Blogging for Books versus Blogging Because of Books

by Kim on June 20, 2014 · 63 comments

Last week I shared a post I wrote about the growing expectations for readers. In that post I was critical of a program for book bloggers, Blogging for Books, that’s been developed by the Crown Publishing Group. After there was some chatter on Twitter about my post and the program generally, Kate Rados (@KateRados), Director of Community Development at Crown Publishing | Penguin Random House reached out to me and offered to answer any questions and respond to feedback about Blogging for Books.

While I stand by my original post and my criticisms of the program, my e-mails with Kate did address a few of the misperceptions I’ve seen floating around about the program that I think are worth mentioning here. I also have (many) thoughts on the idea of “blogging for books” more generally that I want to share. I hope non-book bloggers will forgive another post that is pretty “inside baseball” to the world of book blogging – I’ll be off my soapbox soon.

On Some Good Changes

Since the program launched in beta a few weeks ago, Crown has listened to feedback from bloggers and removed many of the most troubling requirements of the program. Michele’s (A Reader’s Respite) original post on this program sums up most of the terms that were originally included, most frustratingly requirements to post reviews on retail sites and social media and specific guidelines for what reviews should contain.

If you go back to read the Frequently Asked Questions today, nearly all of these requirements have been removed (the requirement that hasn’t been removed is a requirement to write a review – an issue I’ll address shortly). To my knowledge, there has never been a section that said all reviews had to be positive; they just ask for them to be honest. I’m glad they’ve pulled back in these significant ways.

Kate also emphasized to me that Blogging for Books is not required for bloggers who want to review Crown titles – a misperception that I think was fueled by some mistakes in the program’s beta roll-out. Several bloggers I know who use Edelweiss to request egalleys received rejection notices that told them they should sign up for this program. Kate noted on Twitter that this was a mistake and no one should have been rejected. Bloggers can still use other contacts and connections to request books.

On Review Consideration and Exchanges

One of the things that has not changed about the program, however, is the requirement that participants must post a review of every book they receive in order to receive their next book though the program. As Kate noted in an e-mail:

Regarding your questions about whether a review is required: it is. That is the nature of the program, which again is optional and a supplement to reviewers’ other methods of obtaining books from Crown. Via Blogging For Books, NetGalley, Edelweiss, and personal contact, a blogger is now able to access a wider array of titles across all Crown categories. 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 a non-starter for me when considering the program.

One of the phrases that has changed my reading/reviewing life is “for review consideration.” That’s how I answer every pitch, and I include it in every request that I make. I don’t promise a review and, in fact, I don’t review every book that I get – even books that I reach out and request specifically. This approach, making coverage decisions after seeing a book, is not possible with Blogging for Books, if a blogger wants to remain in good standing with the program.

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.

On “Blogging for Books” in Theory

At the risk of sounding like a crabby old lady, the idea of “blogging for books” has some really negative connotations that feed into the issues with the language of exchange that has developed around review copies.

The phrase “blogging for books” suggests that the work of bloggers is done in service of publishers in order to get more books. That is just not the case – and not the motivation – for all the successful bloggers that I personally know.

When many of us started blogging five or six or seven years ago, the idea of getting books to review wasn’t even a consideration. Bloggers weren’t on publisher’s radars until they started to see us as active, engaged, excited readers they could reach out to directly. At that point, the narrative shifted to this idea of “working with” each other or that writing reviews was a “favor” that bloggers could do for authors/publishers. This remains a problem.

Writing about the latest books and having access to ARCs does not make a great blog and, in my experience, blogging for books is not a motivation that is going to help a blog remain vibrant and sustainable for any length of time. As Jenn (Jenn’s Bookshelves) succinctly tweeted last week: “I don’t blog for books. I blog because of my love of books and reading.”

I appreciate that the folks behind Blogging for Books have been responsive to criticisms raised about many requirements of the program. I think they deserve credit for making those changes and I appreciate that Kate took time to address some of my questions and concerns.

But I still don’t think this is a good program for book bloggers. Requiring a review allows a publisher a degree of editorial control that I’m not comfortable with. It also sets a bad precedent for other bloggers, especially new bloggers who may think that this is just the way things work. It’s not and it shouldn’t be. We each have set the standards we have for ourselves and, I hope, chose not to participate in a program that allows a publisher to have any control over the choices we make on our blogs. Your time and attention – and the time and attention of your readers – should not be sold for a book.

