other book stuff

The Book Blogger’s Responsibility: What?

There’s an article called “Has book blogging hit the wall? William Morrow’s blogger notice” posted online in the LA Times Books section. Apparently it’s causing a stir, though I admit to not having read a single reactionary comment yet. My apologies, then, if the following smacks of ignorance.

The gist of the article, though I recommend you read the entire piece if you haven’t already, is that William Morrow, a division of HarperCollins, sent out an email to book bloggers stating that they are streamlining their review copies process. Review books now have to be requested by filling out a form, with a max number of three books per form, and if said books are not reviewed with two weeks to a month of the book’s release, the blogger will no longer receive offers. (This last statement was later altered to assure bloggers that they would not be suspended from the publisher’s send list.)

Think this is harsh? Feel indignant at all? Many do. “‘It’s not enough that it is “your job” to review their books within a one month span before or after its release date,'” wrote Larry at The OF Blog, “‘but they couch in sweet talk the threat to pull review copies because you don’t want to play their game.'” Many feel as though “their hobby [i]s being treated like an obligation.”

I have to say right off the bat here: What?

While I do understand that reviewing WM’s books in their time-frame will likely be stressful if you get books from other publishers as well, perhaps the answer then is not accepting so many books. Or not accepting books from WM, since they’re not playing “the game” the way you want them to. Truthfully, the indignation strikes me as not only exceedingly, embarrassingly whiny but also odd, since we as recreational bloggers are not “obligated” to even take copies from a publisher. I understand that it could mean a loss for you if you can’t get their books reviewed when they ask, but there is the—gasp!—option of paying for WM’s books if you want them that badly. If you’re not a paid reviewer, it doesn’t have to be your job to review anyone’s books. It’s your blog, you decide. On the flip side, they’re the publisher’s books; they too get to decide what to do with them and how.

In my view, William Morrow’s email sounds less like raining on our parade than like a publisher realizing they’ve been perhaps too generous in their distribution of ARCs and published copies for review. They’re realizing just how expensive this venture is, and they’re wondering if book bloggers generate enough sales to make it worth it. We’re also not the only ones to whom they send galleys or finished copies, and we certainly can’t be pretentious enough to imagine our opinions are, while valuable, the be all and end all of book talk or sales. As far as I know, whether or not bloggers are effectively boosting sales isn’t something that can be accurately measured, but it’s a fair question, especially for a business. If a publisher’s goal is to sell more books, and the way they do this most effectively is by promotion of said books in a timely manner, doesn’t it make sense that they’d ask us, to whom they send such books free of charge, to please review in such and such a time, and then offer only the number of books we can do in that time? And doesn’t it make sense, then, that if we don’t, we’re not as effective to their cause and are also thus costing them money?

But these questions were also asked:

But if the role of bloggers is different [other than “creating buzz for publishers’ projects”], to expand the conversation around books, things are a little more complicated. Does the number of readers a blogger has matter? Can and should there be room for disliking a book? Can and should book bloggers be book buyers, and are they? If some bloggers reject publishers’ freebies in order to establish their own freedom, should those that accept them somehow make that relationship clear? Should publishers make any demands on bloggers at all — and if so, are free books an even trade?

Here’s what I think, if you’re interested:

Helping create book buzz and expanding conversation around books aren’t mutually exclusive, and I’m not even sure there’s much of a difference between the two in the end, but if publishers are sending you books, they’re ultimately more concerned about sales than anything else. Even though there are publicists who delight in making book lovers happy by sending them books, in the end they still want to see your review. This is still all part of their job.

I can’t say there’s any one role of a book blogger—since book bloggers start up for different reasons and decide their own roles (if they even decide to adopt a role)—unless that book blogger is getting copies for review. Then I’d say those review copies makes a blogger’s role reviewer, and with that comes responsibility, even if the reviews are not for money. More on this further down.

The number of readers a blogger has is relevant to an extent, but there is also potential for sharing over social media platforms, which will typically reach many more people. And who those readers are also makes a difference.

