December 6, 2011

Book blogging: a review copy debate


The other day, Carolyn Kellogg at the Los Angeles Times brought up some interesting points about book blogging and review copies as a result of an unintentionally brusque e-mail from William Morrow‘s marketing department that warned bloggers that “if we notice that you request books but aren’t posting your comments or sending us the link, we may suspend your ability to receive review offers from us.” Needless to say, this did not endear the publishing house to the blogosphere.

Kellogg has some questions that bear investigating:

“Does the number of readers a blogger has matter? Can and should there be room for disliking a book? Can and should book bloggers be book buyers, and are they? If some bloggers reject publishers’ freebies in order to establish their own freedom, should those that accept them somehow make that relationship clear? Should publishers make any demands on bloggers at all — and if so, are free books an even trade?”

1. Yes; if you have a blog with, say, ten followers, perhaps we will think twice about mailing you our entire catalog (shipping is expensive, people!).

2. Of course! Reviews start a conversation; also, no one wants to read the thoughts of a complete sycophant.

3. Hmmm…Thoughts?

4. It depends on the “freebies,” we suppose… Is it a paid lunch or something of real value, such as an autographed copy? If the latter, then you have few scruples and should explain this fact to your readers.

5. “Demands” is a tricky word. Technically, no, publishers should never make demands on reviewers besides the obvious (please use the full title of the book, please feature the cover, and please spell things correctly). We try to be polite at Melville House because we realize that we’re all in this together.

In the comments section, Pam Coughlan queries, “Are book bloggers to be treated like more print reviewers or marketing employees?”

What do you think, readers? Have you experienced secondary status as a book blogger? Please tell us about it in the comments section below.