Welcome back to the Pond, my friends, and welcome to our third The Pond Gets Loud collaboration series! The Pond Gets Loud is a feature where I invite book reviewers from the community to share their experiences and talk about anything related to book blogging. The overall goal of The Pond Gets Loud is to give book bloggers a voice, give book bloggers the opportunity to share their honest experiences, and promote transparency and awareness within the book blogging community.
This collaboration series is one that’s very close to my heart. Today, and for the next three weeks, we’re going to be exploring ‘The Experiences of Being an International Book Blogger‘. As an international book blogger myself, this is a topic that means a lot to me, and I hope that as a member of the book blogging community – or simply someone who is curious about the varied and diverse experiences of book blogging – this collab post will be insightful, eye-opening, and thought-provoking.
In my last collaboration series, I invited book bloggers to the monetary costs that they experience and face as book bloggers. (If you missed out, you can read Part I, Part II, Part III and the summary and analysis of the series as a whole.)
The Cost of Book Blogging collaboration series, for better or worse, stirred up a lot of discussion about how much it costs to be a book blogger. However, what was clear to me was that a lot of people do not understand – or simply just don’t know – how vastly different book blogging is experienced. In particular, there was significant lack of understanding of how book blogging differs across countries, the different barriers that international book bloggers experience, and how accessibility to books can differ.
Therefore, I invited international book bloggers (book bloggers outside the UK, US, and Australia) to talk about their experiences about being an international book blogger.
What I hope you will takeaway from this series
- Promote greater empathy and understanding of different book blogging experiences. Book blogging is a fun hobby that we all do for fun, but the ‘how’ of book blogging differs from country to country. This collaboration post aims to be transparent and candid about book blogging by international bloggers to promote greater understanding and empathy.
- International book bloggers have greater limitations and barriers than US/UK/Australian book bloggers. As you will see in the responses that we’ll be sharing today and the next two weeks, international book bloggers have to jump through more hoops, spend more money, and have less access to books, just to do what they love to do like any US/UK/Australian book blogger.
- There are differential privileges within book blogging – and international book bloggers just want you to acknowledge that. International book bloggers don’t want you to take drastic action. At the end of the day, all book bloggers love what they do and book blogging is a hobby we all enjoy. Most international book bloggers just want you to acknowledge and consider your own privilege.
Today, I am pleased to share with you eight of the responses that I received from international book bloggers! I hope you all enjoy reading their interesting and insightful responses.
Marie, Book Blogger at Drizzle & Hurricane Books [France]
My name is Marie (she/her), I am a book blogger.
Living in France in a very US-centric bookish world, it is complicated not to feel « left out »; out of the bookshops and amazing library selections, out of the book conventions and events and the « heart » of the action. Non-INTL book bloggers need to try and be more aware of INTL bloggers struggles and the completely different access we have to books.
Here are two things I wish people would stop saying:
« Get the book at the library ». I’m lucky enough to have libraries. I’m not using them because they are not well-furnished in the kind of books I read. SOME PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE LIBRARIES AT ALL. Same goes for bookshops, that aren’t everywhere either. Books, in my bookshops, are a) more expensive, since the shipping fees add up to the price of the books and b) are, well, over 100 km away.
« Amazon delivers everywhere. » is another sentence I wish people would stop throwing around. YES, Amazon can be a solution, but not for everyone. Amazon has shipping costs, higher than the books themselves for some countries. Book Depository / Wordery do NOT deliver everywhere. Getting books can be really complicated.
I have access to books thanks to a couple of generous publishers that I manage to work with and I order books online when my budget allows me to. New releases are expensive and therefore not always an option and, sometimes when I’m not able to get to them right away, I feel irrelevant, because these are the books everyone is talking about at the moment.
Geography play a lot in the way I perceive myself as a book blogger. I have always dreamed of going to these incredible book conventions, of incredible opportunities and somehow, of feeling more « included » in this very US-centric world. I don’t know what « making it » as a book blogger really means, but somehow for me it has always linked with geography and being in the wrong country makes me feel like my work doesn’t have as much of an impact.
