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text 2014-11-06 16:20
Schroedinger's Author and some thoughts going forward.

When I decided to join the #bloggerblackout, I did it for a lot of reasons, all of them personal. In the post I made about why I was doing it, I mentioned my concern over the fact I was late with a couple of reviews and in joining the blackout they would be made later. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter and it makes very little difference to those books and their success - however, it was still important to me that I try and behave in a professional way, which means getting ARC reviews done in a timely fashion. 

 

I knew when I went into it that some people thought the blackout was designed to, or was about, hurting or punishing authors. It was never about that for me - I don't think it's about that for anybody. I didn't realise some people thought an ARC meant I owed them something beyond an honest review. I didn't realise that accepting books for review made me, in the eyes of some, obligated to the people who'd provided it.

 

Amateur reviews are a pretty useful thing for the publishing industry. An awful lot of the online activity I see is around the areas of Romance and YA/NA, two genres which don't have much traction in the mainstream press. Without sites like Dear Author, or Smart Bitches, or any one of the hundreds of small blogs contributing to the accumulation of reviews on Goodreads, there are an awful lot of books which wouldn't receive any publicity. I had a quick Google to see where Hale's novel would have been covered without the blogs and the answer from the first few pages of my results is: Kirkus, and Bustle. YMMV.

 

That's not Blogs only value - it also lies *in* being amateur. To work in publishing, the usual route is via the unpaid internship. In the US I understand some places offer remote work placements, but in the UK it means working for free, in London, which gives something of an insight into why the industry is so very, very white, and why there's an industry perception that POC characters will harm a book's chances in the market. #WeNeedDiverseBooks, not more privileged Oxbridge/Red Brick graduates out of touch with the book buying public. Even I, white, middle-class, find few people like me in the newspaper. There was an article in the Guardian some weeks ago in which a woman struggling with money tried an experiment with Supermarket own brands to see if they were worth the saving (spoiler alert - some were). It mainly illustrated to me that the good people of that newspaper aren't actually in touch with the whole "struggling with money" thing. Anybody who thinks having to stop using Ocado counts as "struggling with money" needs a sharp reality check. Some weeks I genuinely can't tell if The Sunday Times Style magazine has been secretly taken over by The Onion.

 

Blogs though - bloggers are people like me. They post pictures of their cats sitting in cardboard boxes, and they have terrible days at work, and they celebrate losing weight or having a haircut, and they're excited about a new TV show, or maybe they're annoyed about it, whatever - they're all people who live lives far closer to mine even though I should have far more in common with those broadsheet journalists who are so very keen to show just how ordinary they are. 

 

And because Bloggers are people like me, I trust them. I trust that most of them are doing what I do - reading a book and writing down what they think of it. 

 

If we become obliged to publishers, or authors, or anybody but ourselves, we lose the thing which makes us useful. 

 

So, to you, those people saying (or thinking) that bloggers owe authors/publishers something: is that what you want? Free adverts spread across the internet? Do you want us to be good little boys and girls? Do you want us to write enthusiastically about everything you provide us with? And, do you think, in your infinite wisdoms, that this will do you any good? Or do you suppose that having these "independent" reviewers in your pockets will mean people get their reviews from people who don't accept ARCS? Because hear this: if I never get another ARC, I will still have plenty to read. And it will not be hurting authors to not accept ARCs because I will still be reviewing, just not the books freshly available this week. But then, this is so tangled it would not surprise me if you did think closing to ARCs was hurting authors, and this is so far past the point of appropriateness it's almost worth doing so to laugh at your self-important Twitter attacks. Oh noes! Am I functioning as an autonomous human being? Won't somebody please stop me?! Think of teh authors! 

 

If you are an author, it is in your very best interests to have an independent group of people saying what they think about your book. It is in your interest to have this group of people able to say what they want about things without having to worry about you butting in, which, if there's no f***ing @reply including you, is exactly what it is. If it's not emailed to you, or tweeted at you, or facebooked at you, or whatever the hell the cool kids are doing these days, you are butting in. You are doing the internet equivalent of announcing yourself to the people having a conversation at the next table in a restaurant. Consider street harassment - even just those simple thank yous, those little harmless words which nobody in their right mind could have a problem with unless they drip, drip, all day, every day, until every time you leave the house you're braced for it. Reviewers have these small words all the time, and all the people in their community do too, and they don't know, when you say those little words, whether that's all you'll do because you are Schroedinger's Author. 

