Ethically Speaking (aka A Bit of Background Information)

I was going to just post a blog with pictures of the latest books to arrive at Savidge Reads HQ of late but before I did I thought maybe I should discuss with you all the ethics behind Savidge Reads as a blog and me as a blogger. Actually the ethics, and in a way the integrity, of book blogging has been something that I have been thinking about over the last month or two. It was something that a few other bloggers and I discussed last week at various events. So here goes, though I am slightly dubious about putting this out there as someone somewhere is bound to take offense, especially if this post is skim read, but hey ho here we go…

When I first set up my blog back in September 2007 (with a different blog provider) I left a single review up of a Susan Hill novel and promptly didn’t do anything again until the December. From then on I posted for almost another year before getting any comments or regular readers. The idea behind the blog was to have a home for my book thoughts rather than my system at the time of using the back of old envelopes, random scrap paper etc, etc. At the time I was working for an off shoot of News International (don’t judge me) and the lovely people next door at TLS took pity on a certain book geek and started letting me have ex review copies etc. You should have seen the amount of postal sacks they got every single day!!!

After deciding to work for my current employer (who I never name or normally bring into the blog as I like to keep them separate, today warrants an exception) full time, and leaving News International in December 2009, being the book lover I am I wanted the books pages. Oddly everyone up north (the head office is in Leeds, I work from home in London) seemed only too pleased to let me do so. I initially thought that it was because they weren’t very ‘booky’ up there, and they aren’t in the main. When the sudden mass of parcels started to arrive I began to realise there was another reason they might have been happy to hand it over. Initially I was thrilled at these bookish deluges and so would pop a picture up on the blog of books incoming; I also did this when I would go on rather mad book buying sprees, to share with all three of my readers at the time. It became a little regular feature and remains so.

I share the pictures because I like seeing pictures of books other bloggers get on their sites. I often think ‘oooh I wish I had that one’ and hope that instills the same feelings in some of you. I also put the pictures up because you all might recommend a book in that pile I would never otherwise have planned to read and would have ended up at Gran’s or passed on to friends/book group members/the charity shop and instead I find little gems here and there that is a bonus for me and the books pages and the blog (that’s a lot of bonuses going round right there).

When you work on a magazine with a UK circulation of over 250,000 readers a month lots of people want their books to feature on your (very limited) two pages each issue. So naturally I get lots and lots of unsolicited copies coming through the door. I think people might believe I ask for every book that arrives here… I don’t. I can’t, wouldn’t and don’t complain as who out there that loves books wouldn’t love that arriving at your door? I have also discovered some absolute gems that I would have missed out on other wise as I mentioned above. What is slightly hurtful is when I get criticised (by email or by word of mouth) for it, or for ‘showing off’ with all the books that come in or am accused of blogging for free books/becoming a marketing tool.

I am not someone who thinks people should go into the book blogging world for the free books, it’s simply not ethical. If they ask to send a blogger something  or if they send books without asking that’s the publishers prerogative. Asking for books is very different. I can’t lie I have been known to ask for a book or three now and again, however this is done on the understanding that it will get read and my book thoughts will appear at some point (my review policy for Savidge Reads, not my work, will be on the blog soon).* I do email publishers though if all goes wrong with a book or a book I specifically asked for is actually not going to get featured for a while. 

I am not making any money from this site I simply do it for the love of books. I think the fact I have a nice amount coming in via my day job is not only a perk of the job but benefits all of you and means I have a diverse selection of books to write about. Having good relationships with publisher’s means I can get the odd author interview or giveaways and things. I don’t sell the review copies I don’t want, as I have rather a major ethical opinion on that – simply that’s its wrong. But that’s just my humble opinion.

I also don’t think you should go in to blogging looking to become some kind of celebrity reviewer/certified fountain of all knowledge on books aiming to take over the publishing world and eradicate/destroy/discourage the reading of any book you don’t like and make any book you do enjoy win every award going. We have book blogs, we aren’t reviewing for the NYT or The Guardian (not that I am saying their reviews are better than bloggers – lets keep a lid on that can of worms) or judging The Man Booker, no matter how wonderful some book blogs are. It’s lovely when people leave comments or when you meet them and they say that they like your blog. It’s delightful to get emails telling you someone bought a book you raved about, even if it might be they hated it and want you to reimburse them (that’s a joke). In fact it’s the comments, emails, friendships and discussion along with keeping a diary of my bookish life that keeps me posting and this blog going.**

I am hoping that all made sense and I haven’t caused a mass desertion of readers from the site, if I have… whoops. I think I just wanted you all to hear from the horses mouth, as it were, my personal ethics on blogging and particularly how books come here. Partly because there have been some wicked whispers not necessarily aimed at me, but also because it just seemed timely for me to tackle it all and get my thoughts out. Thanks for reading this far sorry if I waffled on, I know it was a long post today.

*In case any publishers are reading and thinking ‘oh but that title I sent hasn’t appeared on the blog’ either I am doing it on release date or just after or sadly I didn’t really love it and so it wont be appearing on the blog. A post and a page on my review policy is currently pending.
** Now if you do want to see some pictures of books that have come in to Savidge Reads, some requested some not, of late then do go to the post below. If not then I will see you tomorrow for more bookish fun and frolics.


