January 31, 2016

Bloggers to Authors: Where Do You Cross the Line?

My darlings, you may think I'm deep in hibernation, but I assure you, it's not the case ;).

NOT ME
For one, I'm reading my new shiny books and having a blast so far. Two down, eight to go! Though you might say I'm savouring them, as opposed to swallowing the whole pack in a hunger frenzy.
Secondly, I'm bursting with blog ideas, which seem to have a penchant for haunting me when I happen to wake up in the middle of the night. I might as well get up and write my blog posts then, because I swear, they would be enchanting. Too bad I love my bed even more than I love my books and music (I'm not even kidding), so, come morning, I'm left with a bunch of awesome ideas (because luckily, they seem to stick, at least for the most part), but I've lost the equally awesome wording I had come up with during those night interludes. I should probably write the stuff down on a piece of paper at least, but again, my bed is king.

BED IS HEAVEN. PERIOD
Anyway, I was working on my Black Knight review yesterday, but made a point to get distracted by some pleasant errands, not to mention Twitter thought I'd better take care of a few other things first. So, after my usual Goodreads and Twitter routine, I explored a handful of links, came up with some author questions for a blog post, emailed said questions, saved new favourites and documents on a pendrive, then got wild and emailed Christopher Pike. I had a question about Black Knight (or better, the whole Witch World series) that I wanted to take off my chest before actually reviewing the book...plus I added a couple more things. To my utter amazement, I got a reply less than 90 minutes after. Picture me wowed. As usual when it comes to his interactions with fans, Mr. Pike was polite and exhaustive (despite keeping it short), but didn't go out of his way to be what you'd call friendly. It's understandable, I guess, in his position. Though I would have liked him to say a word or two about the page I dedicated to his work on my blog (I sent him the link). Just the "thanks" word, you know. He didn't even need to actually go there and take a look. On the other hand, again, I suppose he has to be wary of giving too much rope to perfect strangers. I think he actually scared himself when he wrote Master of Murder LOL.

I'M WATCHING YOU
Now, you might think I'm digressing, but I'm not. Well, not that much. Because the whole emailing-Christopher-Pike thing is somehow related to the topic I'm bringing you today. [...]
Like I said, I'm not friends with Christopher Pike. Not even close. I only talked to him a couple of times on Wattpad prior to yesterday's email, and I'm sure he forgot me as soon as he finished replying to my messages/comments. Then again, I doubt any fan is friends with him, with the possible exception of the guys who created his Facebook page and are still taking care of it to this day. Pike aside, I wonder how many authors are friends with the people who read their books and promote them and swoon over them - unless they know one another in real life, that is.
Now, a few days ago I read the insightful discussion post by Sophia from Bookwyrming Thoughts, titled What the Fudge Is a Celebrity/Popular Blogger? (which if you haven't read already, I strongly encourage you to). Among other things, Sophia mentions another post appeared on Nick & Nereida's Infinite Booklist - and if you have a few minutes to spare, please read it too (unless you already have, because from what I gathered, it accidentally caused a bit of commotion on Twitter...go figure), since it inspired today's post.
OK, so, in short, the article in question - among other things - mentions those bloggers who act like they're all buddy-buddy with authors, constantly talk about/to them, tag them on Twitter and stuff. Which got me thinking. Because, while I don't think I'm guilty of such behaviour - since everything I do is in the authors' interest, and out of genuine enthusiasm...not in order to secure ARC copies of their books or to get into their virtual pants - I understand that not everyone may see it that way. Namely those people who come across my posts/tweets by chance and don't really know me. (If knowing someone online is truly possible...but that's a whole different story).

THAT'S NOT ME WITH ONE OF MY AUTHORS
I've had several interactions with authors (I mean emails or private exchanges) in my short blogging life. Some of them I seeked out, some reached out to me themselves. Some I actually proposed to as a reviewer, and out of those who replied (let's say, 80% roughly), a couple (20% roughly) did have their publisher sending me an ARC, or explained to me how to secure an advanced copy via other channels, because they thought my blog - small as it was/is - was a good fit. Which made me feel guilty as hell when the books came, and I didn't enjoy them as much as I though I'd have. I felt guilty because I had contacted the authors directly (them being debut authors from small presses, I though I'd have a better chance) and out of real expectations for their books, and they went out of their way to make sure I got a copy, so I felt like an ungrateful brat for not loving said books as much as I thought I would...and (I should probably keep this to myself, because it might ruin my reputation/credibility as a blogger, but see how honest I am), I went out of my way myself in order to sugarcoat my reviews just a little, even giving said books the additional half star.
I still feel guilty as hell, also because of all the other books I honestly rated such and such.
So, to keep a long story short, I resolved NOT to approach authors directly anymore - unless it's for a question about their books, or to compliment them on the ones I have enjoyed.

