The Unwritten Rules of the Blogosphere

Discussion Post Stars

Definitions of what a “discourse community” is  vary and not everyone believes that becoming one is necessarily a good thing.  However, I think the term may be useful here for the idea of the book blogosphere–a place where we communicate together with shared values and assumptions and towards shared goals.  That is, generally speaking, the book blogosphere might be understood to share goals such as: reading and reviewing books, discussing books and their merits, finding and interacting with others who are excited about reading, etc.  And we have to do all those things by communicating in common and expected ways, perhaps by providing an argument and evidence, or by providing a shorthand recommendation through a star rating.  The trick?  Because the book blogosphere is informal and nebulous (Indeed, who comprises the book blogosphere, and do all parts of it share the same goals and values?), the rules remain unwritten.  And yet, to be accepted as bona fide book bloggers, we most likely have to adopt at least some of them.

Simply by blogging for awhile and  by reading discussion posts about what bloggers like to see in other blogs, why they blog, why they follow other bloggers, etc., I have gleaned some of the unwritten rules, which I understand as follows:

  • Book bloggers expect blogs to be presented in clean, orderly ways.  Uncluttered sidebars, easy-to-read text, easy-to-navigate menus, and a professional logo are often seen as markers of a “real” blogger.
  • Book bloggers ought to be blogging for the pure joy of it or for community, not for monetary compensation or a higher page count.  You may want ARCs or wish you could be paid like fashion or food bloggers, but you’re not supposed to suggest as much.  Being paid is seen as suspicious, as if you have become part of a publisher’s marketing department.  Likewise, you may want to see your stats rise, but if you say so, you ought to clarify that you love blogging enough that the stats do not really matter.
  • Book bloggers should be careful they are not seen as argumentative.  Rose Read has written a little about this before, suggesting that bloggers are often afraid to write negative reviews if the consensus on a book is positive.  This rule goes further, however.  That is, bloggers generally seem to expect comments on posts to agree with the post.  Going back and forth too much with an opposing opinion might be seen by some as argumentative.
  • Book bloggers expect some sort of quid pro quo when they comment.  That is, if they comment on your blog, it’s considered neighborly to comment back, if not immediately at least eventually.
  • Book bloggers are not supposed to mention the quid pro quo rule.  We’re all commenting for the love of community, not to get something back.
  • Book bloggers appreciate fewer memes and more discussions.  Memes are generally considered easy filler, but increasing numbers of bloggers seem to appreciate discussion posts (and some reviews) as they provide more complex issues to think about and respond to.

So what do bloggers value?  They tend to value community, friendliness, and rich content–all good things!  But looking at the unwritten rules can also help us to question some of the current standards.  For instance, why is it so bad to receive monetary compensation for writing book reviews?  Does that make Publishers Weekly and Kirkus publications we ought not to trust?  Why can other bloggers make a living out of their hobby but not book bloggers?  And do the current rules of neighborly discourse potentially stifle conversation?  Are we missing out on lively debates because we fear to seem unkind? And how do we feel about potentially being a discourse community, anyway? Does pressure to integrate into the community mean that we lose some of our individualism?

I’m not sure I have answers to all these questions, but they are ones I like to ponder, along with my musings on my rhetorical choices and the reasons behind them.

So what do you think?  What unwritten rules do you see in the book blogosphere and do you feel pressured to conform to them?

Krysta 64

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79 thoughts on “The Unwritten Rules of the Blogosphere

  1. DaniellaWrites says:

    I would love “argumentative” comments on my reviews and discussions. I think it generates really interesting debates when people have differing opinions, so I always try to prompt people to comment by asking questions at the end of each post.

    Sadly, it seems like the unwritten rule about not being argumentative is holding very strong and I haven’t been able to gather any interesting (argumentative) talks in the comments. It’s really pretty frustrating, as I was hoping to be able to have some meaningful (or silly) book debates.

    I’m not really fussed with following any unwritten rules. If another book blogger likes or comments on my content, I’m always thrilled, and I respond. But I’ve never thought that should necessitate a like, comment, or follow in return. I’ll always check out their blog, yes, but unless I find their content to be stuff I genuinely enjoy I won’t just like or comment to be ‘fair’. I feel like that’s doing a disservice to them. When people like my stuff, I want it to be because they liked my content or found it engaging, not because they were following an unwritten rule of politeness.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Krysta says:

      I rarely see comments that disagree with a blogger’s post and, when I do, they are often carefully worded so as to seem less decisive, kind of to the effect of, “I didn’t enjoy this book, but it’s really just not my thing, it can be your thing.” Which is an interesting way to approach debate, I think, because we all know already that people have different reactions to books and that the fact that I didn’t enjoy one doesn’t mean it’s, by nature, a terrible book. But there’s not much to engage with in that sort of comment because they seldom give reasons for why the commenter did not enjoy the book other than personal opinions differing–presumably because evidence of why they thought the characterization was weak, prose was vapid, etc. might be seen as questioning the blogger’s taste.

      I usually go through sporadically and visit the blogs of the people who recently commented, but if they have a strange comment system, haven’t updated recently, or haven’t posted on anything I think I can respond to, it can be difficult. So I’ve been to their blog, they just can’t tell. I admit I do want to be polite and indicate that I appreciate our commenters by commenting back. I suppose I could just write, “Hey, I really appreciate all of you!” but I’m not sure other bloggers would appreciate that as much. I guess I am a rule follower? 😉

      Like

      • DaniellaWrites says:

        I admit, I’m also kind of a hypocrite about being argumentative. If I see an opinion in a blog post I disagree with, I will often say so. But if I see a comment on someone else’s blog I disagree with I’ll often just not say anything at all. I guess because it isn’t my blog I don’t feel as if it’s my place to disagree with other commenters or start debates, even if it’s a blog I comment on regularly.

        I’m afraid the other commenters will just say “who the heck are you? why would you bother to post if it’s just to disagree?”

