Book Blogging – Publishers and Perceptions

This is a long post but do bear with it and let me know your thoughts…

I have to admit until Alison Flood at the Guardian dropped me an email asking if I would comment on it that I had absolutely no knowledge of a ‘furore’ that was going in the publishing and blogging fields caused by a letter from US publishers William Morrow. You have probably heard all about it by now and I am not going to quote from the letter, you can go here and read it if you wish, but it has made me think a lot since , not just about the relationships of bloggers and publishers but also the perception of book bloggers.

Each bloggers relationship with publishers is varied and private. I am happy to talk about mine, but understand if others don’t. I think I am very lucky, I have a healthy relationship with most publishers, some who I have weekly email catch ups and chats with some I catch up with randomly here and there, but it is a correspondence, a banter and mutual love of books that makes us talk not a working relationship, because Savidge Reads and the books that are on it are not work. This is a hobby this is my space to diarise and chat about the books I have read liked and loved and also the random book thoughts that come and go in my mind.

I admit I have asked for a book or two in the past, and have accepted many in the last couple of years but always with an open and honest about the fact that I will read these on whim at some point, it might be next week it might be next month or next year, who knows. If that means I get fewer books, or publishers decide not to send them then that is fine, it is their choice – neither party is obligated at any point. That’s how it should be isn’t it?

I did contemplate the idea of publishers no longer sending me books for the blog (I guess they might always for work and hopefully for future years of the Green Carnation Prize) and whilst I would miss it I doubt it would end my world. After all I am a man with over 400 books in his TBR; I love the library and second hand book stores and will treat myself to a new book on special occasions. I don’t get every book I want through publishers and the blog, I don’t think any bloggers do, despite what one commenter said “not every print journalist and not every print publication gets review copies of anything they want” – which leads me onto the next set of my thoughts… how are blogs perceived.

I think being part of the book blogosphere you get comfortable in the company of other bloggers and the people who come and comment on your blog. You think that because you blog and enjoy reading book blogs then you think everyone does. You forget that some people have quite different conceptions about bloggers. In fact from the comments in the piece in the Guardian, which Alison had contacted me about, it seems bloggers aren’t held in very high esteem at all.  So I thought I would address a few of the criticisms though some people were lovely too…

  • “Anyone can start a blog and publish online reviews” yes anyone can, though how many will keep going at it for years and years is limited (I welcome new blogs by the way, I am just saying). I also doubt that publishers send books to any and every blog.
  • “That’s certainly not the first time I’ve heard a book blogger state that they want to cherry-pick what they review… An objective professional reviewer can’t just review books of his or her personal choice” I don’t think they cherry pick, but a blog isn’t a broadsheet and the blogger doesn’t get paid, it’s done and despite what people might think journalists don’t choose what they read, actually quite a lot do (I know).
  • “Publishers have every right to set boundaries and as far as I’m concerned, book bloggers really have no say in the matter. They are a dime a dozen and this will sort out the reviewers who blog for the love of it, from the masses who are in it for the free books. It’s really quite simple.” Yes they do, and most bloggers would agree, but it’s not a ‘work/business’ relationship it’s much friendlier than that and maybe that’s why the letter offended some.
  • “Does everyone who blogs about opera demand free tickets to Covent Garden? Does everyone who blogs about fashion demand free clothing from Dolce & Gabanna? Does everyone who blogs about art demand invitations to private openings? Does everyone who blogs about classical music demand free season tickets to the Proms?” No because bloggers don’t demand books, they may occasionally ask nicely – oh and yes people who blog about other things in other fields do get freebies, not all but some.
  • “I don’t think anyone’s raised it, but the elephant in the room is the effect of blog versus traditional media reviews on sales. A few years back a lot of us thought established blogs would eclipse regular media but I’m not at all sure this is borne out by the statistics (which I’d love to see, however inexact, in terms of correlations between review dates and sales spikes)” I am sure broadsheets get more hits but they also only mention books first published, so after the initial sales what then? A blog can review whenever and give books a mention after the initial hype. It’s not major but it’s something, plus some blogs have huge audiences and that shouldn’t be undervalued. I would be interested to see the statistics though.
  • “Certainly, to solicit finished copies of books that one has no intention of reading and every intention of reselling at the first opportunity strikes me as in bad faith, if not actually fraudulent. A blogger who wishes to remain unimpeachably independent will have both to choose what to review and to obtain it himself.” I cannot think of any true book bloggers who would do the first thing, it genuinely shocks me people think bloggers would do that. The second part provides good food for thought.
  • “William Morrow may have a tin ear for PR – their letter drafted by an unpaid intern, perhaps? – but I suspect that they have done no more than express an impatience with elements of the blogging community that is more widely held. I don’t think that it comes close to justifying the collective hissy fit that it seems to have provoked” oops I better be quiet then… ha, that said do publishers think like that about the community? It would be interesting to know.

