Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Dear Author’s New Review Policy

As reported at GalleyCat, Dear Author is revising its review policy to achieve two goals. First, we want to encourage publishers to move to digital arcs as an option for reviewers. Second, we want to enable our own reviewers to accomplish their reading/reviewing in as painless a way possible.

As authors may know, almost all houses are cutting back on the number of ARCs being produced and being sent to reviewers. There is some belief that bloggers do not need much lead time as opposed to print publications. Unfortunately, this is not true. Reader/bloggers almost exclusively run their blogs in their spare time, as a hobby. They are not paid for their time or the product that they produce. Therefore reading/reviewing has to be shoe horned into spare moments of the day. Advance copies make it easier for a reader/blogger to plan ahead, preview books to be read, and schedule timely reviews. Finished review copies are nice, but don’t allow enough time for us to read and review in a timely fashion.

Generally, finished print copies are not mailed until 3 weeks before the date of the release. I collate them and send out a review list. The reviewers return the list to me within a couple of days and then the books are shipped out. This process usually takes two weeks from the time I get the books in to when the book arrives on the doorstep of the reviewer. This time lapse is not the responsibility of the publisher in any way, but just a reality of book bloggers who are widely separated by geography.

We certainly sympathize with publishers and authors that review copies and postage can be very expensive but we do believe that digital arcs is an inexpensive way to resolve the balance between a bloggers’ need for early copies and the publishers’ need to reduce costs.

To that end, Dear Author will be giving review priority to any book provided to us in digital format and at least two months in advance of publication. Second priority will be given to books we purchase ourselves and finally, we will consider the reading and reviewing of finished print copies. It is not likely that a finished copy will be read/reviewed until 1-2 months after its release date.

Therefore we urge publishers (and I have emailed all the publicists that I regularly have contact with about this) to allow reviewers the option of digital arcs so that we can continue to give timely coverage for books being released.   

Note:   We will still accept paper ARCs, but priority will be given to digital arcs.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

27 Comments

  1. veinglory
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 08:01:38

    I think it is brilliant that you are giving precedence to digital format ARCs.

  2. Louisa Edwards
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 08:42:05

    This is a great solution to the ARC problem. Plenty of books, especially by debut authors who can really use the exposure, don’t get ARCs at all–with digital ARCs, there’d be no barrier to everyone getting the same shot at reviews and publicity. Not to mention cutting down on waste and paper usage.

    Also? Makes me glad I already emailed you my September book–you’re gonna get flooded!

  3. cecilia
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 08:59:21

    I’m curious about why second priority is given to books you’ve purchased yourselves, with third being given to finished print copies. Wouldn’t that just encourage publishers to just leave it to you to buy the books (and get awfully expensive)?

  4. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 09:59:04

    Some of us don’t have access to digital ARCs. : ( Just to clarify, you won’t be accepting print ARCs anymore?

  5. katiebabs
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 10:42:07

    I thought publishers wanted some good buzz before a book is released? If they continue to send books a week or 2 before the book is released, they shouldn’t be surprised if that review is posted after the book comes out.
    Digital ARCS makes sense because they are saving on postage and that means saving money.
    And personal blogs and review sites are a good way for promotion. It is cheap for the publisher. I just saw an advertisment in this week’s Entertainment Weekly for Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy books. It was almost a full page ad. I Wonder how much they spent on that?

  6. Jane
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 10:45:26

    @cecilia Because these are books that we want to read and since we do this as a hobby and not for the free books, we would rather spend our time reading a book we are interested in rather than one that is sent to us.

  7. Jane
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 10:47:17

    @Jill Sorenson Everyone can make their own digital arc. We actually prefer RTF files because they are read so easily on the Sony whereas PDFs don’t always convert nicely.

    But we will continue to read/review print ARCs in a timely fashion if we can. The problem is that every major publishing house that I know of sans Harlequin and Warner are decimating their ARC publication and distribution. I know that at your house, Random, they are not doing ARC publication at all for several authors, particularly new and midlist authors.

  8. Jane
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 10:52:30

    @katiebabs I agree Katie, that the issue of arcs to bloggers isn’t necessarily the book review itself, but the raising of the profile of a new book to the reading community. I twittered about whether a blog could be successful by just putting up blurbs and inviting discussion but I don’t believe it can.

    Reviews are the opening salvo to discussions and not just about that one book but about books like it. I believe that is why GoodReads and Library Thing and REaderville and even Amazon have community review areas. The community is drawn together by the discussion not an advert.

  9. katiebabs
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 10:54:25

    Word of mouth is a very powerful thing. It can take a tv show off the air or stop people from going to see a movie.
    If there are no discussions about books in the blogging community or message boards, authors trying to break out may not find a following.

  10. Diana Rowland
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 11:04:54

    Jill Sorenson and I are in the same boat re a cutback on ARCs coupled with a reluctance to provide digital copies. Fortunately, my editor encouraged me to send out e-copies of my final MS to those reviewers who stated a preference for digital. Even though it’s the pre-copyedited version, my hope is that slogging through my misuse of commas will be preferable to wrangling paper copies.

    And, like Louisa Edwards, I’m glad I emailed mine to you already! *g*

  11. rae
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 11:06:53

    Not to do with this post but I thought you might be interested in the the fact fictionwise appears to be having a 50% rebate sale today on all ebooks. Not sure how long the sale is on for, may just be a glitch

  12. Jane
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 11:07:03

    @Diana Rowland The thing is I would never make an editing complaint with an arc or a pre copyedited version. And, for the record, I’ve had your book for two weeks now and have read it so it will definitely be timely reviewed. Quite the cliffhanger ending!

