Feeling Like You Read the “Wrong” Books

 

feeling like you read the wrong books discussion

In the book blogosphere, we tend to hear about how people feel shamed for reading YA.  Interestingly, however, YA books are the one group that I can feel pretty comfortable admitting to reading.  After all, its huge expansion in recent years is a testament to how popular–and how financially successful–it is as an age range. Thus, when I meet a new person and they ask what I am reading, I can typically assume that, if I choose one book from the five I am currently immersed in, the YA book will, statistically, give me a better chance of making a connection or at least make me look kind of “normal.”  True, there are those who will mock me for reading YA or those who also read YA, but hurriedly add that it’s “just for fun” or “a guilty pleasure” or that they need “some mindless entertainment to relax,” but “they’re also reading some Foucault right now, too.”  But, by and large, YA seems to be more accepted than many other types of books.

The strange thing is, I’ve noticed that, no matter what I say I am reading, I almost always end up feeling like I admitted to reading the “wrong” type of book.  Sometimes it’s just because the other person has more specific interests than I do (for instance, only reading fantasy and nothing else) and I sadly chose to tell them that I was reading Charles Dickens rather than J. R. R. Tolkien.  Other times, I end up feeling shamed for reasons I sometimes can’t articulate to myself–because the person didn’t say anything outright.  They just made a “joke” or kind of gave me a weird look or paused too long before responding.  I have to admit that the “What are you reading?” question actually makes me panic a little now.  In my head, the possible consequences for saying I read each type of book look something like t his:

Admitting I Read Classics

Now the person thinks I am stuck up, showing off, or suggesting that I am more intellectual/somehow better than they are.  They might now feel inferior or defensive based on their own reading choices.

Admitting I Read Fantasy

They now think I am a nerd.  They’re wondering if I dress up in costumes and if I can speak Elvish–and not because they think those are fun things to do.

Admitting I Read Middle Grade

They can’t figure out why I’m reading such “juvenile” books as an adult and consequently now think I’m weird, unintelligent, or unable to leave my childhood behind in a proper way.

Admitting I Read Picture Books

They’re going to ask if I teach or have some sort of “project” and when I say I think picture books are valid pieces of art for adults to read for themselves, they’re just going to stare at me.

Admitting I Read Graphic Novels

I’ll get the same reaction I’ll get if I admit I read MG.

Admitting I Read Nonfiction

They think I’m super serious and super boring.  They possibly also think I’m setting myself up as intellectually superior.

Ultimately, answering the question “What do you read?” feels like a no-win situation in a way that answering a question like “What is the last movie you saw?” does not. Perhaps it’s because there are only a limited number of films in theatres and I can assume that anything I name will have been something the other person has also seen or at least heard of–making it less weird. I, in essence, look far more mainstream, more like the “average” person.  But when it comes to books, there are so many published that it seems almost impossible to make a connection with a new acquaintance based on naming a book.  The conversation becomes too fraught and somehow they always seem to be making sweeping judgments based on my moral character and identity as a person just because I said I’m currently reading the Keeper of the Lost Cities series.

I don’t let others change my reading habits just because they don’t like what I do or are critical of my book choices.  Still, I sometimes wish that it were easier to discuss books with people.  I wish that having literary conversations could be a positive experience where I learn about new books and can share excitement with another book lover–even if we’re excited about different genres.  But, somehow, I’ve never really had that experience in-person. And I’m wondering why.

Do you experience judgment when admitting to reading or liking certain books?

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Blogging Tips: Following the FTC’s Disclosure Guidelines

FTC Disclosures

If you’re new to blogging this year, or just new to receiving review copies from publishers (ARCs), you may be wondering exactly what obligations you have to disclose to your readers that you are reviewing books or other bookish products that you received from free.  Most bloggers seem to be aware they have to include some type of disclosure, but I see questions on Twitters every few months about what those disclosures should look like.  Luckily, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some pretty explicit guidelines for this, so you don’t need to put that much guesswork into complying.

The General Rule

The FTC’s primary requirement for disclosures is that they need to be “clear and conspicuous.”

At first glance, this sounds open to a broad range of interpretation, but in many cases you can probably use common sense to determine whether you are disclosing that you have received a free product in exchange for reviewing or promoting it in a way that is “clear and conspicuous.”

