I hope you’re all doing well! As you may have seen from Monday’s post, where I discussed how I want to shake up my review structure, it’s gotten me thinking about myself as a book blogger on the whole and if there is anything I can do better.
The short answer: yes, absolutely 100% yes.
The long answer: well…the rest of this post!
This is a bit of a vulnerable post to write, even though it’s also a very important post, so, if you do decide to comment on it, I would greatly appreciate if you respond with kindness, rather than any forms of attack. <3
So, this blog is something that is really important to me. It’s my own space where I can feel completely whole, completely me. I’m not only a book blogger, but I also share my journey about my writing and my tidbits of my personal life in here. It’s a blog that’s been around for 8 years (!! 😮) and one I plan to continue for many more.
However, I think it’s also important to recognize that I come from a very privileged space as a book blogger. I am a white woman living in the US, where access to libraries is plenty and the ability to buy books is easy, due to access and shipping availability, which opens the doors to ARC and book tour opportunities that many international bloggers don’t have.
Obviously, I can’t change the book publishing industry overnight (and
probably can’t do too much on my own, at any rate). However, I would like to try and do a few things that will hopefully help make positive strides, not only for myself a book blogger who wants to be a better ally to BIPOC communities, but also perhaps with publishers and how they view and interact with book bloggers.
Relationship with ARCS
Again, I must recognize that I am very privileged to even receive ARCs, including receiving regular emails from both Titan Books and Orbit Books. I don’t always accept them, but (with Orbit especially), when I see a book I’m really interested in, I definitely request it, even being lucky enough to receive print copies (which, I only like to read print books, to give my eyes a break from the screen, which is another privilege).
However, currently, I have 70 ARCs that are overdue. That number doesn’t include the books I’ve received as gifts from self-published authors, also in exchange for an honest review.
There are plenty of reasons why I fell behind: mental health struggles, changing jobs, changing commitments and time restraints, mood reading, a global pandemic. And, while all of those are valid, it’s also just as valid that, by not reviewing these books on time, I have hurt the important publicity chances of that author during a pivotal point in their book’s shelf-life: that first week, where sales are look at most closely and changes of hitting bestseller lists are determined, plus plenty of other factors I don’t fully understand, not working in publishing; all of this, however, impacts whether the author will be trusted–and paid–to write more books.
Do I think a singular review from myself is going to truly make or break an author’s career? No, not really. However, I do know that ARCs are meant to be promotional tool and there are limit numbers given out and I have taken that slot for many books and failed to uphold my end.
This is even worse for books written by BIPOC authors, who already most likely have been given less marketing and publicity, due to how the publishing industry mistreats and undervalues writers of color.
Plus, with self-published authors, they are already paying for their entire publication of their book out of their own pocket–including sending an ARC to me. The least I can do is do a better job of reviewing their book in a timely manner.
This is something I feel a lot of guilt about, but guilt doesn’t fix things. I have been slowly working on catching up on my backlog of ARCs and will review these books, starting with any books by BIPOC authors, until I am completely caught up. I am very sorry that I haven’t honored this promise I have made and didn’t truly realize not only the negative impact this neglect could have, but also how this is a privilege denied to many, that I’m not upholding as well as I should.
Going forward, I:
- am not accepting any review requests from self-published authors until I get my backlog caught up
- will not accept new review request from publishers unless I have a) read at least double the amount of older review copies than what I am requesting that month and b) it is a book I was already actively wanting to reading (not a book that just looks interesting)
- Once I am caught up, I plan to be more honest with myself about how much I truly read and if I have time to read a book in the ARC timeframe, only accepting books that I can actually read on time
Advocating for International and Diverse Bloggers and Authors
Like I mentioned above, I can’t change how publishing views or values diverse bloggers. I can’t change shipping costs or increase marketing budgets. I can, however, do a much better job using my voice to help support international and diverse bloggers and authors.
I plan to do this by:
- Continuing to check and make sure I am following a wide range of bloggers, reading their posts, engaging genuinely with their content and sharing their work through things like my Monthly Wrap-Up posts
- When I receive emails for ARCs for publishing, instead of accepting an ARC written by a BIPOC, I will start recommending bloggers who would connect with that ARC more than myself, as a white reviewer, and ask that the copy “reserved for me” be sent to them instead.
- Prioritizing asking my library to purchase diverse books
- Continue to check my own reading and make sure that I’m not just reading books by cishet white men. I’m doing an okay job of this currently, but I could definitely do a better job diversifying my own shelf.
Making My Website More Accessible and a Safe Space
To be honest, this is something I haven’t looked into too much, yet, but I know it’s something I want to do a better job at. I want my space to not only be a safe space, but also an accessible space, no matter what.
I plan to do this by:
- Adding my pronouns to my “About Me” page and my “Welcome” blurb on the front page (they are already on my social media platforms)
- Look at bloggers like Destiny @ Howling Libraries, Kal @ Reader Voracious and Shealea @ Shut Up, Shealea on how they have made their blogs have accessible modes and how I can emulate that
- Include descriptive captions on all of my pictures and GIFs that I use
- Do more research on what my blog is lacking and how I can fix that
Those are just a few ways that I can definitely see myself improving as a book blogger (and a person, I think). I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Is there anything you’re hoping to improve upon? Is there anything else that you think I could be doing, to do a better job myself? Let me know in the comments below!