Filed under Book Thoughts

104 responses to “Ethically Speaking (aka A Bit of Background Information)

  1. Hooray! Well said! 😉

  2. Dot

    I agree with you completely! I have just started receiving books from publishers which is just lovely and very much unexpected. I think as long as a blogger is still honest in their review regardless of whether they have been sent the book or have purchased it then there can’t be a problem.

    • It is lovely and I would never say people shouldn’t get books from publishers if publishers offer. I think chasing is slightly different uless you stick to your word or have good comminucation after the books are received. Mind you publishers wont keep contacting/sending books if they think something is amiss.

  3. I’ll have to come right out and say that I do get jealous of the wonderful piles of books that come your way. (Honestly though, which book lover wouldn’t?) But really, I like that you share your treasures with us, otherwise I’d never learn of the many books still waiting for me to read!

    Lovely post though. It feels good to air out those thoughts, no? =)

    • Michelle I get jealous of other peoples, we all do a bit its part of being book addicts. I dont do it to make people properly jealous though of course as that would put people off the blog and me lol. I do it because despite loving books, having the blog and the books page etc I am aware I may well be missing out on some corkers and have a limited knowledge of all the books and authors out there and thats where commenters and fellow bloggers come in, which is ace!

      I do feel much better for a small vent lol!

  4. Excellent post Simon. Good to hear your thoughts. Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you Harriet thats very kind of you, I was slightly worried that people would think ‘who does he think he is’ kicking off a little bit but its something that has been buzzing round my head for a while.

  5. Thank you for your candour, Simon.

    I realise that you may have been thinking about and writing this post for a few days but I hope that you don’t think that what I wrote in the last paragraph of my recent acquisitions post was in any way directed at you. I realise that a lot of the books you receive are through your work and that on the most part the books you post about are only the ones that you are interested in. I don’t like (and, in fact, unsubscribe from) blogs that are obviously only in it for the free books, and not even books that they are interested in.

    I have a review policy (a short one) on my blog where I say that I won’t compromise my integrity and I won’t; I have no qualms about posting negative reviews, for that reason. I have requested a few titles directly from publishers but that’s because they are books that I want to read and will review anyway; I figure that I’m doing them as well as myself a favour (is that naive)? Receiving books that I would have bought otherwise is preferable to receiving unsolicited books that I don’t want to read. As it is, I only have three or four publishing contacts that I receive books from and those are sporadic, based on my personal choices.

    Now, here is where I open a can of worms perhaps, it does annoy me that some bloggers are more renowned and showered with attention than others for reasons that I cannot entirely discern … they have no writing skills, don’t write particularly interestingly and yet are continually hosting give-aways, author interviews, receiving everything in a publisher’s current catalogue. Now, this is entirely sour grapes on my part, and I simply think it’s unfair – all I can do though is not read their blog. There is something quite sycophantic about blogs of this kind, which is why I avoid them.

    • Oh no I worried people might think I meant them with this post. I didnt mean you at all Claire, your comment made me laugh because as you said yourself you dont like it but then you all did it which made me chuckle. I wouldnt have thought that was aimed at me so fear not. I am now worried the sychopantic comment was… am joking.

      I dont do negative reviews but have no issue with other people doing them unless it verges on that ‘no one on earth should read this book’ and then I think ‘who are you to say that’. If people say why they didnt like it, justify it and back it up but appreciate some people might like it then I am all good with it.

      I can’t comment on the blogs you can’t discern partly as I dont know which ones you mean, and I wouldn’t ask, and also because I think every different blog has a different audience, style and agenda etc etc. (I need to get better with my own proof reading as sometimes my spelling and grammar must drive people away).

      I do think, and I should have put this in my blog, if you dont like a blog slowly but surely stop visiting it.

      • As I said, the blogs that annoy me and strike me as sycophantic, I don’t visit, so I’m obviously not referring to you! Blogging is such a demanding hobby that time is too short to invest energy into reading a blog that frustrates you, so I don’t.

        Interestingly I have just read a comment on someone else’s blog that ties in with what you’re saying: the commenter states that she doesn’t post photographs of the books she receives for review to maintain her integrity. I post about all the books I acquire to make me upfront from the outset… it’s funny how our approach to our “freebies” are subjective and differently managed.

      • I didnt think you were really refering to me Claire, but its nice to know you definitely werent haha.

        I do think its interesting the different ways we all operate our blogs. I think though as long as its done morally and with integrity and you remain true to yourself it doesnt and shouldnt matter.

  6. Good to hear your thoughts on this Simon. You are very lucky to recieve all of those books and I have to admit to being a bit jealous! I do often wonder why publishers send out so many books when they can’t possibly all be read, and wonder what happens to them all. I have a policy that I will immediately read anything that I have requested from a publisher and get the review out on the site straight away; that only seems polite. But then I don’t recieve unsolicited books at all.

    • I think for a publisher its just getting books out there that might be read instantly and then might be read at another point and raved about by word of mouth.

      I am impressed you can read and review a book instantly, I need just the right mood for each book and dont like a reading deadline, but then my contacts know this because we communicate a lot. Plus we all read differently which is part of the fun of blogging too.

      • I guess I only request titles that I really want to read!! backlogs make me twitchy and feel like homework too…

        I think you’re right about getting books out there instantly – I hadn’t thought of that. I’m never sure whether I like the idea of unsolicited books or not – I think I’d be too picky!

