Beyond the Blurb | Should the Book Community Fight over ARCs?

Okay, book bloggers,

I couldn’t sit on this topic for any longer. And for my next discussion post, I want to talk about the most recent social media spat.

Back in January, Twitter blew up with many bloggers discussing/arguing about ARCs. Susan Dennard, the author of Bloodwitch, stirred up the issue. You can see her Tweet below:

Now, as a marketing and publicity intern at a small publishing house, I do agree with her to a point. Yes, ARCs are expensive to print, ship, and depend on. It’s one of the publisher’s first line of marketing tools that target the right audience. When I see the print quote for ARCs, I want to make sure that all copies will reach the right readers and contact them to see if they’ll post their review.

As a blogger, I don’t agree with Susan completely. I’ve seen Instagram market books quicker and better than just a traditional review. Some of the biggest bookstagrammers like Bridget from Darkfaerietales_ and Kristen from My Friends Are Fiction have large followings. I’ve seen other bloggers admit they don’t always have time to read every single book they receive from publishers. However, a photo and publicity on Instagram are golden though.

So to get back to Susan’s comment, should we bloggers give up an ARC that we won’t read? Should the book community even bother to argue over this situation? Depending on your blogging influence, I don’t think we need to. We can provide a different type of marketing on another social media platform like Instagram.

But there are some factors we need to consider when asking bloggers/reviewers to give up ARCS:

Honest reviews are meant to be honest, not a thank-you review for receiving an ARC

As per Nicole’s response, I doubt this point of view will stand up. Honest reviews come from unbiased thoughts and opinions. Even if you received an ARC, it does not mean you must give a glowing review for it. I recently DNF’d one because I couldn’t handle the storyline emotionally. So I informed the publisher immediately and asked if I could do an excerpt, which still promotes the book. Demanding, or even suggesting, that bloggers should give glowing reviews if they’ve received an ARC will destroy their credibility in this community. It will destroy their reputation. Trust me. I have stopped following bloggers because of this issue. So do not expect bloggers to give a biased review.

 

They may not have the resources you think they do

Many bloggers do not get compensated for their time. The marketing publishers receive from them is free. So please don’t expect them to ship out a book to another blogger. When I set up a book giveaway for A Court of Wings and Ruin, I didn’t expect the shipping to be almost $30 CAD. Yeah, that price hurt, especially when the book didn’t cost me half that to purchase. I can’t afford to ship out another book since I don’t have a huge budget to buy books for myself.

 

Even though reviews are great, Instagram is a growing platform for publishers

Instagram is the place to get your books to the right readers. But it can be cutthroat and challenging though. But authors and publisher need to understand that a photo on a big-time bookstagrammer’s account can be just as effective as a review. So demanding reviewers to give up their ARCs doesn’t help your opinion or your cause.

 

Even if they want to give up that ARC, they may not be able to give it to someone else

I live in a region with 82,000+ people. And I know of only one other reviewer in the area. So even if I wanted to hand off that book, do I honestly think that ARC will reach the target audience or receive a review? I doubt it. And no, my library doesn’t accept ARCs, just finished books. And I rarely head into Toronto, which is the closest publishing hub. So for my case, I don’t see the point.

 

International bloggers simply can’t promise that request

I live in Ontario, Canada. I am a part of North America. But some publishers down south do not acknowledge us Canadians. We have many laws up here too. So in some cases, I would never receive an ARC from an American publisher. So I cherish and keep mine (in theory, I have one printed ARC). As an international blogger, I don’t have the luxury of doing the same acts American bloggers can. It’s hard enough for some publishers to see the value in Canadian bloggers. We Canadians do have international publishing headquarters (HarperCollins Canada and Penguin Random House Canada) here, but we do not get the good merchandise like posters, pins, or sometimes even pre-order giveaways.

