14 May 2009

Thoughts on Review Copies and Reviewing

Periodically the literature blogosphere goes through a discussion of what obligations book-bloggers have to publishers who send them review copies for free. Here, for instance, are some of Liz B's thoughts at the Tea Cozy, and some more. And here are mine.

1) Should bloggers post only positive reviews?

Well, what fun would that be?

2) Should bloggers review every book they receive from publishers?

I've never asked for a review copy for Oz and Ends. (I have invited publishers to send books for my more specialized blog.) So a publisher has to initiate the process by offering me a copy. And that offer is, like any other marketing effort, part of a game of chance, not a contract. The publisher sends out lots of review copies, hoping a few produce positive results.

Some pitches are more compelling than others. In recent months, publicists at one large firm have contacted me three times about three different humorous novels for adults. All three pitches compared the novel in question to A Confederacy of Dunces. That would have been more impressive if my memory didn't go back longer than two months. And if I hadn't read A Confederacy of Dunces, and know that it has almost nothing in common with the books on offer. But at least I'm down on some list somewhere as the sort of reader who probably liked A Confederacy of Dunces--not a bad place to be.

Finally, the book itself deserves reviewing, of course. These are my notes on one review copy I started to read last year:

2 - Tonstant Weader twowed up.
8 - middle ¶ - what?!
I never finished that book or posted remarks about it. And frankly, I think the publisher and author should be grateful.

3) What should bloggers do with review copies?

Most book-reviewing bloggers will eventually accumulate more review copies than they could possibly read and/or keep. (Though not as many copies as book reviewers at newspapers and magazines--remember them?)

I try to pass the review copies I'm done with to someone in the target audience. When I give an advance copy to a young reader, there's usually a wide-eyed moment as she takes in the cover's strict instructions about misuse and wonders if we're all going to jail. But then she decides that she's getting something special.

Which may be more effective at spreading the word about books to the right readers than anything I write here.

1 comment:

Beth Kephart said...

You have me laughing. And I will never never never use Confederacy of Dunces as a compare point.