Bookish Confession: I’m Not Interested in Reading Blog Tours

Over the years, bloggers have worked hard to build relationships with publishers by reviewing ARCs, interviewing authors, doing cover reveals, and more. One common way for bloggers to work with publishers and authors is to participate in blog tours–events where a different promotional post about an author’s book will appear on a different blog each day for period of time (usually one or two weeks). However, although I understand that bloggers participate in these tours because it is a sign that publishers recognize their hard work, I have to admit that whenever I see a post is part of a blog tour, I click away. I read blogs because I want to know an individual’s personal thoughts on a work; reading a blog tour post feels like I am being advertised to instead.

For me, the joy of book blogging comes from joining a community where people can express their honest opinions about books. Sometimes a book works for a person and sometimes it does not. That’s just life! Hearing honest responses to books not only keeps the conversation interesting, but also provides me, the reader, with valuable information that will help me to decide if I want to invest my time and money in a particular title. That is why I love the independence of book blogs. Bloggers are not typically getting paid for their opinions, so they are free to admit when a book did not meet their expectations. They are not working for a company, so they can blog about whatever they like–not just what is company approved. Book blogs are successful currently, I would argue, because they have this independence and so readers feel like they can trust the reviews and the content. But blog tours take a bit of that away.

By nature, a blog tour is advertising. It is meant to sell books, not to provide an in-depth critique at the pros and cons of a work. So, when reviews are written for the sole purpose of being part of a tour, there is the expectation that the reviews are all going to be positive. That is, after all, what the author was implicitly asking when they organized the tour. They are doing the tour to promote their book, not to take the chance that their blogging partners will scare potential readers away.

Saying that blog tour reviewers may feel pressured to only highlight the good stuff is not to impugn the integrity of any reviewers. It is a natural response to want to do a favor for a partner, or to keep a good relationship with authors and publishers who have shown themselves willing to work with bloggers and maybe provide free books in the bargain. In fact, this response is so natural that the FTC requires influencers to note when they have received a book from an author or publisher for review because that information is valuable to readers of the review. It lets them know that an influencer, by nature of having received something from a company, may be biased to review the product favorably. That’s not something specific to book bloggers. It’s just human nature!

I avoid blog tours because I do not like being advertised at in general, but also because I can already assume that the blog tour reviews are going to be mere promotional copy, and not an engaging critique of the book. This may be an unpopular opinion to express, but I do not think I am alone in feeling this way. I read blogs for the independent content. When I start seeing a lot of sponsored content, I am no longer interested. This is a response that bloggers may wish to consider as discussions about being paid continue. Will turning into a fully sponsored blog take away aspects of the blog that drew readers to it in the first place?

Edited to Add:

Some bloggers and blog tour organizers have expressed that they feel my post says that bloggers who participate in blog tours and write reviews for the book being promoted are “dishonest.” This is not the case! As bloggers discuss the possibility of being paid partners with publishers, I simply mean to open up a discussion about how I, as a consumer, view promotional/sponsored/paid content versus more organic content. I think it is natural and prudent for consumers to consider the background and affiliations of a post or review. I myself carefully consider this kind of context for all products, not just books. My post is merely my personal feelings about promotional content, and how I as a consumer perceive it.

Additionally, it has been suggested that I clarify that not all book blog tours are the same. To that end, we should recognize that sometimes blog tour organizers get paid, but maybe not. Some blog tours might ask that only positive reviews be posted, but some do not. The specific rules and expectations of each tour will be different. You might have to ask around or do some research to learn the particular rules of every blog tour.

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Book Blogger Stats Survey Results: 2022

I (Briana) ran a book blogger stats survey in 2016 (results here), in 2018 (results here), and in 2020 (results here) to help create some transparency around “average” stats for a book blog, as many bloggers dislike talking about their own stats and often seem to assume that other bloggers’ numbers are much higher than their own. I also think average stats can shed some light on questions of why book bloggers don’t get the same paid opportunities as other influencers in the bookish community. After doing the survey three times, I figured this is apparently a thing I do every two years, so welcome to the results for 2022.

There were 90 responses this year, an increase from 56 responses in 2020, so hopefully that will give us slightly better data, although it is, of course, still a limited sample size as there are thousands and thousands of book bloggers.

I generally kept the questions about stats the same, so people can look back and compare with the past two surveys, but in 2020 I eliminated the questions asking what people thought other people’s stats looked like. At this point, having people guess that doesn’t make a lot of sense, when they can just look at the results of the previous surveys. A few of the questions were not marked “mandatory,” so a couple of the questions were not answered by everyone, but you should be able to see that information by the pie chart for each question.

This year, I added TikTok as an option for where people consume the most bookish media, and I changed the lowest daily page views answer from 0-50 and divided it up into two answers, either 0-25 or 26-50. I did this because most people picked 0-50 in the previous three surveys, and I thought people might find it useful to parse it out a little bit.

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Survey Results

First, I asked how long people have been blogging. The results are pretty varied, although a much larger percentage said 10+ years this time than in 2020. I ask this question mainly so I can look at individual answers and see if there’s any correlation between blogging for a longer time and having higher stats. Often, yes, but it’s not always the case. Some people can blog a long time and have lower stats and some people can blog for 6 months and have pretty high stats.