Most certainly there should be room for disliking a book; I find it difficult to understand why such a question would be asked. That’s what reviews are about, after all, but if publishers are looking for only positive reviews or nothing at all, that should be made clear to the blogger—and what also should be clear, then, is that only those books that cater to the blogger’s likes are to be sent.

Most book bloggers, because they love books, still buy—at an impressive rate, actually. Why couldn’t or shouldn’t they be buyers? The next question is confusing and I can’t answer it since I fail to understand it. But yes, simply put, I believe publishers have every right to attach stipulations to the copies they send out.

As to whether or not the books are a fair trade, that’s for the individual to decide. If you asked me, I would tell you that while I choose to spend way too much time on writing reviews I’m not paid for, I am also a bibliophile and as such find the free books, most of them lovely finished copies, a good enough trade for me to do the reviews. The time I spend also pays off when publishers and authors express their satisfaction with what I’ve written, and that includes the constructive criticism I’ve offered in my reviews. And then, when I get hired by publishers to write stuff, there’s an even better payoff.

So while I suppose I could argue that I still sell a fair amount of backlist, or new books months after their release, at least as a bookseller, that’s probably besides the point. Whatever William Morrow’s reason for asking that books be reviewed within a month of release, I’m not crying about it. This makes good, smart sense to me on the part of publishers. After all, it’s not as though my tbr pile will ever be depleted; it’s not as though they’re saying I’ll never see a review copy from anyone again. They’re not asking us to sign a contract and make our fun blogging a job: they’re just asking us to pick the books we know we’ll be able to get to in a timely manner for promotional purposes. They’re just ensuring they’re not wasting money. Can you blame them?

But this backlash about the WM email doesn’t seem to me just a gripe about feeling our blogs are becoming jobs, what with “all these rules.” It’s also the suggestion that one will be penalized if one doesn’t review in a timely manner, or the prospect of publishers in general sending out fewer copies, that has people like Larry up in arms.

So if we’re also talking about being upset that we may not receive as many books as we used to, well. To start, I’ve received several books from certain publishers that don’t even fit within my reading preferences, as stated on my Statement on Book Reviews page, and I have no intention, then, of reading them. It’s a waste of money and time on the publisher’s part. My Statement page is there for a reason. (To be fair, the majority of publicists who send me books know me as Steph, not Bella [they’ve actually read my About page], and they know exactly what I like (they’ve also bothered to read a review or two) and otherwise ask if I might like a particular book. Many of said publicists have even become friends, and their books always arrive accompanied by personal notes. A few of these books have been purely gifts, but most are for review.)

But how many times have I read that a book blogger can’t keep up with all the free books she’s getting? I’m always mouth agape when I read about bloggers getting daily book dumps and establishing first-name relationships with their postman or postwoman. Unless you don’t work and all you do is read, it’s damn near impossible to properly (that is, according to the stipulations) read and review everything that comes, which was the main WM issue that ruffled people’s feathers in the first place.

I started out with one publisher sending me books and now I have at least 17, plus authors. I’m not complaining, because these are books I very much wish to read and will review, but I admit it didn’t take long before I felt overwhelmed by my sense of responsibility to those who send me packages and before I was sending apology emails and even turning down books. (I still happily accept some, depending on what they are.) And this guilt is without being a paid reviewer, in which case each review would be done when it was expected of me to produce it. I’m also acknowledging here, I add, that there is a difference between paid reviewer and book blogger—but this difference has nothing whatsoever to do with entitlement.

It’s a very cool thing to get books you really want, free in the mail. Sure, it’s saving me money, but mainly it’s giving me the chance to network and participate in book discussions and actually know what I’m talking about. It’s making me a much more effective bookseller, too. Truly, I feel downright privileged—I’m not entitled to receive books just because I’ve decided to write a book blog for fun, and this sense of entitlement that seems to emanate from the article perplexes me. I know this is costing publishers money and the idea is ultimately to help generate sales (we can’t forget these are businesses, these publishers), and they trust me to help them do this. So, yes, I’m wracked with guilt for not reviewing books, particularly ARCs, within the month I receive them.

