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Bookish thoughts 18 July: paying for reviews, raging against the blockbuster machine & more!

book news Bookish thoughts 18 July: paying for reviews, raging against the blockbuster machine & more!

RIASS stuff:

Book Review: The Viking's Touch by Joanna Fulford'Rating: star Bookish thoughts 18 July: paying for reviews, raging against the blockbuster machine & more!star Bookish thoughts 18 July: paying for reviews, raging against the blockbuster machine & more!blankstar Bookish thoughts 18 July: paying for reviews, raging against the blockbuster machine & more!blankstar Bookish thoughts 18 July: paying for reviews, raging against the blockbuster machine & more!blankstar Bookish thoughts 18 July: paying for reviews, raging against the blockbuster machine & more!

Book list: Red Riding Hood retellings

Book Review: Verdigris Deep by Frances Hardinge'Rating: star Bookish thoughts 18 July: paying for reviews, raging against the blockbuster machine & more!star Bookish thoughts 18 July: paying for reviews, raging against the blockbuster machine & more!star Bookish thoughts 18 July: paying for reviews, raging against the blockbuster machine & more!star Bookish thoughts 18 July: paying for reviews, raging against the blockbuster machine & more!halfstar Bookish thoughts 18 July: paying for reviews, raging against the blockbuster machine & more!

Giveaway: One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf'(open to US/Canadian readers)

Other bookish stuff:

Should bloggers charge for reviews?

My two cents:'(metaphorical two cents, that is. I dont charge for reviews.) The lovely Michele Gorman, whom I interviewed over here, yesterday posted a thought provoking article where she describes a situation where a book blog she approached regarding a review of her book agreed to undertake the reviewbut for a fee.

The situation has raised a number of issues that have been simmering just beneath the surface of book bloggery land for a while now, I suspect. In one of my recent bookish news posts I touched on the hazy professional limbo that book bloggers occupy. Book bloggers, in their blogging capacity at least, are a sort of para-professional group. Some bloggers seek legitimisation through endorsement from publishers, advertising agreements and so on, while others are in it purely because they love to soapbox about books. Many bloggers, however, in their professional capacity, are involved in some way in the bookselling and publishing industries, and its little surprise that theres the occasional overlap between professional and semi-professional identities.

I think in part thats what is happening here. Blogging is slowly becoming a legitimate profession, with some bloggers in some verticals making quite a healthy living from their blogs. The desire to leap aboard this swanky ship is not exactly surprising, particularly when youre privy to what goes on behind the scenes as a book blogger. Bloggers are approached in a professional manner by PR companies, publishers, agencies and so forth, and if youre prone to the odd flight of fancy (Im notflying is expensive over here), it can be easy to imagine that one is some sort of New York Times Book Review mouthpiece for the industry. And reviewers get paid, do they not?

(Before you go to post that grumpy comment, just hold your horses for a bit and let me tease out that last sentence and explain where Im coming from. Im tricksy like that.)

Blogging is inordinately time consuming. I spend as much time on this site on a weekly basis as I do on my paid work, if not more. Reading and reviewing a process takes something akin to an entire working day, and I, no doubt like most book bloggers, am utterly swamped. Theres clearly a case of demand outstripping supply herethink of the massive breadth of the publishing industry when compared with the relatively few professional review outlets that still remain, and the relatively few book blogs out there. And when people see that theres a demand for their services, their first thought is to monetise it. Why not, they think, Im providing a service that people are willing to pay for, and which I could do better if someone paid me to do so. And all the big mags do it.

There is, however, an enormous difference between the remuneration systems in place in the professional review outlets and those were beginning to see in smaller scale blogs and websites. For one, I rather doubt that the NYT Book Review or the like actually directly charge authors for an appraisal or review of their book. Second, any fees for writing a book review received by the reviewer are not obtained directly by that reviewer from an author or publisher, but rather from the parent company. Unless were talking an advertorial here, these fees are recouped from advertising revenue and subscription fees. Theres a vast, vast difference between charging an author directly for an honest review of their work and receiving payment from your employer for a review.

What I suspect is going here is a confusion between the role of the reviewer and the role of the publicist. Book reviewers such as those mentioned in the article (apparently Im not allowed to name them for fear of their mean and nasty lawyer, whose fees are presumably being paid by those poor hapless authors whose books theyve reviewed), seem to be positioning themselves less as reviewers, and more as PR agents/publicists. If this is the case, then I can see the case for charging a fee to promote a book. But, and I say, but, lets look at the following:

A review, however, is not designed to promote a book. Promotion is a side-effect of a review, not its sole intended outcome.

Reviewers need to be removed from the flow of money, and to be honest, in some cases, from direct interaction with the authors theyre reviewing, so that that they can do their job in a disinterested, professional manner.

Righto! I feel better after that. Taking you back to your regular bookish tidbits:

Judging a Book By Its Cover: a 6 yr-old guesses what classic novels are all about

Book Cover Clones: Why Do So Many Recent Novels Look Alike?'Thanks to the small size and reduced resolution of e-reader screens, book jackets have become less complex in order to preserve the integrity of the cover art onscreen.

My bookalike thoughts:'This! Oh my goodness, this! I am going to cry if I see another scribble-titled book, or a YA cover featuring a black background and a girl in a dress. But you know, people, we could get around this who its all the Kindles fault! thing by opting for a print cover version and an ebook one. I know there are expenses involved, but people really do judge books by their covers.

Fifty Shades of Grey novels suffer sharp drop in sales'I think Fifty Shades reached its peak the week before last when it sold 1.4 million. The media were talking about it all the time, it was on The One Show and had had a lot of coverage in the press the weekend before, says'The Booksellers Charts Editor, Philip Stone.

