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Free Books/ARCs Help the Publishing Industry so Stop Complaining! #MPBooks

After a pretty rough week health wise I decided to log into my Amazon UK account where I’ve been leaving reviews for books and other items for several years now. Unlike most days which are uneventful on the site though, yesterday I was met with a harsh ‘unhelpful’ vote on one of my most recent reviews along with a comment which stated:

“Your review would have carried more weight if you had put your hand in your pocket and actually bought a copy yourself!”

The book I reviewed was sent to me courtesy of the publisher Walker Books and is a book I rated 5 stars as I enjoyed it so much.

Having been a top reviewer on Amazon UK for several years now I got used to the complaints against my reviews for products I’d received from sellers. Although my reviews have always been and remain honest, Amazon had big problems of corruption from dodgy reviewers who would review items as 5 stars just to get more items. So to put an end to all this corruption, just over a year ago Amazon put a stop to this behaviour by banning all incentivised reviews (reviews for free products). So in theory, given the fact I no longer receive these ‘free items’ the barrage of complaints I received should have gone down, right?

Well, apparently not…

Amazon still allows reviews of free books we’ve received either from publishers or authors, but only if it is our own choice to review it and we haven’t been forced by the publishers or authors to leave a positive review. Many people regularly review books this way, and publishers all over, as well as many authors are keen to get reviews for their books, happily giving a free copy of their books to us reviewers. But some individuals see this as a bad thing, as if our reviews are somehow tainted, un-genuine, dishonest, just because we received a free copy of the book.

This is wrong…And it has to stop!

Why are free books for reviews important?

Let’s begin with ARCs or Advanced reading copies. These books are given out to people prior to the release date of that book. ARCs are sent out to drum up interest in books so that they have an immediate audience when they are published. ARCs are important, not only to individual indie authors but to the publishing industry as a whole. They advertise the book and get some necessary feedback early on which can help aid the marketing of the book.

If you’ve ever seen a book that’s about to be released with quotes from the newspapers, such as “This is brilliant!”, or “A fantastic debut novel!” you can be sure somebody at the newspaper got a copy of the book ahead of its publication, i.e. an Advanced Reading Copy. How else could the newspaper journalist/critic state that the book was ‘brilliant/superb/extraordinary’ without having a chance to read it first? There’s no doubt that the newspaper was given a complimentary (i.e. free) copy of the book in return for this feedback and the publishers are always happy to give out a free copy in this way as in return they get to quote the newspaper’s praise, if there is some.

This process is similar to film critics. These people are given the chance to view previews of films that are about to be released so there are reviews in the newspaper and even on television about the latest action movie or romantic comedy. These film critics don’t pay for their tickets any more than book critics pay for the books they receive.

Books that have already been released can also be sent out for review by authors or publishers. These books are considered every bit as important as ARCs in generating reviews and necessary feedback as it ultimately generates more interest and sales in the book, the only difference is that these books have already been on sale before being offered for review.

The Professional vs Amateur Phenomenon

Professional reviewers, like the critics from the newspapers, are treated with respect. For years they’ve been seen as having a good reputation for being honest in their reviews for books, films, theatre productions, etc. (let’s concentrate on books though). On the flip side amateur reviewers, or those of us who currently don’t get paid to review books, are treated as if we are dishonest and only give out positive reviews in order to receive more free books.

It’s a strange phenomenon and one I’ll visit again in more detail soon, but the fact is that there is only one major difference between a professional and amateur reviewer: Whether you get paid for reviewing. The bizarre fact is that while the professional reviewer gets paid to write their reviews, the amateur does not. Both do an equally good job of criticising books, praising ones that are good, complaining about ones that aren’t, however some people see amateurs as bad.

In truth the only ‘bad’ people in this situation are those who complain about genuine reviews. The review I had written on Amazon, the one which received this unpleasant comment:

“Your review would have carried more weight if you had put your hand in your pocket and actually bought a copy yourself!”

Was voted down as unhelpful, not because it was unhelpful, but simply because I had received the book for free. The review was a personal opinion and at the end of the day my own review carries no more or less weight than that of someone who writes reviews for a newspaper. The only difference is that I don’t take a fee for giving my opinion, I give it for free, out of my own time. I take time to read the book (this can take hours, days or even weeks!), write the review, and publish it, all for free, during my own free time, for nothing more than a chance to see and read the book. I would gladly give the book back after reading it if that would help people see that I’m an honest reviewer and that my reviews are honest, but the fact is, the publisher (or author) would have no use for a book that had been pre-read. They couldn’t sell the copy anymore as the pages have been leafed through and the cost of shipping it back to the publisher/author (which would have to be footed by them not me as they requested this review), plus the time spent, would be counter productive and ultimately more costly for them than simply letting me keep the book.