The difference is, then, I’m feeling I owe the publishers something, which I don’t think is unfair, whereas it seems to me that those who feel upset about this article feel the opposite; that they’re owed something for being bloggers, an occupation, paid or not, they chose. The simple fact is Publisher = business; unpaid book blogger = hobby. Explain to me again why we are entitled to handouts without some restriction? These books, they’re simply the perks of your hobby.

Listen, it’s really not my intent to sound smug or righteous. I’m merely expressing how I feel about this and trying to offer perspective, even though my experience as a book blogger isn’t necessarily the same as another’s. I have two jobs. I work full time at a bookstore and I am also a freelance copyeditor and writer. These occupations take up the majority of my time. No matter what, I have to focus first on my paying jobs. This means that this blog, as much as I love it and want it to be more, can’t be updated daily or even weekly sometimes, and there’s very little chance I’ll read a book a week. Sometimes I can’t read a book in three weeks or even a month (I also run the book club at the store where I work).

So of course I’m okay with having the book-giving process streamlined. But I’m willing to bet that most book bloggers also have jobs, and even those who stay at home can’t always keep up with the books they’re getting. Most of us book lovers are in possession of far more books than we’ve read or could ever read. So why, again, does this WM email upset people? Now it’s striking me as not only being blown out of proportion but also smacking of greed.

Here’s the rub, and I know I’ve suggested as much already but it may bear repeating: as much as publishers love book bloggers and people who are passionate about books in general, they have a bottom line to think about. Unsurprisingly, they’re not out to stock my shelves with the books on my wishlist. Their mission is not to foster my or anyone’s book reviewing hobby. Instead, they’re hoping that when they send me a free book, I’ll repay them, so to speak, by giving the book some careful consideration and putting that consideration out there in a timely manner. I’m not saying that it has to be a positive review, but it should be something worth a reader’s time.

I believe we have a responsibility to treat a book with as  much care as went into it. If I don’t deliver quality, as well as honesty and fairness, and thus give you something with which to make an informed purchase, then there’s no point to my book blogging. There’s also not much point to my receiving books, then, because what favours am I doing the publisher whose just done me a favour? Even if you’re a bookseller, you get ARCs because if you read them, you can promote them and sell them. It’s always a two-way street, and therein lies the responsibility of a person who receives books from publishers or authors. Those books don’t cost you money, but because getting them is a privilege and not a right, I’m thinking they should cost us a little something—even if we’re doing this for fun.

And I guess this cost is ultimately what has people up in arms. They don’t want their freeflow of books stopped; they certainly object to rules and regulations. They don’t want obligation. Many book bloggers make enough of their own rules, anyway, with challenges they have to stick to, times they swear not to buy new books, etc. But they fear that with publishers cracking down and asking that books be reviewed within the month, their book blogging is going to become work. It’s going to be English classes all over again.

I readily admit the timely manner issue has felt this is becoming work and has sometimes made this venture more stressful than fun. As I said, I have a fair number of people who send me books, and considering this is likely the case for many book bloggers, it’s not reasonable then, perhaps, to ask a reader to review a book within the month. It’s hard to write reviews as it is.

The fact is, though—and I apologize that it’s taken me this long to reach this point—that I have too many books to review is really my problem, even if some publishers have also perhaps been overly generous. It’s my responsibility (there’s that word again!) to let them know I can’t keep up. It’s not up to the publisher to make this fun for me. It’s not up to them to keep me enthused by “plying me with more goodies.” That’s ridiculous. I’m enthused already by my love of good books, by my excitement of seeing books I can’t wait to read on my shelves. I don’t want to be bribed to write great reviews. I want to write great reviews, whether they’re positive or negative, because I want to be someone people can depend on. But I also want to write thoughtful reviews because those people who have chosen to send me a book deserve to get something in return. I’ve noticed that certain publishers have stopped sending me books, and I understand why. In a way, I’m relieved. But I’ve also noticed that others don’t mind waiting for my reviews because when they do finally get them, they’re worth it. In the end, as usual, quality outweighs quantity.

