Hmmm. . .

Dear publishers,

If you want me to stop reviewing your books, just forward me a letter like this one sent out to online reviewers by the William Morrow Marketing Team. . .

In the current economy, I understand the need to drive down the costs. But there is no way I would ever agree to such terms. I ultimately decide if and when I review a novel, not the publisher.

Thank you for your understanding. . .

43 commentaires:

Paul Weimer said...

Preach it, Patrick

Anonymous said...


I don't really see the problem with their statement. Given that you are selecting the books you wish shipped to you, it only stands to reason that you would review them.

Unless I'm misreading, all they're saying is that by you choosing which books you want to review, that you will actually do the reviewing.

As a small RPG publisher myself, I understand why they are going this route. I get requests for PDFs of my books all the time and out of them, 1 or 2 may get reviewed AT BEST.

Given that they are sending hard copies, I can understand their additional reluctance to expend money on those that may not review the book for them.

After all, isn't there an implied covenant that if you request a book, you will review it?

Scott said...

Totally my thoughts as well. Well said Pat!

Doug M. said...

Doesn't sound like that outrageous of a change to me. But whatever. *shrugs*

Antonakis said...

Ho ho ho, this letter is amateurish in so many levels that it becomes mind-numbing!!! I don't want to get into details why and how (I hope most of us understand) but I totally agree with Patrick on this one!

Blend said...

Their letter seems perfectly reasonable to me. They're still giving you the choice of what book you review, they're just not sending you books you don't want and have instated a timeline from what I can see. *shrugs*

RobB said...

That is...odd. I can understand not wanting to send out books that will never get reviewed, but damn.

I may be wrong, but this would seem to be directed mainly at genre readers bloggers, right? Aside from Neil Gaiman, who isn't even published under the true genre imprint of Harper Collins, Harper really seems to feel as if SFF is an afterthought, compared to its competitors/publishing peers) about genre.

Mavis said...

Another selection of "good idea, poor execution".

Pat, perhaps you could start weekly post of "Books that arrived at my door" and put links up.

Then the publishers would at least get a reference in the blog, even if you dont have the time to review. I think the cost of book/shipping would be well worth it, if they at least get a mention and link.

Good compromise?

Andrew said...

That is ridiculous and I wouldn't review anything of theirs either. Unless Harper Collins is paying you to review their books they really have no right to even impose a system like this. I can't believe they would have the audacity to send this to people who are giving them free advertising.

Kevin B said...

I'm not really seeing the big fuss honestly.

If you're not going to review a book, why would you need an advanced copy anyway?

Brett said...

The problem is the time constraint. They want Pat to pick a book a month before it comes out, and review it within 2 weeks to a month after the public release.

Which would be okay . . . if they were the only books he was reviewing. But Pat probably has a giant pile of books that have been sent to him to review, so William Morrow isn't going to get special treatment unless it's a certain book he's dying to review.

Xenophon said...

This is micromanaging the reviewer. Even after you request a book, you should be under no obligation to review it, much less have to follow terms, conditions, and a deadline.

If it were me I would also tell them to get bent.

Kudos Pat! For standing your ground and only reviewing submissions on your terms, and not being dictated to. This is a slippy slope, if publishers start getting their way who knows what restrictions and demands they may make on reviewers in the future.

Scott said...

@ Anonymous #1:

No, see the letter is very specific in time constraining review, thus if you get 3 big books from the publisher and have to review them in one month, then you basically are set on only reviewing books for that publisher for a time. There is a conflict of interest there. BAsically WM is saying that IF we give you review copies that you asked for you HAVE to review them within a month.

So instead of a balanced covenant between publisher and blogger that speaks of mutual help (blogger gets to read the title, and publisher gets significant press for the title), WM have set one out that essentially BUYS the bloggers time explicitly and sounds more like a master servant relationship to me than one of friendship and cooperation.

So if I ask for three books from WM, but I also get sent books from other publishers for review (whether I asked for them or not), WM is saying that I HAVE to read theirs first and review them. Don't you see how that is a competition-beating tactic?

It's so blatantly one-sided on WM's part that I can't believe there is anyone out there supporting it.

