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The “C” in ARC Does Not Stand for “Contract”

As more self-publishers enter the market, they are competing with traditional publishers for blogger and social media coverage. Which means they are looking for bigger, better ways to get reviews and positive buzz. And apparently that is translating into pressure on some bloggers and readers who accept review copies, and who feel like an ARC comes with an obligation to the publishing industry — whether that’s an individual author or a major conglomerate. And unfortunately, this pressure — whether direct or indirect — threatens to kill the spontaneous buzz that all this marketing is trying to jump start.

From a marketing standpoint, it makes sense to get a book out to as many book reviewers as possible, especially when the marketplace is so crowded with competition for readers’ limited time, attention, and money. I have always been very welcoming of the ARC provided ‘in exchange for an honest review,’ because I think it independently serves both authors/publishers and readers. Readers get the opportunity to read a book ahead of publication and offer their voice to the discussion early on, and authors/publishers get the opportunity to distribute promotional copies of their work in the hopes that it will catch fire among readers. Theoretically, this is an illustration of the kind of situation where the only sense of obligation the reader is under is to be honest, and readers will discover soon enough if an author/publisher is sincere in that expectation. If not, the author is essentially ‘breaking the contract’ and thus releasing the reader from his or her casual obligation.

But I’ve read several posts recently from bloggers who feel like accepting ARCs has forged some kind of contract with the author or publisher, and who are coming to the realization that reviewers should never feel like they owe a publisher anything other than the consideration of a review:

Many of the commenters weren’t keen on the idea of requesting books with the knowledge that you might not actually review them, but I think that that is the wrong emphasis. As Kim and others point out in the comments, it is rare that she doesn’t read and review a book she requested, but it is important to have the option if you realize in the time between the request going out and the book showing up that you don’t want to read it anymore.

Anya, the author of that quote, is referring to a blog post by Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness, who is responding to a new program from Crown Books called “Blogging for Books.” Crown apparently conditions the receipt of future books on reviews of current books:

By requiring a review for every book, Crown is, in essence, buying a blogger’s time and attention and the time and attention of a blogger’s readership for the cost of, at best, a hardcover book. As bloggers, it’s important to think about whether we should be bought for so little.

There’s also a little more at play in this comment, specifically the last sentence:

Just as there is an understanding that a blogger would review a book after requesting it, we are reflecting that arrangement through Blogging For Books.

This is not the arrangement for me and, frankly, I don’t think it should be the case for any blogger. It is not the relationship that publishers have with editorial media. In the comments to my last post, Teresa (Shelf Love) made a great comment that I think reflects this point:

I’d really love for all of us as bloggers to get away from using the language of exchange when we talk about review copies. It gives the impression that the review copy is “payment” for a review, which implies that a review is required upon receipt of a review copy. If a blogger wants to make that a personal policy, that’s fine, but because the exchange language is so widespread, I worry that it sets up unspoken assumptions and expectations

This is vitally important. We as bloggers have to stop talking about books in exchange for anything. We do not have exchange relationships with authors or publishers… and the sooner we make that point the better because the longer it continues the more we start to look like paid enthusiasts rather than critics.

The last sentence there is crucial, because it speaks to the reviewer’s motivation, and I think that’s something reviewers haven’t felt encouraged to focus on in a neutral way. There is a broad diversity of legitimate reasons for reviewing, from a desire to push books that a reader loves to a love of talking about books, positive or negative, to a sense of investment in particular authors or types of books, to engage critical examination of certain books and tropes, as professional modeling (for authors, either published or aspiring), or even because they are being regularly paid to give an independent opinion, just to name a few. For some readers, reviewing is almost a public service; for others, it’s a professional obligation or a personal undertaking. The more influence publishers try to exert on reviewers, the more muddied the reviewer’s process may become, and the less engaged and invested the reviewer is likely to be. And from the outside, ARCs will be viewed with more and more suspicion, even if the reviewer’s independence is not, in fact, compromised.

Part of the problem is that ARCs have historically been produced as promotional items — and sent by the thousands, completely unsolicited, to a variety of booksellers, media outlets, reviewers, and book bloggers — but still treated like something special. Remember when some publishers were up in arms about ARCs sold on eBay? I think there was talk then of making reviewers sign contracts, or at least treating the ARC itself like a contract. And what about this post from the Waxman Leavell Literary Agency, where reviewers are admonished to “use your galley access for good,” as if there is a moral component to receiving the publishing industry’s equivalent of a free sample.

And part of the problem, I think, is that reviewers can over-personalize the receipt of an ARC, either because an author sends it directly or because the reader has requested it from a service like Edelweiss or NetGalley that overtly anticipates a review. When I first started reviewing I put a lot of pressure on myself to make sure I reviewed any ARC I received, especially if I requested it. Because I had never represented myself as someone inclined to give positive reviews, I never felt pressure to provide “good” reviews, but just the pressure to provide review started to get to me, and I stopped proactively seeking out ARCs.

But I also think there’s a somewhat illusory distinction and elevation of so-called “amateur” reviewing. And the reason I call it illusory is because I think it’s connected more to the idea of being unpaid than it is to either the quality of the reviews or the personal motivation for writing them. As if a review in RT or Publishers Weekly is automatically more suspect than one posted on Goodreads. Especially since ARCs, for some authors and publishers, represent informal compensation for a review, which is both skewing the idea of payment and importing an artificial weight of obligation onto something that should never be characterized in those terms. Being paid to write reviews is much different than being paid with a copy of a book for a review of that same book. The FTC did play a role in popularizing this terminology, but I don’t think those revised guidelines are as influential as other factors — like the investment some self-published authors, for example, put into marketing strategies like street teams and a critical mass of positive reviews.

Ultimately, the freedom to determine why and under what terms someone wants to write reviews must be left up to that reader. There will always be paid-for positive reviews; there will always be quid pro quo and family/friend/sockpuppet reviews. And there are also going to be readers who want their favorite authors to succeed, and who are happily going to write positive reviews of their books. Just as there are readers who will seek out opportunities to write paid reviews with no role in the selection of books to be reviewed. Not all readers will have the same goal for their reviewing, and that’s okay. What’s important is that the reviewer can make his/her choice independent of publisher pressure (self/indie and traditional) and then openly and honestly stand behind that choice.

And perhaps we also need to have an honest discussion as a community around what expectations other readers have of reviewers and reviews, as well. How do community expectations as a whole shape perceived obligations around ARCs and reviewing, and do we need to re-think some of those expectations and perceptions? Or do you think reviewers should feel obligated to provide reviews in exchange for ARCs, and if so, why?

 

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

66 Comments

  1. Zara Keane
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 05:25:36

    “Or do you think reviewers should feel obligated to provide reviews in exchange for ARCs, and if so, why?”

