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.