books

Hello Publishers…

‘Just because I’m passionate about something doesn’t mean I need to do it for free.’
– Faroukh Naseem

Yeah, I finally have a quote to my name (Somebody please add it to Goodreads.)

For best results the writer recommends you read this with the calming voice of Morgan Freeman in your head.

A couple of days ago I posted a twitter thread which I later shared on Instagram as well. Here’s the post if you’re like me and love to read 300+ comments about a topic which hasn’t been openly discussed much.I’ll go through each tweet and try and elaborate as much as I can.

But before we get into it, let me briefly talk about Content Creation which seems to have been misunderstood by a lot of people.

Content creation takes time and effort. It also takes a lot of understanding of what our audience likes. If today I post an absolutely amazing drone shot of a city, it probably will not do well because my audience has not followed me for such content. If I suddenly post a very different style of photo, my engagement will be lower even if it is related to books. Content creation around books is not easy at all and is very limiting too. Plus it is not limited to the visual aesthetic. Captions can be an important part of the bookstagram experience but the engagement around books isn’t easily created and not everyone reads captions since Instagram is primarily a visual platform. When you have accounts following hundreds of pages, you do not get special treatment unless you are really liked by someone following you. So if someone thinks content creation is child’s play, they probably have a private account with pictures of their breakfast, lunch and dinner with the captions Yummy, Yum and Burp on them.

So here are the tweets, broken down one by one

1 – When will publishers stop thinking that advertising their books in front of thousands of people after creating content for them is payable by free books?

This point has been misunderstood by most. Especially accounts which have started out recently. I think most skipped over the ‘thousands of people’ part. Free books do hold a lot of value; I happily receive them and post about them on my page. They are usually a new release or pre-release copy and they give us an opportunity to create a post around something new and share it online.
I did not receive a single book from a publisher until i was well over 20k followers and had a genuine organic audience on the platform. I had to fill out a form and share what I had to offer in terms of influence in exchange of these free books. Publishers need something in exchange of the book mail they send and since they are a business they aren’t sending them just because we are readers. We are readers with an audience who create content. 


2 -Book accounts are a very specific and concentrated niche. I’m being conservative here by saying 99% of those who follow book accounts are interested in books and are potential customers for these publishers. 

This potential buzz a book blogger can generate for a book is huge. This is where readers come for their book related news, new release dates and synopses. Bookstagrammers have built an audience which trusts them after years of work and it has not come easy for any of us. I speak for myself when I say that I do not promote books I do not like or expect to like. I have promoted books for authors directly too but only after I felt that these are books that I would be interested in reading as well. Not just because they were willing to send me a free copy.
Bookstagrams are not like a cat account or a lifestyle account. Cat accounts are followed by people who might be allergic to fur and probably will never in their lives buy a cat related product. Lifestyle accounts might be followed by people who will never travel to that country, go to that restaurant or wear such clothes. These are very diluted niches. So if you have a book account with 10,000 followers it’s probably a more powerful selling window than a lifestyle account with 100,000. That’s one reason there are probably only a dozen book accounts on Instagram with more than 100k; not every random person follows a book account.

3 – I think publishers have become very opportunistic and are using so many book bloggers to get almost free publicity. It starts with the book mail IGstory, followed by a summary on the timeline and if the blogger is reading it, probably an update Current Read Post and a review.

Most of us do not get free books with any obligations apart from making sure we mention that we’ve received a free book in the caption. Publishers do not guide the narrative of our captions and they do not get a say in our reviews. If they tried, I along with many other accounts I have spoken to would not agree to do them. People might not realize how much a review that is not genuine can affect our credibility. Fortunately, I learnt this very early on before I had truly understood how bookstagram works. I had reviewed The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak and given it a 1 star rating and readers commented that they were so happy for my honest review (I was naive enough to not even think there could be a dishonest review). That point onward I had promised myself I would make sure to be as truthful as possible without demeaning an author or publisher. That is what I have continued to do and that is what I always will..

