Making Money from Your Book Blog – This is NOT Something to be Ashamed Of

Don't be ashamed about making money from your passion.

Why are book bloggers free marketers?

  • Companies hire marketers. They have entire marketing departments.
  • These marketers promote the book, generate hype, and help sales.
  • These marketers get paid (sometimes quite well).
  • Why do book bloggers do this same job… for free?

Is it because we simply love to read?
Is it because we’ll do anything for a free book in return?

But why is it okay to do this should-be-paid marketing job for free, but it’s not okay to try to make money from a book blog?

Let me break that down a little…

  • People normally get paid to market books.
  • The book blogging community sees it as okay for book bloggers to do that same job 100% for free.
  • Yet if someone tries to turn their love of books into a paid venture, people scream INSINCERE or SELL OUT or CANNOT BE TRUSTED.

Slaving over a blog for free is good.
Paying your bills is bad?

Is that it?

So here’s my question:

Why is it a bad thing to turn your passion for books into a career?

  • Is there a rule that says you have to hate your job?
  • Is there a rule that says it’s not okay to take your passion and make money from it?
  • Is there a rule that says everyone in the bookish world should be a “starving artist?”

Whenever I think of all these points, I think of authors on Kickstarter.

  • An author wants to write a book, but she really doesn’t have the time or money to get it out there.
  • To combat this, she launches a Kickstarter campaign to raise $x. This money will cover the expenses for releasing the book (book cover, editing, etc.) and will cover her bills during the writing period so she has time to write.
  • The author then gets harassed. She gets called insincere, lazy, and a free loader. People say she needs to suck it up and work two jobs while writing the book because “that’s how it’s done”.

I think this mentality is so sad.

Why is it a crime to want to make money from something you love? Do you have to hate your job in order to be genuine?

The author isn’t asking for charity; she’s asking for money in exchange for an end product. You get the book, she gets the funds to write the book.

Why do people think it’s insincere unless she’s a “starving artist?”

Look at any other Kickstarter project in any other industry. People ask for money to cover expenses and to pay their bills so they can take time off to make the project happen. In every other industry, this is okay. This isn’t questioned. Because that’s how products are made. They take TIME and you need to pay your damn bills during that time.

But then readers look at authors and want them to be starving artists working two jobs while trying to get a book out there because “that’s how someone else did it” or “that’s just how it’s done”.

There’s this huge anti-money idea in the book blogging world—why?

One of my theories is because the book blogging world (particularly the YA one) is full of young people—people without financial responsibilities.

When you’re younger, it’s easier to fantasize about doing things for free, simply because you love them and not because there’s money involved. It’s a fantasy that’s easy to imagine when you don’t have any bills to pay yourself.

But when you get out there and actually do have bills to pay, that’s when you realize: you can either get them paid doing something you don’t like, or you can get them paid using your passion.

Guess which one sounds more exciting to me…

Making money from your passion isn’t something to be ashamed of. It should be everyone’s goal!

Seriously, why is this seen as a bad thing? This is something people should aspire to do—not something she should be turning up our noses at.

As far as I’m concerned, if you can make money from your passion, you’ve found success. YOU’RE THERE! You’ve done it! You’ve accomplished something everyone wants. You should be damn proud of this.

Let’s talk about book bloggers making money… why do you think this is such a taboo?

What ways do you think bloggers can monetize their blogs (other than ads)?

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54 comments

  1. I’m fine with other bloggers getting paid to review books, but I personally wouldn’t want to accept money for reviews. I just feel like there would be too much pressure on me to like the book. Even if it’s clear from the publisher that I can rate the book negatively…I would still feel pressured lol 😛 Plus, what if I’m half way through and want to DNF it. Do I still get paid for reading half or do I always have to force myself to finish the book? I just feel like if publishers started paying reviewers, they would also start demanding more from us.

    I like the author comparison, but at the same time, I don’t really see book reviewing becoming a full time job. I don’t think publishers would be willing to give that much money for reviews or else the reviewer would have to review a lot of books in a month. Book reviewing has always been more of a hobby because most of us are in school or have full time jobs already. I mean from a hobbyists’s perspective, getting a free book is pretty awesome already. Publishers probably feel they don’t need to give us more as we are already practically begging for certain ARCs from them and eternally grateful when we’re accepted for the ARCs.

    Stephanie@ThesePaperHearts recently posted: 14 YA Book Releases to Look Forward to in November 2015
    1. I personally wouldn’t want to get paid for it either, but it seems like a lot of people would be interested in it!