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          I think it’s interesting how we don’t really respond to each other’s comments. It seems like we could start a conversation, but instead we let the blogger interact one-on-one with each comment. I have been trying to reply more to other peoples’ comments on other blogs, but I also feel weird about it because it’s so uncommon. And I don’t want it to look like I’m fighting with that person. :/ Maybe we need a concerted effort to interact more and make it seem less confrontational.

          Liked by 1 person

      • aninklingreviews says:

        Ugh, I struggle with this too. Sometimes I enjoyed a review but can’t think of anything else to say but that because I haven’t read the book yet. I do like blogs with like buttons so I can at least show that I enjoyed it without leaving an inane comment.

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          Yes, that’s true. Sometimes I’m not sure what to add to the conversation, so I just leave a sentence saying “Great review!” It’s not really a generative comment but at least I’m interacting, I guess. The “like” button is good for that, too, as you mention.

          Like

  2. errinkrystal says:

    I’ve had my blog for about a year now, but only really started book blogging in the last 6 months or so. So still being fairly newish I haven’t yet felt any pressure to conform to any unwritten rules just yet. If someone follows or likes or comments on a post, i’ll usually take a look at their blog, sure. But i’m not going to immediately follow back unless i’m genuinely interested in what they are posting.

    I haven’t written a ‘negative’ review yet, but i have genuinely liked the books i have been reading. If I do come across something I don’t enjoy, i’m not going to shy away from saying so. I do think it should be put in a respectful manner though, I know first hand how much time and effort goes into writing a novel and getting it to that stage where someone wants to publish. It’s all good and well bloggers not wanting to seem, ‘argumentative’ but the whole point is to have an opinion. Why censor it? Someone can have a ‘negative’ or ‘argumentative’ opinion without being nasty. And i’m more than happy to discuss why people have different opinions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      True, it’s difficult to follow everyone back since their blog might be interested in a genre you don’t read or otherwise contain content that you aren’t likely to find as engaging. I don’t generally follow everyone back (I can’t even keep track of who’s following us these days), though I do try to go through periodically and comment back on the blogs of some of our recent commenters. But time constrains, weird commenting systems, etc. can make that difficult.

      I don’t see a problem with negative reviews myself if they are fair and balanced. It’s completely possible to point out what you didn’t like in a book while acknowledging what did work. I think some people conflate a negative review with an attack on the writer, which shouldn’t be the case.

      Liked by 1 person

      • errinkrystal says:

        Very true! I’m a writer myself and a bit of constructive criticism doesn’t go astray. I think it helps to know what people do and don’t like about a book and also interesting. Not everyone likes the same things and that is not necessarily a bad thing. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ali (@thebandarblog) says:

    I don’t know if that list is supposed to have a bit of a funny undertone, but it cracked me up. “Likewise, you may want to see your stats rise, but if you say you, you ought to clarify that you love blogging enough that the stats do not really matter.” LOL. I’m glad to say that these things don’t matter to me (except I really do appreciate a clean blog – my brain can’t deal with cluttered ones)… but I definitely can think of a lot of bloggers that these things do matter. I literally just learned about what “commenting back” meant last week and realized I’d probably learned a lot of bridges by not doing it (I always thought I was just supposed to respond to their comment!) 😄 Oh well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I was trying to be a little funny, so I’m glad it worked. I am never quite sure I’m that humorous. 😉

      I think that a lot of bloggers are also starting to realize that the time that goes into a blog may make commenting back difficult. By the time you write up your own content, do the images, respond to all the comments on your blog, etc. you may find that there’s no time left to start commenting back. So I do it sporadically to try to be polite, but not every day.

      Also, I certainly don’t keep track of who is commenting back here because I commented on their blog. That seems sort of petty somehow. Like, “Darn it, I’ve commented on your blog ten times already and you never come here! Shame!” ;b

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Cara Sue Achterberg says:

    I’m not a book blogger, I’m commenting here as an author. First off, major thanks to ALL book bloggers because without you many of us would truly struggle to get the word out about our books. I am traditionally published by a smaller press, so without the big guns of one of the big 5 publishers behind me, I do a lot of my own PR.

    This post was fascinating to me, as some of your rules are the same as between authors (not talking Danielle Steel or Jodi Picoult, here). Many of us try to support each other as much as possible. Most days I am crazy busy, but if I have time I always try to comment on other author’s blogs and posts. I review most every book I read for goodreads and Amazon, but I rarely post a review that is less than four stars. That doesn’t mean the books for which I do post reviews aren’t worth the stars I give them– just that my opinion is just that, my opinion, and I would never want to cost another author a sale just because their writing isn’t my thing. If I get a not-so-positive (I’ve yet to get a truly negative review) review from a blogger, I’m fine with that, especially if they also point out what they did like about my book. I think most authors are, also. Not everyone is going to love my book, if they did I’d worry I didn’t push my writing hard enough.

    I read a number of book blogs and I am impressed by the unwritten code of ethics apparent in the work you do, as well as the fact that you don’t take compensation. And while PW and KR are well known and respected and cost money, it’s my publisher, not me who approaches them. There are a few smaller blogs/sites who ask for compensation and I would be unlikely to engage them for a review. The compensation does cheapen the review in my mind, but then again maybe that’s unfair. I’m repeatedly amazed at the time, effort and quality put into book blogging, and for that I am grateful.

    No answers here, just musings. Keep on with your good work and know that you are MUCH appreciated.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I’ve noticed that authors tend to be supportive of each other, which makes a lot of sense. You’re all struggling for notice! It can be nice to know that your fellow authors are behind you.

      And I do think it’s possible to give a balanced negative review. You can certainly point out what you thought didn’t work with what you thought did work. Some bloggers seem to worry a negative review will be construed as an attack on the writer, which shouldn’t be the case if they are engaging with the text and not slinging personal insults! But I don’t think saying something like, “Well, the characterization could have been stronger, but the plot was enthralling” should be seen as bad. I think that this type of review can make the review seem more authentic and thoughtful, and not just like some free marketing.

