Thoughtful Thursday: And your books for free – including Holzner’s Deadtown

With apologies to Dire Straits for the title, I want to talk about free books today.  Recently, the FTC announced new rules for bloggers who are given free items in exchange for advertising.  While the biggest concern is over bloggers being paid to shill for corporations and not disclosing the remunerative relationship, it is something that the reviewers here at FanLit have to keep in mind because we get lots of free books.

Literature bloggers are now part of the official publicity push for publishing houses.  We are frequently sent ARCs, advanced review copies or advanced reading copies, so that we can have our reviews out either before or on the day the book is officially released.  Positive reviews are even quoted by the publishers in their advertising material.  However, we are not paid in any way for our opinions.  We do get to keep the ARCs though.  fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

While I can officially say that I’ve never had my opinion swayed by whether or not the book was a free copy, it is an interesting issue that I thought I should bring up with you, my dear readers.  Does it change your assessment of our site that we are getting books for free to review?  Would you want us to disclose in the review if that particular book was an ARC?

Oh, and SB Frank said that since I’m posting on the blog I have to give away a book (one of those ARCs) for the day, too.  So, if you comment on this thread, we’ll enter your name into a drawing to win a copy of  Nancy Holzner‘s Deadtown, which will be published on December 29, 2009.  You’ll get a spiffy new copy close to publication day.  And check back often because we’ll be giving away books on a regular basis. This drawing will last 24 hours from time of posting and will end at noon eastern on Friday, October 23rd. Check back to see if you’ve won!

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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  1. I don’t think my opinion of this or any other review website is changed by knowing you get books for free (other than that stabbing pain of envy that we won’t mention.) I pretty much always assumed that you weren’t having to pay for every book you review, since it would be wallet-crippling to run a review website if you did.

  2. I think it should be a given that most bloggers get books for free otherwise we’d all go broke. It doesn’t change the way I feel about your site . I agree with you that life is too short to read bad books and I think that says it all.

  3. Getting review copies for free doesn’t change the rating I give them, or the stuff I say about them, but if the author him/herself sends me the book, I try to say the negative stuff in a way that doesn’t hurt much.

    If the book is sent by the publisher, then I feel it’s our duty to let them know when we think they’ve invested in an unappealing author. It may be that I’m the only one who gives them a bad review, in which case they should ignore me, but if they get similar reviews from others, they’d be smart to pay attention. It makes business sense.

    Also, though, I don’t read the books that publishers send me that don’t look appealing to me. I send them to another reviewer, or I give them away here. There have been many times when we’ve done that as a group: “Julie doesn’t like this book because it’s .. whatever… who wants it?…. okay, Julie, send it to Bill…” We do this a lot!

  4. Angela /

    It doesn’t matter to me that this site receives ARCs for review. I do the same for my book review blog and I know that my own opinion is never swayed by that fact. I think most people realize that review sites receive free books. Disclosing that the book is an ARC makes no difference to me, but I guess the FTC cares about it. I don’t put that in my review title, but at the end of the review I note where I got the book.

  5. We have a statement at the bottom of our author pages. I hope this satisfies the EffingTC.

  6. Justin Blazier /

    I feel obligated to give my honest opinion on a book, especially if given as an ARC. I do the author, publisher, or public no service if I didn’t do this. I will never be “mean” in a review, but I will point out the things I felt were wrong and why no matter how I got the book.

  7. I honestly don’t care that you get books for free to review, I get them sometimes myself!I do care that the reviews are honest, no matter that I might get a book for free, I will always be honest in my reviews.

  8. Oh! And please count me in for the contest, I can’t wait to read Deadtown! :)

  9. I think it’s our duty as reviewers to be honest about bad books. If we don’t give our real opinions about books we don’t like, the positive reviews won’t be meaningful. I personally have trouble taking blogs seriously if they only post positive reviews.