A blogger's time is theirs, and MOST bloggers read and review books in a timely fashion, but MOST bloggers also have many publishers and review copies to satisfy, so sometimes it can be a few months before a review drops. The sheer volume accounts for that...

WM is saying "If you want to play ball in our court, we will dictate to you the rules and you will conform, otherwise don't play"

WM should also be aware that attempting to FORCE their will on the free willed blogging masses like his will essentially end with those same bloggers not bothering with WM review other publishers (TOR, BAEN, PYR) wouldn't do something so ridiculous.

and you know what the end result will be? People just aren't going to bother with WM review books.

So well done losing the blogging community WM. *slow clap*

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't have a problem with them sending only the books I requested.

But them giving a timeline for when to review a book would be a no go for me.

And not sending any more book offers until I've posted reviews - no way.

If they want to cut costs: why don't they offer to email ebooks?

Anonymous said...

WTF? I can't put my finger exactly what's wrong with the letter, but I didn't like the implication of 'post a review of the book we sent to you or else!'

It's not up to the publisher to decide if someone wants to put up a review of the book they sent or not. That decision should rest only on the writer/reviewer.

Sending copies of books to bloggers/reviewers isn't supposed to be a guarantee they'll write about it; it is a risk, I suppose. After all, if they get a favorable review (heck even a bad or average one, it still publicity) and that generates buzz and sales, the cost of shipping/sending that book will be almost negligible.

Daniel Abraham said...

You know, it's not that bad except the "Your job is simply to review the book within a month of receiving it and post your thoughts on your blog or site."

I'm sure they didn't mean for that line to pack a load of industrial grade condescension, but still. Ouch.

"Your job is simply to avoid alienating the people most effective in generating the word of mouth which we all agree is the most effective manner of bringing a book to the attention of the public."

The idea of asking what books your want from them and not sending crap you aren't going to read anyway seems inoffensive.

Also, Pat, if you ever need any of my stuff to review and the publisher is giving you static (not that I think my publishers would, but, y'know if...) drop me a line and I'll fix it.

Anonymous said...

This is a weird letter. I understand and appreciate their need to cut costs, though. There have been some months when I received quite a few random books that I just couldn't read and review, or simply had no interest in reading or reviewing. It's great that the publisher thinks I might like it, but I do explicitly say on my blog that I cannot guarantee immediate reviews of unsolicited books, but that I'll try to give everthing a look. There's no way a blogger can read and review (properly) everything they get sent.

But... "no more random books"? That seems crazy - some of the best books I've read in the past couple of years were "random" ones I'd never heard of, which turned up and I loved! I think they shouldn't understimate the value of just sending something out to see who bites on it.

That being said, I do wish we could opt OUT of certain books that we know we just won't like (for me, that would be paranormal romance, or something like Wheel of Time - I've not read any of it, so why send me books 11 and 12? Could have saved them a LOT of postage for those beasts). So an online form might be good, but instead of limiting the number, have it as a way to DISREGARD titles you may not want.

I don't think the time-limit is a good idea, either - I don't know many bloggers who do it full-time, so the majority of us have jobs/university/class/whatever that we're doing at the same time. It seems oddly restrictive if you want free advertising. And it means that any blogger would have to make WM their priority publisher, which is a terrible idea. There are months when I review everything released by one publisher, but the next month I may not review any. I always try to mix up the coverage on my site, so in the case of WM (who I've never contacted for books, it should be mentioned), I would only ever request something I REALLY wanted, which means their newer authors probably won't get much of a look-in.

The "job" wording is a bit condescending, too.

Anonymous said...

If you want a set timeline for review, if you want to set restrictions and refer to it as our "job", then you can pay me to be on your staff. THEN I'll give your books the priority you seem to want bloggers to do.

Jessica Strider said...

You're basically saying you don't think it's fair to pick books, have a publisher mail them to you at their expense and be expected to read them. I agree if the publisher drops books at your door and you're not interested you shouldn't be obligated to read them, but this letter sounds like a smart way of reducing their costs while ensuring content (ie reviews).

Ultimately, if you don't have time to read the books, don't request them. Yes, the time period is a bit short, but again, you're requesting books. If you can't read 3 of their books a month, don't request 3 books. Request 1 or none at all.

