Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is Asking For Books Offensive?

Is the act of a reviewer asking an author for their book offensive, insulting or annoying?

Everyone seems to have different opinions about this: some reviewers have absolutely no inhibitions about emailing authors, some have a No-Freakin’-Way policy, and some, like me, stand a middle ground—they only when they really, really want a book.

So, what is everyone’s personal take on it? What’s your experience with it been like? Feel free to leave anonymous comments if you would like to conceal your identity, but please specify if you're an author or a reviewer.

38 comments:

Reviewer X said...

! I forgot to talk about my *own* experiences XD

I've asked for the books of 4, maybe 5, authors. All save for one were prior to their pub date, so they maybe could have had the chance of sending an ARC and not one of their own, final author copies. Let's see, of those authors, one turned me down, one sent me their book (and I loved it), and two forwarded me to their publicist. Of those two, I have yet to hear back from one.

If there's a fifth author in the mix, I can't recall ...

Anyhow, I don't ask for books unless I totally, absolutely MUST have it. (That is, to authors. I ask publicists for books all the time, heh :P)

Steph

ambeen said...

As you know I have no qualms about asking for review copies. The worst an author will say is no. And if they are too offended to reply at all and decide to ignore me, then I probably don't want to read their book(s) anyway.

I really don't understand why an author could be anything but flattered. Someone thinks your book is good enough to read which has to be an awesome feeling. They are also offering to review it on their blog, giving the author and their book publicity for a relatively small cost. Seems win-win to me.

Plus, the author can always say no. It doesn't hurt my feelings when an author says no and I doubt others are hurt either. We may be disappointed, but it's not like we're going to hate the author. (Although I have to say, if you're rude about it, like a certain publicist was to me, then we might not have pleasant thoughts toward the author/publicist.)

So to sum it up, don't be afraid to ask if you're a reviewer and don't be afraid to say no if you're an author. ;)

Anonymous said...

I have yet to be in the position of being asked for a review copy of one of my books, but I do think reviewers need to keep a couple of things in mind.

One is that authors often receive a very small number of books for their own use, and many of these are already promised to others. They may not have an extra copy to donate, even though they would love you to review their book -- which means that you are basically asking them to supply you with a book at their own expense. Many authors (especially struggling debut authors) cannot afford to do this, and so must make a policy of saying no to post-publication requests.

On a more positive front, if you do have a well-established track record as a blog reviewer and you approach the author early enough (say, 3-4 months before the book is actually released), you may be able to get added to the list of people who will have ARCs mailed out to them. Many authors would be willing to look into this for you, though there is a chance the publisher may say "no" -- but it's a lot easier on the author to say "Sorry, my publisher said we have no more ARCs to give away at this time" than to guiltily confess that they, the author, have no more ARCs to give away and can't afford to get in the habit of buying copies for reviewers at their own expense.

So the upshot of all that is -- yes, do ask, but try to do it 3-6 months before the book is actually released, as opposed to requesting a copy at or around the time of publication. Which is pretty much what reviewer x said in her initial comment so I'll shut up now. :)

Anonymous said...

I've never asked for a book. Mostly because I'm too sure about how to go about asking an author or contacting a publicist and I'm too lazy to find out.

Book Chic said...

My thoughts on this pretty much mirror Ambeen's. I ask a LOT of authors and a few publicists for review copies of books. While I used to be embarrassed/nervous by it, it's not as big a deal to me now.

Most of the authors (like 90%) that I ask say yes to sending me a review copy or send me to their publicist who usually gets back to me pretty quickly. The other 10% usually don't say like NO! I DON'T WANT YOU REVIEWING MY BOOK! or anything but what happens is is that they don't have any copies left to give away, and they're very nice about letting me know.

Lately, I've been waiting until about a month or so beforehand to ask for a review copy because I've had such a backlog of stuff, so it makes things easier if I take it month by month.

The Compulsive Reader said...

I have to admit that I oftentimes don't want to appear the clingy reviewer who just does this whole reviewing thing for free books. So I don't really ask very often, and instead focus on reading and writing reviews. I've been approached by a LOT of publicists and authors with review offers, which I always accept, so that keeps me pretty darn busy.

But, occaisonally, I will ask, but I always to to take the whole, "I'd love to review the book, is there any chance of getting a review copy? If not, no worries," approach. It's polite and I don't seem to be a desperate free book mooch. I hope.

Luisa said...

OK, well, I'm an author AND a reviewer.

As an author - I *love* it when people ask for my book to review. It's definitely not remotely offensive.

