A Book Blogger Etiquette Guideline

1:34 AM

Welcome to my personal version of what I'm deeming to be a guideline for Blogger Etiquette. I hope to also provide insight to a few particular topics and answer some general questions about blogging...

I would never proclaim I'm an expert by any means, so please consider these words my own personal rants/thoughts. I'm hoping they can be informational and when I feel there's a better source to describe the point I'm trying to make, I will provide the links. Why try to explain something when there's someone who can obviously do a way better job than myself, right?

There are hundreds and hundreds of books blogs... and I'm only one small fish in a very great sea of them. But sometimes, I truly shake my head at the lines some bloggers cross, perhaps without even realizing it. New bloggers can be excused for their naivety for only so long... but what about those older bloggers who should probably know better by now too?

Like many things, blogging is one of those experiences where you continuously learn new things everyday. It's about helping to build a network – a community, if you will – where readers, fellow bloggers, authors, and even publishers can connect and share their love of the written word.

We're friendly folks and love welcoming newcomers to the fold. But we can also be tight knit and protective when the time comes. And when I needed someone to talk to when I was younger, it was reading and this diverse community which saved me from being too alone.

Which is why it really hurts when I see friends I've become close to online hurt by others. I don't like to involve myself in drama... but it's getting more and more increasingly difficult not to say anything. And I also passed my own rite of passage not long ago when I discovered my work being plagiarized. It's. Not. Cool. At this point, I'm considering it a rite of passage, but it has also helped to inspire me to write this post.

Anyways, here are my two cents. I'd appreciate any insight you provide in the comments and hopefully it will be helpful for some of you!

I want to begin writing a book blog... but I don't know where to start!
If you're a beginner and need advice on how to build a better blog, then you MUST visit these sites below for help. When I first began blogging, I didn't have a clue what I was doing, so I did plenty of research beforehand. I think it's really important that you make an informed decision and keep in mind that blogging also takes up many hours of time. And if you're only blogging for free books, then you're obviously getting into it for all the wrong reasons.
  • The Story Siren's "Building a Better Blog" ~ FAVOURITE/BOOKMARK this page, my friends. It will be your friend in times of doubt. You'll find everything from Kristi's own version of Book Blog Etiquette and Blog Tips to Author Interview Requests and Reviewing... and everything in between! She's my complete role model for book blogging!
  • Parajunkee View's "Book Blogging 101" ~ Another excellent resource to find information on book blogging on a wide variety of categories from general questions to "behind the blog" aspects as well!
  • Presenting Lenore's "New Book Blogger FAQ" ~ A great post to get you brainstorming what memes you may be interested in participating in, the type of content to write, etc.
  • Small Review's "Tips and Tricks" ~ I haven't personally used any of the tips here yet, but if I need some help with more technical aspects in the future, I'll definitely be checking out this page. You can find everything from how to make a blockquote (mostly commonly those coloured boxes you see on posts), making buttons, etc.
  • Have you wondered how bloggers can leave their links in their comments? You can find a nice, quick tutorial on Pure Imagination where you'll be able to find the answers.
What is an ARC and who do I contact to get one?
An ARC (or Advanced Reader Copy) is an uncorrected proof of a novel bound together by a publisher for promotional purposes. It's much more expensive for a publisher to create and mail out these copies because there is a limited print run... but in exchange for their efforts, they hope that book bloggers and professional reviewers can help spread the word about these novels by giving an honest opinion. There's nothing like word of mouth, right?

Again, if you're new to blogging, I wouldn't focus on trying to get review copies right away because the central focus of book blogging isn't about getting free books. I wouldn't say there's a specific number of followers you need before requesting, but you should definitely have several months (6 months seems to be the general rule of thumb...) of blogging under your belt and have consistency in your posting. If you're only posting memes without actual content, your blog isn't going to be a great promotional tool, now is it? It's important to keep in mind that this is an industry, and what we consider "free books" doesn't have the same meaning for publishers and authors whose jobs depend on selling their product. Reading is fun... but keep in mind that publishing is a business too. (You can read the Waxman Literary Agency's view on ARCs from this standpoint as well.)

