I’m Okay with Not Being Paid to Book Blog

Okay with Not Being Paid to Book Blog

Book bloggers have debated the pros and cons of being paid for their work for years, with most of the bloggers opposed arguing that people cannot trust a review that was paid. Bloggers who advocate for publishers paying for them respond that many professional reviewers get paid for their time–and no one doubts those reviews–and that all the hard work bloggers put into their content and their sites deserves monetary compensation. While I appreciate the desire to be paid for one’s skills, I personally prefer not to be paid by publishers for book blogging–and it’s not because of the reviews.

When I first began book blogging nearly ten years ago, I understood from the start that this was a hobby I was choosing to put my time and effort into, and that I would not be paid for it. And that was great! Book blogging as a hobby means that I have complete control over my time and my content. That’s exactly the way I want it.

If I turned my hobby into a job, that means I would have to start treating it like a job. I would have to invest even more time (and probably money) into it, to make the blog look professional. I would have to work towards deadlines that publishers gave me. I would have to create content that publishers want, instead of content I am interested in. Finally, even if publishers did not demand I create a set list of content, I would have to change my content anyway, in order to generate more page views so I could remain competitive with other bloggers.

One aspect of getting paid that I do not ever see anyone mention, is that one usually has to spend money to make money. The influencers on YouTube and Instagram whom book bloggers envy most likely own professional cameras and may even hire professional photographers. To compete, book bloggers would probably have to start doing the same, paying for professional website design, professional graphics, professional cameras, and, of course, self hosting. Even bloggers who try to do all this on their own might have to invest money in a course, or, at least their time. And time is money, right? Now, obviously, plenty of bloggers already do this sort of thing–that’s why they want to get paid in return. But bloggers who are currently happy doing their hobby practically for free–like me–may think twice before investing in a venture that might not actually provide any compensation in return.

Additionally, getting paid by publishers would mean that I would no longer have the creative freedom I now enjoy. Currently, my blog is an eclectic mix of reviews (middle grade, YA, adult, classics, and nonfiction), lists, and discussion posts. Publishers, however, might very well want to work with a blog that has more of a “brand” so readers know what to expect: lots of middle grade love, all the latest on YA fantasy, etc. They might also provide me with a set list of content they want published: a cover reveal, an author interview, and a review. The posts I used to write discussing classics or asking readers to show some library love? Probably they won’t fit into the new brand.

Another likely outcome of book bloggers getting paid is that book bloggers would begin to see each other as competition. Publishers have a limited marketing budget, and they would understandably want to spend it on the bloggers who could give them the most views and interactions in return. To achieve higher stats, bloggers would have to become even more secretive about what they do to succeed–perhaps choosing to no longer publish free tutorials for beginners, hiding their statistics, and sharing fewer roundups or link backs. Bloggers might also have to change their content to generate higher views, perhaps focusing more on listicles, for example, than reviews or discussions. That’s not really a road I want to go down since I started blogging to discuss books with people, not merely to generate stats.

Finally, I am just not convinced that all the additional time, effort, and money I would have to put into a paid blog would generate meaningful income in return. It seems unlikely that I would be making enough to quit my day job (and, even if I did, the terror of doing so would prevent me since I wouldn’t believe that blogging gave me real financial stability long-term). Doing all this work, and changing everything I love, just for extra “beer money” would not be worth it for me.

I acknowledge and I appreciate all the hard work we book bloggers do! I understand that we possess unique skills, such as writing, photography, coding, web design, and more. And I can understand that people want to be paid for using those skills. For me, however, blogging is most enjoyable as a hobby. And, for now, that’s the way I would like to keep it.

54 thoughts on “I’m Okay with Not Being Paid to Book Blog

  1. Carol says:

    I love your points here….especially the one about changing the blogging community into competitors. Our welcoming, friendly, and supportive community is one of the best parts of blogging!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I agree! I think there is already a wee bit of competition among bloggers just for physical ARCs. I think things could get a little uncomfortable if we started seeing each other as real competition for money.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. kat says:

