Sunday, April 26, 2009

ARCs & Bloggers

ARCs and bloggers.

Everyone is talking about them.

Um, OK, I guess if GalleyCat were to fact-check that statement they way they fact-check the New York Times Kindle2 Article, I would be found to be exaggerating.

For the what is an ARC recap, please read my posts at ForeWord Magazine's Shelf Space blog.

ARCs and bloggers.

I've seen some interesting talk about them recently.

(See, New York Times and Wall Street Journal, how easy it is to be accurate?)

My head is spinning from the comments at Presenting Lenore and Reviewer X. Some stuff is familiar (the emails from publicists and publishers offering reviewer copies when clearly they have not read my blog enough to know if the proposed copy "fits" what I write about); others, not so much (bloggers who just boast about scoring ARCs and then trade them back and forth and never review/discuss the books).

A few scattered thoughts.

ARCS aka "review copies" are for books that will be published sometime in the future (usually within the next six to nine months, but I've seen ARCs up to a year ahead of time.) If you want to review a book that is already published, chances are the ARCs are all gone. Plus, the reason for the ARC -- advance buzz, advance reviews -- is gone because the book is out. Also, with the final version out, why read and review an earlier version that at best has typos and at worst is incomplete? Go to the library to get a copy.

Authors don't make a lot of money. They don't have ARCS (or extra hardcover/paperback copies) of books sitting around, waiting to send to bloggers (or donate to fundraisers or to underfunded school libraries etc.) The postage to send all those requests out could eat up a royalty check -- let alone the cost to them of the actual ARC or book. See, authors only get so many copies of the book itself; after that, they have to pay for them. Am I saying NOT to ask authors? Since bloggers often get emails from authors saying "can I send you a copy," I cannot say "don't ask authors." But with everything -- be realistic, be polite, be understanding.

Bloggers are doing this for free. No, really. I sometimes think that authors or readers don't get the investment of time a blogger makes: maintaining the blog, selecting titles to read, reading the titles, writing posts about those titles, etc. etc. So -- bloggers should NOT have to buy the books they intend to write about on their blogs. There are enough books in a public library that a blogger doesn't have to rely on ARCS, and doesn't have to spend his/her own money.

Bloggers don't need ARCs. No, really. OK, so I do review from ARCs. And I get them from a variety of places. Conferences, such as ALA and BEA. Publishers. Friends. Heck, I could do an entire post on that (and will if there is interest.) But I also review titles from other sources: books I've bought or checked out of the library. One of the good things about blogs as opposed to traditional review sources is our ability to blog about things other than upcoming books.

Both the comments in Presenting Lenore and Reviewer X refer to these mysterious blogs that boast about getting ARCs and trade them but never review. A recent review I did based on an ARC I borrowed from a friend was pretty well received by the author, so a borrowed ARC can fulfill the purpose of an ARC. ARCs being passed back and forth is not a bad thing for the author.

Based on the number of ARCs I get, it would be impossible to review them all. I've frequently considered posting the titles of review copies I have received. Actually, come to think of it, I have done it sometimes, with books I get from conferences. If these comments are talking about things like The Story Siren's vlog "In The Mailbox," I don't get the negativity & snark in the comments. That's just a very clever, entertaining way to share new and upcoming titles with people.

A blogger isn't obligated to review/discuss every ARC/review copy they get. Now, you may argue that an obligation exists because of how one gets an ARC -- but I would respectfully disagree. Why? Well, a book can sound awesome. You request the ARC or respond to the email soliciting the ARC. And then you dislike the book. Maybe don't get beyond the first few chapters. What is your "obligation"? What do you "owe"? Keep in mind I am not talking about the always-ongoing debate about writing reviews that are critical/negative about a book.

That said, c'mon, if you've said "yes" to getting a specific ARC/review copy, they are being sent to you for a reason. To review that book. Personally, I prioritize posting about the ones that are sent to me as the result of "direct contact", and then aim to do a percentage of the ones that get sent unsolicited. (But the hows and whys of what I read versus what I finish versus what I post about is an entire other post).

OK. That's a lot of scattered thoughts. So my final bit on this tl;dr post: while some comments (usually anonymous) talk about these entitled bloggers who are using ARCs to no longer buy books and treat them like the finished product and don't review, etc., much as I clicked through links, all I found were book blogs with interesting discussions and content and I ended up adding a ton of new-to-me blogs to my bloglines account.


© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

10 comments:

Adele said...

Liz, thanks for posting your thoughts on this topic. I think I have a pretty good knowledge of the blogosphere at this point and really haven't seen people bragging about their "big gets". More than anything I have just seen bloggers getting really excited about a new release, a debut author or discovering something random aside from books that they have in common.

I do think that many of the communication issues are a reflection of some blogger's immaturity. (Notice I didn't say age. Idiocy isn't just for the young.) Some bloggers don't think about how there emails come across or worse yet, don't care. But that being said, I think that's 1% of the community.

I think In My Mailbox is a great source to discover books and authors. It's expanded my mind and knowledge of YA titles, genres and authors to a vast degree. Authors from my home country, Australia, seem to like it as it's some additional exposure, which is always a good thing over here.