Back to some positives, my favourite quote was this one which I think is spot on “With the proliferation of book blogs, there is a limit as to how many can be disbursed, and it’s understandable that publishers might start targeting those who they think might have an interest in a particular book.” It’s what I think publishers, certainly the ones I deal with do and Novelicious put it very well when she said “If a book is pitched to me, I will almost always review it. If it is sent though my door without any prior notice, I won’t.” Those unsolicited books can come in volume that said sometimes you take a risk on a book and the rewards are incredible.

I am hoping that makes sense, if not I apologize. My conclusions are mixed as I still don’t quite know how I feel. I just think publishers and bloggers should carry on communicating and being passionate about books, be that with each other or not. I simply wanted to say something because the letter, then being asked my thoughts and then seeing the reaction to the piece has made me think about the whole thing and the relationships I have with publishers (which is good as you can see from the Savidge Reads Advent Calendar giveaways, but something might change when the blog changes direction when the advent calendar is done).

 What do you think be you a blogger, a blog reader, a blog hater (what are you doing here? ha) or a publisher? I would love to hear all your thoughts.


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

29 responses to “Book Blogging – Publishers and Perceptions

  1. I think most of us blog because we love books and want to jot down our reading adventures, especially since it’s a hobby rather than a job. That’s the impression I get from the book bloggers I know. I love getting review copies (which I ask for) but if I don’t, I’m not going to have a hissy fit. And besides, like you, I have too many books in my TBR. I like choosing a mixture of old and new books to read and it’s wonderful when you stumble upon an unexpected gem.

  2. Louise

    I don’t blog, I would like to but not for free books or an audience but just as a way to record my bookish thoughts, participate in challenges which interest me, get me reading something different etc (I’ve been using a reading journal for several years) however I don’t think I have the time to do it 😦 The book blogging community can be quite a scary one, I have visited blogs where the owners of the blogs are rude, competitve and can be bullying…I visit and comment on only a handful of blogs and I certainly don’t bother with any that are clearly out for attention, name dropping and free books.
    With regards to the letter, then I do agree with how they will dish out their review copies, any genuine book lover who blogs and reviews surely does it for the love of books.

  3. Mimannee

    What an interesting post.
    My new year’s resolution is to finally start up a book group blog, which will feature reviews of books we’ve read and other bookish goings on. My motivation is just that I love my book groups and love books and it would be nice to have a place to record our thoughts.
    I read your blog because it’s entertaining and well written, and I like looking through the old reviews for ideas on what to read next. I also read the Guardian review section, but find some of the reviews to be a bit dry, so it’s nice to read blogs for a more personal touch.
    I hope that some day other readers will enjoy reading about my book group’s reading adventures!

  4. I blog because I love books and reading it has made me read more than i use to also expand my horizons and meet via there blogs and real life some wonderful people , I do get sent books and interact with some publicist as my blog is fairly small Iand niche I tend to just review translations sent me as that is my bookish love as for print media nick in guardian and Boyd in independent review some translations by on whole most books that interest me are rarely on print media so I have to find them on blogs or read them sans review great post Simon all the best stu

  5. I come at this from a unique perspective, I think.

    I am a blogger (occasionally about books), a music reviewer, and a journalist (who reviews everything from restaurants to holidays to nightclubs). But I’m also a publisher.