As a reviewer - I don't think I've ever asked an author for a book. Unless... perhaps I asked Alexa Young? Yes, maybe I did!

Generally, though, my TBR pile is large enough from accepting offers from publicists. If there's a book I really want to read that I haven't been offered, I like to buy it and increase the author's sales if possible.

Interesting topic.

Luisa

Reviewer X said...

I totally get the whole not wanting to appear like a clingy reviewer like TCR said. Though I'm afraid I post too often about books I *want* to read that I appear clingy. Living abroad SUCKS for buying books though -- not only are books sometimes like double the price here, it takes, what, five to six weeks for the damn things to get here. Which is why getting author/publisher copies is preferable ;)

Thanks to Anon Author for dropping by, though -- very informative. That's precisely why I avoid asking for copies after publication, and when I do, I explicitly say "If you have any review copies left". I feel terribly bad receiving a final copy if it's not from a publisher. In fact, while I like author-sent books way more (personalization!), in the long run I feel more comfortable receiving books from the publishers. I don't feel like I'm ripping them off then ;)

Ambeen, it's funny -- in many ways I'm bolder than you, but on this one instance, I'm not. Far from it. Haha. :P

Steph

ambeen said...

I'm with Luisa, I like increasing an author's sales, even if I am only one person and probably not doing a whole lot. I fully plan to buy a couple sequels to books I've reviewed earlier this year.

The Story Siren said...

i agree with tcr. i have asked for a book before. and it was actually just recently, i asked the publisher rather than the author. and i did get the book, but personally i'm just not comfortable doing it. i just don't want it to come across that i am asking for a handout..... it might be stupid of me to feel that way. but i'm much more comfortable having an author coming to me. perhaps in the future, i'll feel more comfortable doing it. excellent topic x, i have new reviewers ask me this all the time.

Carrie Ryan said...

I've gotten asked by one reviewer to review my book *cough* and I loved it. It made my day -- my week -- to be asked! Problem is, I have only a tiny number of copies and I'm trying to get ahold of more for this reviewer and still don't know yet how to do that. Part of the issue, I think, is that often authors don't have publicists assigned until later who they can send these requests to and if you're new like me, you're not sure what to do at that point.

So you...er... fail to write the reviewer back and then feel horrible about it... but you have put her top of the list with the house to make sure she gets an ARC as soon as review copies are sent out, cause it really did mean a lot to be asked! That's been my experience at least.

Lenore said...

Great topic, Steph!

Let's see... I have asked a few authors if they wanted to promote their books on my blog and in most cases, they were into it. A couple referred me to their publicists, a couple worked with me directly. No one ignored me.

I have a also been approached by a couple of authors and I always said yes.

I am not embarrassed to ask, and I'm not offended if an author says no. We are all benefitting from the deal after all!

ReadRaveReview said...

I just recently started reviewing myself. I'm sort of nervous about asking to review because I don't want the author to be angered or offended, etc. I did ask an author if she'd like for me to review a book that she has had out for about a month. I think she thought I meant I wanted her to send me a copy (which I didn't, I was planning to go to the library, but accidentally forgot to mention so) and she never wrote back. I know she saw the request though. *shrugs* I'm not insulted though. If I thought she'd remember who I was, I apologize. Maybe I'll get to a point where I won't be so nervous about it, but for now, being new, I'll stick to having them, approach me.

Anonymous said...

Another anonymous author here...

I'm with the first anonymous author who posted--we don't usually get many ARCs, and the author copies we get are limited in number as well...so please understand that if we seem hesitant sometimes, that's why: we don't want to offend you reviewers and are usually thrilled to be asked, but we just can't always supply books. I'm grateful that my publisher is terrific about sending out ARCs to reviewers, but it's more easily done pre-release than post-release. So yes, if you offer to review a book post-release, definitely tell authors that you're willing to get the book at your local library...you're doing us a favor, especially if your library doesn't already have it and ends up ordering it.

Jennifer Banash said...

Wow. Great topic!

I love to be asked--as many of you already know! I'll approach reviewers myself, sure, but being asked is even MORE awesome because I already know you're interested! Even if I get a not-so-great review, I'm still tickled pink just to be asked!

I actually broke down and bought an entire extra box of books just to give to reviewers post-publication, expressly for this purpose. They're basically gone now, but I thought it was well worth the expense. Reviewer's who told me they really liked the first book also automatically went on the ARC list for IN TOO DEEP. That's just how I roll :D

Jennifer Banash said...

