Breaking Down #BookBloggingPaidMe
Hello everyone! So, if you’ve been on Twitter in the past couple of days, you will know that #PublishingPaidMe is a hashtag created by LL McKinney meant to show the pay disparity between Black authors and non-Black authors. It’s quite radical but unsurprising. A shoot-off of the hashtag – titled #BookBloggingPaidMe – was created by Cielo, in response to Brody, to show how Book Bloggers are barely paid, if at all. It’s been an interesting discussion that has shown how underappreciated book bloggers are compared to other industries’ bloggers. In this post, I thought I would talk about my experience of #BookBloggingPaidMe over the nearly 8 years I’ve been a blogger, compare the publishing industry to other niches, then offer some ideas to for industry improvements….
When I first started blogging nearly 8 years ago, I just started my sophomore year of high school and was simply happy to have a place to talk about books. Like many of you know, offline, I didn’t have many friends who were interested in books, and typically not the same books I usually read. The few that did were amazing and I will forever cherish but, like I said, it was a few people. So, I started blogging to share my thoughts on the books I was reading. Eventually, authors and publishers started reaching out to me, offering free ebooks, published books, Advance Readers Copies (ARCs) for me to review/share about. I went to conventions and got books from there too. I did #booksfortrade.
But, the entire time, I also thought about how I could make money from book blogging. I mean, other industries get paid directly from it, so why not me. I started out with Amazon affiliates in 2016 and focused on that for a couple of years. I promoted books using affiliate links in Twitter threads and in my blog posts, every chance that I got. But, then I kind of lost focus and stopped caring about Amazon affiliates as much. In 2018, I decided to clean out my shelves and start selling books and bookish items that I did not need or want anymore. I cleared out most of the books/items I wanted to – I do still have books for sale though if you’re interested – and stopped that as well. In March 2019, I finally did a sponsored post (for money!!) with a company called Reklist which is an entertainment tracker and pretty awesome tbh. Since then, well, there hasn’t really been any other monetary opportunities that have paid out. I’ll admit though, I haven’t been as diligent of blogger for the past several months so it is understandable. Nonetheless, here’s hoping things change.
Let’s Talk Numbers
Firstly, let me apologize to those who saw my tweets about BookBloggingPaidMe; in creating this post, I realized my numbers are different than originally conveyed. Now here is my total profit breakdown….
Revenue (Paid Out)
- Amazon (2016 – Present): $151.71
- Selling my books & bookish items (2018 – Present): $353.97
- Sponsored Post (2019): $100
In total, I’ve made $605.68 in revenue over the past four years. These numbers do not include the $25 I have not been paid for a Grammarly affiliate post (haven’t done the paperwork for that) or the $1.84 from WordAds – WordPress’ ad revenue stream – that does not get paid out until I make $100.
- 1st Year WordPress Premium Plan: $76.80 (got a discount)
- 2nd Year WordPress Premium Plan: $96
- 1st Year Domain Hosting from NameCheap: $0 (was gifted the domain)
- 2nd Year Domain Hosting from NameCheap: $13
- Shipping & Packaging: $124 (31 sales * an average $4 shipping & packaging)
In total, my expenses for the past three years are $309.80. This does not include the expenses of books & bookish items I had purchased (before selling), which is unknown.
= Revenue – Expenses = $605.68 – $309.80 = $295.88 over the span of four years.
In consideration of the profit, I decided to take it one step further and consider the woman-hours put into creating a post, which I have named Post Hours. Now, over the seven years I have spent on the WordPress platform, – I used to use Weebly’s platform before I switched in 2014 – I have published 647 posts, on various topics and requiring various amounts of time. To make it simple, I decided to create an equation that states that, for every post created, I spent an average of 3 hours creating it. This includes: reading the book, research for discussion posts, writing the post, creating the graphics for the post, etc. In taking 647 posts and multiplying it by 3 hours, I got 1,941 Post Hours.
If you divide the previously found profit by the total number of Post Hours – $295.88 divided by 1,941 Post Hours – I will have made $0.15 per Post Hour. Which means I made $0.05 per post I’ve created. Which sucks.
That’s the numbers part of the analysis, the real part of the analysis is that the revenue does not include the friends I’ve made along the way (lol I’m a cliche), or the happiness I’ve gotten from reading books, or the number of ARCs I am privileged to receive from publishers (which is actually still an expense of sorts but I’ll talk about that in the next section), etc. On the other hand, those woman-hours and expenses do not at all include the amount of time spent learning how to utilize social media, networking with people in the industry, the amount of money I’ve spent going to conventions and festivals, the amount of money spent on trading for ARCs to read, the opportunity cost of not spending my time on other things in my life, etc.
Quite frankly, though, as much as I love book blogging and appreciate how much it has changed my life for the better, I will admit that I have thought about quitting and simply starting over in a new industry many times. Why? Because, as an industry, book blogging will not keep the lights on. It does not pay my bills. It barely adds to my to-travel fund. And, as a high school sophomore, that was completely okay. I mean, yeah I loved money and wanted to make it from my blog but it was nowhere near as important to me as it would be now if I didn’t have a source of income that provided me the luxury of not needing to pay the bills from just blogging.