      • I think the good thing about unsolicited books in general is you might find a book/author that you never think you would read, try the first paragraph and then find you love their every word after that has happened a couple of times for me and was a most welcome experience. I am not slating unsolicited copies arriving at all without them my blog/work might be duller.

  7. gaskella

    Simon – this is why I love reading your blog so much. I love the way you put your thoughts down on the page in such an honest fashion. You keep us all thinking about it and that’s brilliant.

    I only really started getting a few freebies a short while ago, but I’m trying to cut back slightly so I can indulge on my whim reading more. I always say if a book was a freebie and which route it came from.

    I used to get slightly jealous, but getting freebies is a double-edged sword, I aim to read two or three books a week, and can’t cope with or commit to more, else those TBR mountains will never reduce!

    • I so agree with you, Annabel! I was so excited about getting free books, but I hated feeling that I couldn’t just read what I want – so I either request books that I know I want to read, or accept books with a very open proviso that I may never get round to reading them – which often leads authors to decide not to send them to me after all (though publishers rarely seem to mind). I’d rather that than them languish on my bookshelf and the author expect a review up any day…

      Plus, I’d like to think that my blog is characterised by a mix of old and new books, with a focus on interwar novels – for a while I was mostly reviewing new fiction, and that just doesn’t represent my taste.

  8. I have to chuckle at the thought of someone getting into blogging for the free books! Ha! I would just caution that person to be careful what they wish for! Listen, I think you have verbalized your thoughts here very nicely. I personally have never thought you were bragging about your newly received books. We all do it, don’t we? It is just that we all appreciate a good stack of books and know others are interested.

    I was interested in Claire’s comment about some bloggers who are like little celebrities, get every advanced copy on earth, all without seemingly having more talent than the rest of us. I wonder at that too. I look at those bloggers and try to figure out their secret. I’m still scratching my head. I think it probably comes down to marketing themselves more than anything, and spending way more time on their hobby than is healthy (especially if they are not getting paid!).

    • Yes careful what you wish for indeed in some cases but not in most. I think anyone going into book blogging for free books, fame or to make cash has come into it with completely the wrong agenda to be honest but thats just my humble opinion. It just annoyed me that I came under some criticism in various parts on the grapevine when I have the right morals and attitude, well I hope I do.

  9. Deb

    It’s become pretty standard on book-review blogs in America for the blog owner to post a disclosure explaining how he/she came into possession of the books being reviewed (review copy, purchased, read in galley proofs–or whatever the contemporary term is–etc.). I think it’s in part a response to some aspect of either tax law or FTC regulations, but I think it’s a good idea either way. A brief sentence next to the title in a review explaining the source of the book–and indicating that the book was not provided in exchange for a positive review. No “quid pro quo” in other words.

    • I dont think, and I say think, there is any tax issue if people get free books in this country and indeed non if you send all of your books afterwards (which as you can see I dont condone) I know that there is going to be a change in the latter though.

  10. Well I thought about this and I dont care, I dont care if you spend your cash on books or if tiny fairys fly in through your window at night and drop them at the end of your bed.

    I read alot of bookblogs and I read them for the reviews and in order to get ideas for books to add to my never ending TBR list. Book reviews are hard to come by in the popular press whereas with blogs I get to read very quickly a whole range of book reviews. This saves me walking blindly into waterstones and picking up a few books with covers which happen to catch my eye and then sometimes becoming quite disappointed.

    So I dont care how the books get to bloggers just that bloggers take the time to recommend some fantastic books which I would never have come across otherwise.

    • You response really made me giggle, I am glad you dont care Jessica. Some people do care though and have been slightly scathing about it, not just at me or to me but in general. Mind you I think sadly there has become a real vibe of competition between some bloggers which is a bit strange.

  11. This is a really interesting post, and I think really timely too.

    I used to be an editor at a major publishing house, and now I’m a freelance editor. I’ve been a bit hesitant about stepping into the book blogging world because of my involvement in publishing and because I do think that there’s an ethical element to it – I really don’t want people thinking that I’m praising a book because I’ve had something to do with it.

    For that reason, I’ve decided (privately and in my own head) never to review books I’ve worked on or authors I’ve worked with. This is something I think I will stick to pretty rigidly, even if it’s a book I want to praise to the skies. And you’ve made me think: if ever a publisher approaches me to review a copy of their book (very unlikely given my paltry two books reviewed to date) then I’ll let them know that I’m a freelancer and they can decide from there whether they want me to review their book. Personally, I’m not going to promise a good review, or no review, if I get sent a book I’m going to try to review objectively and without prejudice.

    As book pages in newspapers and magazines have been savagely cut recently, publishers have had to look to other ways of publicising their books. And there is nothing that beats word of mouth recommendations – in that way book bloggers are a boon to publishers, and I see absolutely no problem with them sending out review copies. As for book bloggers – I think each has to set his or her ethical parameters, but I think at least letting people know if they book was a freebie is the right thing to do.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Justine. I personally dont have any issue with people blogging about authors they know (I have done it) as long as they are honest and I have told any author I know that if I review them then I will be really honest or, like with any book I dont like, simply not review it. Thats just my policy with bad books or ones I dont like. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a negative review as long as its backed up.

      So if you want to review authors you have worked with I say go for it as long as you are honest.

  12. Thanks for such an honest, thought-provoking post. When I started my blog in January, I had no idea of the ethical-angst suffered by book bloggers. I started blogging to share my thoughts on the books I read and hopefully to become involved in a dialogue with other readers. I love to see the books others receive, mostly because I view any stack of books as irrestible, whatever their source.

