I’m back this Friday participating in another Let’s Talk Bookish post! This weekly bookish discussion series was created by Rukky @ Eternity Books and co-hosted with Dani @ The Literary Lion. However, in April of 2022, Aria @ Book Nook Bits took over! For this week, our topic is: Gatekeeping in the Book Blogger Community or Bookish Gatekeeping, for SEO purposes–suggested by yours truly!
To be honest, I’m very hype to see what others think about this. 👀
Here’s this week’s prompts: Are there times where you have noticed gatekeeping in the book blogging community? What about in the publishing industry as a whole? What does this gatekeeping look like? How can we combat this?
This is very much a, let’s call out some of the problems of publishing that then trickle down into the book blogging community post. Which, I am all for. If we don’t name it, we can’t recognize it. And if we don’t recognize it, then we can’t combat it.
So: what ways do I think book bloggers can experience bookish gatekeeping?
First: What is Gatekeeping?
According to a quick Google search, you can define gatekeeping as “the activity of controlling, and usually limiting, general access to something,” which is exactly the context that I’m envisioning here. While I do believe the book blogging community is largely welcoming and open, there are many ways in which it lacks to be accessible, equitable and fair to all book bloggers, putting some at an advantage while limiting others.
Gatekeeping, as we named it.
Bookish Gatekeeping Examples
I don’t think one post is enough to go into all the different ways some book bloggers are alienated. But, I did want to highlight a few, just to get conversations flowing–especially if you’ve never thought about this before.
So, here are a few ways I think gatekeeping affects book bloggers:
Access to books, giveaways and ARCs, in particular
It’s kinda hard to label yourself a book blogger if you can’t…you know, read books.
(This is completely separate from when book bloggers stop reading, for various reasons. It also doesn’t mean that you suddenly lose book blogger status if your reading plummets and you’re in a slump. Both those topics are discussions for another day.)
No, what I’m talking about is accessible access to books, especially in the eyes of publishing as an industry.
If you live in America, this doesn’t apply to you. In the UK or even Australia? In some ways, this also might not apply. But if you live anywhere else, you might not qualify for ARCs. If you do–often, it’s ebooks only. You’re often excluded from giveaways (due to financial burdens and shipping costs, when from author or other bloggers). You might not have a library nearby, if you have access to one at all. New releases might not be translated into your native tongue. Having a diverse selection of books if you do have a library or bookstore might be limited, compared to an American Barnes and Noble (despite their own limiting on their shelves announced recently).
This is an access issue and a way to gatekeep books–from backlist beauties to fresh off the press new releases–from those who are important members of the book blogging community, yet don’t live in an “approved” area to cater towards, in the eyes of publishing.
This actually ties into a few different areas. With book blogging, you can often do it for free, from your phone or a laptop, creating a free website on a platform like WordPress. Yet, given the rise of social media, book bloggers might feel more pressure to go self-hosted, which gives access features to make their blog stand out and compete for views. That requires money.
Buying books if you don’t have access to a library, requires money. Hell, if you want ARCs and they send it to you digitally, do you have access to an eReader to read it on? Or do you need to buy that first?
Or, say you want to expand to Bookstagram or BookTok. This often requires some sort of financial burden, whether it’s for props, tech or books.
As publishers rely on book bloggers and bookish influencers to do so much of their promotion for them–without compensation–to become noticed, having financial security to invest in your blog doesn’t hurt. It’s not guaranteed to help you suddenly have the best blog on the internet, but your chances do increase compared to those without those financial means.
Do we have enough bandwidth to call out the fact that publishing as a industry gatekeeps from the top down? 👀 From the books that get through acquisitions to the ones that get the most marketing support (and thus better chances to be NYT bestsellers). Hell, even those who get the chance to work in publishing, still based primarily out of unattainable NYC, with workers needing to strike to even consider the chance of making some form of livable wage?
Is it surprising that the gatekeeping that has built publishing from the ground up, also seeps its way into the consumers who read and the book bloggers who are already underappreciated in publishing to begin with?
*continues to sip the tea*
Where do we go from here?
So, while I am ALL FOR toppling the current publishing model and its CEO structure for a much more equitable system that actually serves those in publishing, authors and readers as a whole…I doubt one honest blog post is suddenly going to do that work. But, I do think there are things that we, as individuals, can do to help better support one another as bloggers, while also calling out some of the ways some in the community are gatekept.
- Acknowledging your privileges: this is not a game of, wow, I should feel guilt because I live in America. That serves no one (and is a form of white fragility, which Layla F. Saad has a wonderful discussion about in her book, Me and White Supremacy). Instead, it’s important to understand where you stand. Because, if you don’t know where you stand, you can’t account for your biases when challenging the status quo.
- Me? I’m a white woman living in America, with access to a library, a full-time job that helps me pay for books (sometimes) and a partnership with Orbit Books to get ARCs, with publishing always catering to my native tongue (English).
- Challenge ARC models: If you do receive ARCs, have you ever stopped to think about who else might be getting them or who else isn’t? This is especially important when requesting books by BIPOC and queer authors. Does anyone who follow or know who is getting an ARC also match those identities? If so, why not? And: could you reach out to the publisher and ask that your ARC go to an own voices book blogger, instead?
- Share and donate to blogger’s financial resources: Because book blogging can have costs, many book bloggers have Ko-Fi, Patreon or affiliate links you can use to help them offset costs. Keep note of this and use them, when you can! (For example, here’s a list of just a few bloggers who have Ko-Fi, for example.)
Again: these things don’t suddenly solve bookish gatekeeping, but they can help combat it in small ways. Acknowledging it and not being afraid to start the conversation with those in publishing could help break down these barriers, bit by bit!
So, I should have expected a post about bookish gatekeeping would become one of my longest in a while. Apparently, I had opinions (says the woman who submitted this topic to begin with). 😅
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! And, if you wrote about this, please post it in the comments! I’d love to read your thoughts!