I’m really excited to start a discussion on some of these issues in the comments. However, I’d like to avoid focusing too much on the Blogging for Books program specifically. It’s not the only program of it’s kind, just the one getting attention right now. I’d rather talk more about how we as bloggers can challenge the increasingly prevalent idea that “book = review” — the bigger issue at stake here. Thanks in advance! 

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane@BibliophilebytheSea June 20, 2014 at 6:19 am

Kim,

I loved this informative post and actually joined BforB when my request was rejected through Edelweiss for a book I hoped to read. I really DID NOT want to join another book site, but almost felt compelled to do so if I wanted to read the book without purchasing it.

I got the book, read the book and reviewed the book, but now I’m done with BforB!! I have to say that the whole ….”the idea of “blogging for books” has some really negative connotations ” made me really feel like I was
“hooking for the books” if you know what I mean.

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Kim June 22, 2014 at 8:45 am

Lol, yes! I hate that phrase so much. It has such negative connotations. I feel a little bit like a monkey performing for a treat or something — blog so you can get this awesome book! … No thanks.

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Sandy June 20, 2014 at 6:23 am

Just speaking for myself, back when I actually wrote reviews on the blog, while I never promised I’ll review every book, I do my best to acknowledge the ARCs I received. I think most bloggers operate that way. Most of us that have been in this game for awhile do have integrity, and honor that unwritten code. No we don’t get to everything, but we do our best. There needs to be some trust here.

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Sara June 20, 2014 at 6:25 am

Kim, these two posts have been so interesting and, as usual, very well-written. I’m not sure I fully disagree with anything you’ve said here, but my comment is going to seem like it. Maybe just devil’s advocate? That said, I wonder why you (and so many others) are resistant to the idea of a publisher giving you a book with the expectation of a review. Why wouldn’t you review it? I know a lot of bloggers are reluctant to post a negative or lukewarm review, but I’m pretty sure you’ve done that some. Even a DNF could be “reviewed” with a brief post on why you didn’t finish. From the publisher’s standpoint, I can understand the expectation. Why else would they give us books if not to receive some public feedback? Certainly not just because they like us. The world of book blogging has gotten so big, and it includes A LOT of readers – some of which might have previously bought the book on your recommendation but now can request a copy instead. As I said, I am not too far away from your position, but these questions started ringing in my head as I read and thought about your post. Thanks for starting a great discussion!

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Kim June 20, 2014 at 7:59 am

These are good questions, Sara, I’m glad you raised them. For me, it’s an issue of how I see what I do here as a blogger. I tend to think of what I do here on the blog more like what a book critic would do rather than a marketer would do. Critics make distinctions about what books to read/not read (even review copies) and decisions about how to cover them. I think programs that require reviews take that power away. It’s also one of the reasons I’ve pulled back from doing book tours.

That all said, I also get that my audience here is a lot smaller than the reach of a major publication. It’s why I try to be judicious about which books I accept for consideration and rarely request books specifically (most often I end up responding to books that are pitched to me — I figure if a publisher/author is offering the book, they’re ok with the terms I’ve outlined in my review policy). If that policy is not ok, they are free to either not pitch or refuse a request for a book.

Broadly, I think it’s a matter of bloggers asserting their independence and building trust with readers that they’re only writing about books that are worth talking about, not every book that a publisher sends them.

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Swapna June 20, 2014 at 8:35 am

I agree – I get more unsolicited books for review than I could ever possibly read, much less the pitches I accept and few that I request. The fact is I have limited space and limited time, and my readers trust me not to waste their time talking about books I don’t have anything to say about. (It’s those “meh” books I have trouble reviewing, not the positive or negative reviews.) Plus I don’t always know I do or don’t want to read a book until I can look through it. Like you, Kim, I’m judicious about what I accept and request but I know fully well that I can’t cover everything.

I really haven’t had a publicist take issue with my review consideration terms. The few that have, I’ve chosen not to work with again, and I completely understand if they don’t want to work with me.

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Sara June 24, 2014 at 3:17 pm

I’m so late in getting back to this conversation, but I am in complete agreement that you have the right to decide what to do with unsolicited books, but that’s not what we’re talking about, is it? I’ll admit, I don’t know enough about the BforB program, but I assumed it was a path for requesting books, and those books are the ones I was talking about. If you asked for it, and they gave it, I can see why they would expect a review – not like a marketer, but like a critic, as you said, Kim. If you didn’t like it, or if it didn’t meet your expectations, say so.