    • Its not ethical angst exactly, ha, its more I dont want people to make assumptions. However if I havent really told people the ethics or background behind my blog then I can’t complain if they say/comment whatever they want. I have now though so I feel much better and hope that people will see where I am coming from and possibly now know me a little better.

  13. I cannot see any logic in not liking/appreciating/enjoying the books that any book blogger receives. We all get ideas and in cases such as mine being so far away from “new” books I love to read the reviews, compare a couple of reviews and see what books are feasible for me to even get. Please continue in just the same style as you have done before.

  14. Susan in TX

    Sounds like a very honest, above-board policy to me, Simon. Nice to know (and I would think that your publishers would appreciate) all the thought that you’ve put into it.

  15. Well said, Simon. It never seemed to me that you were showing off in any way. As a matter of fact, I love your book stacks. I think this topic speaks to something else that has been the buzz on blogs lately – competitiveness among bloggers. Does all of this really matter? I read blogs that share great bookish info, that start meaningful conversations, that make me laugh. Seems simple, right? I think we can all recognize (and avoid) a blog with little significant content and lots of book pimping.

    • Yes what is the deal with all of this sudden competitiveness and bitching that has come out of nowhere. If I see/hear any bitching then I won’t be visiting those blogs again, this is meant to be fun and a community in its own way.

  16. Very well said. Or written, I suppose. What a great job you have that gets you so many review copies! I love that you post pictures of them, gives me more to add to the black hole that is my wish list.

    • Hahaha I like the idea of a wishlist being a black hole. I always think of mine as a never eding tunnel which is pretty much the same thing, black hole sounds grander.

      • You have my full permission to use the grander term black hole from now on 😉 Though I like the never ending tunnel too, my second choice was always Santa’s list – that thing always seemed to me like the longest list possible.

  17. novelinsights

    …and another wonderful thing about blogging is that you get to talk about the issues that are getting under your skin!

    I think it makes good sense to outline your views and set expectations, and I’m sure that publishers appreciate when you are honest with them about what you can and can’t read.

  18. I accepted my first ARC recently and only did so because I love the author and couldn’t wait to get my hands on her latest novel. Even though I love the author and I liked the new novel, I felt too much pressure to provide a good review which in turn led me to be overcritical of the book looking for flaws just so I could prove that I was being objective in my review. In the end I don’t like any expectations placed on my reading or blogging so I will probably never accept another ARC.

    As for bragging about piles of books. I read your blog and 242 others because I LOVE looking at piles of books. I don’t care how people come across them. Recently I had an issue on Facebook where it was clear that some “friends” were rather put off by me posting pictures of our recent (and at least in 2009 frequent) travels. I felt kind of bad about this but then I thought about all the times I have lived vicariously through my friends as they travel, buy houses, have kids, have dogs, etc. It makes me happy for them, and I enjoy getting to experience things second hand if I can’t do it myself.

    And finally, by their nature, a blog is the ramblings of a blogger, and no one has to pay to read (or igonore) those ramblings. Some may be more informed than others, some may be more factual than others, some may be more ethical than others. It is the nature of the glorious beast.

    As with all things in life, Caveat emptor.

    You know I love ya Simon. So keep on keepin’ on.

    • Hahahaha thanks Thomas I shall indeed keep on keeping on.

      I oddly have never felt the need to say nice things about a book just because it came from a publisher. I will admit that I did do a review this year that was… whats the expression… diplomatic would be the word. But the publisher was slightly insistant, I havent been in touch with them since. On the whole though I will just say what I think. Mind you I wont slag a book off, I would rather just not write about it.

  19. farmlanebooks

    I think the problem here is unsolicited books. I don’t like receiving them because I feel guilty about owning a brand new book that others desperately want to read, but know I will never touch. I wish publishers would contact me (and everybody else!) with a press-release before sending any book so that only ones that are actually wanted are sent out. Surely most people know which books are of interest from the press release – they don’t need a physical copy to decide. I know that some books need to be read before deciding whether they will be included, but it seems that there are about 50x too many books sent to some people. I’m not blaming you, but do you think you would be able to cope if you didn’t receive unsolicited books – just requested the ones you needed?

    • Its not about coping Jackie, with my job I have to be open to any book and I always am hence why I would never slate publishers sending me unsolicited books (in fact one arrived today I have never heard of but sounds sooooooo up my street) because the books pages would get mighty samey otherwise.

      I think publishers send to who they trust or who the would like to see write about their books on the relevant blogs and not being a puclisher I can’t comment on that.

      I am not moaning or complaining with this post just trying to stop some assumptions people have made and have been passing on.

      • farmlanebooks

        I don’t have a problem with you receiving unsolicited books, but think publishers have a flawed business model that results in a lot of wasted books. It is going to be almost impossible to change, as all the publishers would have to change the way they do things at the same time, but I think that times have moved on from the days of posting out book samples. They should be sending press releases via email – you’d still have discovered that fantastic new book, but you wouldn’t have to deal with a whole stack that you instantly knew you wouldn’t be interested in. If I ever got near a publishers then I’d change a lot of things – most haven’t advanced much in the last 20 years!