 

The only difference between Kathleen Hale and Richard Brittain('s alleged actions) is a bottle. Until that bottle hit the head of a reviewer, their actions were the same. Do not justify Hale to me on the basis of her walking away. Do not tell me you have the right to respond to reviews, or to chat up a woman who wants nothing to do with you, because they are the same thing and neither are okay. Forcing interaction is not cool.

 

One of the things which has made me saddest about this whole situation are the number of stories I'm hearing about reviewer harassment, a lot of it from trade published authors. Most of it isn't a big deal, but - like street harassment - when it's this constant background noise which occasionally turns into something worse, do you really think your right as the author (or simply as a human being) to comment on a review trumps the right of the reviewer to go on through their day unimpeded?

 

I've thought about this a lot. I love ARCs. I love seeing a book in the best-seller list and smugly mentioning I had a review copy of it. I've never claimed to be a good person. 

 

I don't want to stop requesting them but my independence as a reviewer is far more important to me than a few free books. I haven't done a proper breakdown, but ARCs have been roughly 10% of my reading material this year. If an ARC means I owe anybody anything, in the nicest possible way, keep it. I am not the enthusiastic promo-bot you are looking for. This one actually is about ethics in journalism.

 

I already had plans to cut back on ARCs for a bit so this isn't some grand move, it's more something I was kind of doing anyway, and it's not intended to be permanent. It's for as long as I feel like and it's not about anybody who isn't me.

 

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text 2014-11-01 16:23
#BloggerYes Q&A Part III: A Conversation with Rose and Lessons from #BloggerBlackout

Hey guys, Rose here.  So this is the final set of questions from my brief series in the midst of #BloggerBlackout.  This will address the roles I take on as a book blogger, the importance of that, and how I spent my time during the time I was off from posting new reviews on my blog.

 

Q: You’ve been a book/media blogger for many years now, how much has changed since you’ve been doing this?

 

Rose: Quite a bit, to put it in succinct terms.  I think I came into it just as it was gaining the momentum to become what it is today.  I started as a small blog, and even within the past few years, I think it’s grown exponentially (even then, I don’t have some of the same visual status as some blogs do – but I’ve met a ton of people, many of whom I admire and follow for their thoughts and expansions on what they read!).  Thinking about it, that’s not surprising since social media has grown so much and many people want to engage in book talk online, whether it’s via book blogs or book communities like Goodreads, BookLikes, LibraryThing, Shelfari, Leafmarks among others.

 

Q: What would you say your role is as a book blogger specifically? What motivates you to do this? 

 

Rose:  I’ll start off by saying that it’s important to realize that those who blog about books (or any other media format, whether it’d be by reviews, reflections or what have you) don’t necessarily have the same motivations, definitions, or rationales for doing what they do.  I think it’s important to respect our differences on those distinctions, no matter what they may be.

 

Having said that, I became a book blogger because I love to read and it’s a very passionate hobby that I enjoy.  For me it’s about reading, reflecting on what I read, and sharing those thoughts with the community.  People can use those thoughts to read the books I review and reflect on them as well, and even start a much larger conversation from my (and others’) talking points.  I think my role is to be able to just start the conversation and let people take from that what they will.  There are a lot of happy secondary benefits to starting book conversations by the reviews I write (i.e. author/book promotion). Regardless if it’s a postiive, critical, or happy medium between, my reflections start a dialogue, and can spark decisions for others as to whether they pick up the works I review or not.  I’m happy to start that dialogue, I’m happy to interact with people,  I’m even happy to have talking debate points on interpretations of a work. For me, it’s all about book discussion.  That’s my motivation.  I learn so much from the different people I follow and interact with on how they interpret the books they pick up, and it’s not only the joy of reading that keeps me motivated, but it’s also the value I get from the conversations I’m able to have with others on the books I read – whether I’ve met them over reading a certain set of books, or I read and value their input on something I’ve already read.  It’s an awesome community and venture, and I’m happy to be a part of it.

 

I’m also happy when I get thanks from the writers/authors I promote and am able to converse in that regard with them.  Granted, I don’t have a lot of interviews and promo snippets on my blog like others do, but I’m thinking of ways of expanding upon that in the future.  I’m not using this blog space to spam people with constant promo because that’s not what my blog was created for, and I don’t feel comfortable doing that.  I prefer to provide my space here with a more intimate setting for discussions and fun (sometimes completely random) things.  I do want to open my blog space for more authors to interact here though.  It’s just a matter of what I’m able to do with my time and energy.

 

Q: How much of what you read is based on what you buy versus the ARC copies that you get from various outlets?