That’s how I believe this should work. Publishers should be more discerning about who they send out copies to as well as how many, and book reviewers should remain mindful of the real reasons they’re receiving those books. Out of that should be born, yes, a sense of responsibility. This responsibility doesn’t have to be as heavy as Marley’s shackles if, one, we don’t receive as many books, but also, two, if we treat that responsibility as a chance to prove our worth, as something to be proud of.

34 Comments

  1. Steph, awesome article. I’ve been torn over the issue of galleys for a few months now, as my paid-work jobs (both as an advertising 9-to-5er and as an occasionally paid reviewer) have eaten into my unpaid, non-job-like, hobby of reading and blogging. While I love to receive books from publishers, particularly those I think look interesting, exciting, or in some way horizon-broadening, I’m also wracked with guilt over accepting a book that I don’t have a chance to review (or review in a timely manner). As much as we love to think that a book review at any time is worth it – and to an extent, it is – reviews published around the release of a book generate much more buzz at once, and have a bigger impact for publisher bottom lines, than a one-off review published a year after a book’s release. Not that backlist reviews aren’t great – they are, and I write them all the time (as I attempt to read more books I already own, or have meant to read for years and years), but they are not quite what publishers are looking for when sending out ARCs.

    I used to work in publishing, and we sent out free books like candy. It was usually worth it, but it was also somewhat disheartening to send out hundreds (literally) of galleys and receive one, maybe two reviews. Or worse, one-line or two-line reviews that acted as a “snapshot” rather than a true review. Worth the money spent on printing and shipping the galleys? Maybe, maybe not. That’s a question I think we’ll never be able to answer.

    I’ve been slowly stopping incoming book requests as publishers or authors send them, though I do accept a few here and there – most often with a “this sounds like a great book, would love to read it, but I cannot guarantee if or when I will be able to, so I will NOT be offended if you choose not to send it my way.”

    And at the risk of completing eating your comment section, I think this is where a service like NetGalley can function incredibly well. In fact, I think so so much that I might just warrant my own post about it. That is, if I can find the time to read up on galley options and then write about it in a timely manner. Which, you know, I might not, because I get busy sometimes.

    Long-winded response over. Like I said at the beginning (if you’ve even made it this far), great, great post.

    Reply
    1. I’m glad you mentioned netgalley. (Now I have to be embarrassed both about my long-winded response and responding to someone else’s. Oh well. We’re cool with being kind of geeks, right?) Because even though I haven’t been using it much lately – I hate feeling overwhelmed by review obligations – the service makes it SO much easier and cheaper and better all around for publishers and reviewers to deal with galleys. I like knowing that there isn’t a value attached to an e-galley (there’s ARTISTIC value, for sure, but no printing costs, no postage) and that if I’m not able to review the book as close to the release date as I’d like, or if I start the book and don’t like it enough to finish, or if I never get around to it, it’s not a huge deal. (Though I still feel guilty when I don’t do the review.)

      Reply
    2. Steph Author

      AH!! I just commented and accidentally cancelled it instead of replied. I’ll have to write it again but I need to go up to cash at the moment…

      Thanks for the comment; I’ll respond soon!

      Reply
    3. Steph Author

      Kerry,

      Please, no apologies necessary for the length of your comment. I appreciate it, and don’t mind you saying what you want to say! Besides, after that post, how can I say anything? :)

      I agree that reviews are more effective closer to release date. And you know how I feel about publishing being a business. I do wonder sometimes, though, if people would bother to read yet another review of a book that’s being touted on every book blog and magazine. I actually tend to start ignoring reviews if there are so many of the same book at the same time.

      I know that feeling of disappointment about a haphazard or too-brief post about a book, and that’s as a reader. I want to get something out of reviews when I read them. They don’t have to be NYT material, but I do want them to treat the book, to give me a bit of their experience reading it.