On a base level, this means no using confusing wording trying to actually hide that you received a free product, no using tiny font, no hiding the disclaimer on a separate page from the review, etc.  On a more practical level, this just means you should put the disclaimer near the beginning of the post (not the end) and that you should say something really straightforward like “I received this book subscription box from Uppercase in exchange for an honest review.”  Easy.

On Your Blog

Reviews

The FTC specifically addresses blog posts in their FAQ, stating that you should disclose your source on the individual review and suggesting that placing the disclaimer at the beginning is better than the end because not everyone may read to the end of the post. (“Have the disclosure at the beginning” is a running theme.) You should also be explicit, in case some readers don’t understand abbreviations or other shorthand.  This is something I can get better at myself. For instance, I frequently write something like “Source: Netgalley” because I know other book bloggers will know what this means–but more casual readers of my blog may not understand it means “I received a free ebook from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.”  That is being is “clear and conspicuous.”

Here’s what the FTC actually says:

Where in my blog should I disclose that my review is sponsored by a marketer? I’ve seen some say it at the top and others at the bottom. Does it matter?

Yes, it matters. A disclosure should be placed where it easily catches consumers’ attention and is difficult to miss. Consumers may miss a disclosure at the bottom of a blog or the bottom of a page. A disclosure at the very top of the page, outside of the blog, might also be overlooked by consumers. A disclosure is more likely to be seen if it’s very close to, or part of, the endorsement to which it relates.

Affiliate Links

You are also required to disclose to your readers if you have affiliate links on your blog and if you will receive money if they make a purchase after clicking on the link.  In the same vein, the FTC suggests that you say this explicitly: “I will receive money if you buy a book from this Amazon link.”  The theory is that simply saying “This is an affiliate link” will not be clear to all readers.  Again, this disclosure should be placed near any and all affiliate links; you should not hide this information on your “about” page or someplace else where the reader may not see it.

On Social Media

Similar rules apply to any products (books or bookish goodies) that you are promoting on social media, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.: You need to place the disclosure near the beginning of the post, and it needs to be obvious to your followers what the disclaimer means.

Last April, the FTC sent letters to a number of “influencers” on Instagram reminding them that they need to use clear wording (not just hashtags like #sp or #ambassador) and that these disclosures need to be in the first three lines of the post because many readers will not hit the “more” button.  They also suggest not simply saying “Thank you, [Brand]” as this can be unclear, but you could say “Thank you, [Brand], for sending me this free book.]

Here’s what their FAQ page says about Instagram:

What about a disclosure in the description of an Instagram post?

When people view Instagram streams on most smartphones, descriptions more than four lines long are truncated, with only the first three lines displayed. To see the rest, you have to click “more.” If an Instagram post makes an endorsement through the picture or the first three lines of the description, any required disclosure should be presented without having to click “more.”

Similar rules apply to Twitter. Make the disclosure obvious, and don’t hide it in 20 other hashtags:

What about a platform like Twitter? How can I make a disclosure when my message is limited to 140 characters?

The FTC isn’t mandating the specific wording of disclosures. However, the same general principle – that people get the information they need to evaluate sponsored statements – applies across the board, regardless of the advertising medium. The words “Sponsored” and “Promotion” use only 9 characters. “Paid ad” only uses 7 characters. Starting a tweet with “Ad:” or “#ad” – which takes only 3 characters – would likely be effective.

On Youtube

If you run a Booktube channel, you also have to disclose any free products or any payments you received, and, as always, the FTC wants you to do this at the beginning of the video (I said it was going to be a theme).  The theory is that many people will not watch until the end of the video, and they would miss a disclosure there.  You are also supposed to include this information in the video itself and not just in the video description:

If I upload a video to YouTube and that video requires a disclosure, can I just put the disclosure in the description that I upload together with the video?

No, because consumers can easily miss disclosures in the video description. Many people might watch the video without even seeing the description page, and those who do might not read the disclosure. The disclosure has the most chance of being clear and prominent if it’s included in the video itself. That’s not to say that you couldn’t have disclosures in both the video and the description.

