Chris Cleave, a novelist and Guardian writer, says that he received the worst review of his life from a blogger. The mysterious unnamed blogger didn't show up for a recent lunch for nine writers and nine of the UK's most popular bloggers. In fact, only four bloggers showed up for this lunch sponsored by Cleave's publisher. Very odd.
Cleave says he thinks book reviewers and book bloggers are equally powerful and he doesn't prefer one to the other. He enjoyed chatting with Farm Lane Books, a blogger I confess I don't know. But he humorously insists that some blogs are big business these days, receiving "a 6% kickback off Amazon when you click through on one of their links. I'm just saying." And, he goes on cattily, some bloggers receive tens or hundreds of thousands of visitors per month, so they're NOT strictly the not-for-profit operations you'd imagine.
His facetious remarks about the Amazon Associates program gave me pause. I'm vaguely aware of bookstore affiliate programs: Amazon Associates, the Book Depository Affiliates, & Barnes & Noble Affiliates. The Am/Ass gadget appears in the sidebar of my draft blogger page. The truth is I CAN'T profit from it because I can't be bothered to use it.
I don't pay much attention to these links. Well, perhaps I've noticed them, but I never click on the book image links at blogs. If I want to buy a book, I note it in a notebook and then go to Amazon afterwards. Amazon has the best website, so even when I don't buy, I often read up on books there.
Do affiliates compromise more in their reviews? I'd have to analyze reviews and note stats and... Heavens! It's not Bloggergate. But I just clicked on some blogs on my blogroll and am amazed to find so many enrolled in affiliate programs, among them A Common Reader, A Work in Progress, Dovegreyreader, Nonsuch Books, Random Jottings, and The Literary Stew.
A few of these bloggers are really about PR. They say they write only about books they like. I used to suspect some of being marketing firms. And that doesn't mean I don't enjoy them. I DO. Only not always for their book reviews. They're TOO nice, and that means they're unreliable.
But quite a number on my blogroll are NOT enrolled in these programs. I tend to respect their judgment, too. I must admit I feel relieved I'm not the only one not in business. There's something about making money off a blog that doesn't SEEM right to me. I never thought about it, of course, before I read Cleave's Guardian piece, though.
I read blogs for many reasons. I like Dovegreyreader, Stuck in a Book, and Random Jottings for notes on English life-styles as much as reviews, Ellen and Jim Have a Blog Two for her academic fairness and intelligent criticism, The Fiction Desk for elegant writing, and A Work in Progress for the midwestern perspective on pop and literary novels.
The truth is I'm much more interested in fair reviews than nice reviews. Vintage Reading, an honorable, shrewd reviewer, didn't like Cathleen Schine's The Three Weissmans of Westport, but I was able to deduce that I might enjoy it, and I did. A reviewer's opinion is only part of it, and doesn't dictate what I read.
My blog sketches & reviews help me remember my life: books, bicycling, weather. Perhaps I would be nicer if I remembered that writers sometimes stop by. But I honestly don't think about that much.
And I'm not bothering to put links by the bloggers' names in this post; you'll have to go to my blogroll. There are simply too many potential links in this post...