  13. Diana Rowland
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 11:16:19

    Oh boy, now I get to be on even more pins and needles..lol

    But going back to what you said about raising the profile of a new book within the reading community: Yes, yes, yes, that’s exactly why I pushed so hard to get some form of review copies out to bloggers. Yes, I would love to get a great review from Publisher’s Weekly or Romantic Times, but a discussion amongst blogs about a books merits or shortcomings is what will drive interest and will get people to look twice at it in the bookstore.

  14. Jessa Slade
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 11:47:34

    Thanks for explaining your new policy. My publisher apparently doesn’t provide eARCs, but since I’m just dangerous enough on a computer to convert it to rtf myself, at least I won’t be totally SOL.

  15. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 12:09:26

    Okay. So I can save my Word file as an RTF and send that as an eARC? Good to know.

  16. Holly
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 12:41:59

    I think it’s good that you’re stating your policy. We also prefer eARCs, simply for the convenience. Not only for us, but also for the publishers/authors. Not only is it Earth friendly, but there are no shipping costs or wait times. I really hope more publishing houses move toward digital ARCs in the future.

    I know some publishers discourage their authors from sending digital ARCs for security reasons. I have to wonder how many will lift that ban now that the number of print ARCs are being reduced?

  17. Jody
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 14:09:54

    I don’t have this issue because I’m with Samhain and Red Sage, but are authors whose publishers don’t provide digital ARCs *allowed* to send out their own digital ARCs? I wouldn’t want anyone to get in trouble just trying to get the word out!

  18. Janine
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 14:16:02

    Jody — We get a fair number of homemade ARCs and I hope authors are allowed to send them because in the current economic downturn, many publishers are not going to be sending print ARCs to blogs. And if they are not going to be sending out either print or electornic ARCs to blogs, then the only way for us to get them is if authors send them.

  19. Shannon C.
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 14:38:57

    I really think this is a good policy decision on your part for all the reasons you stated earlier. But then I’m selfish and I love getting E-arcs myself, and anything that helps promote digital reading will trickle down eventually to lowlier bloggers. :)

  20. Jayne
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 15:15:44

    Another good thing about e-arcs is that it allows for more timely distribution among all the DA reviewers. As Jane says, it sometimes takes a week for books she mails to reach us. And if more than one reviewer expresses interest in reading a book, we have to then mail it to the next person. If it’s an e-arc – voila! – instant distribution and it’s more likely that at least one of us will read it and review it.

  21. Victoria Dahl
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 15:40:46

    I would love it if Harlequin would move toward e-ARCS, though I’m relieved they are still doing print ARCs in the face of the bad economy. Also relieved that my very next release is an HQN e-book. *g*

    Thanks for the clear explanation, Jane.

  22. Bonnie
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 17:24:29

    katiebabs March 30th, 2009 at 10:54 am
    Word of mouth is a very powerful thing. It can take a tv show off the air or stop people from going to see a movie.
    If there are no discussions about books in the blogging community or message boards, authors trying to break out may not find a following.

    Katiebabs, you are so right. I wouldn’t have read many of the books I’ve read, had they not been reviewed here or at SBTB.

    It matters.

  23. Donna
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 18:12:42

    Same here Bonnie. I’ve discovered so many books by reading the reviews here.

  24. Keri M
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 06:45:37

    I too have found some really fantastic reads thanks to the reviews of this site. I am amazed at how small my reading world had become until I discovered DA. Speaking of one super find, Ms. Victoria Dahl, I cannot wait until Start Me Up comes out! I just finished Talk Me Down, luuuurrrvvved it! You keep up the great work. :-)

  25. Anon76
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 09:16:45

    I have believed for a very long time that eArcs rock, and for all the reasons stated.

    However, I think a lot of pubs are still worried about them, and not only over the security issue. Many are under the impression (and some rightfully so) that certain reviewers will knock a book down in rating if it’s not spitpolished to perfection. But see, that is why you should (even with print books) only send to places you trust. Not “trust” in the fact you’ll only get a glowing review, but “trust” in the sense that the reviewers know what they are doing and act professionally.

  26. Robin
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 12:26:53

    Many are under the impression (and some rightfully so) that certain reviewers will knock a book down in rating if it's not spitpolished to perfection.

    I find errors in print arcs all the time, though, errors that often persist into the final copy I end up purchasing. To me, those errors are more irritating, because it seems like the book has already gone to print without that last proofing.

  27. Anonymous
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 14:51:06

    Here is the story: a lot of bloggers (back in the day when eARCs were not banned) were forwarded to a lot of people (bloggers’ friends, reviewers’ friends, etc), which caused a lot of problems controlling and monitering book sales. the people who recieved eARCs by email were then not going out to buy the books, which negatively impacted the book’s sales, and therefore, the author’s royalties. with all the news these days about layoffs at newspapers and publishing houses, it’s no wonder they publisher’s don’t want to distribute eARCs. it’s hurting their sales, which is the very thing they’re trying to increase by getting reviews and publicity. there must be a check on the system, i.e. a way to prevent the eARC from being forwarded to too many people. A lot of the major New York publisher’s are investigating the possibility, so if we keep our fingers crossed, it will happen.

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