In case you are wondering…

I could have become angry or severely annoyed and ranted back at the individual, but I believe they are nothing more than a troll or perhaps jealous that I got a free copy when they didn’t. I kindly commented back and told the person that

if they truly had a problem with my review then they should contact the publisher themselves

After all, the publisher contacted me, they asked me for the review, I didn’t go to them first.

If people have a problem with free books for review then in reality they have a problem with the entire publishing industry and should take it up with every publisher, publicist, newspaper and author out there.

To reiterate: I am an honest reviewer, I take my time to read books (a hobby I love) and review books because I like to share my opinions. Sometimes I love a book, sometimes I hate a book, and most of the time I both like and dislike them. I work hard at running a blog (for free, I currently receive no money for posting on my blog here) and enjoy writing reviews on my amazon account where I review these books because I want to do it, I choose to do so, for no money or incentive at all. The only thing I get in return is a copy of the book which after reading it is worth very little in re-sale. However I would never sell the books anyway as I like to keep the books I receive.

Amateur reviewers are honest people and should be treated with the same respect as every professional out there. In today’s publishing industry few books if any could really sell if there were no free books for review, even ARCs for newspapers are at the end of the day free books. And whether the reviews are positive or negative someone out there will be enticed by a review, whatever it says. So we need to make it clear, the message needs to be heard:

Free books/ARCs help the publishing industry!

So let’s praise everyone who gives their time for free to review!


In association with the daily prompt: Snippet


So how do you feel about this issue?  Do you mind if reviewers get free copies of books for review?  Do you prefer reviews by professionals to amateurs, please let me know all your thoughts on this subject, I’d really like to know what you think 🙂 🙂 

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42 thoughts on “Free Books/ARCs Help the Publishing Industry so Stop Complaining! #MPBooks

  1. The person who commented was just a troll, a sad weirdo with nothing better to do or someone who is simply jealous that you got the book for free, f#ck them, ignore them or report it to Amazon and tell them to remove the troll.

    That’s all very true about professional reviewers against bloggers, nothing gets said about them and yet they get free copies and get paid and it’s their job. Surely you’d question all their positive reviews as it’s their job and it would make you think they keep posting positive reviews to keep their job rather than the constant barrage of hating us bloggers seem to get and we do it for free and give up our own free spare time but we get the hate.

    I’d rather trust a blogger review than a professional anyway, we are book lovers, they just do it for their job and half the time they are boring and bland anyway without telling you anything about the book.

    It’s sad, it calls into question the creditability of the blogger by questioning their review. Sure, some aren’t honest, that’s not me blogger bashing, it’s just a fact, like authors, those professional reviews and people in general, some just aren’t honest, it’s just how it is. But it is bad mouthing the individual blogger and the collective blogging community to question the validity of our reviews and it is wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment, very true that some are dishonest, I think wherever there’s a chance for being dishonest some will always be, I’ve seen a few reviewers on amazon who are dishonest as well as a blog once (can’t remember which but not on WP) which seemed to be dishonest with all it’s praise and they were getting money per review too from the authors which is like a whole other topic too!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, very true! Bloggers charging for reviews and underhanded blogging. A lot of it goes on. Some admit that they charge for reviews upfront, others are more devious about it and engage with the author, ask to review the book and then mention that there’s a fee for reviewing. I also know of a blog (since been removed) that was copying other bloggers reviews onto their blog and passing them off as their own. There was also a blogger that was asking for free books from publishers and using a link to another blog when asking as that blog had more content, followers, etc.

        A lot of nonsense goes on at times in the blogging world!😂

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  2. Perhaps that person wasn’t actually a troll, but definitely someone who has no idea of how the publishing industry works (as opposed to how other industries get PR for their products) and that advance reviews have always been sought for books in this way. How does this person figure that newspapers and magazines receive books to be reviewed? They certainly never purchase copies – just as movie reviewers receive comp tickets to watch and review movies. Or radio stations receive comp copies of new releases to play on their stations. You have explained this perfectly, Cat. I’m going to reblog and share this post on my own social media so that others realize that not every “free copy” review is dishonest in some way, as they’ve been led to believe.