    No. Back when I read-to-review, it took me an average of eight hours to read a book, make notes, and write up my review. That’s quite a chunk of time to invest in a book worth $6.99. These days, the average romance novel for sale on Amazon costs even less. Unless the author is a super bestseller, the reviewer is unlikely to make much on affiliate links. In other words, the only reason for an unpaid blogger to accept an ARC is because they love reviewing. The author is the one who stands to gain the most out of the arrangement.

    FWIW, I’ve just been through the process of sending out ARCs for my first book. It was interesting to see it from the author’s perspective. I went into it assuming
    I’d have to send out a lot of review requests and that not everyone who accepted an ARC would follow through.

  2. Kaetrin
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 06:34:05

    My NetGalley percentage is just edging over 30% these days and I feel proud I’ve got it up so high! There’s no contract. I do the best I can but not every book will get a review.

    If I *read* the review book, I will review it but so many of them just don’t get read (which is why Mt. TBR is so high. If it’s any consolation to those who send me books, the pile of unread books I’ve bought is MUCH higher). I only have so much time. And that’s what it says in my review policy.

  3. Mandi
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 06:35:56

    Once an author or publicist sends me an arc, at that point we are done. I can then read the arc and post a review. Read the arc and not post a review. Or not read the arc. As a responsible blogger, I hope I attempt to read the arc. But if I don’t like it, or if I read it and don’t feel like it deserves attention on my blog, I have no obligation to post a review.

    I get a ton of author review requests and I love to try ‘new to me authors’ or books that sound great based on the blurb or the sample on amazon. But that is all I have to go off of so there are times I start to read the book and I just don’t like it. I should’t have to take an entire blog post space to post a review that my readers won’t really care about.

    That being said, if bloggers are accepting dozens of review requests a day from authors, and then never put the effort into reading the arcs, that is irresponsible.

    I also love what you say here: “Not all readers will have the same goal for their reviewing, and that’s okay. What’s important is that the reviewer can make his/her choice independent of publisher pressure (self/indie and traditional) and then openly and honestly stand behind that choice.”

    yes.

  4. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 06:57:28

    As a writer, the only thing I ask of the reviewer is that they don’t pirate it. There are a lot of pirated copies of my ARCs out there, some of which don’t even bother to remove the ARC designation. Heartbreaking to see a copy of your book on the piracy sites before it’s released.

    As a reviewer, if I don’t have anything interesting or new to say about the book, it doesn’t get a review. If I don’t like a book, if it doesn’t chime with me, or if it uses a technique I personally don’t like, like present tense, then I won’t review it, either, unless I can say something a bit more interesting about it. And a lot of ‘meh’ books don’t get reviewed. I review mainly category romances, and there have been an awful lot of ‘meh’ ones this year.

  5. Kate Sherwood
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 07:25:31

    There seems like a conflict between the “review every book you receive” idea and the “I only post favourable reviews” philosophy held by some book bloggers. I wonder if publishers/ARC-distributors would back off a little if this was posted out to them?

    “This book was so boring I couldn’t get past the first two chapters. You still want that review?”

  6. Lil
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 08:07:08

    It never occurred to me that reviewers were in any way obliged to review every book they received as an ARC any more than I am obliged to respond to every promotional item that turns up in my mailbox. An ARC is a request, not a requirement.

    Now in the not too distant future, my publisher is going to be sending out ARCs of my first book. Naturally, I would be delighted if everyone who receives one reads the book, loves it, and writes a rave review. (I would also like to have a magic wand.) Realistically, I’ll be grateful for anything I get. I assume anysensible author feels the same way.

  7. DLWhite
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 08:12:42

    I suppose I don’t understand why it is not a contract to attempt to read and review? Why else would an author or publisher grant me a free of charge copy of a novel not-yet-published? It’s certainly not for funsies, and because they really like me. If readers are accepting ARCs with no intention to read and review, is this not a mild form of theft at a very basic level.

    It’s one thing if publishers and authors are just throwing books at you and then demanding positive reviews. It’s quite another if you REQUEST and AGREE to read a book for review. Amatuer or professional, I think Publishers need to feel like reviewers take the agreement (okay maybe not contract) seriously. My book friends and I have similar tastes. if I REALLY like something, four people pick it up. if I really dislike something, they thank me for not wasting their time. That’s influence and it’s worth something.

    And saying this as someone who writes… several people requested to read a copy of my manuscript, promising to let me know where there were glaring errors, details that were ‘off’, things I could tighten. Of 5 readers, I have heard from ONE person, who offered a few sentences of suggestions. Now I feel like my work is just ‘out there’ unnecessarily. I want to ask why you would request to read it and offer commentary and then not do so? Must be what authors and publishers feel like, and why it can be so hard to get an ARC these days.

  8. Jane
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 08:24:59

    @DLWhite: I feel like you are conflating a couple of things and forgive me if I read you incorrectly. Let me start from the bottom.

    1) People who request to read a copy of your manuscript and check for errors. These are beta readers, yes? Do you pay them? Or is this a free service that they offer? If you feel your work is out there unnecessarily, do you mean out in publication or out to people who aren’t reading as they have promised? Beta readers are a much different animal than a reviewer and/or a blogger.

    2) ARCs are not hard to get these days. Many bloggers are so inundated with ARCs they aren’t accepting review copies. You can see it on the FAQ of many, many blogs.

    3) REQUEST and AGREE. Here are two different concepts. If you AGREE to write a review, then a blogger may have some obligation. But the AGREE is a separate concept and act than the REQUEST. What is a request? Is it the clicking of a button on NetGalley or Edelweiss? Is it responding to a form sent to you by a publisher with a list of books that are available? Is it emailing a publicist who sends you a list of books? Is it an email sent to the author/publicist requesting a single book? Lots of different scenarios.

    4) CONTRACT. Contract is a legal term. It requires a meeting of the minds and exchange of consideration. The consideration could be the book from the publisher and the time/effort/review of the blogger. But if both parties don’t have the same understanding from the outset, there is no contract.

    DA (and many other blogs) receive unsolicited books every day. There are at least two to five books on my doorstep every day from publishers as well as an inbox full of them. There isn’t a publisher that DA deals with that doesn’t understand that a book sent to us is merely their attempt to grab our attention. Maybe we review it. Maybe we take a picture of it and post it. Maybe we toss it in the recycling bin. We can’t tell from a blurb whether that book is one we are going to finish and because we get so many ARCs, there’s no point in slogging through a book that we feel we are going to hate.

    ARCs are designed to grab people’s attention. They are designed to get a reader to try out a book that they wouldn’t have purchased on their own.

    I’m not a fan of ARCs myself. I read/review far more books that I’ve purchased than are sent to me for free.

  9. hapax
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 08:30:08

    Being paid to write reviews is much different than being paid with a copy of a book for a review of that same book.

    Perzackly.

    I’m a paid reviewer, and I’m obligated to provide a review of every book my editor sends me. And that’s the point: my obligation is to the review journal, through the person of my editor, and by extension to the subscribers of that journal (mostly other librarians). The only thing I think I owe anyone is my professional judgment and my honest assessment, and that isn’t for the author anyhow, but for the readers of the review.

