It’s no secret that there’s been some recent (or depending on how you look at it, constant) blogging-world drama. There have been so many times where I’ve wanted to write a post in defense of book bloggers or explaining how blogger/author/publisher relationships work but this post isn’t about drama. The more we talk about drama, the more we perpetuate it and I’d rather focus on something happy and uplifting instead. After a full day of work, I spent some time catching up on tweets and blogging emails and I was renewed all over again when I thought of the wonderful people that I work and communicate with through this hobby.
When I first started my book blog back in 2012, I never once thought I would make friendships through this experience. I essentially wanted to start a blog to share book reviews (which I thought was the only thing books blogs posted… ha ha) and wanted a more personal platform on which to do that other than just writing down some feedback on Goodreads. I didn’t know what ARCs were. I didn’t know publishers sent out books for review. I didn’t know egalleys existed. And I never considered *gasp* meeting people in person that I had met through the internet. I truly started a book blog just to get reviews to people who were interested in a particular book in the hopes that it would help them. It was my way of giving back and helping out with my hobby. Now it’s four years later and yes, reading has changed me and helped me grow. I’ve helped people find some new books and I’ve shared tons of book reviews of all sorts… but that’s not what has changed my life the most for me as a book blogger. I actually had never given any thought that my life would change because of my blog. And I would have never guessed all that I would have forged all of these beautiful relationships that spanned far beyond a professional or sterile internet capacity.
This isn’t a love story. I didn’t meet my husband through blogging (although that would be super cute to have a bookish love story) but instead, it’s a story of those deep soul-bonds that form through friendships. People who were total and complete strangers from the other side of the country are now the people I spend all day texting, some of the first people I share my news with, the shoulders I cry on, and the bridesmaids in my wedding. It all started with a blog comment here, a shared fandom there, and our passion of books brought us together for some of the strongest friendships I’ve had in my life. I’ve told the story of my friendship with Alyssa and Amy many times on this blog (I’m always so thankful for it) but this post is about more than that. There’s a real sense of community that I tend to only express thankfulness for on holidays or anniversaries but despite the drama that is easily pushed into the spotlight, there’s a really, really strong community of people here and there are some truly amazing friendships formed through this hobby.
As a new round of #otspsecretsister closed last week, I spent some time scrolling through the hashtag on Twitter and I was so touched to see so many new friendships forged and promises to keep in touch even though their round as “sisters” were over. People have told us that they’ve found new friendships and I was actually able to meet two of these sisters at a book event. They came by to introduce themselves for us to meet in person because through #otspsecretsister, they formed a best friendship and because they happened to be relatively local to each other, they were even able to schedule meet-ups (like the book event) to actually spend some face-to-face time together too. It was one of the most amazing moments to have witnessed that! And aside from the Secret Sister program, I’m able to see so many incredible, close-knit friendships between bloggers that they might not have otherwise found without this passion. People from all over the country are finding not only their bookish soulmates but their soul friends, despite the miles between them, and it’s so incredible to watch those friendships in so many ways.
The blogger/publicist relationship can be incredibly tricky as well. I don’t think I quite realized what that job might entail until I started communicating with publicists (and even more so when I started my own Etsy shop and people started asking me for free things) and how sensitive that relationship might be. Certain publicist positions entail communicating with bloggers via social media and/or sending out emails to gather up blogger interest for things like blog tours, interviews, giveaways, and other sorts of promo. It’s easy to be on the blogger side where you see a constant stream of bloggers receiving ARCs or being invited to participate in a promotional event and ask “Why not me?”
I won’t get into the “how to get ARCs” discussion and no matter what your blogging status is (newbie, veteran, constant poster, or occasional reviewer), it never hurts to try your hand at requesting an ARC or expressing interest in an opportunity… but first and foremost, these publicists are here to do their jobs.
