A Cheeky Question

There are some days I trawl around the blogworld and think that everyone but everyone gets more review copies than I do.

And then there’s the rest of the time in which I am altogether more sensible. Part of me really wishes that more of the tempting books I see in the bookstore just appeared through my door, but then I wise up and think how very hard it is for me to get through a fraction of my ongoing reading list, how often books I’ve bought because I was longing to read them end up sitting on the shelves or in my overflow pile for months because there is just so much I want to read, and of course how many of the offers that are made to me of review copies I turn down because I’ll only accept books that I like the sound of enough to guarantee they won’t languish unread, filling me with guilt. When it comes to it I don’t take on many review copies because I feel I couldn’t guarantee timely reviews, plus I have a complete horror of looking greedy or unprofessional (which is nonsense – of course I’m greedy about books, you don’t have to visit here more than once to figure that out!). So I end up feeling very ambivalent about it all.

(I should add at this point that the only books I’ve been offered with regularity recently are ebooks, and many apologies but I can’t read them – I don’t own an ereader and cannot imagine reading a whole novel with pleasure off a computer screen.)

All of which prompts a rather cheeky inquiry on my part – I’m wondering how long it takes other bloggers to get around to reading review copies that they’ve been sent. Do you prioritise them? Do you always read them all?

If I have been offered a review copy and formally accepted it, then I will certainly read that book as soon as possible, and review it – unless I really didn’t enjoy it. Funnily enough nothing kills my traffic like a negative review (now why does that happen? Another difficult question to answer) and so I can’t see the point of that for any of us.

I do occasionally receive books that I haven’t formally asked for. These I do try/hope to read, but often don’t get around to very fast.

It occurs to me that I could perhaps try harder to get review copies sent, but I feel very inhibited about soliciting copies from publishers. And I’m afraid that if I did manage it, they would undoubtedly come along all at once, in the manner of buses, and I would have all my reading time bound up with reviews for weeks ahead.

So what is the etiquette with reviewing books – do you review them all, and fast, or do you think it’s okay to leave them to one side for a while? Do you feel guilty if you don’t review books you’ve been sent, or do you think that’s just part of the gamble publishers take when sending review copies out? Have you asked for books to review – and been successful? That’s more than one cheeky question, isn’t it? But I’m very curious to know how other bloggers work this, and what’s considered normal behaviour.


30 thoughts on “A Cheeky Question

  1. I’ve the worst blogger for taking review copies and reviewing them so many months later, even though I don’t get many (I got four last year). It’s why I’ve tried to commit to not taking them this year (agh but I took one this month, because it’s a book I really wanted anyway). I think negotiating review time with the publisher is a good idea, so you lay out how long you were thinking and ask if they need it posted around any particular date. Some have strategies while some are happy to leave it up to you.

  2. Litlove, hello.

    Most often I ask publishers for books, either because I hear of them or read about them. A few are lined along a bookshelf within sight of me. Some review outlets only want to discuss books that were published 12 months ago or less. Much different from a blog where you can take your time. One or two review outlets send me books they want reviewed, so I don’t ask them for anything except, for the last year, fiction by women, as that’s a hole in my reading. When I contact a publishing house for a book, I also ask them to remember to send me their next catalogue. This stretches out the time considerably. Also, I try not to review books I remain cold to, as then it’ll be a chore, so why waste that energy to produce something that will be subpar? I don’t feel guilty about not reviewing those books, as a badly written review is an insult and unhelpful in every way to everyone involved. Each book has its time, of course, but I do try and review them in the order I get them, unless a short book offers itself ahead of a longer, more complex-seeming one.

    Publishers seem very thankful to have anything reviewed, but do like faster reviews. However, a slower-appearing review in something like _Review of Contemporary Fiction_ (where reviews are 300 words and the plot is not to be talked about) means exposure to people who really like books. You could give them a test run and see what they send you. They do get fiction and non-fiction in french now and then.