    I know for a fact that the journal doesn’t send out for review every ARC it receives. And the job of my editor is to send me the *right* books — not ones she’ll think I’ll like, necessarily, but ones that I have the knowledge of the genre and the potential audience to assess correctly.

    That requires reading the book at least twice, often skimming other books in the series (I get *lots* of series books), sometimes doing a bit of research (e.g., a book which I had to investigate whether a particular community would find certain worldbuilding details offensively appropriative) and at least five hours writing and revising.

    For that amount of work, I don’t get paid anything like minimum wage, but that’s not why I do it. However, I think if the author / publisher considered me “paid” with a cheaply bound, poorly edited advance copy (usually missing features) that can’t be sold or even donated to the library, I’d be as insulted as all get out.

  10. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 08:33:55

    I don’t know that self-published authors feel more pressure to get reviews than traditionally published authors. I feel a lot of pressure to solicit reviews because my books don’t have as enticing a price point as most self-pub books. There are more authors of all kinds seeking reviews because of Amazon algorithms and Bookbub whatevers. I also think publishers have always preferred to send ARCs to those who follow through with a review. Reviewers with more reviews/high percentages of reviews/more popular sites will get more ARCs.

    Feeling an obligation to review is no fun and I don’t think any unpaid reviewer should feel that. Nor should a reviewer expect an ARC if they rarely follow through on a review. I’ve requested that everyone be auto-accepted for my books on NetGalley but that hasn’t happened. I will try to help, if asked. If I get someone approved and they don’t follow through, I probably won’t notice. If I did, I might not help them get approved again. Same with sending out my own review copies. It’s not that I expect a review, but I have limited time/resources, just like reviewers.

  11. Erin Burns
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 08:42:43

    I don’t disagree but i do have a question re: the language of exchange.

    Here’s my preface when I am reviewing an ARC:

    I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

    I can see where you are going with this, but how would you guys suggest phrasing this so as not to sound like an exchange?

  12. Rachel Blaufeld
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 08:43:23

    @Mandi:

    **LIKE the reader (Zara) above, I also just experienced sending out ARCS and requesting reviews as a first time author…and it was interesting. I, too, did not presume every ARC would be read and reviewed as I worked in the product side of blogging for a long time and I could not review and promote every product or service sent to me.

    THAT being said — you MANDY, actually made my day when you emailed me back and said you were going to pass on my book. Even though it was firm “no” and you didn’t want to review my book, I felt CLOSURE. AND to me that was so professional.

    I think that is a big part of the angst with indie writers — especially new ones –– when it is left open ended as to whether a blogger is ever going to read or review our book.

    So, to me…a no actually meant more than a maybe.

  13. Lynn M
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 08:55:20

    @DLWhite: I have to say, that I felt the exact same way. It seemed to me that if a blogger REQUESTED an ARC from a publisher and/or author, then the expectation that this person would read and review the book was somewhat reasonable given that they got a free, advanced copy of the book. Although presumably part of some marketing budget, those ARCs do cost money to produce and distribute and thus have value. Plus, there is the perk of getting to read perhaps a highly anticipated book weeks or more before it is released to the public. It’s like if I went into a store and was given a free box of a new type of cereal and asked to fill out a survey about what I thought – seems fair to me.

    When it comes to unsolicted ARCs, it’s another matter. If a blogger didn’t ask for an ARC and it was just sent or given, then no obligation at all. It’s a free sample.

    However, I have to say that this remark mentioned above has actually really made me rethink my original opinion: By requiring a review for every book, Crown is, in essence, buying a blogger’s time and attention and the time and attention of a blogger’s readership for the cost of, at best, a hardcover book.

    I never looked at it that way. My time is very, VERY valuable, and I would never sell mulitple hours of it (required to read a book and write up a review) for only a total of $7.99 or even $24.99, the theoretical cost of the book I had just gotten “for free”. I would want to preserve the right to DNF a book that I found to be horribly written (and even question how it got published in the first place). There are simply to many good books out there and too little of my free time to sell it away for something as low value as an ARC.

  14. Mandi
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 08:56:26

    @Rachel Blaufeld:

    If an author takes the time to solicit a review and addresses me in the request, I think a response is appropriate.

    If I get a Dear , (blank space) – I might not respond because it’s probably a mass email.

  15. Lynn Rae
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 09:22:26

    This is such an interesting discussion considering I’m in the process of trying to solicit reviews for my newest book. I’ve contacted five review sites and not one has even acknowledged receipt of my request. I certainly don’t expect most of them to want to read my book because I know they have a lot of books already in the queue, and my book might not appeal. No harm no foul, I’m merely doing my best to get attention for my book, in as polite and professional way as possible. I have no power in this exchange, it’s all on the side of the reviewer, or potential reviewer.

  16. DLWhite
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 09:50:24

    @Jane: Jane, not even BETA Readers, really… interested parties that offered to read and give me their thoughts. I’m not attempting to draw any similarity between reading a book for review and beta reading, only that people actually requested a copy of my unpublished work and promised (free of charge) to let me know what they thought. Now they have it and have either not read it or have read it and hated and I don’t know why, or read it and liked it but I don’t know what parts. I was just thinking from the perspective of someone who was hoping to hear, even in a casual manner how someone felt about the MS, since they asked to read it.

    Sometimes on NetGalley I am pre approved for things but for the most part, I request books. I don’t request it unless I am DROOLING over it, because if I ask for it, pre publication, for free, I feel like I should (and have agreed to, by downloading it, right?) read and offer a review of that title. It doesn’t always happen, but I have stressed myself OUT trying to read books and review them before pub date.

    Perhaps, once your opinion is sought, the situation becomes different. I was speaking from the perspective of a person that feels lucky to get a pre pub book and in exchange for giving me this book, I’ll tell you what I think. And I have never been ASKED to, but I generally don’t post unfavorable reviews of ARCS. If I can’t think of anything nice to say, I let the publisher/author know that I didn’t like/finish it and here were my issues. I’m sure they don’t give a crap, Haha.

    I get very few self pubbed requests but again… if someone says, hey will you read my book and post a review of it? If I say yes and accept a free copy of said book, I have just agreed to do that.

    That’s what that “understanding” is to me– again yeah contract is maybe not the right word. I feel like the privilege of getting to read a book before it comes out has a catch and I am okay with that, so long as I don’t feel harassed to read books I thought I was going to be interested in, but it turned out that I just couldn’t get through it. I have no problem sending a note to the publisher that I didn’t get to it or didn’t like it.

  17. DLWhite
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 09:53:14

    @Lynn M: Yes that was my thought… I however don’t run a very popular review site, so it seems the conversation changes depending on what level of reviewer you are. I just love me some books so I feel lucky to get free copies of books I am dying to read and YES I will absolutely tell everyone I know to read it!