 

So even though I see the book community’s side on this ARC issue, sometimes you simply need to take a step back and ask yourself if that blogger can do said suggestions. Most can’t. Most can’t afford international shipping. Hell, national shipping for me is absolutely atrocious. So even though ARCs are marketing tools, they aren’t always used for reviews. Bloggers have a wide array of marketing options to offer publishers and authors. So please do not expect them to bend over backward if they don’t read said ARC.

 

What’s your opinion on this issue? Do you think ARCs should be read all the time? Or can they be promoted in a different way? How do you as a blogger feel about the ARC controversy hitting Twitter?

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33 thoughts on “Beyond the Blurb | Should the Book Community Fight over ARCs?

  1. I can see it from both sides in this case. The frustration an author may have if ARCs are sent and interviewed bit I think Dennard’s tweet was made without any serious considerations for how ARCs work from the bloggers perspective.

    I don’t do ARC reviews mainly because I’m an international blogger like your self and I don’t think I could personally handle the pressure to read and review every ARC I was given.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I completely see her side as an author. I know she also mentioned later on that we bloggers could also mail out our ARCs. In most cases, I doubt we can. But I realize her struggle though.

      Even though I’m a part of North America, I’m not in the US, so I’m international. And there is a bigger pressure to review all the ARCs I get. I don’t ask for a lot, so I don’t feel that all the time, but I understand where you’re coming from.

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  2. Wonderful and well thought out post! I am a big believer in honest reviews for ARCS along with DNFing them if they don’t work for you. Reading is supposed to fun, so if it’s not for you don’t force it. I send ARCS that I DNF’ed or lost interest in other bloggers I know quite often. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everyone should do it though. I know everyone cant.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a well thought out post, and I honestly see both sides on this particular issue. I think with the case of Dennard, she was upset by people taking ARC copies they had no intention of reading (from a festival? idr). And yea, as an author with fans begging to get a copy, especially marginalized readers, I can only imagine the frustration they feel to have no control.

    On the other hand, I am REALLY BOTHERED by the arc hoarding / trading / collecting. Like I get it, I enjoy getting ARCs too. But so many people trade to get more unicorn arcs and just??? I don’t know, it’s rife with privilege and the fact that most of the time ARCs are traded away as bargaining chips to get a bigger unicorn for a collection. I would much rather pass the arc along to another reader, but then again I am in the financial position to do so & buy finished copies of the books I really loved.

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    • Agreed. I want more international bloggers to get better access to them. I’m on a blogger list for HarperCollins and Thomas Allen and Sons. But that took more than two years to get to though. I can’t imagine on how difficult it is if you’re from overseas.

      Funny enough, my next discussion topic will be on ARC hoarding, which I despise. I’d love to collect a few, but I’d never hoard more than one though. What’s the point? Trading is a bit tricky since it may get to the next reader, who will review, but that process isn’t guaranteed though.

      If I had the option to collect several, I’d round up enough funds to ship them out to other bloggers who can’t get them. But again, that’s not a choice right now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yea I’ve been blogging for nearly a year now and just got on a couple of lists myself, and while I am really excited & honored, it kind of also stresses me the heck out too. I know how much money it costs to send books, and I’ve been sent FC instead of arcs a couple of times and I am like AHHHHH.

        I am really looking forward to your upcoming post on ARC hoarding because honestly… it is my biggest bone to pick and tbh I kind of think the pubs exacerbate the issue. I saw an author tweet a picture to talk about a like, event specific, super limited run of an ARC that was gorgeous. By doing things like this, it is really no wonder that we are in this kind of a “market.”

        I definitely started Flapping Pages to try and bridge that gap, but it is expensive. I’ve found that it costs me about $24 USD to ship a book the cheapest option via USPS. Thankfully it isn’t dependent on distance, but still! I am happy to do it, and a lot of others are coming together to try and get arcs into the hands of marginalized reviewers, but it doesn’t come cheaply.

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  4. Thanks for this post. It delivered varied perspectives. I would originally have just said, if you receive an ARC you should read it and provide a positive/ negative/ neutral HONEST opinion. But…. I see where you’re coming from now. Lol. And I agree, bookstagram or excerpt posts can be useful too. But just don’t ignore the poor book! Unless it’s really crappy….. but that’s another discussion! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol! Right?