Next, I asked about average daily page views, which is probably the metric most people think about when they think about blog stats. The answers are pretty varied here, too, though you can see that about 50% of bloggers answered either 0-25 or 26-50, which tracks fairly well with previous surveys.

There were some unusual outliers this year, however. Someone said they have 2000+ daily views, one person said 1300+, and two people said 1000+. If you were any of these four people, please feel free to share your secrets in the comments below.

Looking through the individual responses, I would say the people with particularly high page views have 1) been blogging for a couple years at least and 2) recommend utilizing SEO. Someone also commented that if you want the high traffic and perhaps to monetize, you are going to need to think about posting what people want to read and find value in, to get traffic, and not just post whatever you feel like as you might if blogging is just a hobby.

How many blog followers do you have?

Again, high followers don’t necessarily correlate with high traffic or lots of comments.

The answers about comments were very interesting to me because nearly everyone answered they get 0-5 comments per day, regardless of how many followers they have or how many page views they get.

Again, if you were an outlier here and tend to get a lot of comments, feel free to share your secrets in the comments below!

At Pages Unbound, I’d say we get closer to an average of 10 per day, and I don’t know for *certain*, but I think it helps we post a lot of discussion posts, and I also try to comment on other blogs a decent amount, so some of those people come to our blog to comment back.

Not a lot of Booktubers here, which makes sense, as people probably focus on one platform.

There are more people on Bookstagram, and there’s again some variability in stats.

I think I need to stop adding an open-ended response option to this question about where bloggers get the most traffic because people answer incredibly specific things that apply to no one else. Obviously the top answers are search engine hits, the WordPress Reader, and then social media. I was intrigued by the one person who answered Flipboard.

This question is always fun because someone with triple the traffic of everyone else will inevitably say they think their traffic is average or worse than everyone else’s. :p But the general trend is still that most people think other bloggers are more successful than they are, when this is generally not true, so we can all stop feeling bad about our stats now. 😉

Bloggers often have more social media followers than actual blog followers.

I added BookTok as an answer to this question, and not a single blogger said they spend the most time on BookTok. I do think publishers should take note of this. On the other hand, over half of bloggers said they spend more time on other platforms than on following book blogs, which I always find intriguing.

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OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS

Finally, I asked three optional open-ended questions at the end of the survey. It would take A LOT of space to list all the answers, but I will note some trends I saw in the answers and provide some representative quotations. I’m loving the comments this year because, while there is some overlap with the answers from 2020, I also think there are a lot of new perspectives this time around.

What do you wish people would to in order to better boost and support book bloggers?

Trends: Share posts on social media, comment, actually read the posts, be transparent about what is working or not working on your own blog, read older content, reciprocate when others are commenting on or sharing your posts.

Share book bloggers and their posts on their blogs, especially the newer blogs. It’s hard enough to find new blogs to fall in love with, so, instead of sharing some perennial favorites, I wish people would share the newer bloggers to bring notice to them.

I wish people would acknowledge book bloggers’ hard work and the countless hours spend on this a little more. A simple retweet to share a blog post goes a long way already, or a tweet, or a share on another form or social media, for instance. Blog comments are such a great, underrated way of showing your appreciation for a post as well. If you have the means to, tip book bloggers on their ko-fi account. And no matter what, if you appreciate a book blogger’s work, never ever refrain from telling them so!

Comment on blog posts. Engagement makes a huge difference in motivating bloggers (it’s nice to feel like you’re not just talking to yourself ;)) but also helps improve the overall SEO of the blog and increase it’s ranking in search results.

Just actually use book blogs and comment on posts…I put in effort and then I get super few views – and those I do get don’t engage AT ALL. On Insta, the only comments I get are those AI ones ‘promote it on x’. I get that blogs build up over time and it takes a while, but it feels discouraging. I feel like most people just go straight to Goodreads so that doesn’t help either.

And an interesting perspective from someone who doesn’t think other bloggers really owe you anything. (Which I think is completely fair! I like supporting bloggers, but I also like supporting bloggers when I actually enjoy their content, as I’m sure we all do.)

I don’t think it’s people’s job to boost book bloggers. If you are creating value, people will come (assuming you do some marketing). It’s not about people helping you, but about you finding a way to help your readers.

What do you think the most challenging thing about book blogging today is, in terms of followers, engagement, etc.?

Trends: Getting engagement, getting comparable attention as influencers on other platforms, standing out from the crowd of other bloggers, finding the time to keep up with all the work that goes into blogging, getting people to engage on the blog itself instead of social media

I think that most people nowadays aren’t engaging on book blogs themselves. Yes, we’re getting traffic and yes, we can’t say that book blogging is dying. Yet, in terms of engagement and connection, it is a little bit. We’re not sharing conversations as we used to on book blogs, because most people turn to social media more, nowadays and it’s harder to create a real connection with the community if you’re not on social media at all.

I feel like my engagement has been slowly decreasing and I’m not sure why. It’s also really time consuming of come up with original ideas and also cross-post/market posts on social media

I used to get a lot of comments, but now it seems other bloggers expect me to comment on all their posts in order to get one comment back; even if they post 5-10 times to my one. I spend so much time commenting that I don’t have enough time for my own content.