    The sentiment of the William Morrow letter is entirely understandable. If someone asks me for a free book, I do a bit of research first. Do they have a decent audience? Do their audience read what I publish? Do their blogs get many comments? Will I make back that initial cost (book + postage + my time) either through sales or increased exposure?

    There’s also the other thing to consider: would it actually harm sales by sending out too many free copies? I.e., if my target audience for a book was composed entirely of book bloggers (a ludicrous example, I know, but bear with me), would my sending free copies to all those book bloggers then mean no one buys the book? Some book bloggers are basically just readers with a blog to chatter on. Which is fine. But if we sent everyone free books just because they’re readers, then who’s left to buy the books?

    My rule of thumb is: if a blogger is popular, shares my book’s target audience, and I think it’ll either raise the book’s profile or improve sales, I’ll send out a review copy. I usually err on the side of generosity and send a book out anyway. But you do get some people (often writers, actually) who will request books to review just to get freebies, and then either follow up with very obscure reviews no one is likely to look at/care about, or don’t follow up at all.

    Personally, I wouldn’t have sent this letter out. It made me cringe in a couple of places and was inevitably going to piss a few people off. I’d have just been more thorough in deciding where to send review copies in the first place, and if a reviewer kept asking for books and didn’t follow up with a review, I’d remember not to send them anything in future again.

    As a reviewer for a major national magazine, I get hundreds of CDs every month. I rarely solicit them from record labels, but occasionally I do. I always review the ones I ask for (just as I always review the press trips I go on and the restaurants I have asked to review), but feel no guilt about tossing the rest in the bin or putting them aside for a listen in future. I just wouldn’t have the time to review all of them otherwise. But record labels and PR companies know that if they send me 10-20 CDs a month, and I review one of them, then 150,000 people might read that review. So it’s probably worthwhile taking that risk.

  6. I actually got that letter from William Morrow publishers, Simon, and I admit to feeling a little surprised at how it was worded. I don’t have a problem with the reasoning behind it (whether it be carbon footprinting or, as I suspect, sending out so many books and them not being reviewed) but the way that the timescales were dictated did make me feel that it had alsmot become like homework.

    I, like most bloggers, get review copies sent by publishers. I can’t deny that I love it as being a bibliomaniac there is nothing better than those packages dropping through the letterbox. That said, I don’t review them all a) because I don’t think they’re really for me b) I don’t have the time (I have a hugely demanding full time job) and c) I have my own books that I want to read.

    Like Jackie said int the article, though, most of my favourite books this year have been review copies that I have been sent (some unsolicited, some pitched) but if I am given deadlines then the chances are I won’t accept them as I don’t have the time. I read for about 3 publishers who regularly send me books and I love them!

  7. Ruthiella

    Interesting post. I read about 10 blogs regularly because they are fun, entertaining and the bloggers and their followers all obviously share a love reading. I rely more on broadsheets for reviews of new releases, although a positive blog review coupled with a positive broadsheet review can sometimes cement my resolve to actually read a book. I would estimate that I have purchased about 20 books in 2011 due solely to blog reviews or read-alongs, though most of them are used copies and only one or two were actually published in 2011. Blogs provide me with a lot of joy that a newspaper or magazine cannot provide: such as bookish bits (like this one), read-alongs (like Discovering Daphne or IABD), and introductions to older or niche books or authors that might have otherwise escaped my notice or that I have been meaning to read for ages. I also enjoy the personal aspects of book blogs. No magazine or newspaper reviewer is going to “virtually” introduce me to their granny or mum!

  8. The deadlines are a bit tight. Print reviewers tend to get books 3 months in advance of release dates, which makes sense. But putting a time limit of a month seems unfair. If it was a year, then perhaps I could see the reasoning, but as Simon says, it’s sometimes beneficial to get reviews after the release date and after the initial buzz has died down.

    I suspect, though, that this dictat comes from a very target-oriented marketing department (which is probably also very successful). I can imagine it was a ‘how can we convert online blog coverage to sales’ discussion, which prompted them to decide that in order to maximise sales the reviews should all be within a narrow one-month window. This is based on the marketing premise that you have to hear about something consistently and regularly (at least seven times) before you’ll buy it. Once the initial buzz has died down, a single book review might not in itself convert to a sale, since the reader would need to stumble upon six more mentions in a short space of time to be convinced to buy it.