I REGRET NOTHING. BUT STILL
Then, there are the authors I do have interactions with to this day, because we have a history. Only, we're not "friends". Let's drop a couple of names, because why not.
You all know I'm a huge fan of B.C. Johnson. I first messaged him on Goodreads as far back as 2013, with a question about his first novel. He replied with a warm and thorough message. The novel in question, Deadgirl, had been around for only a short while before his publisher collapsed and the book itself became unavailable. But Mr. Johnson was working hard at being on the market again, and all the time he was doing that, I found myself campaigning for his book and - with my scarce resources - doing my best to support him, just because I thought it was a shame that his book was out of print and he hadn't a publishing house anymore. I wasn't fishing for ARCs. I wasn't trying to become his friend (for the record, I'm 19 years his senior, so it would probably be awkward LOL). I was just following my book-loving guts. Also, I thought (still think) he was a great guy who deserved a new chance. So I was really happy when he announced he had a new contract, and his book (completed with sequels) would hit the market again.
After a while, Mr. Johnson asked if I was interested in reviewing another book of his (this one self-published for a number of reasons), and I said yeah, sure, I'd love to. That would be The Bad Rescue of Devon Streeter. I was actually a little scared of maybe not liking it as much as Deadgirl, but I ended up falling in love with it too, to the same extent. I didn't talk myself into it. Again, a gut thing. (And If you're wondering why I boosted up Deadgirl's rating from the original 4.5 to 5, blame it on my guts again. I know one is not supposed to go back and change ratings, but after reading several books in these latest three years, I finally realised that some of them are too precious for my nitpickiness to take over. I did the same thing with Luna-C by Jutta Goetze, just so you know).
Now, what with the Deadgirl sequel coming up, I'm at it again. Talking about the books, because yes, they're worth it. Mentioning B.C. Johnson or tagging him on Twitter, because this is my oh-so-small-blog mission: to bring good books and worthy authors to everyone's attention.

THE WORLD'S GOT TO KNOW
Another pretty intense interaction I've been having with writers involves Erin Callahan and Troy H. Gardner, authors of the Mad World series (in progress). Erin contacted me in 2013 with review purposes, and I truly appreciated how she had taken the time to peruse my blog and take my book preferences into account before she asked. Now, I gave the first Mad World book Wakefield 3 stars, because as much as I appreciated it on the whole, I had a few issues with it, mainly the pace. I upped my rating to 3.5 stars for the second installment Tunnelville, because I found it stronger and more action-y. I rated the third book Perfection 4 stars because things had started to heaten up by then. But ever since my first review, Erin and Troy have been respectful of my opinion and happy with my insight of their books (which is not the same thing as giving them a number of stars).
Since I've joined Twitter, both Erin and Troy have been following me, and me them of course. While the one I've been directly talking with all this time is Erin, I also interact with Troy on there if there's a reason I find valid - or even amusing - enough. I make a point to be their cheerleader, because again, I think they're worthy, and super-nice. Also, Erin honoured me with her trust a few months ago when she asked if I were up for beta-reading her first solo project (among other people of course). I was happy to read a new book, yes - but first of all, I was happy to help. To be trusted. To act as a sounding board (again, among other people). To be able to participate in someone's creative project, if from a distance. And no, I'm not going to rate the final outcome a million stars just because I did all this. I only will if I think it fit. I'm sure Erin knows, just like Troy knows, just like B.C. knows. I'm not their buddy, even when I talk with them in private, or one of them (that would be Erin) comments on my blog. I never ask about their kids or their day jobs, or even if it's cold or hot in their corner of the world. It's not because I don't care - it's because I want to go on promoting their books and rating them as honestly as I can. Doing what I felt driven to do since the day I started my blog. We may have fun together because of a pun one of us made, or wish one another a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, whatever. And I do think they are great guys with whom I could probably talk about a million things, regardless of my being just a tiny bit older than they are ;D. But I do my best not to cross the line, and they do the same, and you know? it's the way it should be. It feels right.