  10. I do not think that the fact that you get books for free matters. ARC’s exist to aid in publicity, true, but I respect the opinions of reviewers here. If i did not, I wouldn’t come here at all.

    As for the second question, no. There is no point in disclosing which books were free and which were not. If your readers do not trust you as reviewers and respect your honesty then perhaps they should not read your reviews. Maybe it’s just me, but I think it would be ridiculous to come here to read reviews of books and then refuse to trust them because of how the book was obtained.

  11. Part of my argument is that ARCs have no “Monetary Value”. I really don’t understand what the big deal is over books. Ok, I GET the reasoning behind disclosure, thanks to the bloggers who are getting cars, computers, etc., but come on, we are getting BOOKS! All for the love of reading, I know I started book blogging because I love to read and wanted to share my thoughts and musings on what I have read and the ARCs are a perk and saves my pocket book! I have no problem saying I didn’t like a book. Not a problem at all. Since I started blogging, I have only come across 2 I disliked, and a couple I wasn’t crazy over but didn’t think they were awful.

    This book looks awesome. Love the cover art. Gosh, I am such a sucker for a rocking cover!

  12. If you are going to mention grammar/punctuation issues in a review, then it’s helpful to know if you are reading an ARC in the hopes that maybe those issues might be resolved before publication. Or if you are going to publish a review far in advance of the actual selling date. This site seems to do a good job of holding the reviews until close to publication date.
    I assume most blogs with a high volume of reviews are getting at least some if not all of their books for free. It’s sad when the actions of a few negatively impact the many.

  13. Andrew Cannon /

    Absolutely mention that the book was an Advance Review Copy. Just one quick phrase–we got this ARC–and I know that the book sought you out as a reviewer, and not the other way around. I think reviewers can still keep a balanced viewpoint, even with a free book, but if I know that you went out of your way to get a book, that will color my opinion.

    Yes, take the free books! But let us know.

  14. As long as you are giving some books negative reviews, I would believe your ratings are fair.

  15. It only takes a few words to say that you have an ARC and it should eliminate the possibility of someone crying foul. That said, someone will probably still cry foul and which point you can smugly point to the article and say that you were up front about it.

    I don’t review books because if I’m willing to finish them, I like them.

  16. It doesn’t change my opinion of a site if the owner gets books to review for free. I wouldn’t automatically think the review was biased. People that review books for money don’t always give positive feedback either. I don’t care if there’s a disclaimer about it either. My only interest is reading the reviews and hopefully getting some great recommendations. My blog is brand new so I haven’t figured out how to get free or advanced copies but I would definitely love it if I could!

  17. I’m agreeing with Momma J — Nancy Holzner’s book cover looks great!

  18. Hi :)
    Thank you for the interesting posts.
    As a Canadian I can put #FUFTC on all my blog posts.
    I like to think I am pretty discerning. So I would be able to tell if a Book Blog was purely an advertiser for a publisher. I don’t care if the reviewer gets an ARC or a free book or buys the book. As long as the reviewer is true to themselves, it will come out in the review.
    Don’t you think the new FTC rules for Americans is pretty dense, relying on the assumption that all readers are mindless programmable shills and all book bloggers are publishing industry whores?
    Thank you for sharing,
    All the best,

  19. I see no problem with a reviewer receiving free books — how do the magazines like Locus get their books? I am sure their “books received” did not cost big bucks. I am an avid reader and I depend upon these blogs to introduce me to new authors, and tell me when they are just not my type. Even a positive review can tell me that a particular book is just not something I could really get into. I also feel that a lot of authors would never be given a chance if they couldn’t give the books out to be reviewed. It is just the sensible way to handle the whole system.

  20. I love getting free books and arcs. It’s a great perk but, you know, I figure it works out to about 0.02 cents per hour. Most arcs are written in paperback form with no graphics and haven’t been proofed so there’s no real aftermarket for them.