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Kim June 24, 2014 at 7:33 pm

I would say that the idea of getting a review when a book is sent is an expectation that publishers only put on bloggers. There is not an expectation of coverage — even for requested books — for members of editorial media. I don’t think this is a good expectation for bloggers either.

Here’s a scenario that I think illustrates the issues I’d have being part of BFB: Assume that I joined the program and requested a book. Once I start reading, I realize that this book just isn’t going to be for me. Because it’s part of this program, which requires a review on my blog, I have two options: 1) Finish reading the book and write about it, or 2) DNF the book and write a review about why I didn’t finish it.

I don’t like either of those options. I don’t want to have to spend time reading and writing about books I don’t like or don’t think are good, and I don’t want to be required to write about books I didn’t want to finish. I don’t think either option is a good use of my time or a good use of the attention I have from readers.

Individual bloggers need to decide if those terms are worth it to them. I’d argue that, in general, they’re troublesome, but that’s not a personal choice I can make for everyone.

chrisbookarama June 20, 2014 at 7:46 am

When I first started blogging, I joined several book review sites (Harper’s program was one) and blog tours, but the pressure to review was too much. Sometimes the book that was so appealing 2 weeks before, turns out not to be once I received it. This whole thing prompted me to rewrite my policies page, including the phrase for review consideration.

I’m often shocked at the things new bloggers think are required. Recently, one tweeted that she thought book bloggers had to review new releases to be relevant. I was like, “Let me check me book blogger rule book…oh wait, there isn’t one!” They see what “everyone else” is doing and think that’s the procedure. It’s not. YOU DO YOU! If reviewing new books makes you happy, do that. If reviewing old books makes you happy, do that. It’s your blog, your rules.

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Kim June 22, 2014 at 8:42 am

“It’s your blog, your rules.”

Yup.

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Florinda June 22, 2014 at 12:56 pm

I just tweeted that quote about the book-blogger rule book, because ABSOLUTELY yes.

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Shannon @ River City Reading June 20, 2014 at 8:17 am

Thank you so much for bringing up the language of review copies. I know that it’s the “suggested” wording for FTC disclosure, but I cringe every time I see “I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review” at the start of a blog post. I make it very clear in my review policy that I can’t promise to review every book I receive, but will carefully consider each one that comes my way.

I can understand the question of “Well, you got a book…why wouldn’t you review it?” This isn’t meant to sound show-boaty, but if we’re reading 100-200 books a year (because we really do love reading), there’s really no way to review that many books on a blog that is meant to be a hobby. What that means is we become curators of our own content and start choosing what will be reviewed and what might not.

I totally think that publishers should be able to decide who they send books to based on whether or not they feel it’s worthwhile, but I’m not sure that a program limiting bloggers that way is going to work better than actually reading blogs and building relationships.

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Kim June 22, 2014 at 8:41 am

The whole FTC disclosure thing is so frustrating, especially when it comes to books, because there really is no “exchange.” ARCs are worth nothing (in dollar value), so you can’t have an exchange, and a book for review consideration is not compensation in the same way that, say, a free trip or product might be. I hope we can start moving away from that language.

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Teresa June 22, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Yes, this. I really bugs me that review copies have gotten wrapped up in the whole sponsored content discussion in the FTC guidelines. That’s another reason I avoid the exchange language. I want to keep it clear that I’m writing about a book because I chose to, not because I had to.

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Kate @ Ex Libris (@ExLibris_Kate) June 20, 2014 at 8:24 am

I started blogging 3 years ago and it took me a while to feel comfortable wit the idea that I didn’t have to review a book just because I received a copy. I see a lot of new bloggers putting all of their worth into the number of followers and how many books they get, which I think the publishers encourage, to a certain extent, but I also think it discourages honest, critical reviews. When a review is required, the implication is, “we want this to be a good review”. You also make a very good point in a comment response about the difference between being a reviewer and being a vehicle for publicity. I think it’s harder for book bloggers because the line between being a publicity tool and being a critical reviewer does get blurred. I certainly straddle those two categories on a regular basis.

Thanks for writing this post – it’s really given me something to think about!