There have been some comments from people who do not seem to understand Bookstagram and how things work on the platform. Some think that if we get paid for a post (an advertising space) we will end up talking positively about them. Most promotions are just that, promotions. They include a picture/video centered around the book and a caption which shares the synopsis and release date information. Think of it as adverts in a newspaper (you know, that thing you see old men holding rolled up under their arm). They offer information on the product; nothing more, nothing less. They don’t take away from the credibility of the newspaper itself or from any of it’s articles. Instead they are merely a way for the newspaper to support their publication. That’s exactly what paid promotions are for an Instagram page.

I am all for supporting Indie publishers and will continue to accept books I’m interested in in exchange of posts. I have no problem in not charging for books I get which I will post about in my own time without any obligations apart from making sure I mention I have received it from the publisher.

But when a publisher contacts me for a campaign to promote a book, and it is a known publisher who sells millions of copies annually and has budgets allocated for promotions on traditional media, I better be offered a fair incentive as well. I do not get free books just because publishers like me, my influence is linked to them sending those books.

Its about time big publishers stop hiding behind “Publishing is becoming a dying industry”.
We are here and we are reading.

Laura who runs Whatshotblog.com has written 2 articles on this topic that I recommend:
It’s Time For Book Bloggers to Get Paid.
Book Bloggers Share Their Thoughts on Influencer Marketing

Last point is that our reviews are NOT FOR SALE.

p.s: I hope you didn’t forget to read this in the calming voice of Morgan Freeman.

My name is Faroukh and I am @theguywiththebook

books, REVIEWS

After The End by Clare Mackintosh

Literally just finished the book and although it’s midnight I know I can’t go to sleep without putting my thoughts out.

#theguywiththebookreview presents After The End by Clare Mackintosh (Gifted by @littlebrown)

This book is divided into two parts, Before and After. Pip and Max have a son who is terminally ill and they are faced with the heartbreaking decision to either let him go or try unconventional medication which might delay the inevitable but will not improve his health.

Max and Pip do not agree and end up in court to decide the fate of Dylan.

‘Before’ deals with this part of their journey as parents (up-to the courts decision)

‘After’ follows their lives after the courts decision and is surprisingly even more heavy on the heart than ‘Before’.

There are three perspectives in the book, Max, Pip and Dylan’s Doctor Leila.

All are in first person and that gives each chapter a very personal touch making the impact of their tough situation even more haunting. The inclusion of Leila is especially helpful as it adds another dimension to the story which breaks the alternating chapters between Max and Pip. Really effective story telling.

I cannot write more without spoilers but I really want to. (Please don’t read onwards if you have already made your mind to read it) You can pre order the book HERE.

Spoilers…

‘After’ is made extremely interesting because Clare takes us into two directions: One where the court decides that Dylan is in too much pain to live and the other where Dylan should get the medication required to live for as long as possible.

These two directions are managed in alternating chapters and are again told from Max and Pips perspectives. In each they get what they wanted from the court (Max – Dylan lives; Pip – Dylan is let go)

After I read the book, I read Clare Mackintosh’s Note where she tells how more than a decade ago she faced a similar situation. Reading that made my heart fall and so I couldn’t wait to write what I felt about the book. Clare does acknowledge this would be a difficult book for many readers to get through so please pick it up only if you are okay with reading a tough story.

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If you are looking for book reviews, please find the links here:

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura

The Man-Eater Of Malgudi by R.K.Narayan

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

Anne Frank’s Diary (Graphic Adaptation)

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

A Long Wall To Water by Linda Sue Park

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

books, REVIEWS

If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura

There are so many things to talk about this book but discussing almost anything is potentially a spoiler, so I’m going to try sneak through this review like a kitty cat 🐈

#theguywiththebookreview presents If Cats Disappeared from The World by Genki Kawamura

In this surprisingly heartwarming story of our unnamed protagonist who is diagnosed to die soon, The Devil appears and offers one extra day to live against making one thing disappear from the world.

Then starts the grueling daily routine where he has to choose what thing to get rid of from the world for one day of life. The characters, pace and writing all come together very nicely to give a short yet impactful experience. There is a sense of nostalgia portrayed in the book which might make you pause and reminisce.