      • Thats slightly harsh Jackie I would love to see you say that to some publishers especially as you now get freebies too. What do you do with the books you get after you have reviewed them? It intrigues me what we all do and has been interesting to hear others ethics and ways of doing things.

        Its not all unsolicited just some of them and do remember that I am talking about the books I receive for work not for the blog and there is a difference between my work and my blog.

        I do get a lot of press releases and I do get some samples now and again. I also dont think that I waste books. They go to good homes or to charity shops if I dont like them and I can officially say the first chapter or every book that comes in the house gets read and either its not for me full stop, not for right now or I simply cannot wait to read the rest of it.

        I wouldnt mind if you did have a problem Jackie as its my job and I can’t and wouldn’t change it, I love it.

      • farmlanebooks

        LOL! I would love to say it to a publisher!

        I have a real problem with what to do with my review copies. At the moment I haven’t done anything with them – they are all just stacked in a pile! I do lend them out, but soon I’m going to have to tackle the issue and I really can’t decide. As you know I make a living from selling books, so I would often be the one buying up copies that people like you have donated to the charity shop. I don’t feel I can sell the books I have been given by publishers so at the moment I’m just sitting on them. Perhaps I’ll just store them to sell in ten years time?

    • Jackie, if you have a problem with unsolicited books, write to the publishers in question and ask to be taken off their list. It’s as simple as that. I’ve done this with at least two I had no interest in receiving. For one other I contacted them, said I was still interested in their books, but could they pitch them to me first and then i would decide. Again, they had no issue with that — and it works very well.

  20. I love looking at pictures of all the books other bloggers get because there are some titles that I would never come across otherwise (and I just like looking at pictures of books). I just recently got my first ARC too (one which I requested because I love the author’s work and which I would have bought and reviewed anyway, but maybe not so quickly) and it does make you think more about how you review the books, but I think in general most bloggers (the ones I regularly follow) do think carefully about how they blog and try to be honest about their views. Otherwise I think it quickly stops being an enjoyable enterprise. What I love about the blogs I read (including yours) is how much they all care about books and reading and it’s something that I consciously try and stay true to in my blog. Everyone blogs differently and that’s what keeps me coming back for more (especially ones that have a sense of humour). The other thing that you mention, especially about freebies, is that most of us already have huge TBR piles, so even if we don’t get free books we still have enough to keep us busy for years!

    • Sharing pics of books can be win, win thats for sure. Readers might see books they hadnt noted before and then get them and then might let bloggers know which ones they simply have to read which is a bonys too.

      Sense of humour in blogging is key for me as a reader, if someone is taking themselves and their blog too seriously I get a little turned off.

  21. JoV

    I love looking at the pictures of the books you received. It inspires me to read them. If there is anyone who think otherwise that’s because they are too jealous.

    I don’t get jealous because while I like to read books, I don’t really want to own them. I have limited shelf space and will be happy to do more looting from the libraries or charity shops. I am so blessed to be in a book haven country called Britain.

    You read, you blog, you gave your fans time, you are committed and devoted, so you definitely deserved my adulation.

    Don’t let unkind words get into you. After all critics are part and parcel of being famous, isn’t it?

    Now if you can answer my email on “The Little Stranger” you will get more of my adulation. 🙂

    Keep up the good job, Simon. Don’t be disheartened.

    • Hahaha I have your email on my to do list I have been slightly manic with this and that of late so I do apologise. Plus I need to reaquiant myself with that book and what I did think too hahaha.

      As for the critics and fame comment Jo, I don’t believe Savidge Reads has any fame and if it has a following thats lovely but I dont want to become famous thanks lol.

      • JoV

        You said “I don’t want to become famous”. sorry dude, you already are, at least in my blogging world and it’s a compliment. 🙂

        Happy Easter Hols!


  22. I don’t get jealous of bookbloggers who recieve a lot of books, I like to see what is new coming out. I did unsubscribe to one blogger who just seemed to post about the books they had recieved and rarely reviewed any books at all.
    I have recieved a few books from publishers but they have been through librarything or bookcrossing. I’m honest if I haven’t liked them but try to say fairly why the book wasn’t for me. Personally I think I’d feel pressured if lots of books kept turning up, I like to go to my stacks and read whatever stands out. I get plenty of books from bookrings and swaps on bookcrossing, they keep me on my toes as it is!

    • Katrina you hit upon a very good point there. I do find if a blog has no reviews for ages or one every week or so I loose interest. Having said that if a book is all reviews that doesnt quite work for me either, I wonder if they read them all firstly and secondly I want to read random bookish titbits. But that comes down to what I want as an audience and some people just want reviews and nothing else so there is an audience out for all sorts of blogs. I just hope I manage to meet it all in the middle.

  23. Ti

    I’m in a good place now. I get lots of offers for books but I am now able to pick and choose and feel okay about it. For a long time I took everything and that just left me crabby and feeling guilty because if I review it, it’s going to be an honest review and if that means the book was not up to par, then I am going to say so.

    I put my review policy up about a year ago and it’s really helped. Everyone knows what I expect and what they can expect in return. It just makes the whole process a lot easier.

    I agree with what you said about book blogging. People shouldn’t start a book blog with the express purpose of getting freebies. Book bloggers shoud first and foremost just love reading and talking about what they’ve read. If they do, the rest will fall into place.