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Kim June 22, 2014 at 8:39 am

It took me a long time to get over the guilt of ARCs and feeling like I wasn’t meeting some standard if I didn’t get to all of them. I can’t remember when that switch turned, but at this point I don’t worry about it at all.

You’re right though — I think there’s a lot of jealousy or judging yourself against other bloggers if you don’t have access to review copies that perpetuates some of this. I’m not sure what we do about that, but it’s worth discussing too.

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Rich June 20, 2014 at 8:30 am

As a blogger and freelance book publicist, I have no problem with a reviewer choosing not to review a book after requesting one (old-school media do it all the time). Yes, if I see a pattern of bloggers requesting books that never get reviewed I may be less inclined to send them books in the future. But, that’s not unique either: there are bookstores who request extra “review” copies only to put them on sale at full price (or try to swipe them at conferences), but, hey, every industry has its dicks and bad practices.

As a blogger, even if I don’t formally review something I find I have little to say about, I am still likely to have added it to my goodreads list, maybe tweeted that I was reading it, and will probably mention it in passing in the context of reviewing something else or writing a roundup post. So, I am giving the book some “exposure” (which is apparently so valuable that many magazines want to pay contributors with it).

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Kim June 22, 2014 at 8:37 am

Thanks for your perspective, Rich. I have experience in editorial media and felt pretty confident that was the case, but it’s nice to see that validated from the outside. I think it’s fair that publicists would stop pitching to bloggers they don’t feel are living up to the standards they set in terms of # of reviews or whatever… but I’m not going to jump through hoops to prove or not prove that.

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Leah @ Books Speak Volumes June 20, 2014 at 8:47 am

I love this post! I’ve recently changed my language in my review policy and requests to publishers to make it clear that I will consider he book for review but do not guarantee coverage. However, I’m having more trouble with how to change the wording of my disclaimer when I do review a book I received from a publisher.

I’ve always posted a “I received a complimentary copy of this book on exchange for my honest review.” note at the end of my reviews. Given what you said in this post, and other things I’ve read recently, I’d like to change this to a more accurate disclosure, but I’m having trouble figuring out an elegant way to remove “in exchange for” while still noting that I did receive a free copy if the book. What would you suggest? “In exchange for review consideration?” Just noting the source as “publisher” if you use the Ultimate Book Blogger Plugin?

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Kim June 20, 2014 at 8:55 am

Good question Leah! I usually put something like this in my reviews: “Acquired: From the publisher for review consideration.” I think you could just rephrase what you have to something like “I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.” That, to me, is still accurate, but doesn’t have the word “exchange” in it.

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Leah @ Books Speak Volumes June 25, 2014 at 10:40 am

Great point! I’ll do that moving forward.

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Chrisbookarama June 20, 2014 at 2:11 pm

I usually just add a sentence at the bottom: “Thanks to X publisher for the review copy.”

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Ann@booksonthetable June 20, 2014 at 8:52 am

I don’t feel obligated to review a book just because I’ve received a copy. As Rich mentioned, there are many other ways to give a book exposure besides reviewing it. Even including it on my blog’s list of books read seems like decent exposure. But as an unpaid blogger, I’m not required even to do that. I receive (both solicited and unsolicited) many, many ARCs; chances are I’ll fall in love with a few of them and write very positive reviews on my blog. But when a publicist provides me with a book, he/she is taking a chance that I may or may not review it, and that if I do review it, it may not be positive. That’s how it works. I think the only moral obligation I have is to give the book a fair shot (that is, try to read it!) and if I decide to review it, to review it honestly.

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Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader June 20, 2014 at 9:09 am

I’m so glad you wrote this. The comments have been wonderful too.

The exchange language is particularly troubling to me. I’ll always mention the source of a book I’m reviewing but I never want it to sound like I was bought off with that book.

I consider the relationships I have with authors and publicists as a mutually beneficial one. As soon as one of us starts making rules for the other…well, that changes everything. I’m not an employee. I do what I do because I love reading and I love books.

We can get our hands on a book without having to jump through these new hoops. I hope that bloggers will think twice before they agree to start jumping.

Great article, Kim!