Not necessarily meant to be a very serious book, but it does take a nice detour in the closing chapters and the book wraps ups very nicely! Would definitely recommend it to cat lovers and especially those who loved The Travelling Cat Chronicles.

You can buy the book HERE through my affiliate link.

If you are looking for book reviews, please find the links here:

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Man-Eater Of Malgudi by R.K.Narayan

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

Anne Frank’s Diary (Graphic Adaptation)

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

After The End by Clare Mackintosh

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

A Long Wall To Water by Linda Sue Park

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

books, REVIEWS

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I guess it was ‘maktub’ that I won’t like this book at all and struggle to finish it without making faces every other page.

#theguywiththebookreview presents The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The book is about chasing our dreams and giving everything to fulfill our ‘personal legend’ which for Santiago according to a fortune teller, is to travel to the Pyramids wherein lies a treasure waiting to be found by him.

Obviously the journey to find the treasure isn’t expected to be easy and Santiago keeps taking risks and working hard to get closer and closer to his goal. At no part dod I feel any empathy, sympathy or any emotion towards Santiago or his so called journey, I just couldn’t be bothered. Extremely bland protagonist and so were the rest in the book. One of the worst aspects about this book was the repetition. We get it, the whole universe conspires to make our dreams come true. We don’t need being told that half a dozen times.

That’s basically what the Alchemist is about with a lot of life lessons, some subtle but most of them forced towards the reader making them feel extremely unnatural. It’s very much like how The forty rules of love crammed in 40 rules randomly making it sound more like a lecture you don’t want to be part of.

There was one part in the book where it’s implied that Hijab is for Married women but not for single women, so yeah…Maktub indeed.

I have an affiliate link you can use to buy the book…but why bother…? Use it HERE to buy something else.

books, REVIEWS

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Before we go down The Road (Excellent pun, Faroukh 👏🏼) I need to say that Cormac McCarthy instantly became one of my favorite authors!

#theguywiththebookreview presents The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Dystopian narratives are something that I have usually struggled to like and even though this book seemed to go nowhere in it’s dystopian setting, it kept moving steadily.

The book is about a Father and Son’s journey towards the Sea, where they hope to find safe haven from a dusty world. All they have is a little food (they scavenge along the way) and a shopping cart which they use to push their meager belongings.

I cannot point out why but the book gripped me from page one, the writing is absolutely beautiful and care has been taken to polish out everything unnecessary.

Father-Son narratives are one of my favorites (my favorite childhood book being Danny the champion of the world) and in my mind I was thinking of The Road as a fictional Jump Sequel to it.

I would absolutely recommend this to everyone, even those who are not fond of Dystopian fiction. The ending is one of the best I’ve read in a long long time, absolutely heartbreaking yet hopeful.

Click HERE to buy.

books, REVIEWS

The Man-eater of Malgudi by R. K. Narayan

Probably one of the most famous fictional cities in India, Malgudi was a little part of my childhood too!

#theguywiththebookreview presents The Man-eater of Malgudi by R.K. Narayan.

Set in Malgudi (based somewhere in South India) we have Natraj, a very hardworking owner of a small 2 man printing press which is also a daily place to socialize for a couple of local men. Sastri is Natraj’s assistant and the book sets off in a very relaxed pace until Vasu, a taxidermist moves to town and somehow manages to rent out Natraj’s attic but never pays him a dime.

Vasu has ironically a very straight forward approach when it comes to getting things done but has no problem twisting things when it comes to being responsible for his own actions.

The Malgudi series of books seem to have been a very genuine commentary on Indian culture and way of life. Through the inclusion of a ‘loose’ woman and the different reactions of men to her presence Narayan manages to seamlessly navigate through and deconstruct the thoughts of different people.

Midway through the plot picks up pace and the final 25 pages take a very intriguing turn in events and the book is no longer just a social tale.

