This post is prompted by the insanity that rang out from ALA ( #ARCGate) and then the subsequent shrugging of shoulders by bloggers, because really most of us don’t know how to handle ARCs. We treat them like candy. OMG OMG look how many I have!!! I have more then you, because I’M THE BEST BLOGGER EVER!!! Then after that all died down the new flare of instances where Bloggers are charging for reviews. Read about how Michele Gorman was asked to pay for her review and then Dear Author’s take on the matter.

Let’s Shut-Up and Talk About ARCs

 

Advanced Reader CopiesWhen you ask other bloggers about their ARCs,  they might have heard something from their publishing contacts (even though the majority respond with
my publisher never replies”), they reply with things like this:

MY Publisher contact said they could donate them to libraries

MY Publisher contact said they could send them to ALL their online friends

MY Publisher contact said they could have ten copies from ALA and have a million giveaways with those books

Can you tell I’m cringing. Because then I read posts like, the very passionate Elizabeth Fama and I see her point, to an extent (I think her post was a little over-the-top, especially where underprivileged children were concerned). I have read ARCs where there were TONs of grammar issues and whole scenes ripped from the pages. If I was the author, I wouldn’t want that to sit on the library shelf. But, then why are there ARCs on library shelves? I was under the impression that they weren’t supposed to be there. Am I wrong?

What we have to understand is that an ARC is a marketing tool. And it is usually produced 6 months before the final book comes out. Sometimes it goes through a few more rounds of editing. It is sent out to REVIEWERS to create early buzz. When you think Marketing – think numbers. The more numbers, the better.

Like on your Facebook Page, when it says, XXX people saw this post. Don’t you feel better if it would say 1000 people saw this post, instead of 10? That is marketing. As a marketing professional it is all about the bottom line, which is how much does this cost, compared to how much it returns. And most marketing departments will have to show numbers at the end of the quarter that proves their return on investment. This is most likely the reason why ARCs have declined in population. The departments are re-evaluating their marketing techniques.

When you understand this basic principal, a lot of the ARC rules make sense. ARCs are not rewards for bloggers, they are not entitlement for fans of the series. They are not gimme goodies that you can pass around to all your friends. They are a sales tool, not a prize to be won, bartered, or bought.

The point of that ARC that you have in your hand is to jack up sales for the book or prod a librarian or bookseller into picking up copies of the book for their shelves. They are not intended for giveaways, or to pass along to all your blogger buddies so they won’t have to buy a copy.

Yes, I know, most of you are probably disagreeing with me, or have different information, but the facts are, this is probably the underlying basic rules for most publishers as far as the treatment of their ARCs. Read them. Review Them. Shelve them.

Sales Going UPOf course, rules are meant to be broken and publishers/authors intending to jack-up buzz, will sometimes offer ARCs for giveaways and gimmes or ARC Tours. Again to generate buzz. Mostly done through the authors, because even being THE AUTHOR they get around an average of 20 ARCs. Authors wanting to take their own marketing reins will distribute those ARCs as they see fit.

But, take this generous ARC giving in stride, if bad reactions, much like what has been happening lately with ARCGate, SirenGate, GRBullyGate or whatever stupid Gate you can come up with (prays there will never be a JunkeeGate, shoves those skeletons in closet) that revolves around the Blogging world and results in us looking like greedy children…the ARC population might be drying up, or reinventing itself, literally before our eyes. And, personally, I wouldn’t blame the publishers one bit.

On one hand they don’t want to be the “blogger basher” and give an ALL STOP to the ARC blogger phenom, but frankly, I think this is why, more and more books are being pushed as protected eARCs on sites like NetGalley and that other one, that I’ve yet to be approved for one request. (Can you tell I’m pouting?) Or, given to bloggers as finished copies only a few weeks before release date. Seriously, I’m actually getting a copy of a HOT series ender on the DAY of release. But, I think this is more so spoilers won’t go out.

Bottom-Line?

Let’s compare a publishing professional sending an ARC to a bookseller compared to a blogger, based on a return of investment.

One ARC is sent to a bookseller, who in turn decides to stock their shelves. Twenty books sold from that one ARC.

One ARC is sent to a blogger, who reviews it and let’s say two people buy the book because of the review. (Blogger averages 50 views on the review, click-through rate runs at about .5%-1%) BUT, said blogger passes the ARC on to their friend, who would have normally purchased that book, so that results in a >1 sale. One ARC = 1 sale. Do you see the logic in that, as far as bottom-line?

In order for publishers to think it is WORTH it to produce ARCs that they send to bloggers, you have to show results. And giving those ARCs away is not creating results. What it is creating, is large Mailbox Memes and Twitter fights which makes the rest of us Bloggers that do want to promote the publishing industry, instead of just getting “FREE” books, look bad.

