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

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

books, REVIEWS

A place for us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

I have always been secretly proud of my ability to express my thoughts on books in concentrated ways enabling readers of my reviews to decide for themselves if they would like to read them or not. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can or want to do that with this one, you HAVE to read it.

I’m going to stick to three main points of the book:

▪️The Storytelling

▫️The Characters

▪️The Relatability

▪️What struck me most within the first 50 pages of the book was how expertly the plot is handled and weaves around the characters. The narrative jumps ahead and around multiple times and it doesn’t take much effort to know when it’s taking place. I noticed subtle hints are included within the first few paragraphs of each new timeline and I’d automatically readjust the ages of each character to fit the narrative.

▫️At our core, we are all flawed and most of us try our best to do what we can to improve ourselves and adjust to our surroundings; to embrace our traditions and yet accept new ones. Writing such characters never seems like an easy task, but to write such characters and join their lives together in a way that compliments and completes them is exactly what Fatima has accomplished. There isn’t one character I could clearly point out and say was right or wrong. They all had their reasons behind their words and actions.

▪️Having been born in a foreign country and then lived almost all of my life outside of my own, there are things that I know and understand and experience regularly but have unfortunately never had the privilege to hear out loud. A Place for Us became my little place where I found solace in the five days I took to read it. It’s going to remain with me for a very long time and perhaps finally become the first book I might revisit year in and year out.

I had the privilege to talk to Fatima right after I read the book, it reminded me of what JD Salinger wrote in the incomparable voice of Holden: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” Well, it happened! Thank you Fatima!

You can buy the book here

books, REVIEWS

Anne Frank’s Diary (the graphic novel) adapted by Ari Folman, illustrated by David Polonsky

“How wonderful is it that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world”

Thank you @aaKnopf for sending the book!

#theguywiththebookreview presents Anne Franks Diary : Graphic Adaptation.

The biggest tragedy with reviewing this book is I don’t remember if I’ve actually read the original version as a kid or not. I think I have, but my memory fails me once again.

Nevertheless, I picked it up and a couple of days later I realized that it has been one of my most surreal experiences with a book.

As with all graphic novels, the focus is on the illustrations but I was happy to see that several pages worth of original texts were copied to it as well.

If you didn’t know Anne and her family with a few other people were hiding from the Nazis in an Attic in Amsterdam. They hid for 2 years.

Anne starts writing in her Diary (she names it Kitty) The book is full of her diary entries or ‘conversations’ with Kitty.

She is brutally honest and questions whatever she can. She is rebellious as well as thoughtful. It’s a book which shows how the human spirit can break and did break during under the Nazi regime.

What I didn’t remember was how the book ended, and ended it did with a lot of emotion. I had almost forgotten that this book is not fiction and was written not by an adult but a teenage girl coming to terms with life and how hers isn’t normal.

I’m pretty sure there is not much I can add without repeating other readers, I don’t think I need to review characters or pace either. This books isn’t about them, but it still somehow excels in them! The hardships of having to live in hiding isn’t just the claustrophobia but also the several impossibilities to life which includes getting enough food to eat, medical attention and simply fresh air.

I think this graphic version might make it a perfect stepping stone to reading the full version.l, especially for teenagers.

You can buy the book here

books, REVIEWS

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient is the type of book I wouldn’t shy away from calling the new representative of a whole genre, The Psychological Thriller!

#theguywiththebookreview presents The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

We have a loving wife who seemingly randomly shoots her husband 5 times on his face and kills him. The interesting part is that she stops saying or reacting to anything or anyone. She’s deemed unfit and sent to a psychiatric clinic where our protagonist shows up, Theo.

He is obsessed with Alicia’s high profile murder case and as a psychiatrist he wants to finally be the one who makes her talk and gets to the bottom of what happened that fateful night.

I enjoyed the ‘back and forth’ between Theo and the silent Alicia. There was a frustrating feeling with how Alicia kept quiet which builds up a lot of anticipation for the final third and the expected revelation of the book!

There were many theories that I had by midway but then I just gave up as none of them made sense even to me and I couldn’t be bothered making an effort which I knew would eventually feel foolish and stupid. I felt stupid any way!