I think the brilliance with Narayan’s approach of using a fictional town is to detach the characters and events from any particular place and via fiction make us all look into ourselves transparently. (I don’t know if this makes sense but it’s been 5 minutes and I don’t know how to say this any other way)

Pick this up! Rating 🐘/5

Click HERE to buy. (This is linked to a 2 in 1 book which also includes A Tiger for Malgudi)

books

Book Mail: April 2019

Hey guys!

Been a while, I know…

I thought I’d share bookmail on the blog as well.

If you’ve come here from Instagram, HIGH FIVE!! Please don’t forget to subscribe! PLEASE **inserting super duper crying emoji**

Here are the books I received in April:

1- After the end by Clare Mackintosh from Little Brown.

From New York Times bestselling author Clare Mackintosh, a deeply moving and page-turning novel about an impossible choice—and the two paths fate could take.

Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re best friends, lovers, unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son.

What if they could have both?

A gripping and propulsive exploration of love, marriage, parenthood, and the road not taken, After the End brings one unforgettable family from unimaginable loss to a surprising, satisfying, and redemptive ending and the life they are fated to find. With the emotional power of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, Mackintosh helps us to see that sometimes the end is just another beginning.

Click HERE to buy!

2- Call Me Evie by JP Pomare from Little Brown.

In this propulsive, twist-filled, and haunting psychological suspense debut perfect for fans of Sharp Objects and Room, a seventeen-year-old girl struggles to remember the role she played on the night her life changed forever.

For the past two weeks, seventeen-year-old Kate Bennet has lived against her will in an isolated cabin in a remote beach town–brought there by a mysterious man named Bill. Part captor, part benefactor, Bill calls her Evie and tells her he’s hiding her to protect her. That she did something terrible one night back home in Melbourne–something so unspeakable that he had no choice but to take her away. The trouble is, Kate can’t remember the night in question. 

The fragments of Kate’s shattered memories of her old life seem happy: good friends, a big house in the suburbs, a devoted boyfriend. Bill says he’ll help her fill in the blanks–but his story isn’t adding up. And as she tries to reconcile the girl she thought she’d been with the devastating consequences Bill claims she’s responsible for, Kate will unearth secrets about herself and those closest to her that could change everything. 

A riveting debut novel that fearlessly plumbs the darkest recesses of the mind, Call Me Evie explores the fragility of memory and the potential in all of us to hide the truth, even from ourselves.

Click HERE to buy!

3- The Watermelon Boys by Ruqaya Izzidien sent to me by the Author.

It is the winter of 1915 and Iraq has been engulfed by the First World War. Hungry for independence from Ottoman rule, Ahmad leaves his peaceful family life on the banks of the Tigris to join the British-led revolt. Thousands of miles away, Welsh teenager Carwyn reluctantly enlists and is sent, via Gallipoli and Egypt, to the Mesopotamia campaign.

Carwyn’s and Ahmad’s paths cross, and their fates are bound together. Both are forever changed, not only by their experience of war, but also by the parallel discrimination and betrayal they face.

Ruqaya Izzidien’s evocative debut novel is rich with the heartbreak and passion that arise when personal loss and political zeal collide, and offers a powerful retelling of the history of British intervention in Iraq.

Click HERE to buy.

4- Heartstream by Tom Pollock sent to me by Walker Books.

I just wanted to see you. Before the end. A taut psychological thriller about obsession, fame and betrayal, for fans of Black Mirror.

Cat is in love. Always the sensible one, she can’t believe that she’s actually dating, not to mention dating a star. But the fandom can’t know. They would eat her alive. And first at the buffet would definitely be her best friend, Evie.

Amy uses Heartstream, a social media app that allows others to feel your emotions. She broadcasted every moment of her mother’s degenerative illness, and her grief following her death. It’s the realest, rawest reality TV imaginable.

But on the day of Amy’s mother’s funeral, Amy finds a strange woman in her kitchen. She’s rigged herself and the house with explosives – and she’s been waiting to talk to Amy for a long time. Who is she? A crazed fan? What does she want?

Amy and Cat are about to discover how far true obsession can go.

Click HERE to buy!

5- Malamander by Thomas Taylor sent to me by Walker Books.

