Guiltless Reading Confessions: Would you go pro?

  • Monday, September 02, 2013

Guiltless Reading Confessions is a new feature where I can blabber about bookish things, bloggy things, and generally just speak my mind. I warn you, this is mostly just "streams of consciousness" so please don't nitpick. Feel free to jump in with your own two cents. I look forward to chatting with you! 
I'm linking up my confessions to "Lets Discuss" hosted by Oh Chrys! and The Fiction Conniption. Don't forget to check out more bookish discussions!

How much time do you spend on your blog? If you're a book blogger like me, you probably spend quite a bit of time reading, writing reviews, participating in memes, emailing back and forth with authors and publishers and publicists, designing (and re-designing) your blog, tweeting ... and that's just the tip of the iceberg. 

Yes, it's fun. But admit it... who wouldn't want a few bucks in their pocket? 

I've been contemplating the whole professional (or "pro") blogging gig. There are some out there who have not only monetized their blogs but are actually blogging full time. Tons of mommy bloggers do it. Are there any book bloggers who are pro, I wonder?

But I worry. 

Will I just lose my mojo? If this becomes a "job," will I inadvertently suck out the enjoyment I get out of it? Right now, I blog when I feel like it. I don't want the pressure of having to blog. The spontaneity of blogging is what makes this fun for me!

I also worry about perception: who wants to read reviews written by someone who is paid to read and review books? Will people think that my reviews are positive because I was paid to make them positive? Is there any credibility in paid reviews? I know this is probably a whole other discussion, but just the tinge of being paid to write book reviews sends shudder down my spine. Let's discuss ...

So here's the thing. I've dabbled in a few monetizing schemes here on the blog. But for the most part, the idea of actually turning a profit from this hobby of book blogging seems to be a losing proposition. At the least I make a few bucks that could mean a new book, or contribute to my monthly internet bill.  

Affiliate programs - probably the most popular for book bloggers are the obvious. Raise your hand if you're an affiliate of Amazon.com, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble. Now raise your hand if you made more than $10 in the past month (and this was probably the result of yourself purchasing a book through your link?)

Google ads - I used to have some but the clicks are minimal and what it brings in, virtually non-existent. I'm actually thinking they're more trouble than they're worth. 

Other ad services - I've seen quite a few who have been serving paid ads on their blogs. I wonder at how much this actually generates (some popular services are Blog AdsPassion Fruit Ads). I can see this being attractive to authors and publicists in high traffic blogs, but with so many book bloggers out there, competition is fierce for those authors/publicists willing to shell out the dough.
As I haven't really gone all out on any of these strategies, I probably haven't maximized the monetization possibilities.

So tell me, book bloggers, is monetization something you are actively pursuing? What do you think about pro book blogging? Would you go self-employed, part-time, or even look for corporate blogging opportunities?

Authors, what are your thoughts of book bloggers who offer paid ads or paid services? What do you think of pro book bloggers?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

25 comments

  1. I already have a job and I'm not interested in turning blogging into another one. I do this for fun.

    I don't like it when I see paid ads on blogs or other personal sites (or anywhere else, really). I feel like if you're running a site, it's your responsibility to pay the bills. Everyone's situation is different, though, so if that's what you need to do, go for it. I have ad blockers in place so I probably block a lot of ads anyway.

    I was an Amazon affiliate years ago when I had a TV fansite and I rarely made much, except for a few months right after a DVD set of the show was released. You don't (or didn't at the time) make anything from your own purchases. Most people just go straight to Amazon instead of heading to their favorite site first. I know there are a few sites I would support with my Amazon purchases if I remembered -- but I never do. It wouldn't hurt to try it, though, and I don't mind Amazon affiliate links.

    I couldn't do Amazon anymore if I wanted to. They kicked me out of the program due to my state's tax laws. They still send me an email every few months telling me I didn't make anything though!

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    1. You and me both, Jenna. Working already and turning a blog into more work -- maybe not. I hope I haven't turned you off with my ads which you're probably not seeing anyways :)

      Too bad about your experience with Amazon. But you're right about most people just going directly to the site.

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  2. I think it's harder for book bloggers. The most professional gal I know is Parajunkee. You should check with her.

    Do you have any particular mommy blogs that inspired you?

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    1. Parajunkee has a lot to offer though including book tours and design services so I suspect that it really needs to be a combination of things that one offers.

      No specific mommy blogs but I do notice that whole communities are dedicated to pro Mommy Bloggers! I sort of envy that :) The fashion and beauty niches are also heavy on ads and they've got quite the niche in Passion Fruit Ads (just an observation).

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  3. One of the most common searches that leads people to my blog is "How do book bloggers make money." They're not going to find the answer on my blog, which I do entirely as a hobby, but it's definitely an interesting question. I can see why some bloggers would want to be paid to write reviews, but it probably would take a toll on the blogger's credibility and would dictate content. At this point, I don't even accept free copies of books. I just didn't have the time to get back to authors and I didn't like feeling obligated to read certain books.

