Friday 28 June 2019

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On the Pressure to Buy Books

On the Pressure to Buy Books

Today, I want to talk about something that has been bothering me for a while - the pressure within the YA community to buy books. As a member of the YA community, I've seen a number of things over the past few months with regards to YA readers buying books that have slowly been building up and building up, and I just feel it needs to be addressed.

The majority of books are expensive, there's no way of getting round that. It's fact. It's something I've discussed before. And while people of all ages can and do read YA, the target audience are teenagers, who don't have disposable income (see Vicky of Vicky Who Read's post The Many Ways YA Books & The Community Isolates Teens for more discourse on how those who buy YA have an affect on what gets published). And what I've been seeing is the pressure members of the YA community are under when it comes to buying books, based on a number of issues.

Apparently, bookstagrammers who don't take photos of final copies - specifically hardbacks - are not getting as much engagement as those who do. Those who take photos of ARCs or library books are not getting the likes, the comments, the follows. They're feeling pressured to buy books - and props - they can't afford in order to run a successful bookstagram. I'm not massive in the world of bookstagram in regards to both viewing and producing content, but I do know that publicists are now taking more notice of bookstagrammers. And while I haven't seen it myself, it seems obvious to me that those publicists are only going to work with bookstagrammers with a large (though what is considered large?) following. So those bookstagrammers who have the smaller followings are going to miss out on these opportunities with publicists because they can't afford to buy books they "need" for others to engage with their content.

Then there's the whole idea that, "You must support authors! You must buy their books!" I've also read some book bloggers are made to feel like they're not proper bloggers if they're not buying books (see Kay of Hammock of Books' post Consumerism and Materialism in the Bookish Community). Which I think is completely ridiculous. Look, I do not buy a final copy of every single book I love, I simply can't afford to - and I'm an adult in employment (in a bookshop no less, where I get staff discount), not a teenager who doesn't have a huge amount of money. I refuse to accept that I don't support authors if I don't buy their books. The amount of time and effort that bloggers put into blogging (see CW of The Quiet Pond's post The Pond Gets Loud: How Bloggers Balance Blogging and Life – What Have We Learned? for just what that looks like) is us showing support. And that's without talking about those books on our various social media accounts. And I'm sorry, but reading library books is not only acceptable and valid, it's also encouraged. So shaming YA readers and making them feel guilty by claiming they're not supporting authors by not buying their books is disgusting.

There's also the issue with pre-orders. Authors have discussed time and again how important pre-orders are, because they show publishers that their book is wanted, which can affect the support they get from publishers for future books. And I get that. And pre-order campaigns and their incentives are really awesome. But there is the issue that money from pre-orders isn't spent until a book's release. And I'm sure many, like me, cannot pre-order a book that is coming out in several months time right now, because we don't know what our finances will be like when the book is published. And that's just in the case if one book, but all authors, all publishers, want us to pre-order books, and it's just not feasible. If pre-orders took your money when you ordered them, that would work better for me. I, myself, do not pre-order books unless I can do it through work, where I can keep it reserved until I can afford it, but as I work there, I get that choice. But with online orders, the money comes out at release, and with brick and mortar bookshops, they only hold customer orders for so long, so it's still really difficult. I love the pre-order campaigns that also accept library requests, but in general, the emphasis is on pre-orders. So shaming people for getting excited over (free) proofs vs. the lack of pre-orders like Margot Wood did in this tweet is really out of order!

And with all that I've mentioned, the pressure on people to buy books, people then get judged on where they buy their books (see Sophie The Little Contemporary Corner's post The Where to Buy Books Debate)! Look, I understand the monster that Amazon is. But I'm not going to judge people for buying from them, or any other company they choose to acquire their books from - whether it's other cheap online stores, or second hand or charity shops. Books are expensive, and sometimes it just makes more sense to buy a book somewhere cheaper. And it's not just where they're getting books from, its where they're not getting books from. "You should be supporting indie bookstores!" Again, books are expensive. Don't you dare judge people for where they buy their books. It really is bloody appalling the way some people in this community treat others. Yes, we can always borrow books from the library if we can't afford them, but then it goes back to not supporting the author by not buying their books, and it just starts another cycle of judgement and pressure, of guilt and shame.

No-one should be judged for how they choose to support authors or pressured into buying books they can't afford, spending money they don't have. It's just outrageous; it's classist and completely out of order. (To be fair, there is also pressure from publishers to spend and spend, and spend some more, what with the continual publication of the various different and/or collector's editions they are forever publishing. But that's a conversation for another time.) Perhaps try being a little more discerning, and consider that there may be reasons why books aren't being bought, and not judge people for it.

You may also like:

The Price of Hardbacks

Why Authors Should Respect and Appreciate Book Bloggers Don't Demand Authors Perform Their Outrage for You

Over to you graphic

What are your thoughts on how the YA community pressures people to buy books? What do you think about where people buy their books? Is toi much emphasism put on pre-orders? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. I had no idea there is more engagement with finished hardback than other versions of a book on Instagram. Color me surprised, though should I be with how things go down on that platform? I don't buy a bunch of books, and when I do, they are ebooks. I have a great library system available to me, and I am lucky to get a lot of NG/EW approvals. I also don't reread, so why would I buy a finished copy of a book I read? I support the author via my reviews and screaming about their book if I loved it.

    1. Right? I think we should all support in a way that works for us, and we shouldn't be judged for it. And some of the reasons people have for why others should buy books are just ridiculous.