My explicit thoughts:'(explicit as in explicating, that is) Well, yes, unless people start buying multiple copies, then sales are going to have to taper off eventually. What I find interesting is the number of people who buy book one seems to be a good deal more than those who go back for the second or third in the trilogy. (I remember Jon Page from Pages and Pages commenting on this recently as well).

Whats most interesting about this whole Fifty Shades phenomenon is not, perhaps (okay, most likely), the book itself, but the continued emergence of the blockbuster novel. Since Harry Potter weve had The Da Vinci Code, The Secret, Twilight, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and no doubt some others Im missing, emerge as extraordinary best-sellers.

In the article, its noted that the books of EL James account for 25% of all book sales in the UK during the previous month. Weve read similar things about Larsson, Meyer and Rowling propping up publishers to an enormous extentso much that publishing revenues are often noted with both those sales included as well as excluded to give an idea of the true health of a given company.

While these blockbusters are worthy in that not only do they (presumably) appeal widely to the public, but they help support mid-level and new authors by balancing the risk associated with taking on these authors projects. Publishing is a high-risk business, with lead times of a year or two as standard, and its an industry thats in the position of having to chase its market or try to get ahead of the game by guessing what people are going to like. Blockbusters, when they occur, help mitigate risk by bringing in returns that can override some of those pesky operating costs and the low sell-throughs of new or niche authors.

But. Go on, you knew there was going to be a but. The issue with these blockbusters is that they bring their own operating risks. Relying on blockbusters to prop you up is like relying on Tattslotto winnings to support your lifestyle. Publishers floating on the blockbuster high are, surely, more and more likely to seek out subsequent blockbusters and rely on these outliers. Not only is this a risky proposition that inflates a businesss financial position and, surely, operating procedures, but it also leads to other issues.

In the article above, its mentioned that Lee Child or John Grisham are likely to sell only a small percentage of those sold by EL James. Not shabby numbers, certainly, but nothing like the extraordinary stuff from this breakaway success. Which makes me wonder about the following:'Are publishers, not to mention shareholders, expectations of sales success going to change as we wander further down the road of the blockbuster? Are acquisitions processes going to change to accommodate potential blockbusters to the detriment of smaller titles? Will the publishing horizon narrow in the same way that weve seen Hollywoods do so? Are we going to be looking at an industry that puts all of its eggs in a single basket and markets the crap out of that basket?

Extra, extra: no one views, cares about book trailers'The awkward cousin to movie previews and TV teasers, book trailers have been around for a decade or so, offering glimpses of newly published books. Not that anyone noticed. If the concept has yet to make cultural inroads, the reason is obvious: Most book trailers are terrible.

My trailing thoughts: Im not a fan of the book trailer. I add them to my reviews where theyre available, but very rarely go out of my way to watch them. Why would I waste five minutes of my time watching a cheaply made Powerpoint slideshow or some dodgy teen actors hamming it up for the wobbly camera to learn about a book when I could just read a press release or blurb? Seriously. Interviews, Im there. Interesting behind the scenes features from publishers, sure. Awesome cross-platform promotion, sure, why not. But book trailers? Why would you use a movie to promote a book? Isnt this targeting one audience to appeal to another one entirely? Do enlighten me.

Chuck Wendig on his writing habits'I outline because I must, not because I particularly enjoy it. I am a pantser by heart, a plotter by necessity ' without outlines, my novels spiral drunkenly toward utter incoherence, breaking like a dropped cookie.

Do crime writers need to jump on the erotica bandwagon?'Just because Im so very, very jaded (rather like a noir detective), Im going to go with no.

On using pop culture as a teaching tool

Neil Gaiman'has signed a deal with HarperCollins'for five childrens books

Is there a secret to enjoying audiobooks?'I chalk my difficulty with audiobooks up to a personality foible. I'm unable to do one thing at a time, which means I end up listening to audiobooks while working, or while doing laundry, or while cleaning the house, as if the book is the radio. My thoughts wander. I miss entire sections of the book. I get confused, and end up just reading a physical copy in the end.

My verbalised thoughts: there really is a secret. Certain books lend themselves better to audio format than others. Theres a reason why I whizzed through all of the Anne of Green Gables books in audio format last year. Not to mention endless Jules Verne and HG Wells. But the Russians? Heck no. Books that feature light prose and a straightforward narrative are the best for audio format, I findthose books that rely in some way on their formatting are a poor choice. Narrators are hugely important, as well, and its essential to make sure you find someone whose voice appeals, reading style suits the book, and whose interpretation isnt too out there and whacky.

The Book Retriever app is kind of awesome

Novelist Joe Meno shares his top 5 books about artists in love

Rose is a Rose is a Rose: Searching Meanings of Words and Phrase Origins

I am hyperventilating over this book maze: Bookish thoughts 18 July: paying for reviews, raging against the blockbuster machine & more!


  1. I love the way you put the links to articles and your commentary together in your posts. I must have missed something in the Fifty Shades of Grey article, because I havent heard of the book or the author described as one of the upcoming big titles, The Haunting by Alan Titchmarsh. So thanks for keeping me informed!

    • Stephanie /

      Thanks for your lovely words, Laurie. :) The Titchmarsh is new to me as well, although that may be simply that its been overshadowed entirely by the Fifty Shades of Grey business!

  2. Great commentary Steph. I love your analysis of blockbuster books, I think youre spot on. And I agree with you on book trailers they dont interest me at all. Id much rather watch an interview or clever cross promotion.

    • Stephanie /

      Thanks, Belle! Glad to hear youre enjoying the commentary.

      Trailers are an interesting beast that I guess have been used to try to channel the YouTube market. Honestly, I think something like a Pinterest shareable might garner more interest than a Book Trailer. And theyd be cheaper, too!

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