Supporting book bloggers and international book bloggers is so, so important, please consider it. Support means the world to us. ❤
Marie is a book blogger and writer from France. When she’s not reading, she loves to travel the world, plan out her next story idea and spread support and love in the blogging community as best as she can. ❤
Simant, Book Blogger at Flipping Through the Pages [India]
I’m Simant Verma (she/her), a blogger at Flipping Through the Pages and bookstagrammer at @flippingthruthepages.
Being an International blogger is pretty hard and this is a well known fact. But what irritates me is that the non-international bloggers don’t often understand/recognize our problems. They just assume that everything is same in other parts of the world as they have. They think that libraries are a common resource and are available everywhere. True, we have libraries but not the advanced ones like yours. Our libraries don’t often keep the international titles unless they are not classics or quite famous. That being said, the chance of getting new releases in the libraries is pretty zero. Yes, we can find the new titles in the bookshops and that too if they are by famous authors or if they are hyped. But what about less hyped and debut books? And most importantly, what about the budget? That’s simply just out of control for people like me or students.
Our only resource in these conditions to get the new titles is Amazon. But there too, you have to give the import fee if you want the new title immediately otherwise you have to wait till the price drops which can be months or even years. And just forget if you want the hardcovers. They are not even near the buying range unless your income is quite good.
Non-international people would say, there is NetGalley and Edelweiss for arcs. Yeah, there are. But I think everyone knows how NetGalley has changed the arcs access for international readers and that is something not in favor of ours. And it is so tough (at least for me) to get approved for an eARC on Edelweiss.
It is a well known fact that if we post reviews about the new releases on our blogs, those posts are tend to better as compared to when we post about backlist titles. But given the current scenario of arc access, it is pretty hard to blog about the new titles and that definitely affects the blogging experience. I am really thankful for all the people running blog tours for they provide a good medium for getting access to some new releases and hype them.
Since joining the blogging world and bookstagram, the amount I spend on buying books has increased a lot and that has definitely affected my pocket. I have to purchase most of the books myself and that has increased my expenses a lot.
I just wish that the non-international bloggers understood that we are not privileged as they are when it comes to books. We don’t have advanced libraries and bookshops and most publishers don’t work with international bloggers unless you are quite big. The least they can do is support us in every way possible.
A 30-something new mom (trying to adjust in the new role of a mother) from India, fairly a new reader, queen of unread TBR pile, list-maker (only to not complete any), travel lover, often confused to choose between reading, blogging and binging Netflix, an engineer and recently claimed Ravenclaw, and the face behind Flipping Through the Pages.
Rena, Book Blogger at Bookflirting 101 [Austria]
Hey, my name is Rena, my pronouns are she/her and I’m a book blogger.
As an international book blogger, my biggest problem is with access. To author tours (because they almost always take place in the US only, and even for the rare ones in the UK I still would have to buy a plane ticket), to pre-order campaigns (I get that since the rights are complicated, the publishers can’t open all to international readers. I do. It’s still frustrating. However, I treasure the ones open international even more because of that. In most of those cases however, shipping and costs and the biggest part of the work are left with the authors, and that’s not fair to them either).
That I have less of a chance to get physical arcs (the big book festivals are in the US, so again plane ticket costs play a part), and that shipping for book boxes is really expensive sometimes are minor problems compared to that.
And I’m privileged, compared to others. My country has a fantastic library system, and I can order most books I want from my local bookstore. But international book blogging come with higher costs and less access, and that’s definitely making things extremely hard for a lot of people.
Rena is a bookblogger and fanfiction writer. She loves cats, her books and friends and is currently obsessing about Truly Devious and Soul of the Sword.
Dorka, Book Blogger at Berries and Books [Hungary]
My name is Dorka (she/her), I’m a blogger.
Hardest things about being an INTL blogger… Many things, in the 2 years of my blogging experience, I’ve experienced a lot of things actually.
There are always conversations about libraries, which we have here but they don’t have the books I’d like to read. Not to mention that they would have to translate those first to then have them in the library and only around 1-2% of the new books get translated to Hungarian.
As someone who reads a lot of books in English I have also come to dislike the translations, because they often change things in the story. Things get lost or get added in the translation, so I mainly stick to reading books in English but I have to buy them first. I am lucky enough to have Book Depository ship here, yet I still have to wait for the prices to drop and not all books’ prices drop, in order do not spend all my saved up money on books. There are a lot of books I can’t get to or get to at a later time and by that time no one really cares, thus my reviews don’t get much views either.