Oops! I forgot to add that there are a very limited number of ARC's available for books, and I know that personally, it really helps to know who wants one in advance. So I agree with the above comment in that you should let an author know pre-publication if you'd like to review their work, as it's just easier for us all around. Not all debut authors want (or can) afford to buy extra books. I really couldn't either, but I did it anyway!

But then again, I am largely irresponsible . . . D

Shana said...

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In answer to the asking for books question, I do if it is an author I absolutely love, have read all of their books published so far, and am really looking forward to the next release and just can't wait until the release date!

Reader Rabbit said...

Hey X!
We're also pretty much on middle ground.
(Usually we prefer it when the authors contact us but...)
When we really, reallllyy want to read and review something, we''ll go ahead and ask but it does make me feel a bit uncomfortable. (And realllyyy uneasy back in the beginning)

We`ve dealt with some publishing houses and publicists as well and I find it preferable to asking authors too because I really don`t want to make the authors waste their money shipping one of their few copies to me.


Oh and most authors I`ve dealt with have usually responded positively. I think one had no copies left and said she`d drop a note to her publicist.

But really, I don`t see the huge problem with asking. The authors can say no and I won`t be offended...I`ll be happy they got back to me with an anwswer=D


(note: if any of that sounded incoherent it`s because I`m kind of not supposed to be speaking/writing english right now...hehe.)

Melissa Walker said...

Love this topic--really interesting! I am all for the giving out of books to reviewers, and I bought an extra box like Jennifer B. so I could do that. The one thing I wonder is: If I send the book to a reviewer, do they feel like they HAVE to give it a positive review? Because I wouldn't want that to be the case!

Anyway, as an author, I think it's lovely to be asked!

Book Chic said...

In answer to Melissa's question, I never feel obligated to give a book a good review just because I got it from the author or the publisher. I never let personal feelings get in the way of my reviewing. I'm a very easy person to please, so it's not a huge shock that I'll love everything that I come across. If something does bug me, I'll point it out but I have yet to read a book for my reviewing that I absolutely hate, or cannot finish. And if I do come across a book like that, then I will let my blog readers know about it.

By the way, I love this discussion and reading all the comments. It's so much fun!! :)

Tracy said...

Wow, I love this thread and reading what author's think of reviewers asking for books. Thanks so much Steph and the authors who commented. I completely agree with Lenore about asking and do ask. I was scared to death to do so the first time but found each author has been wonderful about it. I always say "if you are interested please let me know who to contact" which hopefully puts the time and expense off of the author. I am so grateful when they do respond and LOVE to promote books! I do honestly feel a little pressure (from myself) about giving a good review, but I have been fortunate and loved the books I have requested. And Steph I love your site, I'm not the best about commenting but I visit every day. I am starting a YA monday day on my site and LOVE YA books even though I'm a bit older then you are my dear. Prep School and a website I love your ambition! Tracy(bookroomreviews)

Neesha Meminger said...

I'm with Carrie. I would love to be asked. Although right now I have only one ARC left and three requests. I've forwarded the requests on to my publisher who is compiling a list, so whoever wants one will most likely get one, as long as they ask now--before the pub date! :).

Great thread, by the way.

ambeen said...

In answer to Melissa's question, I feel so horrible giving bad reviews but feel that it would be wrong to lie about a book. I have given a couple negative reviews and said some negative things in my mostly positive reviews and hated it each time. I don't want to hurt the author's feelings but it is truly nothing personal. Although I've decided not to post any negative reviews for books I didn't receive for the purpose of reviewing. If I bought it myself, I just won't review it. I can only hurt so many people's feelings. It's like having to tell someone their puppy died. It's horrible.

Reviewer X said...

Thanks to all the kind words that have been said about me and my blog :) You guys are absolute rockstars.

Now, it's quite interesting to hear author perspectives. It seems like you guys get a lot happier about the prospect of having a reviewer take a look than I would've ever imagined. Interesting ;) And Melissa and Jennifer, wow, I had no idea you guys bought your own books for us reviewers! That's pretty cool.