      Publishers are paying booktubers though, which is interesting. How did that area jump straight into getting payment, while it’s still non-existent for book bloggers?

      While I understand the appeal of a free book, I also think it’s interesting if you break down the numbers.

      The cost of a book is what.. like $12? (Taking an average based on an e-book and a physical book bought from Amazon.) And of course it doesn’t cost that much for the publisher, but let’s say you’re saving yourself $12 by getting it for free. If you consider it will probably take someone 4 hours to read the book (on average), plus 30 minutes to write the review, you’re looking at $2.60 per hour in “compensation”.

      I know a lot of people are happy to get books for free (I am too if it’s a book I really want) but it is interesting when you break down the numbers to find out what your time is valued at.

      I guess what is starting to grind me is when we’re asked to do other forms of promotion for free without even getting a book. Like:

      * Post this giveaway of ours for your followers!
      * A new book is releasing! Publish this information on your blog.
      * Share this Tweet about the book with your followers!

      In none of those cases are you offered ANYTHING for your time. They’re basically asking for free advertising.

  2. Hallejulah! I loved your email series and am working on an idea to hopefully make money from my blog. Thank you so much for putting that together and giving me (and hopefully others) the push to act. I come from a business background and have always wondered why there is such a stigma about trying to make money from book blogging.

    1. I’m so glad you loved the series Sarah!

      It should be seen as the highest achievement to make money doing something you love. It shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of!

  3. I think the problem is that the publishers themselves can’t really give away a lot of money to pay reviewers for a review, and that the ARC itself is already costing them money. I don’t know how sustainable it would be if everyone was paid to review; rather, I think people should be paid when they do something else to market books, especially in great and creative ways that really help sell the book.

    That’s just my idea, and I don’t know how earning some money from book blogging will work because it depends a lot on the publisher as well. But booktubers are getting paid, and book bloggers have been going on for longer. Isn’t it about time book bloggers get paid too?

    1. Yeah I find it very interesting that booktubers seem to jump straight into being paid, and book bloggers were skipped entirely. Why is that?

      But yeah, I guess I don’t think book bloggers will ever be paid to review books (at least most of them won’t be) because there are far too many people willing to review the book for free, as long as they get a free copy of the book in return.

      But many publishers still ask for a lot of free advertising.

      * Post this giveaway of ours for your followers!
      * A new book is releasing! Publish this information on your blog.
      * Share this Tweet about the book with your followers!

      And usually a free book isn’t even offered as “compensation” in those cases! Those are things that should be paid for, otherwise it’s literally free advertising.

  4. I think it’s because with money, people think that we’ll be dishonest in our review. Which totally stinks! Then again, I think it’s the same with social media influencers and their advertorials. I keep reading comments (“It’s free, of course, you’re writing it’s good”… yada yada) that attack them unnecessarily — even when the bloggers themselves share about the product/service’s drawbacks. It’s messed up. That said, I don’t see anything wrong with making money on our book blog. 🙂

    Priscilla recently posted: Kitchens of the Great Midwest: Review
    1. Honestly, I think I’m more sceptical of affiliate links than paid reviews.

      If you’re paid to write a review, you write the review, get paid once, then it’s done. Right?

      With an affiliate link, you only make money if your readers decide to buy that same product. So it’s in your best interest to give the item a rave review and “forget” to mention any downsides.

      (I know not everyone is like that, I just think it’s interesting that we all seem to be okay with affiliate links and yet we’re not okay with paid reviews.)

    1. I know! Making money doing something you love should be seen as the highest accomplishment. Surely that’s something everyone wants?

      Would you rather have a shit job you hate? Or make money doing the thing you love most?

  5. I think a lot of this is because most book bloggers are doing it as a hobby. We love books, we love to read, we want to share our thoughts on those books, so we do it because it’s fun. Most of us also probably don’t have degrees in English, Marketing, or whatever so we don’t feel “qualified” to charge for reviews. We’re not “professionals.” At least that’s how I felt until your e-mail series. We may not have the same qualifications as those people actual hired and paid by publishing houses, but we certainly have experience! So from that perspective it’s easy to see how someone who’s doing it purely as a hobby can view someone who starts charging as selling out.

    I do admit that I’m wary of paid of reviews if that reviewer only posts positive reviews. I feel like they’re either lying or sugarcoating their thoughts to make the review more favorable to promote the book which is essentially what they’re being paid for. Heck, I’m wary of free reviewer who do that unless they have a note on their blog saying that they only post reviews for the books that they like and want to promote, not that they just say they love every single thing that they read.

