Friday, 21 November 2008

Get off your reviewing high horse

Recently, a mid-sized publisher (Thomas Nelson Books) offered to send free review copies of their books to bloggers in exchange for a review. The review could be positive or negative, but they had to put it on their blog, Amazon and the like.

The reaction from some of the bookerati has been swift and damning. According to posts like this and this, bloggers who signed up for the reviewing deal were selling out by agreeing to give a review in return for a free book. So 'real' book reviewers pay for their copies, do they? I think not. This is simple case of 'only the special people can do it'. While I have mixed feelings as to whether or not most of these reviews will have any value as guidance for potential purchasers, I think to suggest that bloggers are selling their souls for free books is condescending and unpleasant.

I don't doubt that this is a marketing ploy - but so are all reviews from the publisher's viewpoint. It's unusual (and quite cunning) in the requirement to post the review on Amazon. But the reaction has been totally out of proportion to the action.


  1. Brian, as you imply, just about ALL the publishers will give out free books to established reviewers--I get sent a few for my blog, but don't cover them all. I didn't realise that Thomas Nelson had attracted flak for doing this. It's been going on for years, and not just in book publishing: when I used to promote computer games in the 1980s I would routinely send fifty or a hundred copies of each title out to publications I hoped would review them: it seems pretty standard procedure to me, and I'm surprised that it's attracted any negative attention.

  2. Jane,

    Bloggers as a whole are up their own arses. Those who don't get free books to review, doubly so.

  3. A lot of these rounds go on at the litblogs, and I do think that some bloggers ascribe too much importance to themselves.
    However, publshers are also irritating. They frequently send me review copies without asking first if I want them, then send regular emails asking if I've reviewed the book. I often get requests to feature/link or otherwise promote books which have no connection to anything I've ever written about on my blog - which to my mind is close to spam.

    So long as publishers who send out review copies of books do not "expect" a review, a link or other in return, all is fine.

    If a reviewer accepts a book on conditions, ie to run a review in return for the book, or to link to something, that's fine too - I would prefer it if such reviewers disclosed any conditions in their reviews, though.