  18. Jane
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 10:10:20

    @DL White – So my focus is on the readers. I.e, I don’t really share my thoughts with publishers or authors because do they really care what I have to think? By the time I get the book, there’s no chance for changes and it’s not my place to recommend changes. If I post a review, it’s because there is something about the book I want to share with readers.

    I did once view ARCs as a privilege, but I think that there’s a lot of danger in that because I think it can affect the way a person looks at a book. I would be okay with not receiving another ARC. If someone I trust is talking about a book they love, I want to read it right now! But in the end, there are so many books to read that I could go the rest of my blogging life without an ARC and be okay.

    Further, I think DA would be okay. ARCs allow us to give timely reviews. It allows us to bring attention to a gem we think might be overlooked (such as the Somali Dev book). That’s the benefit of ARCS for us. It’s not so much the early read anymore. It’s more about how can we be timely, try books we wouldn’t ordinarily try, and draw attention to exciting books about to be released.

  19. Elaina
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 10:20:10

    I can maybe understand the thought of it being an informal contract if you request an ARC (say, via NetGalley), as opposed to receiving an ARC unsolicited by the author or publisher. I still don’t think you’re under contract to review the book, though, regardless of how you received the ARC unless you are getting paid.

  20. Amanda
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 10:32:17

    I would like to think that when a blogger starts an ARC they plan on reviewing it, however if the book just wasn’t for them then why expect them to waste their time reading and reviewing that book. Its a hard question because I do get the authors side but as a reader I don’t want the blogs I follow filled with just so-so books that don’t really interest me.

  21. MY
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 10:46:41

    @Rachel Blaufeld:

    Yes, it’s far worse to have a reviewer or blogger tell you she’ll be reading and reviewing (some even specifying a time frame) and then nothing. So much of the life of a writer is waiting and hoping. Plenty of editors and agents no longer offer any closure because they’re just too busy. I’d guess reviewers and bloggers are too busy as well, but it’s crushing to communicate with someone and have no response (especially if you’ve gone to the expense of sending out print copies for review. There’s a lesson.)

    I do, however, agree that there shouldn’t be pressure on reviewers and bloggers to read and review if they’re swamped under with arcs or self-pub submissions. I’m not sure I’d want a review from a stressed, harried blogger who only reluctantly reviewed my book because she felt obligated to do so.

    I’m getting the impression from your post, however, that a lot of reviewers/bloggers request more books than anyone could reasonably handle. Aren’t you overwhelming yourselves? I don’t know a lot about this process of taking on arcs, but don’t you have the power to simply step back and refrain from taking on new arcs until you’ve cut down your tbr? Or clear from your kindle those books you know you’ll never realistically get around to reading?

    I’ve always thought that reviewers/bloggers were the ones with the power in the publisher/writer/reviewer relationship, especially these days. Your voices lift books from the bottomless pit of choices and hold them out for readers to take a closer look. Hell, for readers to even notice a particular book exists. You can pick and choose while we wait and hope.

    Am I off-track in that viewpoint?

  22. Khrishna
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 11:21:03

    “I’d really love for all of us as bloggers to get away from using the language of exchange when we talk about review copies. It gives the impression that the review copy is “payment” for a review, which implies that a review is required upon receipt of a review copy.”

    Isn’t this language – or similar – required disclosure to meet Federal Trade Commission guidelines? In the eyes of the FTC, if you receive a free product (the ARC) and endorse that product (the review), you must disclose that relationship, no?

  23. Bea
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 11:59:00

    “In the eyes of the FTC, if you receive a free product (the ARC) and endorse that product (the review), you must disclose that relationship, no?” Yes.

    From the FTC – I’m picking and choosing. See the whole thing here http://www.business.ftc.gov/documents/bus71-ftcs-revised-endorsement-guideswhat-people-are-asking

    1) It’s the reviewer’s job to write his or her opinion and no one thinks they bought the product – for example, a book or movie ticket – themselves. But on a personal blog, a social networking page, or in similar media, the reader may not expect the reviewer to have a relationship with the company whose products are mentioned. Disclosure of that relationship helps readers decide how much weight to give the review.

    2) Would a single disclosure on my home page that “many of the products I discuss on this site are provided to me free by their manufacturer” be enough?

    A single disclosure doesn’t really do it because people visiting your site might read individual reviews or watch individual videos without seeing the disclosure on your home page.

    Would a button that says DISCLOSURE, LEGAL, or something like that be sufficient disclosure?

    No. A button isn’t likely to be sufficient. How often do you click on those buttons when you visit someone else’s site? If you provide the information as part of your message, your audience is less likely to miss it.

  24. Imani
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 12:12:17

    I am not obliged to provide anything unless I am under paid contract. This holds whether or not I requested a book. If that means I may not get a copy next time around, that’s fine.

    I do not book blog in order or even partly to assuage writer angst. Distribution of free copies is an understood part of the biz, requested or not. If it wouldn’t enter some publishers’/writers’ head to bother the NYT if they sent in a book that never got reviewed I don’t understand how they’d dare to approach unpaid bloggers for the same reason. But yuh see who dem have strength fah (as Jamaicans would say).

    I rarely do ARCs anymore, unless it’s from an author or publisher/imprint I really like.

  25. Melissa W
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 12:20:04

    When I request a review copy – meaning I specifically tracked down the publicist, sent an email with reasons why I would be a good fit to review the book, and got either a paper or electronic copy in return – that book immediately goes to the top of my TBR and review lists. I, personally, feel that because I specifically wanted that book I do owe the publicist/author/publisher the respect of a well-written, honest review. I don’t request very many so this usually isn’t hard to fulfill (and on the very (very) rare occasion that I don’t like the book I requested I send the publicist a heads-up email letting them know; this has only happened once). Next up are DRCs I request on Edelweiss, and then DRCs/ARCs I receive via the HarperCollins imprint publicists. With those, I feel like as long as I get 50-75% read and reviewed then we’re good. It’s not like a contract but I feel that if someone has gone through the effort to pitch books to me and send them/authorize DRC access then I ought to be considerate of their time. And I try to manage those so I don’t overload myself. The only time this backfired was when I got into the Avon Addicts program last year and found myself almost drowning in romance novels of all stripes!! Haha!! It was like being presented with too many delicious entrees at an all-you-can-eat buffet!

  26. Janine
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 13:23:03

    Love this op-ed. I hate the feeling of obligation that comes with requesting ARCs so I try not to do so unless I’m dying to read the book in question, or have had that book or author recommended to me by more than one person. Every once in a while, though, I get tempted to request a book I don’t know as much about and most of the time, when that happens, I live to regret having requested it.

    I do my best to read and review those books I have requested and sometimes I succeed in finishing and reviewing them on a timely basis. Other times, when reading them is a slog, I can only manage a DNF review on a timely basis. And there have been some ARCs that have slipped through the cracks and not gotten any review at all, although that’s less common.