    Okay, I got a bit off track there. But basically I think the tension comes down to there being a group of bloggers who do it purely for their love of books and those who still love books but would like to be compensated for their time. There’s nothing wrong with either approach, but they just see book blogging differently. Not everyone wants to get paid, and not everyone wants to be doing the marketers job for free. I feel like I fall somewhere in the middle. I review books because I like to and have no one in “real life” to talk to about them, so I’d be reviewing books regardless, so I wouldn’t feel right charging. It’s like “Hey, I baked you this cake that you didn’t ask for, but you owe me $20.” On the other hand, I think charging for reviews that authors request would be totally fine. They’d be seeking out a service from me that is extra to what I’d be doing on my own. I think that’s fair.

    Angie F. recently posted: Review: Cam Girl by Leah Raeder
    1. I would be wary of anyone who only posted positive reviews, even if they weren’t paid for it!

      But I think it’s interesting that we all seem to be okay with affiliate links, but not okay with paid reviews.

      If you’re paid to write reviews, you’re paid once. You’re paid regardless of what your opinion is (unless the company runs out on you, and maybe even violates your contract).

      But with an affiliate link, it’s actually in your best interest to “forget” any downsides because you’re only paid if other people see how awesome the product is and choose to buy it.

      So arguably, someone is more likely to lie when posting an affiliate link, and yet that’s something we all seem to be okay with.

      I just find that really interesting I guess. I wonder if people just don’t think about it?

      I’m fine with reviewing books for free as long as there’s no pressure to definitely read and review the book.

      I guess what I’m not okay with and what rubs me the wrong way, is when publishers ask me to actually market their book for nothing in return.

      For example, they don’t offer me a copy of the book, and say things like:

      * Post this giveaway of ours for your followers!
      * A new book is releasing! Publish this information on your blog.
      * Share this Tweet about the book with your followers!

      As far as I’m concerned, all of those are the equivalent of ADVERTISING. They’re trying to get free advertising out of me, which just isn’t cool.

      I’m not going to post adverts on my blogs just because they asked nicely. (Even if they offered me money I’d still say no because adverts aren’t my thing, but that’s the kind of thing they SHOULD be offering to pay for, or at least offer the book in exchange!)

  6. I’m okay with bloggers getting paid for reviewing books, especially if they’re connected with more professional book websites (like maybe Kirkus or Book Riot? I dunno.) and have a good relationship with the publisher/publicist. Also, if they can be comfortable with it and be a bit professional about it as well, that should be fine. And not feel obligated to give a fantastic review and still feel satisfied/happy with their review. I mean, I’ve experienced feeling bad about not really loving a book of an author I love or have reviewed before. It’s hard and there’s no money involved, what more if it’s a business transaction. I dunno. 😛

    I think it’s hard to make book reviewing your ONLY source of income, but I think it can be a part of a bigger thing like if you have a blog where you sell (bookish and not) ads on your sidebar, do sponsored posts on your blog and social media, or if you sell related services like organizing/managing blog tours or creating graphics and what not. It won’t be easy, but I guess it can work if you’re innovative and hard working. 😛

    1. Oh yeah, I think book reviewing as a source of income would be EXTREMELY hard to pull off (if not impossible). There are just far too many people out there willing to review books for free, so getting paid for it would be really hard.

      I definitely think the best way to make a full time income is to use your blog as a marketing platform for your other services/products (whether that’s beta reading, designing book covers, freelance editing, etc.).

  7. If we make a comparison with traditional print reviews, I think it’s clear we look for honest reviews not to the marketing department, but to the editorial side that feels beholden not to the advertisers but to the readers and subscribers. If my readers loved my content so much that they wanted to pay for it, I would be thrilled! But with all that’s out there for free, I just don’t think it’s realistic; I also enjoy connecting with others in a non-commercial way. And I honestly don’t begrudge the authors and publishers I love a bit of free publicity. Publishing is not easy these days.

    That said, I don’t think there should be a stigma for those who do accept payment for blogging, as long as there is complete transparency about it. I’m interested to know what’s in your e-course, but I’ve tried to sign up twice and it doesn’t work. I did confirm my address but don’t get anything further. Help?

