A few weeks ago, a publisher contacted me: Would I like to review ARCs for my blog?
I’ve only been book blogging for a few months, so I was flattered they found me. I have an online presence! The publicist was able to answer my questions about ARCs, mostly. But I’m realizing that I don’t really want just any free books.
(For those unfamiliar: an ARC is an Advanced Reading Copy of a book slated for publication in the next few months. A reviewer gets it before publication.)
The publicist indicated that I’d be expected to review the book within two months of its publication. And “of course” I can write an honest review. But really, could I be completely honest when I know the publicist and the author are going to read my review? If you review ARCs, do you really feel as honest with your ARC reviews as you do about your other books?
To my surprise, after a few glances through this publisher’s catalog, I failed to find anything that I want to read, especially in the next months. There are some I may want to read at some point, but not right now. I have so many books on my TBR list.
This was an interesting revelation for me: free books, but I’d rather not read them. I’ve found that since I’ve started book blogging, I’ve gone through differing phases of reading.
In the beginning: I read what I wanted to read and reviewed it online.
What I started doing: For every positive review of an interesting book, I added the book to my TBR. I entered every drawing I found for any free book. I went to the library and got those recommended books instead of those I had planned on reading.
Present philosophy: I read what I want to read and review it online. If I see multiple positive reviews for a book that looks interesting, I add it to my TBR and plan it for a future read. If (and only if) a free book is already on my TBR do I enter a drawing.
I realize all book bloggers have their own methods of reading and considering recommendations. For me, I found it disconcerting to realize how I’d adjusted my reading habits to fit the blogging world; I don’t want to do that! When you started book blogging or reading book blogs, did you find your reading habits changing?
I no longer feel compelled to read every book before me. I feel this urgency to read the books I want to read. There are so many books, and so little time.
It’s kind of freeing to not be tied down by a publisher’s list. It’s freeing to realize that I won’t read a book just because it’s free. It’s freeing to realize that I’m not going to read a book just because it is published.
For the purpose of full disclosure, I admit that I worked at a book publisher one summer during college, assigned to the “slush pile.” I read the first chapters of submitted novels (by unknown authors) and summarized whether that chapter had merit and whether the publisher should request the rest of the novel. Needless to say, none of the “slush pile” chapters I read were “winners.” I don’t want to work the slush pile ever again.
To some extent, in my mind, ARCs by unknown authors are just beyond the slush pile: they had enough merit to get published, but no one has spoken for them yet. Some published books are very good. Some are not very good. Reading a not-yet published book is reading a book no one knows about; it could be “slush.” Then again, it could be the next Pulitzer. It’s a risk. Do I really want to risk spending time on a not-very-good novel?
That said, all best-sellers and prize winning novels were once ARCs. If it’s that good, I’ll get to it. Let someone else recommend it first. I’m not interested in changing my reading habits to fit someone else’s schedule.
But I’m curious, why do you read ARCs? Does the fact that it is free impact your choice to read that book? Would you pick up those books if it wasn’t a free ARC copy from the publisher?
If you do not read ARCs, why don’t you? Have you not had the chance, or do you feel as I do?
I’m sincerely interested in why ARCs are so intriguing to other book bloggers. Please don’t take my thoughts as criticism of you or your blog if you do like ARCs, since as I’ve said, I realize all books start as ARCs. Make your comment anonymous if you prefer (as long as it’s not spam or a personal attack on me, that is…).