It is possible to plan your reading schedule while still allowing for interest. I don't request more books on NetGalley than my reading schedule affords. This requires some self-discipline on my part as there are tons of books on offer that I'd love to get for free.

Remember this is a reciprocal agreement. Yes, it's nice getting books for free but that's a privilege, not and entitlement. And the publisher is well within their rights to expect reviews for the cost of mailing you a free book. And to put their cost into perspective, I'm looking at a mailing envelope for a hardcover book that cost $26 in postage. Multiply that by books and reviewers and you can see why they might want to stop randomly shipping books reviewers may not read.

Anonymous said...

@Scott, (since I believe I am anonymous #1,

While I can see that the time constraint might be an issue, the fact that the reviewer is CHOOSING which books he/she would like to review undermines your argument, in my opinion.

If you are getting other books to review, then either A) don't request more books or B) put what was requested to the top of the pile.

The only type of reviewer (again, IMO) that this hurts is the person who wants it all and will get to reviewing things if and/or when he/she wants. From the publisher's stand pint, they are spending money (at the minimum shipping) to get the book out to you. Expecting that the review will actually review the book is not unreasonable.

Now, we can argue over how much time is considered to little or too much (frankly, the one month turn around is a bit tight, IMO, but as I see it, that's the only point of contention in an otherwise reasonable request.

Larry said...

The LA Times is blogging about this now, FYI.

Patrick said...

Jessica: I don't request books. The publishers send them to me (over 600 in 2011).

But whether I'd request a novel or not, there is no way in hell I'd ever agree to terms that basically force me to read said title in a certain amount of time. As people have pointed out, we online reviewers do this on our own time and on our own dime. We have lives, jobs, kids, girlfriends/boyfriends, social lives, etc. All of which often get in the way of reading. Don't get me wrong: We do this because we love the genre and we love books. Yet I will never accept the fact that a publisher dictates how I'm going to approach this or coordinate my time.

"Yes, it's nice getting books for free but that's a privilege, not and entitlement."

Just checked and according to Pat's Fantasy Hotlist is still the most popular SFF book-reviewing blog on the web. With RSS feeds, that's something like 8000 to 10,000 visitors from 105 countries per day. That's what my little virtual sandbox brings to the table. That's quite a few potential readers, and thus quite a potential lucrative windfall from having a work featured and/or reviewed on the Hotlist. That should be enough for any publisher out there. If not, so be it.

To receive those ARCs and review copies is no privilege, you know. The publishers on both sides of the Atlantic have made a lot of money because since 2005 fans have purchased a vast amount of books based on my reviews, interviews, extract, etc. That's what they get out of sending me novels and hoping that one or more will catch my interest and I'll read and review them.

As I mentioned in my post, I understand the need to drive down the costs of sending all those books out. But if their marketing department did their homework, they'd know what I'm into and which books have a chance to be a hit with me. And they could simply send those out. Other publishers are doing it, so it's not like it requires a superhuman effort of their part.

But when you tell me how I'm supposed to be doing this and that I might be blacklisted if I don't respect an arbitrary time frame established by the publisher, forget about me and keep your books. It's not like I'm running out of stuff to review. . . And in any event, I'll simply buy a book if I truly want it and I'll read it when I want to.

SQT said...

What I don't understand is why the publishers don't move to more digital ARC's to drive down costs. I frequently request that format and am repeatedly told that it's not available. Netgalley is okay but the selection is still sparse IMO.

I turn down so many books. I also get hundreds of books a year that I don't request. I try to feature as many as I can and post what I receive. But honestly I'd be thrilled if they just sent me what I requested, with no time constraints, digitally. I think Angry Robot has the right idea with the downloads available through their site.

Ludwig Van said...

You are absolutely correct, Pat.

Martinus said...

The more I read this thread, the more I am amazed. I’m a scifi writer and in my country bloggers don’t usually get books from the publishers to review.

You, the bloggers, are reading books (in your own free time) and, if you wish to do so, you review them. That is your hobby. I believe, that reading books is a hobby for lots of people. Just that most people DON’T GET FREE BOOKS BEFORE THE PUBLISHING DATE.

If you think, that the publishers are sending you these books out of the kindness of their hearts, you should think about it again. The only reason they are giving you those books (for free) is for you to review them or otherwise mention them on your blogs.

