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.