Back in June there was a discussion in the book blogging world about publishing and diversity, related to BEA specifically. I know this is a late response, but there is something I have been pondering ever since but could not get on paper the right way. I really don’t have many intelligent remarks to add to the discussion, but I do have a question that won’t let me go ever since seeing a few comments on Amy’s blog about the expectation that self-published books distributed especially as e-books are expected to change this imbalance.
Do we as bloggers have an obligation to try to remedy the lack of diversity through reviewing not just “new and shiny” books, but other ones as well?
On the one hand I blog as a hobby. I read as a hobby. Hence, I should read what I like. But how do I know that I don’t like a certain genre if I have never tried it? And what if the biggest readers out there (among which I count book bloggers) continuously ignore genres that they are less familiar with? Won’t it just strengthen the lack of diversity?
So lots of questions, but here’s the one that has been bugging me, or in more neutral tones, keeping me occupied. If bloggers accept that they do have a responsibility to broaden reading horizons, then
what about self-published books?
I do not accept self-published books for review (not that it keeps some authors from trying). I have had too many emails about review copies that simply make no sense. The worst of them featured something along the lines of:
“My novel is a very masculine novel. It is about real men doing manly things”
Uhu, way to go and propose to get it reviewed on a blog that takes part in a feminist classics reading challenge.
Nevertheless, I doubt I am being fair. All books start out as unpublished books. I have read a few books that first became succesful as self-published novels. And if there is a lack of representation on the market of people who are from countries that we mostly read about through authors who write from a Western perspective, if these authors are perpetually ignored by publishing companies that would give them access to larger audiences and self-publishing is the only option, than why do I still consider it fair to rule out accepting any self-published copies?
I am not saying I will be accepting self-published books from now on. But I feel this is something to consider. Something that I would like to change if I had the time. But there’s the other problem: I always feel you have to review a book you have received for free. And there is the added problem that self-published books are often unedited (I have read one in which the author had not even bothered to properly outline the texts – and no, that was not done on purpose). And moreover, in a way, anyone with enough money can publish his own book, so how to select? Because I wouldn’t want the “rich man” novel, that is besides the point. But I also would like to read books that are readable, and thus if I were to accept self-published books, should there be some byline that reads that I will at least read the first 50 pages before deciding to move on? But ugh, were I to accept that, I would again establish this definite marker between self-published and published books. Adding that restriction would not be fair anyway. Someone would be sending me the work of years (published or self-published) for free, and it would only be decent to repay them with a post, right?
Sometimes, I think I am simply too comfortable reading the known books. Maybe the “forgotten classics”, but still the one that have become known again. Blogging can be so confusing, when you stop to think about it.
I told you I had little intelligible thoughts to add to this discussion, so I will just end with a (controversially formulated) question:
Is it fair that many of us bloggers refuse to review self-published books if we also claim to be proponents of more diversity in publishing?
I would be delighted to hear your thoughts. Maybe it will enable me to make some sense of it all.