      I’m surprised some blogs ask for compensation since so many sites do the same work free. I know some bloggers would like us all to receive compensation, but I think that might put us in competition with each other. No one’s going to pay a site with no views for a review. It wouldn’t make sense.

      We’re very flattered that you appreciate bloggers so much. We certainly appreciate authors like you!

      Like

  5. Emily | Rose Read says:

    Magnificent post! I actually might use this is a research project I’m doing for one of my classes – about how online reading communities affect reading practices. You have voiced many of the things I’ve noticed about book blogging. I think whenever a community grows, these kind of standards and unspoken rules are inevitably formed, whether we realize it or not. Whether or not these are good rules, though, is another question. I tend to gravitate toward bloggers who don’t “follow the rules” because I get bored with those who do. I particularly like the question about giving up our individualism a bit, and I think we do. Not enough to have it be a major concern or sometimes to even realize it. But it has troubled me at times when I see myself conforming to book blogger norms or trends. When I ask myself “why am I doing this,” the answer is “because I want to be trendy and reach more potential followers who like this sort of thing.” Yikes, did I just admit that?

    I think balance is the key to everything. You gotta play the game to stay in the game, so to speak. But that doesn’t mean you also can’t shake the boat one in a while (yes, I’m mixing metaphors, nbd). I think bloggers appreciate it when someone does something different (I know I do), but to be too different risks never finding your place in the community.

    Anywho, like Cara said, too, these aren’t so much answers as musings. I’m so glad you posted this – I think it’s important for us all to read and think about!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think it’s important to acknowledge the rules exist because that naming allows us to challenge them. Otherwise it can feel like this is “just the way it is,” when it fact it’s a structure we’ve somehow (unconsciously?) created and can thus be broken or modified if we find it’s not working.

      I agree that even so I do feel pressure to conform to at least some of these expectations in order to be accepted into the community.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. SERIESous Book Reviews says:

    I wish people felt more free to post their negative thoughts on books because it facilitates discussion. So long as they are construct comments, I welcome the conversation; I just don’t want others to get attacked because they disagree and the attackers have nothing intelligent to say. Debate is healthy if you can do it in a respectful way.

    When I first started blogging, I was excited for those conversations (I don’t really have anyone to discuss books with IRL and I missed that from school) and I find that that isn’t the case at all. Book bloggers as a whole rarely talk about books on a deeper level–or if they do, I’m not following all the right people.

    I’m a bit of a stickler for the commenting thing myself. I make an effort to visit those who comment on my blog and it would be nice to get the love back. But I also understand that sometimes, you just don’t have anything to say on that person’s blog. I would rather genuine comments than general “great review” one liners.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I’ve seen a lot of people express that they don’t want to write about books on a deeper level because that feels too “academic” to them. And I think some bloggers feel that more in-depth or critical reviews can be elitist. However, I admit I worry about a mindset that encourages us not to be critical in our free time. The skills we learn in school are meant to be taken out in the real world, not left at the door.

      Liked by 1 person

      • SERIESous Book Reviews says:

        I get that. I think academic analysis of every book can be a little too much. I mean, no offence to some contemporary romances, but some don’t have those deeper levels to explore. But some do and I feel like (a lot of us, myself included) we read it, review it without spoilers and we don’t get a chance to talk about those “spoilers” any further.

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          Yes, it can be difficult to review a book without mentioning an concrete details about the plot or characters. I find spoiler warnings helpful, but some people are stricter with what they consider a spoiler than I am. Maybe a discussion post about the book would work, with a warning that we assume our audience has read the book?

          Liked by 1 person

  7. looloolooweez says:

    “For instance, why is it so bad to receive monetary compensation for writing book reviews? [….] Why can other bloggers make a living out of their hobby but not book bloggers?”

    I’ve wondered about this, myself. I can’t think of any beauty or food blogs that I follow that review/write about products that they weren’t compensated for or at least received for free (and to keep – not like a time-limited ebook download). I’m sure those blogs exist, they’re just not as common. Of course, the publishing industry in general is rather different from other industries, so maybe that has something to do with the $$$ differences in these blogospheres?

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think it also has to do with the relatively few views book blogs received. Chocolate-Covered Katie, a food blogger, says she gets 6 million visitors a month. Even a large book blogger doesn’t have those types of numbers. Publishers aren’t going to pay us when we don’t have enough views to make it a financially-savvy marketing decision.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. xtine says:

    Fascinating discussion! I’m relatively knew to the book blogging community and I don’t know that I technically qualify as a book blogger, mainly because I choose to blog about what I feel like blogging about, be it a review of a book I thought was amazing, or my own writing, or general musings on life. I don’t like being confined by the rules, and have no expectations of my blog becoming popular (not that I wouldn’t be pleased if it did happen).

    That being said, I’ve read a lot of other posts similar to this, talking about how to be a “good” blogger, commenting back, etc. I think for me, I’m more interested in the sense of community than anything else. I grew up being the only person I knew who identified as a reader, who chose reading over other activities and didn’t just read for school requirements. Being able to read other people’s reviews, participating in small ways like commenting or retweeting or what have you, is enjoyable it because it gives me the sense that I’m part of something bigger than just my own reading life. That’s the value in it, to me – the sense of belonging which I think is so important, perhaps particularly to those of us who spend most of our days wrapped up in fictional worlds.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think you qualify as a book blogger if you blog about books at all. At least, I’ve seen a lot of blogs that mix different things like food and books, makeup and books, tea and books, writing and books, etc. We do movie reviews here, board game reviews, advice for college, etc. Really whatever strikes our fancy. I think readers do appreciate a variety of content.

      I think book bloggers do generally value the community. However, I think it’s also worth thinking about whether/how the community accepts us. Discussing the expectations of the community enables us to challenge those expectations, rather than accepting them as “just how it is.”

