Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thursday Thirteen, Edition 29 - About ARCs


So apparently, some people are talking about bloggers and whether or not they are entitled to advanced review copies (ARCs)-- or at least they were last week. One nice thing about NOT being on Twitter is that I used to stay pretty oblivious to these things. It still seems a lot like a tempest in a teapot to me, but here's my thirteen cents on this one.  

However, I think I'm just going to stay away from who said what and who was right or wrong and go in more of a navel-gazing direction.  Because it's all about ME!
  1. When I started blogging, I hoped for some ARCs but never expected any. (I also didn't know they were called ARCs, but I'm a quick study).
  2. The first one I got was through a contest at the author's blog and I was SO EXCITED.  I was also naively surprised to realize how much traffic an advance review for a popular author might drive to my site.
  3. I thought that "success" would mean a close personal relationship with publishers who would ask me for reviews and cover quotes for my favorite auto-buy authors, and that my recommendations would influence thousands of adoring romance fans, who would have no idea what to read without me.
  4. And maybe a few hundred bucks a month from the Amazon affiliate program (hahahahhaha!).
  5. Reality: I do have at least a semi-personal with a half-dozen or so publicists, whose email mass-mailers insert my name in the emails to me.  (In all fairness, there are definitely a few who address me directly and know my blog).
  6. Reality: Most (not all!) of the ARCs I have access to are for authors that... how can I put this delicately... have a greater need for more extensive publicity campaigns.
  7. Reality:  I actually have been quoted in at least two print books that I know of.  In one case the author told me about it.  In the other, I looked it up on a hunch. But as far as I know, bloggers are not formally notified when a quote is pulled.  (It's still INCREDIBLY COOL though, and there are few things that I'm prouder of.)
  8. Reality:  I'm pretty sure that my 30 or so regular readers all have their own blogs.  
  9. When I first read that Jessica at Read, React, Review  would not accept review copies, I thought she was taking the high road to kind of a ridiculous extreme.  However, I have to admit, I do feel a certain pressure/responsibility to be upbeat about books I receive, more so than books I buy.  I would like to say that isn't true, and I do work hard for impartiality.  Receiving unsolicited ARCs actually makes me a little anxious - I don't like to let people down, but I also don't want my reading to be an obligatory thing.  As the internet draws authors and bloggers together even more, via Facebook and Twitter and blogs (and conferences!) it gets even harder for me to write a blasty ranty post.  I'm lucky enough that I can afford to buy the books I want (although I may choose to wait for mass-market pricing vs. first release), but in the end, not getting an ARC will never stand between me and a book I really want to read. I am giving some thought about adopting Jessica's policy.
  10. The publishing industry is changing, and the metamorphosis is painful.  Book bloggers are part of the new world order, but how? Don't answer that, because even if you're a little right, you're also going to be a lot wrong, because there is no one role for bloggers to play.  I don't post throw-away memes, naked male model pics or content-free posts just to drive stats.  My blog has a tiny hit rate, but I like to think that they are fairly high-quality hits.  The search terms that bring people here are more likely to be specific authors or characters, and a large percentage of my hits are from feed readers.  What does that mean to a publicist? I don't know, and to be honest, I don't care. Being a part of the publicity machine is incidental to why, how and what I blog about.  
  11. If I can help out an author whose work I enjoy, that's really cool and I'm happy to do so, but it's also not the main reason I'm here.
  12. I'm also not here to "build a platform."  I'm not an author.  My career goals have nothing to do with publishing.  (Apparently it's easier to figure out the things that are NOT why I blog).
  13. In the wake of my experience at RT2012, I've been thinking a lot about what "success" means for me and Alpha Heroes.  It certainly isn't about getting ARCs.  I think... OK, sorry, this is going to be sappy, but I mean it -- success really is about the community I've found.  It means knowing where I can go to talk (and hear) about the latest book I loved, and connecting with people who understand what it means to be carried away to a different world between the covers of a book.  It's having a forum to express my opinion. It's knowing who I can ping about books that include cross-dressing, secret babies, the best historical m/m, or sheiks. It might mean I go to a book-signing or conference because I can meet so many of those people; or shuffling my posting schedule a bit to give precedence to an author I love, or helping spread the word about a blog event.  Ultimately, I think success is developing friendships with other romance-lovers, whether they are readers, writers, librarians, bloggers, agents, editors, publicists -- or many of the above.

Find more Thirteeners at Thursday-13.  Participants are welcome and encouraged to leave links in comments.


colleen said...

I didn't realize that bloggers wrote refviews for pay. I've considered google ads to cover my blogging expense but haven't figured out how to do i.

Nicola O. said...

Most reviewers aren't paid, Colleen. The Amazon affiliate program pays you a couple of pennies if someone clicks through your site and ends up buying the item.

I used to post Amazon links to all the books I talked about but it was kind of a pain and I never made anything from it so I stopped.

Paying for reviews or taking money for reviews is considered unethical on both sides.

I am Harriet said...

I was doing fine with Amazon until the Nexus law took over.

Have a great TT!

Shelley Munro said...

I've been head down writing so I've missed the recent tempest sweeping the net. I happened to catch a ranty post through my feeds last night and was scratching my head.

I blog and review the odd book because I enjoy it. While it might bring traffic to my blog, I do it because I enjoy books, and was always a reader before I became an author. I, too, enjoy the friends I've made in the blogging world.

