Do Book Review Blogs Make Money (and Other Questions)?

Ask the Misfortune Teller (2)It’s one of the many interesting or amusing searches that led someone to my blog through Google in the last month. As I’ve said in my previous Ask the Misfortune Teller posts, seeing search terms is one of my favorite parts of blogging (and I think we could all use a bit of light humor right now). It’s a glimpse into readers’ minds, a look at what topics they find compelling enough to ask Google when they think no one is watching.

Here’s a handful of recent search terms:

(1)   “do book review blogs make money”

Ha! Many bloggers out there would love to get paid to do their hobbies, but my guess is that few have managed to do so effectively. Aside from paid ads on blogs and affiliate links, there are some entrepreneurial individuals who offer reviews for a fee (and the ethically-flexible ones even offer positive reviews for a price — remember Mr. Rutherford?). Most of the time, though, the most bloggers will get in exchange for a review is a free copy of the book. In either case — money or free products — the Federal Trade Commission requires bloggers disclose any benefit they received for the review.

As for me, I no longer accept review copies of books for two main reasons: (1) I don’t have enough time to sift through the requests for reviews; (2) I value the authenticity and the perspective that comes with purchasing or taking the time to borrow a book from the library. I am a consumer writing reviews for other consumers. That said, I see nothing wrong with accepting review copies in exchange for honest opinions (many of my favorite book blogs do it), but I am glad that the FTC requires bloggers to reveal their connection to the publisher/author.

[Updated: See the FTC’s clarification in .com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Online Marketing (3/2013)]

(2)   “is fancy nancy fiction or nonfiction”

Well, here’s Nancy, one of my twins’ good “friends”Fancy Nancy by Jane O Connor (2)

 Now that you’ve seen her, do you think her books are fiction or nonfiction?

 As ridiculous as the question may seem, though, it did leave me wondering whether Nancy is based on a real-life child. I believe the answer is no, except to the extent she reflects the author (Jane O’Connor) and/or the illustrator’s personality and childhood. As the illustrator, Robin Preiss Glasser, has said, “I just feel like Nancy represents something that is inside of so many of us. I don’t know what it is, but it’s real.”

(3)   “why haven’t we seen the chickadees”

 This is a book blog, not a bird blog, but I do love birds and have written about my feathered friends on occasion. The person who googled this question ended up on my post, One, Two, Three… Black-Capped Chickadees!, in which I discuss books about birds (including The Backyard Bird Primer or the Charismatic and Querulous Birds of Central Pennsylvania … by the way, Fancy Nancy would love the words “charismatic” and “querulous”!). When I wrote that post, we were participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, and the results show that black-capped chickadees were among the top reported species. So, someone’s been seeing them lately.

Coincidentally, this search led someone to my blog yesterday, on the same day my friend Jane Fritz from Robby Robin’s Journey posted a poll about which bird to cut from her award-winning children’s literature submission. Future readers of her book may wonder, “why haven’t we seen the chickadees,” if Sarah chickadee is the one to go. Her poll will be available for about a week (see here).

By the way, my three kids love drawing birds, and each drew a chickadee last night. It’s interesting to compare my daughters’ drawings (without the negative connotations of “compare,” an often unwelcome word in this twin household).  For so-called identical twins, they see the world differently.

 My Chickadee Twins_Misfortune of Knowing Blog

My Zayla Chickadee_Misfortune of Knowing Blog


  1. You do get a lot of interesting questions! It amazes me some of the things people Google. Your post has prompted me to check my recent list of search terms that have landed people at my blog. Apparently this week, 2 people have searched for “a coat , a celery , a becky, a.” I have know idea what that could possibly relate to, but just Googled it myself, and indeed my blog is listed first. Just got a good laugh!

  2. I’m intrigued that American bloggers are regulated. Do the regs go any further than touching on product endorsement?
    Love the bird pics. Takes me back to when our house had works of art stuck on every available surface 🙂

    1. Ah, you know what the walls in my house look like! We have artwork everywhere, most of it on paper, but some it directly on the walls in non-washable crayon (nothing a little paint won’t fix when they’re older, though I must admit I’ve grown attached to some of the scribble). As for the FTC, the Act prohibits unfair and deceptive practices in general, whether online or someplace else. I’m not sure if there are other regs specific to blogging; this is the only one I’ve come across, and I’m hoping that generally behaving ethically will keep me out of trouble!

    2. By the way, I’m reconsidering whether the FTC regs/guides apply only to Americans or more broadly. I could see how they could exercise jurisdiction over a website hosted in another country but directed at American consumers (not my area of expertise, though). I’m putting a short note about this in my post today.

  3. I have the same search, only, “do garden blogs make money?” I am assuming that they don’t care what they write about as long as it produces income. I also think there are plenty of bloggers that do that already. No experience, no training, just rewrite what others with the knowledge are posting.

    Book blogs post a lot of opinion and research to what they review. I can see why reviewing would get overwhelming.

    1. I have no idea how those spammy blogs make any money, but they’re free to try (though not to plagiarize reputable sites!). It does get overwhelming to write new content, only because it usually requires reading a book, doing a bit of research (especially if there’s a legal angle to the post), and then writing the post. I would guess that your posts are time-consuming, too.

    1. She’s the one who particularly loves watching the birds at our feeders, and she has so many favorite species that she really doesn’t have a favorite bird. Her sister is also interested in birds, but not to the same degree. She’s more interested in astronomy and related mythology. It’s interesting to see how different my twins are from each other!

    1. It would be S-P-L-E-N-D-I-D! The current favorite is “Fancy Nancy: Splendid Speller,” though my kids insist on reading about four Fancy Nancy books each night. I don’t mind–I like them, too!

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