  3. I try to read them promptly, out of courtesy, but there are some books I don’t get to for a while. If I’ve asked a publisher for a book, I’ll be more likely to read and review it quickly than a book the publisher asked to send to me. But if I ask a publisher for a book, it’s because I desperately want to read it, so it would be high on my TBR pile anyway.

  4. I don’t think I’m any help because I identify with pretty much everything you say here–I’m interested to hear what other people say though.

    I typically don’t take on too many galleys (I don’t want to feel obligated to read/review something I don’t enjoy) and am usually okay with that. 🙂 I do feel like an ARC is something on my To Do list, so I end up getting to them pretty quickly (within a few weeks)…which sometimes leaves little room my personal reading. I’ve been thinking, though, of writing a more detailed review policy to alleviate some of that guilt.

  5. I’m kind of like you, convinced everyone else seems to be getting a book a day except me. That being said, I decided sometime ago that I don’t really want them. Our shelves are full of review copies grabbed at conventions over the years that never get read. Despite working in publishing and knowing review copies are a chance publishers take,I feel completely obligated to read and post ASAP, which takes the fun out of reading, to some degree. I felt so guilty about receiving two books for which I didn’t that I decided it best not to accept anymore (unless a publisher wants to send me David Sedaris or something, which none ever does).

  6. I think you know some of my answers to these questions, but I’ll share anyway. I hardly ever go out of my way to request review copies, and I don’t get tons of appealing offers. Almost every review copy I’ve gotten was offered to me, a book I won on LIbraryThing, or a book offered through a newsletter or monthly e-mail for reviewers. I think I’ve e-mailed publishers out of the blue three or four times. It half-worked once. (I requested copies for Jenny and I to do a conversation review, and she got one, but I didn’t. Someone mistyped my address, I’m guessing.) I’m sure if I contacted more publishers more often, I’d get positive responses, but like you, I don’t want them all coming through my door at once. I’m reserving that approach for books I know I’d read the minute I got them, books I’d reserve at the library or buy as soon as they’re available if I didn’t get a review copy.

    I used to make reading review copies in a timely manner (as close to publication date as possible) a real priority, but hearing from publishers at the Book Blogging Convention in New York this past May convinced me that they don’t expect every book to get reviewed. I’m sure they’d rather they did, but they seem to recognize non-review as a risk they’re taking when they send books out. I figure that I’m not doing the book any favors if I’m feeling pressure to read it, so I’d rather wait until the time and my mood is right. Plus, I want to make sure I’m reading a mix of old and new books because that’s more fun for me, and it’s what I most enjoy reading about on other blogs.

  7. i’ve stopped requesting review copies simply because not being able to get round to reading and writing about them leaves me feeling guilty and I don’t want my greatest pleasure marred in that way. Yes, I often have a moments envy when other bloggers write about all the books that drop through their letterboxes, but a quick look at the overburdened book shelves soon sorts that out. If publishers send me books unsolicited, then I think it’s perfectly fair on my part to read and review them only if I feel like it. I hate having my reading dictated to me.

  8. This is a timely post for me as I am off on some protracted travels next week and so have set myself the task of reading a number of review copies that have been looking reproachfully at me for weeks, possibly even months. I certainly don’t get as many as some people, and in fact I sound a bit like you in this — they do arrive unasked sometimes, but I also accept them if I like the sound of them. Sometimes I open them straight away and if I like them I’ll keep reading. Sometimes I don’t like them and then I don’t read them at all. And sometimes — quite often — I put them on the shelf and think I’ll get around to them soon. I do feel slightly guilty if I don’t read them, or if I read them and don’t review them, but I believe the publishers are well prepared for this — hope so, anyway. I don’t like to write bad reviews of new books, though I have written negatively about books by well-known and successful writers because I think they can take it. Oddly, I’ve had some comments from people saying they are happy to read less than positive reviews — perhaps it makes a change from so much gushing about the books I do love. And yes I have asked for books and got them. In that case I think I have always reviewed them, because they’ll generally be books by people I already admire.

