Should Book Bloggers Make Money from Other Bloggers? (According to the Community)

Whether or not book bloggers should make money for their work has been a hot topic in the community for nearly as long as I’ve been blogging (which is nine years). I was never optimistic about that being a possibility for the majority of book bloggers, and I’m still not, but I’ve found myself lately wondering if the community has some (largely unexpressed) opinions on what the “correct” way to earn money would be, if book bloggers could ever manage that.

There is, of course, an entire contingent of people who think bloggers should not make any money at all because we’re supposed to be doing all this work “for the love of books” and “to support authors,” and monetizing means you’re some type of charlatan who’s just into blogging for the cash instead of your pure love of literature.

This is absurd, first because you can like something and still make money doing it and second because I, at least, did not start blogging “to support authors” or even, really, to “show my love of books.” Putting it that way makes me feel like a marketer (implying I should be paid). It also implies I shouldn’t post negative reviews because if I give a book one star and suggest that people should not read it or buy it, I’m certainly not supporting the author. While I appreciate bloggers who see their primary function as boosting authors and helping them with sales, I started a book blog to discuss books with other readers, the good and the bad, and that continues to be what motivates me.

My question here, however, is not really whether bloggers should be paid (partially because we’re just not paid right now and partially because this debate comes up in the community at least once a year and has been rather well covered) but whether the community actually has opinions on which people should be paying. I’ve not seen anyone directly say this, but I am beginning to get the strong impression that the community believes that if bloggers do make money, that money should be coming from the pockets of authors and publishers–not from the pockets of other bloggers.

Ever since WordPress put in a new “Home” page for blog owners, they’ve been promoting tools on that page that can help bloggers earn money, such as advertising, selling digital products, selling memberships, or selling access to exclusive content. The last of these, paid exclusive content, is intriguing to me because this seems like a quick way for book bloggers to continue doing what they’re doing now (reading what they want, when they want, and discussing it how they want) and monetize their blogs. And I’ve not seen a single blogger do this or even discuss it as an option. (Obviously some people may be doing this; I just don’t happen to follow them.)

On a personal level, I think I’d have a fear of offering paid content and having people go, “Ha ha, no, I’m not paying for that,” so I can imagine other bloggers not pursuing it simply because they don’t think it would work. However, I do think there’s some unspoken sense in the community that if book bloggers want to make money, we shouldn’t be making it off our own; we should be making it off publishers and authors who can afford it (ignoring that many authors and small publishers don’t make that much money themselves, of course).

The discussions around monetizing book blogs tend to focus on publishers and authors paying for reviews or perhaps some kind of sponsored posts like an author interview or maybe a non-blog feature like an Instagram photo or a mention of a book in a video. The idea that other bloggers (or non-blogger readers) would pay for blog content does not seem to come up. And I wonder, too, if this was a bit behind the ire a bookstagrammer faced for offering an e-course on how to get ARC’s. My understanding is people thought the course was literally just about how to get ARC’s (and there’s not much to say about that besides…email the publisher and ask), and they didn’t realize there was going to be more content about how to review or take bookish photos, etc. But maybe people were also annoyed that this idea for monetization was making money off fellow bloggers and bookstagrammers–and not directly from publishers.

The vast majority of book bloggers are not currently monetized, and I do think in the end we are doing it out love, whether it’s love for supporting authors or boosting books or just reading in general. But if more book bloggers do find ways to become monetized, how do you think it should be done? Charge publishers? Authors? Readers? Stick to side projects like selling graphic design or editing services? Or something else?

Briana

36 thoughts on “Should Book Bloggers Make Money from Other Bloggers? (According to the Community)

  1. Eustacia | Eustea Reads says:

    I’m actually okay if book bloggers want to make money off other book bloggers – whether it’s by selling wordpress plugins or courses. Tea is my other hobby and I happily spend money to learn from people who are more advanced so I’d be okay spending money if I think someone can help me improve as a blogger.

