The Book Influencer: Vetting the Books You Share

For those in the Bookstagram community, there is always one drama or another when it comes to what we share on Instagram. It becomes difficult deciding which books to share, especially during the age of cancel culture. You don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of the conversation.

For some book influencers, we get the luxury of deciding which books we will share. Others feel like they must share every single book a publisher sends to them. They have to do a review of every single title granted. Their Netgalley percentage needs to be at 80%.

Now, if you related to the last 3/4 of what I just wrote, and then did a “Wait…luxury of deciding which books to share???” Continue reading.

The purpose of this post is to talk about vetting the books we share. That means, making sure that the books you share align with your ethics and does not bring harm to others.

As a book influencer, you are not only influencing people to buy or read a certain book, you are encouraging people to read more. So make sure the books you are sharing are ones that will encourage others to read more. You are trying to develop trust in the book community. So don’t share books that may betray that trust.

Some Authors/Stories Can Cause Harm to Entire Communities

I think one of the hardest things to do as a book influencer is to make sure that the stories you are promoting do not bring harm to entire communities. There are times when I have picked up a book and had to stop reading it because one too many insensitive remarks are made about an entire race of people. There was even an instance when I was a beta reader and I decided that because there were too many references stolen from the Native American culture, I could not continue. It was borderline racist, because of the way the terms were used.

In these instances, it is best to have some form of contact with either the author or the publisher. Express your concerns (especially if you are reading an advance copy pre-publication). This will allow the author/editor to go back and fix these troublesome items.

Now, there are deceptive moments. I recently learned that the wonderful book The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune was taken from Native American history. Indigenous Children were (and still are) taken from their families and put into boarding schools where they are stripped of their culture. Many children were not only abused but killed in both the US and Canada. We’re talking mass graves. Genocide.

Klune had read something about this and was inspired to write this feel good book. He took the story that belonged to the Indigenous community and, as a white man, profited off of it. It was a colonizer move.

Now, if Klune had been an ally to the Indigenous community, he would have pushed the narrative that he was bringing to light the injustices that happened to the Indigenous community. He would have promoted resources to help learn more about what happened. He would have donated to organizations that helped their community.

Instead, he bragged about the inspiration, profited off of the pain and suffering of an entire community, and pocketed the money. This is the equivalent of a Nazi writing a feel good fantasy book about concentration camps, profiting off of it, not offering resources to learn more about the tragedies nor creating an allyship with those who suffered, nor donating money to organizations that helped the survivors…because…Nazi.

It is disappointing to learn how Klune profited off of the Indigenous community. It is because of this, I will not promote any of his titles, because his ethics do not align with mine. This does not mean I will blast his book. I will simply ignore it. The book and the controversy do not deserve access to my space.

Before sharing books like these where the author or the book are controversial, you should consider if you are possibly hurting an entire marginalized community. Are you contributing to the problem? If sharing the book means that you would be labeled as tone deaf, racist, or insensitive to your followers, you should reconsider whether to share the book with them. This does not mean you should never read the book. If you want to read the book, go right ahead. But keep in mind, should you decide to share it, people will assume that your ethics align with the author/book that are problematic. If your ethics do not align with theirs, you should consider not sharing it. You are not obligated to share every single title you read.

Who is the Author?

Since I read a lot of stories from marginalized communities, I check to make sure the person writing about them are either from those communities, have a strong connection to that community, or they are an ally helping that community.

Since I started reading Indigenous stories, I check to make sure the author is from a Native American tribe. If they are not, I start going down my checklist to see if this author is taking advantage of this community or doing this community justice. There are some authors that have no connection to the Indigenous community, but the way they share the story, it helps people to relate to the injustices that happened to them. They generally do this by making sure to work directly with someone from the Native American community to make sure that their words truly represent their people and their culture. You cannot write about their community and strip them of who they are (see Yellowstone and almost every single movie/TV show where a non-Native wrote the script). When you don’t learn from the people you are writing about, your work becomes problematic.

When you share the work of an author, just make sure you double check for any controversies. For instance, these days, some authors have been very vocal about the Israel-Hamas war. This is very dangerous for any author to do, because no matter what side you are on or what stance you take, you will be canceled by the other side (or both). When it comes to politics and religion, it is always best to just avoid the topic altogether. If an author is talking a lot about it and their words are controversial or they do not jive with your ethics and morals, absolutely do not share their work. Why? Because you don’t need your comment feed flooded with a lot of angry posts. This is not what being a book influencer is about.

So yes, you need to vet the authors just as much as you need to vet the book.

I will admit that every single day I curse J. K. Rowling for ruining the Harry Potter experience. Like many HP fans, we just want to live in that fantasy world she created. But then she makes these anti-trans comments and ruins HP for so many of us. It puts us in a difficult spot.

While HP doesn’t need any more publicity because it’s done fine on its own, this is something you should be careful about sharing. You may think “I don’t care, I love Harry Potter. I’m going to share it.” What it also communicates to a trans person or LGBTQ+ person is that you support J. K. Rowling’s statements. Is that what you want to communicate as a book influencer? Even if you do support her statements, is your aim to hurt people? These are questions you should always ask yourself before pulling an “I don’t care,” stance. You’ll find people will stop caring about you. You get back what you put out there.

Book Controversies

It is important to keep a watch on book controversies. The most recent one involved an author that left scathing 1 star reviews on her colleagues’ books before they were published. She created multiple accounts to do this, while boosting her own book with 5 star reviews. Of note, she only did this to books written by people of color or books doing very well (like Fourth Wing).

Needless to say, she lost her book deals.

In this case, this is where you would want to latch onto this story and uplift the authors and the books that were hurt by this racist person. This goes along with book bans. Find out what books are banned and uplift those authors and share their books. Take a stand against censorship.

So What Books Should You Share?

Share the books you love, but make sure they will not hurt a marginalized community. For me, there are certain publishers that get carte blanche to my feed. If they send me the book, it is a guarantee that it will hit my feed. For those who are not at this status, they’re usually delegated to monthly roundups or book stacks.

What you will find very rare on my feed is an actual book review. I read over 100+ books every year and not every book is featured as a review. I find that when it hits an actual book review status, there is usually a mad rush for people to buy that book and read it.

Why do I not write book reviews for every book? I like to think of the book review as my way of saying that this is a book I would curate into my own library. It was either worth the hype, or it’s just something I can’t stop thinking about.

As a book influencer, I am sifting through over 100+ titles to find the diamonds in the rough worth sharing. It’s important to share the books you love because you are building trust between you and other book lovers looking for their next great read. You are essentially curating their reading list for them.

Leave the Politics Out of It

On Instagram, posts that express political opinions are being limited or silenced. If you want your post to get out there, it’s best to avoid making statements. While this can be a form of censorship, it could also be Instagram’s way of trying to fix the social media problem of how politics is ruining our society. Books are a way to escape from the world. Maybe Instagram is trying to make their space an escape from what is damaging our world.

They started doing this on Threads when it was first launched. They wanted to create a community where like-minded people could talk about other things than activism and politics. People like movies and books and crafts. Can’t we just talk about that? That was where Threads was going and they wanted to keep the politics out of it. People felt happy and safe.

Now, Meta is moving this same thought process to Instagram. Unless an Instagram account permits posts dealing with politics and activism, if you post about politics or activism, the likelihood of it reaching your followers will be slim.

Scream censorship all you want, but maybe creating a safe space without the troubles of the world isn’t such a bad idea. The reason why most of us got into books to begin with was to escape the troubles of the world. Maybe it’s okay to leave the politics out of it and be the influencer that creates a space where people feel safe and happy.