Another struggle I faced is that the book community does have cliques and as someone who is INTL, it’s not that easy to fit in. You can’t go and hang out with others or get to know others on bookcons, etc.
I don’t even want to talk about ARCs. I had the luck to get a few e-ARCs but I don’t even dream of getting a physical one. Also I work very hard on reviews, writing them in two languages is not easy but I try my best to reach more people. Yet somehow my reviews never get much appreciation and it can be very discouraging.
I just wish non-INTL bloggers realized how much easier they have it. Because they do, even UK and AUS bloggers. Publishing in a small country like mine is a disaster and it’s hard to function as a blogger.
Dorka is a book blogger, a photographer and lover of kpop. She loves sassy characters and cries over kpop idols everyday.
Laurel, Book Blogger at Tales Past Midnight [Philippines]
My name is Laurel (she/her).
I remember writing about being an International blogger last year. The frustration of not getting recognized as a legitimate book blogger: not being approved for ARC’s because the shipping to my country is expensive, the steep prices of books which I could not afford most of the time, the lack of any public library that would carry more than the usual dusty reference book, and many more.
It’s such a struggle to put myself out there as a book blogger with all these constraints then I see news about some people selling ARC’s they get for free. Where is the justice in that? I find so many opportunities to join book tours and giveaways or get the new releases or ARCs, but then there is always the US/UK only criteria. Although I always tell book bloggers (or mostly myself) not to lose hope, there are times when I just resign and think it’s never going to change.
I always wondered why international book bloggers, most especially in Asia, have so little access to ARCs and new releases when our reader population is so big. I’m not discounting the bookstores we have because they do sell new releases, it’s just that wouldn’t the readers in our country be an enormous viable market especially if the local bloggers recommend certain books to read?
Maybe I just don’t completely understand how the marketing works but we do still have readers in this part of the world. I don’t want to get started on book prices and the reason people resort to piracy (esp in my country). What I can say about it is I finally have a job that affords me a book or 2 every month. Others aren’t so lucky.
Laurel is a book blogger, has a fancy degree in Book Geek (English Literature) and has a knack for speaking her mind. She loves the color purple, sweets called Pastillas, and blogs to let out thought steam.
Angela, Book Blogger at Hiding Behind Books [Phillipines]
My name is Angela (she/her) and I’m a book blogger.
[WARNING: angst-y response ahead!]
As an international book blogger, there are several factors that make it difficult to keep blogging, but the one that upsets me the most is our lack of accessibility to books.
It truly TRULY frustrates me to keep being suggested to visit my local library if I can’t purchase or find the books I want. Why? Well, I only know of 10 libraries in our country, all located in major cities, and housing a variation of reference, classical, and historical books. So if I want to read a popular YA bestseller, my only choices are: to purchase the overpriced paperback/hardback from the nearest bookstore (if it’s even available), order online (and suffer the dreadful postage experience + sky high shipping fees), buy the Kindle version (which sometimes costs just as much as the print version), or scour every Booksale near me to check if there are any secondhand copies of the books that I want (which isn’t likely if I was looking for a newly released bestseller). More often than not, I just try to get over the fact that I won’t be able to join in on all the fun talk about a certain book because I can’t afford it and there’s no other way for me to get my hands on it. So there’s your reason why I’m on Twitter all the time ha-ha.
But seriously, what non-international book bloggers have to understand is that the publishing industry is focused on THEM. THEY are the target population, THEY are the target demographic, THEY are the target audience, and even the books themselves are ABOUT THEM while international book bloggers AND readers are, for lack of a better term, IGNORED.
Narrow-minded people will say ‘it’s just books, what’s your problem?’ But these same people will never know the struggle we face to be part of a platform that hears our voice but doesn’t care about it. This is why it’s so hard to be an international book blogger. It feels like we expend too much, so much effort while some people are lucky enough to be living in a certain country and approved for ARCs, and others scoff at us and say “it’s your fault you’re spending so much, why not just go to the libraries?” Yes, thank you Karen, I never thought of that.