    It’s ruthless, and a very scientific approach to marketing which might not quite capture the nuances of book-buying, but there are other reasons why a publisher might favour all the reviews within a short window period. It benefits things like award nominations and if initial sales for a book (first three months) aren’t particularly strong, retailers like Amazon, B&N, etc, lose interest in the books and wholesale orders drop. The booktrade uses very complex algorithms to decide how many copies to order of each book, and most of it is centralised and done by computers. I imagine they want to avoid the situation where a book doesn’t sell immediately and then falls into ‘backlist’ territory, which makes it less appealing to the trade.

  9. I admit that I was thrilled to get my first review copy. I do not blog to get review copies, but I enjoy getting them. At my peak, I was getting four or five a month. They took over my reading for a while. Now I don’t ask for very many, but I do get one every couple of months.

    I think the terms in the Morrow letter are reasonable–they can set whatever terms they like–though I do agree the letter is a bit rude. Why send it out at all? Why not just make it the company policy and then let people know as needed?

    I do agree that the 30 day time limit is not enough. If they had sent me this letter, I would have to respectfully decline their offer.

    While I don’t have 400 books in my TBR stack, I have enough to keep me busy for several years.

  10. Lovely post and I think it made a lot of sense Simon. Comes down to the community and what people think doesn’t it? I mean, I do wonder what the WM publicity team thinks of blogs… that being said weeding out who they send to or putting some kinds of rules on it I see as being fine – I have rules on what I’ll accept and etc so why not both sides right? But of course I read so few review copies that I perhaps am not the best to talk to 🙂

  11. Liz

    I’m a reader who discovered blogs while housebound following surgery. I’ve found blogs to be informative and, when there’s give and take with comments, much more fun than a newspaper review. That said, my primary source of recommendations remains friends, as I sort out those bloggers whose reviews accord with my interests.

    I see nothing inherently wrong with a publisher setting out terms for free books. Publishers are in business, and not just for themselves but for authors too. Free books are advertising, which always is targeted, even if self-limiting.

    Bloggers who don’t want time limits have the option of buying a book (new or used), borrowing it from a library or friend, entering a giveaway, or not reading it–just like any other reader. If these options don’t fit, maybe the blogger is in the book-review business and, thus, should understand business practices.

    One flaw in requiring reviews of requested books is that a reviewer may feel compelled to write a review for a book not liked, that otherwise might have been quietly ignored. If, however, the blogger is honest in selecting books for review, perhaps the probability will be small.

  12. Great post and very thought provoking. I have a blog, but I have stated in my reading guidelines that I will not accept books to review from publishing companies. I understand WM’s point of view, but I think it could have been stated a bit differently.

  13. Simon, I didn’t think the letter was so poorly-worded that I can understand people getting in an uproar about it. I had thought it was much worse from other descriptions I’ve seen floating around. As to whether individual bloggers will want to play by those rules, I couldn’t say. I’ve never gotten a review copy sent to me for my blog, but if Penguin or OUP or one of the Spanish-language publishers I love offered me something I was interested in, I don’t think I’d find the William Morrow type of terms so insulting. If I did, though, I just wouldn’t play by their rules. End of story. I was somewhat dismayed to see some of the stereotypes about book bloggers being tossed around in the comments of the Guardian piece; however, it wasn’t all that surprising given there’s uninformed prejudices at play in most aspects of life. As far as I can tell, there’s room for both a print culture and a blogging culture as far as arts coverage goes and both models have good and bad writers to go around in abundance. Anyway, I enjoyed this post and the various links quite a bit. Thanks for taking the time to put so much of yourself into it. Cheers!

