty so I usually end up buying the book anyway. Or I get it on audio so I can listen to it when I just can’t get to a book to read. So in the end, (and this is since Jan 2017 only as I’m too scared to go back and add up last year) I have spent nearly £1000 buying books. In six months! Some are signed copies which clearly have cost me a little more. Some are audio. Many are duplicates as I have the e-copy (preferred), the paperback or hard back (signed) and the audible version (because I just don’t have the time to physically read everything). This figures does not include any I have bought in cash as I have no idea how much that might add up to.
Now this figure above excludes going to book events of which I have attended four so far this year – everything from ‘an evening with’ to a whole weekend book festival. I have two more lined up for later in the year too. With travel, hotels etc this soon adds up to several more £100s. They are not essential to bloggers, you can live without attending any, but I like them. They give me the heebie jeebies and make me a quivering wreck, but I do like them.
Now it is not unusual for me to spend 2-3 hours a night ‘working’ on the blog, longer on weekends when it could easily be 5-6 hours a day. This includes reviewing, reading, social media upkeep etc. If I ‘charged’ the same amount that I get paid per hour in my ‘real job’… Well lets just say I’d have covered all blogging expenses in a couple of weeks. But I don’t charge and I don’t get paid. Well, I do. But in books, not cash. Some people do monetise blogs. Book bloggers, as a rule, don’t. Some people will combine their love of books and blogging with freelance services to authors. I don’t. Don’t have time, don’t have the inclination.
I started this blog just over a year ago with no concept of what I was doing or whether I would get followers. I wanted a place to collate reviews and to share my love of books with any people daft enough to read them, hopefully at the very least the authors. If I wasn’t blogging, maybe I would have saved a few quid on author events and I definitely would have saved around £100 on the website, but I would still be spending the same amount on books. I know I’m not alone in that. Most bloggers I know, where they can, will buy the books they get for review also, if only to get the author to sign it. Many only review books they have bought themselves. Even if we have to wait until they’re at 99p on offer, we will still purchase them. We do it for the love of the books, not the freebies. That is just a bonus.
Can you blog for free? Yes you can. Head down to your local library and there are literally hundreds of titles to choose from all gratis. Should you expect free books from authors and publishers? No you shouldn’t. Just be grateful when they arrive and count each and every one as a blessing or a gift. I have been contacted by two of the major publishers for the first time in the past month offering me books for review. I’ve been blogging for over 12 months now. I still count each and every review request as an amazing achievement. I may never make the blogging big leagues with some of my fellow bloggers but I am fine with that. I only have so much shelf space and I’m much happier with an e-book anyhow.
I will happily share my (paid for) blog space with authors and other bloggers – for free. Both have made the journey I have been on very special. I don’t expect anything in return other than the sharing of all of the #booklove. That’s what this is all about.
So (although I know that most people reading this post, assuming you still are, wouldn’t dream of it) please, please, please do not go begging for or expecting books for free. If you are just starting out in blogging and want to talk about the experience then please feel free to get in touch. I’m no expert but I have learned a few things along the way, the main one, to be patient, keep reading and reviewing and do it your way. Whatever you do, count each book you are gifted as something truly special and just continue to share the book love, no matter the cost.
Have a fabulous week of reading all