  9. I treat my library like a big warehouse of free review copies! 😉 That and now I’m on Netgalley, which doesn’t help you since you don’t have an ereader. Anyway, when I did accept review copies I didn’t read or review them all; some I started and realised instantly weren’t my taste, others I just, um, didn’t get to. I didn’t feel terribly bad about it either, since I never contacted a publisher for a review copy; they were always sent/offered to me (I loathe unsolicited books showing up in the mail; I had to e-mail a couple publishers about that). One book I contacted the publisher to ask for and when I got it, I read it and reviewed it quickly; I was excited after all! For me, though, with a great public library, a desire to have a relatively small personal library, and with my reading/blogging dependent upon my mood, review copies just aren’t the best way for me to get books to read.

  10. Interesting post and lots of interesting responses. I always read and review books in a timely fashion IF I have asked the publisher for the book. If I have agreed to read a book that a publisher wants to send me I most always do it. I feel no obligation to read or review books that come to me unsolicited.
    When I first started blogging I read this article (http://www.problogger.net/archives/2009/02/14/how-to-get-free-books-to-review-on-your-blog/) which helped me get started with communications to publishers.

  11. I have never requested review copies (at least, not for reviewing on my blog), partly because for the longest time I had no idea such a thing was possible, but then for the reasons others give, not wanting obligation or guilt to get in the way of the happy feeling of writing about what I want, when I want. I have been offered a very few, and have said yes to a couple, but they never came with any visible strings attached, so if I ended up uninterested, I just set them aside. I think I don’t write the kind of book blog that is a publicist’s dream!

  12. I was hesitant to accept review copies of any kind…bc of the sheer volume of books I already have on my TBR and then even more on my WishList. I decided at some point to give it a try and was overwhelmed in barely a week’s time. I immediately felt overwhelmed and responsible for those books. I put a halt on receiving any more review copies until I read the 5-6 I got snowballed with. I still receive email requests but if I’m not interested in the book, I don’t answer the request. Those review copies are still sitting on my TBR shelf btw…and I feel guilty about them everyday 😦 I don’t want to feel guilty about reading and blogging so the review scene just isn’t for me, I don’t think.

  13. I review it in a timely way, but that’s partly because I do so few of them. I can’t read PDF files well on my Kobo, so I did ask for a different format of one book I wanted to read through Net Galley. I contacted the publisher, and to my great pleasure received a paper ARC. I read it quite soon after receiving it, and fortunately loved it–so that was a positive experience for me.

  14. I sometimes apply for LibraryThing review copies, but rarely get them now because it takes so long to review them: I have almost 800 books in my unread pile, so applying for free ones would be madness. Sometimes I’m consumed by jealousy when my friends (especially one, who hustles with incredible energy and determination) gets things I’d like to get my hands on early), but I know that I’ll never get round to doing anything with the book in time.

  15. When I get e-mails from publicists, I usually ignore them because the books don’t sound like my cup of tea Every once in a while, a book sounds good and I request it. I always say first that I write about books I like and will review something only if I’ve had a good experience. And I never have because I’ve never been sent something I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed that I’ve wanted to write about it. I figure I’ve given the publicist fair warning, and if they don’t like these terms, they are free not to send the book. Last month, for the first time, I got something that I really liked, and read to the end — a non-fiction look at love, believe it or not. I figure I have until the end of this month to write about it, which is roughly thirty days since I finished it. I

    It’s never occurred to me that you could request a book — but I don’t think I’d do that. I figure that someday I’ll be depending on people to buy my books so I can afford to paint my kitchen, so it’s only right that I should buy the books of other writers I know I want to read. (Or check them out from the library if money is tight.)

    And I don’t think this is a cheeky question at all — in fact, it’s really interesting to see the different options available to bloggers and how they are handled.

  16. Just to reassure you, Litlove, I’ve never received (nor requested) a book for review. You win! Unfortunately, that means I won’t be able to answer any of the cheeky questions you’ve thrown out for consideration (I’ll be happy to follow along to gauge the consensus opinion, though). 😀

  17. I’m not too keen on review copies and would always say no, unless I wanted to read it anyway. I could imagine asking publishers. I love getting review DVDs and watch them immediately.