It's another reason why selling ARC's and downloading illegal copies of books are completely unacceptable, and if one of us sees it... you can bet we'll be reporting it. While I look upon authors like they're cool celebrities, the truth is that they're not all billionaires like J.K. Rowling and it's important we support them as much as we can. Receiving early copies of novels is an absolute privilege... and don't forget that.
  • Authors: They generally do not like being contacted for review copies. They usually only receive a certain amount of copies of their novels, which they either keep for themselves or pass onto family/friends... or give away later in contests during self-promotion. Unless they specifically said it was alright to contact them for review copies, it would be best not email them at all. However, some authors pass on these requests to their publicists, so it's always safest to read their contact page on their website first.
  • Publishers: Since we're axing contacting authors, it's best to go straight to the source. On each publisher's website, they should have somewhere on their site a page/section dedicated to contacting their publicity department in acquiring review copies for promotional purposes. It's not always easy to find, so using your favourite search engine could save you some time by finding it directly, depending on the keywords you enter.
How do I contact a publisher? What do I include?
I'm generally a shy person and the first time I hit the enter button with my very first request for a book, I was kind of terrified because of the waiting game which would be played afterwords. I still can't get over being nervous whenever I request a book, which isn't all too often mind you, but still...

So I'm now going to direct you to All Things Urban Fantasy where I think their "Wherefore ARC Thou?" posts may also be particularly useful because they definitely were for me in getting a general sense of what I should include in my initial email.
  • Wherefore ARC Thou? Part 1 ~ General ARC Resources
  • Wherefore ARC Thou? Part 2 ~ Some various publisher's weigh in their opinions of when they prefer a blogger to contact them, but pay particular attention to the "What To Include When Requesting An ARC" section of the post. There's a very general example of what you may wish to consider including when contacting a publisher.
  • Wherefore ARC Thou? Part 3 ~ ARC Protocol
And, of course, you can find a whole publisher series on The Story Siren with answers pertaining to ARC's and reviews! The publishers asked were all American, but they can be easily applied to publishers here in Canada and abroad as well.

Like I said in the beginning of my post, there are TONS of book blogs, so don't expect that publishers will come to you. Be polite, respectful and courteous when contacting publishers too! And don't be greedy by asking for a billion books to be sent to you... because that probably won't happen. Being a book blogger doesn't equate to being fully entitled to free books.

In short, what you need to include when contacting a publisher is:
  • your full name
  • short introduction about your blog and yourself
  • blog stats (number of followers, how long you're been blogging for, page views, visitors)
  • title of book and author
  • other sites you possibly post your reviews on
  • your mailing address
Social Networking and Online Communities
There's nothing I love more than conversing with others about my love of books! Here are some online communities hosted by various publishers you may like to join for opportunities to chat with other avid readers, complete book-related activities, enter contests, and more:
  • Bookurious - Sponsored by Random House Canada, it's a site dedicated especially to Canadian teens! (Although that certainly won't stop older avid readers from joining too.) They have fairly regular giveaways which are easy to enter, take part in fun discussions, write blog posts and plenty more!
  • PulseIt - This is a great site run by Simon & Schuster where every month, they upload two of their latest releases for you to read online which are then available for approximately two months for your enjoyment! They also have random draws to win books every month for active members too, join in Roleplays on their Message Boards, and more!
  • Random Buzzers - Essentially the American counterpart of Bookurious, it's run by Random House for teens as well! They have lots of giveaways where most of the time entering is a simple as completing some sort of activity, you can chat with authors on their Buzz boards, write reviews, and more!
  • Figment - A community for aspiring authors to upload their work and receive helpful comments in giving them advice on how to improve their writing. You can also discuss books in their forums and take part in author chats as well!
~ Twitter
It's really important to be interactive with the book community, and it will also help to gain followers and make new friends too. I don't really use Facebook for my blog, but Twitter is an excellent social networking site as almost everyone uses it. It's also an easy way to stay updated with the latest bookish news too.

However, there are downsides to Twitter as well and these are some things I don't like to see when following someone:
  • Using Twitter to tweet about giveaways without adding content of their own. I want to follow you to hear your own thoughts/opinions! (Of course, some people really do only use Twitter for that purpose, but they don't go around asking for followers at least, so I certainly won't hold that against them.)
  • Similarly, people who only tweet their blog link over and over again. You're not promoting... you're spamming. Big difference.
  • People who obviously don't know the definition of a SPOILER. Just because you know the detail of a book/movie/show, doesn't mean others will too... especially if it's still very recent.
  • Tweets where people hound you to follow them back. If I want to follow you, I'll follow you. Don't pressure me.
  • People tweeting publishers to beg for review copies without even using proper punctuation or grammar. It's essential to maintain professionalism in such a request, and you're not doing yourself any favours by showing a complete lack of courtesy. Like I previously mentioned above, it's not always easy to find the contact email right away... but you MUST put the effort into finding one if you're so intent on receiving copies. Tweeting to ask publishers for contact information should never be your first option.
  • Do not excessively whine when a publisher doesn't send you a novel. Let me repeat myself when I say receiving review copies is an absolute privilege... and I'm grateful whenever a publisher spends the time and money mailing me their novels.
  • Conversely, do not brag when publishers send you tons of novels. It's always fun to be excited for new books and you're helping to spread the word about these books, for sure... but don't take it to the point where it feels like you're rubbing it in someone's face that you have something when others do not.
~ Goodreads 
You don't necessarily need to join Goodreads but I would suggest you have an account because it's the most up-to-date for getting information on books and you can add them to bookshelves there too. You should always double-check the release dates and plot descriptions with those found on the publisher's, author's or bookseller's websites to ensure accuracy, but in any case, it's a useful resource. You can also join various groups, create lists, etc. there too.