So why haven’t I moved on to something else? I’ve tried/am trying. I have a ton of ideas I’ve been pursuing and working on, some of which you guys already know about – like my fandom shops on Red Bubble/Society 6 and the 2020 Ultimate Book Blogger Survival Kit – and others that are still secret (ooh la la). Also, I really love books and the community I’ve found in it so it’s hard to take even a foot out the door. Lastly, this doesn’t stop me from being angry for my fellow book bloggers though, hence this post.
Other Industries vs the Publishing Industry
In other industries, with how hard I have worked over the past eight years, I know I would have done many sponsored posts with a variety of companies for way more than $100/post, I would have a much larger social following, and my profits overall would be much higher. I didn’t need to do research to know this. I know this because I have followed creators in various industries across multiple social platforms who have proven this point to me over and over and over again. And I’m not naming specific creators because I’m sure you immediately thought of five people and know limitless more. Don’t get me wrong, they 100% deserve the success they are at and I am so proud of all the creators as a fan for getting to where they are, and I wish them continued success and happiness.
What irks me though is that the publishing industry values book bloggers just as much as fashion companies value fashion bloggers, beauty companies value make-up artists, etc. I mean, we are both the audience and the carriers of their message which is: “read this book by this author!” But, instead of being paid a fee or given the finushed, published copy, most book bloggers are paid nothing at worst, given an ARC at best. For the most popular of bloggers, and quite rarely, we MIGHT get a published book sent. Over the span 8 yrs, I’ve gotten several after doing major book blog tours. In our community, we are taught that an ARC is the ultimate prize, and the more popular the author/book, the rarer and more anticipated the ARC. It has fueled a lot of hype for books, and even more want on #booksfortrade. But there are several issues with ARCs which, before I list them, I will admit comes from a place of privilege as I have been lucky to work with publishers and authors many times, and gone to conventions and gotten said ARCs. I still will critique them, though, because the system is flawed and deserves to be made better:
- People of Colour and other minorities are frequently overlooked for receiving and reviewing ARCs from publishers, even when it comes to books ABOUT/featuring main characters of colour/their marginalization
- Even more so, international bloggers get even fewer opportunities to receive print ARCs AND e-books
- Another barrier to ARCs comes in the form of conventions which cater to those who are older and have money
- ARCs are not allowed to be sold which makes sense considering they’re unfinished works and authors do not make money off of them, unlike published books. BUT, to my knowledge, and please correct me if I’m wrong, the publishing industry is the only industry where the “sample” bloggers receive is something that people cannot sell legally. I’m not saying we should be selling ARCs, I’m just saying it’s definitely an odd thing to think about in relation to other niches and their idea of a sample (ie clothes, small size perfumes and makeup, prereleased games..).
- Another issue which, more goes towards the fact that we aren’t paid money, is that, even if a blogger gets an ARC, the expectation is that you should still buy the finished, published version. Which would be okay if bloggers made money. But we don’t really, so we are negatively impacted, money-wise: $0 revenue – $15 book = -$15. Add in the other expenses – calculated and not calculated – earlier, well you’re even more in the red.
Now, along with the issues with ARCs comes the underappreciation of book bloggers by publishers. Is this all that different from other industries? I don’t really know, I’m not in other niches as a blogger and have no personal experience to speak to, but I thought it should be mentioned regardless.
Pay Structure Ideas & Industry Improvements
So first off, I will admit that publishers have issues within their own houses related to pay and opportunities that they need to fix first. Therefore, it would seem that publishers do not have the immediate bandwidth to tackle pay for book bloggers too. Nonetheless, we make up a significant part of their marketing plans so I’m hoping changes are made in the near future. Keeping this in mind, here are my ideal pay structure ideas & industry improvements to better support book bloggers:
- all blog tours pay bloggers a minimum fee for creating a post on the tour
- all blog tour posts affiliated with the publisher should be, at minimum, shared by the blog tour company, the author, and the publisher on all applicable social media platforms
- readers should pause their ad-blocker when browsing through websites so that bloggers can earn ad revenue
- publishers should create scholarships for teens of colour/marginalization to attend conventions around the world like Book Expo & BookCon, all the Comic Cons, YALC etc
- use bloggers’ – especially marginalized bloggers’ – affiliate links and codes when purchasing an item as it has no additional cost to you (sometimes you even get a discount actually), but it still provides the blogger with a commission (at cost to the company)
- publishers should curate their ARC sending lists more carefully and ensure that marginalized bloggers are the first to be sent books with their marginalization included
- publishers should be more “frugal” in sending out eARCs to international bloggers via NetGalley and Edelweiss
And that’s what I thought of so far but there is definitely more that can be done to help improve our industry standards and pay book bloggers what we are earned.
Overall, there isn’t anything else I want to say other than book bloggers deserve better.
Now, what do you think about this discussion? What is your #BookBloggingPaidMe story? What ideas do you have to improve the industry? Let me know in the comments below. Thank you, I hope you have a great day/night, and tata for now!
Note: this post is specifically about book blogging. I did not write about booktube or bookstagram as those are two very different ball games that I cannot speak to and therefore cannot accurately represent.