If they send you stuff you don’t want, you don’t owe them anything. If they send you stuff you would like to get, it doesn’t matter if you like it or not, you are becoming obliged to them (there’s no such thing as a free meal…).

The letter from the marketing team is, in my opinion, completely valid. The publisher gives you books you want and he wants something in return. Two months is a lot of time to review a book – that is, a book you would like to read and asked for. Nobody forces you to place an order for those books.

And, if you want to read (and maybe review) a book and you think you won’t have the time in the next two months… that’s perfectly ok. Don’t order the book. When you want to read it, go to a bookstore or Amazon and buy it. Like everyone else. Because, as you say, this is just a hobby, you are not a publishers marketing team, you are not here to “create buzz”, you are hobbyists, who just want to share their love for reading, right? You are not ENTITLED to anything and that includes free books and free shipping.

Some of you, like Pat, are well known and universally respected, your blogs are big and trendsetting, and maybe those rules won’t apply to you in the same way they won’t apply to NY Times – but then you should admit that your blogs are more than just hobby sites and you are, in fact, taking an active part in promoting some books.

Either you are doing it for the love of books and should not be constrained by any publisher (and buy your own books if need be) or the love of free books and should agree, that you are in a business relationship with those publishers and they can expect something form you. So, hobbyists or professional reviewers? You can’t have it both ways.


Anonymous said...

Hmm, post came out a little too douchey for my tastes

Anonymous said...

Exactly what is kind of douchey? The letter or Pat's reply??

Sofie Bird said...

I can see where giving a time limit may ruffle feathers, but I don't really see the issue.

Books have a very limited shelf-life in bookstores, and reviews that appear six months after the book has been released aren't much help. Even a blog as large as this one can't start the great word-of-mouth chain if no one can read the book because it's no longer in the stores. (Yes, there's still Amazon, but the publisher wants to move the stocks at the stores, not pay for thousands of returns).

You get free books that you (presumably) are interested in. Seems only fair they get to stipulate that what you give back in return is useful to them. If you can't review three, don't order three.

And while their letter probably could have been run through an anti-condescension filter, they probably thought they were aiming for a "we're all friends here and just explaining it as clearly as possible" vibe.

Scott said...

I'm going to be specific here. The amount of Review Copies (I've never actually been sent an ARC prior to release date) I have been sent since I started blogging are not that many, are usually books I asked for, and I usually read them in a fairly decent time frame (which sometimes stretches due to life commitments.

The MAJORITY of books I read and review, I buy with my own money. In the more than 100 books I have read and reviewed for our site, the review copy number is somewhere around 6 or 7.

The shelf life comment is total utter bollocks. People don't go into book stores looking ONLY to buy the most recent releases. If that were the case book stores wouldn't make any cash. No, what I see are people hearing about a book (old or new), and then googling reviews for it. So even reviews of older books get lots of hits. Chris and I have reviewed many books that have been out for years and we still get hundreds of hits on the reviews. So that comment doesn't fly.

In fact, our first bunch of review copies came from PYR and the majority of them were older titles. We still reviewed them and PYR was still pleased with that. WE hope that we got other people to see those reviews and perhaps buy those titles.

@Martinus: This is not a feeling of entitlement at all. The arrangement meant to be a cooperative friendship between publishers and bloggers....not a dictatorship. WE don't put constrains on the publisher (nor could we), and they shouldn't attempt to do so with us. It smacks of bossyness and that letter is actually worded like a memo from your boss telling you to stop doing something.

Above and beyond that. If we ran the statistics on publishers or imprints (big ones like WM), what do you think the cost of arcs and shipping REALLY adds up to in comparison to what they pull down? I tend to think it's petty cash to them.