    I usually end up feeling guilty and bad about those, or resentful of forcing myself to read on, and the morass of bad feelings gets me to stop requesting ARCs for a while. I can’t use Netgalley or Edelweiss with 100% confidence because it’s hard to anticipate how I’ll like a book I haven’t read before. There are almost no authors whose books have never let me down.

    I also really, really dislike that I can’t quote from an ARC because it’s an ARC. Recently I read an ARC that had poorly structured sentences I wanted to quote (I was writing a DNF review and wanted to explain why I wasn’t finishing). I ended up holding my review until after the publication date, purchasing a finished copy of the book, checking the language in the finished copy against the language in the ARC, and only after confirming the issues were all still there, posting my DNF review of the book.

    The upshot of all this for me is that my relationship with ARCs is a love-hate relationship. An “I wish I could quit you” relationship. And for that reason I don’t make ARC requests all that often. Over 90% of the books I read and review are books I purchase on my own dime, and I’m fully committed to reviewing those I enjoy enough. ARCs are my push-pull flings. I want to be fully committed to them, to treat them right always, but how can I when they are so hard to depend on?

  27. cleo
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 14:16:16

    These glimpses into the life of a book blogger are fascinating to me. I always assumed that ARCs are similar to desk copies /review copies in academia. When I taught at the college level, I could request a free copy (from a publisher) of a book I was considering using, or was going to use for a class. I didn’t abuse the system by requesting books I knew we weren’t going to adopt, but I certainly requested more books than I adopted and it never, ever occurred to me to feel guilty for that. I guess it’s not exactly the same, but that’s what it reminds me of.

  28. P. J. Dean
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 14:52:09

    Wow! This whole thing is sad. The reviewer feeling pressured by authors and publishers to definitely review their books and most assuredly give them an “A” for their efforts. Hell, as a writer I’ve always felt lucky at the wording of a reviewer’s policy–the “consideration” of a review. I knew they were swamped before self-publishing and now with everyone and their pet rat writing books, I know they are drowning. I rarely send out requests. You really have to be a big name which means your books getting reviewed everywhere is a given. Or you have to have an insane plot/blurb to get noticed for consideration. So, no, reviewers as a way to get the word out isn’t the only way to go. I’ve returned to placing ads on a few well-traveled sites, when I can afford it, social media, and relying on word of mouth to drum up interest. This pushing and shoving and arm twisting for position is just ridiculous.

  29. Lindsay
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 14:58:30

    I really like this piece, it helped me put into words some of the discomfort I’ve been having with Netgalley and similar places recently. If I request a book I definitely try to put it to the top of my to-read list, but generally I’m requesting books that are new-to-me authors or something that caught my eye. Sometimes I don’t like them — sometimes I don’t finish them. I still leave a Netgalley review and explain if something was a DNF or just not for me, but it’s unusual for me to write a negative review (and especially not a DNF one) on Amazon or whatnot unless something REALLY bothered me about the book that I was otherwise enjoying, and felt it warranted notice for potential readers, just like I like to be warned about certain things before I buy a book.

    I recently had a publisher reject my request and email me that it was because I only generally post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and not multiple other specific sites. Which… okay? It didn’t make sense to me, but sure. I am a bookseller so you’d think that my actual talking to people in real life and being able to put the book in their hands would count as a review platform, but I guess not. I had another publisher reject my request because my Netgalley review-to-requested ratio was not 100% (I laughed, it will never be 100%, no matter how hard I try). I also have somehow wound up on some auto-approval lists, except it means I mysteriously get books I didn’t request on my bookshelf (and adding to that non-100% ratio) and don’t know how to stop that, but honestly, my Netgalley-fu is not terribly strong.

    I am pleased to get ARCs when I request them, and in some cases publishers have figured out what I like so that physical ARCs are a pleasant surprise and not an unasked-for burden (except the historical mountainclimbing book was over 1000 pages and good grief that was a block of paper to carry around). But if I don’t necessarily review things that really didn’t work for me, and I hate posting a review of a DNF because I feel it wasn’t fair. I’m not sure authors or publishers would find those reviews terribly useful, either — and they’re not the ones I’m writing for.

  30. Melody
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 15:32:16

    As a reader, when I see an author have a sign up for an ARC, and I willingly sign up, having read the unofficial contract (talking about posting an honest review when the book is live, not pirating the copy, etc) I do believe it is the readers responsibility to review that book and post their review in a timely manner.

    Now, that is something very different from publishers/author sending out ARCs to Tom, Dick, and Harry…I guess I am mainly saying that if a reader actually seeks out these ARCs, signs up knowing an honest review is an exchange for getting these advanced copies, there is a very big obligation for that reader to compete and review said book, if that makes sense.

  31. hapax
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 15:57:03

    when I see an author have a sign up for an ARC, and I willingly sign up, having read the unofficial contract (talking about posting an honest review when the book is live, not pirating the copy, etc)

    Is this “unofficial contract” a Netgalley thing? (I don’t use Netgalley, since I’m already swamped in review books). Or is this a usual thing on author webpages? I honestly don’t know.

    If there really *is* such a thing, spelled out in writing and everything, and not hidden behind a FAQ or “Legal” or some such button, yeah, sure I guess readers have a “responsibility” to provide reviews in return for receiving an ARC.

    I’d also be surprised if many readers did “sign up” for an ARC after viewing such a contract, unless they were of the “already-know-Ima-gonna-love-it” camp.

    But if you’re just talking about an “understood” or “implied” contract… well, it seems like the majority of commenters here don’t share that understanding. YM, of course, MV.

  32. hapax
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 16:02:24

    I should have added that there have been a few times that I complained publicly (including at DA) after reading a review that I wish I could get a copy but couldn’t for various reasons (DRM, vendor problems, etc.) and the author / publisher has reached out to me and asked “would you like a free copy? In return, would you consider posting an honest review at whatever sites you use?”

    In each of those cases, if I accepted, I always did post reviews (eventually, if not in as timely a manner as the publicists might have liked), but it was always out of pleasure at the courtesy (and, usually, genuinely liking the book!) than out of obligation.

  33. Sandra
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 16:10:14

    I really, really want to read reviews that DO NOT contain the words, best book ever!!! sqee!!! best author ever!!! 5 amazing, brilliant, loving stars. I rarely read blogs for reviews because that’s mostly what I find.

  34. Melody
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 16:11:58

    Hapax: I’m talking about when an author posts something on FB, or even from their newsletter. It is just a Google doc, basically asking a series of questions: you understand not to share your copy, you will provide an honest review, etc. to be, this feels like an unofficial contract that I am filling out with my info, and answering a serious of questions (the ones stated above). Whether it is construed as an actual unofficial contract I don’t know, but to me that is how I see it.

    I’ve signed up for numerous ARCs sign ups by various authors that have posted the doc link on FB, and before I submit my info I know that if I receive it I am going to review this book. I mean why would I willingly sign up, and give them my info if not to read and review it?