Conclusion

Basically, there are actual guidelines on how to clearly disclosure, so there’s no need to be confused or to worry about whether you’re doing it right.  If you have more questions, check out the rest of the FAQs on the FTC website.  Also keep in mind that the FTC tends to “go after” people with far bigger audiences who are receiving far bigger payments from brands than most book bloggers, so you’re probably not on the verge of getting into any kind of legal trouble.  Just do your best to be “clear and conspicuous.”

Briana

Four Ways to Spread Love to Book Bloggers This Year

 

Spread Love to Book Bloggers

In November, Josephine at Word Revel made a couple of Twitter polls asking book bloggers about their stats and the general status of their blogs. Many bloggers commented that they did feel blogging was dying (though I’ve been blogging for 6 years, and I think people have been sounding the death knell the entire time) and that they felt more disconnected from readers than they had before.

Personally, I’m ready to roll into a seventh year of book blogging, and I’m not counting out blogging as a viable medium to discuss and share books yet.  So if you also love book blogs, here are a couple ways to help keep your favorite bloggers motivated in 2018:

1. Comment on their posts.

Bloggers love comments.  When bloggers are asked “What is your favorite thing about blogging?” the answers tend to be variations of “I love the community” and “I love discussing books with other readers.”  Many bloggers see comments (more than page views or other stats) as concrete evidence that people read and enjoyed (or at least thought about) their posts.  On Josephine’s poll, several bloggers mentioned they felt their comments and level of direct interaction with readers had decreased, so consider taking some time in 2018 to send some commenting love to your favorite bloggers.

2. Create a round-up of interesting posts.

If you stumble across some posts you find interesting, consider creating a post “round up” on your own blog where you provide links to them for your readers.  You can do this weekly or monthly, and you can include as many or as few links as you like.  Linking to other bloggers’ posts tells them you thought what they had to say was really interesting, and the nice part of creating a whole link round-up post is that it makes the links easier to find (as opposed to the transience of sharing links on many social media sites).

3. Feature the Blogger

If you favorite bloggers, consider sharing what you think is cool about them in a full-length post on your blog.  At Pages Unbound, we’ve had some success with our sporadic feature “Five Great Things about _____.” The format helps us go into detail about what we admire about the bloggers and their blogs, and hopefully it helps them get some new readers. Alternatively, as a less time consuming option, you can do one post where you link to several bloggers you enjoy at once.

4. Share their posts on social media.

Sharing posts on social media is great; it shows the blogger you thought their writing was thoughtful or funny or otherwise worthwhile enough to share with others, and it can help them gain more traffic.  However, clicking the “tweet this post” button also takes the least time investment of the other items on this list, which is why I put it last.

How do you show your favorite bloggers love?

Briana

Trends I Think We’ll See in Book Blogging in 2018

Increased Visuals

Winter Books

The Internet seems to be becoming increasingly visual, and there’s been a lot of growth on both Youtube and Instagram for readers, publishers, and sponsored “influencers.” While I think book blogging is going to remain strong (and reports of its imminent demise have been greatly exaggerated), I also think bloggers are going to think carefully about incorporating more original photos and graphics into their posts. After all, one of the number one things I see listed on posts about “what makes me what to follow your blog” is “a pretty design.”

More Audiobook Reviews

Audiobook Discussion

Audiobooks were the big news of 2017, with publishers reporting ever-increasing sales while ebook sales stabilized. A lot of growth in the industry is expected to continue in audiobooks, so this is probably something we’ll also see reflected in the blogosphere as more book bloggers listen to more audiobooks and review them.

Lots of Discussion Posts

Analyzing Books Discussion

Book bloggers continue to note that discussion posts do better for page views and reader interaction than book reviews, so I think some bloggers will be interested in upping their discussion post game this year. If you’re looking to write more discussion posts for your own blog and aren’t quite sure where to start, I propose 30 discussion prompts here.

More MonetiZation?

Piggy Bank

The question of monetizing book blogs has been a hot, controversial topic for a while. While I have explained my thoughts that most of us aren’t going to be paid and definitely not for writing reviews, I do believe that many book bloggers are eager to make a least a little money from a passion they invest lots of time, effort, and their own funds into. “Monetizing” may look more like launching side businesses like editing services, graphic design, or bookish candle making, but I think it’s something many book bloggers are going to be interested in this year.