    Now if you were being paid by the publisher or author to review those books favourably, that would be a big problem! (See “payola scandal” for details as to why this is so … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payola )

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much for commenting and the reblog 🙂 By being paid of course I was thinking of newspaper critics paid by the newspaper, but the whole being paid by the publisher really is a worrying thing. Feels like when some people charge authors for reviews, I guess they could be honest reviewers but it does leave the thought at the back of your mind whether the review could really ever be unbiased in that way. Thanks for the article I’ll check it out, never heard the term payola!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Paying for reviews is a worrying trend that’s happening even in some of the mainstream and trade magazines. As soon as you begin receiving payment to review something, your bias and opinion are brought into questtion.

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  3. I have no problem with FREE books FOR REVIEW by Media/Publisher Book connections, but all the FREE BOOK give-aways across the globe concern me. If a well-written Mystery/Suspense novel inspired by true events is considered a 5-Star read by so many who bought it is then made available FREE by book pirates/vendors with no regard for the author’s writing efforts and his copyright…well, that does concern me. I won’t stop writing because that’s my passion, but it galls me when the book market gets clogged up with book thievery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your commen. Oh absolutely right, I’ve seen that it’s happened to a friend of mine, having her book pirated and it’s really upsetting. The kind of free books I was talking about were the ones given willingly for review but the pirated books that are out there really do damage sales especially as indie authors are usually the ones to get targeted and there seems to be little anyone can do about it. Thank you for bringing this issue up, I shall make it in a future post.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Helpful article. “If they truly had a problem with my review then they should contact the publisher themselves.” Excellent response. A reviewer willing to do an honest ARC review or just an honest review is an author’s best source of feedback.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. As an author, I’m happy to offer a story to a few reviewers. As I’m never likely to be on the radar for the professionals, what else is there? As above, the pirates steal and sell work, rebadged or not, and make money from the effort of others, including me – that’s theft.
    I appreciate the feedback, whether good, bad or otherwise. mainly because as a reader, it’s not the ‘star’ that counts, it’s how the reader ‘felt’ about the story. Sometimes, the rating is lower because it has certain elements to it – like gritty, real-world stuff that some may not like – and that will either warn me off (if I also don’t like those elements) or I’ll take it into account and read it anyway (I may enjoy those things!).
    As an avid reader, I understand the costs involved in keeping up with the passion. Offering a few people a free read of my story then does two things: it gives me an opportunity to be read (which sometimes leads to comments/feedback/review), and also the opportunity to ‘assist’ another avid reader.
    But I only offer to a few people, and even though some of them are not reviewers and I have no expectation of receiving a review from them, it’s about more than that. It’s about how the story affects the reader/s. And isn’t that what counts?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for commenting. what a perfect way to put it, you want ultimately want the book to be read by someone and to be enjoyed but to have that you also have to know how people feel and I like the fact you’ve pointed it out as sometimes people forget it’s not just about getting the book out there but you want people to experience reading it and to know how they felt. And I also agree with the piracy issue, not at all good and something I’m going to write about in a future post as my own friend who’s an author has had her own book pirated and it’s very upsetting to see that and have her miss out on sales because of such a horrible business.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ve read and reviewed over 230 books this year and I’ll admit to not posting publicly if I can’t give it more than 3 stars – but I was invited to be a paid reviewer and I will honestly and gently tell the author if I think a book is bad or need work. As a writer, if I post a glowing review for a bad or mediocre book (IMHO) then what does it tell potential readers about me? I am always happy to send out copies of my books to be reviewed and once told someone who baulked at it, to go ahead and post his 3 star since he really didn’t like the book, fair enough. But often reviewers want a paperback copy and this is a problem for me. The cost of the book even at author price plus the cost of postage from Spain makes a possible review prohibitive. I will send out ebooks by the score of people are happy to review for me (blatant hint) and try to ignore the pirate sites as the cheapest ‘take down’ programmes they offer to blast them are approaching $100 and how many books do I need to sell to cover the cost of that annually? I suspect that people who download from pirates are unlikely to pay for any book in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment 🙂 You’re right about those pirate sites, the people who get free books from those sites are unlikely to buy other things too such as music. And that’s exactly how I feel as well about leaving a glowing review for a book that wasn’t very good, it doesn’t make the reviewer look good and would call into question their other reviews too, you’d start to wonder if which books are good if they all received glowing reviews.