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Nadia June 20, 2014 at 9:46 am

Great post! I’ve just received several emails inviting me to join blogging for books and was not too happy about it. I started blogging because I love to read and just wanted to write about the books I was reading. I thought it would be a neat way to chat about books with other book bloggers. I never thought it would be a way of getting free books. Of course when I began to get emails about free books, I was excited and accepted some of them. I still do accept ARCs and have really enjoyed a lot of them – in fact, some of them have become my favorite reads. However, I have never agreed to post a review of the ARCs I have received, nor have I ever agreed to post a positive review of an ARC I have received. Its my blog and my choice of what gets posted. I do mention that the ARCs were provided by the publisher if I post about them, but that is all I mention. I always figured if they didn’t like my negative reviews or reviews in general than they didn’t have to pitch me any more books. At the end of the day, I love to read and I post about the books or bookish things I want to write about. Free books are nice, but not essential in book blogging. After all, as an avid reader, I’m addicted to buying books, so there never is a shortage of books to write about :)

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Priscilla June 20, 2014 at 10:27 am

This is timely because I just got an email from NetGalley about not having reviewed enough of my requested titles. Sometimes the books I request do not appeal to me, even though I hoped they might, and I don’t finish them. I’m not going to write a review of a partially finished book! In this case I wish that these sites had a “Revert Request” option so that I could “Return” the book or somehow otherwise say it’s not for me. I don’t have a lot of time to read as it is, so I won’t finish something out of obligation. I realize some people would say that I should stop requesting, but I do request everything in good faith and I’m picky. I’m not just looking to collect the latest and greatest before it hits the shelves so I can get free books. I review all the books I finish, even if the reviews are negative, but I don’t post all the reviews to the blog.

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Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf June 20, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Priscilla, I started submitting feedback via NetGalley when I decide not to finish/review a book. I just thank the publisher for the opportunity, letting them know I won’t be reviewing the book on my blog, and giving a very simple 1- or 2- sentence reason why (not a review in any way, just a courtesy). A “DNF, this book didn’t work for me” button would be amazing, though…quick and painless.

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Kim June 20, 2014 at 1:20 pm

This is a good suggestion, thanks Monika. The whole review percentage is one of the reasons I’ve been avoiding NetGalley lately. I tend to request anything that seems remotely interesting, just to see what I think (and since it’s electronic, I feel like it’s low risk for everyone involved), but am not always great at finishing electronic galleys. It’d be nice to have a DNF type of button to keep that number looking reasonable.

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Teresa June 22, 2014 at 9:29 pm

I do the same thing. When I realize a book isn’t going to work for me and that I won’t be writing a review, I just note that on the feedback line. I don’t usually even give a reason why, other than that it wasn’t a good fit for me. I think it signals that I give a good faith look at books I request, which is the most I think publishers can really expect.

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Laura June 20, 2014 at 11:20 am

The distinction between marketing and criticism is really interesting. We’re kind of both, kind of neither. I don’t believe book bloggers are the same as literary critics, but I think we’re closer to that than we are to a satellite marketing department for publishers… or should be!

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Kim June 22, 2014 at 8:33 am

Yes, bloggers are sort of in the middle. But on the whole, I’d rather be treated more like a critic than a paid enthusiast and so try to act that way.

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Sheila (Book Journey) June 20, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Sounds like they are making some positive changes.

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Katie @ Words For Worms June 20, 2014 at 12:19 pm

I really hadn’t thought about the whole language problem with the phrase “in exchange” until now. I plan to change my phrasing on my disclosures moving forward!

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Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf June 20, 2014 at 1:12 pm

I signed up for Blogging for Books (and requested my first title) before hearing about the original concerns, so I was relieved that things had changed by the time I submitted my first review (yesterday).

I hadn’t thought about the “exchange” phrasing in the disclosure until now, either. I think I’d like to reword that from here on out.

This is just me, but I actually DO feel that I need to review a book I request, which is what I’m doing on the BfB website, Edelweiss, NetGalley, etc. If a publisher sends me a book I didn’t actually ASK for, I absolutely don’t feel obligated to review it, but will consider it. But if I request a review copy, well, I feel like “review copy” implies an action. (Totally my own feelings, what makes me feel comfortable, which is why I don’t have an issue with the BfB requirements at this time… always subject to change, of course haha).

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Kim June 22, 2014 at 8:32 am

That’s fair. I don’t feel that way, which is a good chunk of what this post is about. I especially don’t feel that way with egalleys because there’s really no cost to them. I request many books on NetGalley and Edelweiss just to peek at them that I don’t end up reading and I feel absolutely no guilt about that.

