How Much of an Obligation do Book Bloggers Have?

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.”

Blogger #1

“I was given something for free. I owe the publisher something for this free item.”

Blogger #2

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
  • [..etc..]

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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. πŸ™‚ These are MY thoughts and you’re welcome to share YOUR thoughts as long as it’s done respectfully.

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I'm a 27 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). I like to inject a little #girlpower into the WordPress development community by teaching women how to be coding badasses. more »

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103 comments

    1. Yeah I totally agree that ALA and BEA are different. It’s a different environment and you’re not really “requesting” books there. Plus, you pay to attend. So because of that, I kind of feel like you can do whatever you want (within the law, ie no selling on eBay) with your books.

  1. Yes, on so many levels. I do think that bloggers and reviewers do have some obligation to read and review the books that they actually request. It’s like you said, they are part of that campaign and they requested something of the publisher and the publisher was kind enough to grant their request, so I do feel as if the blogger owes them a review. Now, whether it’s a full blown review or a mini-review, they do have some responsibility towards and I can see how it would potentially frustrate the publishers if they keep seeing the same person request and request and then not put something forward. For me, personally, I did receive a few ARC’s both physical and eGalley within the last two months of last year, but as you said things in life pops up and happens and I wasn’t able to get some of them like I had wanted. I ended up getting incredibly sick and wasn’t able to do much of anything for a little over a month. So, what I’m going to be doing is taking at least one possibly two of those ARC’s and incorporating them into my monthly “tbr” books and reviewing them until I am finished and all caught up on them. I have also let the publisher’s who had sent those ARC’s to me and approved me for the eGalley’s an email to make them aware of the situation and what I plan to do to rectify it. So, I definitely hold pretty much the same views that you do about this and this was a great eye-opening discussion post. πŸ™‚

    Suz @ A Soul Unsung recently posted: Book Blitz: Hater (Hashtag #2) by Cambria Herbert
    1. Yeah even if I can’t get around to a book, I always try to let the publisher know why. Sometimes that means submitting feedback and explaining that I saw tons of my friends give the book 1 or 2 stars and I lost my desire to read the book. It happens sometimes. But communicating with the publisher is important!

      1. Agreed, communication is everything. I have one contact who sent me this awesome book, the first one from him, and it took me a YEAR to read it because I had a baby, realized I had WAY less “free time sitting around with a sleeping baby” than I thought I would have, and the book subject was dark and I couldn’t face it with eight months of postpartum depression. So every month, I’d send him a little note touching base, and after a year, when it finally went live (and I LOVED it), guess what? He was not only happy with a year-late review, but I got an email from the author thanking me, and not only did he send me another book, but he included a personal card with a funny smiley face in it, and a little encouragement. I totally dropped the ball with that review, but because I talked to him about it throughout the long wait, I made a killer connection, and even a little bit of a friend.

  2. As always, I find here a pretty coherent thought on a controversial subject.
    Thumbs up, Ashley – I totally agree!
    You’re my guru πŸ˜‰

  3. I think that if you request an ARC, you should read it at some point. I know that life happens, you get busy, etc. but I think you should set a time for that ARC since the publisher gave you that book in exchange for an honest review. For unsolicited arcs, it’s so hard to NOT read it! I am auto-approve for HarperCollins so I’m always tempted to download all their books.

    Leigh @ Little Book Star recently posted: Stacking the Shelves #12
    1. Yeah I’m auto-approved for them too, and it’s hard to not go on downwloading sprees! I’ve been better lately though and downloading fewer and fewer each “round”.

  4. I think there is an obligation when you request a book. I only request books that I really want to read. I haven’t received an unsolicited ARC before, but I think that you’re not obligated to review books that you actually didn’t ask for. The publisher is probably hoping that you may take a look at it or help promote it in some way.

  5. I think you summed this up pretty much perfectly. We all know that things happen in life and there are sometimes mistakes made, but in general, the rule should be that if you request it, do your darndest to read and review it. Blogging may not be your job, but if you request something you’re pretty much making yourself part of their marketing campaign, whether that was your intention or not.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted: Review – Split Second by Kasie West
    1. Exactly! I see some bloggers act so disgusted that, “Publishers think we’re part of their marketing campaign. WE’RE NOT!” But WE ARE part of it. And if you take an ARC you’re OPTING IN to their campaign. If you don’t want to be part of it then don’t read ARCs, it’s that simple.

      I just think it’s a bit silly that some bloggers think they can take ARCs and still insist that they’re not part of some marketing campaign.

  6. This is an amazing post. I agree that unsolicited copies do not have to be reviewed – I sometimes even give them away to those who would love to read/review the books. And for requested copies I feel an obligation to review them as you said it’s only fair if I’ve asked for the product. However, when I first started out I got a little ARC happy and still have books from way back that I always meant to read and review, but I’ve decided that I will concentrate on the here and now and one day I’ll get to those poor over requested ARCs. I have learned my lesson and rarely ask for review copies unless I am dying to read the book. It’s only fair that people wanting to read the book are able to get their hands on copies. πŸ™‚

    As always, your posts are always so honest and on the mark.