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    Interesting discussion today 🙂

    I agree with having a neat or tidy blog. I do not feel it is a requirement that has anything directly to do with blogging specifically though. I think the aesthetics aspect is a requirement when anyone is attempting to read on a website, blog, etc. It is to taxing if the formatting is sloppy or chaotic. So for me, that is a rule with anything I read 😉

    I see the money vs enjoyment debate so very often. It does seem to be expected that bloggers do everything purely for enjoyment and no gain. I personally review and write because it is a passion that I want to share. But I do not care one bit if someone else finds a way to get paid doing this. In fact, I think that would be fantastic! We all want a dream job. be realistic haha. Sure, some will question your credibility, but I see this daily anyways when people disagree or argue over ARCs. It feels petty to me. We each blog for our own reasons. If you do not like someone’s blog or choices, unfollow. Problem solved.

    Quid quo pro – not an issue with me haha. I love debating and discussing. We can go back and forth for days and as long as it is in a respectful manner then we are all good 😉 If it isn’t respectful, then it is no longer an argument but an attack or harassment. This is a whole new issue.

    I think that expecting return comments and acknowledgment are a bit much. Interaction definitely should be appreciated and given when possible, but we all have busy lives and it happens. Now this is where the area is grey for me.. I don’t expect it constantly, but if I have been following and commenting on your blog in a manner that is attempting to stimulate conversation for weeks and you do not acknowledge me, I will just stop. I think that this is probably different for everyone. Sometimes I very laid back about things. I will always follow up with all of the comments on my own blog, but do not necessarily hold everyone else to the same expectations.

    I do agree about more discussions at times. Although, some memes also encourage conversation and exploration of new titles. So this depends on the meme and the discussion post. Just like memes can feel boring, some discussion posts start to sound regurgitated or half-hearted.

    Oh my! I am so sorry for rambling ::P I thought this was great haha. Thanks ❤

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I think a professional format is pretty much expected these days. I seldom see those infamous sites with black backgrounds or automatic music now!

      I don’t really understand why bloggers shouldn’t be able to monetize. As you say, it’s the dream that we all would be able to monetize our hobbies! No one looks at crafts and goes, “Oh, the quality must be bad because you knitted that for money.” And you can be paid for a review and still find ways to point out the weak parts of a book. Professional reviewers do not routinely hand out only positive reviews.

      Plus, as you point out, you can unfollow any blog you don’t find credible. They’d be required to indicate that they received the book from the author or publisher, so it wouldn’t a secret, just like with ARCs.

      I do think bloggers should answer comments on their blog if they’d like to keep receiving them. Bloggers generally leave comments because they want to start a conversation and it can be painful to be ignored. I stop commenting on blogs that never answer me. I understand people are busy, but if I see that no one’s received a reply in months, I don’t bother to engage anymore because I can’t tell if anyone is even reading what I wrote.

      However, I definitely don’t expect people to comment on my blog just because I left a comment on theirs. How would I even keep track of that? It seems kind of ridiculous to be running a spreadsheet to see who’s commenting back. ;b

      I like to see some memes and I assume that’s generally the case. They’re easy to read and engage with, plus they give you more opportunities to comment back because maybe you’ll see one book out of ten that you’ve read or find interesting. If someone posts nothing but memes, though, I usually get bored. It’s difficult to keep putting new content in memes when so many of the questions are similar. Why, yes, my favorite character, favorite quote, favorite romance, etc. are all likely to come from my favorite book! How often can I keep waving LotR in people’s faces? 😉

      You’re right, though, to point out that discussion posts can fall flat, too, if they aren’t well planned or don’t have enough content. I do find myself frustrated when I click on an intriguing title and realize the “discussion” is only five sentences long and doesn’t have an argument or conclusion of any sort. It feels kind of like the blogger didn’t know what to say so they’re asking me to write the discussion post in the comments for them.

      You weren’t rambling! I love how in-depth your comment is!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

        Thank you so much! I think we can easily agree on almost all points here. I suppose we all have our own expectations, but in the end, as with all aspects of life, we expect a certain amount of common courtesy and decency. It really is not too much to ask 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Kourtni @ Kourtni Reads says:

    Quite honestly, book bloggers not receiving any monetary compensation whatsoever is one thing that definitely gets frustrating for me sometimes. It takes a lot of time to write posts, especially reviews, and it would be sooo nice to get just a little amount of money, especially as a broke college student, haha. And since the whole community views it as such a negative thing, individuals can’t even really ask for it because the author/publisher/etc. will just go to someone who will do it for free. Although I will say that I think having book bloggers get paid for reviews would make things a lot harder for self-published authors. But other than that… I don’t really think it’s an unreasonable thing to ask to get paid (even just a small amount!) for all the work that goes into our blogs. I’ve also always found it weird that the one form of compensation we do get (free review copies) is still something that we’re not *supposed* to want. People get accused constantly of being greedy for getting excited about ARCs or requesting “too many” (whatever that means), but it’s really the only thing we get from book blogging, at least materially. Great discussion post!!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I really see no reason why bloggers shouldn’t be paid to review books. However, I understand that book bloggers simply don’t have enough page views to justify asking for compensation. Chocolate-Covered Katie, a food blogger, says she gets six million visits in a month. Book bloggers don’t even compare when you look at the numbers.

      Also, if we were paid, publishers would likely only pay a select few “big” bloggers. The majority would likely still have to blog as a hobby.

      I think requesting “too many” ARCs happens when you request more than you can read or review, meaning they’re sitting unread on your shelf instead of going to a blogger who would have reviewed them as was intended. But people have lives and get busy, so I’m certainly not going to call out bloggers for their ARCs. Good for them if they got them.

      It is weird, though, that people don’t tend to look at ARC reviews and see them as biased, even though they are a form of compensation. So why shouldn’t bloggers be paid in cash instead of books?