Oh and SQT makes a GREAT point! Why not send more eBooks out? SQT asks for them (so do I) and they deny us. why? I'll tell you, publishers HATE eBooks. The publishing industry business template is a DINOSAUR, and just like record companies before them, they will need to be pulled kicking and screaming into the 21st century and digital format (not ALL publishers mind you). Instead of engineering change within their companies to embrace the digital format they are simply behaving like bratty kids about it. They feel that they will lose HUGE dollars if things go completely digital, so they push their physical books instead...look at Amazon new releases. A LOT of time you see that a hardback new release is CHEAPER than the Kindle version. WTF?! right? Well, people have asked amazon and they have repeatedly said that the publisher sets the prices and they do that a lot. So here you have a publisher/imprint CLAIMING/SEEMING to be doing something to cut costs...and yet because of their traditional and completely OUT OF DATE business practices...they refuse to send out eBooks. Seems a tad backwards doesn't it? You betcha. This is the big suits attempting to have their cake and eat it too, and everyone just turns a blind eye. Well, I'm not. You can't rake in money and then turn around and bite the hands that feeds.

So hey WM: Wanna drive costs down? SEND OUT EBOOKS! You won't though, so I'm aware I am wasting my breath.

But you begin to see why a really poorly written letter like this trying to constrain our free time is really bass-ackwards and annoying right? And why the backlash has occurred.

Anonymous said...

I guess you have to read that letter in a context. I don't say this has been cleverly performed by the marketing guys and I doubt it would be valid for a profilic blogger such as Pat - I guess they just try to handle the situation we have nowadays:

Let's face it. There's sooo many bloggers which just do it for getting a free copy for themselves and write really short "reviews". I guess they try to handle that situation. And they are right to do so. They just didn't it in a clever way. ...

Here in Germany there was a big outcry when one publisher started to just send out PDFs instead of a novel. I totally could understand their need of it. A lot of people couldn't.

Sofie Bird said...

Scott: "The shelf life comment is total utter bollocks. People don't go into book stores looking ONLY to buy the most recent releases."

Either you misunderstood me, or you're making a strawman argument.

Most books are available in bookstores only for a limited time. If they're not popular enough, they're returned. It's what 'sale or return' means. The window used to be six months, then it became three, now for some books it's as short as six weeks.

Obviously bookstores keep steady sellers, (not expecting readers to only buy new releases) but a book has to prove itself first. If it's not moving, it disappears. The time frame is different for different bookstores (and some books are sold on a 'firm sale' basis) but it's how the industry functions.

Where this becomes an issue is when someone reads a review on a blog, decides that sounds like a good book and goes out to buy it (or makes a mental note that it's good in case they see it). That's what the publisher wants to happen. But if the review is out months after the book has been released, it's no longer in the stores. They can't chance upon the book and remember the review was positive, and they can't buy it from the store even if they go looking. Unless the reader is really determined and goes hunting on Amazon (unlikely - there are plenty of other books right there in the store they could buy instead) the publisher loses a sale.

Furthermore, people aren't likely to talk about or recommend a book they haven't read, so the review can't start word-of-mouth - the most crucial aspect in making a book sell. While a late review is still free publicity for the book, it's nowhere near as effective as it could have been.

Hits on reviews do not equal a sale. The publisher doesn't care how many hits your review got - ultimately, they care about how many sales they made. A review getting thousands of hits doesn't factor into this unless you can show a direct correlation between your review and sales (ie, Amazon affiliates program). But the kind of numbers they would care about are Oprah-sized numbers; your average blog isn't going to cut it.

Essentially what you need to achieve is a critical mass - lots of people talking about your book either in reviews or to each other all at the same time. That's what gets word-of-mouth out. There's also research that suggests we need to see things at least three times before we'll remember them - ie, see the book reviewed or at least mentioned in three different places within a short space of time. It's almost impossible to achieve either of those if the reviews which tell people about these books are sprinkled slowly over six months.

I'm not saying late reviews are useless, just that they're much more effective when concentrated at the same time as the book release.

Scott said...

@ Sofie.

Yeah, not sure what bookstores you frequent. But here in Toronto we have Chapters/Indigo and they always have heavy stock of all kinds of old titles. I can almost ALWAYS find stores, within walking distance, that are carrying an old book I am looking for. It wasn't that I misunderstood you, nor am I making a straw-man argument. I am saying that if you refer to little stores, fine...but the big bookstores pride themselves on having a huge stock and back catalog...otherwise what is the point of having a department-sized bookstore. Most major cities have these now round the world (Waterstones in the UK, Barnes & Noble in the States), and if you try to tell me they only carry the biggest current big sellers, then that's not true at all.