    Chrystal recently posted: Reading Jar DIY
    1. Thank you Chrystal!

      Yeah I think a lot of bloggers get a little ARC happy when they first start out, then they realize their mistake and spend a while “making up” for it. It’s good that you’re turning things around! πŸ™‚

  7. You’ve articulated this perfectly. There is definitely an obligation to review. No one is going to get you in trouble if you don’t, but failing to fulfill the obligation is a step toward not being given the opportunity again.

    The one area where this might not be as true is with books pick up as physical ARCs at conferences. Now, maybe this is because I go to English teacher and librarian conferences, but the general attitude there is that if you take a book you end up not wanting, you pass it along to someone who does want it. I regularly give boxes of ARCs to high school teachers and librarians who are more likely to read the books — they are still professionals who have purchasing power in the industry, so passing along to them still helps in the marketing campaign.

    Tara @ The Librarian Who Doesn't Say Shhh! recently posted: YA Book to Movie Review: The Fault in Our Stars
    1. Exactly! Bloggers aren’t being paid, but we can still have privileges taken away from us if we don’t fulfil our end of the “deal”. Publishers don’t HAVE to give us ARCs, and if we a blogger doesn’t review anything they’re given then the publisher will probably stop giving that person ARCs. It’s that simple.

      I totally agree with you about ARCs from conferences. I probably should have mentioned that! I think ARCs are a completely different environment. Plus, in many cases, you’re PAYING to attend. You could argue that you’re paying for all the books you’ll be receiving, and if that’s the case, you can do whatever you want with them (review or not).

      But places like BEA are such a different environment from NetGalley / Edelweiss / a formal email for a physical ARC. It’s not like they’re adding names to a list to see who reviews and who doesn’t. πŸ˜‰

  8. Yep, I agree with you completely! No one will fault a blogger if one or two books happen to slip through, or circumstances come up, etc. But if you just don’t bother more often than not? Yeah, not okay. I feel like I am requesting a book because I want to read it, but also because I plan on reviewing it on my site. There are books I am not sure I want to review, for whatever reason, so I buy them myself. I even feel guilty not finishing a review book, though I have done it twice (because really, my scathing review wasn’t helping anyone anyway, better to just call it quits).

    Like you said, the ARC states that it is for review, plain and simple. The publishers aren’t giving them out because they like you, they’re giving them because they are putting faith in you reviewing them. I take that quite seriously. How does it look if I am not responsible enough to follow through? Does that mean I am always going to flake? I think if you can’t review a book, dropping a quick line to whoever you requested it from would go a long way, especially if it is a physical book that someone took the time and expense to mail you.

    The one gray area I’d never known quite what to do with is when I had first started blogging and accepted author requests. I didn’t ask the author for the book, but I did say I would read it. I had a lot of trouble with kind of hating a few books, and not knowing what I should do- do I just not review it, or do I have to send that super uncomfortable “I didn’t like this book” email? If I read the whole book, I did review honestly, but some were so bad I couldn’t do it. (Now I am much more selective, but back then I didn’t have a clue!)

    Fabulous post, I think a lot of people will have different opinions, but I agree with you completely!

    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight recently posted: Review: Soulprint by Megan Miranda
    1. Yeah if someone isn’t sure if they want to review a book or not, they shouldn’t request it! I think some bloggers forget that ARCs aren’t the only way to get books. We can still buy them! Or get them from the library, etc. That’s what I do with all the books I’m iffy on.

      And I totally agree with you on telling the publisher if you can’t/won’t review a book. Communication is important! Sometimes I see loads of my friends giving a book like 1 or 2 stars and I no longer want to read it because I don’t think it’s “for me” anymore. If that happens, I submit feedback to the publisher anyway and explain exactly that. I think it happens to me infrequently enough that they understand.

      Ugh I totally feel your pain in regards to author requests. That’s actually a huge reason why I stopped taking them. I feel like it’s always best to send that awkward email, BUT I HATE IT!! I hate doing that so much. I just can’t stand it any more.

  9. I think once you request a book, that’s saying “I’m going to read it, and most likely review it,” but things may come up. For example, several times I accepted review requests from individual authors (as opposed to NetGalley or a PR company) and when I finished, they asked about me reading the book’s sequel or another book by them. I would say something along the lines of “I’m interested but don’t know when I would get around to it, so Ill let you know.” One author immediately sent me the book, I told her that I would not be able to review it immediately, but then she kept emailing me asking when the review (that I hadn’t agreed to yet) would be posted.

    But if I get an ARC from NetGalley or from a tour company, I always read the book. I may not review it right away, but I try my hardest to post the review in a timely manner. I think there was 1 time out of about 100 so far where I forgot about it. I still posted, but one or two days late.

