Four Things That Might Happen If Book Bloggers Were Paid


Paying Book Bloggers
Book bloggers have once again taken to discussing the question of whether we should be paid for our work. Are we doing this as a hobby or labor of love, or are we actually extensions of publishers’ marketing departments and deserve to be paid as such?  Both sides have valid points, so for the moment I’m not taking a side.  These are just my predictions of what would happen if book bloggers suddenly did find themselves being paid.

For most of us, nothing will change because only the top bloggers will be paid.

Think of any industry where people get paid for their work.  Only the top athletes, fashion designers, chefs, etc. actually get paid; a lot of people still end up playing sports, designing clothes, and cooking simply as a hobby.  The same will be true in the book blogosphere.  The Big Blogs with lots of followers will get paid because they reach a large audience and have “influence.”  The rest of us will still be blogging out of love.

The focus will shift to paying for promotional posts and photos, not reviews.

Paid reviews are uniquely open for criticism and suspicion because readers want an “honest opinion.”  If someone posts a picture of a book on a bench on Instagram, people are less likely to question whether the photographer “really” likes the book or has no opinion on the book at all and just thought it looked nice on the park bench.

Promotional posts and photos appear more “neutral,” which will also make publishers and authors more willing to pay for them.  As much as publishers and authors profess to appreciate honestly in reviews, it still hurts to pay for a review that ends up being negative. It can feel like handing over money to be insulted.  People will be more willing to pay for a post they feel they have more control over.

We’ll still be debating what we’re being paid for.

Once book bloggers are being paid to promote books in ways other than reviewing them, the question will arise as to how much bloggers should be paid.  Ideally, bloggers should read a book before they promote it; they should know they actually like it and want to recommend it to other readers.  But if the blogger is technically being paid to post an Instagram photo (low time commitment), will they also be compensated for the hours it took them to read the book?  Or will receiving a copy of the book to take a photo of count as fair compensation?

Some readers will leave, but most of them will stay.

Inevitably, some readers will feel that a paid blogger is a dishonest blogger.  However, followers who were with the blogger for years before they made it to the Big Leagues will know to continue trusting their opinion and their integrity.

Further Reading

11 thoughts on “Four Things That Might Happen If Book Bloggers Were Paid

  1. La La in the Library says:

    Many bloggers do get paid, but you have to work for a company for your paycheck and they will tell you what to blog about. If you didn’t like a book they represent, you will not be able to review it, if you loved a book they don’t represent you will not be able to review it or feature it on “your” blog. For example, the entertainment promotion company I work for has a blogger on staff. He can only blog about clients we represent. If he hates a band we represent he cannot say that on his blog. If he loves a band we don’t represent he cannot review that band on “his” blog. If you want to stay independent the only way you are going to get “paid” is through advertising, and the only way you can bring in a lot of advertising dollars is to have a big folloiwing and strong viewership presence. So I don’t see where the “unfair” comes in. If you have a small to middling sized blog why would a publisher or independent author pay you a lot of money for advertising? That’s not how business works. Plus, any kind of money paid for any kind of endorsement would have to be identified as such. If I went to a blog and saw most of it’s content was paid endorsements, I would probably not follow it anymore. That’s why you will see many large independent blogs, like Brainpickings, asking for donations. They want to post what they want, so they can’t be affiliated with, and paid by a company. I did music reviews for a magazine for five years and they gave me the albums they wanted me to review and sent me to the concerts they wanted me to review. If you want to get paid you basically give up your freedm to independently speak your mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      This is a great point that I’ve thought briefly about but haven’t really seen addressed anywhere. Book bloggers aren’t paid because we love our independence. We’re one-person operations with little reach. So many of us are even wary of getting co-bloggers because that means we’d be relinquishing what is otherwise 100% control over the blog and what goes on it.

      The dream for being paid for blogging seems to be that someone will fork over $60 for us to read a book we were going to read anyway and write the review we were going to write anyway. But you’re right that’s not how it’s going to work, if book bloggers ever are paid. That’s one of the reasons I think publishers would definitely be interested in paying for promotional posts that they wrote rather than reviews; THEY want control over what is said about the book.

      I think dealing with the resultant lack of independence would be hard for a lot of bloggers. (Though I think being paid could relieve some of the stress. As someone whose job pays relatively little, giving up some independence for some cash sounds nice, but I think reactions would vary widely by blogger.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kate @ Midnight Book Girl says:

    I’m not worried about book bloggers getting paid. The most well known bloggers already get tons of books and swag because they put the time and effort it takes to gain and keep followers, the time it takes to make contacts in the publishing world, and the time it takes to write and review posts on a regular basis, plus all the social media requirements. If they can make money off of it, then I don’t see a problem as long as it is disclosed. I think you’re right though, it would be more about marketing and less about being a true book review.