      Like

      • Kourtni @ Kourtni Reads says:

        6 million views a month?! Wow! I knew book blogs were less popular than others, but didn’t realize the extent of it, haha.
        I could definitely see that happening where only a few big bloggers got paid and the rest didn’t. It’d probably make it harder for smaller bloggers to even get review copies in the first place.
        I understand getting frustrating when bloggers end up getting tons of ARCs they’ll never read while other bloggers are struggling to get any, but like you said, things happen and those bloggers may not be intentionally taking more ARCs than they can get. Plus if they do that repeatedly, publishers will likely stop sending them books anyway. I remember seeing some bloggers getting mad at bigger bloggers who were getting sent unsolicited ARCs that they weren’t reading which makes no sense to me, honestly. They can’t really do anything about publishers sending them books they didn’t ask for. I mean I suppose they could offer the books up to other bloggers who are interested or have more time, but I don’t blame them if they don’t want to try and organize something like that.
        It definitely is strange to me that ARCs aren’t seen as a form of compensation because, at least in my opinion, they definitely are. You get them in exchange for reviewing them. I don’t know why they aren’t seen as kind of biased or anything like that. The mysteries of book blogging, haha.

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          Yes, she was offered a sponsorship deal and now has a book. But book bloggers will never get that if a big blog is pulling in a monthly visitor rate of a few thousand. It simply makes no sense for publishers to pay for a review that no one will see. I understand bloggers do a lot of work, but I think we also have to admit to ourselves that we don’t have the readership to justify charging for reviews. Especially since our readership tends to be ourselves, and we’re all reading the latest release anyway and half of us are trying to get ARCs because we don’t want to pay for books. How can we ask for money for reviews AND also for free books so we don’t have to pay for them?

          I do find it odd publishers send unsolicited books to bloggers who are known to be too busy to read them. But that’s the publisher’s decisions, not the bloggers’ fault.

          Liked by 2 people

  11. cornreviewsbooks says:

    Amazing post! We definitely need to talk about these things more, I love how kind this community is but I do wish we weren’t so afraid of being seen as argumentative. I would love to get comments with more of a variety of opinions most of the time they say they agree with me completely. I do get nervous about posting a unpopular opinion but everyone I have met through blogging is so kind that I probably shouldn’t be. I think it’s good to discuss and challenge these rules, I never even though of some of them before.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      It’s interesting that so far the comments have mostly expressed a desire for people not to be afraid to engage more–and yet we remain afraid. I do admit, though, that when I have commented with an opinion that was opposite that of the post, many of the authors of the post have gotten a bit defensive about it, which made me feel mean for daring to express a different opinion….

      Liked by 1 person

  12. The Hermit Librarian says:

    I’ve definitely seen some of these rules pop up on blogs, or at least evidence to support them. The negative reviews “rule” can also go the other way, when you might write a positive review for a book that is seen as generally unliked or problematic. I don’t recall having had this exact problem yet wherein the book I talked about was one that was well known enough for me to worry about, but I haven’t let worrying about others interest in a book stop me if I didn’t like it yet. If I truly think it’s a 1 or 2 star book, then so be it.

    That being said, there are some books I’m a bit hesitant to write a review for, or that I’m trying to review more carefully, just because of the reception I’m seeing them get in the book community, particularly on Twitter. I want to respond honestly and at the same time I want to protect myself from attack.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, there does seem to be a trend now where people aren’t supposed to like certain books, and they aren’t supposed to like them based on the assurance of a Tweet, not because they read the book and evaluated it for themselves. I think we’re all worried about being attacked now for reviewing the wrong book. I know I have seen increasing disclaimers from bloggers in regards to certain titles. Even if a blogger stands behind their review, it can be very upsetting and emotionally exhausted to find yourself the target of a Twitter mob.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. ikramreads says:

    Great Post! I for one hesitate sometimes to post an unpopular opinion but at the end of the day everyone in this community is so nice and I haven’t ever felt anyone being mean which is great! And speaking about comments I do think it’s common courtesy to reply to at least some of the comments especially if you comment frequently. I don’t expect people to comment on my posts just because I commented on yours, it’s just nice to feel like your being heard! Again great topic! 🙂

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I think it makes sense for people to reply to the comments on their own blogs if they’d like to see people continue to comment and engage with their posts. However, I don’t really understand why visiting back is required for so many people. I certainly don’t know why I’d waste my time keeping track to see who came to comment on my blog after I commented on theirs. If I like their content, I’m going to keep commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Sam @ Sharing Inspired Kreations says:

    Oh, I completely agree with most of your points. And I have to say that I feel, as I think most do, pressured to conform to the “rules” set out for book bloggers.

    How I would LOVE to get paid to blog! How awesome would that be? But noooo, us book bloggers do it for free. We promote books for free all the time. All. The. Freaking. Time. Not that I’m complaining. I do love to help authors out. But I feel like other bloggers who are able to blog for a living wouldn’t be as generous as us book bloggers are. So there. We are the most generous bloggers out there. No? Haha.

    I disagree, however, about your argumentative point (and thus I am rebelling from your rules! Ha!). I actually welcome differing opinions to my discussions or reviews! I just like hearing others’ opinions. Isn’t that the whole point of a discussion? To discuss! And possibly even debate a little! As long as there are no offensive or rude comments, I think it’s all in the fun of it. Keep it polite and debate away!!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I think it’s the dream to get paid for doing something you love. I’m not sure why bloggers so often act like money’s a bad thing. We need to live somehow, might as well do it with our hobby!

      I think many of us do want more discussion in our discussion posts. But it’s not easy to tell who those people are! I’ve disagreed with people who actually wrote something to the effect of, “I love debate and am open to different opinions,” and got the nastiest response when I took them up on that…. And I didn’t think I was being argumentative, just pointing out where I saw a weakness in their argument. :/

      Like

  15. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight says:

    Ooooh I LOVE THIS! So okay, I feel you on all of these things. Like- why can’t we disagree with each other? Albeit respectfully, I don’t see why disagreement has to be bad? I mean, if I read a review and I had different thoughts, I will say so, and then tell the reviewer that I was glad that they enjoyed it! We aren’t all going to feel the same way! And I LOVE the whole “Book bloggers are not supposed to mention the quid pro quo rule.” (Book bloggers must not speak about Comment Club 😉 ) Because SERIOUSLY. What is that!? I mean, there was a time when I was really sick and ended up like, not being able to comment back for a week or so. And when I said “hey, super sorry about that”, most people WERE nice, but a few? NOPE. Like really? So now I am more lax about it because I was driving myself crazy.