Engagement. It’s the one thing that I’ve tried to increase for years, but no matter how much effort I put in, I rarely get more than a handful of comments a month. I am, of course, so grateful for those who do reach out.

Staying relevant when you’ve got no interest in making videos (either BookTok or IG Reels)

What advice would you give to someone looking to increase followers, engagement, etc.?

Trends: post original content, post consistently, comment on other blogs, have genuine conversations with others, just enjoy your time blogging the way you want (Also: a lot of people saying they don’t know!)

Social Media gives quick wins, but visitors from search engines make the blog feel relevant

Not to worry too much about it, honestly! Otherwise, be consistent. Find your niche and friends and enjoy it.

Don’t care about follower numbers – it’s really obvious when you specifically want to increase your stats and it will turn people off. Keep creating original content that you enjoy, comment on other blogs, make friends in the community and the right people will find you and stick around.

Learn SEO. It’s a game changer!

I am honored by this comment that thinks Pages Unbound is a big blog! Thank you! But, yes, I have ALSO used this method to blog hop in the past! Find a blog with a lot of comments and go visit and comment on those blogs. These people are usually active bloggers, and this approach helps you find new blogs to check out if you aren’t getting a lot of comments on your own blog that you can use to blog hop yet.

My method to the above issue was to find some of the cornerstone blogs (paper fury, the quiet pond, pages unbound, drizzle and hurricane, etc) and see what challenges they hosted to join, or find new blogs by seeing who was commenting on those sites and then going down the rabbit hole to find new people on THAT blog, and so on.

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Thank you to everyone who participated! I’ll see you all again for the survey in 2024!

Are Book Blog Discussion Posts Dying?

Book blogging has changed significantly in the eleven years we have been writing here at Pages Unbound. In our early days, book bloggers primarily focused on writing book reviews and many blogs did not even have images–not even of book covers! Then book bloggers discovered that writing discussion posts often resulted in more traffic, and some bloggers even pondered moving away from writing reviews altogether. Now, however, I have seen what appears to be a marked decrease in discussion posts from book blogs, and I can only hope that this is not the end of one of my favorite blogging trends. Still, I have some thoughts about why bloggers might want to move away from discussions.

Though I have always found the book blogging community to be friendly overall, I have also seen some of its less welcoming parts. One of the quirks of book blogging is, I think, actually that its overall friendliness sometimes can result in misunderstandings that would not happen elsewhere. That is, sometimes, there is a tendency to assume that whatever is posted will only result in agreement in the comments. So someone who likes a book might assume that the commenters will all say they liked the book, too. A commenter who says that they did not enjoy the book, even politely, might be seen as negative or argumentative, even if they were just expressing a valid and not really surprising opinion. Not everyone likes every book, after all–that’s just a fact! Still, sometimes, I think there is surprise that people have different opinions, and these different opinions are seen as rude, even if expressed respectfully.

Going along with this is the related idea that, if someone expresses a different opinion, explaining to them them why they are wrong will result in an immediate change of heart and apology. Of course, it is not realistic to expect that someone will change their entire opinion based on five minutes’ worth of reading blog posts and comments. It can take years for people to change opinions! Reading differing viewpoints is part of that process, but it is a process and it will take time. But I know that I have personally had experiences where I said I had not enjoyed a book because of aspects like X, Y, and Z, but then was told that I really should have enjoyed the book because of reasons A and B. When I answered that A and B weren’t enough for me to overlook X, Y, and Z, I was told I was wrong and hurtful, and the other person basically left in a huff. It was just a book I didn’t personally find engaging! I never said that others couldn’t like the book! But, books are intensely personal things, and sometimes book blogging can be a space where any sign of disagreement is taken as aggression, even if it other spaces it might just be part of a lively conversation.

And that brings us to one of the biggest changes in the book blogosphere I have seen over the past decade. There is a lot more controversy in general, and sometimes heated discussions arise over things that most people outside of Book Twitter probably would never think would be controversial in the first place. Much less something that should result in mass pile-ons of outrage. But the reality is that small things can become big things quickly online, and so sometimes it just seems safer to try to fade into the background and not express an opinion at all. I know that I myself sometimes wonder if I should really post a discussion, if I have the mental energy this week to deal with any misunderstandings or negative comments that might arise. Even if the discussion post is about something I might have thought relatively innocuous, like saying I usually prefer fantasy over sci-fi, I know that in the deep places of the internet, there are probably people who would be mean about it, and this might be the week they find me. Quite frankly, the idea of posting discussions can sometimes be exhausting and even a little scary.

So, are book blog discussion posts dying? I don’t really know. I don’t have any hard data. But it seems to me that fewer bloggers are writing discussion posts, and sometimes when I think about the general tenor of discourse online, that seems understandable to me. I hope we can reverse this trend to negativity, though. I hope that book bloggers’ general tendency towards kindness and respect will continue–and that it will be transformative.

What I Look for in a Book Review

What I Look for in a Book Review

Writing an effective book review can feel like a struggle. But, there are a few key aspects that book reviews I really enjoy and find useful all share. Find the traits I look for in book reviews below!

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Structure

Bloggers often protest that blogging is a hobby, not school, so what they learned in school no longer applies. However, the basics of writing that are taught in schools are useful in the real world! And, what is more, they actually can make writing more effective!

