This year I've received a couple handfuls of books from authors and publishers, ostensibly for review, for the word-of-mouth promotion this blog is capable of (hah!).
I've only accepted those books I have a genuine interest in. I've turned down (or ignored) far more offers than I've accepted.
I have, in fact, reviewed some of those books here.
Others I've chosen not to review, not because the review wouldn't be favourable (I don't think I have qualms about that in principle) but simply because I didn't feel strongly enough about them to squander the energy to string a sentence or two together. Did I do the right thing?
Still others are languishing in the to-be-read pile. Surely, I should read what I want, when I want. Why should I risk my time and patience on an author I've never heard of (after the initial lure of a plot summary, a pretty cover, and, most important, a "free" book) when I have Dumas and Stendhal at the ready? But what about my obligation? Do I have an obligation?
Please advise, fellow bookbloggers.
Do you accept review copies, and if so, what criteria do you apply for choosing which offers to accept?
Have you ever asked for a review copy?
Would you write a negative review of such a book (or have you written one), or would you simply not review it?
Do you feel committed to writing the review? A positive one? Just a mention? Do you hash out your obligations (review length, timeframe) with the contact person?
If you choose not to write a review (or if it would be negative), do you advise the contact person?
If you review a book, do you state that it was a review copy? Do you think it makes a difference?
Are you in it just for the free book? Are you exploiting the publisher for booty, or is the publisher exploiting you as a marketing tool? Do you feel you're doing a public service?
Do you feel targeted? Accurately? Given that Magnificent Octopus is part mommy-blog, part book-blog, maybe it's not surprising that the bulk of offers I receive are for mommy books (running the gamut across mother–daughter relationships, nanny tell-alls, and how to make a cool castle fort out of a cardboard box). But others I wonder about — space station romances? bulimic adventures? Do these people even read this blog? Do they know only 3 people read this blog, and that none of them are likely to take my advice about a book? (Have I just ruined my chances of ever getting another offer?) Most of the books I read and write about have been around for years, many written by dead guys. I don't even review books, not in any formal sense, I've stated often — I respond to them.
And how do I get review copies of the really good books (say, for example, the upcoming Pynchon)? (Have I just breached etiquette by asking this out loud?)
That said, I am grateful for the opportunity to discover new authors. For example, Annette Gilson, who actually read some of this blog before approaching me personally, whose New Light gave me plenty of food for thought.
Currently I'm gorging on some literary junk food — a review copy of a book I had low expectations of. But it's a guilty pleasure — secret societies and religious conspiracies. My expectations were greatly lowered when I learned the author believes she is a descendant of Mary Magdelene. Comparisons of The Expected One to The DaVinci Code (which I admit to enjoying) are obvious and inevitable. But I am about 80 pages and eating it up (it's certainly better than Labyrinth).
It's really hard to resist the offer of a free book, but nothing's really free, is it?