Bookish Discussions

Bookish Discussions ~ Rep Searches

Welcome to my first Bookish Discussion post! Every now and then I find myself ruminating on different things about books and all things related, so I’ve decided to create the Bookish Discussions post as a place to share them. It’s not necessarily going to be a regular scheduled series, I’ll post as the inspiration finds me.

For the first discussion I wanted to post some thoughts I’ve been having around rep searches (primarily run on Instagram) by bookish companies. I’d like to start out by saying this isn’t about one particular company or rant – more just a talk about the things I’ve noticed and have been on my mind. Full disclaimer I have entered rep searches and not been successful but this is not me speaking from a place of bitterness. 

The main element that sparked this post is that most companies when they hold rep searches – somewhere in the announcement – will have something along the lines of ‘follower counts don’t matter this is about passion and creativity’ and ‘don’t be discouraged from applying if you’re a small account’. But here’s the thing – I have never seen a company actually apply this when picking rep.

No I’m not naive – I am aware that rep searches are a business-based decision. Obviously a company is going to want to maximise their reach and the more followers a rep has the more business you are potentially going to bring in. My issue is this – don’t say follower counts don’t matter if they clearly fucking do and you are never going to give a smaller account a chance (for the record I don’t consider follower counts above 1000 to be small).

An unspecified amount of time ago I entered a rep search for a local business. This was their first rep search and at the time I had already made multiple purchases from them (my follower count I believe would have been between 550-600). Now given they were an an emerging aussie business – as opposed to one of the establish UK/US big bookish companies a la Owlcrate etc – there weren’t countless entries so I had the opportunity to go through them after.

Here’s what I found: I was not the only one with a smaller account and had purchased items from the company and yet we were all passed over in favour of those with large accounts. I’m not saying buying from a company means you’re entitled to be a rep but this isn’t the only time or company I’ve seen this happen. And so if you are going to ignore people that support your business in favour of those with 5000+ followers why bother saying it’s about passion and creativity not follower counts? Surely someone who buys your stuff and loves it matters just as much as someone who hasn’t ever bought your stuff outside a rep discount but has a large reach?

It’s your business and you can do what you want but perhaps if you’re never going to consider people with under 5000 followers just drop the ‘follower counts don’t matter’ line. Otherwise you’re just going to get people getting their hopes up that maybe – just maybe – this time they’ll be chosen and yet they never are.

‘But Ashleigh if someone has a small follower count and can’t grow it they’re clearly not good at building a brand and creating content?’ Miss me with that bullshit because the reality of bookstagram is that no matter how passionate someone is, no matter how much work they put into it and how great their content is some people will never get the following they deserve. We can’t all be conventionally attractive white people, with a Nikon camera or latest iPhone and an ever-evolving fancy spread, getting book mail and arcs every second day. The reality is bookstagram is weighted in favour of those who are those things, in favour of those who have the money to be on top of new releases. It’s also fucking terrible are acknowledging this, instead liking to act as though it was all just hard work and there isn’t a strong element of privilege involved.

Not to mention that being a rep can boost someone’s following. I know I’ve followed people after discovering them through the company they rep for. It can be a mutually beneficial relationship.

My point in this post, I guess, is to say that whilst companies can run rep searches how ever they want, there’s something to say for a) given the smaller accounts a go and b) being honest – if you aren’t going to pick smaller accounts as reps why say followers don’t matter because it’s about passion? Because in my experience in bookstagram there are so, so many people with small followings that are some of the nicest people to interact with and are so passionate about what they do.