    All good point! I wouldn’t mind being paid, but the sacrifices don’t feel worth it, especially right now when flexibility would probably be the top thing I love about blogging right now. And I’d hate to see people who love books and stories turning from each other in order to gain the attention of publishers; that’s just not what book blogging is about and would negate everything everyone says about loving the open, welcoming community.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Well, I wouldn’t mind getting some extra cash either, haha! But I agree that, for now, for me, I like having complete control over my blog, taking breaks, whatever I need to do to keep it feeling fun and not like a chore.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Briana | Pages Unbound says:

    For me, there’s also a question of how much money there is to be made. If I were going to make $20,000/year or more from blogging, I’d be much more interested in investing money in my blog, writing articles to get readers instead of writing what I feel like, etc. If I’m going to do all that and get $30/year from affiliate links, it’s not worth it. I have some freelance stuff I do, and I can make $30 in, like, an hour and a half, which is obviously much more effective if my end goal is actually to make money.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      That’s true. I seldom see bloggers open about what they make from affiliate links, selling bookish merchandise, etc., but the ones I have seen share their numbers made it seem like they were getting maybe five dollars a year. It’s a lot of work for very little return. I think at some point, if someone’s really in need of extra cash, a side hustle isn’t necessarily going to be the answer.

      Like

  4. alisoninbookland says:

    I’m with you on most of your points. This is my ‘getaway’ hobby! I do it just for fun. I take it easy and don’t rush myself into jobs/posts that I don’t want to do.

    The idea I keep playing around with is affiliate links (for Amazon and maybe another bookstore). I could literally keep doing exactly what I’m doing now but instead I link to a bookstore instead of Goodreads. My stats are finally moving in a direction that I should start seriously look into it.

    I don’t ever expect to get rich with this hobby (but I can dream!). It would be nice to cover the cost of my WordPress plan or to treat myself to a new book subscription or some new books on occasion.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Ah, yes, I would love to treat myself to a subscription box, as well! The prices seem reasonable for what you get, but they are still high (for me). I think being able to earn some passive income for little treats could indeed be fun!

      Like

  5. Gerry@TheBookNookUK says:

    I think your post sums up everything I feel! I started book blogging as a hobby and I want to continue it as a hobby which means a) no one but me determines content, aesthetic & scheduling and b) when it stops being fun I can hit the pause button. We live in a society where we monetise *everything* and sometimes it’s nice to just do things because it’s good for the soul and not the wallet. I must confess – I don’t really understand those posts that I often see where people write arguments as to why they should be paid to blog. I do wonder why they started & if they’ve reached a point where blogging is less fun fir them they feel compensation is now needed. I love my job but I wouldn’t do it for free and wouldn’t do it if I didn’t need to. I don’t need to blog, it was my choice 🤷‍♀️

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I think wanting to earn money can be completely valid, and I have no issue with people who want to try, but there are two main arguments I’m confused by.

      1.) A lot of people argue they deserve to be paid because they put so much effort into blogging. True. Blogging takes time, money, and effort. But publishers/authors aren’t going to pay for “effort.” They’re going to pay for results. If you can write a blog post that gets seen by 10,000 followers, they might pay for that. If you write a blog post that gets seen by 10 people, unfortunately it doesn’t matter how great the post is or how long it took you to write; people aren’t going to pay for it. So stats are really going to matter for people looking to be paid by publishers/authors.

      2.) A lot of people argue they deserve to be paid because they’re doing free marketing. To me, this makes sense only if publishers are asking you to post content or do specific things. If I post a review on my blog of my own free will, that no one asked for, of course no one has to pay me for my “marketing.” So I can see an argument for being paid to be on blog tours because the publishers/authors are asking you to post specific content on specific days specifically to market their book. ARCs are a little weirder because basically people enter into the agreement to (try to) review the book in exchange for the ARC; I think you can ask for money but so many bloggers will do it free that I can’t envision a publisher actually agreeing to pay– again, unless your stats are REALLY high and they’re willing to pay for the exposure.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gerry@TheBookNookUK says:

        I think it’s natural for people to want to be rewarded for putting in the effort but I agree with you – there are some platforms and industries where ‘effort’ is lovely but not monetizable.

        I doubt there are many industries that would pay out based on effort if they don’t get a good return on investment. Publishing is very much a business and I think us book lovers can tend to forget that because we’re so passionate about reading that we see it as art and not business. I would also argue that book blogging, as a hobby, has extreme flexibility on the level of effort someone wants to put in so if someone puts in a lot then I’m sort of like… individual’s choice….

