Welcome back to Part III, our final part of 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.
Today is the third part of current collaboration series, where we are 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 also to a lot of other international book bloggers. 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.
This collaboration series arose from my desire to help book bloggers in the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia understand the challenges that international book bloggers face. When I invited book bloggers in my last series, The Cost of Book Blogging (you can read Part I, Part II, Part III and the summary and analysis of the series as a whole), to talk about how much they spend on books and book blogging, it stirred up a lot of discussion of what ‘cost’ meant and how much these costs matter.
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, to give people the opportunity to learn and read about different experiences, I invited seven more fantastic international book bloggers to share their experiences with all of us.
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 seven more responses that I received from book bloggers! I hope you all learn something from the book bloggers I have invited to my blog today, and that you understand what it’s like being an international book blogger a little better.
Veronika, Book Blogger at Wordy and Whimsical [Hungary]
Hello! I’m Veronika (she/her), and I make up 1/3 of Wordy and Whimsical; a book blog, safe space and more. Being from Hungary, a European country that is populated by less than 10 million people, I thought my input could be valuable, especially for those who are in similar situation/living in a small country. With that being said, I think it’s incredibly important to acknowledge that as someone who, for instance, is able to order from The Book Depository, I’m still incredibly privileged compared to other bloggers/readers who don’t have access to free shipping.
My biggest frustration is easily the lack of understanding international readers receive – none of us wants pity, but it is hurtful when there seems to be no effort made to acknowledge the immense privileges non-INTL bloggers have. I was following CW’s latest series where bloggers shared the cost of blogging and I enjoyed the heck out of it… until someone felt the need to butt in with an opinion no one cared about. From those who criticized the post, I was seeing a lot of “helpful advice” on how to get books for cheap/free, and I’m 1000% ready to take it apart from an INT perspective. *cracks fingers*
I think we’ve all heard the “just go to a library if you don’t have the money for books” advice, and mate, there’s a lot of wrong with that. Firstly, libraries are not necessarily free in every country, they are certainly not free in Hungary. So even though they are a lot more cost effective (as a student, my yearly pass costs roughly as much as a paperback novel) they are certainly not without cost. Secondly, libraries don’t always have the best collections – the one I go to (the central library in Budapest) has practically no English books to offer, and its Hungarian collection leaves a lot to desire as well. Just to mention an example, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was translated to Hungarian, but the library hasn’t felt the need to buy even one copy of it since its publication. Another thing is that Hungarian libraries tend to buy few copies of a title, so anything that’s currently hyped is hard to find at the library (e.g. after the movie Pet Sematary came out, the books were never in), and signing up for the wait list costs money. True, it’s not a lot, it costs roughly 2$ to be put on the waitlist, but it does add up if you do it multiple times a year.
I don’t think I have to go into detail about “getting books from the publisher” – everyone knows, international and non-international bloggers alike (I hope?) – that being sent copies, especially physical copies, is an immense privilege not all of us have. I used to be able to request titles on Netgalley, but ever since many publisher changed their titles to “wish for it” for international readers, I’ve practically given up on the platform.
There’s a lot more misconceptions to cover, but I’d rather go a little bit into how book shopping – not online shopping! that’s a whole other topic that’s probably best addressed by someone without access to TBD, Better World Books etc. – looks like for me. Finding English books is a challenge – while most (big) bookshops stock English books, the selection is always awful. A bookshop I’ve gone to recently – a part of a big bookshop chain in Hungary – had about fifty English titles to offer, and that’s a generous estimate. I always check out the English section of bookshops (if they have one, that is), and because we only have a few bookshop chains here, they tend to have the exact same books – mostly adult, extremely hyped titles (e.g. Fifty Shades is nearly always there… in 2019… I just, I can’t haha.) I know of three – yes, three in the whole country – independent bookshops that sell English titles, and again, their selection is not great, especially not for someone who’s looking for 1) YA, 2) not always the most popular releases, 3) new releases, and 4) diverse books.