      I’ve never used NetGalley, and thought I’ve heard of it, I’m not really familiar with it. I don’t prefer to read on my computer and I like to mark up ARCs. I like interacting with the books I read. But I see how it might be more cost-effective, if after paying people to make the files and run the operation, it is indeed cheaper.

      Reply
  2. So, I don’t agree with every point, but I’m glad you took the time to write such a well-thought-out response to all this uproar. What I disliked about the WM email was that it became clear that they’re viewing book bloggers as a sort of extension of their marketing department. Some bloggers may love that role, but I think most of us are here writing about books because…we love to write about books. That’s it. I feel like I have a bit of an outsider perspective on this, because my location has prevented me from dealing in many review copies. One publisher fedexed a galley all the way to Macedonia (a major “oh my god! oh my god!” moment for me – it does feel nice when a publisher ships you a free book), I’ve done some reviews through NetGalley, but I’ve stopped dealing in galleys or e-galleys at all in the past few months. It’s because, as you mentioned sometimes feeling, it gets overwhelming to look at a list of review copies I feel obligated to read and review.

    So. From a business sense, I get WM’s stance. Better to save money, and review copies, and maybe a few trees, by not mailing galleys out to anyone who has a blog. It’s not their decision to change their review policy that got on my nerves (because, really, what do I care? I’m not getting review copies from them. I didn’t receive their email) but the whole tone of the email, which leaped from “we’re implying that we view you as unpaid members of our marketing department” to “WE STILL LOVE YOU!!!!” to “review the books on our schedule or else.” Because at end, it’s not a job for most of us to review books – as you say, most of us hold other jobs, and those who don’t have families and other obligations, it’s something that we take pleasure in. WM, and other publishers, shouldn’t feel obligated to ship hundreds of galleys of each new title to book bloggers, but they also shouldn’t be suggesting that it is in some way our “job” to review their titles.

    Anyway, great post! It’s fun to read a new view on this whole thing.

    Reply
    1. Steph Author

      Ellen,

      I understand what you’re saying. But I blog about books because I like to write about books, too; if I were solely concerned with being part of a marketing team, I’d probably not be so honest with my reviews. I’m not thinking I really need to promote this book, I’m thinking about my experience reading it and that I want to share that. So my sense of responsibility doesn’t come from feeling I need to generate buzz for the book but rather feeling I need to give something worthwhile back to the publisher kind enough to ask me for a review. I don’t think publishers are only looking for me to gush. I think they want me to be thoughtful. They put a lot of work into making books, and I think it’s only fair I give them feedback when they send me something. I’m not explaining myself well, but do you know what I mean?

      I just didn’t get the “we’re implying that we view you as unpaid members of our marketing department” tone of the email. I read that differently. I don’t see their email as saying it’s our job to do anything. It’s a tiny bit like this: say you’re entering a contest for something you’ll get free. You still have to abide by a bunch of rules and regulations, whether you have to tweet a certain thing or answer a certain question or whatever. Sometimes you have to pay tax on the thing you win. Whatever the case, usually there’s something you have to do aside from just putting in your name. This is because there is always an ulterior motive to giving anything away. Always.

      Whether publisher or other company, they have to set guidelines and standards. I think, too, that that’s appropriate for general use. In private, it could be that they adjust their rules according to their relationships with their bloggers. Who knows.

      Reply
  3. I’m of mixed emotions on this issue. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a publisher to expect a timely review, especially when they are sending you an ARC. They want buzz around their books, this is a form of advertising their book for them. And of course they don’t want to be taken advantage of, sending out tons of books and not getting much response on it.

    But at the same time, to threaten to take away privileges is a little odd to me. It does say to me that maybe they should be more discerning about who they choose to review their books. Or how many books to send out at a time. It really irks me to hear things said like “they’re losing money, because they’re giving away the books for free” because my husband has worked in the warehouses of two different large publishers and has watched books being thrown out by the boxes for defects or whatever. The explanation given to him was that the books cost so little to print, it’s no big deal. (My bookshelves are full of rescued books thanks to my husband.)

