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Are Book Bloggers Becoming Like the Radio DJs of the 50s and 60s?

Once again I pose a question that links my two worlds: music and books.

I was reading in The Indie Band Survival Guide (yes, I am eating this book for breakfast) that radio DJs used to be paid by recording companies to place new music from their recording artists into their daily rotation (or playlist). Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. You’ve heard of payola. Artists became overnight sensations and their songs instant hits just because their record company had the clout and money to pay enough major-media-market DJs to play their singles. This scenario was portrayed in the Tom Hanks' movie That Thing You Do. Supposedly there were laws passed once the practice got way out of hand, and paying DJs to play certain music was outlawed. According to the book, paying DJs still goes on but through third party promoters, advertisements, and gifting stations with things like vans and concert tickets. Rules are made to be…bent, I guess.

Of course I would never accuse my industry of doing any sort of behavior that would bring its integrity into question. I am only acknowledging the growing influence of book bloggers. I am beginning to see sprinkles of comments on Twitter about publishers needing to send chocolate with their ARCs to “encourage” bloggers to do reviews—and even to do them on a timely basis that coincides with the book’s release. I don't know that they ever get chocolate, but how is that much different than editors being sent sweet treats and being taken out for lunch or dinner? However, I am sure that most publishers are like mine in that they have strict policies about receiving or accepting gifts from clients. I wonder if those kinds of boundaries will need to be in place for book reviewers.

With the Net taking over every form of communication, book bloggers wield some hard-to-match marketing power—for little or nothing. Their opinions and recommendations are revered for their straightforwardness and honesty, and readers buy based on their recs. Many of them have their reviews set up to be automatically posted to Facebook, Twitter, and So if they say a book is good, then a book is good. If not, well… Hundreds and thousands of potential readers are all at once able to be influenced by what they have to say.

Publishers and authors are becoming more aware of what book review bloggers can do for the sales of their books. My own publishing house has started a book blogger clubThomas Nelson has BookSneeze, and I’m sure other publishers have them as well.

I wonder if any of them have gone beyond offering free books to get book bloggers to feature their books on their sites. On a side note: I wonder if publishers ever use comments from the more popular book bloggers on back cover copy.

What do you think? What have you heard?