As for translated books – even if we put aside the fact that not all translated works are of good quality – it takes time for a novel to be translated. There are exceptions – The Kiss Quotient came out in Hungarian the same month it did in the US – but for the most part we have to wait months, or even years for the Hungarian translation to arrive. And, because only about 15 million people speak Hungarian in the world, the majority of the time the translation just won’t come. Hyped books have the biggest chance of being published in Hungarian, and, to be brutally honest, diverse books tend to go pretty much unnoticed by Hungarian publishers. Not all of them, of course, but generally speaking, novels translated to Hungarian tend to be, well – cis, straight and white. Last year I’ve been confused, sad and ashamed to see that one of our biggest imprints would rather publish a YA Contemporary from a few years back that, among other things, perpetuates girl-on-girl hate and slut shaming than any of the #OwnVoices YA that was published in English last year.
Essentially, the only thing I ask of US, UK, Canadian and Australian bloggers is to be a bit more open-minded. I’m happy for the opportunities you get, and I’m sure many of you mean well when you give advice to other bloggers, such as “you don’t have to spend a lot, have you heard of library sales?” but do consider (and mention!) who your advice is aimed at. That way it doesn’t read as though you don’t see us, international readers, who don’t have access to the same things.
Veronika is a twenty-something book blogger and university student who’d do absolutely anything to own either a pet pig, or a bunny, preferably both.
Luci, Book Blogger at LunarLuciBooks [The Netherlands]
My name is Luci, she/her, and I’m a book blogger who’s also active on Instagram and Twitter. I’m from the Netherlands, which is one of the tiny countries in Europe.
My biggest frustration about being an INTL book blogger is not being able to have the same “luxuries”. I don’t mean to put this as a bad thing for non-INTL bloggers, I’m very happy for them. I just wish it would sometimes be easier for us. The cost for me is just the cost of books, but those books are not easily accessible. I would love to always support local bookstores, and I do that as much as possible, but it’s difficult. I know two stores that sell purely English books, and one of them is Waterstones Amsterdam. The other one is The American Bookstore, one in Amsterdam and one in The Hague. Now, I live close to The Hague, so I can go to the ABC, but other than that it’s practically impossible to not order online and therefore not support local. From what I’ve seen and heard, the prices are much lower in America and England as well. However, I’m already glad I do have access to English books.
The other thing is I’ve never been sent a book for review. Now, of course, there’s NetGalley and Edelweiss, but it’s difficult to get approved for the books that I want to. And I know it’s difficult to send an ARC overseas and the shipping costs are probably much more than just local, but on the other hand, as a publisher, you’d have quite the name if you were the one sending ARC’s overseas while everyone else isn’t. Sending out ARCs is something you do for publicity, and I can name quite some INTL bloggers that would be more than happy to receive an ARC and let everyone know how awesome the book is. This way, they’d get way more publicity, but that’s just my opinion, I don’t know how it all works inside.
I love to be a book blogger, and the fact that I’m INTL doesn’t change any of that, but I do wish that some other bloggers would be more… considerate with what they’re saying. I’m absolutely not shaming anyone in particular, and no naming people either, but I’ve read several times on blogs and Instagram that someone non-INTL just “doesn’t get” how we don’t always get easily approved for ARCs or e-ARCs, and how “easy” it is to just “get that book”.
Being an INTL blogger is difficult, and we’re working our way through and still try to make something nice of it, and I don’t like to be disrespected, just because I don’t get half my books for free. I’m incredibly grateful for the small amount of eARCs I’ve received from Netgalley, and I support local as much as possible, but sometimes ordering online is simply the only option, and we can’t help that. The library here where I live has fed my love for books for quite some time (from when I was 3 years old till I was 14), but most books are Dutch, and the English books they do have are either really old, or only have part 3 or 6 of a series. The translation from English to Dutch sometimes takes over a year, so reading Dutch instead is not really an option (not that I like reading the translation anyway, I’d much rather read the original). I don’t know how this works for other libraries as I grew up in a tiny place with a small library though.
