Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The ARC Conundrum

I'd like to talk about a somewhat sticky issue...ARCs or advanced review copies of books. Since there are 3 parts to my "romance" personality--reader, reviewer and writer--I am going to examine this from 3 different points of view. I am definitely conflicted about this topic since I am approaching it from 3 different places.

As a reader of romance, one of the most exciting parts of this addiction for me is the sanctity of release day. It's the equivalent of Christmas morning for anyone nursing a romance novel obsession. There's nothing like waking up on Christmas morning and ripping open those presents. When reviewers spill the details about an upcoming novel prior to release day, it's like finding all your xmas gifts in your parent's closet and peeking. Takes all the fun out of xmas morning and makes it a big let-down. I still haven't read Lover Mine because so many folks were discussing it prior to release day that my excitement for the book sort of fizzled out and died. (I am already cringing thinking about KMM's Shadowfever book...if the secrets are revealed before release day it will be a bloody, blooming shame...I surely hope she is not planning on sending out ARCs for that book....)

Furthermore, it sometimes feels like a slap in the face to us regular readers/reviewers not privy to an ARC when others are already jabbering about it. I'm sure that's not their intention, but nevertheless, it's not a good feeling.

I get requests all the time to do ARC reviews. Every once in a blue moon, I say yes, but very, very rarely. Why? Because I don't want anyone dictating what and when I read. I am very selfish about this's the only thing in my life that is free and clear of responsibilities, and I like it that way. I am not a professional reviewer; I'm not getting paid for this. If I want to read an old Julie Garwood novel, I do it. If I want to check out a new mystery, I do it. I pay for my own books to support the authors who are gracious enough to write these wonderful stories. Sometimes I feel like writing a review and sometimes I don't. If an author offers me a book to review that is something I planned to read anyway, I'll say yes. Then, I still BUY it later, just as I planned, to support the author in the best way increasing her sales figures.

I published my first book in 2009. Promoting it is a tricky and difficult business. You need some buzz generated prior to release, but not too much. You need lots of reviews and interviews and contests around the release day to help promote your book. Many awesome reviewers and bloggers offered to read ARCs for me and write reviews. These were absolute god-sends for my sales. So, from a writer's point of view, sending out ARCs is a critical part of promotion. I asked almost all of the reviewers to wait until release week and after to post reviews. Big name authors like JR Ward don't need to rely on bloggers for publicity; they have marketing departments at their publishing houses. However, small independent writers and e-book authors have to take care of their own promotion, so sending out ARCs is key. Thank God for non-professional reviewers willing to accept these advanced copies.

So, in conclusion, you can probably tell that I am really conflicted about this whole issue. On one hand, I hate having the magic wrecked by so many folks reading books before I get my hands on a copy, and on the other hand, I am eternally grateful to reviewers willing to read them from an author's perspective. I'm not sure what the answer is to all of this, but I can tell you right now that I'm not reading twitter or goodreads or checking out my blog list prior to Shadowfever coming out. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, is going to ruin my enjoyment of that book. It will be a festive Christmas morning on January 18, 2011 when Penelope cracks open the front cover....

I would love to hear some of your opinions about this issue...bloggers? authors? What do you think?

All my best,


Lori said...

I don't want anyone dictating what and when I read... Sometimes I feel like writing a review and sometimes I don't.

This. In general I don't care for thinking I have to write a review, and on a timetable. I rarely do ARCs, and only for authors I adore who send me their books. (which believe it or not doesn't always make for a wonderful review)

Penny Watson said...

Hi Lori! Yes, that's another sticky situation. What if an author asks for a review and you don't like the book? It's especially difficult if it's someone you really like and respect.

Cluttery said...

A well-known writer said that he always agrees to do a review or a quote for a book jacket, but it will be an honest review/honest quote. The writer has a choice to use it or not. The writer's integrity and trust with his fanbase is at stake in these freebie reviews/quotes, and so is yours.

Constant BSP is tiresome. I end up scrolling by people who do it too much, you're right there.

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

I too am conflicted. As you state, ARCs really don't matter as much with the big writers because they already have their readers and a major PR push behind them. For us small fry, we might just live and die with the ARC.
One of my pubs sends out ARCs to reviewers a few days before the release - when the book is already offered for pre-sale. This is perfect.
Another pub not only refuses to send out ARCs, they don't even get me my copies for several days to a week after my release. This does not sit will with me, especially when I have reviewers asking me for copies. I truly believe this has a negative impact on my sales - big time!
As far as reviewers not liking the book? That's a concern no matter when the review comes out. You take your chances either way. Personally, I'd rather take my chances by sending out an ARC to a few reviewers a week before the scheduled release date.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Cluttery...I agree about the importance of being honest...I would never gush about a book I don't like, it's not fair to readers or authors.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Julia! I also know a publisher that does not offer ARC copies to the authors until the day before release and that is really uncool. If you make the authors do their own promo, you have to give them a fighting chance by offering an ARC months before release day. Reviewers are really backed up with books to read, and it's only fair to them to offer the story with plenty of time to read and review.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

I feel similarly to the way you do, yes I understand the point of sending out ARC's to be reviewed, but it spoils it in a way for the rest of us that haven't read it yet. So, I usually avoid these reviews like the plague (I too will avoid anything about Shadowfever) I rarely agree to read an ARC, but once in a while I've given in, and reading that book becomes a major chore and I'm filled with guilt about not reading it soon enough - and then what do I do if I don't like it - or if I can't bear to finish it? I've pretty much given up on agreeing to review them because it's just no fun for me. It takes all the fun out of reading for me on demand, I don't know how so many people can do it regularly and still write interesting and thoughful reviews! I just don't have it in me.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Julie...thanks for stopping by! I agree with all of your points....I don't want this reading habit to turn into work, work, work...for me, it's all about fun, fun, fun! That's why I love romance novels in the first place!

Sophia (FV) said...

I agree with you in that I will avoid certain reviews, and tweets until I've read Shadowfever (or other books I look forward to). I think as readers we have to take some responsibility and not expect everyone else to behave according to our needs. If there are ARC reviews posted, I probably won't read them until I've read the book (or others). But, I won't be angry or upset that reviews are posted. And if an author graciously offers me a review copy of a book that interests me, I'll gladly accept. I see nothing wrong with it. I try to post spoiler free reviews, and I assume people will pass on reading my review if they they are concerned they will be spoiled. Great post Penny. :)

Penny Watson said...

FV--you have such a good, healthy, kind-hearted attitude! (I only get that after I've had a couple of mango martinis...hee hee!)....I include spoilers in my reviews, which is one of the reasons I usually only post after release day. It's freakin' hard to write reviews without specific spoiler details...sometimes I feel like my reviews are too vague without them!