What do you think book blogging is going to look like in 2018? What are some of your goals for your own blog?

Briana

Book Blogging Resources for the New Year

Blogging Tips and Tricks

It’s the start of a new year, which means a lot of people are thinking about joining the book blogging community. (Please do; we’d love to have you!)  Whether you’re totally committed to starting a book blog this year or still deciding whether blogging is the right hobby for you, I’ve rounded up some advice to help you get started.

Number One Reason to Start a Book Blog

Last January, I wrote a whole post with 8 reasons you should start a book blog in the new year. However, if you want just one major reason this is a great hobby, the reason most bloggers I’ve seen have credited with why they started blogging and why they continue to blog year after year, it’s the community.  Book blogging is a great way to meet other avid reader (particularly if you don’t know many in your “real life”).  You get to learn about new books and new trends and discuss them with others, and you can even interact with authors and publishers.

Number One Piece of Advice to New Bloggers

Schedule, schedule, schedule.  I cannot stress enough how much I wish I had scheduled a couple weeks’ worth of posts before Krysta and I launched the blog (now over six years ago). Eventually we caught up and are now lucky enough to have posts scheduled in advance, but starting out with several posts written and ready to go will save you so much stress in the beginning and can help you stay motivated and stick with blogging as a hobby.

If you want more advice, check out what some of our readers recommended for newbie bloggers here.

Where to Begin

One of our most popular posts on Pages Unbound is my Complete Guide to Starting a Book Blog. If you’re pretty sure you want to start blogging but aren’t sure where to go from here, or if you aren’t decided yet and want to know more about what goes into maintaining a blog, this post is a good place to start (if I do say so myself…). I tackle everything from choosing a blog name to starting to get books from publishers to review.  My post on writing your first blog post is also popular (which, honestly, is a surprise to me).

What Type of Stats to Expect

It’s not really a secret that book blogs are not necessarily the most popular type of blog on the Internet.  Big fashion, lifestyle, and food blogs get far more traffic than even the biggest book blogs, yet the reluctance of many bloggers to discuss their stats can leave a lot of us feeling like “everyone else has a larger audience” when….maybe they don’t. In 2016, I conducted an informal survey on book blogger stats and discovered that most people reported having between 1-300 followers and between 0-75 views per day.  (There were definitely outliers, however, so if you dream of growing your blog really big, there is definitely opportunity out there.)  Basically, however, don’t get discouraged if you feel your stats are “low,” particularly when you first start out.  Growing an audience can take time and effort. (And, if you’re wondering, a lot of “big” bloggers attribute their success to going out, interacting with the community, and commenting on lots and lots of other blogs.)

Page View and Follower Book Blog Stats

Are you thinking of starting a book blog this year? Are there any questions you have about book blogging?

Briana

52 Discussion Post Prompts for Your Book Blog in 2018

52 Discussion Post Prompts for Your Book Blog

If you’re looking to add more discussion posts to your book blog in 2018, we have you covered! Here are 52 ideas to get you started, which is one for every week of the year! (Feel free to modify them as necessary.) You can also check out our previous post with 30 Discussion Post Ideas for Your Book Blog or our archive of discussion questions focused on classic literature. (Plenty of bloggers are still answering these questions, so don’t worry that the weekly meme is “over.”)

You can also check out my Bloggiesta mini challenge for creating a discussion post strategy and my post on writing a memorable discussion post.