One last thing that makes it difficult is the book festivals such as YALC. I would love to go and meet everyone, book bloggers, friends, authors, but not living in America or England just makes it almost impossible. Now, living in the Netherlands does mean I can be in London within 12 hours, but that doesn’t mean I can do that whenever I can. I wish to one day meet one of my favorite authors, or just any author basically, and tell them in person how much I love their books, but the chance of that happening is very low, and I can accept that. It is, however, frustrating to see all those great festivals coming up, reading everyone’s post about how they’re preparing for it, who they’re meeting, reading about how it was, who they met, taking pictures, and I really am happy for my blogger friends who are able to go, but I do wish I could be there someday too.
In conclusion, I’m not saying that I’m angry at non-INTL book bloggers, not at all. I am very happy that you all are able to do things listed above, and I’m also very grateful that you all do things like this, putting INTL book bloggers in the spotlight, and who knows, maybe one day I am able to meet you all! ❤
Luci is a book blogger with a TBR that could fill her entire country. She loves cats and is always happy to scream-message about books she’s read.
Elizabeth, Book Blogger at Rapsodia Literaria [Colombia]
My name is Elizabeth (she/her), and I am a Colombian book blogger.
As an international book blogger, it’s not only expensive to buy books in my mother language (Spanish); it’s also hard to get books in other languages. My biggest frustration is the lack of access and affordability of books.
In my country and specifically in my city (Medellín), we have libraries and you can use them to read variety of books, mostly old releases because new books arrive slowly and if they are available in libraries it is usually a long time after they are published. This is also because most of the books that Latin America have are published in Spain and we do not have that may imprints here. Another situation is because brand new releases are not only NOT translated into Spanish; if they are, they are published in Spain first, and then if we are lucky and are interested, the publisher will bring *the book* to my country. So a lot of books get published in Spain but will NEVER be brought to Latin America.
Second: Due to this, most book bloggers and bookstagramers and booktubers tend to read books in English. Still, it is a small amount of people who want to read in English and are able to do it. If we want to get books in other languages we have to spend more money compared to people in USA or the UK. We have to buy them from Amazon in the specific edition you really want (we have a big bookstore called Librería Nacional that import books in English but most of the editions they bring are mass market paperbacks and the quality, as you may know, is not the best) or choose another bookstore overseas like Barnes and Noble, Book Outlet and such that have international shipping.
That said, shipping is really expensive. We are paying like 10 dollars extra for shipping one book. Services like Book Depository do not have my country included on their free shipping list so we cannot buy book from them. I waited like for 8 years for they to included us. They did briefly two years ago but then they removed us because the packages were getting lost. So buying books in English is important for us Latin readers but affording them is not always possible.
Still, books in Spanish are not cheap either and as a book blogger you read what you can. Most of the time you cannot read what you want. Another option I found is e-arcs because for obvious reasons, publishers will not send ARC copies to Latin America due to costs. And my requests have been rejected because I am not from the US or UK, even though I can read it in English and I can write a proper review in said language. I really believe this is preventing me from being the blogger I want to be because I love to read scifi and fantasy and a lot of brand new releases will never be translated into Spanish or it’s hard for me to afford a book on Amazon and there is also the problem of the book getting lost in the mail.
I mostly read from libraries and buy books using my own money. I have received, during my 10 years as a book blogger, a very few number of books sent by publishers (less than 10). I have always wondered about this because I have seen other bloggers and bookstagramers get a ton of books a month but I guess big publishers here are just not interested on my blog or what I have to say.
I am really grateful for the publishers that sent me books once in a while and trust and value my opinion. Still, sometimes I have felt overlooked and less validated because of this. I received an award on 2017 as ‘Best Book Blogger’ in an event hosted on the capital’s main book fair but still haven’t heard a word from big publishers. I have learned to not worry about this and keep blogging because I love reading and that’s my reason to be here. I just wish that books from publishers could be sent in a more equal way to all Colombian book community but that is just my opinion.
So after all of this, I can certainly say that being and INTL book blogger is to have less opportunities to afford books and read new releases. So in its coreis a problem of accessibility and economy and we certainly wish we do not have it. Still we blog, still we read and we will be doing it.
