Hold on tight folks - this will get a bit bumpy....
Yesterday at Read Roger, Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book, published a post suggesting that literary bloggers - specifically kidlit bloggers - should not be reviewing books or interviewing authors. There are several things about this post that frustrated me, not the least of which is that perhaps because Roger is with such a respected publication his words seem to carry an extra grain of truth to many of the commenters to the post. Many bloggers have responded already (See Jen, Liz, Betsy and Finding Wonderland) and they all have very thoughtful and measured things to say. But what really makes me angry about Roger's assertion is that a blogger's opinion can be bought by a free book, a promotion party, an author visit or even a few postive comments at their site. It is entirely possible that this is going on somewhere in the blogosphere at some tiny little blog but it sure as shit is not happening here, and not at any of the sites I regularly visit either.
No way, no how and not ever. And to suggest otherwise discredits us all in a way I do not appreciate and certainly will not support.
I can not be bought with books or a free t-shirt or even a cupcake. If he knew me personally, if he knew how I lived, what I do for living and then took the time to ask why I blog about books in the first place then Roger Sutton would know this. If he took the time to find out any of these things from Jen, Kelly, Liz, Gwenda, Tanita, Sarah, Betsy, Leila, Jules, Eisha and on and on and on than he would know how frustrating it is to have our opinons and thoughtful consideration of books dismissed by the mere idea that we will say anything in exchange for a book.
The assumption seems to be that because we are not paid to blog about books then we must be for sale to any publisher or author willing to offer us a prize. In my case I have to wonder if when I'm reviewing for Booklist I'm assumed to be a fair, honest and responsible reviewer but when I write about a book at Chasing Ray I lose all control. When Gwenda has a review in a newspaper is she telling the truth but at her site is she lying? Am I to believe that authors and publishers and print reviewers believe bloggers are all irresponsible, greedy child-like adults who chose to write about books solely in the hopes of gaining attention from people they will never meet? (Except of course when we are employed as print reviewers ourselves - then apparently everything changes.)
As it happens, I am in the midst of organizing an 18 blog author tour for the month of June that involves multiple interviews with over 25 different authors. (We are calling it the "Summer Blog Blast Tour".) It includes many different YA writers and not one of them was selected because they had a book coming out that needed to be reviewed. I know this because I was the final word on which authors were chosen and my choices were made for very different reasons. I looked for authors who write books for boys and those who write books for girls. I looked for authors who direct their attention to the GBLT teen audience. I looked for authors who write graphic novels, historical fiction, fantasy, romance, SF and mystery. I consulted with the other bloggers and we have set our net as far and wide as we can with the sole purpose of showing the lit blogosphere the very diverse and rich nature of current YA literature. Some of the writers are well known, others hardly at all. What they have in common is only one thing - they write good books. That is the one ideal I wanted to organize the tour around and I feel very confident that we have put something together that will make thousands of readers aware of books they should be reading.
And that's the point Roger - it's always and only about books I think more people should be reading.
I love books; I have always loved books, but I have gone toe to toe over objects and ideas far larger than the latest release from RH or Candlewick and if I didn't sell out then what possibly makes anyone think I would sell out for an ARC? It is an insult to make such sweeping generalizations about bloggers who review books and it is personally insulting to suggest that I can be bought so cheaply.
The bottom line is that Roger Sutton does not know me or most of the rest of us. I have to wonder then, why he felt so comfortable writing the things that he did. Would he suggest that reviewers for The Horn Book can be bought with an ARC? Or those with Kirkus or Booklist or the NYT or LAT? Why is it that those of us who do it for love rather than money must have our motives questioned?
I have three college degrees, I'm a published author, I have written a book, I have a well respected literary agent shopping said book and my husband and I own an aircraft leasing business that we started from nothing. I'm way past needing to beg for respect at any party I attend. I'm here, in the literary blogosphere, because I have something valuable to offer - it's called my opinion, and it is always and only, my own.
I don't think Roger meant to anger or frustrate bloggers with his post but I hope he understand why I feel the way I do, and maybe he will think a little bit more about us all before he makes such broad statements again.
Check back here in the coming weeks for updates on the blog tour - and yes, all the bloggers I mentioned above (most especially Betsy at Fuse #8) will be participating.