    What irks me are the tour obligations where if you don’t like the book, you’re asked to switch to another type of post. My biggest thing about blogging is that I don’t want to post about/basically promote books that I can’t honestly endorse. So if I hated a book enough that my review would be too negative for the tour, I feel iffy about promoting the book in another way on my tour date. I understand the obligation, but it just makes me feel scummy.

    I’m trying to cut back on obligated reading and reviewing this year. However, I saw a ranty Facebook post today that I’m pretty sure was aimed at me at least a little bit and will impact my ability to do so without burning bridges that I kinda don’t want to burn (I’m not even going to go into how tacky I found the public post, though).

    Brittany recently posted: January Write On Review-a-Thon
    1. Ugh it’s so silly that you can be so clear and up front with an author, and then they’ll still pester you about the review.

      I totally agree with you in regards to the tour obligations. I TOTALLY get why you have to do a promo post or something instead, because ultimately the author paid for 20 stops (or whatever) so the company can’t suddenly only deliver 18 because two people didn’t like the book. It’s not fair to the author.

      But as a blogger, I absolutely HATE having to promote a book to my readers when I already know I didn’t like the book.

      This is one of the main reasons I veeeery rarely participate in blog tours. And when I do, I make sure to read the book ASAP. That way, I can usually have time to drop out of the tour completely. This happened just recently. I read a book straight after I got it, didn’t like it, but there was still just over a month until the tour started. So I emailed them, explained that my first choice would be to drop out, and since I gave them PLENTY of notice, they let me go because they had time to find a replacement.

      But if you only give them a week notice, they don’t have time to do that, w hich makes sense.

      Sorry about that Facebook post. πŸ™ That’s horrible!

      1. So true. I actually once read a book the day after they sent it and asked to be removed and couldn’t get out of it. I’ve been trying to do more ARCs through NetGalley instead of through PR companies, but that puts me out of the running for a lot of authors I love. Every month I have one big goal/project, and I think February’s is going to be trying inquiring with authors and publishing houses about getting on ARC lists instead.

        Brittany recently posted: January Write On Review-a-Thon
      2. Obligatory posts in tours do make sense, and I do hate them when they go terribly wrong (ie: hate the book, something comes up and I can’t do it in time). I still do tours, but only rarely, and I always give a totally honest (but tactful) opinion. For tours, if my review is negative, I will generally try to include a “you may enjoy this book if” (non-sarcastic) addendum, so it’s not ALL negative. I also post tour info in a separate post so I can delete it a year later, and just leave the review without the promotional part.

  10. This is a great post, girl! I completely agree with you 110%! I think that you do have an obligation to ones you request, but not the ones you are sent without request. Sometimes I think bloggers put more pressure on themselves in this area than is necessary. Honestly, the only pressure they have to review is what they put on themselves by requesting books for review. Great post! πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you Amanda! πŸ˜€

      I totally agree in regards to pressure. Book blogging only has as much pressure as YOU let it have. If you hate pressure, stop requesting so many ARCs and buy books instead. It’s as simple as that. πŸ™‚

  11. I sooooooo agree with you, Ashley – bloggers definitely have obligation to a publisher/publicist if the publisher/publicist (or even author) sent them a copy for review purposes, in my opinion. It’s our fault if we let them pile up, not the publisher’s fault (or author, if you’re dealing with authors directly sending the review books to readers, which is the case with indie authors). When we cry “there are too many” or “I’m no longer interested in THIS one”, it’s not the publisher’s fault or problem. If bloggers specifically request something (or specifically download an electronic review copy), then it is my opinion (again, OPINION, not mandate) that the party obtaining said review copy (via request or download) should submit some sort of feedback.

    Unsolicited, won, given, borrowed, etc. – that’s different. But in general, when it comes to publishers and professionalism and whatnot, it’s good not to waste anyone’s money, in my opinion πŸ˜€

    Excellent post, Ashley!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    Alyssa Susanna (The Eater of Books!) recently posted: Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
    1. You’re totally right—it’s our fault if we let them pile up. That pressure and stress is on us! If someone feels like they’re drowning in books/requests/obligations, it’s time to take a step back and stop (or pause) requesting ARCs.

  12. This is a great topic and one I’m sure many have run into before. You did an awesome job explaining it! I used to review books all of the time, but due to my schedule, no longer have the time. So unless a favorite author specifically asks me to review a book I stay away from it, because I know I’ll feel obligated and will be stuck. Don’t want to cause any ill will in the author world, or waste a publisher’s money as Alyssa mentioned. I’ve only run into one situation where an author tried to insist,( eventually becoming angry) that I read and review her work, even though i explained my schedule was too crazy. YIKES!

    1. Thank you! πŸ™‚ I definitely fee a lot happier now that I request fewer books. I get to the ones that I do request straight away, so I never have a backlog.