    1. I see that you signed up 9 days ago. But according to my system you’re on the list as “unconfirmed”, meaning you never confirmed your email address. That’s why you haven’t gotten the emails. I’ll add you manually and you should get the first email tomorrow.

  8. Just stumbled across your site! Wish I had found it sooner when I started my blog as it would have saved me a whole lot of pain trying to get my head around building my site (techy I aint!). Just signed up to your wordpress course. Thanks for creating! xxxxx

  9. I don’t think I ever want to get paid for reviews, especially because I don’t feel like I want to make a job out of my book blog, but I still subscribed. I’m interested to see what more you have to say about this topic. I think you have talked about some good points. If I look at beauty blogs and the fact that some of them are living from their blog; why is it perfectly okay for them. So I don’t see why book blogging is any different.

    I remember the author and the Kickstarter project you are referring. It’s really sad how that went.

    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted: November retelling link-up | Feedback.
    1. I think you’ll enjoy the fact that most of my series is about making money from other ways other than reviews. 🙂

      And yes, I was devastated for that author. If you don’t want to back the campaign—don’t. That’s fine. No need to criticize the person though.

  10. I think this is important and a great idea. Making money from something we love doing just seems like apple pie with yummy ice cream on top! However, in some instances there’s a fine line. I’d like the option to be paid as a livelihood, if possible,, while still maintaining the ability to receive FREE books to review just for fun.

  11. I really appreciate how much you’re pushing for this idea. I feel like our community is at the point where we’re willing to entertain the idea of getting paid to review as long as we’re honest about it, but we need someone whose voice we respect to tell us it’s okay ;-). You inspired me to add a paid review option if an author or publicist wants a guaranteed review date. I have no idea if anyone will take me up on it, but might as well try!

    Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings recently posted: The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard Audiobook {3 Stars}
    1. Go you, Anya! There’s no harm in throwing that option out there. The worst that can happen is no one bites and everything remains exactly as it is now. That worst case scenario isn’t so bad. 😛

      I find it amusing how no one seems worried about honesty with affiliate links, but we’re so worried about it with reviews… and arguably, there’s more incentive for a blogger to lie with affiliate links since their income DEPENDS on people buying the product.

  12. I am looking forward to your email series. I have been telling my boys for a couple years now that if I could make money from reading books I would. I don’t only blog about books and honestly wondered why product reviewers and sponsored posts can charge for their work but book bloggers couldn’t. Though, conversely, those products for review are income to the blogger and the free books for review are not? I suppose we can’t have it both ways. But I have really been trying to figure out what long term direction I want to take from my blog and I hope your course will help me narrow down my options. Thanks!

    Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories recently posted: Weekly Menu Plan – Nov. 5, 2015
    1. Yeah in other industries, bloggers would laugh if someone came up and said, “Review this product for free!!” or “Publish this sponsored content for free. Your readers would love it!”

    1. Exactly! In other industries bloggers would laugh if they were asked to post that kind of content for free, because it would basically be free advertising. And who the hell gives away free advertising???

  13. I’m glad that you’ve posted this because it’s completely true. People are too quick to attack those who are trying to make money from something they love and enjoy. We should all be able to make out passions something which can earn us money, we would all be a lot happier that way. I think part of it is motivated by jealousy, people see what they want but don’t have and are too quick to go on the offensive, and it’s not fair.

    If people are going to make blogging and reviewing books their job, good for them making something they enjoy a way to make money. I already know that’s not for me, the pressure would be awful, but I’m sure some people would thrive on it. I would be worried that by being paid to review people would feel obligated to provide a positive review even if they didn’t like it, but really, there are so many people reviewing books out there, a few false positives probably wouldn’t affect things too much.

    Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity recently posted: Sunday Summary: 08.11.2015
  14. Amen and amen. Wow! Read this post then read your introductory email course and I’m standing here cheering and waving and whistling! Thank you Ashley for saying something we should have been kicking and screaming about ages ago. AND question – are book tubers really getting paid?!? Wait, I’m happy for them and all but didn’t we show up at the party first? That sounds bad I know but oh my gosh!

    Ashley I can’t wait to see what your email series brings! Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and passion with us! You totally rock!

    Stacy @ The Novel Life recently posted: 10 Must-See Book-to-Movie Adaptations
    1. Yes, some of them definitely are! I don’t really watch their videos so I can’t link to specific examples, but I’ve seen some in the past where they disclosed that they’d received money in exchange for their video.