  21. I think the new FTC requirements are rather silly as readers are concerned; even before they had to disclose it, I was assuming that bloggers got many of their books for free. After all, when I worked at a bookstore, we received ARCs and galleys, and it was not considered part of our wages (although it was one of the perks). I would never assume that receiving a book for free guaranteed a positive review, either; it takes time to read a book and compose a lucid review, and that, if anything, is what giving a blogger a book should get you.

  22. By the way, dear Readers (as Ruth calls you), FanLit has a policy that we do not sell our review copies. We may use them as giveaways to lure people over here (actually, Stephen does that — he sneaks them out of our stacks!), but we do not sell them.

  23. Donna [Fantasy Dreamer's Ramblings] /

    I haven’t really worried much about the FTC regulations going into effect this December. For one, I always say if the book was provided in exchange for a review but most of my books are bought by myself – even before the FTC butted in. Plus, a free book doesn’t guarantee a rave review with me. It’ll just get you a honest review with the best of my writing abilities. And I don’t think the free book for review is really free. What about your time spent writing and posting the review? I won’t count the time reading the book because I won’t accept a book I didn’t want to read in the first place.

  24. For people to cry foul that we get ARCs would be a bit…absurd. Review places (not to mention other authors) have been getting ARCs for a long time. All that’s changed is that with the internet, there are more options for places to send ARCs, and more hopes that there could be a good review reaching a lot of people.

    I have to wonder, though, if some of this worry hasn’t sprung up from a certain program on Amazon that gives out, among other things, ARCs…

  25. I know a lot of the concern arose from the mommyblogging industry. People were getting things like digital cameras and refridgerators and things like that. I think the book industry is just getting caught in the backlash.

  26. I just wanted to add that, as an author, I don’t expect a positive review in return for a free copy of the book. I see sending out review copies as sending out requests for an honest assessment of the book. I hope that reviewers will like the book, but I’d be delusional if I expected everyone who picks up Deadtown to love it. (Of course, I can dream, but that’s another matter. :)) As a debut urban fantasy author, I’m planning to give away lots of copies to reviewers and readers with the simple goal of getting the book out there. As a couple of people have said above, reviewers introduce their readers to new authors and new series, and my hope is that Deadtown will look or sound intriguing enough that some readers will want to give it a try.

    (I’m not entering the contest, obviously, but I’ve found the discussion very interesting and wanted to chime in.)

  27. Mel (He Followed Me Home) /

    getting the ARC/book for free doesn’t infulence me at all. I cringe having to write so-so reviews if it’s a book I bought/borrowed or received from publisher, but I want to give an honest review.

  28. Anonymous /

    Truthfully, I trust reviewers who have ARCs more because it means that they’re considered reliable enough by the general community to have enough of a readership to merit ARCs from the publishers, which gives an air of legitimacy to the reviewers. As well, any publicity is good for the authors & publishers, even if the book doesn’t get a rave review, as long as the book doesn’t get panned (and it’s not usually debut authors who get panned, I’ve noticed, it’s authors who’ve let their quality slide), it’s still getting the book out there. So the publishers are still getting value for the ARC but the reviewers are left free to be honest, which frankly, most of you would rather be free to be honest than get ARCs, since if you aren’t honest with us, we’re going to stop trusting your opinions… and eventually you’ll lose readership, and then you won’t be big enough in the blogosphere to warrant the ARCs anyway.

    I hope that made sense.

    Also, this is the first I’ve heard of Deadtown, but it looks interesting so I’m going to flag it on my wishlist :D Always good to come across new UF authors.

  29. Using our time honored tradition at Fanlit Frankly which involves random numbers and objects, we have determined that Wendy is the winner of our first giveaway copy of Deadtown. We still have four more copies to giveaway. So keep checking back! Wendy you must claim your prize within 3 days or it is forfeit. And Joe Scanlon I still haven’t got your mailing address for your copy of First Lord’s Fury.


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