Eliza is a book blogger and journalist from Colombia. She loves kpop, rock, languages, books, and cake. Her main goal is to be a translator, writer, musician and learn to bake amazing cakes.
Swetlana, Book Blogger at The Caffeinated Bookworm Life [Germany]
Hey, my name is Swetlana (she/her pronouns) and I’m a book blogger and bookstagram user. 🙂
I feel like a lot of the book blogging experience is seen through the US lens or people think that’s what it’s like for everyone who does anything related to books, which just isn’t true.
Being from Germany, I’m quite lucky that I can just order new releases (including diverse books) and I know they’ll be here within days of their release. And the cost is still quite reasonable and often cheaper than what I would pay for a new German release (by the way, I feel like I should have said this before, but: I read primarily English books, probably 95%), especially hardcovers.
However, as someone who will read 60-80 books per year, that cost still adds up quickly and I don’t have access to a well-stocked library where I live (it’s a small one and doesn’t have an appealing YA section), so I’ll often buy my most anticipated releases. Or I take advantage of audiobook subscriptions for new releases I can’t buy right away.
I’ve been incredibly lucky and have received books from UK publishers in recent months of highly anticipated releases which helped save money. I do miss the days when I could more easily request books on NetGalley though. Nowadays most of them are just ‘Wish For’ and it kinda sucks.
Here’s the thing: I think I could be a different kind of blogger with probably more people reading my blog if I was able to talk about a lot more new/upcoming releases (because aren’t we all curious about them?) but I would probably be stressed out more as I would try and read as many as I possibly could. The way it works out for me right now is that I get a good number of highly anticipated releases per year that I get to talk about and it’s perfect.
The only thing I would ask of non-international book bloggers is to listen to what international bloggers say. We all live in vastly different countries and under different circumstances. I’m sure there are people living in small US towns who don’t have access to well-stocked and up to date libraries either and that’s in the country where those books are printed and sold at, so imagine what it’s like for us overseas.
Swetlana is a book lover & blogger, a fangirl with a love for Marvel, Sebastian Stan, coffee, BTS & talking too much. Nice to meet you!
Fariha, Blogger at Fariha’s Studio [Saudi Arabia]
I’m Fariha, from India, living in Saudi Arabia.
The biggest issue for me is shipping and shipping expenses.
The bookstores here don’t follow the publishing dates, so on average i’m waiting at least 2-3 months for a trad-pub book to hit the shelves here.
And there is no clue about indie-pub books, which is a bummer, because i like to support indie authors.
This lead back to me ordering from BD or Amazon. In most cases, if I’m lucky to actually receive my package, the delivery costs are sometimes more than the cost of the book itself. All of this puts a budget limit on how many books I can buy every month. I also read e-books/kindle, but i really do prefer Paperbacks.
Another factor which bothers me as a INTL book blogger is how many opportunities I’m missing out on.
Most giveaways, either on Goodreads or from other book bloggers, or even from the publishers themselves; are “US Only”.
Also, author tours, conventions, etc. we can only dream of attending those.
Lastly, I feel that INTL book bloggers are more focused on blogging in ‘English’ to reach to INTL audience, but i felt that this limits their local audience who are not very fluent in English. And since our timing is different, whenever I would schedule my posts to go live, it really never syncs with the US majority blogging times.
Fariha is a part time book blogger, reader and writer. She self-published her poetry collection SHARDS in Dec 2017. In her free time she spends time with her many cats and on Netflix.
E, Book Blogger at Local Bee Hunter’s Little Nook [Poland]
I hate that what costs pennies for US/UK people is a fortune to me — the books, domains and blog upgrades… It’s all x4/5 for me. Also, I would LOVE to get physical ARCs but I doubt I ever will. Most of new releases I can buy only online so for physical copies there’s also shipping and the fact that it may take weeks for them to get to me if there’s some minor mistake so I rarely buy them anyway. Oh! And most of the giveaways are US only, too…
I have access to a library but (a) it’s all in Polish and I prefer reading in English (I could have access to English books in a bigger city but I’m only every two weeks in there and often in a rush) (b) finding a book that was released in this decade is a miracle (c) I doubt this place ever *heard of* diverse books so I can’t get what I want anyway. Poland is still not very much for diversity so everyone who wants to read those books needs to pay from their own pocket and since the bookshops often don’t carry them either we don’t even get any bigger sales.
