Well, I found this article on the LA Times book blog, Jacket Copy, and wanted to put my two cents in, so I commented (though I’m not certain it took). It’s kind of on topic for my own blog, and very much so on my old ones, so I wanted to post my comment here, too. It’s below, but makes more sense if you read the LA Times article:
Bear with me, please because this is the story of my book blogging on free titles from publishers.
There’s lots to consider, and there’s a potential solution, but here’s the background and an idea:
I have a blog about books and have blogged about them for years now. On two previous blogs, I reviewed “free” books that were sent to me from two or three different publishers. I really liked getting the books, and it sounded like it would be fun to review on a less personal basis. I was able to choose from books that looked interesting to me, so the mention in this article of getting random titles puzzles me. And, the marketing people would tell us bloggers that they’d “like” to get a review out at a particular time. There was no mention of a hard deadline or else.
But, of course, one felt the deadline though I, personally, did not go crazy over it. I felt pressure, too, to write positive reviews. It wasn’t because they told me to write good reviews; it was because anybody but the most naive person can see this is a business and good reviews were much better than bad ones. Certainly, I couldn’t just freely engage in a snark-fest for a bad book, if I’d wanted to, could I?
I didn’t like this because I’m more a consumer advocate at heart and wanted to neither mislead readers or shackle myself and my writing by lies or omission. It felt dishonest to readers and to publishers and to myself. So, I did the best I could. But, ultimately, there were way too many books and too little time or interest to give them a go. So, I sent my apologies (but was amazingly allowed to keep the books.
So, in summary, there was not a lot of pressure to review positively, but let’s be honest, we know why they send out books. And, no, they should not expect only good reviews.They are, however, perfectly within their rights to restrict sending free books for any reason as long as its applied to everyone fairly. So, if one person disses a book, why not sever the ties with that blogger? It’s the publisher’s right as long as they do it with other bloggers applying the standard to all.
No one forces them to give away books. This is a business transaction. The idea to formalize it with WM’s kind of statement/policy is not unreasonable. Actually, I think it’s good to clarify things. (Although, the tone of the letter could be more business-like and less annoying.)
Here’s my idea: why don’t publishers choose a stable of bloggers and formally contract them for a substantial and specified period of time. It will be finite, so everyone knows it will end, but there’s also no threat within that time that bloggers who give negative reviews or review late or on their own terms in any way will be blacklisted. Bloggers already have to acknowledge their receipt of a free book on their reviews (this is a newish development). This would just formalize and systematize stuff for all to know and benefit from.
I love NOT blogging about books from publishers! But, others do still get review copies. So, maybe we can start a dialogue on how to do it with no confusion or lack of clarity on motives.