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    1. That was probably me :P (Kidding!) I certainly agree on a lot of your points. It's tricky to maintain your objectivity i you're paid to write a review! Wow, I am impressed you don't accept books to review!

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  4. Oh god, I wish I could make some money blogging! Or make it a full time thing... but I would need enough $$$ to pay my $1,500 monthly rent plus expenses. Would that be even possible?

    So far I am just happy with the free books I get once in a while for reviewing. For instance, this morning I opened my email to find an email from NetGalley notifying me that I was pre-approved for a book. I felt like... I was almost famous! Why would they pre-aproved me for a book I didn't even know existed?

    I wouldn't take money to review books, though. When I hate a book I say so (see my review of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, for example), and I don't think it would right to write that way if I'm getting paid. I would be forced to just say that the book wasn't my type without calling pure crap (if that is what it felt like).

    Okay, I'm going to stop now because, apparently, I making your post my own :-)

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    1. I felt like I was famous as well when I get pre-approved for books! It's like YES THEY NOTICED ME!!!

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    2. Lectus, feel free to keep going. I think this discussion is going quite well since I've never really had discussion posts on this blog before!

      Interesting points! I read your review of Statistical Probabity -- hahahahaha. I don't think the author would pay you anything.

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  5. I have been through all the options you list above and the income is negligible!I think the only way to make money is to host blog tours but more and more of those are popping up everyday so the competition is tough!

    I'm happy with keeping this a hobby. I feel like it would become a chore if it was something I had to do

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    1. I've been really selective about blog tours now. I can see how authors would jump at the chance but hosting quality blog tours obviously will take a lot of work!

      I slowly dropped out of many blog tours because:
      (1) content is mostly canned and I hate seeing the same post whereever I go (and the book blogging world isn't THAT big)... sure it gets the word out, but a little effort in variety won't hurt the book or the author!
      (2) Many tours feel so impersonal! I've hosted authors and bec. it's hosted through a 3rd party, many authors don't even visit their hosts, which just makes me sad bec. the whole blogger-author dynamic is so much fun!

      But yeah, that's another topic!

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  6. I'm a full-time blogger. It's not easy, you have to stay on top of all the rules from Google, FB and so on. Not ot mention what you get is income earned, so it goes against your taxes. Making you a little more on top of your dealings. Be choosy if monetizing your blog. Only advice I have.

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    1. Sound advice Freda! There are tons of rules! I've not "made" any money so nothing to report :)

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  7. I don't like it when I go to a blog and it has a ton of really obvious ads (yours are relatively subtle - not stuck in the middle of your main section). I have just started editing and figure that my my blogging contacts will most likely be able to help me with that, but I'm not directly trying to make money blogging. Good luck with whatever you decide!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Good luck with the editing work! I suspect there are lots of authors who would like a fresh set of eyes on their work!

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  8. I've started monetizing my blog by becoming an Amazon and TBD affiliate. But I don't think that its earning would substantial. I have a full time job and although I am really tempted to quit my job and have blogging as a job, I don't think my earnings from that would feed me. There are some bloggers who found success with blogging though like Giselle of Xpresso Reads. But that's because she has a lot to offer. She has a book tour company, she offers blog designing services and a lot more.

    Also, I have come across this blogger, Jen of Iheartorganizing (it's not really a book blog but a blog nonetheless) who said that blogging is not only her hobby but her full time job as well. I think she's really doing well because she exchange her daycare job for blogging. But man, if you have seen her blog, it's just awesome. I am not an organized person but I love reading her blog. She has google adsense, amazon, affiliation from various DIY companies, sponsors and an e-commerce store on Etsy. But before she achieved that, she worked hard to be featured on these and those blogs or network shows.

    One more thing, some of these pro-bloggers also use Youtube to monetize their content. What I mean is that they do not solely rely with their blog to earn money but they also create quality content on YT to earn the $.

    Bottom line is, follow your heart. Because these bloggers that I've mentioned surely found their niches on the blogosphere. :D

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    1. Thanks for the heads up, I'll check out Jen's blog! Totally agree with you advice ... thanks for contributing to the discussion!

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  9. I would love to make money off of my blog. Sadly, I feel like I would be selling my soul. I give pretty honest, and sometimes swear-filled reviews that I just don't think profit is in the future.

    I've tried with adsense and amazon affiliates, but the whole $3 I make a month from those do seem like its more trouble than its worth... And truth be told, if I went 'pro' I'd probably end up perfoming unknown fraud because of some small fine print detail.

    Kendra @ Champange and Books

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    1. Swear-filled can be fun :) I'm going to prowl around on your blog for those!

      It can be complicated!. Definitely requires some in-depth study.

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  10. I actually think that book review bloggers are the real professionals in the book critique world. The numbers of authors are equally 1/2 male and 1/2 female. However the so called professional reviewers are nearly 80% male and 75% of the books given the so called professional review are written by men. If this doesn't seem backwards it gets even better. The reason given for this lopsided ratio is that men don't usually buy books written by women, hence why many women will publish under a different name (a male name). Drum roll please... however women buy more books than men in every genre with the exception of science fiction.

