Monday 1 February 2010

Are review copies the mark of a successful blog?

I have been wondering lately on the importance of review copies for a book blog. I have only received a few books for review and haven’t actively sought any. I feel more than happy to buy the books I review. That’s not to say I wouldn’t like review copies - I think they are a great way to discover authors I may have not read otherwise and there are many books I’d love to get my hands on before the release date. On the other hand I worry review copies could take the freedom out of my reading choices. For anyone who hasn’t read The Bookette’s discussion on this ( ‘Do free books take away our blogging freedom? ‘ ) should head over and check it out. What I’m wondering is whether a book blog can be as successful if they don’t receive advance copies to review before the publication date. I have always assumed that publishers like a review in the month surrounding a release date so does this mean it’s just as affective posting a review of a book a few weeks after the publication date than before? Do you prefer to read a review before or shortly after the publication date? For those of you who do receive review copies are there other benefits to receiving them? Do they establish a relationship with publishers that benefit your blog in other ways?

I would really love to hear people’s thoughts on this. I have been blogging for 6 months now and would love for that to continue and for my blog to improve and keep improving. I am really keen to try to include some more features such as author interviews and guest blogs so any advice/ thoughts would be greatly appreciated:)


So Many Books, So Little Time said...

There's nothing better that receiving a review request and I get so jealous of all the bloggers that get stacks of books, but I don't know if it's the sign of a successful blog.

Review copies do control your reading though. I always try to get them read and reviewed quickly but this often means pushing aside books that I've bought and desperately want to read.

Llehn said...

I think some bloggers post on their site that just because publishers send them books, they are not obliged to review all of it or some such effect. I think posting this disclaimer might give you a little more leeway.

Unknown said...

I'm with you, I mean I LOVE buying books thats part of the fun for me, I think - though being asked to read a review copy is nice...I have never gotten one "before" a book is published - I have received a few but they are books that have already been released.

Anyway, I have not been doing this for as long as you have - but I dont think that review copies are what you need to get for a blog to be sucessful. I think to be successful you just have to give your honest opinion, heck I love reviews of books that are old fav's - As well as those current books I cant wait to get or read. So I think a review posted after a book is released is awesome. Heck I cant even read all tho one's being released currently LOL - So I will be posting reviews as I finish.

That's my thoughts anyway...though I can tell you I sure do get jelous when I see someone who has gotten a book I CANT wait to read for review - but then again, I think part of what makes me WANT to read it soo much is the anticipation! :)

Oh and no, I dont ask for review copies - oh wait, I have twice, for 2 books I just LOVED...but normally I dont even know who to ask LOL.

Sorry for the book LOL

Melissa (i swim for oceans) said...

I can't say I've been asked to review anything yet, but then again, I'm still fairly new. Perhaps one day I'll make it to that point :)

The Book Bug said...

Oooooh, great post! I personaly would blog about the books that I read without recieving review copies. Its great and it gives your blog recognition, but really, I don't think that it matters. I like talking to publishers and authors, not only as a fan, but as a...I don't know...possible affliate?

prophecygirl said...

Great question!

Like Sophie, I don't think it's necessarily the sign of a good blog either. I received my first review copies about a month after I'd started my blog, and believe me, no-one really knew it or read it all that much back then (not that I'm saying they do now, but you get what I mean).

I think a review anytime during pub month is effective, and personally I don't ever post a review before the month of release. A few publishers told me they prefer them closer to release, so I wait until then.

I don't think there are any other benefits of receiving review copies, other than finding brilliant new titles and authors that you otherwise wouldn't have known about. My best example of that is Pastworld by Ian Beck - I received a review copy, and absolutely loved it. I'd never have bought it as I hadn't heard of it, so I was really glad about that one!

I think good relationships with publishers can be established, and I've definitely made some friends on the publicist side of things. They're all lovely, and like to work with you and your blog.

Of course, this is all just my experience, and I'm sure everyone is different! :)

prophecygirl said...

Oh, and forgot to say: I think blogs would be just the same if we only reviewed books I bought. I could definitely do that... I buy enough books to last me years ;)

Tales of Whimsy said...

Good questions!

Does review copies mean your successful?
I think review copies reflect one major thing: your blog is a good place to get the word out.
That doesn't necessarily make your blog successful.
To me a successful blog is one everyone wants to read. Some of the biggest blogs I know - I hardly ever read.

Does it take your freedom?
I don't think so. Not if you commit your self to truth.