  24. Oh, don’t stop sharing photos of your new books! Seeing other readers staggering piles always makes me feel better about my own! 😉

  25. Interesting post. I’m new to blogging (one month in), so I don’t receive anything from publishers. I am blogging mostly because I am contemplating a Ph.D and needed to get back in the mindset of disciplined reading. I enjoy reading reviews by certain bloggers who are well established and obviously care about the ethics of reviewing and am, of course, still finding new blogs.

    That said, I do write negative reviews. I don’t write them to be mean or to turn others off to the book but to flesh out the reasons I think it was poorly written or lacked plot. I do this partially to work it out in my own mind, but I also do it because I like to read negative reviews and determine whether the issues with a particular book are something I’m wiling to overlook. I do try, though, to always be respectful.

    My biggest frustration at the moment is the restriction with the wordpress templates, although they are much less restrictive than others I’ve looked at. I just want my blog to magically look the way I see it in my head. 🙂

    • Your reasons for blogging sound delightful and I don’t want to come across as someone who is saying people should only blog for certain reasons at all. I also think good on you for doing negative reviews, I dont which is just my personal policy but I read others on other blogs.

      Out of all the blogs I find wordpress the best, and its the one that I have stuck with, I am rubbihs with graphics and stuff so mine will never be quite as I’d like it.

  26. Great post! Btw, I love seeing pictures of your books and it does make me have them all:) I have started to blog last year because I was pregnant, on bed rest and I was at home all the time, spending my time in bed, reading. And I wanted to ‘meet’ people who shared my passion for books and I was lucky to have found them. Since I have started blogging, I received a lot of review copies and I see it as a bonus, but not as a reason to blog. I love to receive them, but I don’t blog in order to receive the review copies. I just love reading about others’ reading suggestions and I love to discover other book blogs and books! And I love to read your blog, although I wish I could comment more often, but I have a 5 months old baby girl who is teething and screaming all day:)

    • Hahahaha Andreea I think I can let you fof not commenting that often. I always love seeing peoples comments but I am not the sort of person who thinks my blog is the most important thing on the face of the earth.

  27. Interesting post Simon, and even more interesting responses. I started blogging at a low ebb employment and confidence wise – job hunting in the current climate is rarly good for the ego. I wanted to expand on what I was talking about in my online book group, mostly out of print books.

    I got hooked on blogging quite fast – I love the conversations and comments that have come from it, as well as all the book discoveries. After a few months and some encouragement from other bloggers I asked a publisher for a book – they sent it and the next job interview I went for I got (it’s an average sort of job, but it pays the bills). Publishers don’t just give away books – they look for projects they want to be associated with so I’m happy to ask , delighted to recieve, and in no way put of if I don’t. Realising that something I made had got me to the point where I had earned a book made a huge differance to my confidence in selling myself.

    So far I’ve always been open about where a books come from, but actually I don’t think it matters very much. What matters to me in the reviews I read is if I relate to the reviewer or not. I always relate to your reviews and enjoy them tremendousley regardless of your book sources – Keep them coming!

    • Hahaha I will take the ‘even more interesting comments’ as flattery not a slight hahaha. Blogging is definitely addictive, both the posting and the reading – I did worry for a little while that I would be reading and writing blogs more than I would be reading books so I restrict it now.

      I whole heartedly agree with you comment “What matters to me in the reviews I read is if I relate to the reviewer or not” thats exactly how I feel.

  28. Blogging for the fame, eh? Seems quicker to go on Big Brother and be done with it!

    Good post, interesting stuff 🙂

    Sometimes it’s quite fun thinking about what gets people into book blogging and why they enjoy it. I like your blog because you always seem so enthusiastic about the books, and that in a way is what I like about the whole book blogging community. It’s a way to be totally unashamedly book geeky for a certain portion of your day!

    It’s fun to see what sort of books people get, whether they’re bought, from the library, or review copies. You know that thing where you go into someone’s house and immediately look at their bookshelves to see what they’ve got? It’s like that, but online! It’s awesome, and I don’t think people are ‘showing off’ by doing that. At least, not on the book blogs that I follow.

    Personally, I have a day job which has so little to do with books that it hurts, so for me it’s great to be able to read and then analyse my thoughts in my own space, as I have no opportunity to do it for the most part in my ‘real life’!

    • Hahaha that comment about Big Brother made me laugh really loudly outloud, thank goodness I am alone.

      Enthusiasm is something I too like to look. I have noticed there are some bloggers that say they are enthusiastic about books but then seem to look for the bad in every single one and thats not enthusiasm to my mind, I have begun to ween myself off those.

  29. An excellent post followed by some equally impressive comments. I suspect that from time to time your blog may attract hostile criticism because it is of such a high quality that people forget you are doing it for fun. You clearly put a lot of time, effort and thought into many of your posts. You provide such a professional service to your reading public that we can end up assessing it just as we would the website of a national newspaper. These days I actually spend more time reading your blog, and others like it, than the “Fleet Street” book pages. I suspect I am not alone in that. Perhaps your current critic (assuming a particular incident prompted you to write on this subject today) is a professional reviewer who fears for his or her job? That last bit was said mainly in jest, and with total sympathy to any one who is nervous about their job security.

    Keep posting the photos of piles of news books. Apart from anything else they are often appealing to the eye. Like many other industries, the publishing industry may be going through challenging times but the standard of book and jacket design just seems to keep on rising.

    • David you are too kind and that comment has meant a lot to me and made me feel quite buoyed up, so thank you very much.