    I feel like… I get why we don’t get paid for this. Like you said, we don’t have the reach, as a rule. BUT I think that the nonsense over making ARCs so coveted and elitist is BS. And look, I get that they cannot be sent to everyone, of course. But I also feel like somewhere along the line, we ended up pitted against each other in this ridiculous battle of who can kiss the most ass, and I do not like it. BUT of course, again, we cannot speak of this. Ever.

    Really, I like most of the blogosphere- it IS neighborly and friendly for the most part, but I think it is okay to be able to say “hey, I want to succeed here too” and not be looked at like a monster. And respectful disagreements? They are always welcome, in my book!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think it’s funny we have to pretend we don’t want page views or money or to succeed. Of course we want to succeed. Most people aren’t blogging because they don’t care if anyone reads their stuff or not. They’d keep a reading journal for that!

      And I have noticed that at times Briana and I don’t have the ability to comment around as much, our comments and views go down. I don’t know how many people are following the comment-back rule. Maybe some of them just forget you exist until you remind them by commenting again. But it is interesting to see that our activity DOES dip if we aren’t commenting as much.

      Honestly, I don’t understand the hype around ARCs. I don’t want them. I want to read what I want when I want, and I don’t have any room to store tons of new books. I can go to the library for the final copy. So I am happy to sit back and watch everyone else fight over them. 😉 But it does seem, as you say, that sometimes bloggers see themselves as in competition rather than as in a community, which is sad.

      Yes, exactly! An argument can be respectful! It doesn’t mean you’re literally arguing with people, just that you’re having a lively conversation!

      Like

  16. Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books says:

    Love this discussion topic!! I’ve been blogging a long time and it funny sometimes the “rules” that we’ve all conformed to. I think the not wanting to be argumentative on someones blog stems from a lot of the goodreads drama that went down in the past. It used to be a thing where authors/publicists/other random people would jump into bloggers reviews and tell them why their opinion was wrong. It was a whole giant mess– and I think that people got super turned off by negative comments after that.

    It’s weird because I’d love a nice debate on my blog, but at the same time I don’t want someone coming to my internet space and telling me my opinion isn’t valid or that I “read the book wrong”. Also, it’s super hard to read tone over comments, so it’s easier just to be nice and not have someone misunderstand me?? I don’t know if that makes sense??

    It does seem like the book comm is getting more combative and aggressive though, so maybe that will eventually trickle over into blogging spaces?

    Great stuff to think about!! Also, OMG why can’t we make the money of fashion/lifestyle bloggers?? Totally not fair!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      But, as you say, it’s possible to present a different opinion without being mean about it. I can say, “Here are the reasons I did not think the book was well-written” and that’s not an attack on anyone. It’s a critique of the book. But I have noticed that if I leave comments that are anything but, “I super agree with you!” the blogger tends to get defensive, because it’s so rare. I’ve been accused of saying things I didn’t even say in the comment because they read an alternative perspective as an attack, no matter how many smiley faces I throw in to indicate I’m trying to be friendly.

      I hope the Twitter drama doesn’t come into blogging spaces. Right now there seems to be an odd trend where people read a post and then attack the person on Twitter where the person can’t find them or respond/defend themselves. I think people are tired of that. I sure hope people don’t start waking up to 50 mean comments on a review because you can leave Twitter, but you can’t leave your blog.

      Unfortunately, we have nowhere near the traffic of fashion and lifestyle bloggers. If I were a publisher, I’d never allocate the little marketing money I had to a book blog that only got a few hundred or a few thousand views a month. :/

      Like

  17. Julie @ Happily Ever Chapter says:

    Ohhh great post! I’m a fairly new-ish book blogger (6 months or so) so I’m still pretty new here, but I had a fashion blog for over 2 years and it is almost like two different worlds. lol So far I haven’t seen any argumentative posts or comments around book bloggerland, but I know they are probably out there somewhere. I’ve been lucky enough that when I write a negative review, if people disagree they’ve done so respectfully. I agree that it seems as if making money through fashion blogging can be easier to make money. I receive ARCs from publishers but I would never write a positive review based on the fact that I got it for free. My reviews are always honest and I think they respect that too.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I’m not really sure why bloggers don’t find ARC reviews suspect but think that receiving monetary compensation would compromise the review. The reviewer is being compensated in both cases.

      Like

  18. suzanna says:

    Great post.
    Re: getting paid – I totally agree book bloggers should be able to earn from their blogs but doesn’t it all come down to Amazon and a few authors who have paid for good reviews to bump up their ratings? There has been such a big fuss made over this issue I think it will be difficult for people to get over it and will assume that if you’ve been paid then you will be biased. The stupid part is, they are fine about Kirkus reviews – which publishers pay to have!!! Time things changed.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I just don’t understand why no one finds ARC reviews suspect. That’s compensation, too, so why does it only make people uncomfortable if there’s actual money involved?

      Like

  19. Gabby says:

    Thank you for writing this post! I just started my blog a few months ago, and while I’m enjoying it, there’s been something bothering me that I just couldn’t put my finger on. Your points made me realize what it is: people who love to read generally love words and deeper meanings, yet so much of the book blogger community sticks to surface-level points.

    There aren’t a lot of complex discussions, and (to me, anyway) there’s a weird feeling of forced positivity. Like you said- you aren’t supposed to be argumentative, and there’s a constant exchange of favors (comment back, etc.) I’ve noticed this even more in the #bookstagram community.

    I call BS on every blogger (book or otherwise) who say they don’t want compensation. A blog of any kind is a lot of work- of course it would be nice to get something back from that!