Look, when I am talking about reviews selling books I am obviously not talking about MY review ONLY selling someone on a title. I'm talking about that word of mouth, blog to blog perusing, a few reviews say it's good, and goodreads gives it a thumbs up from various people...I'm saying that if MY review HELPS that, then that's good, and I've full-filled my end of the bargain. I'm not so full of myself as to believe that my reviews alone do the whole job. But being a PART of the chain basically includes me in at least helping the sale of the book.

"Furthermore, people aren't likely to talk about or recommend a book they haven't read"

Really? Clearly you don't frequent forums my dear. I'd expected more from an aspiring "speculative fiction" author. Genre books especially LIVE on someone saying "Oh man, this book is full of awesome!" "It's about Cthulu and Indiana Jones in a buddy cop story". We talk about stuff we haven't read ALL the time! Most recently I went around buzzing about what I heard about Erin Morgenstern's debut, how good I'd heard it was, and how I really wanted to read it since the story sounded fascinating...that buzz was offloaded onto others at the forums I am a member of. Just the anticipation of a certain book can TOTALLY gain buzz and therefore word-of-mouth from site to site and person to person...not sure why you seem to think it can't. In fact, I frequently do posts about anticipated books I've heard about and we buzz in the comments about them, more readers of my blog discover that unheard of volume and think it sounds great. Sure it's a different kind of word-of-mouth, but it is word-of-mouth nonetheless. I actually turned at least 5 people onto THE NIGHT CIRCUS (who I KNOW purchased it) before I even read it, and hopefully more people after I read it and reviewed it.

The point is, and as an author you might want to know this, there is no such thing as clear cut rules in the world of buzz and hype. There is no right and wrong. An old book can gain as much momentum in sales as a new one. That you believe it can't is fairly close-minded methinks. The hype machine does not sleep.

For instance. My most recent discovery are the Warhammer 40K books, the first of which is by Dan Abnett. The book originally came out years ago...but through some bloggers, and some other forum people I kept hearing about how great they were, but only ever in vague tones (I'd read no reviews as yet), and the idea behind the books intrigued me so I grabbed an omnibus. Even as I buzzed about finally getting to read a Warhammer book, another few people piped up about getting the book recently, and a few about reading it recently. The way this info spread around was odd, disjointed and certainly wasn't as rule-bound as you are saying: Review = Word-Of-Mouth = Sale. It was a bizarre kind of mixed rumor and hushed tones and "this sounds badass". So for the Black Library (Games Workshop's publishing wing) that results in probably 5 more book sales...and to be honest, since it's an entry book in a series that has like
75 books...methinks the sales can only go up...on books that came out over ten years ago. You see my point?

Scott said...

So if you actually GO to Blogger sites and see just HOW we post and spend our time when we aren't posting a specific review, you'll see that it's not just those that generate sales, it's all the different ways we use to let people know about books.

Pat does interviews, posts extracts, does contests, book polls ect. A lot of the time about books he has yet to read. Where is that monetarily clocked? What are those things worth to the big publisher? You see, it's not as cut and dried as you are making it out to be. There are levels of things that Bloggers (Pat especially) do that the publishers have no problem with because it's extra press for them...but he is allowed no quarter in the review/arc copy issue? Seems, like I said above, one-sided and unfair...not to mention horribly bossy.

I'm totally on side with Pat about this.

Unknown said...

I think this letter and the responses to it show a division in thought regarding the 'product' in a reviewer/publisher relationship.
The letter and many of the comments treat the free book copies as if they are the valuable item here, the 'product' that people wish to receive. In fact the free book copies exist as a way to try to focus the actual product, the publicity and interest created by reviewers who are not affiliated with the publishers.

What this letter tries to obfuscate is the fact that pulishers send out these free books in an attempt to make it easier for reviewers to read and review the books that the publisher wishes to sell. The free books are not payment, they are not a covenant, they are the equivilent of free samples, by taking one and tasting it you are under no obligation to enter the store and purchase something, it is a calculated risk the marketing department takes in the hope that the reviewers will taste the sample and choose to write a review. If handing out free samples becomes too expensive the solution is not to say "free samples only with guarantee of purchase in 30 days" but rather to limit the number you are handing out, or to offer less costly samples. The publishing equivilant of this is to restrict the number of reviewer copies, perhaps only providing them to those reviewers with track records, or to cut on costs by providing a less expensive format like e-copies.

