Hello book lovers! Welcome back to my chaotic corner. Today I’ll be talking about something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
This post is mostly inspired by all the shit that has been going on in the book community lately, and by lately, I guess I can say for the past three or so months. These events aren’t limited to this short timeline, actually they’re recurring issues in the community but they’ve occurred far too much and too closely lately.
First I’d like to state a common and well known fact. Bloggers are unappreciated, international and marginalised bloggers even more so. If you’re a blogger, your effort isn’t as valued (well by publishers) as much as your counterparts on other platforms. Now, if you’re also international or/and marginalised, it’s going to be harder for you than for the average privileged (from location, race, identity and socioeconomic class) book blogger and that’s pretty difficult. And to be honest, being underappreciated or ignored is the easiest of the downsides of book blogging, the worst is the abuse or maybe I should be nicer and call it mistreatment. It’s the subtweeting, harassing, gaslighting and defamation from people a little higher up the chain than you are. It’s the ghosting and being taken advantage of. There’s a lot book bloggers go through for people who promote and market books for free. We do it for fucking free.
Now to the post proper. I should probably start by introducing myself again and properly. I mean stuff that should be on my about me page if I got my shit together long enough to finish it.
Hi! I’m a Black queer Muslim blogger from Nigeria, a third world country. My country is in a permanent recession (or are we in a depression right now?) and our currency isn’t worth much in the global stock market. Apart from that, we have a huge class difference and a high poverty rate. If you aren’t rich, you’re probably poor and the middle class is more close to the poverty line than anything. And my family isn’t rich! So in either place we fall in the class categories, it doesn’t look so good. My country also doesn’t have the fancy thing called libraries. Libraries here are few and only for educational pursuits.
I’m also a fourth year student of nursing science and I live with anxiety, persistent depressive disorder, and chronic pain. And I blog at my free time which is nonexistent. I should also mention that I don’t have a job because the way the educational system is structured in my country doesn’t give room for that, especially for medical and paramedical students.
Now that we’ve covered the basic things about me and the things that inadvertently affect my reading and blogging experience let’s talk about blogging costs me; financially, mentally and socially.
Yes, first we’re starting with money talk.
I’ve already established that: 1) I’m from a third world country in an economic crisis. 2) I’m not from a wealthy family and with the class difference, being part of the lower middle class isn’t much. 3) I am a student at a university and have no job, so in essence I’m fully dependent on my parents. 4) Libraries and accessibility of books is a dream here.
I have quite a lot to say in this segment and multiple angles to explore, so I’ll be breaking this down into subtopics.
- Books and Finance.
- The Cost of Running a Blog.
- Books and Finance
I’ve already given a brief introduction to this subject, but I’ll go deeper here.
Simply put, here in Nigeria we don’t have much of a reading culture. Not a lot of people read recreationally and it’s reflected in how accessible books are made.
Libraries aren’t created or funded or equipped for recreational reading. Bookstores usually have more self help, religious books and locally published books, most of which are available only because they’re included in the school curriculum. Some bigger bookstores sell fiction not entirely created for school reading, but for people who just love to read, but these books are mostly local published. International books are available only at a few bookstores and when they’re available, they are incredibly expensive.
One of the most laughable and unrealistic things I see from people online is when they talk about buying books and bookish content creation is a labour of love. I’m usually torn between being irritated or finding it adorable, because wow imagine thinking books are so readily accessible or affordable for everyone. It’s such a privileged and innocent take.
Now we’re talking books and money, let me roughly convert some major currencies to the Nigerian currency, Naira, or rather convert Naira to them. The equivalent of a US Dollar is 377.00 Naira. An euro converts to 444.67 Naira and a British pound is equivalent to 488.34 Naira. So in case you missed it somehow, with exchange rate and shipping, done by an individual or an enterprise, books are fucking expensive.
It also doesn’t help that we have very limited sources for books. Book Depository might ship to most corners of the world, but it hasn’t covered half of Africa yet and Nigeria is one of the forgotten places. Amazon Kindle is currently restricted in Nigeria so I guess no ebooks for us. Books on Kobo are hardly available to us too. Shipping with Amazon, would cost an arm and a leg for a student like me and sometimes costs even twice the amount of the book. Even if I’m able to buy a book and ship it safely, I’ll still have to pay a fee at the post office to get it. So again if you didn’t understand, books are expensive.
Books can be expensive enough to cost my groceries at school for a month. Sometimes a book costs as much as a banquet at a 5 stars hotel, and all that precious purity aside, I will without any hesitation or a second thought choose food over books. I apologise to the labour of love crowd, but I choose sustenance and treating myself once in a while.
The only avenues to get books available to us which I’m extremely grateful for are these few bookstores, Scribd and one I recently found thanks to Mafalda, Blackwells.
So please, next time you have your quirky or hot take to make, think about people like me that find it hard to access books and buy books. Think about all international bloggers.
- The Cost of Running a Blog
Oh now I have so much to say or maybe not much because this is hard to articulate.
