The Difference Between Reading a Book and Promoting a Book

I’ve been wanting to talk about book promotions for a really long time. As a bookstagrammer and blogger, I get a lot of books for free. I request some advanced readers copies, but sometimes books just show up on my front door. In the past, I’ve made an effort to try and incorporate these books into my reading life. I would add them to my TBR which is great because I get to read the latest before anyone else does and share my thoughts on whether or not you should read the book too.

But as time went on, I started getting more books than I can manage. I was putting together these massive TBRs with 25 books in them just so that I can make sure to read the books before they all publish. Add a little Netgalley and some other random books that show up and we’ve got more books to read in a month than there are days in the month.

The stress of reading started to take over. I would put in as many tiny hours as I possibly could to read as much as I can. I would turn on productivity apps and limit my social media to ensure I wasn’t spending it all on the “wrong” things. And even when I sacrificed my TV time at night and sleep, I still couldn’t finish this mountain of books. There are also books that I have no interest at all reading and I was adding them to my TBR because I felt like I had to read and review it.

However, something dawned on me a while back that I didn’t realize; I don’t have to promote every single book I receive. I was reading one of the press releases publishers send with your book. It covers what the book is about, their marketing plans, how we can contribute to promoting the book, and one of the lines at the very end of the note said “we hope you consider covering this book next month on your blog.”

I was thinking about this phrase because in my mind, that means something. It means that publishers are sending you books hoping with absolutely no guarantee that you’ll share this book. They hope that you’ll dedicate a place on your page. Despite it being a hope, it’s not an obligation. You don’t sign a contract to promote this book. They’re not even expecting a review.

What that says to me is that I’m the owner of my page. Whatever content I put on my bookstagram account, my blog, it’s all up to me because I’m the owner and creator. If I don’t want to cover a book, I don’t have to. If I find something too controversial, I don’t post it. I am the commander of my bookstagram feed and so what I cover on my page is a reflection of what matters to me. So what marketing teams and publicists are hoping is that the book they’re sending your way is something worth your space. They know they can’t dictate to you or force you to promote something, which means there’s a small chance to not promote the book.

That was when I realized that promoting books and reading books are two different things. Reading books should be the books you want to read. These are the stories you’ll be exploring throughout the month and they can encompass everything. The sky’s the limit with what you want to read.

Promoting a book is a different story. It doesn’t have to be a book you will read, but a book you’ll be showcasing at some point during the month. It can be a book stack. It can be a spotlight with a synopsis on what the book is about. You can just talk about your excitement for the book, you don’t have to actually read it. Also, most books I post on my page are done for free. I’ve only been paid to promote 2-3 books in my life and they were books I happily read and utterly enjoyed and would recommend to folks. But most of the time, you’re doing this for free. And if it’s for free the only thing you’re giving publishers is a little bit of space on your page.

And there’s nothing wrong with promotion. As the old saying goes, any press is good press, so even if you don’t get the chance to read the book, giving it a little shout out on your page is more than what these publicists and marketing teams were hoping for. For me, I like to really discern what I put on my page. Obviously everyone knows I’m into science fiction and fantasy books, but I always ensure that what I’m reading is always quality. I like big books, books written by marginalized voices, and books written by women. I think that reflects pretty well on my page and I do a lot of work to ensure my TBRs and reading life reflects that as well.

So this month, I put together two lists of books; the books I’ll be reading and the books I’ll be promoting. This way, it doesn’t feel like I have 30 books to read in 28 days, but a reading list that’s manageable and a promotion list to give these authors a little space on my page. I can’t believe I wasn’t doing this before. Granted, I hope to eventually read the books I promote.

5 thoughts on “The Difference Between Reading a Book and Promoting a Book

  1. I love this post! Oh my goodness, 25 books a month sounds wild, I can totally understand how that stress would make reading so much less enjoyable! I actually work in the PR space, so my thoughts on this have shifted and grown as I’ve learned more about publicity and marketing and interacting with people! I think as bloggers it’s easy to think that we’re out of control and that we have no power when we’re being sent books, but what I’ve learned is that it’s totally the opposite way around – when publicists send us books, they’re putting ALL the power in our hands and hoping that we do something with it! A really interesting dynamic in the book community that I love reading about (: thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!! ♥♥

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  2. Your approach is very healthy and I also do think that we should read only the books we want to read. I can imagine having some kind of “reading burnout” if what you’re sharing would happen to me.

    I’m not in the situation of receiving physical books for free, but I do use Netgally to ask for books. However, I ask only for the books I really want to read, and that’s already a bit more than I can handle.

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