    I don’t think I’m really adding any new thoughts to this discussion, but I just wanted to comment and say thank you for validating my feelings!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think there are various pockets of the blogosphere where people write deeper discussion posts or even more scholarly reviews. There are also pockets of people who prefer to talk about just thinks they enjoyed about the books because they’re blogging for fun, or think that analyzing a book ruins the reading experience, or just don’t want to feel like their hobby is a chore. I imagine bloggers with different styles eventually find each other’s blogs and hang out there more. The Internet’s big, so there’s room for everyone, though that can also make it difficult to find what you want sometimes.

      I also think a lot of people aren’t really sure how to approach discussions. They’re something that’s really emerged relatively recently. When we started blogging almost six years ago, people didn’t do discussion posts. Now readers expect them, but not every blogger can easily think of a totally fascinating discussion post each week. Being original is hard. Sometimes I sit down to think of a discussion post idea and I just can’t!

      Oh, I’m pretty sure most of us would love to be paid for doing our hobby. Nothing about that sounds awful. We already do it, we like it, and we could get paid? Win! But for some reason you’re not supposed to say that out loud, even though we’re all thinking it. Weird, huh?

      I think maybe we’ll see changes down the road. It seems a lot of commenters here would like the “rules” to change. Maybe we can make that happen.

      Like

  20. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says:

    I think that you’re right that there are some sort of unspoken rules—rules that we are somehow supposed to know but not talk about. I’ve recently added a few ads to my blog and I actually felt guilty about it momentarily because there’s an unspoken rule that you’re just supposed to blog for the love of books. But I’m really just trying to cover some of the costs of blogging—not to make a ton of money. 🙂

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Personally, I don’t think you should need to feel that you have to justify ads. Blogging does cost money! If we can recover some of it, why not?

      Like

  21. DoingDewey says:

    I would also love to see more ‘argumentative’ comments, as someone else mentioned above. I like for people to comment back so I can feel like we’re actually having something like a back-and-forth conversation. If that really happened in a comments section, I would be thrilled 🙂

    I can’t help but feel the stigmatization of making money from blogging stems from jealousy or a ‘sour grapes’ mentality. There are so many of us, I think most of us are never going to be paid, but if I had the opportunity to be paid to run my blog, I’d jump at it!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, it’s nice when the other person comments back! Otherwise it sometimes feels sort of like we didn’t finish the exchange.

      I think you may be right about that. There are hundreds of bloggers. Publishers would probably pay two or three bloggers who had massive followings and the rest would have to continue to blog free. A consideration I don’t often see brought up when we discuss making money.

      Like

  22. Lori says:

    This is such a fascinating post! I’ve been blogging for 8 years now and I’ve definitely noticed all of these things. I have to admit that I’ve grown tried of of some of these. I used to not write negative reviews, especially if it was a popular book, but now I don’t care. 🙂 I would also love more argumentative comments. I just learned recently that fashion bloggers (and others) were paid. I don’t know why it has such a stigma with book bloggers?

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I’m not really sure what the stigma is around book bloggers getting paid. Someone above suggested jealousy, which I suppose could be true. Because the reality would be that publishers would pay only a small handful of big blogs with large page views and the rest of us would still be doing all this work free.

      Like

  23. Marie says:

    This was such a wonderful and thoughtful post, thank you so much for writing it. I found out about these unwritten rules as I blogged more and more, and I agree with all of them. I guess money always has been a tough subjects with book bloggers because it’s harder to “make it” as a book blogger than as a fashion blogger? I honestly have no idea. There is no shame in wanting to earn money for what we do, I mean it’s the ultimate goal to be talking about one of our biggest passions and get paid for it 🙂

    Like

  24. mikaela says:

    Haha, I’ve been around for only a couple of months, and I’ve already noticed these. 😂 Mainly the stats one, where I’ve seen people day they don’t matter or they never look at them, which I sometimes think is a total lie. Mainly because those bloggers receive ARCs, and to do that, you have to literally list them all out on your Netgalley profile or in an e-mail, so you can’t avoid them forever. And I do think stats definitely matter! Mainly because I don’t like wasting time on posts that I don’t think people are reading, plus, again, I have to list them out if I’m requesting ARCs, so there’s that.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      That’s true! It’s nice to know that we have an audience. If we didn’t want one, we probably wouldn’t be blogging! And stats do matter, as you say, if you’re trying to receive ARCs.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. jpschaper says:

    Very interesting post!

    I guess I break a lot of the ‘rules.’ The only one I really care about is the quid pro quo. I think it’s common courtesy to reply to comments and, when possible, visit the other person’s blog.

    The rest of the stuff doesn’t matter to me. If people want to be argumentative (in a respectful fashion) or want to be paid to blog, I don’t care. I appreciate honesty and transparency, though. As long as they are stating the truth about the book, author, and whether they are being financially compensated, it’s fine with me.

    I’m not afraid at all to disagree with the status quo about a book. If I didn’t like it, I’m going to say so. And, I’ll explain why.

    My favorite reviews to read are those that tell me both the good and the bad. I really don’t like all positive reviews, especially when the reviewer doesn’t give the book all five stars. If they dinged the stars, there must be a reason, so I want to know what the reason is.

    About memes and discussions… I like blogs that have a balance of different stuff. I like to read reviews, enter giveaways, learn about new books, and participate in discussions. If all the blog posts are discussions, I probably won’t visit much because I don’t always have time to comment or I’m not in the mood to participate.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, we’re legally required to state where we received our books from, so it wouldn’t be a secret if some were being paid and readers would be able to determine if a paid blogger is someone they’d want to read, or not. I really don’t see a problem with someone being fortunate enough to make money doing something they enjoy.

      I think a variety of content is good, too. When we started blogging almost six years ago, people pretty much only wrote reviews. But times are changing and now readers seem to like having different content to peruse. 🙂

      Like

  26. Rissi says:

    Great thoughts/discussion, Krysta.