YEAH. THAT
Now, I don't really think that the post I linked to above (Nick and Nereida's confessions) applies to me. But it made me reconsider some things I do out of sheer enthusiasm, and how they could - maybe - be misinterpreted. I should probably find a way around them. I don't want people to think I'm a fake. I don't want them to think the authors I promote are a fake. Godness forbid all my efforts should backfire. So I'm going to be just a little bit more cautious with my posts/tweets from now on. Assuming that I can...Because let's face it, it's not easy. Enthusiasm, remember? The strong pull towards making a small difference for "my authors" - maybe once, maybe one day. The consuming desire of letting the world know they exist, and they are worth a chance. But then again, I don't want this thing to backfire, so there. I have still so much to learn in this game called book blogging.

EVEN THE GREATEST FALL, TONY
So, well, this was kind of an essay. Or a whole dictionary ;D. Please bear with me. It's your turn now...Because I want to know: when promoting books or interacting with authors, where do you draw the line that shouldn't be crossed? Are you particularly close to any authors (and don't worry, we don't need names LOL)? Do you think - and please, be honest! - that a behaviour like mine can be misinterpreted by an occasional reader? Thank you and get wild now! :D

12 comments:

  1. Awesome post, Roberta. Though I have no idea how, the ethics of book blogging honestly never occurred to me before. Probably in part because I'm not a blogger myself, but also because you're one of the few bloggers I interact with regularly and I never expect you to be anything less than honest with me when it comes to my writing. I take your honesty as a given and that's the main reason why I trusted you to beta-read my solo project. And when you don't like something about a book, you don't just say, "Eh, I didn't like it." You dig deep and pinpoint the weak spots. You let an author know exactly what worked and what didn't.

    So thank you for cheerleading (seriously, your support is invaluable), and, also, thank you for helping me become a better writer. I'm so glad I found your blog back in 2013 (can't believe it was that long ago -- time flies!).

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    1. I'm sure there are many others like me, you probably just haven't met them yet :). But being the kind of person you are in regards to your approach to readers/reviewers, I'm sure the longer you'll go on writing, the more you will. What I know is, I'm so glad WE met. Even book bloggers need cheerleaders sometimes :). A million thanks!

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  2. I was trying to sort out how I felt before I left a comment because I understand both sides.

    I am real life friends with one author (more than internet friends), beta read for two and interact with several via twitter.

    I've also seen people gush and squee on Twitter and it does irk me at times but mostly because that's not my personality. Not a judgement on them or their reasons. I'm just not big on hype overall.

    And I've seen really nice people turn into book grabbing, green eyed monsters because of books/blogging.

    Personally, I don't really care how anyone views my convos or support of a book. I know that I'm honest. If you've read my reviews over the years - you'll know that I do both negative and positive reviews - some of those were for authors that I chat with. They're either ok with it or they're not. I always disclose if I was a beta reader for a book I'm reviewing.

    I can only live by own code (I sound like an outlaw blogger lol) and I can't help how people want to interpret every move I make. There's a lot of that going around. I don't think anyone truly knows what someone else is thinking when they post.

    For example when I go to BEA, people ask me to post book haul pics because they enjoy them but other people think it's bragging and unfollow me.

    I guess my view on it is that I do my own thing in a way that feels comfortable to me, respect others who do it differently and understand that anything on-line is optional. You don't need to read/follow anyone who does things that annoy you.

    The only actions I can control are my own. *shrugs*

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    1. You are always the wise one :). I was looking forward to your contribution because I knew about the friendship you mentioned, and your beta-reading activities. I understand where you're coming from, and in real life I tend to have a couldn't-care-less attitude about, well, a lot of things. The difference here is that it's not only about me. I'm afraid to damage the authors I'm trying to help if I try too hard. I was thinking that, probably, I could get away with it if I posted consistently about a bunch of different things, but since I rarely post more than 3 times per month, if every month I'm talking about the same authors (and I tag them on Twitter every time I mention them in a post), it might sound shady. Then again, like you said, one only has control over what one does.

      Thank you!

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    2. That's true but didn't we start our blogs to gush and book-push the authors we love? I've downloaded books you've featured because of your enthusiasm. I trust your opinion even if I don't always agree or have the same taste in books all the time.

      I think the risk is more over saturation than credibility.Like with book blitzes etc - instead of buying a book I see 100 times in my timeline I rebel and won't buy it because I get sick of hearing about it. It's a fine line I guess.

      But I tend to view things differently so what turns me off gets everyone else excited soooo...

      Bottom line is it's making me tired hearing everyone judging/questioning other people's motives based on a post or online interactions. It could be sucking up or it could be genuine enthusiasm. I just ignore people who don't align with what I enjoy.

      And the *celebrity blogger* thing totally baffles me. I know several of the people mentioned as celebrity bloggers in posts and to me - they're avid readers just like everyone else and they go through reading/blogging slumps, almost throw in the towel because of burn out...Sure they have a bigger following but I still don't get why that matters.