Look, we all know that the publishing industry is trending toward the digital. With Amazon buying up all the publishing houses and ARCs coming across more and more through eARC distributers, print ARCs might be a thing of the past in a few years.  We might find ourselves at BEA or ALA being given jump drives with eARCs that expire in three months and getting Cover Flats and Finished copies signed instead of ARCs. We also know that some Book Bloggers come ramming through the gates when they first start, looking for all these supposed free books and it tends to look badly on the established community. And frankly, you can’t tell them anything because they are in that unaware state of blissful ignorance that only shifts them into the aware state when they have 100 thumbs down on youtube.com and a multitude of mean tweets directed in their streams. But, unfortunately, the raing masses only see Book Blogger and nothing else. Suddenly, it becomes a hate filled arena directed at Book Bloggers in general. Then the Book Bloggers start hating on librarians and then authors jump into the mix and the next thing you know, there is a YouTube video of a librarian and a book blogger mud wrestling for an ARC of ‘Fifty Shades of Edward McCullen’ by Sally Meyers. Well…at least the publishers got the buzz they wanted.

I think I confused myself as to the point of this post/rant. But, as usual it falls within the realm of “Behave Yourself and Act Professionally.”

You are people dealing with companies and professionals selling their livelihoods. It is how they pay their bills, support their families and get by in life. So, act accordingly, much like you would if you were a business yourself. Polite behavior and always ask permission when redistributing someone’s property. It can be as easy as asking the publishing rep at the booth you are visiting if you can grab an extra ARC for a giveaway, instead of just snaking a hand out and nabbing an extra copy. A lot of times, they will say “yes.”

If you do get some negative feedback on twitter, or a comment from a ballet dancer (#bunheadgate) impersonating a librarian or an author who wants their ARCs annihilated, just ignore them and have them take up their grievances in the arena that it should be voiced: with their Association or the Publishing industry that produces the ARCs and distributes them indiscriminately. Because really, it all comes down to the Publishers. They are offering those books in a way that is easy to be manipulated. They are distributing the ARCs when they haven’t been edited properly or poetically enhanced. They decide the numbers and who gets them. Much like if you stick a bowl of candy in front of a child — why are you yelling at the child because he just shoved ten pieces in his mouth? You can instruct him on the severity of his actions as far as eating that much candy, but really, shame on the parent for not putting the candy in a more inconspicuous place.

What about Charging for Reviews?

If you want to charge an author for reviews, please don’t call yourself a book blogger. You are not a book blogger, you are a Marketing Site. Your site produces advertising and promo copy. Your reviews are not reviews, they are marketing copy disguised as reviews.  They are a dishonest form of marketing. Much like if an author reviewed his/her own book. You can’t state your “honest” opinion, because frankly it’s not honest, it’s paid-for. And where do you draw the line? If some reviews are paid for and others are done for a “charitable nature” — how does your reader know what opinion to trust? They can’t know where the truth begins and the paid-for-advertising ends. I would be surprised if a blog like this had hardly any readers, much less loyal subscribers.

This just has greed and dishonesty written all over it.

I, personally, am faced with this problem on a daily basis. If you aren’t aware, I do marketing for authors, book covers, web sites and things like that. I want my authors to succeed, not because of just a general happiness to see an author to succeed, but because they are my client, their profit will most likely lead to more work for me etc. I don’t review their books. If you see one of my clients on this site, it’s a Guest Post or interview, but I have to tell you, I’m scared to read their books. What if I don’t like it? I wouldn’t be able to say that, because I have to market that book accordingly…and if I don’t like it…the inner reviewer is warring with my inner marketing goddess (look I’ve become the reviewer version of Anastasia Steele). Curiosity sometimes gets the best of me and recently I’ve picked up a few clients books, because other reviewers have raved about them. But, I’ve yet to review them…they haven’t paid me for a review, but I’m still worried about the integrity of this blog and my underlying intentions — because what if my opinion was swayed because I really really like this author and a bad review would hurt their feelings and might turn them away from doing business with me in the future? I don’t think so, but that inner marketing goddess might be a bit sneaky at times.

This is me trying to be honest with you, my reader. But, frankly, that is how I try to run this blog and my side design/marketing business. That is why I never fib about my stats (which is an allegation that has been voiced about the “paid review” site, ChickLitGirls – which BTW is completely shut down as of this morning). I keep them up to date on my About section. I don’t claim to get 2 million hits, just to push more advertising dollars my way. This is a personal choice, but it is also to keep my reputation as a blogger/business woman in tact. Because I know, people can check my stats. They might not be able to see exact numbers, but they can cross-compare. Take for example, Jane Little in her ChickLitGirls post, claimed that Dear Author gets “450,000 page views a month” WHOA! Their Alexa ranking is around 70,000 globally. Again, another Whoa! This is believable stats — that ranking is off the charts hot. I on the other hand average about 30K a month, with an Alexa ranking of a 296,893 (that is my WIP). Well, by cross comparison, you can see that if a person that averages about say 100K hits a month would probably be around the Alexa ranking of 150,000. A site with a ranking of around 450,000 is probably averaging about 15K pageviews a month. Easy to spot fudged stats.

Moral of this story? If you are a paid-for-review site, please call yourself that and don’t muddy the Book Blogger waters. This is our side of the street, yours is over there…and if you have stats on your page a little rounding up didn’t hurt anyone, but outright stat padding can be discovered very easily.

Don’t be greedy people!

Questions for my Readers:

Have you ever even thought of charging for reviews?
Because you know I also work for authors, does that make you trust my reviews less?

Happy Thursday. Talk Less. Read More. Blog with Integrity.

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