Similar to using Twitter though, it also has some annoying downsides:
  • There are Goodreads users who obviously don't understand that sending dozens of the same group invitations and giveaway notices for their blogs are really just spam messages that clutter my inbox. Moderation, people. MODERATION. I ignore all of these messages, and frankly, I'm less likely to care what you're even talking about in the first place.
Plagiarism and Blogger Integrity 
Once again, I'm going to be directing you to several posts by bloggers who can eloquently put into words what I cannot:
Simply put, plagiarism is wrong. You're taking someone's thoughts and opinions, and then claiming them for your own without any sort of credit to the original source. You need to find your own voice to express yourself.

When you copy someone's paragraph, make a few tweaks, and then post it for yourself... that's plagiarism. When you paraphrase someone's sentence or two, that's still plagiarism. It's not something to be taken lightly and you will eventually be caught. 

~ I think someone has copied my review/blog feature/layout, etc... what should I do?
It really does sadden me when an older blogger has their blog features and layouts completely replicated by newer bloggers who come along. And the maddening part? When these same new bloggers have the nerve to insinuate they're the ones actually being copied.

Honest mistakes do happen though, so I wouldn't be too quick to jump to conclusions. I'm sure there are individuals who don't mind shrugging their shoulders and moving on if it's not too big a deal for them. But if you wish to act, I think it's best to politely reach out the blogger first and make it known that you feel your work has been copied. You can also suggest that there own post remains... but that you simply wish to receive credit where it is due.

That's actually scary for me because I'm afraid of confrontation, but if you wish for it to be stopped, you're going to have to say something. But also, sometimes there's really not that much you can do which really sucks... especially when it feels the other party is unresponsive. 

And if you're not sure if it's okay to post something, it's always better to simply ask! If you're planning to write a post that's similar to another blogger's content (for example, a certain event theme), it's always best to get permission beforehand, if you're able to, so you're not stepping on anyone's toes afterwords...

In any case, I really like Parajunkee's answer in relation to a question regarding have a meme stolen, which you can find in her Book Blogging 101: More Comments and Stolen Memes post. Ideas really can be similar and it doesn't necessarily mean you're being copied in all cases. Just make your own content the best it can be so it shines!

~ Does this also apply to posts such as those for book trailers and cover reveals? 
No, not necessarily. Everyone is entitled to post such content on their blogs as publishers and authors appreciate the word about their novels being spread. When other bloggers post similar content such as this, that's not plagiarism or a case of one blogger copying another, as that content isn't truly ours to begin with. However, it is plagiarism when you're stealing someone's words/thoughts from the post and then claiming them to be your own.   

Personally, I always try to link back and source where I found such information to cover my bases, whether it be via a previous blog post, tweet, Facebook, etc.

~ Is there such a thing as having too many giveaways? 
If you really like to enter giveaways, then I'm sure you're shaking your head as a "no", but I really do feel that too many is not a great thing... given the context, of course.

If a publisher is hosting several giveaways through your blog, I can hardly raise a complaint. However, if you're continuously hosting giveaways on your own terms to the point where it feels like you're "buying your followers", I can't say I'm very impressed. It's more essential to post content about books, and these followers aren't necessarily the loyal type who will continue to return to your blog and read it. 

Don't sell yourself short by thinking that just because you're not hosting a giveaway, it doesn't mean no one will follow you. Just a thought.

*****

I think that's about everything I wanted to sort of share my opinion on...

If you read this long post, thank you so much... and I look forward to hearing your opinions, whether you agree or disagree with what I've said. Like I mentioned in the very beginning, blogging is very much a learning experience! And, hopefully, you will find some of this information helpful as well.

I'm not usually one to share my opinions so openly like this, so I'm actually rather nervous to see what the response will be like...