  13. I almost always read books requests. I get lax with Netgalley and Edelwiess books sometimes but I always get to them eventually. But I had big publishers send me ARCs I never requested and I was flattered but they were all YA and I just didn’t feel like YA at the time. I read and reviewed half of them. The publisher stopped sending me ARCs, I totally understood, but I just couldn’t review all the books they were sending. I didn’t ask for them and most of them I didn’t even like.

    Jennifer Bielman recently posted: Release Day Review: Withering Hope by Layla Hagen
    1. I know exactly what you mean. For a while, HarperCollins was sending me TONS of physical ARCs. They’d send me regular packages with like FIVE BOOKS! That was awesome and I felt so flattered, but loads of them were:

      1) Part of a series that I hadn’t read and had no desire to read.
      2) Books I just wasn’t that keen on.

      So eventually they stopped sending them, presumably because I wasn’t reading them. And part of the problem is definitely the fact that they send so many at once. I’d get like 4-5 books per package O_O That’s a ton to get at once…

  14. I agree with you; if you request it then you are kind of obligation, if you get it sent unsolicited then there isn’t really an obligation because you didn’t ask.
    I review pretty much every book I get, because I request them, there are a couple of times where I haven’t had time and those books have disappeared off Net Galley before I could get round to them, but I would feel bad if I would feel bad about continuously not bothering to review books I’d requested.

    1. And even if you can’t get around to a book, it’s still good to send feedback to the publisher and explain why that was the case. I’m sure they appreciate the message/explanation. πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you Pat. πŸ™‚ I definitely feel a lot better about reviewing now that I’m super picky about the books I request. I read the synopsis, look for early reviews on Goodreads, and make sure I’m REALLY interested in the book and think I will like it.

  15. I think that if a blogger specifically requests a book they do have the responsibility to try and read/review it. If something gets in the way or it’s not out on a certain date that’s not a bad thing, as long as they try their best. I’m not saying they have to interrupt everything to read it, but at least to give it a try since they wanted it in the first place. If they’re given one they didn’t request they don’t have to read it, but maybe consider giving it a try if it sounds like something they would like.

    Kelsey recently posted: Review: Cold Shadows by J.L. Bryan
    1. Yeah I think it’s all about trying, making an effort, and going in with good intentions. And if you notice that you don’t review most of the books you’re getting, it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate. πŸ™‚

  16. I pretty much agree with everything you say Ashley. If I get sent an unsolicited copy (which doesn’t happen any more) I would try my hardest to review it, but I certainly wouldn’t feel obligated. However, if I request on Netgalley or Edelweiss I’m doing my very best this year to read EVERYTHING I request and am accepted for. It’s tough, because I am obsessed with Netgalley, but I’m trying SO hard to only request books I want to read (which is hard when it’s like GRABBY HANDS).

    I’m actually getting pretty tired of the whole ARC thing. All I seem to see on Twitter these days is bloggers begging publishers or authors for free books and I hate it. I think it’s so unprofessional and I’ve unfollowed so many bloggers because it just makes my blood boil. Bloggers get too caught up in the free stuff (and maybe I was guilty of that a couple of years back but not so much now) and now all I seem to see is brags about this book or that book. When you’re on the other side of review copies, you see how shallow it all is; how much sucking up to authors bloggers will do to get a free book, even if they don’t even want it. /endrant.

    With the launch of the new site, I’m also cutting back on blog tour commitments. I’ll still do them, but only to post a review. I’m not too interested in other content like interviews, guest posts or giveaways.

    1. I think you’ve set an awesome goal for yourself. I personally think it helps A LOT if I read books immediately after I get them. If I request a book, receive it, and wait a month before I read it, I tend to lose my excitement/drive for the book. But if I read it at the HEIGHT of my excitement (which is right after I get it) then my chance of reading/reviewing it like quadruples!

      I agree with you about the whole ARC frenzy in general. Whenever I see people obsessing over how to get ARCs, or dissecting publisher criteria for sending out ARCs, I roll my eyes. I almost feel sorry for those people. Blogging isn’t all about ARCs. I feel like some bloggers forget that YOU CAN STILL BUY BOOKS! If they don’t get an ARC they get sooo upset and act like they’ll never get to read the book. X_X

  17. Great topic. I believe if you ask for something for FREE then the least you can do is leave a review for it. Otherwise, don’t ask for it. I never ask for any books. I’ve got way too many to read and I don’t like being on a time crunch with my reading. I do, however, have a couple of authors who will send me an email asking if I’d like to review a book and if so they’ll send me a copy. I usually feel quite honoured to be asked so I say yes. I don’t HAVE to read it and review it, but when I’m asked like that I personally feel that it is an obligation. I’ve got one right now as a matter of fact that I don’t really feel like reading but I committed so I’m going to do it, but… there is no time crunch for it so I don’t have to feel rushed. So YES… if you ask for it you SHOULD review it or stop asking. This is of course barring any life events that stop them from doing it. That’s to be expected, but like Kelsey said, “Try your best.”

