Over the last couple of months I have read with interest the many posts regarding ARCs and whether or not bloggers should or shouldn’t accept them; and if they accept them are they obligated to give a positive review. Even more interesting than the actual posts, are the comments they generate. It bothers me to see criticism being leveled at bloggers who accept ARCs or review books because I think there are a lot of myths out there around this subject. As someone who receives her fair share of review books, I’d like to dispel some of them.
Myth #1: Bloggers who accept review books are being forced to read books they don’t like
I get review books (finished copies) and ARCs from a number of sources:
- Library Thing Early Review Program
- Harper Collins First Look (which is currently closed and in updates)
- Barnes and Noble First Look Book Club
- Shelf Awareness
- Contacts with publicists and publishers
- Unsolicited email requests from publicists, publishers and authors
NEVER have a I been pressured or forced to accept a book I did not want to read. In most cases, I specifically requested a book which looked interesting to me. When I get an unsolicited email with a request, I do my homework (which includes googling the book, checking out other book reviews, looking at the author’s website, etc…) before considering whether or not to accept the book. I actually do more research on the books I take for review than when I go to the bookstore and buy a book. But the bottom line is, every single book I take for review is one I WANT to read and review.
Myth #2: If you accept a book for review, you must give it a positive review
Wrong. No one has ever mandated that I give a book a positive review in order to receive it (and if they DID mandate that, I would not accept it). I have given review books less than glowing reviews here and here and here (for example), and I have continued to receive books from those sources.
I’ve read comments which question the number of positive reviews a particular book generates if it is an ARC. I can only speak for myself, but I suspect I am not in the minority when I say that if I give a book a positive review it is because it deserved it, not because it came as an ARC. A book which has been around a long, long time is To Kill A Mockingbird…it garners far more positive reviews than negative, but no one is questioning the judgment of readers who like the book. Why not? How is THAT book any different than a well-written new release? My reviews of ARCs (as well as books I have purchased) lean toward the positive because I research each and every one of them and only select the ones I think I will love.
Some bloggers think that if you don’t like a book you get for review, you should not post ANY review. I don’t agree. I have a policy on my blog that I post a review for EVERY book I read – no matter the source. On the other hand, I think bloggers have a responsibility to be professional in their reviews – steer clear of being cruel or mean, while still being honest. But again, that is my policy no matter the source of the book.
Myth #3: You are obligated to finish every book and review it – even if you don’t want to
Again, this is not a requirement for accepting a book for review. Is it nice to read and review every book that comes your way? Yes. But it is not a requirement. If you never review an ARC or never finish reading a review book, most likely your source for those books will dry up; but if it happens once in awhile, I think you will find that it is not the horror some people think it is. Most publicists are well aware that reviewers get more books than they can read (and this goes for “professional” print reviewers, not just bloggers) or receive books they think they will like, but then find they cannot finish the book. Publicists hope for a review, but they understand if sometimes it doesn’t happen.
Myth #4: Bloggers who accept review books must participate in Blog Tours of those books
Only if you agree in advance that you are accepting a book for tour are you obligated to participate in a tour of that book. So far, I have not agreed to a tour and then found out I disliked a book. I believe this is because I am pretty selective about the books I tour. I have really enjoyed touring books for TLC Book Tours because they are professional, consistently accept books which are outstanding, and make sure that the bloggers get books well in advance of the tour date. Bloggers who tour books are not told what to post – they may get a plethora of links and ideas, but ultimately the content of their tour post is up to them. Personally, I like to have a book be a spring board to other discussions or issues and it is these books that I like to tour the most (for example, Breathing Out The Ghost).
Myth #5: Review books and ARCs are “free”
Some people are going to argue this point with me, but I still stand by it…bloggers may not have to purchase a book for review, but they pay for it with their time. I’m not sure exactly how long on average it takes me to read a book and review it (because some books I read faster than others), but let’s say it takes me 10 hours (which is conservative). If a brand new book costs $26 (my “payment”), then I am making a whopping $2.60 an hour to accept a book for review. The bottom line is that the exchange of ARCs and review books between publishers/publicists/authors AND bloggers is mutually beneficial. The blogger gets a book they want to read and the publisher/publicist/author gets exposure for their book. Even if I don’t get a review posted, the book gets exposure on my blog at least once because I highlight books that arrive at my house in my weekly Mailbox Monday post. Is this advertising? Yes. But how is this any different than if I purchase a book at the bookstore and read and review it on my blog; or share with my readers the books I picked up at the store or library; or talk about a book I saw reviewed on another site that made it to my wish list? All book bloggers advertise books no matter the source of the book.
So, should bloggers accept ARCs and review books? Well, that is up to each individual blogger, and I completely respect everyone’s choice.
I’ve nurtured my connections and have actively sought out books for review – it is hard work and time consuming – but, I like getting the latest books. I love getting mail. I get excited about every book that comes into my house. Lately, I’ve started turning down more books because I’ve overextended myself. But I will continue to accept new release books that I want to read, while I continue to also read the “older” books on my shelves.
I hope that readers of my blog enjoy my posts… I know I enjoy writing them. And I suppose that is the point…most bloggers are not making money from their blog. They blog because they love it. They love the connections with others. They love talking about books – new, old, classic – it doesn’t matter. The day that my blog becomes “work” is the day I close it down. But for now, I am loving what I do here.
Please leave me a comment – I’d love to hear your thoughts!