In the past week several bloggers have mentioned their difficulty in handling the high number of review copies that come to various sites. Jules and Eisha started the conversation at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast writing in part that: I feel obligated to the review copies that I either requested or agreed to accept. And I know, I knowâ€”before someone points this outâ€”that I don't NEED to feel that way, but I'm sorry. Welcome to my brain. I do. An author busts his or her ass to write a book and asks us to consider it for review and we say sure or a publisher sends it to us for free? I start to feel really guilty if I don't read it. And let me repeat: I know I put that upon myself, but it's a fact that I do, so I need to do some adjusting here.
From there Jen Robinson continued with how much time blogging was taking out of her life, writing: So here I am, knowing that I need to cut back a bit, but not willing to do it. I'm like a dieter who can't give up any of her favorite foods. I'm addicted to my blog, addicted to the books, addicated to the idea of helping to grow bookworms. But I'm going to have to figure something out, because these headaches have to go.
I passed on links to these posts to Galleycat and Ron then ran a piece where he picked up on my thoughts that success might kill part of the lit blogosphere and he added:
Whether MSM book coverage evolves to incorporate the independent blogosphere's more engaging qualities (such as authenticity, passionate authority, and conversation), or mainstream coverage withers away until there's little left but bookblogs, though, we do need to recognize that not every bookblog is going to endure. In fact, I seem to recall that if you look at the broader statistics, most blogs don't last very long, for any number of reasons... but often because blogging becomes so burdensome that it's easy to quit, even if greatness lies just outside one's grasp... and, let's be honest, easier when it doesn't.
From there the subject moved to SF Diplomat and Jonathan posing the issue of some kind of payment and writing: In order to build up a successful blog it takes time and energy. Not only do you have to keep on producing decent material, you also have to learn to write about certain topics in certain ways so as to pick up links from other people and increase your subscription rate by tapping into others' subscription bases. As the article suggests, building that technorati rating can feel like working a second job. With some book bloggers showing the strain and quitting, I think the time may come in the future when publishers will have to do more than send out review copies.
It then bounced over to Finding Wonderland where TadMack vented her frustration over how on the one hand bloggers are dismissed as not as good as print reviewers while on the other hand publishers send us piles of unrequested ARCS:
If there is fault, it can also be laid at the door of some major publishing organizations who have inundated their readers with free -- and unrequested -- books that are often not even in their genre preference. People have implied that bloggers "use" books to have copy, but I don't think anyone ever stopped to consider the obligation those boxes of free books have on conscientious people. Since blog reviewing is, of old, an unpaid position, it really is difficult for a person of good conscience to keep up with the tide, yet most of us will not not review what is sent. Boundaries have to be made, people. And maybe we have to find our voices and be honest -- about the potential for "squishiness," even. We have to rediscover our desire to connect readers with books, and leave it at that.
Which brings me to, well, me.
I've written about the books before and I've mentioned the unreal number of books that come to my door. I have never felt any undue guilt to review an unrequested ARC because I just can't feel that guilt - there's no physical way that even one half of the books I receive will be read let alone reviewed. My lack of guilt is due to the sheer volume of books i receive and so while I'm lucky in one respect (guilt-free living is good!), I'm also slowly being buried in books.
We're talking more than 600 books this year already. It is insane.
I donate the books I don't want to keep - even a lot of the books I review I end up passing along to friends, family or the local thrift shop but while I was reading all of these posts about review copies I thought you know what - this is just wrong. It's a bad system, it has apparently always been a bad system and now, in a day and age when the environment has to be a bigger part of our daily priorities, it is a system that is hurting the planet.
Think of all the cardboard folks; think of all the gas the UPS man is burning by coming to my door.
Publishers have been sending out ARCs relentlessly to reviewers for decades. If I'm on track for 1,000 books this year then I can only imagine what the Washington Post is getting. It has to stop and I'm realizing that while it is costing them the most money to maintain this craziness, they still don't seem to get that it is a bad way of doing business. So I think we need to stop it.
I think reviewers/recommenders/bloggers/writers whatever you want to call yourself, if you are one of the ones receiving unrequested ARCs then you need to be part of the solution to stop it.
I'm sending emails to every publisher who sends me unrequested ARCs and I'm asking them to remove me from those shipping lists. Several publishers send me only the books I ask for and I think that is great. But everyone else is going to hear from me in a nice polite email where I explain it is not about them but me and the planet. It's just how I'm choosing to live and work and I hope they can understand. I realize this means I might miss some books but I'm going to ask that if a great title comes up they think is a fit for me then by all means - send an email and see if I want it. Several of the smaller publishers do this already. (And some of the bigger imprints send out seasonal emails with titles and descriptions to consider.) If that is something they can't do then that is okay. I'll miss a few books. If they are really good then someone on the blogosphere is going to write about them anyway and I'll find them that way and that's great.
That's what we started all this for in the first place.
If you're in a heavy book laden situation like mine then I invite you to start emailing publishers as well. It's not about being a blogger, it's not about print vs internet and it's not about who is more professional at reviewing. The old method of getting books reviewed is no longer sustainable and it has to end. I'm bringing reusable canvas bags to the grocery store, people. I think I can let Random House, Penguin, Harper Collins and the rest know that they need to slow down on the use of cardboard when it comes to me. I just don't want to be part of such a wasteful system anymore.