When I read a book review, I want to see a structure that will guide me through the review and give me an easy way to understand the information being presented. At a minimum, this means I prefer to see some sort of thesis sentence at the end of the first paragraph (basically, is the reviewer recommending the book or not–bonus points if they say why). And I want the paragraphs to be organized in a coherent manner, with each paragraph addressing one main idea or related ideas at least, and transitions between paragraphs. There should be a conclusion again stating if the reviewer is recommending the book or not, which readers they think the book will appeal to, whether they will continue with the series or more books by the author, etc.–any sort of thoughts that wrap up the review in a logical way.

Because I recognize that blogging is just for fun, my standards are obviously not going to be as rigorous as if I were reading a research paper–and, indeed, my own blog writing is far more informal and less rigid than anything I would do for school or for work. However, a logical structure really is an effective way to get one’s point across in an easy, accessible manner. And so it is something I value because it makes my reading experience more enjoyable–I do not have to work to guess what the main point of the review is, or what the review is trying to say. Blogging might not be for school, but the principles of effective writing still apply.

Also check out Briana’s post: “Four Things I Learned About Writing in School I Also Use While Writing My Blog”

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An Actual Review (Not a Summary)

Summaries just tell a person what a book is about–and the official summaries for a book are easily found online on sites such as Goodreads or booksellers. When I read a review, I want to read an actual review, not a lengthy recap of the storyline. A review can touch on various aspects of a work–characterization, plot, pacing, prose, illustrations, and more. But it should give the reviewer’s original, personal views on how/if these aspects of the work contributed to a good story. I should leave a review having a clearer understanding of whether the book is something I want to invest my time in.

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Length

Because blogging is a hobby, I hesitate to say that there is a standard size all book reviews must be. However, I do think it is a fact that a longer review is going to be able to provide readers with more information. A one paragraph review only has time to gloss over a few, main aspects of a work. A review that is four to five paragraphs has room to expand on different aspects of the book. I prefer to read longer reviews because those give me more information to make an informed decision about what I want to read.

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Charity

It’s fine to write negative reviews! Indeed, I would argue that the existence of negative reviews is necessary to keep reviews useful. If we only have glowing reviews, those are not reviews–that’s just advertising. However, there is a difference between respectfully pointing out aspects of a book or story that did not work for a reader, and personally attacking authors. I appreciate negative reviews, but I don’t like to interact with reviewers who seem spiteful or out to get authors. Authors are people, too, and, like everyone, they deserve common courtesy.

Also read: “Negative Reviews Aren’t ‘Mean;’ They’re Integral to Selling Books”

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Conclusion

Writing an effective, informative review can be difficult! It is a skill that many reviewers spend time practicing and mastering. I know that I have to keep working on my own reviews, trying to write the kind of content others hopefully find valuable. But it’s definitely worth the effort!

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What Do Readers “Owe” Authors?

What Do Readers Owe Authors

Reading–and writing–can be intensely personal experiences. An author can pour their heart out into a book, spending months or even years trying to perfect the tale, only to find that the story did not resonate with some readers at all. Readers who fell in love with the tale themselves might be as confused or as outraged as the author that their fellow readers did not have the same reaction. Did they even read the same book? And, even if the story maybe was not the best, even if it did have some marked flaws, some readers fervently believe that all readers (and particularly bloggers and reviewers) should praise and celebrate the book anyway. After all, writing a book is hard work. Maybe the effort should count for more than the finished product.

The idea that readers should recognize effort instead of the result of that effort can create some heated discussions about the “appropriate” way to read and review books. Some readers, for instance, fiercely maintain that readers should not stop reading any book. They “owe” it to the author to read the whole thing, and then and only then are they entitled to have an opinion about it. Some readers believe that reviewers should only offer positive reviews and, even if a reader did not like a book, they should only mention the good parts of the book, or maybe write about the book as if they are a different person who would have enjoyed the book instead. Some readers believe that they have a duty to go beyond just reading the book or speaking highly about it, and they they need to actively promote the book for the author–posting positive reviews on multiple channels (ex. blog, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.), tweeting at others to buy it, doing cover reveals, reminding readers of the upcoming release dates, and so on. Essentially, some readers believe that they are ethically bound to act as free marketing agents for authors, as a mark of their respect and support.

Such attitudes probably stem partly from the feeling of a personal relationship that readers can develop with stories, and thus by extension, their authors; people like to do favors for people they like. But it probably also comes partly because books are considered art, and engaging with art and reading is considered “good” (and oftentimes morally superior to other forms of spending free time). And thus supporting authors and books and reading (through unpaid work) is also morally good. After all, the types of arguments people make for supporting authors through unpaid labor or for only saying positive things about their products does not typically extend to other areas of life. No one begs others to pretend that the contractor they hired was good, even if said contractor did a poor job, just because contractors work hard and are nice people. No one typically suggests that everyone who buys a new set of towels is ethically bound to promote those towels across several platforms, and to convince all their friends to buy the towels, too. Even if the towels were handcrafted by a small business owner and not created by a faceless corporation presumed to be rolling in wealth.