Fortunately, at this point I get at least some of what I want to read in forms of e-ARCs but it took so much time to get even here and I still feel like a baby reviewer. INTL bloggers just get fewer opportunities and it’s harder to ‘get out there’ in the first place for us because of how the currency functions.
E. is a book blogger, writer, translator and artist. She loves dark lipsticks and forests and BEGS YOU to read Crier’s War.
Wiktoria, Book Blogger from Moon in Scorpio [Poland]
My names Wiktoria. I use she/her pronouns and I’ve been a book blogger for 2 years. First in the Polish book community, then recently in the INTL book community.
As an INTL book blogger I had to get used to the feeling of envy. Mind you, I will never be angry at somebody for getting opportunities they’ve worked hard for, but knowing I will probably never be in that position because of where I live, was a hard thing to swallow.
The biggest challenge has been finding ways that make your book blog stand out, when books aren’t super accessible.
Poland has libraries. They’re slowly getting on trends like ebooks and audiobooks, but it will be a while, if ever, for those to come to smaller cities. Libraries are largely underfunded and get new books once in a blue moon.
Buying online is my best bet but that can also be tricky. Different currencies make buying a book from Amazon or other online stores quite impossible. When a book costs 4/5 times more for me + shipping, I’m not going to be able to buy it. An ebook costs for me what a paperback costs for an American reader. Sometimes more.
I will forever be grateful for Book Depository to have prices in Polish currency and free shipping, otherwise getting physical books in English would be impossible for me.
I could wait for a book to be published in Poland, but that takes time. Also, not every new release will get translated and books in Poland are still quite expensive. The book industry here isn’t as developed and creative as in the United States.
Used bookstores aren’t as popular as in the US, and they usually carry only classics and old textbooks. Finding a used, published in the last year book is bordering on a miracle. Library sales? Forget it. I didn’t know that was a thing before I entered this community.
Missing out on preorder campaigns, subscription boxes, arcs, does feel alienating because those are a big part of this community. I get especially jealous when it comes to lgbtq+ and poc books. Poland isn’t a very progressive country, finding a book with a poc or queer person on the cover is virtually impossible. To me, a bisexual woman, that can be very discouraging.
I’d love to be able to run my blog more freely and just be able to fully take advantage of the same privileges US bloggers have. God, that would be wonderful.
But the most wonderful thing would be if people in this community recognized our struggle, and that we’re doing our best with what we have access to.
Wiktoria is a book blogger and student. She studies Criminology and English Philology. She has a strong sense of justice and loves bullet journaling.
My biggest thank you’s!
Once again, I am so thankful for all the book bloggers who gave their time and energy to contributing to this collaborative series. In particular, I want to thank the seven amazing international book bloggers for sharing their experiences with us all today. Thank you, all! You’re wonderful and I appreciate you so much.
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!
- Veronika, from Wordy and Whimsical
- Fariha, from Fariha’s Studio
- Luci, from Lunar Luci Books
- Elizabeth, from Rapsodia Literaria
- Swetlana, from The Caffeinated Bookworm Life
- Fariha, from Fariha’s Studio
- E, from Local Bee Hunter’s Little Nook
- Wiktoria, from Moon in Scorpio
If you have made it this far, I just want to thank you so much, friends. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: international book bloggers often feel like they are not heard in the wider community, so your support and the fact that you are listening are 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.
Although I love reading long qualitative and anecdotal pieces and find so much valuable in listening to a variety of perspectives, I also love collating information and seeing if there are any specific trends or patterns that we should be cognizant of. I hope that will give you all something to look forward to – I know I’m looking forward to putting together all the data! 💛 Therefore, sometime before the year ends, I’ll be posting a summary of all the responses that I’ve collected for this collaborative series and will be sharing it with you all.