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Kristopher June 20, 2014 at 4:32 pm

This is a great post. I also don’t always get around to reviewing every book I request. Most publishers understand that getting the books into the hands if readers who may appreciate it is a valuable thing. Chances are, I am going to like a percentage of the books they send me (or that I request) because they begin to know my interests. No one blog can cover everything.
I think that most publishers understand this. Since I never post negTive reviews, this means that certain books just aren’t of the quality I wish to promote. I agree that they have the right not to send me books, but I hope – and think- they see the vault of those times I do review a title as worth the risk.
If they want me to market for all their books, they are welcome to add me to the payroll.

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emma June 20, 2014 at 10:04 pm

I still don’t understand why one would request a book and then not read and review it. If you are not going to read it and speak about it, why then request it in the first place?

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Kim June 22, 2014 at 8:30 am

To be clear, the issue of requesting a book and then choosing not to review it doesn’t happen often for me (mostly because I don’t request many books, just respond to pitches). But I think it’s important to keep the option to do that. How often have you picked up a book based on cover copy or hype or the reputation of the author and discovered after a few chapters that it wasn’t for you? That happens to me all the time. It mostly happens with books from the library, but I’ve had it happen with review copies too. I don’t think it’s a great practice to get into reaching out to publicists and asking for titles, then not doing anything with them, but it’s an option I retain for my own integrity and the integrity of this space.

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Jenny @ Reading the End June 21, 2014 at 7:07 am

Wonderful post as usual, Kim. I do use the “in exchange for an honest review” language, but you’re right that it doesn’t reflect the real relationship between the review and receiving the copy of the book. “For review consideration” is a much better way of stating it.

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Jeanne June 21, 2014 at 7:42 am

If a publisher sent me an email about a program called “For Your Consideration,” I might consider reading some of their books and considering them for review on my blog. Until then, no.
Twice now I’ve been sent a book so bad I didn’t want to review it, because that would not only be an ungrateful response but unrewarding for me to write (or for my readers, since both books were very little known).

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Katie @ Doing Dewey June 21, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Honestly, I started reading your post expecting to disagree with you and was unsure why you wouldn’t want to review books you’d specifically requested. This is because I feel that getting advanced review copies is a huge privilege and if a publisher spends the time and money to send me a book, especially one I’ve specifically requested, I do owe them a review. I don’t think I owe them a positive review and feel very strongly about writing honest reviews, but if I’m not going to write a review, I should just wait like the rest of the world and either buy the book or get it for free at the library. However, I think you made a fantastic point about not wanting to become a community of paid enthusiasts. We are not here to serve publishers. We’re here to serve our readers. While personally I feel like publishing an honest review of every book I receive is the way I can guarantee my blog continues to prioritize the needs of my readers over the needs of publishers, I get where you’re coming from a lot better now. I can definitely see how other bloggers, including yourself, would see a program or interaction which requires a review in exchange for a review copy as a problem for the integrity of your blog. Thanks for the helpful, thought-provoking post!

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Kim June 22, 2014 at 8:26 am

I’m glad the post got you thinking! I absolutely get where you’re coming from when it comes to books you’ve specifically requested. I rarely do that (I usually just respond to books pitch to me), but when I do request books I try to review them. But I don’t want to get into a system where I HAVE to review them, even if I’ve asked, because sometimes a book just doesn’t work.

An example: I write some book reviews for a newspaper I used to work for in Wisconsin. I pitched my editor on a title from a university press that I thought might be good for the newspaper’s audience. She asked me to request the book, read a bit, and let her know if I still thought it would be good — she was concerned it might be too academic. I requested a copy of the book and read the first few chapters, but quickly realized it wasn’t going to be a good fit for me or that audience. I didn’t end up reading that one at all.

That’s something that happens in editorial media rather frequently, I’d argue. I personally don’t do it often on the blog, but I strongly believe I should retain that option.

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Katie @ Doing Dewey June 22, 2014 at 9:02 pm

That makes a lot of sense! In nonfiction, accidentally requesting a book that’s too academic is a always a risk. Although so far I’ve done short reviews when that happens, I think they’re some of my least helpful reviews and might consider adopting your policy on those in the future or at least only posting my review to goodreads. I think you always have really high quality content on your blog and I’m sure the fact that you’re so selective about what you review is part of the reason why.

