Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Salon: Book Blogging

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

There is something that I have been meaning to address on the blog, so I'm going to take TSS to do so. There has been lots of buzz recently in the book blogging community over the issue of Advance Review Copies and whether the acceptance of them obligates one to a positive review (my brief opinion: it doesn't).

I have never gotten into the ARC process, simply because my reading list is full enough as it is, and I didn't want the responsibility of moving these to the top of my list to ensure a timely review. I was concerned that it could be a Pandora's Box for me...that once I opened that door, it would dominate my TBR list.

That said, with my experience in the book publishing industry, I completely understand the importance of ARCs in the reviewing process. I just have chosen to stay out of this particular arena.

This brings up another point. You will notice that my site features predominantly positive reviews. That is by design. When I launched this site, it was primarily as a means to provide recommendations to friends. I was reading so many books that they were starting to run together, so I started the blog to keep up with the great fiction I was reading and pass it along.

I quickly found that when I finished a book I didn't like, when I sat down to write the review, I questioned myself. If this is a book that I wouldn't recommend, why am I spending time writing a less-than-favorable review? (And, because I don't accept ARCs, I'm under no pressure to review every book I read, favorably or not.)

I address this because I have realized that the positive reviews could potentially discredit the site in a reader's in, "She couldn't possibly enjoy every book she's reading." I'm not...there are many books that I read and don't like, and many that I don't even finish. I'm just posting about the ones I want to recommend to others.

This is purely a personal decision, and I don't fault blogs with a mix of good and bad reviews at all. That is what makes this community so vibrant and diverse, that we have the freedom to craft our blogs as we choose to reflect our own personalities and objectives.

I'd love to hear the thoughts of other bloggers out there...good or bad! :)


Anonymous said...

Jill: I'm like you. I've never been into the ARC process either. I'll be honest, I'd rather read a classic than a new book. There are too many classics that I haven't read.

As for positive reviews, I lean toward the positive reviews, but that's mostly because if I don't like a book, I'm not going to finish it (except for one recent slip in that area). I have plenty more books waiting to be read.

jessi said...

I don't think I've done any bad reviews, but I have had some less-than-stellar ones. I like reading reviews, good and bad, because it helps me make a decision about what books I want to read. I generally don't read books I don't enjoy (hence the lack of really bad reviews), but I wouldn't mind someone else warning me if they thought a book truly wasn't worth my time. :) ARCs serve a purpos: to get people excited about an upcoming book, and to give it a chance to build buzz. I would think that authors would appreciate (constructive) criticism, because it's going to help them in the long run. Besides, everyone has a different opinion and reaction to what they read; what I find boring or detestable, someone else might consider the Holy Grail of the reading world.
So this has been a really long and wordy response to say that I agree with you re: ARCs. And I don't find fault with you for posting only positive reviews - life's too short to read (or review) bad books.

Lisa (Southern Girl Reads) said...

I love this post! I applaud you for taking the stand not to accept ARC's and only read books you choose to read. There's a lot to be said for that. I have decided that I'm going to take a break from accepting ARC's for a bit so I can read some of the books I've been wanting to read, but have had to put off because of the commitment to get the ARCs read in a timely manner.

I do, however chose to write reviews even on books I don't love. But I feel like to each his own. That's the beauty of our book blogs - Its our choice! Great post Jill!

Yvonne said...

Great post! I've recently gotten into the ARC system and it's been overwhelming to say the least. I'm going to be cutting back on them as my own TBR (which is enormous) is suffering. I don't want to feel pressure to read books anymore. This is supposed to be a fun hobby.

As for positive reviews, most of mine are positive but that's because I only read what I know I'm going to like and that includes the ARCs I accept. I don't think anyone should feel obligated to write a positive review, though.

Dani In NC said...

I haven't even investigated how one goes about getting ARCs because I don't feel confident enough to do so. My posts about books aren't what you would call proper reviews. I give my impressions, but I don't think that would be satisfactory to a publisher. Also, I don't think that my posts would stand out among all the other people who are also posting about the new hotness. It makes more sense for me to review a mix of new and old books as they strike my fancy.

I think that each of my reviews is a mix because I am not the type of person to rave about anything :-). In almost every book I find things I like and things I don't, and I usually mention both.

S. Krishna said...

I definitely have some not so good reviews, but I don't blame you at all for only writing positive reviews. I liked the post though, it's nice to know what people think on issues such as this!

Anonymous said...

I do agree with you here, Jill, for one of the things I like best about book blogging is passing on my feelings about the books I've loved. I do take ARC books for review, but only books that I'm fairly certain I will be able to portray in a positive light.

I guess I look at my role in book blogging as being an advocate for readers and authors.

Thanks for weighing on this discussion.

Amy said...

I totally get this and respect your decisions. :)

trish said...

I know what you mean about sitting down to write a review of a less-than-stellar book. However, I'll admit I have the same problem when I love the book. All I want to do is GUSH GUSH GUSH. *shaking head* You can't win, I tell you! :-)

Marie Cloutier said...

I tend to write positive reviews only because I tend to not finish a book if I'm not enjoying it. The ARC thing is exhausting after a while; I do accept them from time to time but sometimes it's too much like work. :-) Thanks for your thoughtful comments on the issue.

