Hello, everyone. Today I thought I’d share with you something that’s been taking up a fairly decent portion of my time recently: Advanced Reader Copies. There is an unspoken etiquette regarding ARCs; obtaining them, and what comes after you’ve been approved for a request.
Note: everything in this post is personal opinion. You may disagree, and that’s okay. It only promotes healthy discussion. As always, I am not writing this with the intention to offend.
Hello, everyone. So ever since this blog post was released, I’ve thought about it a lot. And while I still think it’s important to review the books that you request, I admit that the original tone of my post was uncalled for. I do not condone moral policing- something that I’ve come to realize recently is that moral policing has the genuine ability to cause hurt. And even though your heart may be at the right place, you don’t get to tell people what hurt them and what didn’t. So, I’m sorry for everyone I offended with some of the stuff that I said. I still stand by my general argument – I probably always will, but I do not stand by how I said it.
I could have deleted this post, but I’m not going to simply because I think it’s important to look back at my mistakes and better them. With that, I’d please request that you keep my current mindset in mind while reading the rest of this post. <3
EDIT (Please Read):
It has come to my attention that some people have been sharing this post on Twitter and are actually pretty pissed about it. Calling me unexperienced (which I probably am, since I’ve only been doing this for a year), and saying that I am “jealous/bitter.” All on Twitter- not to me, but among themselves on a public forum that I’m very much a part of.
Okay, then. The thing they take problem with is my idea of theft. Like I always say before my discussion posts, my writing is not meant to offend, so I’m a little surprised that these people – who don’t know me, or haven’t even seen my blog before this post – are resorting to snicker and disregard my opinions, on my own blog, because of one idea that I wrote. When I talk about stealing, I do not talk about unsolicited ARCs. My entire post was about not reading ARCs that you have yourself requested. Some people apparently got super, super offended by this idea that they receive ARCs that they don’t even request, and I called it ‘stealing.’ Sorry, you missed the point of my post.
Moreover, some of them seem to have missed the area where I talk about how it’s okay to not read ARCs as long as you send a note to the publisher, explaining why you couldn’t have gotten to it. They seem to think I expect everyone to read each and every ARC they receive- again, I don’t say that at all in this post, so I don’t know what they’re up to.
As for my comment on ‘stealing,’ I will not take it back. I wrote it, which means I meant it, but not in the way that many people THINK I meant it. I will clarify; but before that: I may be a “new blogger” or unexperienced, and you may have years more experience than I do, but you have no right to share my blog posts and resort to ad hominem attacks because of one word I used. When you request a book, a publisher gives it to you and as ‘payment,’ you give this publisher feedback and publicity. If you don’t do that- you have the product, but you haven’t given back what you were supposed to. In my mind, that recalls stealing, perhaps not in the strictest sense of the word, but reminiscent.
Perhaps what I find the most amusing is how these ‘seasoned’ and “experienced” book bloggers are so set on disregarding any other point of view except their own. I’m flattered that they find my opinion worthy of being discussed, but that discussion should involve the post. So that people with both opinions can actually involve themselves in a debate, rather than coming across nasty things on Twitter. 🙂
Being approved for an ARC is always an honor:
When I first started blogging, I’ll admit that ARCs were a huge factor. No matter how popular of a blogger you become, no matter how many times you’ve been approved for an Advanced Reader Copy, it still feels special. Because you, as a devoted and passionate reader, get to utilize your reading and writing skills to read a book that has not even been released yet. You are in the privileged position to give honest feedback and publicity to both the publisher and the author so that they, in turn can either make the changes necessary or get the word out there for a book that would otherwise be lost in the stacks and stacks of pages released every single day.
It’s an honor to be approved for a request, and I believe it should be treated as such. These publishers think that you are worthy to give an unpublished copy to. In this way, they trust you to not give out spoilers, they trust you to do your job now and give them what they need in return for the ARC. And it’s important that you do so.
Isn’t that a given?
It should be, but you’d be surprised by how many times I’ve seen people say that it’s okay to not give feedback. When I first started off using Netgalley, I encountered countless posts on countless blogs about how to obtain ARCs and how to deal with them once you have them in your hands (or in your eReaders, as in most cases.) And most people said that it’s absolutely not obligatory for you to review these ARCs you are approved for. Technically, that’s true, which is why this post isn’t called the rules of ARCs. You aren’t, by any rule on Netgalley or any law, required to give feedback to the publishers. But you are expected to, where the “etiquette” part comes in.