    That said, I think making money from other bloggers is harder because of the amount of free content out there. There aren’t that many things I would pay for – I think maybe for a course on bookish photography or filters that make books look good, but that’s about it? Or maybe a really fancy book-reading template for bullet journals or planners or something like that. If people start going down the “Courses for book bloggers” route, I think we’d hit a saturation point really quickly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I think it’s fine, too! Personally I don’t spend much money on blogging because I don’t make money from it–and I think that’s one of the limiting factors with book blogs. You don’t have the situation where people “invest” in a course like an SEO course to grow their blog because there isn’t much “point” if you aren’t “investing money to make money.” Like, what would I gain from spending $100 on a course titled “How to write awesome book reviews”? Just,,,the satisfaction of writing better book reviews?

      I also agree there’s tons of free content, and it isn’t even that hard to wade through it. “How to start a book blog” or “how to get ARC’s” or even “how to take a decent book photo” isn’t necessarily rocket science. You can find some good free tips with a simple Google search, and I don’t think it’s so overwhelming or complicated that I would want someone to distill the main points into a course so I wouldn’t need to do my own research–which is one of the main arguments I see in favor of paying for a course.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Eustacia | Eustea Reads says:

        I just saw a blogpost on how to use Pixlr to edit your photos today, so yeah, it’s amazing how much amazing and well-curated free content there is out there!

        Courses for the book community are definitely going to be a tough sell.

        Like

  2. Books Teacup and Reviews says:

    This is controversial topic and all have different opinion on this. I don’t mind if book blogger earns money from what they do, it’s actually best thing but I don’t think money should exclusively come from authors, publishers or other bloggers. well, one can do that if they want but like you said, it also has cons and it feels wrong. I think putting advertises or affiliate links would be perfect way to earn like most other self-hosted bloggers earn. And let’s not forget those who take advantage of our free work who thinks it’s our duty to promote books which is really wrong makes blogger think about monetization.

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I’d actually be kind of impressed if a book blogger made a decent amount of money from their blog because I’m not sure any do! I think there are a couple out there who combine book blogging with another niche, but I think that’s a whole separate thing where the other niche is helping bring in the necessary traffic to start making money.

      Yeah, I personally stopped doing anything like blog tours because I felt like it was a lot of work on my part to do something that benefited the author/publisher and not me at all. I don’t “need content” for my blog because Krysta and I write enough posts as it is.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Gerry@TheBookNookUK says:

    This is a very interesting topic!

    I do feel like everything is monetized these days because that’s the world we’re in where even a hobby can become a source of income (however small) if someone sets it up that way.

    Personally it then becomes a business instead of a hobby and that brings along with it its own pressures so I think there’s something to be said for enjoying things for the simple act of enjoying them and not because money will come someone’s way.

    That being said if that’s the route someone wants to go down then I don’t know their personal circumstances or financial situation and it may very well be a viable source of income. I think you then engage in some ‘rules’ though where your reader becomes your consumer and if money exchanges hands then as the provider of the service, whatever that may be, has to adhere to certain expectations i.e. regular content, professional content and so on. Professional doesn’t mean it can’t be snarky AF but people aren’t going to want 150 words filled with typos and bad sentence structure.

    I doubt very much publishers being the giant business beasts that they are are going to pay content creators for that content unless they look at advertising/ marketing on those who are ‘large’ bookstagrammers/ bloggers/ book tubers etc. Although it’s a nice idea so many people will continue to do this for free so it’s not an incentive for them to fund anything.

    I guess if people want to open up additional content or ‘perks’ for money then it’s fair game to ask. It’s very much the choice of those wanting to see the content as to whether they decide to pay. I support a few patreon’s – not of bloggers but of visual artists – but that’s because I want the behind the scenes and non public artwork.

    I’m all for asking to be paid but it doesn’t mean we have to 😉

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, it’s a good point that if someone *really* wanted to monetize their blog, they’d have to think very seriously about how to get and maintain the audience to do that and invest in figuring out what content people want to read and how to market the content once they’ve written it. That’s very different from just writing what you want on your blog as the whim strikes you, so being serious about monetization might not be for everyone.

      I also have always thought book bloggers are just very unlikely to get money from publishers. Our reach is just too small compared to booktube and bookstagram. A post that “does well” on my blog gets, say, 90 views the day I publish it. That probably sounds hilarious to a booktuber who can get 10,000 views (or far, far more) on a single video.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gerry@TheBookNookUK says:

        I wonder as well on the timing’s of it all.

