‘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