    So we have so called professional reviews of books that are targeted at a segment of the market that doesn't buy books. Is it really that great of a mystery why the publishing industry is struggling? These reviews are also little more than paid advertising disguised as opinion. I'm an avid reader of the Wall Street Journal and enjoy the reviews of books, however without exception every single book I have read based on a review there has been a disappointment.

    I'll make the case even stronger as my father in-law purchased the book Custer by Larry McMurty based on a professional review from the Wall Street Journal. The book was garbage and most all of the reviews with the exception of the big names New York Times, USA Today, LA Times, etc... thought this book was also garbage. What I found particularly interesting were the reviews by book review bloggers or people who had a passion for this subject, they really really really disliked this book. Now who do you think is telling the truth, the Wall Street Journal or Ethan Harris? http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13544507-custer?ac=1

    Book review bloggers aren't going to lie to their readers and thus their opinion has credibility and value. It's the same scenario with selling cars, who do you trust more Tiger Woods telling you to buy a Toyota or your cousin?

    The challenge ahead lies in helping readers find book review blogs that match their interests and finding a way to share the value that book review bloggers provide without impacting their integrity. Just in case anyone doubts the value of an independent book review check out the link below.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelellsberg/2012/01/11/the-tim-ferriss-effect/

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    1. Interesting stats, Marc. I'm now really curious about Custer -- have you read it yet? Why did the aficionados not like it? Like you said, it all boils down to credibility and this is what sets book bloggers apart from, or hopefully it does. Thank you for supporting book bloggers like us-- really means a lot to me, coming from an author.

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    2. In regard to "Custer" I just skimmed it, pretty hard to get excited about a book after someone you know says it sucks. The review under my profile on Goodreads is actually my father in-laws review, he was quite mad about it.

      The aficionados found that the book was factually incorrect in numerous places. US Western history is what some of these guys live for and aside from a few University professors I doubt many people know more on the subject.

      I think "Custer" was an attempt by a publisher to cash in on the fame of the author. Throw a book together, get the usual five star reviews from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, and make some money before people realize it's actually trash. I think a lot of people like my father in-law felt robbed both of their time and money. Larry McMurty in this case has destroyed his reputation.

      Authors for sure don't always find the opinions of book bloggers pleasant, but I think in time the opinions of book bloggers will come to hold more credibility than publishers or journalists.

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  11. Affiliates - I like it, but it doesn't make me any money.

    Google ads - Too much of a control freak to commit to it.

    Other ads - I see that some blogs offer ad space for books, but that to me feels like it messing with my reviewing objectivity. Why am I promoting authors with the deepest pockets instead of promoting authors with the best books?

    Eh, it's a personal thing, I suppose. But I'll probably never aim to make money on my blog. Well, unless I release a book myself. You know that shit is going straight to the bestseller list cause all my followers are going to buy a copy, since they love me so much. :P

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  12. I'd love to be able to turn something that I do into a full time "freelance" job. But I don't really think that being a book reviewer on its own is the answer. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the main issue is: who's going to pay for book reviews? Right now there are thousands of book bloggers out there and I bet 99% of them do it for free. I feel like the only people who might be willing to pay for a review are very little known self published authors. And I think if you were forced to only read those books since they were the only ones giving you money, then the enjoyment would be sucked out of it.

    And it certainly is possible to make a living through advertising alone, but most likely not on a book blog. I know someone who earns thousands of dollars a month through advertisements on a website that they now put zero effort into, but that website gets millions of visits per month. I think it's hard (possibly even impossible) for a book blog to aspire to that.

    I think the main way people are able to earn money via blogging is by doing the following:

    * Maybe having sponsors and actually creating posts about those sponsors. I have no idea how much that pays though, but a lot of full time bloggers seem to do it.

    * Writing an ebook and selling it. For example, if you have a web design blog, you write an ebook about "Web design tips" or a "Web design crash course" or something, then sell it. I've seen people do things like that and make like $40k in the first month of sale on that. (But from what I've seen, they make a ton of money up front then sales drop off to next to nothing. And I'm sure not EVERYONE makes $40k from it.)

    * Having your blog be something that brings advertisement to your other service. For example, someone blogs about web design to drive traffic to their web design services. Then, freelance web design work is their main full time job. That's what most of the full time book bloggers do. Like Giselle from Xpresso Reads is a book blogger, but her book blog traffic helps fuel her main business, which is the book tours.

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  13. I think it would be great to do something I enjoy full-time and get paid for it, but I'm not sure book blogging is it. Like you mention in your post, I don't think paid reviewers are seen as impartial, and personally I would much rather take a recommendation from someone knowing that they weren't paid for their opinion.

    As Ashley says, it's really all about having another business that you can promote such as graphic design or book tours.

    But even then I'm not sure how soon you would start earning enough to pay the bills!

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© guiltless readingMaira Gall