 

Rose: These days it’s mostly ARCs, but I do end up reading quite a bit from the library and from books I purchase on my own as well.  I consider myself very fortunate to be able to receive ARC copies of books from spaces like NetGalley and Edelweiss, from publishers and even SP authors who take the time to make requests for review.  Many people don’t realize just how much I buy books from what I’m exposed to via those platforms from ARCs, even when I get free digital copies.  I just bought 10-15 books in the past 3 weeks alone, and a good amount of those came from getting digital copies on NetGalley or Edelweiss or from independent requests.  It sometimes takes me a while to catch up with my backlog (yeah, I have a *huge* backlog right now – understatement), but I read very fast.  I read 365 books last year alone.  This year, it’s been around the 150s range so far, but that’s a little abnormal for me because of the fact it’s been a tumultuous year, for personal and professional reasons.

 

I work a day job and yeah, book blogging is a side medium of what I do with my time.  Reading takes up the majority of my spare time – I read on commutes to work, I read during lunch breaks, I read a couple of hours before I go to sleep, I whip out my phone and open my Kindle App or audiobook player if I’m standing in line waiting to get to somewhere – that’s just what I do.  Then when I have time, I reflect on them on my blog and in the various book communities I’m a part of.   I don’t get commissions from the books I promote on my blog (I am not a part of any affiliate programs).  I don’t get paid to review, and that’s not something I’d ever expect out of this work – for me it’s a labor of love.  So usually in addition to getting ARC copies of books digitally, if I really love a book (or I appreciate it well enough to say “Hey, I’ll read that a second time even if I didn’t completely love it”), I’ll buy it out of my own earnings.

Case in point:

 

 

 

IMG_20141101_101748_504

 

This is just some of the books I’ve bought that were provided to me as ARCs (some of them I’ve read, and some I have not – and even a couple of them I didn’t give glowing reviews to, but I still bought them).  And this isn’t even including the stack I have on my bookshelves. Don’t get me started on how many physical and digital books I own…heh. :)

 

Q: Are your policies going to change with respect to ARC copies with respect to the events that recently occurred with the author Kathleen Hale against a book blogger? And if so, why?

 

Rose: Yes.  I won’t be requesting physical ARCs from people I don’t know anymore (this is a permanent change), and I’m not going to host or take part in any formal book tours at all (this is temporary, and I think this is in my best interests for now.).  I think Kathleen Hale’s actions broke a lot of the book community’s trust and boundaries for personal safety and privacy. I – myself – am a private person.  I use a penname for my writing pursuits as well as book blogging and reflection because I do prefer to keep private in this venture – and that’s my personal choice.  I know there are a lot of people who respect that boundary and don’t wish to cross it, but I feel very concerned over those who don’t choose to respect it or, in Hale’s case, would use deceptive means to acquire private details and use that to undermine or belittle people who are consumers in this industry.

 

I’ve said this many times over the past several days, I feel for the blogger who was targeted in this, because she was not only someone whose reviews I respected for quite some time, but I enjoyed her company – she’s a fun, sweet person.  It saddens me that she’s no longer blogging as of this date.

 

Q: You took part in #BloggerBlackout for about a week and a half in support for book bloggers in the community and in honor of the blogger who was targeted by Hale – what was your motivation for taking part and what did you do during this time?

 

Rose: I thought #BloggerBlackout was a great idea from the first point I heard about it, because I saw it as a way to take a step back from reviewing to get back to my roots as a book blogger, interact with those who are in the book blogging community, and find a positive and personal reflection in the face of such horrific events.  It angered me that there were people who thought of it as a way of “punishing” authors who had nothing to do with what Hale did (or would even condemn Hale’s actions), but I never saw it as such a punishment.  It was far more of a personal decision and time for reflection.

 

There are people who thought of it as a way of silencing reviews or book talk, but I’m going to refute that on two counts because of what I personally chose to do during the week and a half I participated. I hosted this questionnaire during my time in #BloggerBlackout to talk about things that mattered to me as a book blogger and also let people know the roots of where I came from in this measure.  I wanted people to know what my passions were with regard to books and how I got into book blogging.  So in that measure, I was never silent about talking about books or the community at large – instead I chose to do personal reflections and interacted with fellow book bloggers on Twitter about the events that happened.  I also provided constructive dialogue about how to move forward from here.  It was also a time for me to catch up on doing what I love: to read.  I’ve read a total of about ten books since my time in the blackout, so I’m going to upload reviews on those starting November 1st (which is when this post will be live).  I may end up doing more “old” book reviews versus new ones starting out, or ones that I haven’t been given as ARCs to work myself back into this, but I’m still getting back to basics following this time out.