      I get that they have larger audiences, but I can’t help but feel a bit pushed aside. How did they jump straight into earning money and we’re not? (Not that it’s their fault, but it’s an interesting thing to think about!)

  15. I LOVE the idea of being able to make money from a book blog, even if it is a nominal amount to cover the costs of blogging/time spent making your blog awesome. It’s shrouded in a lot of mystery though because no one seems to disclose how to go about it, or what you should be charging for different services. Excellent post, Ashley! R xx

    Rachel @ Confessions of a Book Geek recently posted: The Transatlantic Book Project
  16. I absolutely HATE the whole “starving artist” thing. Argh. It drives me crazy, too, when people attack authors for “writing to make money”…um…why not?!?! A career can be something you love and you can do it for money AND still love it. heeh. I’m very passionate about this topic. I’m definitely signing up for your email series, omg, thank you for running things like that! I would love to make money off my blog so I can put it back INTO my blog. Anyhow…this post = entirely yes.

  17. Hey Ashley,

    I just stumbled across your post, half a year later, and you’re probably never going to see this message, but I really enjoyed your post. As a young person in the YA sector, I obviously don’t fully understand the pressure of bills and monetary responsibilities, but I do understand the idea of wanting to monetise a blog – after all, the amount of time that we book bloggers pour into our blogs is mind blowing – and we should definitely be compensated in some form (and actuallycompensated – not paid in one book for 5/6 hours of work), right?

    I’m just scrolling through the comments, and I find it incredible to hear – I didn’t know this before – that BookTubers get paid to review books. I’m not saying that BookTubers spend any less time, but it’s quite frustrating, really, that we book bloggers are treated differently. Is this some sort of implicit racism, or what? :\ 😀

    I missed your email series by seven months, but do you have the series, and would you be able to email them all to me at once, or something? I’m really, really, interested in what you have to say, and thank you so much for writing a post like this.

    Thank you so much. Please let me know if you see this message.

    -Paul

    1. Hi Paul 🙂

      I’m so glad you found this post! Better late than never.

      You can still sign up for the email series here: https://www.nosegraze.com/bookish-business/

      I think BookTubers are in a unique position because they’re a different and newer ‘branch’ of book lovers and they had the opportunity to build their own reputation from the ground up. They realized they could make money doing promo work, so they asked for it, and because of their large audiences, they got it. But book bloggers have already built up a reputation that we’re quite happy to do it for free, and I think that will be nearly impossible to change.

  18. This problem also exists with lifestyle bloggers. I’m…trying to transition my personal blog into one that can make money, because it’s a huge passion and making money from special interests is important to me.

    The divide really hurts, and whilst I was once against it, I’m starting to see that, when done in a non-spammy and non-icky way, it’s actually a great idea. I’ve wanted to make money from having a website since before Whateverlife, and especially now that I’ve matured a bit and can see just how bloggers can help change the world—we inspire and help and relate to others, all from the comforts of our own environments—and it’s pretty amazing.

    I want to make money through my blog—one major blog, not multiple separated blogs—so I can help contribute to that as often as possible, to the point that I don’t understand how I could be happy doing anything else. Beyond that, my blog will eventually serve as a platform for networking with indie film creators, because I do plan to expand my mediums to those that are lesser-known.

    And I’m excited. I’ve these ideas to help make the world a more neurodiverse place, but…then I remember how critical my fellow personal/lifestyle bloggers can be and think, “Maybe I’m still too naive to believe some good could come of this,” and it sucks. People already don’t take me seriously because I’m different…

    Any tips on breaking through the barrier? How does one go from affiliate links here and there to ads, regular affiliate links and sponsored content on their blog? How is the criticism from blog friends handled? How does one articulate the why, in the event they are asked?

    Liz recently posted: Garden update: June 2016
  19. I have been a book blogger for the last 7 years, having started when I was in high school. When I first started, I thought it was beyond amazing that I could get a book for free if I reviewed it. As time went on though, I think I have become numb to it. Having now just come out the other side of a university degree, I find myself thinking back on all the literal hundreds of hours that I have spent on my blog, and am now weighing up whether or not it is practical for me to continue with it if I am wanting to further my budding career.

    I don’t know if getting paid for book reviews is the right way to go though. As has been mentioned by other here, there will always be people willing to do it for free. What I think would be better is the opportunity to be invited to conventions and the like; that way we can further our network with authors, publishers and other bloggers. This would be mutually beneficial for all involved in gaining exposure.

    Renae McKenzie recently posted: Tour: My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff

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