Good post, Nicola. I hope you continue to enjoy blogging and reviewing. Authors need reviewers :)

CountryDew said...

I write book reviews on my blog, but I also review books for a fee for the local newspaper (but never the same review in both places). The book reviews on my blog almost always are for books I buy. The books from the newspaper are assigned to me; the newspaper sends them and pays me. I have never felt that I should give a "good" review to the newspaper, I suppose because they are the middle man asking for my honest opinion.

However, even if I buy a book, because I am also a writer, I often hesitate to put a bad review on my blog. I know how hard it is to write a piece. I will put a bad review up, though, if I feel strongly about the book and think that there is a need to mention whatever is wrong with it.

I put the amazon links on my book reviews, too, but have never made any money from them. I like having the book picture on the review; that's the only reason I keep putting the links up there.

Sometimes you just do something because you love it, you know?

Unknown said...

Thanks for the insight into a reviewers thought process. I have the utmost respect for most reviewers, especially those who do it simply because of their love for the written word.
Kudos to you. Happy 13!

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. I am right there with you, having only once been quoted. I've seen some bloggers quoted on actual covers, which is so cool. But not, I think, in my future.

I've become much more relaxed about ARCs in 2012, and I do accept them now. So I've stepped off the high road to ridiculousness, a phrase I plan to work into every conversation from now on. I've gotten much more excited about helping to promote books than I once was, especially debut or indie authors, or a book I think may not get much press, such that even my teeny contribution may help. Of course, this doesn't feel as nice when I hate the book, but I promised an honest review, not a good one.

As far as using ARCs to measure popularity or influence, I have no idea how one would even do that, because I don't know what the most anticipated books are. I'm terrible at looking ahead to see what's coming out. However, I think it's a "thing" in the YA community.

Nicola O. said...

the high road to ridiculousness

Heh. That's not QUITE what I said, and I think you know that. I can definitely see a good reason to completely disconnect from the publicity machine, because it does influence me a little.

But honestly I've always been a little bit of a pollyanna about negative reviews. I've had my policy page up for years, which addresses my philosophy, and it hasn't really changed.

Sometimes I feel like the "issues" that come up in Romancelandia are like that gag about jokes in prison, where everyone already knows them all, so they just call out a number and then everyone laughs. I've pretty much talked about most of them already, so I can just point to post #73 or whatever.

Marg said...

Very wise words! I get ARCs now and again, but I am at the point where I feel like I am drowning in a sea of books! Yes, I would love to go to the big events, and yes I get uber excited at the prospect of new books coming out and reading them early, but the acceptance or otherwise of them has to be balanced by whether I am a) likely to read them in a reasonable time and then b) actually getting around to writing the review!

Nicola O. said...

Colleen and Country Dew, of course I should clarify - taking money from authors/publishers/promoters for reviews is considered unethical. Professional reviewers who are paid by media outlets, where there is no conflict of interest, is totally different.

Book Savvy Babe said...

I just stumbled across your article, I heard about a supposed ARCGate and was clueless that this was even an issue. I started blogging because I love books, not because I felt i deserved free ones.. Given, I love the free ones, but like you, I still buy the ones I want, I buy more for other people, I share the book love... I don't get all the greed here, it's sad Book Savvy Babe

Hilcia said...

Great post, Nicola.

I didn't accept ARCs for my first year blogging, and my policy is still that I don't accept them as a rule because frankly I prefer to buy my books (I'm also lucky that I can do that). However, I do accept them once in a while from 2 different publishers and every so often from an author whose work I enjoy -- it depends on my available reading time. Like you, I have a small blog and mainly post reviews and/or highlight books I'm looking forward to reading.

My goal now, just as it was when I began 3 years ago, is to share my love of reading and books with readers. The ARC issue has never been a big deal for me, so I truly don't understand it. *g* The twitter thing? I tend to stay away from twitter unless I'm looking for comments on a specific book, so I miss a lot of the controversy. :)

Dana Delamar said...

Good post, Nicola. I wasn't aware of ARCgate! I like your definition of success at the end--sharing your love of romance with other romance lovers. Nothing makes me happier than when I recommend a book to someone and they tell me they loved it and are scooping up everything they can by that author.

BTW, nice meeting you last weekend! :)

Nicola O. said...

Hi Dana! thanks for finding your way over here. I enjoyed our impromptu romance gab-fest TREMENDOUSLY!

laura said...

So this blogger's malaise is catching because the travel blogging community is in an uproar just now. And the Mommy Blogging Community is always in an uproar. Hence today's repeat post.

Hoola Tallulah said...

I don't read any other blogs that review books, honestly, it would never occur to me to do so. I don't have as much time to read fiction as I would like, but when I do, I genuinely pick something up you have recommended! I agree on the whole community aspect of blogging, I am pretty sure most of my small handful readers are other bloggers, but I have made some sweet friends and it is lovely to share this way. Thank you for such a great post (a huge insight to myself!), keep up te good work x

Anonymous said...

An interesting post. However, I don't think you should feel compelled to tone down a review ("be upbeat" as you put it) simply because you received a book as a review copy. As an author, I place much higher value on honest, fair, critical reviews than on soft, vague ones. If a reader/reviewer enjoys something, I like to know why; conversely, if they don't, I also like to know why!


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