Jo-Jo said...

Interesting post! And I can totally understand how you can go either way with This One is Mine by Maria Semple. As I indicated in my review..this book is not for everyone. I posted my review of this one here today. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Beth F said...

Great post! I post both good and bad reviews because I want to use my blog as a way to create a record of my reading.

I don't take ARCs either because I like the freedom to choose my books and read them in my own times.

Anonymous said...

Great post and discussion! I have a difficult time writing a review of a book I didn't care for, which is why I've slowed down in accepting ARCs. I won't be dishonest about a book but I feel bad being too critical, especially if I've been in correspondence with the author. So it's a fine line.. and it's so much easier to be honest about a book that you have no ties or commitments to.

Dreamybee said...

Hi Jill,

I can totally see both sides of this coin. On the one hand, if you have reasons for not liking a book, you might save someone else from wasting their time on it if they know that those same things would bother them. On the other hand, like you said, why take the time to write a "meh" review? You've already wasted your time on the book, why devote more time to writing about it?

I think whatever choice a blogger makes in this arena is correct, as long as it works for that individual.

Serena said...

This is a cream of the crop post. I love your take on the blog and reviewing.

ARCs are a pandora's box for me, and I learned it the hard way. Now, I am only accepting very few ARCs and reading the rest of the ones I obligated myself to. I want to shift the blog to books I want to read at the moment, rather than a swath of books i'm obligated to reading.

Anonymous said...
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Kym McNabney said...

Wow, how wonderful of you. It all makes sense and as an aspiring author, one of my biggest fears is the potential hateful, spiteful, heartless reviews. I’m all for constructive criticism, for that can help grow a writer’s craft. Also knowing one person could hate a book while another loved it, tells us most of the time it’s subjective. And if that’s the case, all the more reason to watch your words when you give a review, knowing there’s a real person behind the words. Most who write, write because of their love for writing. Just as if one made or drew something, if someone verbally trashed it, it hurt. Words are powerful.

Krista said...

I love this policy and I am changing mine, I already do not like reviewing books that I find bad so I love this. Thanks

Unknown said...

As a writer (everybody take a breath, no flogging of ebook here)I feel compelled to offer a comment from the other side of the fence. I'm going to get a little long winded, but bear with me.

Writers need readers. Full stop.
Readers want story tellers. Full stop.

As a writer, I devote hundreds and hundreds of hours developing my craft in the attempt to create a book. I finally sat down this past June to try to do just that, and I'm not exaggerating that I've spent almost two thousand hours doing so. And no, NOBODY gets to see my first drafts!! AAAAaa!

Now I got to try to find readers. And that's so I can hopefully earn a living doing something I truly love.

I am trying to find literally THOUSANDS of readers to accomplish that goal.

When I offer a potential reviewer my book, I'm asking for you to invest YOUR time in my career. With no compensation other than my gratitude.

I hope like crazy you like my book, and tell your blog followers how wonderful my book is so I can build my career.

As I said, I'll need thousands of readers. Each will invest hours on a 300 page book. What's that, four hours? Five maybe?

And that's if I did it right.

Personally, I read a lot- at least one book a week, usually two or three. I get annoyed when a writer publishes crap. Because they're wasting my time.

Time. It's all we have when you get down to it.

A person who genuinely invests their time in reading, or at least trying to read my work has earned the right to say whatever they honestly feel about my book.

Do the negative reviews sting?

Of course! The first negative review I read made me cry and had me upset for two days!

But- but- just as I'm entitled to write and now, with ebooks such an opportunity for people like me, write what ever I want; well readers are JUST AS ENTITLED to say their honest opinion.

They paid for it with their time.

Well, I was going to make this a post on my blog, but I think it's better here.

Thank all of you for reading. And for keeping reading alive!


wordwan said...

Hi, I am Heather. I am new to this blog.

I read the other bloggers' comments. Gonna comment a bit on what I've read; and add a few other thoughts as well.

If we are to become serious book industry, we need to have serious book industry processes. That said, we also need to get RID of a lot of processes that CAME from the original TRAD publishing.

The change is up to everyone.

So please: Follow your logic. Follow your morality. Honour your talent.

If you have a talent for reviewing books you LIKE, do THAT. If you have a talent for offering EFFECTIVE feedback (which is all a review is) to the writer, or potential book buyer, DO THAT.

And don't compromise to suit anyone.

Personally, I like Hugh Howey's idea of giving a reviewer ten dollars to read your book as far as they can til they stop, and then give you feedback on that book. ANY KIND OF FEEDBACK.

You are doing a book buyer a disservice if all you ever tell him is, "That book is great!" and he goes and buys that book and it's not.

I'm not saying don't be 'positive' but understand the difference between offering a writer--especially a self-publisher who is often alone in the woods--"marketing" versus honest feedback.

Reading about ARCs makes me think about dead tree books. Imagine no one telling the writer the book sucks and then all those trees giving up their lives for books no one reads.

One real good reason for self publishers to do ebooks, til they're sure they've hit a livelihood.

Just an idea.

Thanks for your posts.