In my mind, however, the relationship between an author and a reader is largely a transactional one, just as with any other purchase I make or good I consume. What I “owe” to authors is simple. I owe them the obtainment of their books legally, so they can make sales and hopefully one day earn out their advance. Because, yes, they did work hard on their product and they deserve to be paid for that product, like anyone else. I also owe them the decency I owe anyone else–no personal attacks, no negative reviews tweeted directly at them. That’s pretty much it. How much of the book I read after I buy it is up to me. If I do not like the book because the story is not for me, or the timing is not right for me, I am not ethically obligated to finish it. I am certainly not ethically obligated to the author to review it, to sing its praises, to pretend I liked it when I did not, or to start trying to sell copies to my friends and followers.

This attitude may sound cold, but it is fair, and it also gives some protection to readers. Readers should recognize that the baseline for interactions with books is to read them legally and to be kind and courteous to authors. Anything else is going above and beyond. Reading an entire book one does not even like is a courtesy, not a necessity! Reviewing books is a favor! Acting as unpaid marketing is a HUGE favor! It’s not something publishers and authors should just expect as their due. Nor should readers’ passion for books be weaponized against them to convince them that they “owe” anyone unpaid labor–not even if they like that person or their work very much. Choosing not to go above and beyond does not mean one is choosing something wrong.

Many readers are, of course, very passionate about books and about stories. They want to share those stories with others and they want to support the authors who have, perhaps, changed their lives. But readers do not “owe” authors their passion, their time, or their unpaid labor. And it is not fair of publishers or authors, or even other readers, to suggest that they do.

A Lot of Book Bloggers Aren’t on BookTok: Why Publishers Might Wish to Take Note

Introduction

Why Publishers Should Take Note Book Bloggers Are Not on TikTok

While publishers, authors, and booksellers have eagerly jumped on board with BookTok in the past year or so, with some books seeing massive increases in sales after going viral on the platform, I’ve noticed that book bloggers are not necessarily as keen on the app as others. Several times a week, I see bloggers in blog posts or on Twitter saying they aren’t on BookTok and asking if other people are, or asking if someone who is on the app can explain something about it to them.

Initially, I thought this was just a vaguely interesting fact. Then I realized this is possibly something publishers should be taking note of. While the focusing of marketing departments seems to be shifting strongly to BookTok (of course with some Bookstagram and Booktube thrown in), publishers might inadvertently be overlooking an avid group of readers who spend a significant amount of money buying books for themselves and for others each month (i.e. bloggers).

The Stats

First, to confirm my suspicions that book bloggers are not overly present on BookTok, I looked at the Book Blogger Stats Survey I am currently running (you can answer it by clicking here), and I ran a poll on Twitter asking bloggers if they are on BookTok. (Respondents should be specifically bloggers, not Youtubers, Instagrammers, etc.).

On the survey, I ask book bloggers where THEY spend the most time consuming book-related content. At the time I am drafting this post, there were 70 responses, though there will likely be more by the time I post the results of the whole survey. While I do think it’s notable that only 50% of bloggers spend most of their time reading other blogs, what also strikes me is that NO ONE said they spend the most time on BookTok. (Shout-out to the one person who ranked BookTok and blogs equally though.)

On Twitter, there were fewer responses, but roughly 64% of bloggers said they are not on BookTok at all, and nearly no one said they spend a lot of time on the platform.

Why Publishers Should Still Be Focusing on Bloggers

What does this mean for marketing? Basically, that’s there’s a base of extremely avid readers/book buyers who likely are NOT going to be reached by any marketing on TikTok, even if it goes viral.

While I understand that BookTok has the potential to move and sell books to the general public at a volume that blogs simply cannot compete with (seriously, I get that bloggers are not going to make a book suddenly sell 10k copies in a week), I do think publishers should keep in mind that bloggers are still a noticeable segment of book consumers, and it’s worth courting them.

There are tens of thousands of book bloggers, and many of them buy dozens of books each year, either for their personal libraries or to give away to friends and family, or even to donate. Book bloggers are people who can read 100+ books a year and who might spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars annually on buying books, depending on their income.

And, of course, bloggers don’t even need to spend tons of money on books to make an impact. Most bloggers don’t just blog. They are on multiple platforms, and if they read and enjoy a book, they can end up posting about it in numerous places, including Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. They may recommend their local library purchase the book or suggest their local indie get it in stock. Book bloggers are book lovers and do a lot of marketing that just isn’t easily quantifiable.

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Conclusion

I’ve long thought that one of the challenges of increasing profits as a publisher is that there are simply a lot of people who do not read at all, or who only read a handful of books a year (let’s say, four). This is a segment of the population they basically cannot sell their products to, though they have been innovative in terms of selling non-reading books (ex. the coloring book craze) and creating numerous editions of the same bestselling book (so someone who’s read Throne of Glass can buy six different collectible versions of it and spend money on books without actually committing to reading more books).

Yet bloggers are generally voracious readers who read frequently and widely, so, as bloggers lament that publishers seem to be forgetting they exist and seem to be sending them fewer ARCs, I do think it’s worth keeping in mind that this might be a marketing mistake. Yes, bloggers don’t make books go viral like BookTokers do, but they are an avid consumer base for books. There’s probably some value in thinking about sending ARCs and other opportunities to bloggers and marketing to bloggers themselves as readers, not just using bloggers to market to the general public. And anyone not looking to market to them at least a little is likely missing out on some opportunities.