    1. Absolutely! ARCs aren’t about seeing who can get the most books/approvals. It’s about finding books you’re REALLY interested in and excited to read/review.

  18. I think that book bloggers do have an obligation for the ARCs they requested. Especially for paper books which cost a lot to print, but we should not go crazy about piling up eARCs too..
    I had a problem: always requesting too much etc, but then I changed my rule for picking/requesting ARCs and now I am slowly catching up..

    I think this is the most important and you should highlight it in your article:
    “You shouldn’t request a book because MAYBE you will be interested in reading it EVENTUALLY. You should request because you DO want to read it and you INTEND to. “

    Dragana recently posted: Top Ten Signs That You Love Some Book
    1. Thanks for your thoughts Dragana! πŸ™‚

      Yeah, eARCs are often seen as different from physical ARCs because it doesn’t cost any money to send out an extra copy of an eARC. But I think people forget that there are still quotas and limits for eARCs. As part of the marketing campaign, publishers make a plan to send out only a certain amount. They’ll agree to give away 200 or 500 eARCs and that’s it. Once they’ve hit that limit, no one is getting any more.

      So if a blogger receives an eARC, that means there’s one more person who WON’T be getting that book.

  19. My personal feelings fall somewhere in between the first two responses as well, but I do approach each ARC as a consideration…not that I’ll “get to it eventually”, but that I’ll at least give it a try. If I start a book and don’t like it (or even if I do, but don’t feel like it’s right for the content of my blog), I don’t feel an obligation to finish or review it. I think part of blogging pressure comes from this self-imposed feeling that we aren’t allowed to DNF books or have to write reviews for books we don’t finish, and that’s just not fair. That being said, I totally agree that publishers have every right to stop sending ARCs to bloggers who begin to hoard books without reviewing, which I see way too much of.

    Shannon @ River City Reading recently posted: Top Ten Book to Film Adaptations
    1. I think it’s important that we do our best to give ARCs a chance. You’re right that it doesn’t mean we have to like the book or even finish it. If I end up not finishing an ARC (which happens a fair amount!) then I at least explain that to the publisher and sometimes I even write a DNF review on my blog. I tell them why it didn’t work for me and I know they’ll understand. We can’t all love every book!

  20. Great post and I agree 100% with it.

    I got a little arc happy when I first joined Netgalley but now I only request books I have interest in reading and not just because they have pretty covers. LOL

    I only request printed arcs (or finished copies) of books in series I’m already read or by authors I love because I KNOW I will read and review them.

    I do get a few UNSOLICITED books from publishers. If it’s something I would NEVER read I ask my reviewers if they want them and if not I donate them to my local library.

    Jennifer @ The Book Nympho recently posted: Can’t Get Enough of . . . Small Town Romances?
    1. I think that ARC happy feeling happens to many bloggers when they’re first starting out. πŸ˜€ I think it’s just important that we all learn from that and eventually move forward.

  21. This is a fantastic post! “I get paid in books” has always been my way of looking at blogging. Even if I’ve decided a book isn’t for me or I’ve had to DNF it, I still shoot the publisher an email thanking them for the opportunity to read it, and include a brief explanation of why they won’t see it on my blog.

    Jen-Jenuine Cupcakes (@cupcakegirly) recently posted: BLOG TOUR: GUEST POST + GIVEAWAY: Shoalman Immortal by Toni Decker
    1. That’s a great way to look at it!

      And yes, I do the same with DNF reviews. I ALWAYS explain to the publisher. Sometimes I even write DNF reviews on the blog (only if I have enough to say about it and not just “it wasn’t for me”).

  22. Great thoughts!

    If I don’t want to review a book that I have requested – either because I’ve lost interest or I started it and found it didn’t really suit my tastes, I always send the publisher or PR person a short note explaining why. It doesn’t happen very often. I don’t mind writing critical reviews if a book falls short of my expectations, but I much prefer to write reviews of books I would like to share with my friends. That’s why I review books, so I can enthuse about them.

    I agree that we are in no way obligated to read unsolicited books. Sometimes I read them, sometimes I don’t. I also review a lot of books that I purchased on my own and books that have been on my shelf for years. I like my blog being a mixture of genres and titles, not just the latest reads. πŸ™‚

    Kelly Jensen recently posted: Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown
    1. I think it’s fantastic that you always communicate with the publisher. I do that too! I imagine they appreciate a little message about what’s going on. It’s better than not hearing anything at all!

  23. This is a great post. I consider myself an industry professional so I feel obligated to read the books that I solicit. That totally works for me. I just have a terrible time remembering to post my reviews back to NetGalley and Edelweiss. I just realized this morning that I read and reviewed 4 titles that I never gave the publisher feedback on. Hopefully my epic reading spreadsheet will help me remember to give publishers feedback in a more timely manner.