One of my greatest annoyances when someone comes on Twitter to bash book bloggers is they don’t know how much what we do costs us, particularly financially. Like I said before, book bloggers promote books for free but to be a book blogger is to prepare to spend money, a rather major fact I didn’t know before starting my blog.
The cost of running a book blog to the benefits of it, runs in negatives. To be a blogger who’s taken seriously, you need to be on the top of your game.
You need to be able to buy the latest or semi latest books. You need to be online and readily available on your social media because personality and approachability goes a long way. You need to have a decent looking blog, because nicer aesthetics does help get a larger audience. Sometimes you’ll have to have giveaways to grow your following. You need to be updated, and all these costs money.
To have a professional looking website/blog, you’ll have to spend on it and if you can’t you’ll have to learn to make it work somehow. Which means graphic making attempts which you’ll have to be on the internet to do (which also costs money). Being active on social media also requires constant internet.
Like I said before, I’m just a uni student with no job and a lot of stress. I run my blog independently and pay all the costs that come with it myself. To help my platform grow, I’m almost constantly online. I’m either on social media talking about books and things related to books or researching stuff for my blog or supporting other bloggers or making graphics or trying to improve my blog. I do all this at a self acquired cost. To constantly be online, my already sky high because of school and school related research internet usage shoots high each month and each month I pay for it myself from my monthly allowance.
It’s part of the reason, I’m not really on bookstagram much because I need to manage my finances and not spend all the money I should use on myself on my blog and bookstagram. Also speaking of bookstagram, it’s quite hard for me to navigate the highly material trends as a perpetually broke uni student in a third world country.
A chunk of my finances go to running this blog and it hurts so much when someone says I’m not worthy of compensation or decides to harass me for my work.
I’m about to get very real with you all here. I’ve talked a lot about how much book blogging costs me financially but for me the largest cost has been mentally.
If you recall, I said I was a 4th year student of Nursing science living with anxiety, persistent depressive disorder and chronic pain. What I didn’t say before is as a 4th year nursing student, I’ve had 2 years starting from my second year of almost no holidays, writing exams just before or after festive breaks and dedicating my semester breaks to clinical work experience which for reference is also unpaid. Another thing I didn’t say is I spent at least ¾ of the past two years in on and off depressive episodes , and as I write this post I’ve been recently diagnosed with severe depression in addition to my dysthymia which means I’ve felt like absolute shit for most of the year.
Studying nursing is rough. Very rough. One of my best friends (who isn’t in the profession) says it’s a full time job. For me and the other students at my uni, it’s studying for a minimum of 22 course units (which I just get to take this year) each semester and a maximum/steady rate of 24 units. It’s having classes from 9am to 4pm every weekday with one day dedicated to a full shift at the hospital. It’s also having classes on the weekends because your syllabus is too broad to fit into the schedule. It’s spending your nights up trying to finish assignments and during exam season sleeping for less than 4 hours for a month. It’s wanting to cry and if you’re me crying because the pressure is so much. It’s studying your butt off because less than a 50% is an F and you also use a CGPA system. Being a nursing student in my country is to have your mental limits constantly exceeded.
And there’s book blogging. There’s having to be online and active. There’s having to draft posts, participate in tags, write reviews and plan readathons. It’s having my nonexistent free time dedicated to book blogging. To making TBRs, reaching my Goodreads goals and getting on top of my ARC lists. It’s another stress I don’t need as a depressed nursing student.
I also love book blogging sometimes. Sometimes it’s this fun thing to do to destress from the pressure of school. But that’s not all the time because I also do have an audience to work for and sometimes it’s too much for me.
Here comes the funny and very short part.
If you’re my friend or have ever interacted with me, you already know I’m very shy and awkward well until I become comfortable enough to unleash my chaos. Suffering from anxiety doesn’t help either and one of my goals for the end of uni was to be more social, more open and do more things. But with the limited free time and how I dedicate a huge chunk of it to blogging it’s really hard.
I do enjoy blogging, but I don’t think if you’re not a blogger you know the amount of time creating content for a blog takes.
I love book blogging. Sometimes it’s fun, like really fun, but sometimes it feels like a chore. Book blogging is so much more complicated than y’all paint to be. It’s so much work and book bloggers deserve so much better. This is my experience or a small condensation of it. My experience is not universal but I think all book bloggers who read this have something they can relate to.
So please treat us dignity and listen to what we say because it’s the least you can do for us. We put in so much and we don’t get enough. A book blogger asking for compensation isn’t unethical, I think it’s a good work ethic, knowing your time is worth something. Have the decency to talk things out respectfully with us and please stop ghosting us.
Support your favourite book bloggers. Boost our works, let us know when you tried something out because of us. Tip us because it goes a long way. Just treat us the way you want to be treated.
Goodnight (because it’s night, my time) from me. Support me and people of my community. Be a decent human being.
Also remember my Kofi link (if you want to tip me) is below!