On the issue of cost, yes of course we always save up for the books that we want, DUH. But again, books are usually priced in USD, AUD, and GBP. To give you an idea of how much those rates mean to us, we follow this conversion:
1 USD = 51.17 PHP
1 AUD = 35.94 PHP
1 GBP = 63.64 PHP
Now, if I want to buy a hardcover copy of say, Nevernight by Jay Kristoff on Amazon, priced at 17.67 USD, it would cost me 904.27 PHP which is already equivalent to:
4 days’ worth of my commuting fees to and from work
about 60% of my daily rate
a weeks’ worth of my personal groceries
2 vaccine shots for one dog
approx. 4 movie tickets
the cost of 1 inhaler I use for my asthma
approx. 2 months’ worth of my Netflix subscription
Oops, I forgot. That doesn’t include shipping costs yet! And if you’re curious how much it costs in one of our major bookstores? It’s a whopping 1,594 PHP.
Sure I could use Book Depository for free shipping, but it has already failed me once (after 3 months I have not yet received the book I ordered) and while I love them, I’m not too keen to try ordering from them again. Not to mention that transactions with our post office are HORRIBLE.
My point is, it shouldn’t be this hard. Getting the books I want shouldn’t be this hard! I shouldn’t have to go through hoops just to buy 1 book and talk about it, or I shouldn’t have to be denied an ARC because I don’t live in a certain region, but I DO and I WAS and so do other international book bloggers so it hurts me to read about non-int’l. book bloggers who say insensitive things like, “just buy the book or wait for it in your libraries or buy it online or better luck next time” – KAREN I DON’T HAVE A LIBRARY OKAY AND YOUR ONE DOLLAR IS NOT THE SAME AS MINE AND IT’S NOT ABOUT LUCK ANYMORE SO STOP HURTING ME.
International book bloggers adapt really well, and we’ve all accepted the fact that right now, we’ll always have to struggle to stay in this business. We’re also resourceful so even if we complain repetitively about our troubles, we constantly find ways around it. But please, no more rubbing our noses in the privilege that so many enjoy – we already know we’re practically irrelevant to the publishing industry, there’s no need for our experiences to be invalidated too.
Angela is a book blogger and dog mom. When she’s not frustrated by her day job, she likes to craft dreamcatchers and stalk her Twitter friends instead of reading and blogging.
Silvia, Book Blogger from Silvia Reads Books [Germany]
As an international book blogger, I think the most frustrating part is never being acknowledged by other bloggers and authors. Sentences like “just go to a library!” speak of enormous privilege, and it doesn’t matter that we always point out every time how that’s just almost never an option for us, a similar tweet will reoccur within a few days, with no regard to the nuances of being in a non English speaking country.
Even being an int’l blogger, I recognize I have a lot of privilege. I come from Italy, but I’ve been living in Germany for almost two years now. If I want to buy books in English, there are a lot of sites that deliver to me in a very short time, and a lot of bookstores have a small English section. The city where I currently live is the only one in the country with an international library, meaning that I actually do have access to a small English-speaking library where I can find books. A lot of them I’m not interested in, but I’ve been surprised by a few relatively recent (and diverse, too!) releases that were just there waiting for me. It’s an enormous privilege, although the library is volunteer-run and relies entirely on book donations and there is no way of requesting new releases like I’ve heard people elsewhere do, so I just have to hope that someone will donate their books to them. They also offer no services like Libby or Overdrive, but I know this is more than others have (for example, it’s much more than would be available for me in my hometown in Italy).
When I started reading in English years ago I also started using e-books as my sole method of reading. While this was and still is convenient to me for personal reasons as well as for economical ones, it doesn’t come without repercussions. For example, if I were to ever want to start a bookstagram, I would be at an incredible disadvantage. While I was still living at home, I knew that every time I bought an e-book I bought it for myself alone and I couldn’t share it with my family (something that I’ve been used to do since I was a kid — a book is for everyone who lives in the same house, but with e-books, not so much anymore).
Blogging in English also means that I’ve almost completely stopped reading in my other two languages, Italian and German. I’m not up to date with the current state of diversity in books in the two countries, and I also end up in a vicious cycle of assuming diverse books don’t get published/translated, thus never buying them when they do (because maybe I’ve already read them in the original English), and not helping Italian/German publishers understand that people do want to read diverse books. It’s something I think about a lot, and not reading original European literature also makes me feel left out when I speak to IRL people about books. It’s something I want to change but I don’t know how to because all my free reading time goes into things that I can use for my blog, be it ARCs or books I bought, and if the book isn’t translated in English there’s little point reviewing it to an English-speaking audience.