  24. I couldn’t agree more with you.

    Previously when I was requesting ARCs from NetGalley, I have to send my feedback to the publishers in order to maintain my Feedback to Approval Ratio so that I’m able to request more books in the future.

    But since I started to receive printed ARCs from the publishers, I feel obliged to write a review (even though I didn’t enjoy reading the book) as I understand that printed ARCs cost money and they’re actually more expensive to print than those copies for sale. Apart from that, I like to share my reviews and encourage the people in my country to read more.

  25. I agree with you on everything. I think you have responsibility to a certain extent. If you requested a book, you really should review it if you can, but sometimes you request a book and by the time you’re approved for it or have received it, you don’t have as much time to read it anymore, so you may not be able to read it in time for release. But overall I do think you should review books you receive, even if you didn’t ask for them because they chose you to be part of their marketing campaign. πŸ™‚

    Bieke @ Istyria book blog recently posted: From Page to Screen: Whiplash
    1. Exactly!

      These days I try to read books as soon as I get them. I find that the longer I wait, the less likely I am to read it.

  26. Great topic! I think there are some bloggers that just like to request ARC’s because they like free books and they don’t even bother to read/review them. Then there are some bloggers who MUST review EVERY SINGLE book they get. Which I don’t think is a good thing either…
    I think this puts a lot of pressure on bloggers to read books they might not even want to…and some end up not liking it.
    I know bloggers who don’t even read books that aren’t arc’s because they feel guilty.
    There are arc’s that I will skip, if I’ve read reviews and it’s something I really think I won’t like. Other times, I might buy the audiobook or will wait a little while to read it.

    Nereyda @Mostly YA Book Obsessed recently posted: Review: Agnes & the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer!
    1. Yeah it’s like they see a FREE book and they have to have it, even if they’re not that into it.

      Obviously everyone can do their own thing, but I personally think that the “healthiest” way to be a book blogger is to limit your ARC requests to only those you REALLY want. Or, at least come up with a system where you don’t request anymore books until you’ve read through what you already have.

      That way, you have fewer obligations on your plate and a lot less stress/worry/guilt.

  27. I just recently started blogging well a couple of months ago and before I didn’t how big of a responsibility it was and didn’t know much ARC’s either.
    I completely agree with you on this especially if I request something and I don’t review it, it just gives a bad impression. It’s another thing that you have genuine reason like RL is too busy or sometimes you really don’t want to read it anymore b/c of your friends reviews etc than to just ‘collect’ arcs.

    1. Yeah, I reckon some bloggers just feel really good about having a lot of ARCs and get attached to that feeling of “importance” that comes with them. πŸ™

  28. I don’t like people who don’t take blogging seriously and then get upset when they don’t get ARCs. I feel like a blog is whatever you want, whenever you post and very carefree until you start requesting ARCs from the publisher, asking for blog tours and getting “into” the industry. once there, it’s almost like a job. A lot of people see the glamour of ARCs but like you said in this post, it can be an obligation and personally, I don’t find that fun.

    Nova @ Out of Time recently posted: Album Review: x - Ed Sheeran
    1. Yeah you can’t have both: the fun of ARCs and a complete lack of responsibility/obligation. If you don’t review the ARCs, publishers will stop giving them to you!

  29. Hm, I’m afraid on this we’re going to have to agree to disagree. As a blogger that has a “for review consideration” policy, I’m honestly a bit upset by your implications here. To me it seems like you’re saying a “for review consideration” policy means that I don’t have every intention of reading the books I request. I do only request when I’m genuinely interested and excited to read the book; I am just trying to be honest with the publicist that my life is rather unpredictable so I have a hard time predicting how many review books I’ll receive (since half the time I get them and half I don’t and I still can’t figure out the likelihood of being approved) and I have a hard time predicting how much time I’ll have to read any given month because of how variable my job is. It feels to me that you are implying that I’m “doing it wrong” or being greedy and unfair when I’m just trying to be honest. I don’t see what the problem is if I’m honest with the publicist when requesting books. I’m honestly kind of hurt by the judgement that I’m feeling from this post. The publicists can decide for themselves if they are all right with the risk that comes from my unpredictable life and moods when sending/approving me for an ARC.

    There was a good discussion about this last year and my post about it is here and it includes a couple of links arguing in favor of the “for review consideration” model.

    1. I’m sorry you thought I was judging in this post Anya. πŸ™ That wasn’t my intention. I tried to make it clear that these were just my thoughts. I certainly don’t think there’s only one way to do things or act. Everyone has their own opinions and they’re free to work in the method that’s best for them!