Nobody visits Eerie-on-Sea in the winter. Especially not when darkness falls and the wind howls around Maw Rocks and the wreck of the battleship Leviathan, where even now some swear they have seen the unctuous Malamander creep…

Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, knows that returning lost things to their rightful owners is not easy – especially when the lost thing is not a thing at all, but a girl. No one knows what happened to Violet Parma’s parents twelve years ago, and when she engages Herbie to help her find them, the pair discover that their disappearance might have something to do with the legendary sea-monster, the Malamander. Eerie-on-Sea has always been a mysteriously chilling place, where strange stories seem to wash up. And it just got stranger…

Click HERE to buy!

6- The Parisian by Isabella Hammad from Vintage Books.

As the First World War shatters families, destroys friendships and kills lovers, a young Palestinian dreamer sets out to find himself.

Midhat Kamal picks his way across a fractured world, from the shifting politics of the Middle East to the dinner tables of Montpellier and a newly tumultuous Paris. He discovers that everything is fragile: love turns to loss, friends become enemies and everyone is looking for a place to belong.

Isabella Hammad delicately unpicks the tangled politics and personal tragedies of a turbulent era – the Palestinian struggle for independence, the strife of the early twentieth century and the looming shadow of the Second World War. An intensely human story amidst a global conflict, The Parisian is historical fiction with a remarkable contemporary voice.

Click HERE to buy!

7- Cygnet by Season Butler from Dialogue Books.

Seventeen-year-old Kid doesn’t know where her parents are. They left her with her grandmother Lolly, promising to return soon. That was months ago. Now, Lolly is dead and Kid is alone, stranded ten miles off the coast of New Hampshire on tiny Swan Island. Unable to reach her parents, and with no other relatives to turn to, Kid works for a neighbor, airbrushing the past—digitally retouching family photos and movies—to earn enough money to survive.

Surrounded by the vast ocean, Kid’s temporary home is no ordinary vacation retreat. The island is populated by an idiosyncratic group of elderly separatists who left behind the youth-obsessed mainland—”the Bad Place”—to create their own alternative community. These residents call themselves the Swans. Kid calls them the Wrinklies. Even as Kid tries to be good and quiet and patient, the adolescent’s presence unnerves the Swans, turning some downright hostile. They don’t care if she has nowhere to go, they just want her gone. She is a reminder of all they’ve left behind and are determined to forget.

But Kid isn’t the only problem threatening the insular community. Swan Island is eroding into the rising sea, threatening the Swans’ very existence there. To find a way forward, the Kid must come to terms with the realities of her life and an unknown future that is hers alone to embrace.

Season Butler makes her literary debut with an ambitious work of bold imagination. Tough and tender, compassionate and ferocious, intelligent and provocative, Cygnet is a meditation on death and life, past and future, aging and youth, memory and forgetting, that explores what it means to find acceptance—of things past and those to come.

Click HERE to buy!

books, REVIEWS

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

A short story collection in which Murakami explores the mundane and treads the thin line between magic and reality (as usual!)

This was my second short story collection by Murakami, having read Men without women I had a general idea about his style when it comes to short stories.

I always have trouble reviewing short stories as it seems to become more about the author than about the plot or characters, there are simply too many.

Which gives me full rights to fangirl on this review!

What I like about Murakami is how he squeezes out interesting moments from daily life and how he can focus on one moment and make it feel like time is not a factor, like he’s taken us on a story telling limbo.

Another thing I’ve noticed is how almost all of his characters are regular people, no one too beautiful, no one too out of reach. The one thing he does seem to work on his characters is their absolute mediocrity. People with unfulfilling jobs, broken relationships and silly thoughts.

The highlight of this book was The Second Bakery Attack and The Elephant Vanishes.

The first is a weirdly eventful night between a newly married couple who end up roaming around town looking to steal bread from a bakery.

The Elephant Vanishes is one of those of Murakami’s where he leaves things unanswered and flirts with the idea of endless possibilities. You can buy the book here

If you are new to Murakami, I’d suggest reading my blog post ‘Why I no longer recommend Murakami to readers’

Another Murakami I have reviewed is his latest Killing Commendatore