  14. Sharkell

    An interesting discussion. I am a blog follower and am new to yours, having just discovered it this month. I only follow about 5 blogs regularly with a few more that I might visit monthly. I haven’t thought much about the relationship between the blogging community and publishers before but I must admit to checking blog’s review policies and most I’ve seen say they will only read review copies if they are interested in the book. Also, from what I can tell, some bloggers take months to consolidate a book in their minds prior to reviewing them, which I think adds substance to the reviews so a one month time frame seems unreasonable to me. Free copies wouln’t be such a big deal to me as books are readily available from libraries, even if you may have to wait for a few weeks. I think some publishers have made a noose for their own necks here.

  15. What an interesting discussion. It is true however that book blogging has somehow ballooned and there are now hundreds out there. Many of them blog to get followers, and blog hits. I blog because I love to read and I want to remember the books I’ve read and my thoughts on them. Of course, I love it that people come and comment and read what I have to say. (I’ve actually blogged less lately because I’ve decided I’ll only post when a book moves me thus I will not blog about every book I read.) I don’t accept review copies unless I know I will read the book at some point but I don’t like the pressure of having to read and review a book. As you say, we are not paid to do this, we do it for the sheer love of reading and connecting with like-minded people.

    I myself don’t read the official reviews anymore, I prefer to read the reviews of bloggers I trust who like the same type of books I do. I find that the well written blog reviews don’t give too much away in terms of plot but they give enough of a teaser so you’ll want to read the book. On the other hand, the more famous reviewers in newspapers/magazines give such long drawn out reviews and analysis that the plot is usually revealed.

  16. Some bloggers are more sanguine. @farmlanebooks told me on Twitter that “I don’t mind publishers setting boundaries, just means I will accept and review very few books for them. Also means I will take no risks and will only accept books I know I have good chance of enjoying”. I followed up with the real person behind the blog , Jackie Bailey, who told me she’s just signed a similar contract with the BBC, asking her to post a link to her review on the BBC shop Facebook page within three weeks of receiving a book.

  17. I don’t actually see anything wrong with that letter – William Morrow are offering free books that you are allowed to choose according to your interests, in return for a timely review. I think it sounds like a very fair arrangement. You get a book you want to read for free – publisher gets some publicity. Some book bloggers strike me as being incredibly entitled and greedy, and in that article on the Guardian (nice quote Simon!) I saw a blogger had got all up in arms and said ‘we are not your bitches’ – which is a totally unwarranted response to the letter. All they’re asking is- if you accept a free book, can you please review it within a reasonable time frame – what’s unreasonable about that?

    I made a decision a while back to no longer accept review copies because I don’t have time to read them and I don’t want to feel pressured. At the end of the day, I am just a girl who likes books and I write about what I want, when I want – I have no agenda other than that. I’m not an amazing writer, I’m not a PhD qualified literary critic, and I’ve got no delusions of grandeur. I think far too many bloggers have an inflated opinion of themselves – you’re not the NYTimes, no. So why should you be treated like them? The NYTimes get millions of readers. Most book blogs have a max of about 500 a month. A publishing firm getting their book reviewed in the NYTimes is a much more lucrative gig than getting a review on a book blog. It’s not financially viable for a publisher to send out ad infinitum review copies to bloggers, who may then not even bother to write a review – because, like, ‘I’m not your bitch, yo!’ despite having ASKED for the book in the first place – so the publishers are more than entitled to set down rules to govern the process. These jumped up bloggers on the Guardian article (not you or Jackie!) seem to think that they deserve to get something for free and then give nothing back in return, and that says more about them and the reasons they’re blogging than it does about the publisher’s agenda.

    I’ll pipe down now! Interesting discussion Simon!

  18. Interesting discussion (although we’re all going to be a bit pro-blog here, aren’t we? Except for Rachel – the tiger is out of her cage! Heehee…) I actually thought the comments on the article were surprisingly measured – I’d expected worse.

    I understand what motivated William Morrow (a publisher I’d never heard of, incidentally) and I’m happy for any publisher to say no to me – indeed, I get much, much fewer unsolicited books than I did in 2008/9 – but I don’t want a deadline set for me. That’s because it’s not a business arrangement for me (I blog for fun) but the difficulty comes because it *is* a business arrangement for the publisher. Perhaps that’s the key to the whole thing? It’s business from one side and leisure from the other….