        At one point when bookstagram and booktube were new there wouldn’t have been as much content so anyone who was in the ‘initial wave’ have probably done quite well and built up a following/ base and quite possibly would have an easier time monetizing their content.

        I hate to use the word ‘over-saturated’ but there are a tonne of bookstagrams and booktubers out there now so if someone is doing it for a hobby I think it’s hard enough to get a reach let alone if they want to earn money from it! It becomes a case of really having to work hard to gain your base or offer something different/ a niche.

        I couldn’t do it, let’s put it that way!

        Like

        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          Yes, that’s true. One time Krysta showed me a blog post from a food blogger that was about how she made money from blogging, and a large chunk of it was “I started food blogging really early on, and people offered me sponsorships, and then I grew.” I’m sure her blog is fine, but it was very clear she got lucky in her ability to turn it into a full time job.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Gerry@TheBookNookUK says:

            I think success (however it’s defined) can come down to a variety of factors. Yes, talent and effort are two of them but timing and luck play such a big part too. I like the honesty of that food blogger though, to admit that the timing worked out in her favour!

            Like

  4. miri the fairytale gnome says:

    Book bloggers getting paid is really nice! Like booktubers, they get paid a bit when they sponsor ads on their videos and so. Oh, and I remember the discourse over that bookstagrammer. I think many book bloggers were upset because they freely provided posts on how to get ARCs and write reviews. So I think it’s like this weird conflict about is it right to make money off what you enjoy from what is considered a “hobby”/”artistic” (where the “starving artist” notion comes from). Anyway, if bloggers do make money, I feel like paid blog tours (or cover reveals) would be awesome because the sole purpose of them is to promote books. Like publishers could fund blog tour companies so they could then sponsor the bloggers. And I do hope that if bloggers get paid, marginalized bloggers like me won’t be left behind!

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I made an offhand comment on Twitter about how I thought the ARC/bookstagramming course might have gone over badly partially because there are so many free resources on this already, and some people started semi-arguing with me about the fact there are things like Pinterest and SEO courses even though you can read that free, too.

      I mean, I think people can charge for whatever they want and people can pay for it if they want, too. The only thing that would be iffy to me is if the only people paying for it were “newbies” who didn’t realize there are a million free “how to get ARC’s” posts. I also think there was some confusion because the course was titled something like “how to get ARC’s” and it was not immediately clear it included other content like photography tips or how to write reviews. Because “how to get ARC’s” is you email the publisher and ask for them. It’s not complicated, and there’s no “secret.” I think people pay for SEO courses because the info on it can be overwhelming, plus people want to the “one secret thing” they need to do to succeed at it.

      I do think it’s a bit weird that (some) blog tour organizers are paid, but the people actually writing the content and using their platforms to promote it don’t get paid at all, but if people want to participate without being paid or consider getting an ARC a fair exchange, that’s up to them, I guess. 🙂

      My thought has always been that if bloggers do get paid, it will be the “biggest” ones. Booktubers get paid because their audiences are exponentially larger than most bloggers’. I get that publishers don’t really want to pay me to write a post that might get 100 views, max.

      Like

      • miri the fairytale gnome says:

        That’s so true about the biggest ones! I feel like the main consumers of book blogs are fellow book bloggers and the stats reflect that. I think Instagram or YouTube is much much more widely used even by readers not part of the book community and that’s why publishers are more keen on giving them monetary opportunities than book bloggers 😔

        Like

        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          Yes, I think about this a lot and if there are ways to reach a larger audience that isn’t just book bloggers, but I have no idea! If non-bloggers are reading, they are much less likely to leave comments, so you just never know about it!

          Like

  5. Milliebot says:

    This is a tough one. I definitely don’t think anyone would pay to read content on my blog (I tried adsense for a bit and made like $2, that I didn’t get paid, so I know I don’t have much of a following) nor do I really think my content is worth paying for lol. My discussion and non review posts are few and far between. And who wants to pay to read reviews? It’s not something I’d want to pay for. But I know other blogging communities have more sources of income or are more likely to make money. I definitely don’t see my blog as one that just supports authors. I’m just here to say what I feel like saying about the books I read. But yeah Idk what a good solution is cuz I don’t believe that just because it’s a hobby for us, we can’t make money.