Imagine this: Person A requests a book, and Person B also requests a book. A has a good following – if all her followers are amassed from the various social media sites, she has a count of 2,000. B has a fair count too. He has a good 500 followers, which is still a lot, but is 75% less than Person A’s. B is rejected the ARC, and A is approved, because in the publisher’s mind, A can provide more publicity for the book if given a good rating. Which is fine- it’s the fundamentals of marketing. B feels dejected because he really wanted to read the book. A decides that she’ll put off the ARC for a while until it’s closer to the release, but then she just never picks it up, too busy with other books and life. The title is archived, and A can no longer read it. She was approved in place of B- a reader who really wanted to read it, would actually spend time reading it and giving the publisher feedback.
I feel very passionate about this phenomenon. As a person who grew up in a developing country where not enough people get the chance to get the education, and thus the career, they deserve, I feel like it’s a slap in the face for someone who does get the opportunity but does not avail it. One of my cousins studied to be a doctor. It’s a competitive field, and she was obviously smart enough to make it to the end. She was chosen to be a student of a very good mentor, but after college, she didn’t do anything with it. Yes, it’s her choice, as is everything in this world. She can do whatever she wants, because it is her life. I get that, but when I think about a kid who didn’t get into the program, who actually wanted to work as a doctor rather than just graduate as one, what about them? What about those people?
It may seem like a stretch to compare a person’s career to the reading of an ARC, but it’s the same thing, no? On a smaller scale, but the same thing?
But we all make mistakes.
Yes, we do. That’s what makes us human beings. You’re approved for an ARC, and you just do not have the time or commitment to get to it right now. The archive date is fast approaching, and you are bogged down with academics and work and family, or whatever. That is fine, and publishers will most probably understand that. Instead of reading the book and giving them a full review, you can send them a note explaining why you could not get to the ARC in time, and how sorry you are for not doing so. Just like us, publishers are human too, they will probably understand, and your life and health does come first. But tell them that.
Look on the flip-side. You don’t get the time, and you think it’s fine if you don’t give publishers a reason as to why you didn’t read the book. What happens now? Not only have you taken an opportunity away from someone else, but you’ve also broken the trust of the person who approved your request. From now on, you are no longer reliable and will perhaps not be approved for the next title you request from a publisher.
It’s your life and your choices, but you also have a responsibility.
Look, I get it. I’m making it seem like the ARC business is a crazy, twisted, cut-throat thing where you’ll get murdered or demolished if you don’t fulfill your end of the deal. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to sound this sinister. And it’s true that you have your own life and your own choices to think about, and that applies 110% when it comes to your space. Your blog, your websites, your personal life, your relationship are all yours to think about.
But when a publisher is involved, and when they hand you a product and you shrug it off, it is no better than stealing. It is a transaction. They give you an ARC, and you pay them back with feedback and publicity- it’s just how the industry works. If you don’t give them back feedback and publicity, you have stolen their product, period.
EDIT: I realize that people have gotten offended with my use of the word “stealing.” Again, it was not my intention to offend. Also, I mentioned above that bloggers are, in no way, obligated to review the books they request- no rule says that, which is why this post is called “etiquette” not “law.” My use of the word “stealing” was not meant in the strictest sense of the word; it was meant as something that I feel when I think about people requesting books, getting them and not holding up their end of the bargain. My opinion is my own.
Choices are important- an integral part of what makes us intelligent creatures living on the earth, but responsibility is important too. When second parties are involved in a thing you are doing, it no longer becomes completely about personal choice. Objectivity and nuance can go a long way in life.
I’ve made pretty shoddy decisions, too.
Which is why I’m saying all this. I started off a Netgalley account, requested ARCs left and right with no filter, just because I wanted to read something not yet published. It brings you a good reputation on the blogging community. Safe to say that when I was approved for six or seven in a row, I didn’t have time to read them all. I read two, maybe three, and it all went downhill from that.
Which prompted me to request that my account get deleted, so I can start over with a better outlook on the website, on the industry, and how to better pace myself so that I can get what I want, and can give what publishers want in return. I made mistakes with ARCs- but I have started to fix them.
So what’s the best way to get and read ARCs?
Tips are incredibly important, and can do wonders if you’re just starting out in requesting ARCs. First of all, don’t do what I did. Request one or two books at a time. If you are approved, read them, and then request more. Pay attention to archive dates. When you’re approved for an ARC on Netgalley, send it directly to your Kindle. Once the title has been archived, you cannot download it, but you can provide feedback.
Pace yourself. If you read two books in a week, don’t request five that are releasing around the same time. Read the publisher’s profile and rubric for approval, and make sure you meet that criteria. And do not – for the love of God, the bookish community, chocolate and all things awesome – leave the feedback section blank, EVEN IF you have not read the book.