Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Death of a Book Blog

Most of the readers who follow this blog are aware I have another blog – a promotional blog called Authors to Watch. For the past year, I have interviewed hundreds of authors, promoted hundreds of books, and posted dozens of reviews. What started out as a small blog that boasted the occasional post evolved into something quite substantial. Up until January, I posted on Authors to Watch several times a week. At one point, I posted every day.

In addition to the Authors to Watch blog, I also had a Facebook page and Facebook group. When the group grew to several thousand members, we took on extra admins for a total of six. Six admins might seem like a lot, but we couldn’t keep up with the spam, so we posted some rules essentially changing the group to a discussion-only forum (no promotion allowed). When the rules were repeatedly broken by spam-and-run authors, we changed the settings so that only admins could initiate a thread. Our core group of members loved the changes. We had some lively conversations (sometimes resulting in disputes that had to be settled by admins), but our discussion threads were often marred by authors who couldn’t seem to resist dropping a promotional post and then running. After a few months, I became tired of being bombarded by angry authors demanding that I kick so-and-so out of the group because they hurt their feelings on a discussion thread. I got tired of being messaged by authors who wanted to know why their “posting rights” were revoked just because they dropped a bit of semi-pornographic spam on a discussion thread that was meant to be about creating realistic dialogue. When I made the announcement that the group was being deleted, a few authors (who were complete strangers to me) got together demanding that I turn the group over to them. I ignored them, deleted the group, and have never lost a night’s sleep.

Now the time has come for the blog to take a bit of a break. Or for me to take a break from the blog. Like most book bloggers, I work outside the home, take care of a family, and try to scrape together a moment or two to write. Like most book bloggers and authors (and like most people in general), I’m busy. Book blogging is something I’ve done because I love it. I love helping authors. I love giving authors a platform to promote their books and talk about their writing process. Or, at least, I used to.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love helping authors. I just need to do it in a different way. I’m sure some of you will encourage me to stick it out. You’ll tell me to get back to Authors to Watch in a couple of months when I’ve recovered from my recent health crisis. And maybe I will. But right now, I really, really, really need a break.

I’ve thought about ending the blog for a long time, but then some starry-eyed, new author would come along asking me to promote their book, and their genuine kindness would sneak past my defenses, and I’d be back to interviewing once again. For every amazing, wonderful, genuine, kindhearted author I’ve encountered, there’s been at least one entitled, demanding, ungrateful author whose made me wonder why I spent my free time helping them.

I’ve stayed up late to format interviews when I’m so tired, all I want to do is pass out on the floor. I’ve promoted interviews in the morning before I’ve rushed off to work and promoted the moment I got home. I’ve read books I’ve agreed to review by a certain date even though it meant putting my own writing (or housecleaning or spending time with family) on the back burner.

I’m not special. Every book blogger is busy. They tirelessly promote because they love books and they want to help authors. Over the past three years, I’ve seen several book bloggers quit. Some are no longer accepting review requests outside of book tours. Some aren’t accepting self-published authors at all. The flood of requests (many from rude authors who don’t read their guidelines) have pushed these book bloggers to put strict limitations on who can approach them. Emails are deleted without reading them. Authors are ignored.

It’s tough for both authors and book bloggers. There’s such a huge need for reviewers, bloggers are being overwhelmed by requests, while authors are wondering how the hell to get the word out about their book.

As an author and a blogger, I’m on both sides of the fence. I know how hard it is to be inundated by a dozen review requests per day. I also know how exhausting it is to send out dozens of review requests and only hear back from two bloggers. As an author, I respond to each and every author who wants to be featured on Authors to Watch. I might not respond to publicists, but I would NEVER ignore an author who contacts me directly because I know how badly it sucks to be ignored.

Authors, before you contact a reviewer or book blogger, please be mindful of their time. Bloggers are doing everything they can to help you. The majority of authors are polite, but many are not. Some bloggers (like me because I’m a pushover) will try to accommodate every author, even the rude ones, but most bloggers aren’t going to give you a second chance.

Every book blogger has their own rules and pet peeves. Here’s what really pushed me over the edge:

  • Rude authors: These are authors who, for whatever reason, lack in social skills. Maybe their intentions are good, but from reading their terse emails, it’s hard to tell. “This needs to be changed.” Or, “You need to add this link.” One-line emails or comments that make demands are not a nice way to address the book blogger who was up half the night fighting with their internet service in order to get your post formatted. If you need the book blogger to make changes, that’s fine. But be nice.
  • Demanding authors: If you see something that needs to be changed or added in your promotional post, most book bloggers are more than happy to help. ASK nicely. Don’t demand. Don’t email the book blogger repeatedly throughout the day, wondering why the link (that you provided incorrectly the first time, by the way) hasn’t been fixed yet. Book bloggers don’t spend their lives glued to their computers waiting on correspondence from you. When someone is doing something for you for free, you have no rights to make demands. Ask.
  • Entitled authors: While demanding authors are often perfectionists who can’t relinquish control over a blog that isn’t theirs, entitled authors make demands because they feel like everyone owes them unlimited time. Entitled authors are the only authors out there. They wrote a book, so the rest of us should bow down to them. As for the other authors out there, we pale in comparison to the entitled author. Entitled authors interview the book blogger ahead of time to make sure they’re worthy. They ask the book blogger how many page views they get per day and what they’re going to do to promote the post. The entitled author checks in with the book blogger throughout the day to make damned sure the blogger has promoted. “I didn’t see anything on Twitter yet.” The entitled author leaves nothing to chance. “You might want to mention that I placed runner-up in the Obscure Book Cover Award,” or, “You might want to change your post so that it shows my promotional price in bold letters” or, “You might want to Tweet again in the afternoon so more people see the post.”
  • Too busy to read the guidelines Authors: These are the authors who skim through the Contact Me page and grab your email without reading any of the guidelines. Never mind that the book blogger isn’t accepting reviews at this time. They email the blogger a copy of their book anyway and expect them to review by a deadline they set. They follow up with constant demands, asking when they can expect the review to post. Hmmm. How about never?
  • Ungrateful Authors: These are the authors who don’t bother to thank the blogger for their time. I guess this goes back to a sense of entitlement. Or maybe the author just got so busy, they forgot to send the blogger a quick email to thank them. Book bloggers aren’t looking for much, but a simple “thank you” goes a long way. That’s all we want.
For those of you who have been interviewed or reviewed on Authors to Watch, don’t worry! I do plan to renew the domain, so links to your reviews and interviews will stay intact. For those who have already set up an interview or book feature for October or November, have no fear. I will definitely follow through on posting and promoting your feature. (Hey, I even fixed a link and Tweeted while in the hospital.)

Don’t be surprised if I’m back to Authors to Watch in the new year when things settle down, but don’t be surprised if I’m not. Who knows what the future might bring? Just know that I’m still fully supportive of the author community and will help indie authors when I can. Be kind to book bloggers and to each other. And, most importantly, be kind to yourself. Your time is important. Don’t give it away to anyone.

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