    I think a lot of commenters on here are thinking about ARCs that a publisher/author just sends out without the bloggers/readers asking for them (netgalley for instance) then I can see why a reader should not feel pressured to review a book. But if someone specifically asks for an advanced copy of the story I think they should review it. To me, it kind of feels like theft (specifically talking about the reader who specifically asks for a book, knowing that an honest review is expected, but then not bothering to review when they finished) if all of that makes sense :)

  35. Michelle
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 16:29:24

    I am the sole reviewer on my blog, so it’s not like I can accommodate every request that lands in my inbox. Also, I’m not affiliated with retailers to offset any costs. Of course I have no costs except my own personal time, but I do it because I love to read. As for feeling obligated to post a review because I got an ARC, no, I don’t feel obligated. I only request books or accept requests if I’m 98% sure I will be able to read it, and I do the very best I can with my time. But that doesn’t mean I want to be treated like a doormat. I think like most reviewers/bloggers, I follow the same policy in that a review is never promised in exchange for an ARC or a review copy. The only thing I can guarantee is that I’m honest in my opinion. As for disclaimers, I always put “I received an ARC/review copy from XYZ for the purpose of an honest review.” To me, “for the purpose of” sounds …more honest(?) than “in exchange for”.

  36. Kate Sherwood
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 16:29:36

    @Melody:
    If you read the book and hate it, do you still feel the same compulsion to review? I mean, you feel an obligation toward the author to review, but if you knew the author might prefer you DIDN’T honestly review, given your feelings, do you still feel that you should?

    For me, it gets too complicated if there’s a system of obligations.

    If authors/publishers offer ARCs for review, I think we/they should do so with the understanding that only a percentage of the books that go out will be reviewed. If we decide it’s not worth it to us, we should stop. Our decisions, independent of any guilt or sense of obligation on anyone else’s part.

    I mean, I love reviews. I WANT reviews. But, whatever. Nobody owes me anything.

  37. Melody
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 16:39:56

    Michelle: I guess I am thinking that if someone specifically asks for a book from an author/publisher, why would they not review it? If someone is getting a book before it is published, obviously the thought by the author/publisher is to garner reviews and word of mouth. If a blogger doesn’t have time to review an ARC, why request one in the first place? (Again, I’m not talking about publishers/authors sending out mass emails to bloggers, etc.)

    Kate: for me personally, if I absolutely hated the book, I have sent an email to the author stating that the book really wasn’t for me. Obviously I am not going to post a nasty review stating the facts why I hated the book, because “for me” I don’t find reviews like that productive. I have my own policy that I go by. Do I think one and two star reviews should be published? Absolutely. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I am speaking about me only. If I feel I would rate a book two stars or under, I will contact the author and state the reasons why I didn’t like it. But any book I would rate three or more stars I absolutely post my review. Do all readers do this, no, but if I specially asked for a book, and don’t want to hand out a review that might have been a DNF or whatever, I most certainly let the author know so they know I did read it, but here are my reasons for not posting a review. If they want me to post my “bad” review, then I will but I’ve never had one ask me to, for obvious reasons.

  38. Michelle
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 16:49:24

    @Melody: Hi Melody, I only request books from NetGalley, and most of the time I actually manage to read and review the books I’ve requested. The few times I haven’t sent them my feedback was because the book ended up being a DNF (and I did share that in the Note to publisher section) or there was some family crisis and I simply ran out of time or wasn’t in the mood to read what I had requested. I don’t make it a habit of requesting a bunch of books to see which ones I get approved for. When I first started reviewing and blogging, I did that because I didn’t always get approved for what I wanted. I don’t do that anymore. I only request what really interests me, and what I think my followers might enjoy.

  39. Melody
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 16:51:52

    Hi Michelle :) yeah, I’m not familiar with NetGalley, but I can see why a publisher/author should not expect a review if they are sending out these mass ARCs. That’s not realistic. I’m not a professional blogger by any means. I just read for pleasure, and have my little blog that I post my reviews, and then on Amazon, B&N, etc. honestly, I don’t get a lot of ARCs, so that might be why I have the time to review them all :)

  40. Erin Burns
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 16:52:44

    @hapax: On Netgalley, many of the publishers have rather explicit requirements, for example Penguin Berkley

    “If your request is approved we require that you:
    – Wait to publish your review until one week before the release date (unless prior arrangements have been approved by one of our publicists)
    – Send us the review via NetGalley or by email and include the name of the publication/blog/outlet, the link (for online reviews), and the date when the review will be posted or published
    – Let us know if for any reason you are unable to post your review and why.”

  41. Michelle
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 16:59:54

    @Melody: I think NetGalley is a little more lenient. They won’t blacklist you, for lack of a better term, just because you requested a book and didn’t review it. It’s not in a reviewer’s best interest to get too sloppy though. There’s a “Recommended Feedback to Approval Ratio” on one’s profile, which is visible to publishers. If it’s below 80%, then I think they disapprove your request.

    Indie authors though are a different story. I never promise a time they can expect my review, just a ball park estimate. I used to receive follow-up emails of “Have you read it yet?” which used to drive me nuts. Now, I make them read my policy. I don’t guarantee a review, but if it goes up, I email them to let them know. I think that’s fair.

  42. Melody
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 17:06:55

    I used to review for Manc Readers, and they required you to review. You had to review three books a month, the rules might have changed, because I’m talking years ago, and the reviews had to be written in a specific format.

    I’ve signed up for self-published authors that post links for the doc sign-ups. Now, since I am actually requesting from them specifically that I want an ARC, I review each and every one, unless my “bad” review stated personal guidelines of course. But most indie authors have specific “rules” in their ARC sign up forms.

  43. Liz Mc2
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 17:59:44

    I believe everyone should have whatever policies/views about reviewing she wants to. At the same time, when a lot of people begin to see an ARC, whether requested or not, as an obligation, it creates a problem that is becoming clear in comments along the lines of “I feel obligated to post a review *unless* it would be really negative, and then I don’t.”

    Why not? It seems to be because people feel bad about doing that when the author or publisher has given them a book. But then we aren’t in a world of fully honest reviews any more, because we aren’t getting the full range of honest opinion. I, like many other readers, find negative reviews useful (and not just when they keep me from buying things, which is not always the effect). An obligation culture deprives us of important information.

  44. willaful
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 18:21:37

    @Melody: I think most people are talking about books they didn’t read or finish. Forcing yourself to read something you aren’t enjoying is a pretty significant burden for a reviewer.

  45. Alexandra
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 18:23:23

    This discussion is fascinating. Although I’m not a blogger I agree with what seems to be the general consensus that bloggers have no obligation to review a book they received from a publisher, NetGalley, etc. As a reader who relies hugely upon bloggers to not only speak freely about what they’ve read but to help me find great new books, authors and series I would MUCH rather you all read and talk about what you feel most strongly. Time is a valuable commodity, and I don’t think you should feel obligated to waste yours because someone sent you something for free.