    Either way, it won’t concern me or my blog- I blog when I want and I don’t put the time and effort behind it to build it into a well known blog. Of course, owls don’t bring arcs tied in brown parcel paper tied up with string to my door either, so that’s the drawback of not treating my blog like a business. I stand in awe of people who put that kind of time into a hobby, and once they do, it becomes less a hobby than a part time or full time job.

    Time will tell if book bloggers can make real money off their blogs. I don’t see the big time publishers spending that kind of money, but I do think it would benefit small, indie publishers to get attention on a book most of us wouldn’t ever see.


    • Briana says:

      This is basically my perspective, too: I don’t think I actually be among the bloggers getting paid. I don’t really pursue ARCs or publicity contacts so…

      I think you’re right, though, that small publishers and authors would be the ones paying. Big publishers would rather spend their money on large exposure opportunities, and I think a lot of blogger would still be thrilled to get the “hottest book of the year” free from Harper Collins as compensation for a review, even if they were being offered money by other people.


  3. Geraldine @ Corralling Books says:

    I’ve actually been seeing this topic around recently – any idea why it’s popped up again?
    Personally, I think that whilst being paid would be great, I quite like how I have my blog right now, being able to post anything I want, to write my own views and to just have the trust of my readers. Just being able to read ARCs, share the passion with others is more than enough for me.


    • Briana says:

      I think someone brought it up on Twitter yesterday and it exploded, but I don’t know why it’s been generally in bloggers’ minds recently! The idea of being paid to do something I love just sounds like a nice idea, but I agree that I’m also just happy to do it for myself. I think, deep down, we all must be or we wouldn’t blog for long!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. SDCB Steph says:

    I don’t know about being paid, but I would like for book bloggers to recognize their value and for authors/publishers/PR peeps, to recognize it as well. I have a post coming up on this soon, but the long and the short of it is that while I adore reading, I put a lot of work in my reviews, research and promotion.


    • Briana says:

      That could be great for publisher-blogger relations. I think it was nice Epic Reads basically had a category for favorite book pushers in their end of the year awards thing, but Paper Fury was the only blogger nominated; the rest were Booktubers. I think that alone demonstrates nicely that even Booktubers are considered to have far more influence than even the top book bloggers.


  5. Stephanie B (@Chasm_of_Books) says:

    I agree with basically everything you said. While it would be nice to be paid to independently review novels, publishers would never dump money into something unless they knew it would produce positive feedback on the product. While go to an independent source that can’t promise a positive review when you could spend that money on more fruitful marketing tactics?

    Even if they were willing to do that too, a blog would have to have an extraordinarily large following and presence on the internet for them to consider it. The reality is that the only way independent book bloggers are going to be paid for anything is they’re being paid for something other than writing reviews (as we’ve already seen). Sure there might be a few self-published authors who would be willing to pay for an expedited review, but again, why dump money into something you aren’t sure is going to help you? There are plenty of book bloggers who are willing (and will likely always be willing) to provide these services at no cost, simply because that is the nature of the book world.

    People who love books do more stuff at no cost independently on the side and most are okay with that. If they love books so much that they want to be paid, they are basically the same people are who are getting an education to work at a publishing company, etc.


    • Briana says:

      They do pay for publications like Kirkus to review them, even though there’s a chance of a negative review, but the exposure is so great they take the risk, I guess. Bloggers just don’t have that kind of sway. You would need a massive following.

      I have seen some bloggers say they have been able to get indie authors to pay for expedited reviews, but I feel that’s the exception and they must have large followings. Also, as far as I can tell the rate is about $20, which is nice but not near minimum wage in my opinion. (Assuming 5 hours to read a 300 page book and 1 hour to write and format a thoughtful review, it seems to me the time spent is worth $60 at least).

      But, yes, that’s the thing. Unless someone is wildly influential, why pay them when you can just ask 10 less popular bloggers to do it free and get basically the same exposure?


  6. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    Fantastic post! I hopped over here to read it after you new post went up 😉 I have to agree with most of it, though it is a debate that I choose to often stay out of. I see it get so nasty. And I never really concern myself with what others choose to do. We all have our own goals. I think what I like best here is that you are not attacking or promoting the idea, but simply stating what I feel is the reality. Love it 🙂


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