52 Discussion Post Prompts for Your Book Blog

  1. What are  your goals for your blog in 2018?
  2. What advice would you offer to new book bloggers?
  3. What are your favorite cozy winter reads?
  4. Which books would you love to see made into musicals?
  5. What book has had a significant impact on your life?
  6. What are your favorite bookish items (besides actual books)?
  7. What do you think makes a compelling romance in a book?
  8. What are some of your bookish pet peeves?
  9. Do you lend books to other people? Why or why not?
  10. What are some of your favorite classic books?
  11. How have your reading tastes changed over the years?
  12. What are some of the prettiest books you want to feature?
  13. What makes you follow other book blogs?
  14. What types of characters would you like to see more of in books?
  15. What are some of your favorite books from your childhood?
  16. Do you think there should be more religion in mainstream fiction? Why or why not?
  17. Who are some of your favorite book bloggers?
  18. What do you think about representing sex in YA books?
  19. Do you listen to audiobooks?  Why or why not?
  20. What is great about your local library? (If you don’t have one, what would your ideal library offer in terms of books and services?)
  21. How do you decide when to get rid of books?
  22. Have you ever dressed up as a fictional character?
  23. What do you think of representing “dark” topics like drugs and death in middle grade books?
  24. What lessons have you learned since you started blogging?
  25. Do you think any film adaptations are better than the book?
  26. What books could you simply not get into?
  27. If you could add one interactive feature to reading books, what would it be?
  28. What do you like about your favorite genre?
  29. Do you read nonfiction? Why or why not?
  30. What do you love about reading?
  31. What recipes from books would you love to try? (Real or fictional)
  32. What do you think about adapting classic novels for children?
  33. What do you think of required reading in schools?
  34. What book did you receive as a gift that is really special to you?
  35. What modern books do you think are going to become classics?
  36. Do you write in books? Why or why not?
  37. What books do you want to see more bookish merchandise for?
  38. What does your ideal bookstore look like?
  39. How do you acquire most of your books?
  40. What book(s) were you surprised you ended up liking?
  41. What books have you owned for a long time but haven’t read yet?
  42. If you could teach a class about any topic in literature, what would it be?
  43. What fun facts have you learned from reading?
  44. What do you think of wordless picture books?
  45. Who is the greatest villain in literature?
  46. Do you need your protagonists to be “likable?”
  47. What’s the most unusual book you own or have read?
  48. What bookish items do you love to give as gifts?
  49. What are some of your favorite opening lines from literature?
  50. Have you always been a reader? What got you interested in reading?
  51. What books are you looking forward to being released next year?
  52. What have you changed about your blogging style in the past year?

Briana

Five Books I Was Disappointed by in 2017

5 Books I Was Disappointed by in 2017

Last year, I did a full round-up post of 2016 in review, where I had a small section of “dishonorable mentions for books and movies Krysta and I did not quite enjoy.  This year, I’m breaking things up and devoting a full post to some of the books that, sadly, did not quite live up to my expectations.

Hild by Nicola Griffith

Hild

I had been looking forward to reading this book for a long, long time.  It’s about St. Hilda of Whitby and is set during the Anglo-Saxon period in Britain, a time period not frequently featured in fiction. (The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro is the only other example that comes to find.)  However, the incredibly slow pacing of the novel made reading this feel a bit like torture, even when things finally started to get a bit interesting. Add flat-ish characters and a characterization of Hild herself that was less than impressive, and this book was just a bit of a snooze for me.  And I seriously like the Anglo-Saxon period.

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Stalking Jack the Ripper

This book had a lot of hype, but I found the solution to the central plot mystery to be too obvious to be really entertaining.  I also thought protagonist Audrey holds bizarrely modern views for her time period, and she has an annoying habit of expounding them at every turn. The romance didn’t woo me either, which meant there wasn’t much left for me to love about the book.

Rules for Thieves by Alexandra Ott

Rules for Thieves

I was excited to read a middle grade novel about a spunky young girl who joins the Thieves’ Guild; however, I realized quickly that nothing that happens in the book makes any sense.  The famed Thieves’ Guild isn’t even that good, and apparently can’t steal enough money (or kidnap enough chefs) to even stock their cafeteria with edible food.  I was not impressed with their talents, their cunning, or the book as whole.

Vassa in the night by Sarah Porter

Vassa in the Night

Even granting that this book is magical realism and that means I should probably expect some things never to be explained, I found this book bizarre and confusing.  Mostly, however, I thought it lacked sound character motivation; people would make big, dangerous, life-altering decisions at the drop of a hat, with apparently no thought behind it.  The story is original, but pretty unsatisfying.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

I was expecting Gothic mystery and a steamy romance from this novel.  What I got was unconvincing instalove and a plot that made absolutely no sense.   It wasn’t romantic or haunting or even very interesting.  There’s a sequel, but suffice to say, I have no plans to read it.

What were some of your disappointing reads this year?

Briana