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I think I know of one blogger who seems to charge for content like lists of middle grade books with a certain theme, and I frequently wonder how that’s working out. I guess well enough that she keeps doing it? But, yeah, I can’t imagine myself paying to read most of the blogs I currently read, even though I enjoy them, and I can’t think of why I would be so interested in a book list that I would pay for one instead of just doing some research myself or finding a free list.

      I agree that size of audience might be a factor. Book blogs tend to have small audiences in the first place, which leads to a smaller chance followers might be willing to pay for content.

      Like

      • Milliebot says:

        Yeah, and I don’t mean it in a snarky way when I say I wouldn’t pay for the blogs I read. I love the blogs I read! And I mostly enjoy working on my own blog, but like I said, I don’t think it’s worth people paying money to access. In fact, it’s also probably not worth the money I invest in this hobby either ahaha. But I think the topic of book blogs, whether you do lists, reviews, discussions, hauls, etc. is just a hard thing to monetize. If you can get sponsors (maybe this applies more to the Youtube community), I think that makes more sense. Or if publishers want to pay for a review, vs just throwing a free book someone’s way, that also makes sense.

        I’d be curious about how those paid lists are going too. I also can’t imagine myself paying for a themed list because I feel like there’s already a plethora of them for free online. I guess maybe if I really needed it for something and it was a niche list…

        Like

        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          Oh, same! I don’t really subscribe to any professional media like news sites or anything, so paying to read a blog just seems like something I wouldn’t do. It’d also start to really add up if a lot of blogs started charging for content and you wanted to pay for them all.

          Ok, I went to actually look because I don’t actually follow this blogger, and I think you get a list of books being published in the upcoming month. Which is cool but DEFINITELY information available free, so I think you’d half be paying just because you want to support the blogger in general, not because you really, really want the list.

          Like

          • Milliebot says:

            Hahah. Yeah, I agree, about not wanting to pay for info that’s out there for free. And I do think it would make readers even more picky about what blogs they chose to support if most bloggers started charging for content. I think smaller blogs might find their readership getting even smaller. If they offered something extra that was paid content in addition to their free-to-read blog, kind of like how some youtubers or artists have patreon, maybe that would be enticing. But I’m really not sure what book-related content I’d be willing to pay for.

            Like

          • Milliebot says:

            But it’s tough, because like I said before, I already pay money just to be able to voice my opinion on books and post pretty pictures. I started a blog because I don’t know many people personally who read a lot, or have similar reading interests as I do. So I came to the internet to find people to chat with and it’s generally not the type of interaction I would think is worth even more of my money.

            Like

  6. vikiedwards says:

    I don’t think book bloggers should expect to be paid. I don’t think content creators of any kind on the internet necessarily deserve to be paid. If you can make some money doing it, that’s great. But it’s not a job. You start blogging, or whatever, because you enjoy it, and want to talk about the things you’re passionate about. I don’t think starting out with a business plan and expecting to earn a living doing it is necessarily the best way of going about things. I think making money through ads or affiliate links or sponsored posts is okay as long as you’re transparent about it. If you are promoting a book, and someone goes and buys that book, why not earn a little from that transaction if you can? But I would never expect it because I blog for my own enjoyment, not to earn a living from it.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think a lot of people start blogging as a hobby, but quickly realize it takes an awful lot of time. And so they think, why not try to monetize some of that time? However, from what I have seen, affiliate links don’t work out for book bloggers. Very few are willing to release their numbers, but the ones that I have seen basically said they never made any money from it. So, if you want to make a little extra cash on the side, I personally wouldn’t recommend the affiliate links. Because that’s more time spent on the blog that won’t result in any meaningful income.