    But since I very rarely write about new books, publishers have (understandably) scaled back what they send! I often think how wonderful it must be for bloggers who like reading new books – if I could find someone to send me free copies of 1930s books, I’d be on cloud nine!

  19. gaskella

    Fascinating discussion – I wasn’t aware of this brouhaha, but I’m with Rachel actually – I can’t get worked up about the WM letter (apart from it could have been written better). I also like Simon T’s perceptive comment about it being business for the publisher, even if bloggers don’t see it that way… It’s natural for publishers to try to get their books higher in sales rankings especially for debuts, and getting a clutch of blog reviews at the same time can help there initially. Arguably one a book has been established a drip feed of reviews could help sustain sales too I guess – but this is pure speculation on my part – I’m not in publishing.

    Personally, I get my fair share of free books, but more of these nowadays come after being pitched to me. If I say yes – I will read them. I never commit to a schedule for review however. Unsolicited books are different and I don’t feel guilty about passing on reading them, and then passing them on.

  20. I got the letter, even though I don’t recall ever getting a book from William Morrow, and I didn’t have a problem with what they were asking. My only complaint about it is that one month’s notice is not enough for a lot of people who might be able and willing to review something if the timeline weren’t so short. I also didn’t get the impression that they were going to cut bloggers off completely for failing to review something now and then. I got the impression from the letter that they would stop sending books if you never bothered to review them, not if you occasionally decided against reading something after requesting it.

    Personally, I don’t make any promises when replying to pitches, other than that I’ll give the book a fair shake and try to get to it within 3-6 months of receiving it. Sometimes I can tell in a few chapters that a book isn’t right for me, and I’d rather not spend more time with it. If I only read a few chapters, I won’t bother to write about it unless I have something interesting to say about why it wasn’t working for me. So yes, I’ve failed to write about a couple of books I’ve gotten, but only a couple. If a publisher decides that’s enough to make it too risky to send me books, that’s fine with me. (One problem with filling out a form in response to a list, like what WM is going to start sending, is that there’s not always a place to make your policy clear. I wish there were, just so the publisher could pass on sending a book to me if my policy doesn’t work for them.)

    The thing that did bother me about the letter, and it bothered me quite a lot, was the idea that our role is to assist in the marketing to books. Yes, blogging about books has a marketing effect (although how great it is is open to question, surely the impact is nothing compared to a NYT or Guardian review). But the idea that we’re serving the publishers rather than our readers just feels icky to me. I feel pretty strongly about blogger independence, and I see a lot of bloggers who are almost obsequious toward publishers (the opposite of what Rachel describes, which I’ve also seen and found problematic) and always worrying about their preferences. This letter seemed to be feeding into that tendency–“do what we want, and we’ll keep feeding you new books.” But it was a problem in tone, really, and not with their plan itself.

  21. lizzysiddal

    Once I’d got over the surprise of receiving an email from William Morrow (where did they get my details, I wonder, though am not too bothered by it), and I’d read it, I thought fair enough. The tone didn’t bother me at all. Business is business but if you want committments like that from me, then it’s no deal. I will commit for the occasional blog tour/author interview but in the main I’m a whimsical reader and the timing has to be right … and sometimes when a review copy comes in, although the premise of the book originally sounded promising, I’ll McLullan test it (i.e read page 69) and think, no, this really is not for me.

    Would publishers be happier with reviews of books rejected on this basis than with my silence?

    Another question and one which Simon is in a good position to answer: do journalists review everyreview copy they receive?

  22. I understand the reasoning behind the letter & to be honest I don’t disagree with it. How can it be unreasonable to expect someone to post a review of a free book within an agreed timeframe? It surprises me that it hasn’t happened before. What does surprise me are the less than favourable opinions people seem to have of book bloggers. (And now I’m currently suffering a small amount of jealousy over the idea that I’m missing out on hordes of free books!)
    It also seems that the UK publishers are keeping fairly quiet on the subject – or have I missed their pouint of view somewhere?

  23. Thanks for the link. I hadn’t seen that article, but I was on Twitter and saw a lot of it unfold.

    Personally, other than my use of NetGalley, I have never requested a book from a publisher. I have a hard time asking for anything, and I never wanted a publisher to feel I was taking advantage of our relationship. I am pitched books, and I do accept review copies. Some I enjoy; some I don’t. I do try to review almost everything I read, however.

