Thursday, 17 September 2015

Should Book Bloggers be paid for their words of wisdom? A ReadItDaddy Editorial

Stop right there before reading any further if you think this is a heavy hint disguised as a ReadItDaddy editorial. We're delving into the often controversial subject of blogger remuneration and it's going to be a bit like walking through a minefield carrying a sack of hyperactive hyenas while wearing roller skates.

Most book bloggers reach a point in their blogging where they consider ways and means to make the blog start earning a crust. After all, it's been sitting around consuming your time for years so it's about time the lazy wretch earned its keep.

Of course, monetising your blog to the point where it's actually worthwhile isn't easy, and though we're often entertained by stories in the media about beauty bloggers nailing six figure sums to talk about lippie, or foodie bloggers somehow reaching the stratospheric heights of negotiating lucrative cookbook deals off the back of their sticky toffee pudding recipes, it's very rare to see a book blog that achieves similar success.

Though this isn't the focus of today's editorial. The focus is on you, as a blogger, being lucky enough to be asked to write content or produce articles for others - specifically publishers, organisations or other individuals who want to use your content on their own sites, promotional materials or perhaps even their own books.

The sticky tricky subject of blogger payment assumes that the majority of book bloggers already DO receive payment - in that they get to read, review and eventually keep the books that they're sent by publishers and PRs and - from our perspective - that's perfectly acceptable, in fact I think it's rather generous when you consider what books cost and how much you would be shelling out per year if you bought the books you received for review.

Any blogger charging for critique is (purely in my opinion) not only cheating their audience, but they're also cheating the person whose work they're reviewing. There are exceptions of course, there are folk who have spent a long time in the children's publishing industry who quite rightly charge for crits and consultancy - but these are folk who have the experience, the qualification and the background to be able to give a structured and professional opinion.

Most blogger who review books will (like us) stick to a rigid set of blogger ethics, reviewing books they want to review and giving a good solid and honest opinion of those books regardless of their net worth, and they'll also make a point of mentioning when a book was sent to them for review by a publisher or author. This definitely helps offer a level of transparency to your intended audience and is definitely worth considering.

But again we're getting bogged down in the critique side of things, I'm trying to get around to the subject at hand - the business of making a living from your writing when you're producing exclusive content that offers a (hopefully) informed and interesting article or opinion drawn from your own experiences when writing a book blog.

In the few cases where we've been asked to provide content like that, the subject of payment or remuneration is never broached. Obviously there's the inferred 'lure' of a magical boost in your blog's readership off the back of being featured somewhere that gets a few more hits than you do, but be honest, has that EVER worked out for you if you've been in a similar situation?

Freelance writers will usually have a ready-prepared tally of charges if they're already well established, so perhaps one approach is to see if you can contact a few and see what a reasonable rate is for an article with a specific word count. It's also important to consider the legality of making a living from your writing when it comes to the dreaded 'T' word. Thoroughly research the convoluted rules and regulations about how much you're allowed to earn before paying tax on what is effectively an income (in fact this is the very thing that puts me off bothering to badger for payment for writing or other stuff I do in my spare time, it hardly seems worth the hassle unless you're suddenly flooded with tons of freelance writing gigs that are lucrative and viable (and again, be honest, how many times does a blogger get a lucrative writing gig?)

It would be nice to not be considered the 'bottom of the barrel' when it comes to writing from time to time. I've seen a lot of rather harsh and unfair criticism levelled at bloggers by artists and authors who prefer professional critique (Read: Newspaper or Magazine articles) and entirely discount blogger reviews (or for that matter Amazon reviews but I can pretty much see why they're not big fans of the latter).

They're in the minority though, and quite often they may feel this way purely because they may assume that book bloggers are ten-a-penny and that anyone with an internet connection and a laptop can set up a blog, nip to the library, grab a stack of books and start ranting about them.

Perhaps then this is where the perception that blogger writing doesn't deserve payment ultimately comes from. I'm sure most of the lovely folk we've met through this blog (and the ones we haven't) all get that slightly weird sideways glance from other folk when they tell them that they write about children's books for fun.

But by and large we're passionate folk. I don't think I've met any book bloggers who are doing it 'purely for the freebies' and I've never met any who just copy and paste the same review over and over again, changing the names of the books or authors to suit. We do this in our spare time because we like doing it, we do this in our spare time because our kids love books and we do this in our spare time because once in a while someone says something nice about something you've written or an opinion you've offered and that feels damned good.

Sorry, this has gone on and on so will respect anyone who just comments TL;DR and skips to the end. To summarise, please don't ask a blogger to work for 'free' if you're asking them to provide unique content for your own publications, it does feel a bit like a slap in the chops and even the shortest article will still be eating up a bit of their most valuable resource - Time.