Blogging, ARCs, and Obligations

Holly:

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, and you are the observant type (unlike me), you might have noticed that Amanda posts a lot more reviews than me. That is because she reads faster than a speeding bullet. She also receives and reviews a lot more ARCs (that’s Advance Reader Copies) and other books directly from publishers.

I have, since we started blogging, requested exactly one book through Netgalley (a site where bloggers and reviews can request books to read before they are published). It was a Civil War novel called Neverhome and I did not get it. I have, since we started blogging, received exactly one book from a publisher, Dorothy Must Die, because I saw Amanda emailing with the publisher, and I said, “oooh, ask if they’ll send me one too, and we can review it together!” She obliged, and they obliged.

Anyway, I haven’t been too motivated to seek review copies – I have a lot of books on my (small) bookshelf, or downloaded for my Kindle, or available at the library, and I just am not that inspired to keep up with what’s not even out yet. I don’t want deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise, on my reading.

But, I don’t think that’s how Amanda sees it at all, so I thought we should discuss. I started by sending Amanda a link to this blog post where Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness argues that blogging “for” books has negative connotations, and calls for bloggers to start thinking of reviews differently – less about reviews “in exchange for” books, and more as “for review consideration.

So, sister, discuss:

Amanda:

I admit it. I read quickly.  I can’t help it.  Reading is also my first choice for entertainment 90% of the time.  I’d rather sit on the couch with a book than watch tv.  Its not always high brow reading and that’s fine!  As a result I’m always looking for my next book.  I have my library hold list maintenance down to a science.  I love knowing what books are coming out soon and stalking my favorite authors for more.  I love hearing what friends are reading and I love talking about books.  So when I realized how many book blogs are out there and that I could really do this myself-with my sister of course-requesting ARCs became part of that.  

I won’t deny that part of the appeal of setting up a book blog was free books-not only that, free books before they’re published.  But I love connecting with people who read even more than me and that read the same random variety that I do.  My goodreads shelf that I’m currently reading now contains chick-lit, fantasy, feminist essays, and historical fiction-both YA and adult.  I will try almost any book you put in front of me and I love finding others like that.

Holly:

Hmm, but does free mean in exchange for a review, or does free mean, review and talk about this book if you really love it? Because some of the books you’ve received do not sound very good – and I’m not sure that those reviews are very helpful to the publishers – uh, I guess unless people are into that sort of stuff…

So are you obligated to review, or not?

Holly again:

Amanda’s response has been to send more more links to read!

A thoughtful response on On Starships and Dragonwings, weighing in on “exchange” and “consideration” and another from There Were Books Involved.

Hmmm, both of these are pretty much in agreement with the first link I sent Amanda, that maybe the sentence “I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review” is not entirely accurate or appropriate.

So maybe Amanda agrees too? And will change her mind about phrasing her reviews? I’m waiting to find out. [Taps foot. I’d whistle too but I am not capable of whistling. #truth]

Amanda:

I guess my basic thought is-why would a publisher give me a book FOR FREE if I wasn’t going to give some kind of opinion on it to the world at large to see?  Why would I ASK for a book if I wasn’t willing to do that?  Yes, there have been some books that I requested and read that either a) weren’t well written or b) insane and icky–but that doesn’t mean they won’t work for someone else.  There are people out there, sister, that consider Twilight high-fiction.  Who said there’s no such thing as bad publicity?  That’s a quote right?  Maybe that’s true in the book business?

Maybe I’d feel differently if I had authors beating down my door trying to give me books I don’t want to read.  Aside from spammy twitter attempts I haven’t really had that happen.  Really the lack of payment exchange is what sums it up for me.  If I want to read something without giving a review and without paying for it I will go to the amazing Chicago Public Library.  If they don’t have it I’ll try Paperbackswap.com.  If they don’t have it I’ll either suck it up and buy or go without.  But if I ask for something to read for free from a publisher I have no problem with their being an expectation for a review or some kind of feedback submitted.

Holly:

You know, I definitely don’t have authors beating down my door trying to give me books I don’t want to read. But you know what I do have? A sister always trying to demand I read more of the books. Sigh.

Amanda:

But come on! Have I been wrong?  Go back and read Quintana and then sigh at me sister.

Iyc3B7J

Whatever. Smooches.

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7 Comments

  1. I know people debate the ARC concept but I really haven’t spent all that much time thinking about it. Not sure what that says about me! To me if I request a book on NetGalley it’s because I honestly want to read it. If I request it my assumption is that if I get it I will of course review it but that review will be honest whether good or bad. That’s about all the obligation I feel. My author requests have been on an upswing and I do try to only accept books I actually want to read but it’s hard when I don’t want to be rude.

  2. Netgalley seems like a really slippery slope. But you raise some excellent points – both of you. So far the books that I’ve requested from publishers, I’ve really liked. With one exception I think. And I AGONIZED over that. It’s partly that the publishers have gifted me with these wonderful books but also I’m not an author so what exactly gives me the right to shit on a book that an actual author wrote, that s/he put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into. You know? But I guess that’s part of the book blogging thing and if you can’t be honest about what you’re reading, good and bad, then there’s not much point.

    • I totally agree with you about “what gives me the right to shit on a book,” so I have tried really hard even when I don’t like a book to find something likeable. Some books just aren’t for me I know, so I’ve tried to write something that will help others that might be interested. I can’t imagine what it feels like to see your hard work get bad reviews.

  3. I think it is down to the review, what I like in a book someone else will hate so if the review is factual with a qualifying opinion it is still publicity. The problem with books is that the enjoyment is subjective – no book is going to suit everyone. Bad reviews will happen whether a book is free or not and if I’m honest I try to write reviews for readers rather than the authors. Great discussion post with some food for thought on both sides.

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