The world is a weird place to be living in. On one hand, we think of all the possibilities that await us, the people we can be, the change we can bring. But on the other hand, the system in place is one that actively makes sure that a huge percentage of people don’t get the chance to prove themselves. It’s an ableist, capitalistic world that focuses on money. Yet, when it comes to paying people for doing their job, they are met with resistance and derision from the unlikeliest of places. Perhaps because here, too, it has decided to be selective with nobody having any idea about what the criteria are. Book reviewers face the worst of this treatment.
Look at any other industry. Food. Travel. Beauty. All of them treat their reviewers with respect. But what do book reviewers get? None. Nada. Zilch. On the contrary, we get panned for taking money in exchange for a review because it apparently means we’re dishonest. It apparently means we don’t love books enough because we are shameless enough to take money for reviews. It apparently means that we don’t experience joy if we’re doing it this way.
Why this negativity? Why this hatred towards people who are just doing their job? When marketing takes up so much of a company or organization’s budget, nobody bats an eye. But when people who read, review, and spread the word about a book ask for money, they’re suddenly the devil incarnate, are they? How is it fair? Have some respect for us book reviewers, too. I’ putting in the time and effort to read a book and put it out for our audience to see. It is this time and effort that we demand compensation for. Not for a five-star review. And if I end up rating a review copy five stars, trust me, it’s not because of the money. It’s because I genuinely enjoyed it.
Imagine working in an IT company and just getting paid in exposure. Imagine if the boss were to say, “Hey, look. You’re not doing it out of joy for the work because you’re getting paid for it and it’s not fair to the client.” Do you realize how stupid that sounds? The first question that would be out of anyone’s mouth would be, “What? You expect me to work for free?” and understanding will flow immediately. But when a book reviewer asks for compensation for the work they are putting in, oh, it’s apocalypse time! How dare we ask for remuneration? How dare we place a value on our efforts? How dare we refuse to do for free what we are good at?
The world is cruel to artists, there’s no doubt about that. I saw this post going around during the thick of the pandemic where someone said, “When the world shut down, it turned to artists to keep its morale up. Don’t forget the importance of art and artists.” I’m obviously paraphrasing, I don’t know the exact quote. But the world is nothing without art. Yet it looks down on art as expendable. It’s a bit of a stretch, expecting everyone to understand art and all the complexities it brings. But isn’t hope what the world runs on? Well, the world is running on fumes right now, but let’s not go there.
My point is: a large part of the world understands this and fights for the survival of art. Through this, there are art critics, who review and push art out into the public eye. They get paid for it. Of course, you cannot trust all art critics to match your own opinion because there are as many different opinions in the world as there are people. More, even. My point is, if people can respect art critics and food critics and make movies including them (case in point: Ratatouille), what is stopping them from respecting book reviewers? After all, books are also an art. So, when the other critics and reviewers are getting paid in money and respect, why can’t people extend the same to the book industry?
The problem is, there are a lot of book review schemes out there that claim to respect the reviewer by paying them money. But the money is nominal, ranging from 20 to 50 rupees. What a massive insult. If you look at it in international terms, it’s not even 1 USD. You put in 4-5 hours of reading plus 1-2 hours of reviewing and you get 1 USD for 5-7 hours of work. That’s about 14-20 cents or 3-10 rupees per hour for all your work. Anywhere else, it would be full outrage. But since we aren’t allowed to stand up for ourselves and our work and are seen as snobs….
While we are just doing our jobs, we’re being belittled, dissed on, and shit-talked about behind our backs. ‘She takes money for reviews. She mustn’t be honest.’ Or ‘She charges to review books, so she doesn’t enjoy what she does.’ Or a very disgusted ‘She has turned books into a business.’ And these come from the most unexpected places, from people you’d think would understand the point of ads and marketing and reviews! I’ve heard this flung at me many, many times over the past however many years I’ve been on social media. But there’s a breaking point for everything.
A lot of people will come at this post claiming it to be unnecessary. Trust me, this was a long time coming. This is me fighting back. ‘Unnecessary’ is when people use sly means to bring down others who are trying to make a name for themselves.
So, here’s my last two cents about this topic: We book reviewers deserve something in return too. We shouldn’t be forced to display examples to the world every time it steps out of line. Respect is a two-way street. It is as simple as that. And I’m done saying ‘please’. Enough.
I’ll see you in tomorrow’s Blogtober post. ❤
Until next time, keep reading, respect book reviewers, and add melodrama to your life! 😊