Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How Reviews Work... The landscape is changing

Hay House's New Blogger Review Program, BookNook

While not specifically a development in children's publishing, there are fascinating changes afoot in how some publishers are looking at blogs and how reviews work.  As reported in Publisher's Lunch last week and in this press release, Hay House, a self-help/motivational publisher, has

... started a blogger review program, BookNook, that is similar to Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze initiative. They aim to create "one central place for bloggers to share their thoughts and experiences about Hay House products," providing free review copies in exchange for "an honest review." 

They're hoping to enroll 6,000 bloggers by the end of 2012.

There's a lot that's interesting about this.

1.  That a "free copy" is given to a blogger "in exchange for an honest review on their blog and a consumer site."  That's very different than how reviews have worked in the past, where reviewers (for newspapers or even blogs) were identified, sent a ton of books, and then they chose the ones they would actually review.)  The idea that this is set up as trade of items of value - we'll give you a book but you have to review it on your site and ours - is significant.

2.  There's a shift that's occurring:  reviewers used to work for newspapers or magazines, and they were paid for their reviews.  Today many bloggers who are reviewing books do it because it's their passion (very few bloggers are paid by others to blog and review books.)  Some bloggers have advertising or affiliate relationships as ways of monetizing their blogs, but they are still in many ways blogging for themselves.  Signing up for this program would seem to make a blogger in some ways be blogging for Hay House. 

3.  And since this relationship is so close, and reviews are being done for a "free" supply of product, does that call into question whether or not a negative review might cost a blogger their relationship with the publisher?  I suppose this "don't bite the hand that feeds you" concern applies in any relationship where you're getting product in exchange for reviews.

4.  The scale of this new venture is remarkable.  6,000 bloggers in seven months?  Will they all be vetted? And how? 

As the way readers get their information and book reviews changes, and blogs have more impact, it's important to keep an eye on the changing landscape.  For writers and illustrators who blog about and review others' books, the changing relationships with publishers (and the distinction between reviewing books versus recommending books on your blog) need to be considered so your blogging is synergistic with and helpful to your writing/illustrating career.

Illustrate and Write On,


Mary Sayler said...

Thank you for reporting on a topic I'd been thinking about since poets sometimes send me books to review. My favorite review topic, however, is the Bible. I have most of the English translations so recently began my own blog to review them for reasons similar to the conclusions you also reached.

Tanya said...

Thanks so much for sharing this information and putting it into perspective. As a long time bookseller for B&N and book review blogger I have thought often about the value of the bookseller (since my reach diminishes as fewer and fewer customers step foot into bookstores these days), the blogger, consumer written reviews and professionally written reviews - especially after reading this article: http://techcrunch.com/2012/05/15/amazon-killed-the-book-reviewer-star/. Publishing houses setting up their own stable of consumer-reviewers seems a step too far, but so does the democratization of reviewing in general. It will be interesting to see how this shapes people's reading and buying habits.

Ali B said...

When you receive money or goods for a service, you are being paid. It's that simple. Bloggers who get free books or ARCs sent to them are expected to promote/advertise the books on their site. And they do. If they didn't, they'd stop getting the books. Most, not all, of these high volume sites simply regurgitate a book's synopsis and then write a couple of lines about how consumers should buy it. No substance. No imagination. These sites often list multiple books in one day. The blogger isn't reading all of these, they are advertising. It really is that simple.