    Anyways, I’m a stay at home mom and I have a difficult time getting through 2-3 books a week. So participating in something like this would be difficult for me. I do make a point of reading the books sent to me by publishing companies first, given that they are new books and I want to help get the word out and share in the conversation. I also like programs like Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze or Tyndale who give you a list of available books, then send you one. Once you have reviewed that book, you can request another one. I don’t feel as pressured with them to get a review up right away and I think a program like that works well for both sides.

    Reply
    1. Steph Author

      Shan,

      That’s a great point, about tons of books being disposed of, whether as defective, damaged and unsaleable, or remainders that have been stripped (the stores do that, though to a much lesser extent because ordering has been streamlined).

      I can’t answer to that, though, and it would be great to have a publisher’s perspective on that. When it comes to cutting costs, it’s easier to address the publication and distribution of ARCs, I think, but perhaps print runs need to be adjusted and quality control tightened as well. I don’t know.

      Thomas Nelson and Tyndale sound like they have it right. HarperCollins US has been sending emails with the available titles and then you request the ones you want by form. I always liked that idea. It’s nice and organized. I don’t remember if there was a limit; I didn’t accept most times and when I did I took only one. Since I’ve turned down several times, they’ve stopped sending the emails. Or they’ve drastically spread out the number of emails they send. Either way, I’m okay with it.

      Reply
  4. Steph,

    As usual, my dear, you are deliciously, passionately, right. So much so! As only a very-occasional book reviewer myself (ie. one who resorts to reviews of generally much older books and is therefore of little use, probably, to a publisher!), I have to say that I find your honesty and determination to stick by your love for book blogging so inspirational. You walk such a lovely balance between being passionate about what you do while still acknowledging that publishing is a business that needs to do that most pedestrian of things — make money! oh, the horror! — at the end of the day. And I love how you touch on the idea of entitlement, and how gently you remind us of the two-way street that is the book blogging world.

    Truly, Steph, I wish that all bookish people out there in the world had your sense of passion and responsibility. (I’ll go out on a limb here and say it applies to authors, too, though in somewhat different ways.)

    Keep reading, lovely, and blogging, and being such a classy inspiration to us all. Heaven knows the book industry could use more doses of you! :)

    xoxo

    Reply
  5. JK

    As someone who operates on both sides of the publisher-blogger divide, I agree with you 100%. Publishers need to look out for their own bottom lines, and that means making smart choices about which books they send where, and how often. Also, they can choose which bloggers are worth sending books to. If plot synopsis + a line or two of emotional reaction isn’t worth your promotional dollars, don’t send any more books there. Simple.

    While I understand how much work goes into writing a blog (look at my lying relatively fallow as I, like you, prioritize paid work), I chose to take on that work. The main benefits to doing it are not material. Free books are perks, and not my due. I’ve also been turning down book offers, because I don’t think I’ll be able to get to them in a timely manner. It’s just basic courtesy and professionalism, and if that’s what you expect from a publisher, that’s how you should treat them in return.

    To generalize, publishers need to be more judicious and responsible. Bloggers need to be more judicious and responsible. Seems simple to me.

    Reply
    1. Steph Author

      I’m with you, Jen. And as someone who’s received books from you but also turned them down, and who’s also read and listened to your own posts, I know there is indeed a balance there you’ve achieved.

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  6. I just wanted to say that I totally agree with you. When the Morrow letter went out, I watched Twitter explode with pissed-off book bloggers. At the time I was thinking, “what’s the big deal? This makes perfect sense to me.” The system makes sense in that it essentially says “I will send you free books if you agree to write about them within a certain timeframe.” That’s a totally acceptable relationship.

    I’m a new-ish book blogger and I love the work and I love the new people that I’m encountering. I’m learning how to communicate with publishers and even reaching out to some authors. It’s certainly a hobby, but I love all of the doors it’s opening to me. If a publisher will only send me a review copy only if I agree to their “rules” then I’m okay with that. It’s mutual back-scratching and I love having my back scratched!