      I think if you request a book with the intention of reading it, that’s all that matters. If you don’t get around to it, then that’s fine. Things happen. I just think someone should re-evaluate if they find that they don’t review MOST of what they receive. But again, those are just my thoughts and people are certainly free to ignore them. πŸ˜‰

  30. I do agree that there is some level of obligation. Especially if requesting a title. However, since some publishers are not always timely with their approvals, it can get difficult if something is requested months in advance and then the approve comes in a week before release date. I do wish I had that opportunity to “reject” the approval at that point, since I tend to work well in advance and likely will not get to that book (and yet it still affects my overall ratio).

    I do think generally speaking, many bloggers request way more ARCs than they could ever read and that is not good. We are not paid employees, but we do have a connection. Since I only post positive reviews to the blog, when I don’t like something, I usually sent an e-mail to my pub contact telling them why I didn’t like it (briefly), so that they know why they didn’t get a full review. However, my review policy spells out this about my blog, so they know they are not guaranteed a review if I don’t like it.

  31. I pretty much agree with you. I think that (excluding unsolicited books) you have some responsibility because you made the initial step in asking for the ARC. It’s unfair to back out half way and change your mind because the publisher has made a commitment by sending you the ARC. The same goes for blog tours, maybe even more, because you’re a bit part of – like you said – the marketing campaign and not doing your part isn’t right if you signed up in the first place.

    Zareena recently posted: Review: Some Boys by Patty Blount
  32. I completely agree with you. When I request an ARC and I get it, I feel obligated to do my best to give that book the attention it deserves. It also feels unfair to other people to not read it: perhaps someone else was declined because they gave the book to me. It makes me feel guilty if I don’t read it, so I’m always on top of my ARC’s and eARC’s. Sometimes I hear negative things about it and I lose interest, I just let the publisher know why I didn’t read it. The same with a DNF.

    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted: Review 309. Paul Durham – The luck uglies.
  33. I’ve never actually requested an ARC before because my blog is only about 8 and a half months old, but I would like to request my first physical ARC this year. I completely agree with you in that bloggers should review books that they requested, but definitely do not need to review unsolicited review copies. I’m actually kind of afraid of unsolicited ARCs, because I don’t want to be flooded with a bunch of books I may not want.

    Ana @ Butterflies of the Imagination recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday: My Blogging Wishlist
  34. I completely agree with basically everything you’ve said. I’m running behind on my ARC reviews, which is why I’m more mindful of what I request now, and I do think there’s an obligation to review books that come from publishers when you’ve requested them, or at least to leave feedback to the publisher about why you DNF’d a book or didn’t write a full review. It can be tricky when it comes to authors contacting me directly – ARCs from publishers take priority for me and I state that in my Policy, but also I struggle with fitting them in sometimes, so I do tell authors who contact me that I’ll TRY to read and review, or offer some other assistance like a guest post instead. Excellent post, Ashley, I think it’s really important because I don’t agree with the stance that you don’t have to review a book when you’ve requested it, I think you should make the effort.

  35. See, this is why I quit downloading/requesting. Because there IS an obligation. At this point, it’s not even worth it. I feel guilty if I don’t make it to the book in time, and that obligation sucks the fun out of reading. Now I only download the things I really, really want, and I rarely EVER request a physical ARC (I think I requested a total of 8 all last year).

    It really bugs me when people get stacks of ARCs and they’re just ‘meh’ about them. There’s other readers out there who would probably LOVE to have that opportunity! It could have gone to someone else who wanted it more and would have read it. *sighs*

    Jessi @ Novel Heartbeat recently posted: Do I Enjoy Books Less These Days?
  36. Yes! I love this! I completely agree. I think if you get unsolicited ARCs, you don’t have to review them. Obviously if you have some level of interest once you get it, definitely give it a shot, but you’re WAY less obligated to read them. If you request the ARC, physical or e-galley, you have some obligation to read it. Unless something crazy comes up or you hear a lot of reviews or your interests completely change, you should read it. They’re giving something to you for free and at least you should give it a shot.

  37. HA, I actually wrote a post over the weekend about how ARCS aren’t always a good thing (not posted yet) and I totally agree with you. I feel if you ASK for the book and receive it, you have an obligation to read/review it. That is the point of ARCs, is it not? If you receive books that are unsolicited, then maybe that obligation levitates a little – but there is a reason why the pub sends you those books – So I think if you get several unsolicited ARCs that you don’t plan to read, then maybe contacting the publisher would be a good idea. (I’ve done it) Especially if it’s a genre that you don’t read.

  38. I agree that if you request an ARC, you should review it. But if it was unsolicited, there isn’t the same expectation. I find it easier to follow through for ARCs from publishers and this seems to fall apart when it comes to self-published works. They don’t seem to carry the same weight as it’s just one author, and not a whole house.

    Sarah recently posted: Book vs Movie: The Maze Runner
  39. Your post gets me thinking of all the books I have, the ones I accepted, intended to read and didn’t. The ones I still see on my shelf and want to read. There will never be enough time unless I completely stop accepting new books and read the ones I have. There are two years plus worth of books on my shelves, arc, gifts, purchases, e books and more. I always want what is new and shiny, it’s an awful awful habit.
    I’ve written a post for tomorrow, linking to your fabulous thoughts. Thanks for inspiration.

