Hello Publishers…

‘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 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

34 thoughts on “Hello Publishers…”

  1. I want to say a giant Thank You to you for writing this post. I really hope as many book bloggers/reviewers and publishers read and understand this.

    Paid reviews do not equal to positive reviews. People who charge should not be shamed. Publishers need start offering monetary compensation to reviewers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I’m pretty sure it will be tough to be a young influencer and not end up trying to give a positive review (because there is a big chance publishers will not want that to happen again) my post actually is not about reviewers, more about advertising new books on our pages.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I saw your initial post on IG, then you elaborated on your point in this post after some people didnt get the message and I think you did a great job expressing yourself. I started my blog as a book blog & although I’m not 100% a book blog anymore, I still agree with your views. Love the piece!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. As you get thousands of replies via IG, I prefer to share my 5 Cents on here.

    Having been following Faroukh & having been seeing how much time & effort he particularly devotes to interacting with readers all around the globe, I’d like to start off by saying that probably, IF there is someone who can start a discussion like this – it’d be HIM!

    I would like to add a very different aspect here.
    I am a simple Reader. Someone who has a full-time job, a relationship, spend an evening with family once a week & also, tries to make time for my friends.

    IMO, the whole [ Publisher sends book for free &
    Opinion Leader on Social Media posts in return ]
    – concept, is becoming quite saturated.
    Was it in spring 2018? when I noticed that the majority of English-speaking accounts on IG which I follow, are reviewing books (ARCs) which they get sent by publishers, let’s say, in 85% of cases.

    For me, ARCs are interesting (upcoming releases) but how I would love to have it vice versa.
    85% of people reviewing their own choices of existing books – novels they would get from the library or at book sales. And perhaps, 15% of ARC or sent-by-publisher reviews.

    – WHY? –

    Because, even though, majority of reviewers is saying: This is an honest review,
    the fact that the publisher connection exists – that alone, adds something into the pot which isn’t there, when you discover a novel by yourself – whilst browsing a store or got it recommended by a fellow reader.
    Also – ARCs I cannot buy yet. Plus, they are expensive at the moment of release.

    I fully understand that publishers (with tons of book releases every quarter),
    love to use people’s love for reading in a way that they can make readers aware of their own publication amongst the sea of new releases.

    For me, on the very opposite end,
    I would rather like to learn about the preference of each person I am following:
    how she/he is choosing her/his novels, where she/he got the latest book, perhaps about novels not many people talk about, anymore …

    When I saw Faroukh sharing about this topic,
    I felt I wanted to add my personal view here.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you C for your time 😊I really appreciate it. There’s a lot to talk about but I’ll try to be brief so we can discuss one main thing about reviews. Currently I know it would open a can of worms if I said reviewers should be paid (Based on the negative reaction from a few people online for me just expecting compensation for my efforts). Some (and these are mostly bookstagrammers themselves) seem to think that paid Book Reviews will always mean a positive review. This is definitely a topic that needs to be discussed and understood. This happens with any product, be it a beauty brand or an accessory promoted online. My view is that my credibility is directly linked to what I showcase on my page. So even if one day I get a chance to review a book for which I’m paid I personally will not hesitate to take the offer if I feel like it’s a book I would like to read. The review will be unbiased (at least for me) and I’m pretty sure that people who follow me will know if I’m being honest or not, that’s a risk that I’ll have to take on my own. My thoughts on paid book reviews are still in their infancy but I think I’ll need to gather them together and probably if I think Bookstagram is ready for it, post about it. 😊

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you, for taking the time to reply.
        I fully, see and understand your point here. When you share a review on Instagram, it is viewed and read and considered by thousands of readers. This might be more effective and (in those cases where you really enjoy the book) much more helpful in terms of sales compared to any other expensive marketing campaign – from publishers’ perspective.

        Basically, what you would like to see is that this way of: honest campaign (honest because reviewers are asked to share their honest review on social media) being paid.
        It has taken you years to build up the followers & to reach the status in terms of: book opinion leader for a certain community. When a publisher asks you to post an honest review, the publisher is indirectly “making use” of what you have established over time.

        The problem here IMO, lies in Accounting part of the publishers business.
        The money paid to reviewers would have to appear as: paid service. Were this in Austria, you would have to issue an official Invoice to the publisher for your service, so the publisher can use this as payment receipt for their accounting systems. (Put simply, otherwise – this amount appears as: missing without corresponding receipt.)

        Giving a product away for free is one thing – once actual money/payment is involved, it becomes difficult (from business perspective).

        Liked by 2 people

  4. So, I am a small potatoes blog. I don’t think about getting paid for reviews even for the ones I’m requested to read. I actually had (Maybe still do?) negative associations with the idea of being paid by publishers for reviews.

    But again, I a very small blog. This post has opened up my mind to more positive associations with being paid to blog. Maybe as this discussion continues through the book community, I can get my thoughts in better order.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You’ve said this so well! I agree on all three! These are just few of the things that the community doesn’t usually discuss and prefers to turn a blind eye on. But I’m glad there are influencers and content creators like you who are not afraid to put forward your thoughts. Yes, free books should definitely not be a kind of payment. If they’re being sent, it’s because the publishers or authors genuinely want content being created around that book. So when campaigns and stuff are being proposed, I don’t find anything wrong in being incentivized. Loved reading this post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! Well unfortunately there are many who will continue working for the publishing industry for free just somehow to show their ‘love’ for books. Anyways, let’s see if there are any changes, I honestly doubt it though…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I honestly doubt it too! I guess people are more into a ‘creating content for fun and because I love books’ attitude and unless such content creators themselves don’t understand how under-priced they are, nothing can change drastically.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Only read few sentences and I found them somehow arrogant. Personally, i would think the best gifts /or ways to be paid are books. Not everything is about money.
    Wishing you the best of luck. Just choose ur words wisely…


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