I saw this question asked by someone on my twitter list the other day. I honestly can’t remember who asked or I would link to their website. She asked if book bloggers should be able to get free books from authors and publishing houses, or, if they should buy the book like everyone else. My answer to this varies.
First and foremost authors and publishers want to promote their book. They want to create a hype around their work and get people pumped up about buying it. In order to do this they strategically pick book bloggers with high traffic in order to reach as many readers in as few websites as possible. They send these sites early copies of a book, sometimes months before they actually come out. The bloggers read and then review the work on their site, thereby getting the title and author out in the public eye. Hopefully it’s a good review, though I suppose they have to take the good with the bad.
This is only one way to obtain an advanced readers copy (ARC) of new work. There are also websites where you can make a profile and then basically beg and plead for publishers to pick you to read and review. I did go to one of these sites recently to check out the hype. I was left cold by it. I have a hard time begging someone for anything. I did make a short profile but I have yet to figure out what magic words these publishers are looking for. Nor am I going to worry about it too much.
For a publisher to send out maybe $100 worth of books to bloggers is nothing compared to what they hope to make off each book. I am sure, if these books don’t get good reviews, they might be out the money. But one book out of 100 new books won’t be putting them in the hole for long. But the question is, is it fair? Is it fair to send out free books to bloggers in the hopes of getting good reviews and then in turn, good sales? I would have to answer yes. Even though I will probably never be one of those blogs. When you get right down to it, it’s a business, just like everything else. In order to drive sales, create a market for, get a name out there, letting average people read and review is a solid strategy. When you let a peer of the average person read and review you are creating a friendly atmosphere. People tend to listen to their peers if they recommend something.
The flip side of this is how the blogger reacts. I have noticed that some tend to think they deserve to get the book for free. Though this is rare. I think it’s a common misconception that just because you’re the owner of a huge book review blog you should get something for free. It should not matter if you get a thousand hits a day. What should matter is content. Do you connect with your site users? Do you offer super cool prizes? Do you have a web presence outside of your blog? Just like an author needs to create a presence to connect with a reader, a blogger must do the same.
The entire process is one giant circle that rotates around a potential reader. Author writes the book, publisher makes the dream a reality, they send to book bloggers, book gets good review and people decide they want to read it, people spend money on the book, everyone gets paid. Well not the blogger, but hey, they got a free book.
Should bloggers have to buy some books? Absolutely. And they do. When I go to The Story Siren‘s weekly In My Mailbox blog you can see that they do buy books as well as get free ones. Maybe not as many, but a buy is a buy.
I doubt I will ever have publishing contacts. I am learning to be okay with that. I refuse to jump through hoops or prove my worth just to get an advanced copy of a book. Entering contests? Yeah, that’s more my route.