Briana

There Are Two Main Ways to Increase Traffic As a Book Blogger

Knowing Your Blogging Goals Can Help You Pick Which One to Pursue

After 11 years of blogging here at Pages Unbound, reading tons of blogging advice, and asking other book bloggers what they recommend to boost stats, I have come to the conclusion there are two main ways book bloggers in particular can increase traffic:

  1. comment prolifically on other book blogs
  2. focus on improving SEO.

These tactics bring in traffic from different sources, however, so knowing what you most want from your blog can help decide which to focus on. (Or, of course, you can dedicate time to doing both!)

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Commenting on Other Book Blogs

If you value engagement and are hoping to get more people commenting on and interacting with your own blog posts, commenting on other book blogs is a valuable strategy.

Of course, you want to be genuine and leave comments that add to the discussion and try to make real connections with other bloggers. You don’t want to simply pop by and leave a short, “Nice post!” on something you barely even read, nor do you want to just leave a link to your own blog.

However, commenting and blog hopping is valuable because people can’t really find and read and (hopefully) comment on your blog if they are not aware it exists. Commenting frequently on a wide variety of blogs is likely to bring other bloggers back to your own site to check it out, and some will naturally become followers. This is great for engagement because other book bloggers are the readers most likely to actually leave comments on a blog, unlike more casual followers.

Improving the SEO of Your Blog Posts

If you are interested in getting a massive increase in page views, focusing on improving your SEO in your blog posts is a good bet. A lot of book bloggers report that the vast majority of their traffic comes from search engine hits (which is definitely true here at Pages Unbound; our second highest source of traffic is from the WordPress reader and app, and it doesn’t come close).

The only caveats here are:

  1. visitors from search engines generally do not leave comments, so this is a good source of traffic but not engagement
  2. sometimes when they leave comments, search engine visitors are more aggressive than book bloggers
  3. you might have to think about writing “the type of posts people would search for,” as opposed to writing and posting whatever personally interests you.

In regards to point #3, you can, of course, try to optimize SEO on nearly anything. Some bloggers put a lot of effort into utilizing SEO on their book reviews, for instance, and these can end up as a significant source of traffic. Alternatively, you might simply think of things people are likely to Google, which are often lists (think: Books Set in NYC) or informational articles (ex. How to Write an Amazing Book Review).

If you are a book blogger who has written a post on SEO for book bloggers, feel free to leave a link in the comments below!

Conclusion

Both strategies will take time, but a lot of book bloggers have found they have paid off. If you only have time to pursue one, think about which you would enjoy more (engaging with other readers/the technical puzzle of good SEO?) and about what you want in return (possibly more discussion on your own blog/views from the general public using search engines).

Happy blogging!

Briana

I’ve Accepted That Publishers Aren’t That Interested in Book Bloggers

I've Accepted That Publishers Aren't that Interested in Book Bloggers

The rise of BookTube and BookTok, along with articles like the March 2021 New York Times one lauding the selling power of TikTok videos, resulted in a lot of demoralization among book bloggers. Publishers, it seemed, were no longer interested in working with bloggers and were sending ARCs (advanced reading copies) mostly to influencers on other platforms. Additionally, though publishers had declined to pay book bloggers for years, citing a lack of funds, there were suddenly reports that they were willing to pay influencers on BookTok. Book bloggers felt unappreciated, lied to, and betrayed. And people began talking once again about book blogging “dying.”

This May, Pages Unbound turns eleven years old. People have been predicting the death of book blogs during much of that time, though Briana and I do not think that is true. To me, the idea that blog are dying puts too much weight on what publishers think of bloggers and how willing they are to send bloggers ARCs. There is an assumption that lack of recognition by publishers (and authors) means book blogs are no longer worthwhile or relevant. I could not disagree more.

Book blogs are primarily a space for readers, one that builds a community among individuals who love to engage with and talk about books. They still serve that function–we have more views than ever here on the blog! But, over the years, some bloggers have begun to see the mission of book blogs as “supporting authors” instead. The trouble with this is that bloggers then spend countless hours laboring to read, review, and hype books–taking photos, posting reviews on multiple channels, sending out pre-launch Tweets, urging people to pre-order, maintaining several social media platforms to sing the praises of certain books or authors, etc.–all unasked for. The mission has become to act as unpaid members of publishers’ marketing departments. And, even though this work largely goes unrecognized, bloggers keep doing it because they hope that if they do more and more and more, they one day will be recognized–and paid–for it. But I do not see monetary compensation happening any time soon. The publishers have revealed their hands. They had the money and the ARCs all along; they chose not to use them on bloggers.

Knowing that publishers are not particularly interested in working with book bloggers is, however, freeing. Since bloggers are not in any sort of relationship with publishers, publishers cannot and should not expect anything from bloggers. There is no imperative to market books relentlessly on social media, to buy all the new releases as an act of solidarity, to urge all and sundry to pre-order a book the blogger has not even read themselves and cannot personally recommend. Bloggers are not being paid to work as publishers’ advertisers, and, frankly, I think we should stop trying. Doing all this amazing work free has only demonstrated to companies that, well, they are getting the work free! Why would they pay bloggers for it when it is already happening at no cost to them? Working even harder is not going to convince publishers to pay bloggers just because they are kind. Publishing houses are companies. The fact that they produce books, and that books are art, does not mean they are above financial concerns and calculations. Like any company, they will save money where they can.