      I think I've been around so long that I don't give a sh*t anymore lol

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    3. Haha, when someone wants to show something down my throat, or everyone seems to do the same thing, I rebel too. And thank you - maybe you haven't gotten round to read them yet, but the simple fact that you downloaded a book or two just because you trusted my opinion gives this little space I created on the net a purpose. You know, I don't think I'd enjoy being a "celebrity" in the blogging field, because I couldn't cope with the status and the extra attention. (It's the same thing with my job: I'm a small host in a small radio station, which is frustrating for a bunch of reasons, but at least it lets me breathe and doesn't put me in the spotlight...). But I'm sad to be a very small fish in the sea for the main reason that I can't be of more service to "my" writers and "my" books. Then again, when someone like you says they trust my opinion, or someone like Erin above says I was able to help somehow, I feel like it wasn't all for nothing...

      Thank you for always being there for me! :*

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  3. Hmm, I really had to think before I typed my response up. I am friendly with authors I've met at book signings, and interact on Twitter with a few- but, no I wouldn't consider them friends (although one of my friends is going to be a 2017 debut author, so then I can say I am truly friends with a published author). I rarely tweet an author, although I will occasionally tag them if I gave a positive review. When I do this, I never, ever, ever expect a response. A lot of my tweets to authors usually involve a response to something they've tweeted- and again I don't expect a response. Hell, I'm not super popular on Twitter and even I miss direct tweets sometimes.

    Sometimes I feel bad for modern day authors, who are expected to engage with readers through social media, because honestly that sounds like trying to tiptoe through a minefield. It's weird, because there's few other careers where you're expected to promote yourself (and not just your work). I just try to be careful to never cross over into Annie Wilkes from Misery territory. ;)

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    1. I suppose the line between authors and readers can get a little muddled nowadays, what with the social media interactions we have...also because, when one tags an author but does it so that everyone on Twitter can see it, someone might think they're going to show off/butter them up. On the other hand, I do think it's only natural to tweet about a review or a promo post or the simple appreciation of a book and ALSO tag the author in the process. Like I said, the only problem with that (IMO) might ensue with constant posts/tweets aimed at the same authors. Someone MIGHT suspect there's a secret pact between said authors and their more dedicated fans/reviewers. Since I only interact with a few, that possibility got me thinking :/.

      LOL, it's true what you say about the social media engagement. I think that Christopher Pike is terrified of us ;D (joking?).

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  4. I am not particularly close to any authors, but I have survived some encounters with them. I try to avoid being biased toward any author, and for me that includes not becoming "best friends" with them. I want to keep my credibility solid and my reviews objective. I do not think that is entirely possible if you are close friends with an author.
    I do believe that it is perfectly fine to talk to authors via social media, but there is a line that should not be crossed, like you said. Unfortunately, it is extremely hard to see that line until after you have crossed it. Tweeting to authors and occasionally getting into conversations is fine, but you cannot let your relationship with them get in the way of honest blogging and reviewing.

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    1. Quote:
      "...unfortunately, it is extremely hard to see that line until after you have crossed it".
      Very profound. Sometimes it's just out of enthusiasm...but it's a trap anyone can fall into.

      You have "survived" some encounters with them? LOL. I wonder what happened! I have to say I've only had nice experiences with the ones I talked to, so far. But I suppose I was lucky, or I've simply talked to too few of them!

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  5. I wouldn't worry too much about this. You know your motives, and unless someone is directly accusing YOU of something, I'd just assume they're talking about someone else and move on ... otherwise you can go crazy second-guessing yourself, you know? I don't see anything wrong with interacting with authors, honestly. Fans interact with authors all the time, so why should you have to avoid it because you're a blogger. I DO see how you might want to stop specifically requesting books from authors if you feel like it's influencing your ratings (that IS a tough territory to navigate), but other than that, I wouldn't stress about it. :-)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Thank you Nicole - it means a lot to me to be validated by someone whose blog is, more or less, as old as mine, but who is, no doubt, a more experienced blogger than I am (judging from your follower and review count!).

      It's not like I thought someone was talking about me in that discussion, because really, I'm sure they don't even know me! It just made me think. The only thing I'm concerned about is coming across as a reliable source of bookish enthusiasm, you know. Sometimes I feel like even tweeting about a book two times in a row could be mistaken for an attempt to attract the author's attention - like "Hey! see, I'm trying to help you sell your book. Now follow me please!". But like you say, I'm probably overthinking it LOL.

      Thanks again!

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