I Don’t Want to Sell Books

I’ve been thinking about posting on this topic this for some time, but didn’t really want to offend anyone.  But I think it is an interesting topic of discussion, so here goes.

I have only been approached a couple of times by authors asking me to review their books.  I have declined, but it is only more recently that I could articulate why I felt so uncomfortable with the concept.  Simply put, I don’t want this blog to be used to sell books.

I feel like life is becoming one big advertisement (okay, maybe I read Feed too recently) and well, I don’t want my creative outlet to be a part of that big ol’ marketing machine.  I know there are more generous ways at looking at this issue.  Bloggers help match readers with books they love and authors get to make a living doing what they love and publishers get to make money off of all that love and it stimulates our economy and our brains and our hearts all at the same time.  It’s about LOVE and SHINY BOOKS and not money and greed and the corporations.  I just can’t help but see that the bottom line is the bottom line– helping a company rake in the profits without being given a stake in those profits.

Whenever I stop to think about what I want from my blog, it really has nothing to do with helping authors or publishers hock their wares.  I want to read whatever I feel like.  I want to take advantage of my library as much as possible.  I want to feel free to talk about a book like its creator isn’t sitting in the corner, listening.  I want to do it on my own timeline, free from the pressure that anyone cares what I say or when I say it.  I have no illusions about making money off my blog, so I don’t like the idea that someone else might be (although WordPress is putting ads on my blog because I choose to use the free version of their services, so well, someone is whether I like it or not).  I don’t really care if I have to wait another month (or year) to read a book; if I’m really interested, I will pick up the book when it’s available.  Ultimately, I just want to talk about books and reading with other people, as readers, not as consumers.

Obviously, my reviews are intended, at least in part, to help people decide whether a book is for them or not.  I know that if they decide the book is for them, they may purchase the book.  I suppose in that regard I am speaking to my audience as consumers, but I hope that I am speaking to them as readers first.  I hope that I am sparking discussions and thoughts about language and humanity more than I am urging someone to purchase a particular book.  Perhaps that is a lofty goal for my little book blog, but I usually spend a paragraph or two or three of my reviews talking about a book and its strengths and weaknesses and about one or two sentences on who the book would suit.  So hopefully I’m not reaching too far to say I am more in the business of thinking and talking about books than I am in the business of promoting them.

Most of the other book bloggers I know and follow receive books from publishers (though some because it relates to their professional capacities, not their blogging ones) and that is fine.  I don’t question that they are providing honest reviews (for the most part, but that is another can of worms).  I am not jealous of the number of ARCs they get or that they get to read an awesome book months before I will.  I don’t mind that they see their role in the blogosphere and the marketplace differently than I see mine.

At the end of the day, we all got into book blogging because we love books.  How we express that love, is up to each of us, individually, to decide.  I, for one, have chosen not to express that love in the form of free advertising for books at the request of an author or publisher.  I don’t want to sell books.

How do you feel about accepting books from an author or publisher for review on your blog?  If you do accept books for review, how do you feel about being used as free advertising?  What do you see your role as a blogger being, in terms of selling books vs. talking about books?  Can you do both at the same time?

11 thoughts on “I Don’t Want to Sell Books

  1. Very good topic! I like the idea that I help promote books, but my thing is if I don’t believe in the book, I’m not going to “sell” it. If authors ask me to review books (something I don’t do much anymore because I’ve been burned by this) I tell them upfront that if I don’t like the book, I’m still reviewing it. If a book good to me, I want to share it. I want you to read it. I want others to go out and buy it. But I’m not pushing that by any means! I just want to talk about books I like and hope others like them too. I don’t get paid to do someone else’s job (ie sell publishers’ books) so I don’t push books that I don’t like/love.

    • I feel like it would get really murky for me to separate liking an author/book rep and liking (or not liking) a book. I really don’t want to have to go there. It seems like it can cause all sorts of problems that are relatively easy to avoid!

  2. Thanks for your candid and eye-opening post! I’d like to share this author’s perspective. We indie authors get no marketing/exposure for our work and are rarely taken seriously by bookstores or bloggers. I realize there is too much self-published crap out there, but we nevertheless spend years of effort (for no compensation) to put forth something artistic that might speak to the reading public. Then we have to market ourselves by seeking honest reviewers/bloggers like you who are generous enough with their time, and interested enough in books, to blog about our titles. Most of us give away more books than we sell.

    Unless we are rich (which most of us aren’t), we have no marketing budget or any meaningful way to compete with the “big guys” (or the saturated sea of fellow indie authors)–other than reaching out to bloggers for some online exposure. Sure, we can bug our friends and family for reviews, but some of us really do seek the honest opinions of strangers, for good and bad.

    I’ve nearly gotten to the point where I’ve given up trying to market my books. All four of them are “out there” (and I’m working on a fifth). If someone finds them, fine. If not, I’ll save my time (begging for reviews) and money (chasing every snake oil vendor who promises the “secret formula” to book sales) and focus on my craft. I have come to realize it is a ridiculous long shot to hope I might actually become known and loved as a writer, and like you, I don’t want to sell books. I just want to do what I love.

    • Thank you for sharing your perspective, Sheryl. I realize I neglected self-published books in my thinking behind this. I know blogs play an important promotional role for authors without access to other marketing tools and I am glad there are other bloggers out there doing that job (after all, I would not have happened upon your books without seeing them on another blog). It’s rather unfortunate, though, that someone who doesn’t make money off their work has to rely on someone who doesn’t make money for promoting that work to promote their work. I’m not sure who to blame for that, though.

      • LOL. It’s like Barbara Kingsolver wrote in Flight Behavior about the poverty-stricken women in China slaving away in factories so that the poverty-stricken women here in the U.S. can buy the cheap goods they produce.

  3. I haven’t had any authors specifically request that I review their books. The closest I can relate is that I have noticed that I have a harder time negatively reviewing Netgalley books – to the point where I’ve kinda quit Netgalley.

    What I’m really seeking from book blogging is discussion about books. And I think strong feelings good or bad facilitate that so I prefer to write my reviews without the pressure of it being a promotional tool. I have no problem if my reviews are used promotionally as long as I felt comfortable giving my honest opinion (because I want authors I love to make enough money writing books that they can keep writing books).

    • I certainly don’t have authors banging down my doors to review their books, lol. This has always been a small blog and is certainly not the best promotional tool out there. But the principal of the matter bugs me (obviously). There are plenty of bloggers who will help promote books, so I can just be the cranky one who chooses not to!

  4. What an interesting topic. I definitely see your point, and I don’t make money off my blog either so I see where you’re coming from in terms of the “free promotion”. For me personally, I spend a tonnnnn of money buying books every month, so any that I receive for free represent dollars I don’t have to spend. I’m also not particularly patient when it comes to waiting for release dates! Lastly, I have a WIP that I work on now and then, and in my most daydreamy moments I think about someday publishing a novel. So I can see both sides of this, but for me, the exchange (free review copy for honest review) works.

    • I have drastically cut back what I spend when it comes to books, preferring to use the library in most cases (and I really have a great library that gets a lot of new releases in a timely manner), so I guess the whole “free books” thing isn’t one I really think about much. I guess I’d see it as more of an incentive if I was more of a book buyer in the first place.

  5. Great topic! I’m with you. I don’t want to sell books. I’d much rather recommend and *talk* about books. It’s nice to read what you want and have the freedom to talk about the book as much or as little as you would like.

    • I absolutely agree. And I have come to find that the hyped book of the week is rarely a book we’re talking about a year later. I’d rather read the ones we ARE still talking about a year later.

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