Personally, I have never seen it as my duty to market books for publishers; they already hire people for that. Knowing this has allowed me to see my blog as completely my own. I am not obligated to write up lists of upcoming releases, or to urge people to spend money on certain titles, or to get out that social media post NOW before it is too late. I do not even have to read to a deadline if I don’t have an ARC. I can blog what I like whenever I like. I can celebrate backlist titles or talk about bookish things that do nothing directly to sell books. I can even admit when a book was not for me. Is none of that valuable because publishers do not pay me and authors forget to add book bloggers in their acknowledgements section, even when they include Bookstagram and BookTube and BookTok? I think it is valuable.

Maintaining my blog as a space for readers, and not as a marketing arm for publishers, serves an important function, even if it does little to promote this month’s hottest title. For me, the beauty of books is what is inside them, the worlds and the words and the ideas they contain. I love celebrating those things and discussing them with other people. I love finding like-minded individuals, who share my all-consuming love for certain stories or characters. I also love interacting with readers who have different opinions than my own, but who challenge me to see things in new ways. I love making new bookish friends! Not feeling obligated to advertise constantly allows me to create this space, one that is flexible and open and, well, hopefully somewhat distant from the need to constantly buy more and consume more and do more.

I think that if I tried to take the blog in a new direction and to “support authors” relentlessly in a way that meant I was not just highlighting their work and bringing some natural visibility to it through my reviews, but actively chasing new releases and doing cover reveals and urging people to pre-order and promoting books I have not read or do not actually feel really excited about, I would feel drained. I would feel like an unappreciated underling in the marketing division. But I’m not! I’m not part of the marketing division, and so I don’t blog that way. And that’s why I still feel excited about blogging 11 years later, and why I still sometimes feel a creative spark when I start to write. I’m not doing it for the publishers or even the authors, though I am happy to give exposure when I can. I’m doing it for me.

5 Myths About Book Blogging

The book blogosphere is full of advice – much of it so common that it might seem like a truism. But how much of this advice is true? Below are five pieces of blogging wisdom that I do not agree with.

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You need to review ARCs to have followers.

It seems to be taken as a matter of fact in the book blogosphere that one needs to have a mountain of ARCs in order to gain followers and receive traffic. I . . . honestly have no idea where this idea came from. Is there data on this, showing a correlation between ARC reviews and traffic? It seems more intuitive to me that showcasing ARCs might matter more on other platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, where visuals are prioritized and there might be more competition for views.

But book bloggers and their readers often tend to move at a slower pace, prioritizing longer, more in-depth reviews along with lively discussion in the comments. When people are looking for conversation, seeing the latest releases may matter less. In fact, our (rather few) ARC reviews here at Pages Unbound do not tend to have very high stats. Reviews a bit after release date seem to get more traffic and more interaction because others have had time to read the book and feel like they are able to comment on it.

We review ARCs very rarely at Pages Unbound, and our traffic is higher than ever. And the bloggers I follow? I don’t think most of them regularly review ARCs, either! I don’t look for ARC reviews when I follow a blog, and I suspect I’m not alone. It’s really not necessary to have ARCs in order to stand out or gain followers. Effective writing and interesting content matters more than being able to say that one has a bunch of ARCs.

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You have to buy all the latest releases in order to have high stats.

This point goes with the one above. We’ve been blogging over 10 years at Pages Unbound, and it seems that the rise of Bookstagram really ingrained in bloggers the idea that one needs to be able to showcase a rainbow of 100 new releases behind them in order to get followers – and, for some reason, a lot of people seem to think that these books must be purchased and not from the library. Or they think that the library does not even offer new releases, and that’s why the need to showcase a bunch of recent titles means that one has to have an endless book-buying budget. Let’s break this down.

First of all, using library books to review or to photograph is perfectly acceptable – and not uncommon! Secondly, if one has a public library and that library is adequately funded, it will have new releases. You can be among the first on the wait list for a new release by searching the catalog and placing the book on hold before the release date. If the book is in the catalog, it will have some sort of label like, “Being processed,” or, “On order,” but you can still place a hold. Finally, if you do not see the new release you want, ask your librarians how to submit a purchase request for the title. If they buy it, they should place you on the hold list (or you can ask about this), so, again, you will be among the first to get the book when it finally hits the shelves. You definitely do not need to buy books to get them early or on or around their release date.

Finally, it seems to me that the idea that one needs a bunch of new releases in order to be competitive and gain traffic is, once again, an idea book bloggers got from Bookstagram and BookTube – possibly from the popularity of book haul posts. Many bloggers seem to associate these other platforms negatively with consumerism because of such posts. But the good news is that book blogging often tends to be less about consumerism. Book blogging can move a bit more slowly than other platforms because longer reviews may be prioritized, and it takes time to read and review a book–more time than it takes to just show the cover for a haul picture. The audience for book blogs understands that the medium is different and that the written word is being prioritized over photographs (though pretty pictures are appreciated, of course!). They are not necessarily expecting posts about all the latest releases at once.

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You need a custom domain name to be taken seriously.