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23 comments

  1. Great post! I know I always try to be a good blogger and it really saddens me when I hear stroies about fellow bloggers being plagarized or disrespected online. I also love how you added the links to other blogs and their posts on some of these subjects.

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  2. Awesome compilation of resources here, Liz!

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  3. This is awesome!
    I wish there was something like this when I started to blog!! :D

    You're awesome for writing this post.

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  4. This is such a great post, Liz. You've put up some useful resources and have mixed it with advice based on your own experiences.

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  5. What a great post! Thanks for sharing. Some of those links you have listed I have read before but some I had never even heard of before. Very helpful, thanks!

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  6. This is really helpful advice, thanks so much for posting! I was the same - when I started blogging, had no idea what I was doing! I love that you've taken the time to put this together to help out new (and old!) bloggers :).

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  7. Al (a might be newbie)November 11, 2011 at 6:29 PM

    Really helpful stuff! I've been thinking about starting to blog lately and you've got me pointing in the right resource direction. Thanks a bunch :)

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  8. This is such a great post Liz! I always try my best to be a good blogger and so far (knock on wood) I haven't had any problems but it always annoys me when I here of other people being plagiarized or disrespected by other bloggers. I've checked out some of the links you included in your post and some of them are actually really useful. So thanks for a great post!

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  9. This post is fantastic! Thank you for taking the time to compile all of this information. It looks like it took a lot of time and effort.

    I'm sorry to hear you've been plagiarized. I recently discovered someone has been plagiarizing my blog too. It hurts and has really dinged my motivation, but I'm trying to look at it like you are, as a rite of passage.

    Thank you so much for including my link! :D

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  10. Thanks for the amazing post, Liz! You pointed everything out wonderfully!

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  11. Great post and thanks for linking all those sources. I hadn't seen all of the articles before!

    While the book blogosphere is an amazing place, there are a few people that just love to ruin the experience for others.

    Sorry to hear that you've had your content stolen, too!

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  12. I love all the helpful links laid out for me to visit! Blogging is a lot of fun but it's also upsetting that it has its downsides too. I was involved in confronting a blogger who was plagiarizing multiple reviews and it wasn't a pretty process..hope it worked out better for you Liz.
    I hope I've been a good blogger because it makes me feel bad even thinking I've stepped on anyone's toes!

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  13. Don't be nervous, nothing you said was bad at all! You did a great job compiling all kinds of resources and tips and tricks and pointing out where some bloggers can go wrong, without being rude or judgemental about it. Hopefully some people can learn some things, and I know I'm going to bookmark this for later reference for some of the tips and tricks. =)

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  14. Amazing post Liz! So thorough and covered the basics. Loved the additional links to other sources as well.. nice well-rounded view. It's such a tricky situation many times...

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  15. Wow, there's so many great tips in here! :) I'm a pretty new blogger, since May of this year, and I've tried very hard to be courteous, but sometimes it's hard to know what's right. This makes me feel better! I'll have to bookmark this, especially for all the links.

    Thanks so much! :)

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  16. Beautifully put Liz, and a great resource for us book bloggers to bookmark and refer people to. I appreciate the work you put into this post. :)

    Shelagh
    The Word Fiend

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  17. Thanks for all the wonderful information. I'll be taking the time to read it all. You're right about people who constantly send messages about their blogs. It gets tiring to see the same type of message over and over again.

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  18. Great post Liz. I have nothing other to say, you covered most of the book blogging issues :) I will say that the events on Goodreads button is overused and I get so irritated by the same blogs over and over sending me event invites (like 5 a week!)

    Erika Badass

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  19. Thank you so much for this post, I have been searching for good detailed information for the past month and I saw A cupcake and a Latte mention this post on her site.I just recently decided to put more time into my blogs and discovered that the book blog community is vast. Again thanks for the information.

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  20. Liz - do you mind if I add a link to this post on Wednesday for my weekly Women Reading post?

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  21. Thank you so much everyone for reading my post! I'm glad to hear it's been helpful to some of you, and if you can, definitely make use of the links!

    The book community can be so warm and friendly, and it's unfortunate there are individuals who take away those good sentiments.

    @Chrystal- You are more than welcome to share the link to my post! I would really appreciate it, actually. Thanks! :)

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  22. This is a really great post! I've been blogging for a year, but really only actively, and taking a real interest, for the last month or two.

    Stuff like this REALLY helps! Thanks!

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  23. This was great! No reason to be worried. This was very helpful to me and I'm going to check out those links. I'm new to blogging myself and am trying to get into the book reviews so I really appreciate you sharing all of this. I hope this helps to resolve your problems in the blogging world! Thank you!

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