      Liked by 1 person

      • vikiedwards says:

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to earn a little extra money, but I don’t think anyone is entitled to it. And some content creators seem to think they are. More on YouTube I think rather than blogs. And no, I don’t think affiliate links are great for books. I think book blogging is such a small niche, that beyond trying to sell other things using your platform, there’s not a lot of money in it. The problem is that a lot of the things bloggers are selling aren’t worth paying for, even outside of the niche. They’re making money telling people how to make money. But the problem is that the only way they’re making money is through selling how to make money courses. Which is a bit ugh.

        Like

        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          I don’t think anyone should expect to be paid for blogging either. The post was just musing on the idea of, if someone DOES want to attempt to earn money, are there unspoken expectations about what other bloggers think is “acceptable?” A lot of people seem to think trying to make any money at all is absurd because “we should be doing this only because we love books.” But beyond that, if someone thinks book bloggers “are allowed” to make money–do they still think that money should be earned ONLY from publishers and authors? Are people annoyed if book bloggers try to earn money from readers or other bloggers? That was my main question.

          Liked by 1 person

          • vikiedwards says:

            I think earning money from any source is acceptable, really. Because we all choose where to spend our money. The problem I see is when bloggers are scamming readers and other bloggers. That, for me, is where the line is drawn. Like selling expensive courses teaching things you can learn for free on the internet. But for me that goes for anyone in any niche/market. There are far too many scams and scammers out there.

            Like

        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          Agreed though that making money as a book blogger is tough in general, and I’ve seen maybe one or two people who seem to be making it work at all. I do think people go right to “blog about how to blog” instead of anything specifically related to books.

          Liked by 1 person

          • vikiedwards says:

            It’s an easy money maker. People want to make money, so anything supposedly teaching people how to make money is going to get more views and things than anything else. Controversial opinion, but in some ways I think being able to make money on blogs and other online content has ruined it to an extent. People don’t seem to read blogs just because they want to, but to try and get eyes on their own blog. It puts me off the whole community a bit. 😦

            Like

        • Krysta says:

          Oh, for sure, I sometimes see bloggers–not usually book bloggers–advertising courses and I think, “Really? Who is paying for that?” The content doesn’t seem worth it and the bloggers seem to be banking on the hope that their followers will just eat up anything they put out, regardless of quality. That does rub me the wrong way. But I don’t buy it and hopefully other people won’t waste their money, either! I think the easiest way to vote against people selling stuff that doesn’t seem legitimate is just…not to purchase.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Katie | Doing Dewey ❤️ (@DoingDewey) says:

    I definitely don’t have a problem with book bloggers making money off of other book bloggers. I paid for the Ultimate Book Blogger wordpress plugin and I’m eternally grateful to Ashley at Nose Graze for making it available. I follow Sarah at Sarah’s BookShelves and admire what she’s done with podcast and patreon. Personally, I must admit that I’m not very willing to pay for extra blog post or podcasting content. There’s just too much content I love that’s available for free!

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I didn’t even think about Nose Graze while I was writing this post, but you’re right that she’s a great example of a book blogger who’s successfully been able to sell things to other bloggers!

      I don’t think I follow Sarah, but I’ll have to check her out.

      Like

  8. Gayathri Lakshminarayanan says:

    I love this discussion and this is something I have been wondering as well. I am still surprised at the stand that book bloggers have taken about paid reviews and generally bloggers getting paid at all.

    So when this talk about bookstagrammers charging and the subsequent bloggers monetization idea came up, I felt it was nothing but the chagrin for the book bloggers that someone else is doing something that we are not able to do. And it amuses me!

    Answering your question, I think the publishers/authors owning the review/feature cost would be the correct thing to do – which is somethign the other niche bloggers have been doing for long now.

    Like

  9. Amena @ Nerd In New York says:

    Ever since I saw those “make money from your blog!!!11” signs on WordPress homepage I also have been interested, but I don’t think much of it would work out for me because of my own circumstances. But honestly if someone wants too make money go ahead! It’s not like we survive on books ALONE. But I do think it’s interesting because of how our society has such a capitalist mentality where the idea of making money is always thrown on our faces. These days a lot of people think that if you are “wasting your time/talent” if you are not making profit off of it and I find that sad. Anyways sorry for the long ramble, but great post! 😀 ❤

    Like

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