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?