Heidi V said...

This post made me click through from my reader, to me that is what makes a successful blog.

What keeps me reading is when someone shares a book no matter how they got it, reviews it and I pick up that book and love it then you got me hooked!

Katie said...

To be honest, I thought my blog would be unsuccessful at first because I didn't receive ARCs. I was completely unknown with little followers and I'm way too shy to contact pubs/authors for them.

But I'm nearing 310 followers and I've been doing this for about six months as well. So no, I don't think you have to review ARCs to be successful, though it certainly will help.

I get an average of the same amount of comments on every review I write. And I've had people actually thank me for recommending them a book that's a year or two old that they loved. So just keep doing what you're doing and you'll progress with time. :)

Whether or not we receive ARCs and review them during the release date, we ARE doing favors to the book industry and the people involved in it. My book choices are purely based on how much positive feedback it gets, even for books I'd never in a million years dream of picking up.

So keep up the great work. I'm not getting much requests to review ARCs lately either, but our blogs will prevail with time! :)

Nayuleska said...

I started off without ARCs. I would have carried on blogging if I had none. If I didn't receive any, I would still review a lot of books.

I'm fortunate to get a fair number of ARC's. Most I request. Slowly I'm getting sent unrequested ones (or people ask me if I'd like to read their work). I think what is more important is the passion behind the reviews. Readers pick up on that, and enjoying reviewing is a must for me.

Unknown said...

I had a mini freak out when I saw your tweet for this. I was scared you were thinking of giving up blogging and I so love being your Blogger buddy and I would hate for you to give it up. So I'm relieved this discussion is more about the future than the past.

I've wondered about this exact point. What equals bloggy success? Hmmm... I don't know. You know how much I worry over finding time for reading reviews copies. To be honest, when I write a review and I get lots of thoughtful comments about what I wrote, that's when I feel truly successful. Knowing that my review matters to an author, then I feel successful too. Opening a jiffy bag of books to review is a novelty but it soon loses its sparkle when I think ahhhhh!!! I have to work etc etc etc.

I don't know how publishers decide if your blog is successful but part of me doesn't really care. That's why you never see surveys on The Bookette. Okay, this may sound mean, but it is mine and quite frankly it is about what I want to get out of it. I'm open to ideas but I'm not about to change my reviewer voice for anyone.

Don't be afraid to approach publishers if there is something you really want to review. There isn't any shame in it, as they say, you don't ask, you don't get!

As for other benefits for my blog, I have been asked to host contests on behalf of publishers and that obviously helps increase follower numbers. But in the end, it is better to have five people who follow because they like your reviews, than 50 who follow because they want a freebie.

Hope this helps!

Nayuleska said...

Well said! I have (just) under 50 followers, but they seem happy enough, publicists for the publishers are happy, authors are happy, and most importantly I'm happy :)

Unknown said...

I think it depends on why you started the blog in the first place. Personally, I wanted a place to discuss what I was reading, to put my thoughts out there and hear what others have to say. I measure my blogs success by the amount of comments a post receives and the discussions that come from them.

Some people gauge it by comments, some by followers, some by hits and some by review copies. It's whatever works for each person.

I started feeling really good when I started reaching out to authors for interviews and guest posts and they responded favorably. Some said they had heard of my blog before, which I thought was awesome since I haven't been doing this all that long.

As for review copies, I get some. I learned very quickly to be choosy as to which to accept. They pile up fast and stare at you invoking the guilt. It's flattering, for sure, but it's pressure too.

I don't really notice the review copies other blogs get, unless it's something I've been dying to get my hands on and I'm a bit envious. Usually, I think a blog must be super successful when they have over 1000 followers or when they draw big huge hard to get authors for guest posts and interviews. Even then, the blogger may not feel successful.

I guess my point is that it all depends on the bloggers goals. I review mostly back list titles, so review copies aren't a huge thing on my blog.

I Want To Read That said...

Oh wow - loads of comments! I've been out shopping for storage solutions for the ridiculous amounts of books I own!

Thanks for all your comments - it's nice to hear that you think blogs can be successful with or without review copies!

Juju - I think you may have hit the nail on the head when you said a successful blog is one people want to read! And if that's the case I guess review copies are probably less important than the content you post?

Book Crazy Jenn - I am so with you. I lOVE buying books and think I enjoy choosing them as much as I do reading them!

