Gabe Chouinard, prompted by this article on SF Diplomat, has started a bit of a wildfire in the blogosphere. This time the subject at hand is whether or not folk like me should get paid for what we do.

One recurring prompt in the reviewer/blogger discussion has been the factor of fatigue in maintaining a review blog. Some review bloggers have pointed out the distinction that reviewing is a hobby, but often and increasingly feels like work. I can’t argue with that; indeed, though this blog is only a month old, the labor of it is already telling.

As mentioned above, I think we’ve seen already that online reviews are sustainable. Beyond the paying outlets Jonathan champions, there is a vibrant community of bloggers that has expanded rapidly in the past few years. And while maintaining a review blog may not be sustainable for individual bloggers, it seems that for every review blog that comes to an end, three more pop up to take its place. This reviewosphere isn’t going anywhere.

So what can make it sustainable for individual reviewers?

When Jonathan suggests ARCs and review copies “aren’t enough”, I think he’s right. Anyone devoting the time and intensive labor to maintain a review blog that serves a worthwhile purpose (that is, one which gains traffic) deserves a little extra scratch on the side. To think otherwise is downright demeaning. And the truth is, there are ways of earning money off a blog.

Maybe I’m digging myself a hole by saying this, and maybe I’m pissing someone off by suggesting bloggers perform a service for publishers and readers that deserves payment. I hope not; I’d hate to suddenly flounder out here alone, with no relationships with the various publishers. But I wonder, is that a realistic fear? I somehow doubt it. And it’s just that unrealistic fear which drives review bloggers to burn out.

Aside from Gabe and SF Diplomat a few other bloggers have felt obliged to comment:

Galley Cat
Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist
OF Blog of the Fallen
Westeros Forums

My own take?

An anonymous commentor on Gabe’s blog made a comment that summed things up pretty well,

“Being read is a privilege. People spend time reading your blog while there are thousands others…”

Essentially a lot of what we do, with regards to publishers and authors, is publicity. Free publicity. To that end, the publishers, in a sense, owe us more than we owe them, regardless of how many free books they might send us. As soon as someone starts to pay you, they

I work for myself, and only myself. Unless a publisher wants to officially hire me to run their blog, I certainly don’t want to be receiving money for them and having to deal with the fallout associated with that. I’m happy as a pig-in-shit about being my own boss, and wouldn’t want it any other way.

Thoughts? Should I be swimming through piles of coin, Scrooge McDuck-style? or does the poverty driven struggle of blogging make us better at the job?

  • SQT July 29, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Like I said on Larry’s blog, I doubt you’ll see paid reviewing. I just think too many wannabe reviewers will pop up and offer to do it for free if we start asking for a fee. The only way I can see paid reviewing is if a blog ends up being a huge in its own right and publishers are willing to pay to get on that particular blog.

  • Gabe July 29, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Yet, there’s ads right beneath the text of your post. So I think it’s safe to say you’re not averse to getting paid for blogging?

  • aidan July 29, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Gabe, you’re absolutely right that I’m not opposed to something like Google ads and, like you, I try to click on them as much as I can. But (there’s always a ‘but’), I certainly don’t look at them as anything other than a small way to help pay for hosting each month.

    In fact, I used to have more google ads, but got rid of them because I didn’t like how they cluttered up the interface (and liked the Twitter feed better!)

    I don’t have a problem with neutral third parties providing some sort of payment (like Google), but I do start to feel a little uncomfortable when I start seeing obvious publisher advertisement on these blogs. I certainly don’t feel at ease as I see more and more of Pat’s blog being taken up by advertisements… for books and publishers he’s been reviewing and working with.

    Even if it’s unintentional and subconcsious, it could lurk in the back of the reviewers mind that the publisher is helping pay the bills… and that’s never a good thing for objectivism.

  • Thea July 29, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Interesting article–and a subject that my blog partner Ana and I discuss at length. I’m of the opinion that charging for reviews just isn’t feasible. Like SQT says above, as soon as you do that, you’ll probably find yourself without any material. Or readers, for that matter. There’s always gonna be someone that will do it for free.

    Getting paid for blogging would be great, sure. But getting money in the form of ads from publishers or charging for reviews seems both unfeasible and a slippery slope when it comes to objectivism (as Aidan says). If there were some other, non-compromising and practical way to make income off of review blogs, I’d be all for it.

  • James (Speculative Horizons) July 30, 2008 at 3:17 am

    I’ve posted my own thoughts over at Speculative Horizons, but just to briefly reiterate:

    I blog because I love the genre, and I enjoy writing reviews and conducting interviews. While it does take quite a bit of time and effort to keep the blog running, the fact I get free books more than makes up for that (although the enjoyment I get from knowing that people actually bother to read what I write is payment enough).

    Ultimately, maybe we do offer free publicity for publishers, but only to a limited audience. This doesn’t have much impact at all on book sales, so why should publishers feel obliged to pay us?

    In any case, the minute publishers start paying bloggers for reviews the whole blogosphere will collapse. It just won’t work. Publishers would never be dumb enough to adopt this method anyway, as there will always be bloggers willing to do reviews just for an ARC.

  • […] for SF review bloggers and sites from publishers. (See OF Blog of the Fallen, Antick Musings, A Dribble of Ink, Rob’s Blog o’Stuff, Walker of Worlds.) McCalmont originally […]

  • gav (NextRead) July 31, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    My initial thought is that you’d have to prove that you have enough influence on book buyers that you’re comments and reviews help shift copies. And if you did get paid as a reviewer would that influence how readers of your blog see you and your recommendations.

    How could you be value for money and independent? Maybe readers should pay to read a blog or two so that ‘we’ have more time to read and review more!