I think it’s easy for people in general to forget exactly how many people are requesting these things and the publicists need to pick people who have the most reach or may reach a unique market. I think this is the relationship in the book blogging community that has the greatest possibility to be easily abused because putting frankly, the whole reason why you contact a publisher is to get something from them. Again, this isn’t wrong — it is part of their job and sometimes it’s helpful to send in a request because they might not always be aware of new/different bloggers — but I feel it’s easy fall into a pattern of expecting something to be given to you and forgetting the person behind the opportunity. I know I’m not entitled to anything, no matter how many followers/likes/posts I have and a little kindness goes a long way so if I don’t get approved for something, I know it’s not a personal decision and think better luck next time. These publicists are working in a professional manner but I always try to remember the person behind the job. No matter the profession, I feel like it’s easy to forget the actual person you’re talking to on the other side of the internet.
Long story short, some of my relationships with publishing houses have turned into lovely friendships. They’re still mostly of a professional nature and I still treat them as such when discussing book promo things, but on two separate occasions today, I was touched by the personal conversations I’ve had with these amazing ladies. One took the time just to message me personally after I replied to her tweet, just to continue on our conversation. Another is from a publishing house that I work with quite a lot and we’ve always caught up at local events or book conferences with squeals and a big hug. They’re book people just like us and love flailing about things just like we do! It’s been lovely to get to know some of these ladies better and although our relationship is still professional, they really do care about the people they end up working with on a personal level. When I had to back out of doing an author interview at a book event due to a family emergency, the publicist gathered up her co-workers and mailed me a card to say hope all is well and we’re thinking of you. I was just so shocked at the kindness and even though it was just a card, I was so touched that they went out of their way to do that for me. We may work together on a professional level but the kindness and thoughtfulness are truly there.
Some people have scoffed on blogger/author relationships, saying it can’t possibly be genuine because the blogger “benefits” from the friendship with books and connections or whatever (I truly don’t even know) and while some blogger/author relationships may be more of a professional capacity (I think this is most) some people just connect on a personal level and end up truly forming a friendship. I know of quite a few cases where a blogger has started talking to an author because they’ve enjoyed their book and they just end up hitting it off. I’ve known bloggers & authors who have met up for drinks or meals or events, made time to see each other at conferences, even visited each other out of town. The internet makes it easy to really kick off that friendship and like many of my own blogging friendships, these bloggers and authors have just kept on talking and eventually become incredibly close! Authors are people too and they enjoy flailing about books or TV shows or relationships as much as the rest of us. I don’t personally have a friendship with an author like this but I do catch up with a few local authors when they have events or stop by the local bookstore. It’s wonderful to catch up and we usually talk about everything BUT books!
Personally, I’m a bit too chicken to talk to my favorite authors. I do tweet them sometimes and some have seen me at so many events (with so many foreign editions) that they actually recognize who I am (and I fall over)! But I’m usually too worried of coming off as creepy when I gush to them about their books haha! It’s always nice to be able to talk to authors on Twitter and it’s wonderful to be able to communicate with them directly. I love that social media has bridged that communication gap (although some people don’t handle that direct communication well, or don’t understand that authors can actually SEE negative tweets when they tag them… But again, another discussion that I wrote in my head and will never post). It’s so incredibly to not only stay updated on your favorite author’s works but also connect to them on a (bit more of a) personal level.
TELL ME YOUR STORY!
I’m assuming that most of my blog followers are fellow bloggers and that a lot of you already know these relationships but some of us have such different experiences with blogging/author interactions. I’d love to know your relationship story and how being a part of this community (whether you’re a blogger/reader/author) has changed your life! This started off as a sappy post about how much I treasure these relationships and I did still touch on that, but I also wanted to share a bit more on some of these professional relationships as well. I think there’s a lot to say on how the community functions. We really push each other to do our best work, live our best lives, and flail our best flails and I think that’s something truly special. I think we’re our best selves when surrounded by the people and doing things we love and what better place for us book nerds than this amazing community??
Let’s bypass the drama for a day and spend some time thinking about all the good things that this community has brought into our lives. Share your amazing story. Read the stories of others. Inspire someone. Give back. Perform a random act of kindness. Comment on a blog. Share someone else’s post. Let’s just reflect on the beauty of this community and maybe do a little something nice for those who have shaped something nice for you!