There’s always a lot of chatter in the community about how much of an obligation book bloggers have when it comes to ARCs.
- Let’s say a blogger is given an UNSOLICITED (meaning they didn’t ask for it) review copy of a book. Are they obligated to review it?
- If a blogger REQUESTS an ARC, are they obligated to review it?
It’s the question of whether or not a blogger NEEDS to review ARCs.
Now, I think there are two sides to this:
“Blogging is NOT my job. I don’t work for the company, thus I don’t have to review anything.”
“I was given something for free. I owe the publisher something for this free item.”
Personally, I think it’s somewhere in the middle.
If you take an ARC, you are part of a marketing campaign
Sometimes I see bloggers say things like:
“I am NOT part of your marketing campaign! This isn’t my job and I don’t have to do anything.”
I kind of disagree. I mean, yeah, you don’t HAVE to do anything since you’re not an employee, but ARCs are for marketing. They’re actually and legitly part of marketing campaigns. If you look at the inside or back of an ARC, it usually says something like:
Six-Figure Global Marketing & Publicity Campaign
- Exclusive reveals via social media
- 8-city national author tour, including book festival appearances
- Top account galley mailing
- Adult and YA blogger outreach
- 20-stop blog tour
- Digital chapter sampler available
Blog tours, sending out ARCs, and reaching out to bloggers ARE part of a marketing campaign. And it makes sense. Publishers give book bloggers the time of day because we help generate buzz and reviews, and those in turn help generate sales. It’s all about marketing.
Blog tours and ARCs are for marketing
So if you participate in a blog tour (“official” or through a third party company) or receive an ARC you are part of a marketing campaign. Period. That doesn’t necessarily mean you HAVE to go through with anything, because as we laid out before, you’re not an employee and you don’t have a contract. But you’re still part of a marketing campaign.
So what does that mean?
While you don’t HAVE to do anything, I do think there’s an obligation
I think we’re all going to have our own views here, but here are mine:
If you don’t ask for something, you’re not obligated
I think there’s absolutely ZERO obligation if you are sent a book that you didn’t solicit. That means you didn’t put in a request or ask for a book, but you got it sent to you anyway. You didn’t ask for it, so you have zero obligation there. And publishers know that. They send it to you hoping that you’ll read it. You don’t have to and they know that.
If you request it, you do have an obligation
But if you REQUEST something, I think the situation is different. Here’s the general understanding between a publisher and a blogger of what will happen:
- Blogger requests a book because they want to read/review it
- Publisher sends them the book for free
- Blogger reads the book and reviews it honestly
- Whether the review is positive or negative, the book gets more attention, thus fulfilling the purpose of sending out ARCs for marketing
So with that in mind, if you request a book, I personally believe you are telling the publisher, “I want to read this book and then I will review it.”
A review doesn’t always get written…
Now obviously, it doesn’t always happen that way. There will be times that you will request a book and not get around to it:
- Something changes in your life/blogging circumstances so you don’t have time to read/review the book.
- You start seeing a ton of negative review pop up so you’re no longer interested in reading the book.
- A few weeks later, you still haven’t read it, and you’re no longer “in the mood” to read it.
Those happen. I’ve been there. And I think that’s okay. Publishers accept that you may not be able to review EVERYTHING. But I think there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Your ratios DO matter. If you don’t review most of the books you request then I do think you’re doing the publishers a disservice, and that’s why they’ll be less likely to approve your requests in the future. If you don’t review it, you’re not helping their marketing campaign. If you don’t review it, then there’s another blogger out there who COULD have gotten this book and WOULD have actually read it. But they didn’t get it because you got it instead. There are only so many ARCs to go around (also true for eARCs).
- It’s about your initial approach. I personally don’t think you should approach each request as a “consideration”. You shouldn’t request a book because MAYBE you will be interested in reading it EVENTUALLY. That’s not fair. You should request because you DO want to read it and you INTEND to. Now, as I mentioned before, things don’t always go to plan and circumstances change. But I think it’s about your original intention.
You’re not an employee, but there’s still a certain RESPONSIBILITY
Bloggers are not employed by publishers. We don’t have a contract with them. We don’t get paid.
But if you’re accepting something from them for free, under the basis of writing a review, I do think there is a certain obligation there to fulfil that expectation. We all understand that you may not fulfil that every single time—I know that I don’t. But I think it’s important that you go into it with the right mindset and do your best to review books MOST of the time.
Bloggers are, in a sense, professionals. There’s a reason why we’re allowed into BookExpo America and other trade events, but consumers are not. In the book world, we are “industry professionals”. Because of our connections and reach, we do kind of have a “status” above normal readers (consumers). I think part of that is understanding what we’re doing when we request a book, how that affects others, and what is expected or hoped of us.
To put it in perspective…
Let’s say I gave one of my WordPress themes to a blogger for free in order for them to use it and leave a review. I’m giving them a commercial/premium product for free in exchange for something on their part—a review, which will hopefully lead to more sales in the future. Now, if they accept the theme, download it, but then DON’T review it, imagine how I’d feel.. Kind of ripped off. I gave them something for free that people normally pay money for, but then they didn’t even do their part!
Obviously the book industry is a little different from my little theme shop, but it’s still something to think about.
Don’t freak out about it, just be mindful
Don’t freak out if you fail to review a book, or two, or three… Just make sure that you are reviewing MOST of the books you request. If you’re not, then I think you need to look into why that is and consider requesting fewer books.
And remember, it’s not all about ARCs. This community has a HUGE obsession with ARCs, but you can be a book blogger and NOT request/read ARCs. Some people feel like after a certain point they’re “expected” to start reading/requesting ARCs, but you’re really not. Don’t be afraid to do your own thing. I broke up with my ARC obsession in 2013. I still request them, but I request WAAAAY fewer than I did before. I’m a much happier blogger because of it, and I have a pretty good radio on NetGalley (92%) since I only request the books I REALLY want.
What do you think about this topic? Do book bloggers have SOME obligation when it comes to reviewing their ARCs?
I think some people may have massively different opinions on this than I do, so let’s please just be respectful of different choices and opinions. 🙂 These are MY thoughts and you’re welcome to share YOUR thoughts as long as it’s done respectfully.