    A previous commenter mentioned NetGalley. I’ve been using NetGalley a bit and while I appreciate that it makes things easier for the publishers, as a reader and a reviewer, I’m not really a fan. I don’t like to read off my computer screen and the formatting is never right when it’s sent to my Kindle. So I tend to shy away. It’s also hard to wade through all the books that I’m definitely NOT interested in.

    Reply
    1. Steph Author

      That does sound like an annoyance, that wading through tons of books to find ones you want…

      I especially like your middle paragraph. It’s just how I feel, that learning how to communicate with publishers, making friend with authors, having doors opened. All in all, I find this enjoyable, and I don’t take myself so seriously that I would dream of calling the shots.

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  7. I think you have expressed every single one of my thoughts about the subject perfectly.

    It does come across that book bloggers are getting whiney and greedy, and it’s rather infuriating. If you request a book from a publisher, you should read it within a timely period – and I know that I’m as bad as everyone else out there, but the drama surrounding this whole even has gotten to be too much for me.

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  8. Amy

    Fantastic and well-thought and written post. I agree completely with what you say. I feel responsible if I ask for a review copy, and thus feel bad if I don’t get it read and reviewed. I say no to almost all requests because I just don’t have time and know I won’t. Seems… I don’t know… normal?

    Reply
  9. Steph Author

    Everyone: just a quick note to say thank you for your comments thus far. This is great discussion, and as soon as I can, I’ll answer, especially those who offered diverging views, because those comments are what I was hoping to see, too. I wanted to hear the other perspectives as well.

    Thank you all for reading.

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  10. I totally agree with this post and I am happy to see a different opinion. When this letter first came out I didn’t think William Morrow was being malicious at all. I think they’re doing the best they can. They want to keep working with bloggers but they want to do so in a, dare I say, responsible way.

    Why wouldn’t they suspend someone (which to me implies a temporary state – they’re not eliminating them from their list) is they never see any reviews of their books? Seems like a big waste to me.

    Like JK I work on both sides. I work in a small publishing house and I know how frustrating it can be to send off review copies and not see reviews. Especially when there were others who WANTED to review that titles and were told no.

    The responses on Twitter really frustrated me. if you can’t review in that time don’t request it, you still have plenty of other books to read! One blogger I follow was particularly vocal, which I thought odd since only a few months ago she was joking about how Harper Collins sends her some titles that she would never read. Seems pretty greedy/selfish if you ask me.

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    1. Steph Author

      I hear you, particularly the part about having to turn down other readers who might otherwise have got the book out in better time.

      Recently a publisher offered me a very expensive box set to read and review. There’s no way I can get it done before Christmas, which was her goal, so I thanked her for the offer but turned it down (reluctantly, because I totally want to read these books and it is one hot set!), saying there is probably someone else who will really love it and who can get to it in better time. Especially considering how expensive it is, the opportunity to sell it as a Christmas gift would have been wasted if I had taken it instead of someone else.

      Reply
  11. As someone who does PR for authors, when I take the time (and I always do) to select appropriate blog reviewers for my author’s books, email them to ask them not if they would be interested in receiving a review copy, but in reviewing a specific title, and spend the author’s money mailing them, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that a review appear within a month of receipt of the book. I’m willing to negotiate on this front – it’s not a hard and fast rule – but generally I think that’s a reasonable time frame.

    As an occasional reviewer (of, I might hasten to add, non-client books!), I meet my deadlines and fulfil my obligations just as I used to when getting paid to write a review for a national publication. I occasionally get unsolicited books in the mail from publishers. That’s a whole different ball game. I didn’t ask for them – I didn’t agree to review them – I’m not even obliged to read them.

    So I too thought the William Morrow was perfectly reasonable – and frankly, a sound and necessary good business practice. Or practise (too lazy to look it up). ;)

    Reply
    1. Steph Author

      :) Practice.

      I hear you, Ruth. And I commend you for doing your reviews on time. It’s the honourable thing to do, in my opinion. Thank you, too, for being so conscientious about the book offer process.