      I would hope that bookstagrammers will review the books, and I see some do. The bigger accounts may have the better luxury to just post some photos, and they might be jbeyyer than a review, wapeciallly if thousands of followers have seen/read the publicity.

      The second screenshot truly bothered me though. If I can’t give an honest review, then what’s the point? Any review, whether good or bad, serves a purpose. So demanding readers to give position-only reviews will just kill the book and author for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This was a great and insightful post. I think if you can read an ARC you should, especially if it’s a physical copy, but we’re all human. There’s no way to absolutely guarantee we’ll enjoy the book. Positive reviews shouldn’t be expected from everyone. Though I don’t appreciate ARC hoarding. Getting the book when it comes out isn’t the end of the world. There’s too many books out there to not have something to read anyways haha.

    I totally agree with the Instagram part. I follow those you mentioned and many others that get SO MANY BOOKS it’s completely insane. And I know there’s no way they can read those all. But they post pretty photos and rave about being “excited” about them, and with those kinds of followings, I can’t imagine it NOT promoting the book better than blogging can sometimes. I feel so mediocre next to those massive accounts when I feel like I would rather keep this as a hobby and not become so stressed by it consuming my day, yet thinking I need to be upping my photo ante to compete.

    I only have one physical ARC myself (and would love more) but also get nervous that I may not like it. Then if I leave a negative review will they never give me another book? I get bothered by just thinking about it.

    Thank you for such a thought provoking post! 🙂 Sorry my comments ran so long haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t apologize! I love long comments! 💜

      I’ve recieved several digital ARCs and only two physical ones. So I get what you mean. Publishing is such a subjective industry, and authors and publishers will simply have to step back when they see a low review. Even a bad review is press. I’d hope that they would give you another book though. That kind of spitefulness shouldbt occur, but I’ve felt the same way.

      Oh, I know that feeling. And I wonder if I could ever compete against them. But we’re still in the building stage, and that’s alright though.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I can sympathize with the argument from both the publisher and blogger perspective, and to an extent, even from Dennard’s perspective as an author. The frustration she is feeling is clear from that tweet, and I can’t help but feel that, as with a lot of the discussion and controversy surrounding ARCs, it is a few bad eggs that spoil it for the rest of us. In a perfect world, bloggers should always try to read the ARCs they receive, but there are also a lot of legitimate reasons why they can’t or won’t, and that’s understandable too. The problem is the unethical or inappropriate conduct of a minority of bloggers, like the hoarders or the traders who grab ARCs they know they have absolute no interest or intention of reading that Dennard is calling out. This behavior has led to a lot of author disillusionment and new rules from publishers, which is just such a shame 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • I honestly wish we weren’t at that point in publishing. I agree with her. However, some have suggested to mail out your used ARC, which isn’t possible for most.

      Yeah, I remember the scandal that hit the Bookcon, I believe, where the one attendee grabbing tons of copies of big-time ARCs, right?

      I think one blogger should have one copy. If the bloggers can confirm they’re grabbing copies for others who can’t attend an event, then that should be okay. But hoarding is getting ridiculous.

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  7. I think if you request an ARC you should definitely at least start reading it! I know bookstagram can be great publicity, but also books are meant to be read and it’s hard not to be a little annoyed if someone gets a book just to take a picture and not read it, which is the whole point of the book… I definitely also think the review should be honest though, so if that means a 1 star of dnf as long as you tried to read it than that’s fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have a lot of thoughts about this post, which is really good, by the way! First, if Denard is talking about conventions/Book Expo sorts of events where bunches of ARCs are handed out, then publishers most likely have a set number of ARCs they expect to give out to whoever gets there first. I don’t think they’re worried so much about who is getting them or whether they will review them or not. I personally get a lot of unsolicited books from publishers, and I don’t feel obligated to read them all, since I didn’t request them. I would never in a million years feel I had to mail those books back! I always feature those books on my blog whether I read them or not, so I feel I’ve done at least something to help promote the book. I also buy a LOT of books, so even though I get plenty for free, I often buy finished copies or special editions of books I read as ARCs and loved.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Tammy! I get what you mean. And I wanted to touch on that point as well. Some bloggers simply don’t have the time to get to all the ARCs. So I don’t ask for many of them, but I expressively say publishers can’t send me random copies unless I’ve ok’d that decision. These festivals are so hard to watch on the outside. I’d love to go and grab the ARCs I want. But I can’t. However, the promotion a lot of bloggers offer is better than nothing.