  18. I’ve never requested a book from a publisher, but I have accepted books that have been offered. I only take ones I would normally be interested in reading if I saw it at the library or in a bookstore and try to read and post about them in a timely manner. Sometimes I don’t manage to read the book and feel guilty but since I still intend to read it sometime I don’t feel that guilty. I rarely accept books with strings attached (must post by such and such a day, etc). I get unsolicited books in the mail from time to time and I figure with these since it was sent without asking me first I have absolutely no obligation to try and read it.

  19. Let me see, Litlove, how many review copies of books have I been sent? Let me get ready. First I’ll count on my fingers….then I’ll pull off my socks just in case I need my toes. So…how many…um….ah…I guess it would be – None. The Big Zero. Naught. Nada. Zippity Doo Da. In a word “Ziltch.” I’ve often wondered how one goes about getting review copies. I don’t do much book reviewing at The Curious Reader, other than to let others know if I liked a book or not. So maybe that’s why. At least, that’s what I’ll tell myself. Much less painful that way.

  20. I’d say I publish a review within a couple months, perhaps longer if the publication date is later. But after a couple months is up, I start to feel too guilty about not getting to it. That said, most offers I get (not that many) are totally unappealing and I ignore them (I never write back and actively turn down a book, which, perhaps, gets me taken off lists?). My mind changes on this subject regularly, but I’m in a mood now not to accept anything, because of the sense of obligation it brings. I do, however, love it when I get unsolicited books (very rare), because I feel like I can do with them whatever I want. Often, I give them away. I asked for a book only once — a book on women and cycling — and that was only because Stefanie forwarded me an offer she’d gotten, thinking I might be interested. So I knew the publisher was interested in giving out review copies.

  21. I’m very ambivalent about this as well. I do much better when a publisher or publicist offers a review copy with a posting date in mind. If I really want to read it I will accept it and then have a ‘deadline’ in mind so I know I will read it in a timely manner. That said I don’t really get all that many offers these days. If I do get offers they likely are for self-published books, which I am uncertain about. When you’re completely unfamiliar with a publisher/author it’s an unknown quantity–and with so many books to read, it’s just nice to have an idea the book is something you will really like. I have a little pile of books at my bedside that I need to read, but with library books and my own books, it’s fierce competition as to what I will choose to read since my reading time is really limited and I am very spoiled for choice. I have asked for review copies on occasion. Sometimes the publisher will respond and send it along, but my requests have also been ignored. Like Dorothy I tend to go back and forth about it all and at the moment I’m in more of a ‘say no’ mood just because of the guilt attached if I know I can’t get to the books right away.

  22. So far I have only participated in blog tours for advanced review copies of books. The schedule is agreed upon in advance so I know I have to read the book and post my review on a certain date. This system works best for me because if the schedule was open ended, I’m not sure I would be very disciplined about my reviews. Recently I’ve decided to not accept any ARCs because I just want to read whatever I feel like reading and not be on a schedule. I’ll be interested to see what readers of your blog think and how they handle these things.

  23. I’m not the ideal person to answer this as I’m very much outside of the review copy circuit myself (mostly by choice, though I’m sure it helps that I’m seldom offered anything too tempting to say no to). I’ve received about 8 review copies total in over four years of blogging, and in those cases I did feel pressured to get to them fast. I realised that this pressure came from no source other than myself, but I couldn’t help feeling it anyway, and the whole experience always stressed me out. But perhaps the more experience people have with review copies, the least likely they are to feel this inner pressure. Anyway, it was very interesting to see everyone’s responses to your question, so thanks for starting the conversation!

  24. I accept review copies only once in a very long while — I’ve had perhaps two or three? When I do, I read them whenever I feel like it. The one exception to this was a recent incident when I accepted a spot on a blog tour for a literary memoir I thought sounded interesting. Unfortunately, I got about 50 pages into it and it was absolutely dreadful. Unwilling to spend another 300 pages on this piece of garbage, I wrote politely and asked to be removed from the tour, and that was that. My TBR is so long (and getting longer) that I don’t want more books pitched to it at random. And, like Eva, I really *like* getting books from the library. Receiving review copies isn’t my preferred method of getting books.