Jenny - I think that discovering authors I wouldn't have done otherwise is the main reason I feel I'm missing out a bit by not getting review copies - I really enjoyed The Dresskeeper but know I wouldn't have discovered it on my own! And I have more than enough books of my own too - I could probably blog for the next 10 years on them alone!

Heidi V - One of the main reasons I wanted to start a blog is I love recommending books to people and having them love them too so I love that you think that is the key to a successful blog:)

Jennifer - I think you are right! It does depend on how we measure success ourselves - I hadn't thought of it that way:)

Becky - Sorry! Didn't mean to freak you out:) And I love being your blogger buddy too:)

Emily said...

I know you've already written a response to the comments, but I liked this post and I think you've hit on an interesting topic.

I haven't gotten review copies specifically for my blog - I've only gotten ARCs through work (as a librarian we get those from time to time). But I'm going to say that I don't think getting ARCs from publishers makes a blog more successful. Unless the point of the blog was to get the reviewer free stuff. in that case, success!

But otherwise, I'm going to agree with a few of the other commenters. What makes a good book blog are solid reviews about books that people want to find out more about. Not necessarily the books the publishers want you to get.

I appreciate your blog post about this - very thoughtful!

Sarah said...

Great post - it's been interesting reading everyone's replies :o)

I'm a really new blogger (only been going a month) so I don't know a massive amount about review copies. I didn't even realise publishers / authors sent out review books until after I'd started blogging LOL.

I don't think getting ARCs makes a blog successful. I enjoy reading about older & new books so I follow a lot of blogs that don't post many ARC reviews. When it comes to my blog I want to spend time reading & talking about books that I enjoy. Sure I'll be happy to accept review copies of books that appeal to me (who's going to complain about free books LOL) but I'm just as happy to buy the books I want :o)

Curling up by the Fire said...

I have really enjoyed reading the comments on this topic.

I'm a brand new blogger (one month) and I actually started my blog because I needed a forum to post reviews of books I was receiving in the mail from publishers. I think I did it backwards. What happened was I got a newsletter from an author who was looking for someone to review an ARC of hers and I responded (this was over a year ago) and I guess she really liked my review as I suddenly started receiving ARCs from the publisher asking me to review various other books. Word of mouth certainly goes a long way. I've had to turn down some reviews as I don't have time with a full-time job and two children.

I really enjoy reading many other blogs though, no matter when the books were published or are going to be published. I'm such a book fiend I will read anything.

Happy reading and reviewing everyone!

in which a girl reads said...

Err..I hope not!

I've never gotten a request for a review for an ARC from a major publisher.I've been blogging for nearly half a year now and I have a respectable amount of followers.

But I don't really mind. I like choosing what books I read, and being at leisure which ones I read.

ARCs are cool but I don't really care if I read a book before a release date or not.

I don't normally buy the books I read so it's okay. I guess ARCs are nice in the aspect that they're free, but other than that I'm fine without them :D

Unknown said...

I popped back to see what other people had to say. I love discussion posts. Thinking back to Choco's comment. I don't really think it is the big publishers that need our support and reviews anyway. It is the little independent ones like Prospera. how much do I love Prospera? Like gazillions! I'd rather find those little gems from unknown publishers as I'm sure we all would.

Lauren said...

This is such an interesting post, and I've loved reading everyone's comments too.

I receive some review copies, and I appreciate getting them, but I don't think they're the be all and end all. I love them because I get to read books I otherwise wouldn't have tried, and because sometimes it'll be a book I've been dying to read for ages. The fact that they're free really isn't a part of it for me - if you could buy ARCs in a store like the one some of the NY bloggers use, I probably would.

But I buy so many books I would definitely keep reading tons and blogging even if I never got another review copy. I buy books from the eighties and nineties as well as new releases. I love posting about a little-known book, or posting about an upcoming book I'm exciting about, or posting a retro review just as much as I enjoy receiving review copies.

That said, having contacts at publishing houses could be useful for securing author interviews if that's something that interests you. But at the same time... you could probably get chatting to the author of your choice on twitter and ask them that way.

In terms of when I prefer to read a review of a book... it doesn't matter at all. I'll read a review of a book that's out next week or that's been out for years. If anything, if every blogger is reviewing the same book I'll get a little bored and just skim them (unless it's by one of my favourite bloggers) because there's only so many times in one week you can read a review of the same book.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, that was extremely valuable and interesting...I will be back again to read more on this topic.

Anonymous said...

Cool blog, I had not come across previously in my searches!
Keep up the great work!


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