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    • Bookstagram is a huge marketing aveneue for publishers, but they need to make some ground rules for these bloggers. If they send out ARCs, the bookstagrammers should give reviews. If not, maybe offer an ARC giveaway.

      But I know some people (in the second photo) who want high reviews, or you don’t deserve that ARC, which I find ludicrous.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I agree that they can be promoted in other ways too just as well, or sometimes even better than with reviews.
    I have dnfd arcs when i didn’t like them. They were digital copies so it’s not much i can do with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I really liked the points you made, because I’ve heard the authors’ side of it, but I agree with you, especially in that the price of a book isn’t buying the time it takes for a blogger to read and review it and so you can’t really expect it enough to get mad. I don’t know much about hoarding ARCs but that seems like a bigger issue. The thing is that this should be the publishers problem! If someone isn’t reviewing an x percentage of the books you send out, send them to someone else. Sometimes I see the piles of ARCs big american reviewers get and I’m like of course she isn’t going to get through that or go through the lengthy process of sending them to others, that’s the system the publishers have made and operate in. I’m international as well and I’m sure there are as big bloggers internationally if they’re short on book reviewers, but that doesn’t seem to be the problem. The fact that instagram is marketing as well only makes the author’s statement more confusing

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  10. This is really a touchy subject and one I´ve been confronted with for the last 10 years of my book blogging existence. I agree with you. But I don´t agree with the tweets. I´m a book blogger but I´m also a human with a life outside this community. I spend most ( sometimes all ) of my spare time reading and blogging and doing so for free- because it´s my hobby. I have kids, a husband, a life. No one asks me about this because, if we´re honest, it doesn´t really interest anyone. Yes, ARCs are a 2-way street. Authors give out adanced copies and a reviewer SHOULD be able to meet a deadline or at least keep to their schedule. It´s not that hard to get done. But sometimes things, we often have no power over, happen.Let´s say a reliable book blogger has a 9 out of 10 arc quote, where they only fail to read / review one ARC. That´s an accomplishment for the blogger but it can also stain their blogging reputation. If I take a step back and give this book blogging business a long hard look I see that we´re just the middle men, sandwiched between the publisher and comsumer. We are needed as additional marketing so other people can make money. Our role is important but not important enough to receive even a verbal reward. If I request an ARC for a certain book and am not able to read / review it in time then there´s most definitely a good reason for that. Whatever the reasons might be, though… they´re often not understood. I´ve been on the receiving end of demanding authors 2 days after receiving an arc for their upcoming releases. This is not okay. I´ve just noticed that this is making me come across as some bitter old book blogger * face palm * My apologies. As I´ve said- A touchy subject where I believe authors and book bloggers should at least try to see each others POV.
    I also feel you regarding the non U.S. issue. I´m an american living overseas. Trust me- you´re closer to the states. I´m lucky if an author / publisher gives me the time of their day.
    I totally appreciate this post. Wel done. ( and sorry for the lengthy comment )Hope you have a lovely day.

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  11. * hides face * It´s me again. I forgot to add that I do understand an authors frustration when handing out arcs and watching them disappear from the face of this earth. Understandable. What I don´t understand is why this is being made an issue by others? I wasn´t even aware that this was an official social media spat ( I should spend more time on twitter ). I knew about the issue from closed groups but never thought the topic would reach this level. Kind of sad if you think about it. And…. this has been the first time I´ve openly voiced my opinion on the subject.

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