    This is sort of a tangent to the conversation here and I know the bare minimum about ARCs, but it seems they’re not so difficult to acquire? This doesn’t surprise me. A perpetual annoyance to me on Goodreads is seeing reviews for books where the reader received it from a publisher/NetGalley/fill in the blank that are NOT helpful. IMO this is a worse offense than not reviewing your ARCs. Pressure to review everything may be a factor contributing to some poorer quality reviews – I don’t know. But if that is this case the blogger is now wasting my time, too.

    As for the poor reviews, I really wish ARCs were less prevalent because in these instances rather than generating excitement they only prove irritating and force me to LOOK for quality commentary – which is the opposite objective of ARCs in the first place.

  46. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 18:32:22

    @Liz Mc2: I completely agree. Any review or review site that doesn’t offer negative reviews as well as positive ones is so one-sided as to be useless to me as a reader. The only way around that would be to list the books the reviewer has read but decided not to review. I will only do a review if I actually have something to say about the book. I liked it because… or I hated it because… or in a recent instance, I DNF’d it because… Not “I hated this book because I hate all books written in the present tense.” What good is that to anybody?
    I would really like Netgalley to offer a sample chapter, as you can get at Amazon with its “look inside.” I’m using that more than ever in choosing books, because the reviews at Amazon have become useless, with all the five star “this is the best book eva!!!” reviews.

  47. willaful
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 21:05:45

    @Lynne Connolly: Yes, yes, oh dear God, yes! Samples would help so much, and be to everyone’s benefit.

  48. Erin Burns
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 21:44:00

    @Alexandra:

    Poor quality reviews are an issue. But the flipside is that it can be difficult. I try to talk about the kind of things I’m interested in finding out, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same for others. Like Amazon, people might mark reviews unhelpful but they rarely tell you why it’s unhelpful.

  49. Kaetrin
    Jul 09, 2014 @ 00:52:58

    @Mandi: Me too. Most often these days, if I say, yes, please send me the book, it is with the proviso that I may not get to it quickly/at all and if that’s okay with the writer, please send, but otherwise, that’s fine. I won’t be offended if the author passes. I have plenty to read.

    I *intend* to read the books I request and if I read them, I review them – but sometimes, I don’t get to it or I try and it’s so awful/I’m just not feeling it by page 5 that I DNF. That’s way too early to review – If I DNFd a book at 30% plus, then yeah, I might write a DNF review but if I decide it’s not for me or doesn’t suit my mood super early on, it will go back to the TBR and I probably won’t open it again.

  50. Blossom
    Jul 09, 2014 @ 04:05:36

    I stop doing ARC reviews because the authors kept coming in and commenting on my review I posted about their book. There was one publisher who asks if you didn’t like the book to email them and tell them and not leave a review unless it was 4-5 stars.

  51. Jayne
    Jul 09, 2014 @ 06:53:33

    @willaful: Count me as another who’d love to see samples at Netgalley.

  52. Kierney Scott
    Jul 09, 2014 @ 08:15:18

    I don’t know if contract is a useful term when it comes to reviews. Of course reviewers are not legally obligated to provide a review, in the same way I am not obligated to say “please”and “thank you ” to the barista who makes my coffee. Do I? Of course, because it is kind and pro social behavior is important. I completely appreciate that writing a review is time consuming. And not every reader is a confident writer. A great alternative for readers who don’t feel willing or able to write a review, is simply to give a rating on Goodreads. To clarify, I am talking specifically about ARC’s that are requested by the reader/reviewer.

  53. mharvey816
    Jul 09, 2014 @ 09:57:05

    It would be so lovely if NetGalley had sample chapters. I would be more likely to take a chance on new writers with that. But since I’m already self-swamped with books at the moment, it’s probably just as well. The dilemma for me is when all the books I want to read and review for any given month are all released on the same day. That’s how I end up scrambling on weekends to crank out all the reviews I need to have before the next Tuesday release day arrives. After nearly 3 years of writing 10+ reviews every 4 weeks, I’m finally learning to say yes to only as many books as I can realistically write about in a month’s time. But it’s difficult with so many great new books coming out every week.

  54. willaful
    Jul 09, 2014 @ 11:13:41

    I think people people are coming at this issue from different points of view because their situations are actually pretty dissimilar. When you’re a reviewer just reviewing for love, and you eagerly request a book you’re dying to read, it makes sense to feel an obligation to review it. When you blog regularly and feel a responsibility to provide content (and hopefully good, worthwhile content,) it becomes less about those specific books you want, and more about seeing what’s available and interesting to write about, which is hard to do without taking chances and looking at new material. (I hope I don’t sound like I’m putting down those who review for love — I don’t think either situation is necessarily better, just different.)

    I used to review in a different genre, before ebooks, and some publishers would send me *everything* they were publishing that season. That means they were paying for the books *and* postage *and* the possibility that I would donate them to a library which then wouldn’t buy their own copies. They knew full well I wouldn’t cover every book. The idea was I’d have the opportunity to see what was available and choose the ones most worth writing about. They probably figured that the more they send, the more likely *one* of their books would catch my eye, and the economics of it apparently made sense to them. This is pretty much what Jane described above.

    I think the ratios and special instructions work against publishers to some extent, because I feel much less likely now to request widely and try out new stuff. When I feel an obligation to review, I’m much, much choosier and far less adventurous. With e-arcs, really, the worst thing that happens to the publisher is I get a book, don’t like it, and don’t finish it. They’re not out much. (To be fair, with NetGalley and so on, they are now making books available to a much wider audience; you no longer need a strong affiliation to be able to get ARCS.)

    This concept of the magical “free” book doesn’t always apply. Yes, an advance copy of a book you want very much to read is a thrilling perk. But an advance copy of a book you wind up not liking can easily feel like a millstone round your neck. I think it would be to the publisher’s advantage, overall, to reduce the likelihood of that happening.

  55. Imani
    Jul 09, 2014 @ 11:59:10

    Is this a romance blog thing, I wonder? I have never ever ever felt, whether I requested a book or not, the need to consult a writer/publisher about when, how or what kind of review I plan to post and if they would approve. I started my blog for myself and my readers, not as a publisher/writer ad space. My readers trust me because of my blunt, honest take. Whether or not I requested a copy & promised to do a review…surely…surely the publisher/writer realises that all my reading time and writing labour costs a hell of a lot more than $25 (at most!) & it would be nonsensical to place such a situation in any other terms than, “Well it woild be great to see that review but, acceptable loss, otherwise, cheerio!”

    I don’t review romances tho and never request ARCs for them. I switch my brain off with those books; and I prefer the insight of DA and bloggers in that network.

  56. Janine
    Jul 09, 2014 @ 12:26:53

    @Jayne: Me four. I’d love to see sample chapters at Netgalley (and Edelweiss too for that matter).