I actually wanted to address something by the anonymous author who talked about the borrow-from-the-library thing. Please note, whoever reads below, that I'm not trying to make people feel sorry for me. I'm just trying to explain MY situation. Anyway:

I live abroad, that's no secret, and there are no libraries in my country. There are special-order bookstores, where I get my own personal, not-blog-related books. When I ask an author for their book, it's because not only I really, really want to read it, but also because it's super expensive here. Hardcovers from Hyperion, HarperCollins and Simon and Schuster are especially expensive. I'm talking about $32. Plus shipping. Plus the wait time, which is usually 4-5 weeks. What's ironic is, I have publicity contacts in all those houses, but none of them will send to me because I live abroad and from what I understand, they don't want to fill out the extra paperwork. (I don't know if it's a matter of cost or not -- the publicist who told me this only mentioned the paperwork.) Or, they'll make an exception (Harper will -- Hyperion and S&S won't) to send to me if the author themselves ask. If I were in the US, I would be able to afford to buy these books, but then, I wouldn't even need to -- the publicity contacts could probably get me a copy.

I'd love to buy and support all the authors whose books I want, but at prices like these, I simply can't afford to. Imagine buying three books and paying $100. Who in their right minds would do that?

Which is why when I ask, I really, really want that book. If I'm met with a no, well, that's that, I guess. I save up the money I get from tutoring and buy the super-expensive books myself. :) But it truly does suck. Which is why authors who will request copies from their publisher to send to me or publishers who will send to me (Penguin and Flux, unconditionally; HarperCollins and Random House, conditionally) are always, always appreciated.

Thanks everyone for participating!

Reviewer X said...

Oh, and this is also why I am especially fond of paperbacks. I usually wait until whatever book I really want comes out in paperback to buy it because those are still overpriced, but not as much as hardcovers ;) But what's the fun of reading books one (sometimes two) year(s) later? :P

Steph

Alea said...

You have no libraries! That's a freaking nightmare! Wow. That definitely makes it hard to get books. And those prices, good lord!

I've approached a few authors about review copies, I believe all but one were ones that I knew were going around offering copies to bloggers so I knew they would be into it. And the other one, I never heard back from which is perfectly fine.

Brooke Taylor said...

As soon as I started getting requests, I emailed my publisher and asked how I should respond (since I personally only got a couple of arcs). They said to get the info and forward the request, which was awesome because they are much faster than I am. The only catch is they don't ship outside the USA, so out of the USA peeps got my personal copies.

I don't mind being asked at all, and it is actually great because the chances of the reviewer liking a book that already interests them enough to ask for it is much higher. Also the chances of them posting a review at all is high. So win-win.

Now that we are out of arcs and the book is on the shelf, the subject gets a little trickier.

Liviania said...

I feel awkward asking authors for books, but I think I'm going to try it with a few upcoming releases that I'd like to get my hands on. I am asking for a copy to review, but I still feel greedy.

(Heck, I just got up my courage to ask authors for interviews and guest blogs!)

I don't feel obligated to give a good review, but I don't like giving a bad one when I've had personal contact with the author. There's only been one so far, and I'm dragging my feet with the review.

harmonybookreviews said...

I have absolutely no problem with asking for books. At first, I was unsure about it but now I'm not. I look at it this way - Yeah, I get to read the book for free but I also work with the author a lot to help promote and whatnot. There's tons of promotion opportunities on my blog (interview, giveaway, guest blog, etc) and I work hard to help out the author. We both benefit from it.

I've sent out quite a few emails asking if they'd like me to review their book. They almost always email me back. Of the ones that do, about 90% say they'll send me the book, 5% say to contact their publisher, and the other 5% don't have review copies left or can't send me the book for some other reason.

If they say no, I'm never offended. I realize that they have limited copies. If they can't, I usually ask my library to get it via an inter-library loan or buy it sometime.

Booked Books said...

I love this post; it addresses a lot of my concerns about asking authors for books directly. I feel a bit redundant posting this comment, but I will anyway.

I've just started reviewing in June, so I'm still pretty new to the reviewing thing. You can guess that I haven't asked any authors for books yet.

Also, I'm not as attached to book blogging as a lot of people are. Reviewing is something I do on the side for fun, so I guess you can say my book blog isn't very well-known.

The main reason I haven't asked for books directly is that I know I'd feel guilty if I gave the book a bad review after the author shipped the book to me. I think Melissa addressed this issue, so I'm relieved about this.

Another reason is that I'm part of so many review groups now that it already keeps me busy; I've also gotten some cool books from contests. So, I never felt the need to ask for books.

I guess I stand on the middle ground in this. If I ever see a book I really like, I'll ask the author.

Wonderful post. Thanks! I love reading the different opinions.

C. Leigh Purtill said...

Great post, Steph - just discovered you through Facebook.

