They Said Indie Book Blogging Is Dead. That's a Lie.
[image description: An old black typewriter sitting on a dark wooden table. The typewriter is on the right side of the photo and the view of it is from above.]
The latest thing to make me put on my ranty panties is another one of those “think” pieces that I’m hard-pressed to believe are written by anyone with actual living brain cells.
This one comes from Vulture and I don’t want to even link to it because it’d just be rewarding them with revenue-generating rage clicks. Long story short: they made a broad, sweeping declaration that indie book blogging is dead.
What prompted this was the announcement that the literary magazine, The Millions, has been acquired by Publishers Weekly. PW said The Millions would largely continue to operate as normal, so it’s not like it’s really going away––it just got a new owner.
The whole piece reads like a eulogy for something that’s still very much alive. The Millions isn’t going anywhere.
So why does the author of the “think” piece so boldly declare indie book blogging is dead? I can’t figure it out.
For starters, hello, this blog, which is very much alive and well exists. Plus, Book Riot, the largest books-focused website in the world is thriving and growing each year. And just about every literary magazine out there has a blog on their websites. I know a ton of other writers, both established and aspiring, who blog about books as a means of building their author platforms. I’m in not one, but TWO Slack channels with dozens of book bloggers.
I see book blogs everywhere I look, so it’s hard to convince me they’re dead.
When you really get down to it, I don’t think the whole “indie book blogs are dead” assumption is really about book blogs at all. I think it’s about a certain kind of writer who sees blogs as a threat to magazines and doesn’t believe the two can coexist harmoniously.
I’ve seen writers like this before… They don’t want to keep a blog themselves because they want the external validation of having a publication’s gatekeeper deem their work good enough to be published (forgetting that a lot of people keep blogs AND submit to other publications. I do and it’s working beautifully for me.). Then, having decided they’ll focus all their attention on magazines, they get frustrated when their writing career isn’t progressing as quickly as they’d hoped. And rather than look to the myriad of reasons that could be the cause of their stagnated career––such as needing more practice at their craft, not turning in quality work, not turning in work on time, pitching the wrong pieces to the wrong publications, choosing to write for publications that pay little to nothing, etc.––they choose to blame bloggers who supposedly saturate the market by writing for free.
I realize I’m making a lot of assumptions here, but hell, so are they.
It’s a tempting argument to make because, as capitalism teaches us, it’s hard to compete for free. But I’m calling bullshit. Here’s why.
People blog for all kinds of reasons and depending on what those reasons are depends on whether or not they care to get paid. For example, if you’re a writer who blogs to build your fanbase of readers, you may not be getting paid per blog post you write, but you make money when those readers you’ve built a relationship with then buy your book. Or if you’re new to writing and you choose to blog for free to build up your portfolio so you can justify getting paid later, that’s a valid reason. Not all “free” blogging is actually free in the long term. It’s called a content marketing strategy.
Furthermore, people writing for free doesn’t hurt good writers. There are tons of self-published books on Amazon for free. You think they’re making it onto the New York Times Bestseller list? Nope. You think The New York Times, The Washington Post, and every other major newspaper out there with clout couldn’t get people to write for free if they wanted to? You bet your buns they could. But they don’t. The reason is, people inherently know they have to pay for quality work.
I’ve found that the people who complain about others choosing to write for free are folks who are mad that they’re not at the level where they can demand to get paid for their creative work and rather than accept responsibility themselves they’d rather blame other people.
On top of that, book blogs shift and change for all kinds of reasons. My own blog has gone through several reinventions since I started it in 2014. There are series I no longer run, changes to my review policy, contributors who no longer contribute, a full-on aesthetic makeover, among other things. I don’t always announce those changes but even a big change like an acquisition doesn’t suddenly mean book blogging is dead. To make such a sweeping assumption when there’s so much evidence to the contrary seems shortsighted.
And to put an even finer point on it, even if The Millions was closing shop, that still wouldn’t mean indie book blogging is dead. Publications have been coming and going since the printing press was invented and people only started making a big deal out of it once they internet became fairly ubiquitous and the shells of the former publications can more easily be found.
So basically, when I hear someone say “indie book blogging is dead” what I hear is “I’m too lazy to look.”
All that to say, much like The Millions, I’m not going anywhere. And if you’re thinking of starting a book blog yourself, I encourage you to do so. There’s plenty of us around to cheer you on.