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  7. I have no issues with reviewers getting free copies. Also no one needs to be a professional to review a book of course other than some special field which needs understanding on that particular topic. I am not much aware of this subject, so these are my thoughts. Do not get discouraged as always there is opposition and people tend to find fault even with something good. Have faith in yourself and keep going. Best of luck 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comment, it was so wonderful to read your encouraging words. 🙂 You are right I think in life there will always be some people who want to oppose you, no matter how good something is there is always opposition out there. I won’t let them get to me though, it’s not worth my own wellbeing to get upset over such things, just good to share publicly sometimes at least it has been good for me in this case 🙂 Thank you ❤ ❤ 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • We have to be tough when we expose ourselves doing things where the general public can comment on what we do. Some have no sense of right or wrong. They do nothing themselves but criticize on what others do!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s a shame to get such a misguided and thoughtless comment on your review. But, on the flip side, there are plenty of authors out there who not only review other authors work but thoroughly appreciate the time and effort book bloggers put in, often with in-depth and insightful reviews. I review every book I read (unless it is below three star and then I choose to keep my opinion to myself) but I am in awe of many book bloggers who get through a phenomenal amount of books.
    Whilst professional reviewers in newspapers etc often leave comments like ‘The best book you will read this year!’ and ‘Five Star!’ which tell the potential reader absolutely nothing about the book, book bloggers will go to great lengths to detail the good and bad points and the reading experience they gained from a book. They do a wonderful job . Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment, so wonderful to read 🙂 I agree with you about those newspaper reviewers, not only are the reviews often very short but I’ve read reviews which have told me little more than the blurb which makes the review pointless as you want to know what somebody thought of the book and any issues or wonderful things that would sway your decision to read it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I don’t mind if reviewers get free books as long as we are all honest it’s good! being known as a blogger is already difficult enough(I’m far from famous) so I can’t imagine what it must be for authors! I also know you can’t be featured on Amazon without a minimum number of reviews. I often get free ebooks or ARCs to read but getting them free does not influence my rating. As far as professional or amateur reviews what I’m looking for is mor than “it was great and I loved it” or just a few sentences about the book that could apply to any book. I want feelings in a review and some trop but not too much as I love going blind.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for commenting 🙂 You’re right, it’s very hard for authors to get noticed and with amazon not featuring books above a certain number of reviews it’s important to get reviews for the book. I think the majority of people know and understand this but it seems some just don’t get the idea of a free copy of a book for a review.

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  10. Thank you for this! Just this last week I read 3 different articles that placed either a negative or misdirected focus on ARCs while failing to even acknowledge the value of them! I chose to close the posts without letting my moth get ahead of me haha.. but the whole time my brain was screaming, “But ARCs are so important in marketing and publishing.” To see your post today was refreshing!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. As a writer, we are told it’s an important marketing tool to get reviews (I said reviews, not positive reviews). We send out ARC copies before the release date. Good authors are the ones that inform their reviewers that the review should be honest.

    And most ARC reviewers state clearly that they got the book free.

    With regards to penalties for free books, what about those who win a book in a giveaway? Or when an author gives a book away free as a promotional deal – often their first book? Is every review were a customer got a free book (say the first in a series after buying the second) deserving of a scathing comment by someone else?

    I think most people are (hopefully) aware of the reason for free books. Hell authors sometimes do perma-free (books offered free permanently). These are still deserving of reviews and those reviews deserve to be heard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve put all the points perfectly. I have no idea why that person was so nasty in their comment but as you say so many books are gotten for free, libraries being one of the biggest sources. As reviewers we state we got the book free to be honest to people and because it’s part of rules sometimes like on amazon but all the time I’ve been doing book reviews I never got such a comment, until now, when reviewing books. Most people obviously know and don’t mind that someone got a free book. The weirdest thing is that I guess the guy wouldn’t have left that comment or voted my review down if I’d just decided to omit the ‘thanks to Walker Books for a free copy’ bit of my review :/ Hope you’re doing better by the way, saw your post in facebook but keep having problems commenting there :/

      Liked by 1 person

  12. an excellent post! You make great points, especially about national newspapers receiving ARCs etc. It really annoys me this wonderful community of book bloggers get a constant slating for their review, whether it’s credible, honest etc. We just love sharing our books! As a writer myself I do worry about piracy, which is why I like giving my books for free using Instafreebie, or a giveaway. It’s reassuring to know if your book is going into safe hands. There’s too many bloggers out there who start a blog with the sole intention of receiving free books, and not actually reviewing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you 🙂 Piracy is a worrying thing and I am disappointed that people start blogs just to get free books. the silly thing is that they’d make more friends and followers and would be a part of a wonderful and welcoming atmosphere if they just bothered to review them, and reviews don’t even have to be long! But luckily I do believe the majority of bloggers (though I’m iffy with Amazon reviewers) are honest people. 🙂

      Like

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