      Theres just been some comments and some reports back sadly about some fellow bloggers and then just in general which are misinformed and so now I have given some background which I hope will make people think a bit.

  30. I enjoyed your post, Simon and agree that book blogging is not about receiving book swag. I started my blog because I enjoyed reading bookish blogs and I wanted to participate in that forum and put my opinions and ideas out there, too. I’ve recently started getting emails about reviewing books and have accepted a few of them, but normally I just review the books that I’ve bought or mooched. At the end of the day, as long as I’m writing honest reviews about the books I receive, I feel as if there is no problem. Thanks for posting on this topic!

  31. fleurfisher

    I can but agree!

    I’m always happy to see people who love and appreciate books with additions to their shelves. And you are providing a useful service to those of us in small towns who don’t have regular access to big bookshops. It’s very easy for us to miss things!

    • I hadnt thought about people who have the lovely village lifestyle so thank you very much for reminding me of that fact. I shall do them just for that audience alone from now on, cheers!

  32. Simon – we touched on this when we met and I totally agree with all you say. I receive a lot of books and as far as I am concerned if they are ones I have asked for or want, then I always review them. I feel I have entered into a contract with the publisher and do not go back on my word. Books that arrive unsolicited through the post are different. I look at them all but they are so wildly variable in content and quality that the vast majority of them are not read or reviewed. For those I feel no guilt.

    However, every now and then a gem turns up and, oddly enough having just mentioned this, one arrived last week and I have just reviewed it today (American Devil) so it behoves me to check each book carefully lest I miss another such.

    I put up pics of recently received every now and then, but the idea of bragging about books one gets never crosses my mind. I am just thrilled and delighted that publishers deem my thoughts worthy of attention.

    And, no I don’t make any money from this either – I do it because I simply love it. It is fun not a business as far as I am concerned.

    Great post

    • Elaine I think you point about entering a contract with a publisher is spot on however I dont like them then to feel they own me or I will write a rave review of a book. Hardly any publishers do but it had been known and I find that a bit much but then I tend not to deal with them or that member of staff again.

      Fun not a business is exactly my thoughts too Elaine.

  33. All of these comments are great so I’m not going to repeat.
    My personal opinion? The only time that your book news has upset me was when you had some lost/damaged ones during the “water event”. So painful! And was it your story about a mover dropping a box of books in the street that split open? Horrid! You getting some review copies as part of your blog and job? No problems with that at all. 🙂

  34. mee

    I kinda assume that bloggers who get abundant books from publishers have some kind of extra relationship with those publishers, more than just as a blogger, like perhaps work relationship, or friend, neighbour, family? 🙂 So your story is not really a surprise. But I loved reading it and getting to know a bit of your background. Thanks for sharing.

    • Oh work and family etc are not the greatest politics I have to say and there might be some ethical issues there. I have a good repore with the publishers that I deal with and thats really nice they start to know what you like and you can be more upfront and honest with each other which is a bonus.

  35. Anne Cater

    I love your post Simon. I receive books from publishers and web sites on a regular basis but I dont blog.
    I dont have the time to be honest, I post my reviews on various sites.
    There are book blogs and there are book blogs!
    I enjoy reading some and some I dont!
    Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Anne. I think however you get books and whatever for as long as you have the right ethics about it then I don’t see a problem at all. I think this post sort of started from other peoples sour grapes which I have decided to make a crumble with and all of you have been making it all the sweeter.

  36. Rob

    This is an incredible coincidence Simon. I share almost identical blogging ethics to you and I said a similar thing on Twitter tonight, but more to do with being overlooked (that’s when Jackie from Farm Lane Books pointed me to this post). I’m beginning to wonder if we may be birth twins Simon – (actually No! I’m not as good a writer as you, and you’re infinitely better looking :)).

    Seriously though you bring up some very good points, and as I share a similar ethos i.e. not wanting to make money, not blogging for freebies or celeb status etc. I can fully relate to what you say.

    Personally I think your credibility is watertight without you having to say any of the above. The simple fact that you show no visible signs of wishing to profiteer from what you do i.e. affiliate links, adverts etc. is more than enough credibility for me.

    I’ve had the same kind of ‘sharing shots of books’ feeling with my own ‘Daily’ Bookshot feature. Is what I’m doing not just bragging about some new book(s) I’ve managed to bag? Then I think about what’s at the very core of my motivations for blogging in the first place – to pass on my passion for books and reading – and that often always dispels any doubts.

    I hope I’m making sense. It’s late (23:15) and most of what I’m saying is a bit stream-of-consciousness.
    Whatever, I hope I’ve made some small contribution to the discussion.

    • What do you mean by overlooked that really intrigues me, do let me know Rob.

      My credibility is something thats incredibly important to meand to have it even slightly questioned worried me. Thats why I wanted to pop this post up just to clarify things. Its nice to know I have some blogging twins out there in the ether.

  37. I’ll just pipe in with the others and say I’ve never been bothered by your posts about the books you’re getting. In fact, I enjoy them because you’re always getting such good stuff and write about them with such enthusiasm! And you also have plenty of other content and reviews. I’m only bothered when people do lots of those kinds of “look what I got” posts but very little other content.

    And I totally understand about the massive number of books you get when working for a print publication. I used to coordinate the book review column for a very niche-y education publication, and I got multiple packages of books every week, all without ever asking. (Alas, they were all related to the very specialized field we covered and were rarely of much interest to me.)