        The free marketing argument is also an interesting one because again, we choose to talk about books so marketing is a side product of the book discussion. I agree re. your point of ARCs – people request ARCs for the ‘kudos’ of having the ARC, if there is payment for an ARC then it gets complicated because how much trust would there be for a 5 star ARC review if you know someone is receiving payment for writing that review? I would be skeptical for one!

        I can understand why people have affiliate links, Kofi accounts or Patreon set up’s as a ‘if you want to’ because I don’t see the harm in asking because ultimately no one *has* to subscribe or pay. I’ve paid into Kofi and Patreon before to get extra content or to support people because I’ve enjoyed their content but it comes down to ‘asking’ versus ‘entitlement to pay’ which are very different!

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    • Krysta says:

      I think maybe the rise of Bookstagram and BookTube was a catalyst for more bloggers wanting to be paid. We’ve been blogging for about ten years, and early on not many people were talking about monetizing. But bloggers now see other influencers getting paid for doing similar work to what we do and they are wondering why a BookTuber can be paid, but not a book blogger.

      The short answer, I believe, is that bloggers don’t generate a fraction of the views as BookTube, but a lot of bloggers get a bit offended when I point that out. They believe that since we are both reviewing a book, we should both get paid for the time spent. However, I think if we put ourselves in the place of a marketing person with a budget and we had a choice between X’s 2000 views and Y’s 20 views, we would all budget for X and not Y. Publishers are businesses and we have to accept that they are going to act like businesses and do what is in their financial best interest, not what may be in ours. It sounds kind of harsh, I guess, because book lovers what to believe everyone is just all about spreading the bookish love, but, ultimately, publishers want to make money.

      Like

      • Gerry@TheBookNookUK says:

        Definitely Bookstagram and Booktube are different beasts for sure but there’s a reason why they are monetizable. It’s quicker to digest content, they reach a broader audience and are often easier to find. The algorithms (which I hate with a passion) work in the favour of the already large influencers so follower count breeds follower count which then makes publishers and advertisers more interested in investing.

        I would agree with you – it’s maths and finances. Bookstagram is more profitable for publishers, blogging – not so much. Which is sad because while I have gotten into Bookstagram I enjoy blogging a lot more because people *actually* talk books on blogs.

        I also 100% agree re. publishers. I work in the corporate world and have done for years and whilst its not publishing, it is a business and all business work the same. Make money. I said in my comment above that book lovers tend to forget the book world is a business one. We like to look at the romance of books and the creativity and art behind them but ultimately the publishing industry doesn’t – it’s all about sales!

        Like

  6. A Storm Of Pages says:

    I feel very much the same – mainly on the point of it becoming a job! I am not very regular with posting, I sometimes vanish for a while when I don’t have the time or inclination to blog, and if I were getting paid for certain posts or promo’s and working with a serious deadline, I would very quickly fail I think! But I do think this could be different for other bookblogs where they already treat it with more dedication that I do 🙂

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Agreed! I think it really depends on how much time and effort someone wants to put into it. For now, for me, blogging is something to relax me when I’m not working. Others might not want that, however.

      Like

  7. Books Teacup and Reviews says:

    I agree with you. Once we start getting money we have to take it as job than hobby which might affect how we feel about blogging and everything in short period of time and would increase the stress rather than enjoying it. But whatever blogger decide to do being paid or not, we should look at the efforts and time and dedication it takes in creating content.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I think people imagine that getting paid to blog would mean doing what they are doing now, but getting money for it. But I don’t think that would be the case. Publishers would expect a lot more for their money. If some people want to go for it, good for them! But I like time to relax!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Eustacia | Eustea Reads says:

    Good points, especially about hobby vs job. I think just viewing blogging as a potential job would come with so much stress from odd places (like having to consider SEO) – I read about a blogger who deleted… I think a third? of her blogposts just for SEO. This isn’t something I want to think about or do because even though I cringe at my old writing style, my blog archives are something that I use to mark my blogging growth.

    Like

  9. Lory says:

    I agree with everything you say! I like being part of a community, not a marketplace. That can be hard to find in today’s world.