    Anita recently posted: Review: The Voices
  40. I love this post. So freaking much. First of all, my first year in blogging? I read and reviewed almost every single unsolicited ARC on top of books that I requested. I eventually have up doing that because I was so burnt out. I felt like I was obligated to review the book because they did send it to me. But then it just kept coming and coming and I couldn’t keep up. So lesson learned. I pass on the books I don’t want to read, and request very little too. My NetGalley ratio is pretty good now too so I’m happy!

  41. I absolutely think we are obligated to review if we request an ARC. But I’m also one who is guilty of getting overexcited and overwhelmed. So I’ve backed off of requesting anything until I catch up and get better control over my reading/blog schedule.

    Now the unsolicited ARCs are another matter for me. This is a VERY new phenomenon in my world, as I’ve only just started receiving them. I’m sure that I will end up reviewing them, because I’ll feel too guilty if I don’t!

    Mo @ The Scarlet Siren recently posted: The Prince – Sylvain Reynard
  42. It’s funny because having friends who blog in other industries (healthy living, running, cooking), there is WAY more promotion and “selling out” than in this community, yet there’s this huge fear that book bloggers will become a part of the evil marketing machine. I think we’ve got it pretty good – we get something we want (a book we want to read in advance of publication) and publishers get what they want (book buzz).

    You did a great job of making comparisons and laying out the reasoning behind it all. The biggest problem with ARCs in my opinion is that they’re seen as a sort of blogger status symbol. If we all could get over that, then fewer requests would probably be made, making our lives a lot easier.

    Lisa@Read.Breathe.Relax. recently posted: 7 YA Sequels We’ve Waited Years For
  43. I think you’re completely right here. If we ask for an ARC, we should review it. If we didn’t ask, we don’t HAVE to, but it’s nice to if we can get round to it. This is part of the reason I feel so horrible about my Netgalley ratio, and why I’m really working to improve it. I went really crazy when I first started blogging, and when they first introduced the ratios I was at 8%. I’m now at 56% and trying to make sure that at least every other book I read is one from Netgalley.

  44. Interesting topic and very well written post! I just started requesting ARCs about 8 months ago and I tend to feel a responsibility to at least attempt to read the book. I do read and review most books I request…it may take me awhile to get to some, but I do get to most of them eventually. I think there was only 1 or 2 (out of about 30) Netgalley books I didn’t get to last year.

    Sometimes I’ll choose to write a mini review instead of a full one if I don’t have as much to say. And, if I start a book, but can’t finish it, I talk about why I DNF’d it in my “It’s Monday, What Am I Reading Post?”.

  45. I’m with you on this one. We don’t have an obligation but I think that there needs to be some mutual respect too. A publisher/author has either sought you out or you’ve sought them out. I don’t think that unsolicited books should be an obligation. I think if you get it and you know that you’re just not interested, do a giveaway or send it to a blogger you know will be interested.

    If it’s solicited, definitely try to get the book read and reviewed. Life happens of course but if you fail to review often enough it will effect how publishers/authors will deal with you in the future. I have stopped requesting/accepting review requests because I have become much more of a mood reader and I won’t say that I can get a book read and reviewed in an appropriate amount of time.

    I think that as bloggers we get starry eyed and super excited that someone wants our opinions. To be honest, I’ve started preferring acquiring books through my own purchases or my library. My librarian does not care if I liked the book I picked up. S/he isn’t checking my blog to see if I’m ever going to post the promised review. I don’t have the chance to disappoint anyone. The relief of that has been worth waiting a few months to read the final copy. πŸ˜€

    Stephanie @ Once Upon a Chapter recently posted: Write on Review-a-thon 1/23 – 1/25
  46. I completely agree! I don’t request many for this reason – I do feel obligated and although I won’t beat myself up for not getting to every single book I request, I also am not okay with not reading bunches. I don’t get many books sent to me without a request, but I definitely feel no obligation to read those. Often, though, they’re books I want to read anyway πŸ™‚ I’m an author too (finally lol!) and so from that perspective, I know I’d rather bad reviews than no review from people I give my story to for free. It lets me know you took me seriously enough to read my story!

  47. Weighing in really late to say from an author perspective that the marketing plan example you gave (6-fig global…) is for a book that sold in a HUGE lead title deal, like for 500k or something. Most authors, even for major pubs, are only making high 4-fig or low 5-fig advances for our books, and therefore our 4-fig marketing plans don’t include a lot of that stuff.

    Know that while you guys are not employees, ARCs are sometimes the only major promo a non-lead-title book gets beyond author social media, so whether or not you choose to review the book might have a much larger impact than you think.

    Thanks for everything you do.

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