    I really like discussion posts, but mine never seem to do well – which may simply be a sign they aren’t all that interesting to anyone but me. 😉 My memes (i.e., Top Ten Tuesday do really well), so I have found a “niche” there and enjoy putting them together. I’m also a new booktuber, so I’m trying to come up with some fun things there.

    I like what you say about commenting too.

    Though I don’t blog with expectations (it’s for the joy of it and to help authors in any small way with their books), I also don’t think that if a book blogger earns something (like from ads, which I did start last year after five years of blogging without anything), that means they are any less enthusiastic about this world. Or that’s my mind set.

    I don’t mind differing opinions in my comment sections, all I ask is that the comment-er respect my or fellow comment-er’s opinions just as I do theirs.

    No matter why, this has been a great community. And continues to be some from my experience. 🙂

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think what kinds of posts perform well depends on your readership. And maybe people do find your discussions interesting, but just aren’t commenting! 🙂

      I don’t see anything wrong with making money from something you enjoy doing as a hobby. Isn’t that the dream we all have?

      Yes, there are so many lovely people in the book blogging community!

      Like

  27. Lydia Tewkesbury says:

    Love this! Such an interesting post!

    I actually think that discourse in the bookish community is incredibly stifled. Especially on Twitter, though I probably shouldn’t get started on that! In the same way as there is an expectation that if everyone is being nice about a series, you should be nice about it too, I think we all have a tendency to hate on the same things. Oftentimes, this actually comes from a good place, hating on a book because its problematic. However, I don’t think the way that we discuss it really gets us anywhere. Saying This Is Terrible And You Are Terrible If You Read It is’t actually an effective way to have a conversation.

    The money thing is so weird. It only exists in art, doesn’t it? It’s such a bizarre thing that getting paid to do something that you enjoy is considered so evil. Sell out is one of those terms I really wish we could just bury at this point. I don’t trust someone less because they are getting paid! If I love their content, and their being paid allows them the time and space to make more of it, I am all for that! That seems like its entirely beneficial for me.

    I wonder if in this community some of it could be put down to jealousy, sad as that is. At least theoretically, we are all doing the same thing, but some of us get paid for it. To some I suppose they could see it as deeply unfair that this person gets paid while they have to write reviews on their lunch break. Again, this is how art works. I guess that’s why we have to do it primarily because we enjoy it.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, the book blogosphere has certainly changed since we started almost six years ago. Back then it wasn’t common for people to discourage others from reading or from thinking about texts and working to their own conclusions from them. Just about any text can be problematic–Shakespeare is problematic, Dante has been considered problematic, John Donne is arguably problematic. Perhaps the choice before us is whether we are going to use these texts to generate positive discussions or if we are going to try to throw away most of our literature. Because you will always find at least one person on the Internet who has a problem with a book. But yelling at people typically makes them defensive, not receptive to listening.

      Yes, we do have a weird thing about money and art, but the reality is you can’t produce art if you aren’t being paid for it! If you have to work another “real” job to get money, you have less time to make art! And I think our reluctance to pay for art shows us where our values are as a society. People don’t find it odd that football players can so much money but for some reason writers shouldn’t be raking it in? Both are skilled at what they do, so why not get paid for it?

      Perhaps jealousy could play a role. As for me, I knew full well that book blogging doesn’t pay when I started. I do a lot of work and it’s true not everyone recognizes that, but I consider this my hobby so I don’t really need validation for my interests in the form of payment. If someone wanted to pay me, I doubt I’d say no, but, as you say, I think most of us are here because we enjoy blogging.

      Like

  28. Zeee @ I Heart Romance & YA says:

    I think one of the unwritten rules should include the “pack mentality.” I have seen this a lot most especially in younger book bloggers because they tend to attack someone who they feel has done something wrong or uttered an unpopular opinion.. or jealousy. I have unfollowed bloggers who are like this. This is different than being “argumentative.” I love discussions where people have different thoughts and disagree with me. THIS is what makes discussion posts very interesting. But again, respect in the discourse is very important and should be an expectation.

    I love commenting on other blogs but this also doesn’t mean that I will comment back to everyone commenting on my blog. I know some people do this but if I don’t find any post that I can comment on, I won’t. I won’t comment just for the sake of commenting back. I personally also don’t want to see comment backs that are basically letting me know that they “commented back.” I think meaningful comments are important and I won’t hold it against a blog visitor if they don’t comment on my posts.

    As for getting paid to review books, it is a fine line, though. However, I will say that it should be disclosed in that review that they received monetary compensation. Since I read reviews (paid and free), I want to know if those reviews were paid or not. I think it goes with the veracity of the reviews kwim? I also wouldn’t want to read reviews on blogs that ONLY post 4 or 5-star reviews because it would make me question the truth about the reviews. I also know that some bloggers don’t want to post negative reviews because of fear of bullying. Sadly this has happened too many times. I guess it’s a balance?

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, blogging has changed a lot since we started almost six years ago. This new culture where people round up their friends to attack other bloggers is something new and I’m really not used to it. The blogging atmosphere feels very negative right now. It’s only in the past few months that I’ve had someone attack me on my blog, attack me in the comments on their blog, and attack my co-blogger on Twitter for a post I wrote. Six years ago this stuff was infrequent. Now it’s just what you sort of expect to happen.

      I don’t think there’s much point in commenting back if I have nothing to say. I also find it difficult to comment on some blogs depending on what their platform is, and I have trouble finding the time to comment back on everyone’s blog. I comment around, but only do what I can.

      We’re actually required by law to state where we received our books, so any blogger being paid would have to announce that clearly at the start of their review post. So I think people would easily be able to determine if they were willing to read a paid review. If not, they can leave. No problem!

      Like

  29. Alice @ Arctic Books says:

    I totally agree! This is such an interesting post, because I definitely see these trends quite frequently; especially with negative reviews, I tend not to see many because they seem “argumentative” or whatnot while positive, 5-star reads are mostly always considered okay as opposed to negative, 1-star reviews. This is a great topic!

    Like

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