The discussion of openness and impartiality of blog reviewers did the rounds on Twitter, and I realise it’s a storm in a teacup and hardly that important when the world is undergoing financial and environmental meltdown. That said…
First, here’s what I tweeted on the debate:
I like that bloggers are questioning how impartial they are. This is good, because publishing can be deeply nepotistic at times. Before blogs, the nepotism used to be behind closed doors. Now at least there is a discussion to be had.
@gavreads In my years in publishing, I found more than a few blog reviewers simply repeated the enthusiasm of a publisher… Which is, perhaps, to say the publisher can influence.
@Weirdmage I have big respect for bloggers. They are, largely speaking, honest and open. All I ask is that they don’t swoon to publishers.
@JonCG_novelist @gavreads Indeed, it isn’t the publisher’s fault; or anyone’s. Simply that things are regurgitated.
@Weirdmage @JasonBaki @murf61 Deep down it comes to: If a publisher invites a reviewer to dinner, would that reviewer give more coverage? … Because it’s not just the quality of coverage, it’s the amount of coverage.
Bloggers: forget the nonsensical debate of free ARCs. Publishers have been dishing those out for years, they’re just a marketing tool, hopefully you’ll shout about the books positively and everyone’s a winner, apart from the scummy dudes who throw them on eBay straight away before publication date (there is a special place in Hell for you).
No, this is the point of interest: you’re getting to that point where many of you should realise that you’ll be courted at parties and conventions with free booze and if you’re lucky a dinner or two, and some of you will be given guest post spots on their own blogs, or a little reviewing side-gig. How terrible for you. And this is in the interest of publishers, because (a) they want to thank you for giving free coverage and publicity to their books and (b) you’re probably helping them sell more books (not necessarily individually, but certainly as a hivemind). Also, don’t forget (c) it’s a small industry, so they probably enjoy speaking to you as fans, too. It’s not black and white. You have a mutual interest. Isn’t it lovely?
You just have to ask yourself the simple question: does a few free drinks or dinner, and a better relationship with a publisher, mean I’m more inclined to show more cover art or give better reviews of their books? Most of you will genuinely say no, which is a good thing.
And yes, I realise the same works with authors, too – I’m happy to admit that. If you like me as a person, I don’t expect you to like my books (and vice versa!), but don’t think I’m buying you dinner – I’m a writer, we have no money. Publishing is a small industry, and has been phenomenally nepotistic in the past. I realise that many of you are struggling writers, too, and getting close to industry people could possibly open up a dream career.
This industry is, and has always been, about relationships (apart from when it’s about money). Social media has just thrown a spanner in the works and no one quite knows how to handle the etiquette. The important thing is that you’re at least thinking about it, because this didn’t happen so much before we all aired our dirty laundry on Twitter.