    I do sometimes wonder why publishers send so many books to individual bloggers unsolicited. It’s not always the best blogs with the biggest audiences that get the most books, nor is it possible for an individual blogger to read all the books that some get. But as you say, it’s the publishers’ prerogative to send to whomever they choose. I’m not going to grumble at the bloggers concerned for that!

    I’ve actually only gotten two unsolicited books, and I prefer it that way because I don’t really want books I’m not interested in cluttering up my house. If my shelves weren’t already filled to overflowing, I might feel different, but for now, I prefer getting a press release or query first. And if I say yes to the query, that book goes near the top of my TBR pile.

    • It is amazing and I think maybe bringing the magazine has been beneficial and detremental in this posts case as now some people think I am meaning I get all the books for the blog and some people have started bemoaning the publishers and thats not the point hahaha.

      What the publishers choose to do is up to them and in my case I am more than happy to get books, this wasnt really a blog aimed at them but its interesting to hear other peoples thoughts on it.

      I am glad that a large amount of you all know and appreciate where I am coming from though.

      • Oh, I wasn’t really meaning to bemoan the publishers who send out heaps to unsolicited books to bloggers. I’m glad they’re willing to give us a chance! I just wonder about their thought processes in sending as many books to individual bloggers as to print pubs. In a lot of cases, I think they’re still figuring out the best strategies for getting the word out about their books, what with book pages shrinking.

  38. Terrific post! 🙂

    When I first started book blogging (about two years ago), I had no idea, that I would be contacted by publishers and authors. I now receive some books gratis, but not unsolicited ones.

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  40. pat

    I myself am trying to do a book blog but I find that I’m incapable of doing so simply because I don’t read fast enough to blog about the books I’ve read as much as I want to. And sometimes I feel like I’m giving off the impression that I’m being a braggart or something with the way I do my book blogs and I’m glad that you pointed out how when we blog about books, it all just means how much a book touched us or just me.

    Thanks for this!

    • Its not just about blogging about what you read though Pat you can bring random posts in about your reading habits or books you are coveting… allsorts. I have lots of random bookish waffle I encorporate.

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  42. I am deluged with books – my blog is now fairly established and small publishers and some larger ones like to send me everything they produce. The charity shop benefits anyway.

    The problem for me is a sense of guilt at not mentioning or reviewing all the lovely books that come my way! I try to encourage publishers to look at my blog and make sure that what they send is roughly in line with my likes, but I still get self-help books, vampire books and romances!

    Like you, I feel its churlish to complain about a glut of books.

    • The mentioning of books that come in is part of me dealing with the fact I simply might not read everything that comes in but at least I have given it some coverage and mentioned it to others and who knows people might go for it? They also of course recommend the ones you think wouldnt be your cup of tea and you find some gems. Good to know others have and feel the same.

  43. Could I just add to this, as I notice Simon says it is not just about book blogging – sometimes it is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books one receives (and one has just litterally been delivered a minute ago as I write this!), and occasionally I step back and read an old familiar friend which can really refresh one’s mind; I also write posts about silly things that happen to me and places I visit, holidays etc and I find these posts get a really good response and provide a welcome break.

    I will repeat my earlier comment – blogging is sheer fun and such nice people involved – you will get the odd sniper but then that happens no matter what you do.

  44. Thought-provoking post, Simon.

    I think it’s something that will eventually get a bit more standardised as time goes on – right now it seems to be up to every individual to come up with their own code of blogging ethics!

    Even though my blog is still on a small scale, I’ve already made a couple mistakes (wishing I hadn’t accepted unsolicited freebies), so I wish I’d read more pieces like this before even starting.

    • Yes I do think it will get more standardised but I do want to also reitterate the fact that working in media and having a books page naturally you get alot more than if its just a blog which I mention above as I am not saying all these come for this blog.

      Unsolicited books for a blogger are a blessing and a curse, but it is at the discretion of the publisher and their choice to send them so people should remember that. For a book page it can be great you get some treats.

      • Not saying I would never accept any freebies offered to me (that’s how you can discover great new stuff, after all), but just that I should think more carefully about whether something is really up my alley.

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  46. I stumbled across this wonderful discussion and so glad I did. Being fairly new to blogging on a regular basis and doing it for fun and the ability to connect with others like me who love to read it is a great “hobby”. The biggest fun is reading about all the new authors, new releases and wonderful book reviews. I feel like it has at times taken over my life and my own book reading is suffering, at the same time though have made many online contacts that would have missed out on. Thanks for taking the time to open up the “ethics can of worms” in such detail, like Lija said mostly each person out there will have to come up with a code for their individual blog to follow..

  47. I work at a library as well as blog about books, so I get free review copies at home AND work. Nirvana! Some I request, some I don’t, so I think I should post a disclaimer saying I don’t necessarily review every book I read. In some cases the author would thank me for that, as I can be rather frank in discussing a book’s deficiencies.

    I also review books on the NEW shelf at the library, so don’t always go a-begging. I’ve read that professional reviewers completely miss the boat if they don’t review a book BEFORE its publication, but I’m not putting myself in the realm of the professionals. I do it for fun, to meet others as deeply afflicted as I, and to have a record of what I read when, and what I thought about it.

    Loved your post, and thanks to Elaine at Random Jottings for directing her readers here!

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