When it comes to ARCs, I feel an enormous amount of privilege for the sheer number that I’ve been allowed to read during almost three years as a blogger, but almost none of the “big” titles were ever even available for me to request — it’s either “wish for it” (on Netgalley) or a straight-up rejection (on Edelweiss). Reviewing less-hyped, diverse books is something that makes me incredibly happy, and knowing that I can contribute to even just one more person finding out about them is a privilege on itself. But that also has repercussions on my blog views, and sometimes I feel like I’ve created myself a nice enclosed little niche of like-minded people with the same interests and that’s it’s very, very hard to reach outside of it and get more people involved and to grow my platform.
Privilege varies among int’l bloggers and it intersects with personal and economical status, but there’s no denying that all of us are at a disadvantage compared to US, UK and (partly) AUS bloggers. It’s not a competition and it’s not, at least from my part, complaining. We do what we do because we love it, but at the same time there’s so little acknowledgement from other bloggers, authors and publishers, but we contribute so much and offer a different and diverse point of view and it’s hard not to feel sad whenever we see arguments that erase us from the conversation.
Silvia is a science student by day and a book blogger by both day and night. She’s an Italian living in Germany and her superpower is saying she’s going to read and then staying on twitter for two more hours. She consists of 70% tea and 30% cat videos.
Prags, Book Blogger at The Inked In Book Blog [India]
Hey y’all! This is Prags (she/her) and I’m a blogger at The Inked In Book Blog.
As you can guess, I’m an intl book blogger. I reside in India, and while our situation is pretty decent as compared to our neighbouring countries (Bangladesh, Pakistan etc), it is still pretty bad. The worst thing about it is, I would say, the lack of decent libraries. It’s not like we don’t have them. We do, but there are very few of them and travelling to them in a metropolitan city like Mumbai can take hours. The one nearest to my house is an hour and a half away. And even these libraries are more academically focused. It is almost next to impossible to find any decent fiction titles, especially if the author isn’t Dan Brown or John Green.
Libraries aside, many of the titles that release in the US/UK don’t release in India. So, if we want them, we have to use international websites like Amazon, Book Depository or Wordery. The exchange rate on these websites is so much that we end up paying 4-5x times the price we would pay if buying from an Indian website, say Amazon India. Even if we do end up buying from there, shipping on Amazon costs a lot. Many a time, the shipping costs are more than the cost of the book itself.
Most of the diverse titles, if they’re not from a big four publishing house, are not released in the country. So, access to those is really restricted, because it’s either shell out money on TBD or pray you get approved for an eARC, which is another huge challenge. Netgalley has put most of the titles on ‘Wish For It’ for us and those wishes rarely get approved. I have had very little luck with Edelweiss as well.
All this is definitely preventing me from operating the blog the way I want to. I would absolutely love to promote more diverse titles, be relevant because I read the newest stuff. But all that is not as accessible to me as my US/CAN/AUS/UK counterparts. I wish they would understand that we face all these issues that don’t even exist for them and try to be sympathetic to them.
Prags is a 20 something weird hooman who likes to shout about her feelings on the internet.
My biggest thank you’s!
Even though this is my third collaborative post, I’m still so grateful and thankful for all the incredible book bloggers who give their time and energy to contributing to these discussions! Therefore, I want to thank the eight incredible international book bloggers for sharing their experiences as international book bloggers. Thank you all; you’re all amazing.
Please do take a moment to check out their awesome blogs! Give their pages a follow, a like, or leave a comment. They do incredible work!
- Marie, from Drizzle and Hurricane Books
- Simant, from Flipping Through the Pages
- Rena, from Bookflirting 101
- Dorka, from Berries and Books
- Laurel, from Pages Past Midnight
- Angela, from Hiding Behind Books
- Silvia, from Silvia Reads Books
- Prags, from The Inked In Book Blog
And thank you, reader and friends, for reading all of these responses. International book bloggers often feel like they are not heard in the wider community, so your support is greatly appreciated. I hope you all take a moment to reflect, not only on these very different and unique experiences, but also on your own.
Next week, I’ll be posting eight more responses from international book bloggers! I hope to see you all next week, and, as always, if you would like to share your thoughts, please share in the comments below!