I Have A Conspiracy Theory About Book Bloggers And Influencers

Buckle up, this is about to get crazy.

There’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot when it comes to book bloggers and other kinds of book influencers. Something I’ve been taking mental notes on for the past year or so. Do I have any evidence? Any concrete proof? Anything to back up my conspiracy theory? No, no I do not.

My conspiracy theory about book bloggers and influencers is this: they don’t actually read the free books they review and promote.

I know what you’re all thinking. How can I say something like this when I myself am, in fact, also a book blogger and a bookstagrammer? Maybe because I AM part of this community that I CAN say it.

Or maybe the pressure of quarantine and being jobless thanks to the virus, not to mention incredibly sleep deprived, has really made me lose my marbles. Who knows. I don’t.

But—please stop yelling—hear me out.

One thing I have noticed in all my time blogging and surfing Instagram, especially Instagram, is that most reviews people post are generally positive, good reviews of the book they’ve received one way or another. And sometimes, some people have the exact same thoughts and vague positive things to say about the same book in question. There are some accounts out there that are always shelling out 4 or 5 stars to every book they read, saying it’s the best book they’ve ever read, in nearly every review. And that makes me think to myself, how can one person love every book they’ve ever read in their life? I certainly don’t love every book I’ve ever read; there are even some I’ve hated. There’s something here that doesn’t feel right to me.

So that’s how my conspiracy gets going. I began to think that some people out there, those who sign up for free ARCs from NetGalley or directly from the publisher, will more or less find out the cliffnotes of the plot and write a vague yet positive review of the book to a) keep their reputation up and b) stay on the list of receiving more free books. They think that if they consistently say nice things about the free books they receive, they’ll keep getting more attention from an audience and therefore be a go-to for the publisher. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t bloggers and bookstagrammers, any influencer involved in this industry, that don’t do what they do just for the free books and the attention. There are many that genuinely provide their honest opinions on what they read and always have a different type of review in their posts. You can tell when they’re really speaking their mind and not just copying a script.

But I think that when a publisher gives out free ARCs of books, especially for highly anticipated titles, there’s a pressure to only say positive things about the book because you don’t want to lose your spot on the publisher’s list. I know that when I’ve received one of the very few ARCs I’ve gotten in my life that I felt a pressure to enjoy the book, since it was free and the publisher is really only looking for good reviews to re-share. That’s one of the main reasons I personally don’t actively seek out ARCs anymore; I don’t want to pretend to like a book just because it was free or to save face, especially when I really didn’t like it.

I remember when I was completing my Marketing & Publicity internship for my grad certificate in Book & Magazine Publishing that I heard a story about a blogger that for a fact, according to my co-worker at the time, would collect free books to review but would never write anything of substance in those reviews, clearly emphasizing the fact that this person never read the book in the first place. They would pull plot points from the synopsis or give vague character assessments, and for people who have actually read the book that’s trying to be bullshitted, it’s incredibly clear what the blogger is trying to do. This conspiracy theory is for people like that, because they do exist out there. So hey, maybe I do have some evidence to support my theory.

I think the bottom line here is that anyone who’s some type of “influencer” out in our world is doing it for a reason, whether it’s for money or exposure, and to take what they say with a grain of salt. Are there those out there who are genuine in what they’re doing? Absolutely. But there are also those who aren’t, and because they’re very good at hiding their ingenuity, they’re the most dangerous people.

You know, this is kind of like writing an essay for English class when you didn’t read the book but had to pretend you did for the A; I would know, I did it throughout my entire academic career. So if you think about it, how farfetched of a conspiracy theory can this actually be?


Author’s note: I should probably clarify that almost this entire post is not meant to be taken seriously and there was never any intention in hurting others. If you read this and took offence, I sincerely apologize.

2 Comments

  1. I know for those on various types of tours they are “required” to post positive (or neutral) posts on the book. If they didn’t enjoy the book, they can post their thoughts on their blog/feed after the tour is over. I guess it makes sense since an author is paying the tour company for buzz?

    As for the others, I think people are just too scared to be honest for fear of getting cut off from a publisher. Then there is the issue that people for some reason think a 3* review is bad or means the book isn’t good. 🙄 I just wish people could figure out how to be neutrally critical. It’s really don’t difficult to explain why *you* didn’t like a book that is helpful fo review readers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting take. Idk, in my 6 years of book blogging, I’ve found that the bloggers who tend to do that type of thing are the ones who burn out fast, meaning those of us who stick around are the ones who tend to give honest reviews. And I can understand to a degree why younger bloggers might think this is how it works, but every publisher you work with puts in their legal info that they do not require positive reviews, but rather honest ones. So idk, maybe it’s because I’m an older blogger that I’ve just learned to that honesty is always the best policy in every case. Then again, I am someone who’s ratings tend to *genuinely* be between 3 and 5 stars and the reason for that isn’t because I’m BS-ing reviews but because, at 25 years old, I’ve really honed in on what kind of books I’m going to enjoy and am able to spot those kind of books from a mile away and I figure if I *know* I’m not going to enjoy a book, it’s not worth reading in the first place, especially as reading is a hobby for me. And I think, regardless of age, that’s true for a lot of book bloggers who have been blogging for 2+ years. If you go back in my Goodreads history, you can see that when I started blogging in 2014, after that there was a good 1.5 to 2 year stretch where I read a lot more widely and my ratings, while on average still on the whole positive, varied a lot more and were more likely to dip into 1 and 2 star territory. So I guess my take would be that people aren’t just giving out good reviews in order to continue to receive ARCs, it’s just that plenty of book bloggers—and especially those of us who have done this for a while—know their own tastes well and don’t want to waste time reading books they won’t enjoy. As for the “vague” format of many positive reviews, I think that tends to be owing to the fact that a lot of newer bloggers haven’t found their voice as a blogger yet and thus don’t have much of a solid concept on how they want to format and write reviews. So, for instance, when I first started book blogging, a lot of my own newbie peers wrote “reviews” that were basically non-spoilery summaries of the books with maybe a few character points and a line or two about how they loved or hated the book. Now that I’ve been around for 6 years, my contemporaries and I tend to write more in-depth and complex reviews because we have a good handle on our blogging voice, as well as on what we personally value in a book. Anyhow who can really say for sure? I’m sure there’s probably a good mix of all types of bloggers and I think it’s hard to lump everyone—or even just groups of bloggers—into one category or another based solely on ratings (especially one as nebulous as a 5 star rating system) and reviewing style. Thanks for the interesting discussion—as you can probably see, it really got me thinking, lol!

    Liked by 1 person

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