I live in the Philippines.
I’m a book blogger.
This isn’t fundamentally a cut throat combination. I’ve endured on this planet since ye olde ’97, and not once have I looked askance at my ostensibly permanent whereabouts smack in the center of what seems a nondescript group of islands, detached from the rest of the edifice. The Philippines is an active community, representing a sizable fraction of the literary fan base. As such, I don’t exactly feel as if I’ve been indubitably left out. There is a 4-story branch of Fullybooked at Global City, an annual book fair at SMX, no shortage of blogger forums and book signings, and not to mention the fact that books are readily available for shipment to this country (the post office is none too shabby, I do concede, although they still have much to work on). However, I do think that as an international blogger, much is left for want. I’m not a grumbling citizen, and though I wouldn’t mind a ticket to LA or something myself, I don’t think I’m bitter with the regards to the fact that I don’t live wherever all the books, publishing houses, and opportunities are available.
Not one bit. Even if I have more than enough of a reason to be.
But of course, I still do think I’m at a disadvantage.
This applies more to eARC’s than anything else, but of course, the same applies to other formats. I myself have not ventured into requesting the authors and publishers themselves for early copies of books I am hellbent on reading, mostly because I am apprehensive of the likely outcome in which I depress myself after dismissal. There are bloggers, of course, who are still able to snag copies of books from publishers, and kudos to them for their diligence and persistence, coupled with the fact that not all the publishers have completely shut the door in our faces and thrown away our fair shakes, lock and key. In that light, I shower hugs and kisses upon the publishers who have been open-minded and have given international bloggers a chance well deserved. However, there is, and always will be, a greater chance of acceptance for a blogger who doesn’t live on the other side of the globe. Understandable, on the part of the publisher, but it’s not our fault that we live here and not there, either, and I know for a fact that we want to read certain books just as much as they do, and then some.
2. We can’t attend the BEA and ALA (+ other events), unless we’re willing to spend that much on a plane ticket and hotel reservations. And we’re not.
Unless of course we’re Paris Hilton. Okay, maybe we don’t have to be heiresses to massive fortunes, but really, it’s not that simple. BEA and ALA are book blogger dreams for crying out loud—they’re something like endless parties, where authors, publishers, bloggers, and simple fans alike gather to share their love for the written word. And I know that because I have experienced sitting here, in front of the computer, scrolling through endless posts on raves regarding other people’s experiences at these events. And I do not deny shifting in my seat uncomfortably, thinking to myself that I would have loved to be a part of it. I’m no voodoo, but I can assure you that I’m not the only one who’s had to go through this. I know there are opportunities for me back here as well (remember the MIBF, and the forums?), so I consider myself lucky, as a Filipina, where I don’t miss out as much as the rest of us do. I am aware, however, of the fact that in some other countries, there are no signings, no forums, no book fairs– and in exchange just a heaping pile of in-your-face nothing. Nada. Zilch. How’s that for a reason to be bitter.
Sometimes I just UGH
3. Our time zone is bonkers.
Better traffic is generated when you’re awake at the same time as the rest of civilization, but that’s hardly all that matters. A lot of the fun stuff happens while I’m asleep, and goodness knows that’s something I can hardly appreciate, even if sleep has, for the last ten years, been an indispensable prerequisite. It’s never a good feeling to realize that exciting things on the blogosphere occur on a day to day basis and you’re never really around at the time, unless you pull all-nighters, and don’t mind the eyebags as repercussion (and I really do). The time zone here for example, is something like 12-16 hours ahead, which means that my waking hours stand in complete opposition to yours (unless you live nearby, in which case, you’d get it. Right?) But of course, I am rarely online during the rush hours of book blogging, when almost everyone is actively commenting and interacting with one another. I have never been much of a socialite, but I know ‘missing out’ when it’s staring me in the face.
4. Our libraries don’t stock up on all the good books.
Honestly, I never even knew you could borrow legitimate, non-text books from libraries, or books that haven’t been around since the goddamned Middle Ages for that matter. I myself have only ever visited the library at my school, and even then only to escape the hustle and bustle of the corridors, and guiltily enough, I sometimes stay there for nothing more than the air conditioning (it’s a tropical country). I’d understand why they wouldn’t care to stock up on young adult books and the like, because they’re welcome distractions, but I’ve honestly never heard of a blogger from my country who’s gotten most of his or her books from the nearby library. We have to buy most of what we read, and even if I myself would prefer my own copy of the books I review, there is an undeniable perk in the string of words ‘FOR FREE’.
So what happens now? I’m not going to leave my own post empty-handed, and certainly not without reconciliation. International blogging is a feat in and of itself, so of course there is pride and self-glorification the moment you can call yourself one of the people who do. In conclusion, here are some tips for international bloggers like myself, to help keep your mind of off the cons, and focus them instead on the indisputable pros:
Think of what you have, instead of what you don’t. You can never read every book you want, but neither can the rest of us, international or otherwise. There is a perpetual shortage in this world, so make sure to be thankful for the things you have been given (and I am almost sure there is a lot to be thankful for).
Don’t be afraid to speak up. Rant on your issues all day long, if you can help it. There is a certain sense of satisfaction and release in venting, and I know that, because I just did. Tell a friend over Twitter, rant back and forth to each other, and take comfort in the fact that people will always be around to understand.
Realize that there is no harm in trying. Even in light of the fact that you are indeed an international blogger, don’t close yourself off to the opportunities completely, because something like that isn’t on the publisher—it’s all on you. Don’t be afraid to request for books the best way you can, and be ready to accept the reply, whatever it may be. There are lots of publishers out there who are generous with their books, and believe me when I say, it is no small victory if you can get to them. If like me, however, you are content otherwise, then stick to your thing because I can assure you, your pile is massive as it is.
Know that this is no competition. Even if I sounded like a total drama queen just then, I’m here to tell you that this is not the blogging Olympics. We’re not here to get jealous over what someone else has, and bitter over what you yourself don’t. Sure, someone out there receives copies of books on her doorstep without batting an eyelash, and sure she gets to go to all the important events you can do nothing but miss out on. But keep in mind that your blog itself is no small feat—you’ve made good friends and have helped readers with reviews. You may have met an amazing author, gotten a book or two signed, and attended an event reserved for a chosen few. With a little extra push, there always will be that chance that sooner or later, you’ll have no reason to complain.
What about you? Are you an international blogger? Do you relate to the circumstances aforementioned? What do you do to keep up? Do tell! Sound off in the comments and make my day 🙂