Absolutely brilliant and a must read for anyone who likes a good twist!

You can buy the book here

books, REVIEWS

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

There is a certain charm to a book when one of the characters isn’t what normally defines a character. The Australian Outback was just the type of ‘character’ I love in a book!

#theguywiththebookreview presents The Lost Man by @janeharperauthor

There were three things which took center stage for me:

▪️The atmospheric feel of the Outback

▪️The protagonist Nathan’s claustrophobia

▪️The timing of the Big Reveal

Forming an image of the Australian Outback is kind of easy, just think about barren land all around you. But giving it character and defining the undefinable is what set the mood and the plot. The tree and grave, although tiny details, amazingly catapult us into the intricate rabbit hole that Harper creates!

I loved how even though the book is set in the vast expanse of the Outback, the protagonist always seemed to be struggling within himself and feeling bound from all sides, helpless. The claustrophobic feeling around his character made me want him to be free. I haven’t felt like that for many characters in recent times.

With most whodunnits my biggest issue is always the timing of the ‘Big Reveal’. I want it to be right at the end, preferably the last few pages. A feeling that leaves me jaw dropped and wowed! The timing in The Lost Man was exactly that, very well wrapped up right at the end!

You can buy the book here

REVIEWS

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

I don’t know how to start talking about a book which I went through faster than a cup of coffee. This is the type of literature which has the power to redifine humanity and remould the world.
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#theguywiththebookreview presents Sea Prayer by @khosseini

I was deeply moved by The Kite Runner and later absolutely shattered by A thousand Splendid Suns. When I heard about this book I thought the primary goal of it was to tell the story of Alan Kurdi, the little Syrian child whose body was washed ashore while he and his family were trying to seek refuge in Europe. Their boat had capsized and Alan along with his dear mother and brother lost their lives. The only one who survived was Alan’s father. But I was wrong, it’s not only about Alan.

Beautifully wed with enchanting illustrations, this fictional take on Alan is heartwrenching and its effects linger for days. I wasn’t able to sleep properly the night I read it and I still get upset when I think about it. I’m writing this review after atleast a month since I failed to write it the last 2 times I tried.

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This book is linked to UNHCR @refugees and all proceeds from it go towards it and The Khaled Hosseini Foundation.
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I doubt that @khosseini will read this review, but if you do, Sir, I salute you for what you have done to highlight once again poor Alan’s fate and many other kids and families who risk their lives just to be able to breath, eat and sleep.
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You can buy this book from my affiliate link here

books, REVIEWS

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Excuse me while I try to make sense of this book and my thoughts around it which not only I, but many others who have read it will remember for a lifetime.

#theguywiththebookreview presents Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

BLRW is an adventure fantasy which keeps moving across its massive size, there are not many pages where you don’t find Marlon James building the world around us. Crazy good part is that the places and characters he has created are not over defined and he leaves a lot to our imagination. The descriptions are part of the story and he doesn’t pause the story line to build the environment.

Second thing or probably the first thing that will come to your mind is the richness of the characters. There are almost no two similar main characters. The ease with which he introduces new types of characters is something I have not seen before.

With BLRW, MJ has blurred the lines between X-Men and Game of Thrones, mashing them together to give an experience unlike any other. The inclusion of Giants, Shape Shifters, Siamese twins, Smoke girl, Witches and many more is done with expert precision.

This has a very interesting effect of the era in which it takes place seeming to stand still, which was mastered by George RR Martin in A Song or Ice and Fire. MJ does the same and you get a sense of stillness in the world he takes you into.

The biggest challenge for me was trying to keep track of the names as well as type of the characters. It gets much easier halfway through once you’re acquainted to most of them. The other thing which might take a little effort is keeping track of the slangs and unique style with which many characters speak.

I think there are a lot of African references and styles used in the book which were lost to me, but I think would be much more appreciated by people having roots there.

Overall, I’m going to be recommending this to everyone. If you’re looking for a book which will take you to places you probably could never imagine yourself, this book is for you. Also, it’s the first in the Dark Star Trilogy, better read it now!

Thank you @PenguinUKbooks for sending me a copy!

Here’s the affiliate link to buy the book!