As the other authors have mentioned here, it's EXTREMELY flattering to be asked for books but as the anonymous author noted, we have very limited numbers we can send from our own personal collection. If the reviewer contacts us with enough lead time, we can get them on the list to be sent one directly from the publisher. Getting them after the fact is a little harder. So, much as I'd love to send out a copy to every reviewer out there (honest, I love book blogs!!), I just don't have the resources to do so. :(

My question to you is, how do I get the reviews from people to whom books HAVE been sent? Just as some of you feel awkward asking authors for books, some of us authors feel awkward asking for the reviews. Negative or positive, we all hope to get feedback from readers, especially from those people who have expressed an interest and desire to read and review the books. How should I approach reviewers who have my books but haven't reviewed?

We're all just too polite - no one wants to offend anyone! :)

ambeen said...

I've never had an author ask me when I was going to review their book, but I have a friend where the author emailed like every week. So I would say that is a little too much.

I think 3-4 weeks after sending the book is an okay time to ask. If it were to happen to me, I'd probably bump the book up to first place. That's just me though. I've also recently scaled back the amount of reviewing I do, so I only have one book to currently review with two promised to me in the future. But since I'm not rushing to review that one book, if the author emailed me asking if it would be reviewed soon, I'd move it to top priority.

I probably didn't answer your question but I'm sure other reviewers would agree that emailing to check up on it wouldn't be offensive.

C. Leigh Purtill said...

Thanks for your reply, ambeen...I guess part of what I'm asking is, if I send a reviewer a book and I don't hear anything after a couple of months, should I assume the reviewer didn't like the book?

Reviewer X said...

Leigh, as I've said before, I'll turn this into its own discussion later this week, but for now, here's my response:

I'd advise you to check their review policy. Is there a time guarantee? Is there a review guarantee? Some reviewers don't review everything they receive. (Though if they personally requested a book, I'd consider it bad form not to review it in some way or another.) Some, like me, DO guarantee a review but not a specific time frame.

Now, I think you're perfectly within your right to email a reviewer if a couple months have passed and you've heard nothing. But I've heard of many horror stories with author follow ups (like Ambeen said, our friend was basically harassed for a review for quite a while), so you might want to go gently and not demand anything out of them :P (Which I doubt you'd do anyway.)

Like Ambeen said, I'd probably move your book up to the top of the pile. If I've neglected any material for that long, it's probably not intentional -- things tend to be crazy with my blog TBR pile and a nudge would urge me not to overlook anything :)

I am never bothered by followup emails. The one time it happened, I got to the book faster than I would have otherwise. If an author knows their book is on my TBR pile, even if they weren't the ones to arrange to have it sent to me (like if I requested it myself to their publishers, which I often do), they may always inquire to know where things are. All the books on my blog TBR list are shelved here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/1169804

Hope that helps!

Steph

paperxxflowers said...

(finally getting to it, although it's kind of late in the game)

I feel sooo awkward to ask an author for a copy of their book!

In fact... I've never done it. Sure, I've had a few authors ask me if I want to review their book after asking them to guest blog for my site, and like *I'm sure* many of you review loads of books for publishing companies, but I've never directly contacted an author and went "Please send me a copy!" or some other variation of that.

.......

Okay, I lied. I did it once or twice. But only when the author (on their blog) was like... "I got my review copies! email me if you want one!"

So yeah... that's my opinion.

Sorry for taking so long!

Carol said...

I don't think it's offensive. I agree with Ambeen. Authors should be flattered. I will understand if they say no. I won't be mad or hate them and not read their books unless they were rude about it.

I do ask some authors for ARC's if I know that they have some or I cross my fingers and hope that they have some left. I have asked some authors for finished copies of their books and I have been turned down politely and I have received a copy of their book.

I am now mostly asking the publishers for the books.It seems easier since they might have a lot of copies laying around.

Great discussion Steph! :)

Anonymous said...

I have a question. Say you know a publicist but how do you know what other books they represent?

Steph said...

Hey Anon - To answer your question, I'd say in my experience whom the publicist reps usually has no bearing in what they can send me. I think they all work in the same work space so they have access to all the books anyway. (I think.) What happens with some houses, though, is that a publicist might direct you to an online marketing assistant or associate or manager, doesn't matter, who is officially responsible for bloggers. In some cases, said online marketing person will have access to any books - in others, he or she will only have access to books the publisher is doing online marketing FOR, so if it's past a book's season or a book they have no online marketing plan for it, or even still if they're out of copies, you're in bad luck. (HATE it when that happens.)

Hope that helps - if you have any further questions, just email me and I'll do my best to help :) I doubt many people are still checking here (I get email notifications of any new comments).

Best of luck!

Steph

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