    Like

  10. Nicole @ Nicole's Book Thoughts says:

    I agree with you on most of this! I made my book blog to talk about what I was already choosing to read, not in hopes of making money. But I do think there should be more chances for bloggers to make some amount of money like what bookstagrammers and booktubers do. Whether that be promoting a book, or a subscription box, or an item. I think it would help expand the blog-sphere into more mainstream, so it’s not written off as much for physical arcs. Cause it always makes me a little sad to see people talk about a book they love nonstop and the author never see it whereas if it were an Instagram post or a youtube video the author would see it rather quickly.

    Like

  11. Nish says:

    For a brief period, I got paid for book blogging. I just couldn’t deal with trying to give an honest book review when I was getting paid by the publisher. Plus, it meant that I had to complete books within a specific time period. And it impacted my enjoyment of reading. I got into a deep book rut, and it took ages to come out of it.

    Now, I only read and review books that appeal to me, and I monetize my blog in other ways.

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I have this fear about reviews, as well! I know many people say their reviews would not be influenced if they were being paid for them, but I think personally I would feel pressure not to be too negative. I don’t think I’d give a two star book a glowing review, but I think I’d feel pressure to bump it to three stars and say it was ok rather than terrible. (I don’t know if I WOULD do that, but I think there would be temptation not to annoy the publisher. And it would be very strong if I were just starting out. Like, if you insult the first book you are paid to review, will they ever ask you to review something again???)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nish says:

        hahah, that’s true. I did do that…slightly talking up the books I didn’t like. But I felt very uncomfortable, and I stopped accepting books for review.

        It helps me choose books I want to read (not just what a publisher asks me to read), there are no timelines, and I enjoy reading a lot more now.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I can see the pressure with reviews! I’ve seen a number of bloggers admit they feel bad giving a negative review for an ARC they received. The pressure to continue having a good relationship with publishers is real!

      And I know people say it’s the same as professional reviews in periodicals or whatever, but I think in that case you’re getting paid by your employer, the periodical, not the publisher, no? So it is a little different.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nish says:

        yes, that’s very different. Also, the book publishers here in India (even established ones like Penguin, Harper Collins etc.) are very unprofessional in their dealings.

        They send over unwanted books whether you ask for them or not, and then pester you for reviews.

        Like

  12. cityofdeedee says:

    I am undecided about how I want to approach my book blog (blackbookedandbusy.com) as I move ahead, but honestly, you gave me a lot to think about.

    I’m not opposed to getting paid to blog, but I don’t want to lose my freedom to read and write what I want in the process either.

    Like

  13. Roberta R. says:

    “Another likely outcome of book bloggers getting paid is that book bloggers would begin to see each other as competition. […] To achieve higher stats, bloggers would have to become even more secretive about what they do to succeed”.
    This is a very valid point that probably not everyone thinks about – the first thing that comes to mind when discussing the paid-bloggers issue is the freedom people who blog for the love of books alone enjoy, as opposed to them being “hired” by publishers. but we would also become a divided nation, so to speak, and that would be sad.

    I’m like you…blogging is my creative outlet, and I started it in order to be able to spotlight those books that weren’t already hyped by the publishers/everyone read, so I wouldn’t miss that for the world! I understand the frustration of working hard and not being given a chance to join the ranks of the professionals, but…if blogging became a job, it would lose all its magic and purpose for me.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I do worry that competing for money would make us lose something special the blogging community has. There is already some division just over who gets ARCs and what they do with them, etc. so I can easily imagine negative emotions coming out over who’s getting paid for what and why.

      And agreed! I don’t want to feel like blogging is a chore! I want it to be my way to relax and connect!

      Like

  14. Amber says:

    This is such a hot topic… but I completely agree with you, at least at this stage in my life. I like the freedom to use my space as I please, the control I have in picking and choosing my own content and my own books. ❤ I agree that book bloggers should have the *opportunity* to be compensated fairly (I agree that the value of ARCs doesn't really balance out), but I don't think I'd go that route myself, either.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I love the freedom I have in blogging! If other people want to try to monetize, that’s great for them, but I’d rather use this as a way to relax. Trying to make money would just stress me out!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Peace vovwe idehen says:

    Omg So true. I feel receiving money to do something I love and do for fun would make it a job and that will suck the fun out of it. I want the freedom to read and post whenever I want. 👏 👏 lovely post

    Like

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