      Reply
  12. This is going to sound awfully strange, given my stance on the issue, but reading other posts, it makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong. As I’ve said, I have a relationship with one publisher, and I’ve gotten two books from them. I don’t need free books, I’ve got enough going on, but why don’t I have more publisher relationships? Do I not post enough? Do I need to approach them? Are my posts just garbage? Am I lacking in hustle? It seems all bloggers are getting inundated with offers and I’m… not. It’s not about the free stuff, I’m just wondering if I don’t have these relationships, am I going about this all wrong? It’s a validation thing, maybe.

    Reply
    1. Steph Author

      Panic,

      Your posts aren’t garbage. I’m not sure what it is, but it could be that your blog name doesn’t suggest books. I think publicists look for book bloggers to offer books to, and perhaps they miss yours because of the name. For me, I think it’s been a combination of online social media presence and word of mouth. I spend a ton of time following publishers and their books, and giving feedback, though this isn’t to get books but because I like to know what’s up in the book world. I’m also a bookseller, so I make it my business to know.

      But I think it’s also who I follow on Twitter or FB, who follows me and spreads the posts. I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong; you might just need to adjust how you make yourself known, which doesn’t necessarily mean you have to promote yourself, but rather just who you connect with, I guess.

      Don’t rule out contacting publishers: I think lots of book bloggers do this when there’s a book they want to review. I’ve done it myself a couple of times.

      Reply
      1. The blog wasn’t originally going to be a book blog, so that’s why the name is a bit of silly reference. Of course, since books are probably the biggest part of my non-working life, they took over, and fairly quickly! ;)

        I know a fair number of people in The Biz, but I guess I’ve always thought of them as bookish friends rather than contacts (I suspect a lot of people feel this way!). So I never really hit them up for anything, because that would feel weird. My Twitter account is locked down, and that prevents me from talking to the House accounts though, if they don’t follow me back. Hrmmmm. Oh well, it’s no big thang. I’m packing my apartment right now, and my “to-read” pile has a whole box of it’s own. *fear*

        I think in the end, I’m pretty laid back about the whole thing, so I shouldn’t be surprised that people aren’t breaking down my door. You get what you give, you know? Which goes back to why I was annoyed by 1) entitlement bloggers (and entitlement anyone else) 2) the perception that bloggers are all entitlement bloggers.

        Reply
        1. Steph Author

          I know what you mean about knowing a fair number of people in the Biz and thinking of them more as bookish friends. At first they were contacts for me, and now many of them are actually friends—but still also contacts, by which I mean we’d all recommend each other for jobs or help each other out professionally or whatever.

          I think maybe you’ve got it: you’re laid back about the whole thing. I don’t think this is a bad thing, and I think, actually, it would work in your favour if you were to ever ask for a book to review. You won’t be mistaken for greedy but instead trustworthy and likely to do the thing on time since you’ve not asked for or received a boatload.

          Going along with what bothered you, the generalizations, is the title of the article, for me. It’s misleading. As if one email from one division of a publisher could totally affect all of book blogging. It sounded as though it was doing that whole End of Books thing. Bah. Hyperbole.

          Reply
  13. I wasn’t able to read your post in its entirety because I have a squirmy baby in one arm whose patience only extends so far, but I wanted to say that I agree with you, Steph. I think publishers should have the right of expectations – not of the content but timing and having the book reviewed at all. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t solicit ARCs, and if I do accept a review copy when a rep has emailed me, I’ll often say that I can’t guarantee it’ll be reviewed soon, and leave it up to them to decide if they still want to send me a copy. It is a lot of responsibility, and I don’t like the feeling of my hobby being work.

    (oh dear, Hugh’s had enough, for now!)

    Reply
    1. Steph Author

      Shannon,

      Yes, that’s it, exactly. I tell them I likely won’t get to their book immediately, and leave it up to them to send it.

      I’m finding now that reading has become something I badly want to do and yet won’t allow myself, for whatever reason. I’m also finding myself paralysed by all the choice. I have a bookshelf of review copies and all of them are simultaneously appealing. Consequently, I’ve read the first few pages of all of them but can’t make myself commit to one.

      Reply

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