Thanks for writing this post and acknowledging all the work that bloggers put in. I spend hours each day in preparation, maitenance and interacting as do many others. I prefer to focus on the positive achievements (like the current body image week currently taking place) than focus on the minority.

Cheers

Liz B said...

Adele,

Given how many books get published and how few get reviewed and then how few make it, having looked at a few IMM (In My Mailbox) posts all I can say is "hm, I may want to start doing that." Maybe because I recognized some titles, or saw things that got moved to my TBR pile, etc.

While it's appalling to think of bloggers acting entitled about getting copies of books, I'm equally appalled at some attitudes authors have towards bloggers. I'm not quite sure what authors expect blogs to "deliver". I'm actually rereading the Reader X/Lenore posts AGAIN trying to figure it all out.

Liz

BookMoot said...

Liz,
Thank you so much for this post. As usual, you eloquently express many of my own ponders about blogging time, reviews & ARCs.

Due to the hustle bustle of my life right now, I have not had time to craft (because I DO try to write thoughtful and reasoned responses to the books I share) reviews. I have felt the reproach of those books every time I pass the stack.

I probably will, now, make note of some of those titles without a full "mooting." They deserve a shout-out. I think I will also make a note of some of the new ones that are still waving at me from the TBR heap.

I read lots of books that I like and others where I can't make it past the second chapter. Sometimes they are ARCS, sometimes they are from the library. Sometimes it is a title I purchased at an author signing. My review focus has always been on the books I would want to share with others. Sometimes silence is golden.

Steph said...

As a newbie blogger, I didn't realize just how many books a blogger COULD get for free from publishers. That came as a slow realization to me. It wasn't nearly as explicit when I started that you could receive catalogs, request whatever you wanted, and get it. I think the explosion in the number of new bloggers we're seeing who don't seem to review much or don't seem to put more effort in their blog is in part because these girls are seeing this is an 'easy way' to get free books.

A bit of the blame also goes to the publishers who're only NOW beginning to implement a stricter mailing system to bloggers. One publisher who comes to mind stopped sending review copies for the time being so they can get a system to figure out where to send ARCs/review copies due to the incredibly high demand from bloggers. Another is Flux who stopped sending to bloggers altogether unless they were run by librarians or booksellers.

(I only say 'blame' where the irresponsible bloggers are concerned. There have been very good newbie bloggers, like Adele, pop up in the last few months, who have a genuine interest in book BLOGGING.)

Anyway, this is why I don't participate in IMM. I personally don't feel right about it. If I want a book to get more advertisement, I can do an 'exciting upcoming reads!' post or simply review it, like I'm meant to. (Since I don't review every book I get.) Or you know, do author stuff -- guest blogs, interviews, etc.

It just seems to me there are other ways to advertise books without exposing every little thing you receive. Isn't this what Waiting on Wednesday is for? And Books to Pine For? Etc.

Steph

Kami Garcia said...

Liz,

I can't imagine how much time it must take to maintain these blogs, read, and review novels. Personally, as an author, I am so grateful to bloggers (including yourself) who are spreading the words about my book and sharing their thoughts.

Trish said...

Interesting write up, Liz. I put the ARC question out there yesterday for my Sunday Salon and had some very very interesting answers (my question was more directed at how interested bloggers are in seeing these ARCs plastered all over the blogosphere of late). Can't wait to read some of the links you provided. Here's my post where you can read some interesting comments: http://trishsbooks.blogspot.com/2009/04/sunday-salon-4-arcs-etc.html

Chris said...

Another great post on this topic! I commented on Lenore's post and I won't replay it here. I agree with what you said here. I don't rely on ARCs to fill my blog but have gotten a lot lately. It might take some time but they will make it onto my blog.

I don't know where the mysterious bloggers-who-don't-blog-their-ARCs are either. I guess I'm looking in the wrong places.

Chrissy said...

Great post. Up until two weeks ago, I had no idea that so many bloggers were getting advance copies of books for review. I started to notice a lot of blogs mentioning these pre-release copies and wondered how so many of them got hold of these books. I always figured only the major reviewers had access to these books and didn't realize what was going on in the world of pre-release books. Very interesting.

Lenore said...

I have to say, I was really shocked by the floodgates that were opened by my post. It was just one I wrote on the fly because I had nothing to post that day and authors requesting reviews was on my mind.

I think you bring up some excellent points. Fair and balanced is key when it comes to any type of reporting - so why not on blogs too?

Trisha said...

Steph - New policy? I thought you reviewed everything you received. And I completely agree with your last paragraph.

Liz - You wrote: You request the ARC or respond to the email soliciting the ARC. And then you dislike the book. Maybe don't get beyond the first few chapters. What is your "obligation"? What do you "owe"? Any answers? As someone who doesn't finish all of the books I pick up, if I do request/accept an ARC, I feel like I'm obligated to read more of the book than I otherwise would, which can make reading feel like a chore. Which definitely contributed to my malaise a couple of weeks ago.

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