"How can I get in on that?"

Sometimes people will see me reading in public and will start up conversations with me about what I’m reading. Sometimes it’ll come up that I do a book review blog, and when I tell them that one of the perks is to sometimes get books from publishers or authors before the actual release date, this is the usual response:

“Wow? How can I get in on that?”

Interest is understandable. Especially from avid readers. I can’t blame them for their interest at all, because if somebody had ever told me, a few years ago, about some of the major perks of bookblogging, my eyes would have lit up too. But in the interest of being honest, this is what I tell them:

“Well, to start off, you have to get a blog on some site like Blogger or WordPress. Then you have to read. Most blogs tend to put out reviews of at least two books a week, so you usually have to be able to read at that pace and think critically about what you’re reading. Usually posts about other book-related topics help, like interesting book news, interviews with authors, contests, stuff like that. Cross-posting those reviews on sites like Amazon or GoodReads helps, too. Then if you want people to actually read your blog and take notice of it, you’ve got to advertise. Comment on other book blogs, join book communities, make sure that your name and the link to your blog and your reviews are spread around so that other people can see what you’re writing. Then, if you’re lucky, after about 3-6 months, you might start getting some bites from publishers or authors asking you to review their book in exchange for a free copy.”

Their response is usually that it’s too much work. One person told me, after asking all this and being told what’s involves, that she only reads about a book a month anyway.

Like I said, interest is something I can understand. But doing this is not all perks and freebies. It’s a work. It’s work that I, and other bookbloggers, don’t exactly get paycheques for. We read books in our spare time, in between our other projects, and then we take time out of our lives to write up those reviews.

Sure, we sometimes get free books out of it. That’s a perk that can be seen. Sometimes we manage to get a little cut of advertising money, or referral fees from Amazon or other bookseller sites. But sometimes you come across blogs that are completely ad- and referral-free who are reviewing only the books they’ve bought. They’re doing it entirely as a hobby, taking no bonuses, in fact actively having to spend money to keep their blog alive because they need to purchase new books to keep reviewing.

Back when I broke my finger, and for a while this past August, I was able to make a post a day. That took dedication. That took me reading during most of my spare time, and then spending either at least half an hour a day writing posts, or else about 3 hours on one day setting up posts for the entire coming week. Either reviews, or posts like this one, or something easy like announcing the winner of a contest.

And I`m one of the smaller blogs around. There are blogs out there that keep up weekly features, that make 2 or more posts a day. These people work their butts off doing what they do.

I guess it bothers me a little bit when all people see are the free books. I can liken it a little to having a $20 bill and having someone ask me, “Wow, where can I get that?” You work for it. It doesn’t come for free. You can expect to start a blog, make one post a week, and have publishers beating down your door to give away merchandise.

If I somehow managed to luck out and this became the sort of thing that could support me financially (it never would, but let’s play pretend for a moment), people would probably look at me and think I’ve got the easiest job in the world. All I’d be doing is making posts online about books and then getting a paycheque for it. They wouldn’t be seeing the logistics of it. They wouldn’t see that I’d be spending 8-10 hours a day with my nose in a book, even books that have become boring to me and I want them to end. They wouldn’t see the time I’d spend writing posts, coming up with content, spreading the word about updates. They wouldn’t see me agonizing about going through a phase where I feel like playing video games instead of reading. They’d sadly just see it as me doing a hobby for a living and getting free stuff from it.

Maybe people think I go overboard in telling them what they’d actually have to do to be a bookblogger too, when they ask. Maybe they think I’m trying to scare them away so I don’t have competition. It’s not that. I just want to make people aware of what it takes to get to where I am. I’ve been doing this for a little over a year and a half, I’m nowhere near as big as some other blogs that started after me, and it’s only thanks to sites like NetGalley that I’ve been able to review half of the major titles that I have. But even getting to where I am has taken work, dedication, and perseverance. It’s not something you can go into expecting to do everything half-assed and to come away with more books than you know what to do with. I was thrilled when, after 3 months, a marketing company for multiple small publishers approached me and asked me if I wanted a copy of a book in exchange for a review. It wasn’t the kind of book I’d been reviewing. I got lucky in that it was still the kind of book I’d enjoy reading.

So if you’re reading this and don’t have a book blog but think you might want one, go for it. More power to you, and I support you in the decision. But I want you to be aware of what it takes to make it anywhere. If you’re up for the competition, have the dedication to keep up posting even when you feel like packing the whole thing in sometimes, can remember to post your reviews everywhere appropriate you can think of, then go for it! Give me a link to your blog so I can check it out too. And maybe after a few months you’ll be approached by someone who wants to make a deal.

But if you just want the freebies, then I recommend checking the appropriate section of Smashwords.

3 comments on “"How can I get in on that?"

  1. haha, it is work. I love to read and blogging just naturally flowed from it a few months ago, but sometimes I JUST want to read, and I do every now again. Blogging can be great fun, especially meeting new bloggers, but it does take time coming up with things to say, not only in reviews, but in comments as well. Spread the love to feel the love, right?

    I would like your critical opinion, though, as a more experienced blogger. I've been blogging for about 8 months now and have yet to be approached by a publisher. Not that that is what it's all about (Netgalley is a great resource regardless) but I want to know if I am approaching things in a way that is not only good for others out there in finding books, but good in helping me reach more people.

    Here's a link to my blog, Books Before Bed. I'd love to know what you think when you have time!

  2. I'm one of those bloggers that does it as a hobby like you mentioned. Right now I wouldn't consider taking books for review if publishers approached me about it because at the moment I just have too many of my own unread books to read sitting on the shelf.

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