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tanya (52 books or bust) June 22, 2014 at 11:26 am

You made me realize that I always say that I received a book in exchange for an honest review. I must change that. There are some publishers I work with who I know don’t expect a review for every book they send me. For me, I still like to give a review, especially if i like a book, as a way of saying thank you. To me this has been a win-win situation. They now have a better idea of what I like and send me the books i would have been excited about anyways. Once in a while they send me something outside of my comfort zone, but they give a reason for doing so.
But none of us should be blogging for books. I blog about books for two reasons: I like talking about the books I’m reading and because people tend to come to me for recommendations.

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Florinda June 22, 2014 at 1:13 pm

I just disclose the source of any book I review, even if it’s “purchased.” For the last couple of year, most of the ARCs I’ve received are for my freelance work, and those reviews get published elsewhere first–I include a statement to that effect when I cross-post them on my blog later. There is NO expectation or obligation to review every book I get as a freelancer, and I’ve come to apply the same thinking to any book–galley or final copy–that comes my way as a blogger. (Blog tours are an exception, and that’s a major reason I rarely do them anymore.)

The “…in exchange for an honest review” language bothers me on a couple of levels, both of which are admittedly nitpicky. One is the implication that without such a disclosure, the review might be DIShonest; I doubt that’s intentional, but sometimes it does read that way. The second is that I think what is really meant is “an honest OPINION” rather than “review.”

I love what Jeanne said about a publisher “For Your Consideration” program, and I love the discussion this post has inspired here.

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Kim June 24, 2014 at 7:35 pm

I’ve been trying to do that as well, just mention where any book comes from (purchased, library, review copy). It’s easier to just do that on all posts than trying to decide what should be mentioned.

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Finley Jayne June 24, 2014 at 12:46 pm

I found your blog yesterday and chimed in on your other post about this. I was a bit confused after reading it, and now I’m really confused after reading this post oiy!

So you’re saying that you actually request books and receive them, and sometimes don’t even review them? I guess I just can’t wrap my mind around this-getting free books, because you’re a book blogger (I’m assuming they’re not giving out free copies of books to people who don’t have book blogs?), and then you’re not being obligated in some way to do something with that book (general you/you’re here).

Why are ARC programs even around? What are publishes and authors gaining by these programs, if bloggers aren’t expected to follow through with a review? I think I must be missing something here, because a Books for Bloggers type program makes sense to me-a book is given, in exchange of a review posted on a blog (or elsewhere). I thought that’s what ARCs were. I thought that’s why so many bloggers are always posting ARC reviews on their blogs?

Totally not being snarky, I’m actually really confused :p

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Kim June 24, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Yes, on occasion I’ve requested a book, received it, and ended up not doing anything with it because it wasn’t what I thought it would be, didn’t enjoy it, something like that. That’s pretty rare (although I couldn’t tell you how rare), but it’s happened.

Publishers do want to build buzz about books ahead of the release date, which is why they send out ARCs to reviewers. But most of those times, those ARCs are sent out with the hope of a review of mention, not the expectation that one is definitely happening. That’s not the case with Blogging for Books, which is a choice that program is making. I don’t think it’s a good trade off, so I’m choosing not to participate. In the case of BFB, it’s not an option to post elsewhere (they specifically say reviews on blogs, not Goodreads or other sites).

ARCs are designed to build buzz, but in most cases are not offered “in exchange” for a review.

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Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings June 24, 2014 at 2:48 pm

I really like the idea of switching to for review consideration instead of for review and I think I’ll be making this change on my blog. I’m currently hitting that point where I can’t get to all the physical ARCs I’m getting (some from request, most from agreeing to pitched email, some unsolicited), which I’ve been blaming myself for and getting stressed over. Don’t even get me started on my eARC pile…. Switching to accepting books for review consideration would definitely cut down on my stress!

I think one reason newer bloggers might be afraid to do this is for the concerns of many in the comments. If publishers look at a new blogger’s policy and see that they don’t guarantee a review, would the publisher possibly then give the ARC to a different reviewer that does guarantee a review? Obviously when you are an established blogger receiving 100s of review copies a week, you won’t be able to read it all and don’t have to worry about not getting books you especially want (unless there just aren’t ARCs, etc). However, newbie bloggers don’t have that reassurance and are probably happy to guarantee a review if that means that they’ll actually get approved for a coveted ARC.