Many bloggers will suggest that bloggers should pay for a domain name to look more professional and be taken more seriously. This may matter more for other types of blogs, but book blogs are not customarily monetized right now. Removing the “WordPress” from the address bar does not matter to most readers and surely does not impact publishers’ decisions to send ARCs or authors’ decisions to do blog tours or interviews. Getting a custom domain name is a completely optional expense at this point for people blogging as a hobby, and bloggers should not feel pressured to spend money on it if does not make sense for them.

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You need to be really active on social media to be successful.

Admittedly, many bloggers have reported that interacting on social media or posting on places like Pinterest has increased their views. However, with the potential number of platforms expanding (TikTok, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram . . . ), it’s important to decide which (if any) platforms you really want to engage with. Trying to be really active on too many will likely be exhausting, and mean less time for creating actual blog content. So think carefully about if you actually enjoy the platforms you are on or are considering joining. For instance, if you are on Instagram, do you like taking photos or do you just feel like you ought to? Also consider if those platforms are doing what you thought they would. Maybe you have followers on Facebook and interact with people on Twitter, but none of them are actually clicking through to your blog content. Are you okay with that? Do you still find it meaningful to invest time there?

Choosing what social media platforms you really enjoy will help you use your time there more effectively than if you try to balance too many platforms at once. But, even if you decide you do not want to be on any social media platforms, that’s okay! “Success” is how you define it. Maybe success means, not getting tons of views from Twitter, but instead forming meaningful relationships with other bloggers and having interesting conversations. And you will still get traffic, even if you are not on social media. Commenting around on other blogs will boost your traffic, as will creating posts with good SEO. Most of our traffic here at Pages Unbound currently comes from search engines, and not from social media clicks.

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Generic blogging advice always works well for book blogs.

I would argue that a lot of the generic blogging advice I see does not necessarily translate effectively to book blogs. Why? Generic advice often assumes a larger, more general audience, as well as the potential to make money. That is, generic advice often assumes that bloggers can pull from a really large pool of potential audience members – but book bloggers do not always have these same numbers. For example, food blogs might get tons of views because tons of people search for recipes. Everyone eats and many people cook. Book bloggers, on the other hand, seem to get less traffic than other types of blogs, and that traffic is often from fellow book bloggers, and not the general public. As a result of comparatively lower stats, book bloggers have historically struggled to monetize successfully.

So I’m always skeptical of generic advice that may not apply to book blogs. The advice above, to get a custom domain name, is one piece of advice that might apply to blogging generally. But for book blogs? It doesn’t make sense to spend money on something that may not make one money. So I find that the most effective book blogging advice often comes from book bloggers. After all, they are the ones figuring out how to navigate the circumstances unique to book blogs.

What do you think are some book blogging myths that should be debunked?

Is Becoming a Freelance Editor / Copy Editor a Viable Way to Make Income As a Book Blogger?

Monetization of book blogs is obviously a hot topic, and over the course of the 10 years I’ve been blogging, I occasionally see book bloggers take an alternate approach: What if, they ask, I didn’t try to make money directly from my blog but, rather, set myself up as a freelance editor (using my blog to market my services)?

It’s an exciting idea! And there are a lot of book bloggers who do freelance editing, either copy editing or developmental editing. It can certainly be done. However, I often see bloggers who think that their enthusiasm for books and their generally good knowledge of spelling and grammar are enough to succeed. Chances are, they’re going to need a bit more.

Here are some things I believe are worth considering before you set up that “Editorial Services and Rates” page on your blog:

Decide What Editing Services You’re Offering

First, you need to decide what type of editing you’re offering. Developmental editing, copy editing, and proofreading are all different tasks. If you say you’re an “editor” but you actually mean you want to copy edit, potential clients may be confused.

List Your Qualifications

Second, take an honest look at what your qualifications to be an editor, copy editor, or proofreader are. Simply being a reader and having thoughts on books might not qualify you to be a developmental editor because writing a book review and giving editorial feedback are different skills. And being good at spelling and knowing the rules of grammar might not make you a good copy editor; you need an eye for detail, an ability to spot inconsistencies, and the patience to do a task others might find tedious. You also need to realize that copy editing and/or proofreading doesn’t mean reading a book through once, noticing all the mistakes, and being done.

So if you have specific experience doing developmental editing, copy editing, or proofreading, whether it was for a college publication or for some self-published author friends, write it down! You’ll want to list this on your web site, so potential clients know, as well.

If you don’t have any specific experience doing any type of editing, you might want to consider if there are ways you can acquire some before setting up a freelancer web site. Is there somewhere you can volunteer? Someone who can vouch for your work? A class you’re willing to pay to take?

Consider Technical Business Aspects

Finally, keep in mind that freelancing isn’t necessarily as easy as setting up a web site, listing your rates, and waiting for clients to come rolling in.

Of course, you’ll have to figure out what to market your services and get clients to know you exist.

You might also need to research financial aspects of freelancing. What platform are you going to use for accepting payments? Depending on where you live, how will you report and pay taxes on income? Do you need to register yourself as business or LLC?

Conclusion

This isn’t an exhaustive guide to freelancing by any means. If you’re serious about trying it, I recommend reading up on the topic and talking to fellow freelancers to ask about their experiences. Getting things set up the right way from the start will be more likely to lead to success than thinking, “Well, I like books, so I can totally be an editor, right?” and going for it blindly.

Briana