 

I’ve learned quite a bit during my time in #BloggerBlackout, that I miss having more interactions with other blogs and reading more reviews and reflections from other bloggers and their thoughts about what they read – whether it may be those who have covergasms over new releases, those who may rage over that highly anticipated title that ends up sinking like a rock in water, or those who provide talking points that make me think about a title that I may have never heard of before – old or new. I miss that interaction and I know moving forward, I’m going to be taking more steps to bring myself even closer to this community and continue to do what I’ve been doing.

 

I just hope that people will recognize more on how to respect that space and the people who are within them.  I hate that this is occurring in such a horrific set of events, and to someone whose voice I’ve appreciated for a long time who’s no longer here to share that joy, among others who have stopped blogging as a result of the fear and confusion.

 

But if there’s something to be said, I think #BloggerBlackout had a very constructive role to play in the aftermath.  I think it showed even more for the people behind the reviews and reflections we provide on books on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis (or however a blogger may schedule their time to commit to talking in the community). Authors/writers and even other book reviewers have to recognize them as very passionate and pertinent parts of getting the word out about something that they love doing (even if they don’t love everything they pick up).  If that voice is silenced, it would take away such a dynamic, fruitful, intelligent, and functional part of the book community.  And I’d never want to live in a place where any in this community should feel the need to be silenced for fear of their personal boundaries being compromised.

 

Until next entry,

Rose

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text 2014-10-29 03:08
Seems like a good time to cut down my NetGalley Reading List

I haven't visited the site in a while (nor requested anything until tonight, who'd have thunk it!), so I'm going through lists of books that I will and won't read.  I'm being a stickler about it because I'm trying to see what books interest me upon re-evaluation, and ones that won't.  I'll probably still be reading between NaNoWriMo (gotta keep my inspiration high, and I do this by reading), but not as frequently as I would on a regular basis.

 

Suffice to say, I haven't been on a "regular" basis with anything as of late, and I already know I won't meet my reading goal for this year by the end of December.  But I'm being kind to myself and trying to get to some kind of recon.  Having the space to do it is helping, between an already busy schedule for me in other measures.

 

I'm actively using #BloggerBlackout to get back to sorts.  But I'll be back to reviewing on a constant string (hopefully) starting November 1st, more than likely starting with old reads and working my way to recent ones in order to clear my backlog.  And I'll also be writing in turbo mode on NaNo project (which I'm oddly excited for).

 

Let's do this.

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text 2014-10-26 05:14
What #HaleNo and #Bloggerblackout Really Mean.

I feel the need to have a space where these two hashtags can be explained in an accessible way as possible.  I'm not perfect and my explanation of them may not be everyone's explanation of them, but I ask you to please take a moment to read my subjective interpretation.  If you've anything to add, please do so in the comments and I will be happy to include them in this post.  I'd love for this to be a community explanation.

#HaleNo is a hashtag that represents blogger's taking a stance against the recent insanity to do with Kathleen Hale stalking a blogger to her home, and now also has to do with Richard Brittain, an author who stalked a reviewer and committed physical harm against her.  It is a peaceful protest against that sort of behavior in the community.  Also, this needs to be made clear: We also do not support the recent doxxing of Kathleen Hale and many bloggers reported that incident.  I just wanted that to be heard.

#Bloggerblackout is a movement that has been ignited due to the recent events.  In short, it's a movement where bloggers are choosing not to review until October 27th (although I have heard that some are prolonging their blackout) in order to get back in touch with their roots.  The truth is, blogging is for the bloggers and the reviews are for the readers.  I think it's great when bloggers and authors and publishers form beautiful relationships.  I really think that's a wonderful aspect of blogging, but I don't think it's ever been intended to be the main aspect.  Please respect that bloggers are trying to remember why they began blogging in the first place and to rekindle their love for it.

The reason why I didn't participate in the #Bloggerblackout is because I do not do ARC reviews in general.  At least, not yet.  I've been reviewing much older books.  However, I do 100% the #Bloggerblackout for however long the bloggers want to maintain it.

I hope this explains a few things.

 

I will be doing more posts of this sort on my blog, if you'd like to see them.  Thank you for reading and I hope we can spread the message of what these hashtags really mean.

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text 2014-10-24 18:01
Butterbeer Latte

 

 

 

There was a nice chill in the air this morning. Making it a perfect excuse to try out this recipe. 

 

 This delicious foamy creation was amazing! Not to sweet and a light buttery aftertaste made this a perfect drink to enjoy on a nice chilly morning. 

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