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Kim June 24, 2014 at 7:41 pm

I think those are some valid concerns for new bloggers who are hoping to start getting review copies. But I think promising a review isn’t necessarily the strategy — most publicists look at the quality of the blog, etc., when thinking about who to send books, not necessarily people who promise to do one thing or another.

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Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings June 24, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Good point, I hope (perhaps naively) that all publicists focus on the quality of the blog (though then how do we define quality is a whole other issue) instead of the bloggers review policy. On the other hand, if we succeed in shifting what is considered normal in the book blogging community, newbie bloggers wouldn’t have to worry, so hopefully we can succeed at that ;-).

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Charleen June 24, 2014 at 6:43 pm

I honestly don’t have an issue with that part of the program; just like bloggers, they have the option to set their terms, and we can choose to work with them or not.

But I agree that there are a lot of issues with language and expectations in the book blogging world as a whole. The best we can do is figure out what works for us and then make that clear.

Personally, if I’m the one doing the requesting, then I do want to send some sort of feedback, even if I don’t finish or review the book. I’ve never accepted a review request or received any unsolicited review copies… if I did, my feelings on what to do with those books would be different.

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Kim June 24, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Yep, that’s totally true. They can set terms and individuals can choose to participate or not. And we all make decisions about how to deal with certain books or requests in ways that make us comfortable.

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Tabitha (Not Yet Read) June 26, 2014 at 5:22 pm

I’ve never felt like I had to provide a review in order to continue to receive additional review books. Has it happened that I didn’t receive any more from a particular publicist if I consistently didn’t provide review feedback, most likely. In those cases though that was my intention (that I didn’t want to review those particular unsolicited books) Do I worry sometimes if I don’t review a book that I might be cut off? Sure – who wouldn’t. But I’m not going to let that force me to read a book that I’m not interested in anymore. I’ve definitely already updated my FTC to reflect just it being provided by the publisher and my review being honest not that it was in exchange for. So I like the sound of that better as well. I think the switch to review consideration is a good move.

I do want to support the publishing industry but unfortunately I think that currently some of them are treating us like employees rather than the readers that we are. I already consider my blog a professional hobby what with the blood sweat and tears I pour into it. But by no means does that give publishers the right to demand something of us. ARCs are NOT FOR SALE and neither are my reviews.

I love your posts dear…I think I’ve read more now on this topic today from your links then anywhere else. I’ll definitely be sharing the links this week =)

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Kim June 26, 2014 at 7:50 pm

Thank you! I’m glad they helped spark some thinking. There’s no book blogger manual that says there is a right or wrong way to do things, but I do hope we’re all open to having discussions about how to approach these issues better.

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Susan Ruszala July 1, 2014 at 8:21 am

A bit late to this post but we’ve been following along as the comments stream in and wanted to provide our perspective. NetGalley, of course, provides digital advance reading copies to bloggers, as well as librarians, booksellers, media and educators, to help build buzz and anticipation for new titles. We work with over 250 publishers and hundreds of authors.

Our philosophy has always been to harness AUTHENTIC enthusiasm for new books, not obligatory enthusiasm. This is why registration for the site has always been open, and why we don’t require members to provide feedback for a title they receive through the site.

On the flip side, we absolutely respect the commercial obligations of publishers who are looking to maximize exposure for their authors and titles. This is why publishers have always been able to apply their own criteria for approving or declining requests for digital galleys, and why we ask all members to provide a complete profile about how they recommend books.

Blogger reviews are essential for the publisher—not only because you recommend books to your audience, but also because early enthusiasm for a new book builds support for that title with retailers, helps the author understand how to better connect with their fans, and helps the publisher gain internal support for marketing that title.

Providing feedback ratios—as mentioned in the comment string above—isn’t intended to handcuff book bloggers into reviewing every book they receive! That ratio was added as a direct result of members who wrote to us saying that they wanted more tools to keep track of how many books they were reviewing (and in some cases, to keep from requesting more books than they could possibly read!).

As a platform, if NetGalley can help new books and authors find audiences, we all win. Striking the right balance between reviewing communities (like bloggers) and publishers/authors is an important role, and we welcome your feedback and suggestions at any time. Thanks for this post, Kim!

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