I’m sure every book blogger reading this post right now will be able to relate when I say getting an ARC of a really interesting book sent to you is one of the best perks of the job.
Free books, you say? Yes please.
When I first started my blog just before the summer, the idea of getting FREE books was incredible. Don’t get me wrong, it still is. I couldn’t wait for the first offer, waiting for it to just fall into my lap. Then, I got an email from a very obscure writer offering me a weird children’s fantasy book that made me physically cringe when I read the description and I thought I maybe had it all wrong.
Fast forward a few months and I am now on a couple of different blogger/PR lists and regularly get sent emails that actually do fit with what I like to read, and I am receiving opportunities to receive free books left, right and centre. If I wanted to, as I am sure is the case with most book bloggers, I could probably manage to not actually buy any books again and still be kept going well into next year.
And that right there is my issue. I often find myself getting a little bit overexcited and agreeing to all different blog tours and reviews and you name it, only to find that, actually, I don’t really have time to read all these books. As an English Literature student in their final year, I already have plenty to read without doubling the number of pages every week. The books I have been sent to review are piling up and are going to take me the rest of the year to catch up on, never mind all the ones I most likely agree to in the meantime. We forget that these free books are all fine and dandy, but we have to actually then find the time to read them.
I am definitely what you call a ‘mood reader’, preferring to choose my next book to read purely by what I fancy picking up at the time. I already struggle to read my books for classes for this reason, absolutely hating having to read for a deadline, and reading because I have to instead of because I want to. Sticking to a strict date for book reviews is incredibly difficult when you have a busy life going on outside your blog, which is like a part time job in itself. I am in my fourth year of my degree and have two (paid) part-time jobs, as well as being the Arts editor of the student newspaper on campus, and also quite like to have a bit of downtime and occasionally – heaven forbid – a social life.
Where in there is the time to read even more books?
So, yes, reading ARCs can often feel a bit like a chore to me. That feels like such a rotten thing to say when it is obviously incredibly generous of PRs and authors to select your blog and your writing style to review the book that they spent so much time and effort on.
But, at the same time, these authors still need the reviews. They need the outreach that bloggers can give them to bring in more readers and buyers. We all know how a greater number of pre-orders helps to boost print runs of a book, and helps bookstores gauge the popularity of a new book. It also helps the author with their sales in their first week, and can help them get book contracts in the future.
Through ARCs, I’ve also found authors that I would now call some of my favourite writers. I have discovered and adored books I may never have come in contact with otherwise, and I have been able to have amazing discussions with other reviewers about the topics of the book and our collective thoughts both in comments and on Twitter. We are so amazingly lucky that as people who love books so much, we can be essentially paid in them for our time.
But that brings us back to the flip side. The majority of the time, we aren’t being paid in real cash. I for one don’t make any money from my blog. But, I have rent and bills to pay, and I sorta need to eat, so my blog has to come after my ‘real’ jobs. That leaves me with very little time for reading, so when I do read, I often pick up what I want to read rather than what I feel like I should be reading. Then I see an ARC on my shelf or in my Kindle and I remember that I have had it for months and not even read the first page and the guilt washes over me again.
Not reading an ARC by a specific date either given by the author or from what I promised them I would do makes me feel like a failure of a book blogger. They won’t want to give me their books again, I look like a terrible person, why can’t I keep promises, why didn’t I just read it?
This is something that has been preying on my mind for a long time, and it wasn’t until I saw this tweet from the author, Josie Jaffrey, that I finally found a small sliver of peace:
Book reviewers are providing a *free service* to authors and publishers, and that means they get to read and review on their own schedule. “Late” reviews are always better than no reviews, and frankly any reviews at all are appreciated. https://t.co/wH3o2szuf6
— Josie Jaffrey (@JosieJaffrey) October 29, 2018
Besides the fact that I have both The Gilded King and The Silver Queen by Josie herself to read which INSTANTLY made me feel more reassured about not having read them yet, I think this is such an important message for authors to tell their reviewers.
No offense to authors, but we actually don’t owe them anything!!! We can read when we like, we aren’t bound by any sort of obligation! My blog, my time, my rules. If we change our mind, that’s cool!
I think it is time to give ourselves a little bit more credit. Thank you, Josie, for helping me see it this way (and I swear I will read your books soon…)