  57. Fallen Professor
    Jul 11, 2014 @ 09:14:46

    As others have mentioned, I’m also somewhat wary of Netgalley. The last few books I requested went unfinished. I do sometimes review books I haven’t finished, if they rile me up enough; in those cases, I make myself read at least half the book to give it a fair chance. But most times, DNF for me means I just couldn’t get into it because I either found it boring or felt it had too many problems. I always go through at least 10-20% of a book before consigning it to the DNF pile, but if I only got that far I won’t review.

    This means that future Netgalley requests might be turned down, because I haven’t reviewed as many titles as I should have. But I’ve come to terms with that, and don’t see it as a rejection. Honestly, I’ve come to prefer writing about books, old and new, that I’ve bought because I really wanted them. And, because Amazon lets me read samples before buying, it’s more hit and less miss when I go that route. So I also agree that Netgalley samples would be welcome.

    In the end, for me it comes down to deciding whether to read something I really want to read, or something I feel we should be reading for review. By the time I’m done with the day’s work and the kids are in bed, I might only have a couple of hours to read and write. So these days I choose more carefully, and don’t write about every single book I read.

  58. Liviania
    Jul 11, 2014 @ 13:50:41

    For those worried about Netgalley percentages, you are allowed to fill out the feedback and just dash off a quick, “DNF, not writing a review because X.” You don’t actually have to write and link to a review.

  59. Miss Bates
    Jul 11, 2014 @ 16:41:56

    I think everyone here has voiced what I’ve thought at one time or another. My blog is fledgling and small, which suits me fine, because what I’ve wanted are readers who return to my blog, not oodles of blog “traffic.” When I first started reviewing romance, receiving an ARC had a certain thrill to it, until I hit some super clunkers. Did I enjoy writing those snarky reviews? As an exercise in writing, it WAS kind of fun. However, I shuddered at the idea of reading any more books I didn’t enjoy, or respect. I became savvier with my requests; then, at least to me, what happened was the kiss of death to my blogging experience. All my reviews veered into “it was okay/good/very good” territory. I was bored to tears. And I noticed that the posts that were read even weeks after I posted them were of books that I read because I’d purchased them for myself and had things to say about them beyond the “recommendation” gist of it of a review.

    I do think that requesting and receiving an ARC comes with the COURTESY to review, but not the obligation. And because I am a courteous (I hope! I try!) person, I felt obligated to review books I disliked, or didn’t feel like reading. So, I totally agree with what Liz said above. BUT, I still felt obligated and I didn’t like it. So, I’ve worked it out for myself and stopped requesting ARCs. Truth be told, in the end, what I discovered for myself is that the review format was as constricting to a personal book blog as the obligation to review the ARC. My interests lie in thinking about and analysing a book and that is a super time-consuming exercise. Publishers don’t want to wait around while I incubate ideas! And why should they!?

    As for the personal review blog, just google a title you’ve reviewed and the first hit will usually be GR. So, that’s where the numbers lie. Review sites are useful and there are review blogs that I trust with my reading choices, like DA and others. I am so so so grateful for all the great books I’ve read because of them. But the ARC race is a bit of a rat race for this bitty blogger and my personal choice was to remove myself from it. But everyone who starts and maintains a personal book blog has to work this out for herself.

  60. Miss Bates
    Jul 11, 2014 @ 16:43:23

    @Miss Bates: Rats, what I meant to end with is that the “C” in ARC only stands for “courtesy,” not contract. Sorry. Got the happy “post comment” click finger.

  61. Maria D.
    Jul 14, 2014 @ 16:16:19

    @hapax: Thank You! I totally agree – since you get paid to review – then you are obligated but there are many, many of us who don’t and it’s very depressing when people act like you’ve committed a crime either because you didn’t like their book or didn’t post a review of it

  62. Maria D.
    Jul 14, 2014 @ 16:18:00

    @Fallen Professor: Thanks – I didn’t know you could do that on NetGalley – not post a review just put on there you didn’t finish it…there are some clunkers i’ve read and I can definitely post that!

  63. April Holgate
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 08:35:03

    As a blogger I often get requests for reviews. I always tell them I will try but make no promises. When I use sites like NetGalley or Edelweiss to request books I make every effort to read and review. Where I have my sticking point and always write reviews are the books that I actively sought out the author or publisher. If I went to them asking for a review copy then yes I owe them a review. Now whether the review is positive or negative all depends on how the reading goes. I try to be very clear when getting review copies, every book I read gets a review, do not expect a positive review, and no I will not remove a review because you did not like the rating or feedback. I don’t trash books, but when I don’t like something I express it in the review. That is the risk you are running when asking for honest reviews. I also make a conscious effort to only take on books that interest me, this does make for more happy reviews but not always guaranteed.

  64. Eden Connor
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 15:05:11

    I write as an indie nowadays, after my experience with Silver Publishing. I solicit my own reviews. I take a look at the blogger’s blog, and read his/her terms, to be sure what I write fits what they specify they review. I only request honest reviews, and if a blogger thinks I wrote a 1-star story, posting a review saying such is fine with me. I want reviewers to post their honest opinions. I’ve bought an awful lot of books off 1-star reviews precisely because I no longer read the 5-stars. Too many folks out there buying those. I acknowledge that reviews are for readers and if I need unconditional love, I’ll buy a puppy.
    BUT… When I query the reviewer, I always include a link to the opening chapters, posted on my blog or offer to provide an excerpt from further into the story if they prefer, in order to make a decision whether or not to review. So, when I receive an acceptance, I cannot help but wonder when the review never materializes, why the reviewer didn’t follow through. I would rather get a note back saying, “You know what? This book just didn’t do it for me and I stopped reading at so-and-so scene” than be left to wonder.

  65. mclicious
    Jul 15, 2014 @ 15:16:18

    This post (and the comments section) are just what I needed. Lately I’ve been feeling like a horrible person and having anxiety about the amount of books I pull from Edelweiss, request at Netgalley, check out from the library, or buy, because they are WAY WAY MORE than I can ever hope to read. I am maybe a bit too greedy. But I am also honestly interested in all of the books I get, even if as time goes by, perhaps I am less interested, or I read some other reviews in the meantime that make me think it’s not worth my time after all, or I read a little bit and decide I hate it. But I still feel bad whenever I don’t post a review or even read the book at all. This made me feel better. As you noted, it’s not a contract, not a requirement. I still note on my monthly review of reading how I acquired every new book on my shelf/Kindle, I still list them so people can know that they are books that exist that they might be interested in, and I try at least to write a thank you note to the publisher if I got it from Edelweiss or NetGalley.

    I just have to train myself to think that being polite and courteous is enough, and that I’m not required to review everything.

  66. Grace
    Aug 05, 2014 @ 09:14:17

    @Khrishna:

    I currently use the language “I received a review copy of this book from (author/publisher/netgalley/etc.). This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.”

    It gets around using the phrase “in exchange for an honest review.” Any of you are free to borrow the wording. :)

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