  25. I’ve gotten up my nerve to request two books since I started blogging back in ’04. My first request in ’07 was ignored, which put me off rubbing my nose in another possible rejection until ’09. That book I received, though, but months after I’d requested the galley and at a time when I couldn’t mange to write a proper review and felt a good deal of guilt about not living up to my self-imposed obligations.

    I think it’s grown easier to obtain review copies, but these days I simply don’t want to hitch a ride on that particular carousel. I want the time to read older books; I want to read the new books I’m interested in on my own schedule and I’m happy to either purchase them or get them from the library. I’m rather burned out on reading a steady diet of standard issue reviews, to tell you the truth; I’d rather just take a recommendation from someone whose tastes I’ve grown to trust–I’m more inclined to look for some names from your list of favorites that I’ve missed over the years than to pick up the title that’s being reviewed on every other blog this month.

  26. Dear blogging friends – it’s been so interesting and instructive reading your comments. It seems as if the majority of us prefer to have only a small number of review copies that we really want to read, and so are quite happy to post on in a timely fashion. And quite a few would really prefer to avoid the whole review business together. So much for the opinion often mooted in journalistic pieces that bloggers are out for all they can get!

    I also think that publishers must have reservations about more ‘literary’ blogs and see them as less useful publicity venues (which seems odd, when literary fiction really needs the publicity).

    Patronising the library in these times of cuts does seem like a really good idea! But what about the unusual books that never make it to the library? Well it seems that asking for copies finds mixed success – and we just have to take our chances with it if we feel really motivated.

    And Ella? I’d love a copy – your gorgeous art really should be seen everywhere!

  27. I have now been blogging seriously for a year and I have never received a review copy. I haven’t been looking for them either. I was once offered a book by an author through my blog, although I didn’t feel any pressure about the review as it was done so casually… I do get a lot of books with giveaways though and try to offer a few as well, although it is not always easy financially with the postage fees here in Ireland.
    On the other hand, I have started reviewing for the British Journal for Canadian Studies. I am trying to be careful about it and only request one book at a time as I don’t want to get submerged since I already have a lot to read for my research.
    Sometimes, I get a bit jealous of all the books other bloggers receive, but let’s be honest, I would never be able to cope!

  28. Heh, I know that feeling of jealousy, until I realise I have 200 unread books on my shelves and really shouldn’t be complaining. And yet, you see people who receive over 5 review copies a week. I wonder how they keep up?

    When asked to review a book and I like it enough to do so (I’ve become more picky since the first few times when I was just happy to receive any review request) I always make sure I do reply with some kind of indication of the time. Especially copies which are mailed to me from the US or Australia (that happened once) can take more than 2 weeks to get here, which really slows down my ability to review it. I do try to make those copies a priority, but I have also learned that it doesn’t help your review of the book if you feel you need to read it but actually feel like reading something completely different.

    As for not reviewing copies you receive. I am sure it is okay with unsollicited copies if they are really not your kind of book? I would try to mention them somewhere in a post – perhaps, as an acknowledgement and to spread the word in one way or another. (Having only once received an unsollicited copy, I’m not sure how these things work).

    • I wanted to add to that that I think you may be right, more “literary blogs” or blogs who don’t participate in a lot of memes or don’t focus on much mainstream fiction or YA seem to receive less review copies, but then I can think of a few blogs who do.. Anyway, it would make sense, in a way? These “literary” books are often less widely available and receive less press, so I’m guessing marketing strategies like approaching bloggers are less of a priority too? And I wonder if, when you think about it, the bloggers who read these books like their own freedom to pick and choose too much to review only review copies.

      (I’m not sure I fit the category of “literary” blogger, also, I find the word “literary” so hard to use since the definition is unclear to me.

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