I think this letter is a mistake on the part of the publisher for the same reason that giving me a deadline on a purchase after free sample is a mistake, by placing contingencies on the bait you make it much less likely that people will take it. Yes if someone really wants to read a particular book I"m sure they will still request it, but for items of casual interest things they are thinking, "heh I might try that out if I get a chance", those reviews will dry up, and often those lower profile books are the ones that most benefit from getting reviews since they are the ones which need a boost to their reader awareness...

Scott said...

UNKNOWN makes a really solid point, and does so more eloquently than I ever could.

Sofie Bird said...

@ Scott:

You make some good points about the other aspects of book blogging (interviews etc) that indirectly benefit a book/publisher/author. I hadn't considered that aspect, and I can see your point about the time limit from that perspective.

I don't believe review = word of mouth = sales - if that worked, publishing wouldn't be the gamble it is. I should have clarified in my earlier post: from the point of view of someone trying to "control" the word-of-mouth production (impossible, I know, but they still try to) the logical course of action is to maximise the chance by getting all the discussion to happen at once, at a time when that discussion can easily yield results (ie the book is buyable everywhere).

That's not necessarily the best strategy for each book in the long run (as you've illustrated above) but it's the one that makes them feel like they're controlling the variables, and therefore like it's more likely to succeed.

So I'll accede that this policy isn't necessarily going to achieve much more than satisfying the marketing department and management, and irritating soe book bloggers but I can see their argument for why they think it's a good idea.

Re: the bookstores - I live in Australia. The closest we had to a Waterstones or Foyles was Borders (which is like saying the closest thing we had to a 747 was a toy plane) and they're gone. We have ONE bookstore chain now - Dymocks - which runs the way I described, and a handful of independents (more than half of which went down with Borders and A&R due to interwoven company crap). The only bookstore in my city where I could hope to find old spec fic texts now is Minotaur, which is a SF/F/Anima/etc merchandise megahouse and works off firm sale rather than sale-or-return.

I envy you your bookstores. I've given up finding anything at mine.

Marduk said...

@ Sofie - I live in Australia and (one of) the Dymocks in Sydney CBD has a very large selection of old spec fic titles. If you are talking about regional stores then maybe, but you can definitely find the older titles quite easily (not that I would given the ridiculous prices charged here in Australia but yeah, just saying)

Anonymous said...

Longtime reader here.

Congrats on being a total douchebag. They're sending you FREE books with FREE shipping for review and only asking that you *gasp* actually review.


Gareth said...

Well said Pat. Love your work :)

Anonymous said...

Dearest Pat,

Also, each time you receive an ARC, enclosed will be a piece of paper from us with our suggested review score, as well as a few handy phrases you might consider squeezing into your review. We're not saying you HAVE to give the book this score in your review, but boy, ARCs have a way of getting lost in the mail, huh. Totally not our fault! So please get out there and review the books and make us some more money.

Oh, don't mind the gunshot sounds. That's just us shooting ourselves in our feet.

The Billy Morris Gang

Nein said...

I'm with you on this one Pat.That letter reads like it's from a boss to an employee...and even if it were worded nicer,I would still disagree with the reasoning behind it.

michaele said...

The problem with this letter is that it assumes you are an employee. It has all the earmarks of "management training in employee relations." It is patronizing, in that it assumes that you must work for them and it is simply a courtesy that they remark how much they value your service before politely pointing out what they expect you to do next. It would probably be okay if you actually did work for them. It is entirely inappropriate in the context of an unpaid and strictly voluntary service. A manager does not have the right to tell a volunteer what to do, no matter how graciously they think they are phrasing it. They must request it because the volunteer retains the right to decline. There is no consciousness here that whoever wrote the letter has any awareness that you are entitled to decline.

Anonymous said...

Just checked and according to Pat's Fantasy Hotlist is still the most popular SFF book-reviewing blog on the web. With RSS feeds, that's something like 8000 to 10,000 visitors from 105 countries per day. That's what my little virtual sandbox brings to the table.

But if you don't review the book, you've brought exactly nothing to the table. Your thousands of readers didn't learn anything about the books, the publishers gained nothing by sending them to you.