    Other than my discomfort in requesting books, I also think it gives me more freedom as a reader and a blogger. I enjoy both, and I want to continue enjoying them. Some bloggers talk about having no time or scheduling books in. I think that would very quickly make me resent my reading or my blogging time, and I don’t like that.

    I think that, as you say, publishers have every right to specify review guidelines. My comment on Twitter was something along the lines of “Bloggers set guidelines (and sometimes complain when people don’t follow them), so why should publishers be any different?” It is a business. They can dictate rules. I will not NOT buy a book because I don’t get a review copy. I buy and check out from the library. I did before I blogged, and I’ll continue doing it.

  24. I got the letter…and to be honest, I read it, made note of it and moved on with my day. I get a lot of books for review – some publishers query me first (which I appreciate) and others send unsolicited copies. Personally, I don’t like getting tons of unsolicited books because I have (like you) hundreds of books on my shelves and am running out of space to store them. So, I liked WM’s approach to send out a list of what was available and let us choose. I don’t think giving a one month deadline for review is all that reasonable. I usually have my reading planned out for up to four months ahead of time…this means I will most likely not be requesting many books from WM.

    All that said – my relationship with publishers and publicists is good. I have contacts who I keep in touch with and I try to fulfill my promises although lately I have been telling people more and more that I cannot promise a review. I think that publishers must remember that book bloggers are unpaid…we have other jobs and responsibilities. Print reviewers work for a third party and get paid for that work. I don’t think it is fair to compare print reviewers with bloggers for just that reason.

    At the end of the day, I blog because I love books. It has never been a job for me and will never be work. If the publishers decided some day that they no longer were going to send me books, I think I have enough on my TBR stacks to read for the next 8 to 10 years.

  25. Interesting. I have some experience of the journalism side and I have a book blog. Publishers generally seem keen to get books out there and frankly a proof copy and postage is cheap as marketing goes. This is why top newspapers and magazines get sent a hundred or more unsolicited new books EVERY DAY when they only review a handful. Publishers know this but they don’t wait to be asked. And even when a book is specifically requested it is accepted practice not to always publish a review.

    Book bloggers, on the other hand, tend to have a more request-based relationship with publishers, which makes sense. But no-one is forcing the publishers to send out those free copies and it’s their choice how much research they do before adding a reviewer to their database. I have been surprised by the lack of questions from publishers I have approached. So far they seem to have a blanket policy re book bloggers – always no or always yes.

    If a book is sent unsolicited then I definitely would not feel obligated to review it. It is not my fault if a publisher took a punt on me and misjudged. But if I do start requesting more review copies (I don’t do many at present) then I will add a disclaimer to that effect to my blog.

    Book bloggers may not be professional critics (for the most part) but we are avid readers who are publicising books for no money. (In fact it often costs us money in internet hosting charges.) And we are also often the same people rating and reviewing books on Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, etc, which are all proven tools that help authors to sell. I agree with Teresa that this should not be _why_ anyone chooses to review a book, but it is certainly why publishers send out review copies.

    I went to a panel discussion about book reviews a few months back where all the panellists were authors who also wrote some book reviews. They all valued book bloggers for our different audience and style from newspaper reviewers and had nothing negative to say about us.

  26. Pingback: The Sunday Salon: A Bit of This and That «

  27. Can I just say that I’m deeply offended by this whole affair?

    I mean, I didn’t even get the bloody e-mail – that’s just embarrassing…

  28. Like a few others, I got the email and didn’t think much of it other than “well, that doesn’t really fit in my schedule for reviewing so I probably won’t ask for any books from them” and that was that. When I got their clarification a day or two later, I thought it was sufficient and that they had just made a mistake in some aspects of the first letter. Generally, I think that there are many people out there who like to turn everything into a controversy and this was largely a case of that. Was the letter well-worded? No. Was it something to throw a fit over? No again.

  29. Pingback: An Apocalyptic Awakening… | Savidge Reads

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