I wasn’t going to blog about this, because out of all the book and lit blogs I follow in my feedreader, I’ve never thought any of them reviewed a book more positively simply because it was an ARC or a review copy.
Let’s Do Some Math
Honestly, the amount of time it takes to read a book, then sort out your thoughts about a book enough to review it, and then sit down and actually write the review, is worth far more to me than getting a book in exchange for that time.
I mean, really, if you think about the numbers, it looks something like this: let’s assume that, on average, it takes you six hours to read a 250 page book. Then it takes you another hour to think about the points you’d like to mention in your review and maybe some nice turns of phrases that have you smiling, and then let’s say, another half an hour to write the review.
That’s 7.5 hours for a 250 page book.
Here in Ontario, the current minimum wage is $9.50 an hour (this converts to USD $8.92). Now, my time is worth more than $9.50 an hour, but even assuming my time is equivalent to minimum wage, that “free” book the publisher or publicist or author sent me cost me $71.25 to review. Granted, this is in Canadian dollars, so let’s do a quickie conversion, shall we, and see how much this is in U.S. dollars.
In U.S. dollars, at today’s exchange rate, that comes up to $66.87.
Call me crazy, but for that USD $66.87, it would be much better for me to just go out and buy all the books I want to read, don’t you think? In hardcover. The moment they hit the bookstores. And still have money left over for some takeout to go with the books.
Honestly, don’t you think that would be a much better option than earning the distrust of your readers by writing an unwarranted positive review in exchange for a book that will cost you $66.97 of your time to read and review?
Update: An even simpler calculation just occurred to me. Let’s say the average price of an ARC, if you bought it in a bookstore, was $20. Using our 7.5 hours to read and review the book as an example, you’re “making” $2.67 per hour. Nuts, right?
Sure, there’s the advantage of being able to read a book a few months before the general public gets to read it, but honestly, there are only a handful of books that I am that anxious to read. Time flies by so quickly these days, before I know it, the kids are all another year older and all those books I was looking forward to yesterday have all been released.
So you see what I mean? It’s simply silly to think that one would keep writing positive reviews in order to keep getting “free” books from publishers.
And, I suspect no-one ever questions newspaper reviewers about this kind of thing. I wrote a video and PC game review column for a Florida newspaper for two years, and got all sorts of games sent to me in the mail; it never even occurred to me that people might suspect I was writing a positive review simply because a publicist sent it to me. I got dozens and dozens of games, and since I only wrote one review a month, most of them didn’t get any coverage. I was totally honest in my reviews, and the publicists (who, I suspect, were simply glad to see their game getting picked to be reviewed) understood this.
Yes, I got paid for my monthly review column, but it definitely didn’t come close to compensating for the amount of time I spent actually putting a game through its paces and then sitting down to put my thoughts into a coherent article.
My time is my time, very valuable to me, regardless of whether I’m writing a review for a newspaper or for my blog.
So, Where Did The Last 20 Books I Reviewed Come From?
I know I said I wasn’t going to blog about this, but then I saw that so many of the bloggers I followed are posting about this issue, and you know me. I’m influenced very easily, very easily indeed. So here I am, blogging about it.
Of the last 20 books I reviewed:
(If you’ve ever read any of my posts about my book buying binges, these numbers would make perfect sense.)
To add insult to injury (so to speak), out of these last 20 reviews, 19 of them were at worst lukewarm and at best raving recommendations dotted throughout with I loved this! Why aren’t you running out to get your hands on this right now? OMG this was such a great read! The book that received the one negative review was an ARC. It was also the first book this particular publisher has sent to me, no less.
As far as I know, they’re still talking to me, and I still have a standing offer to choose from this publisher’s list of upcoming releases. And yes, I will likely send a quick email if anything does come to my attention.
Now, having said all of this, I do feature every book that comes into my hot little hands in my Incoming! new book arrival posts, whether I’ve bought them or received them from a publisher or publicist, or won them in a giveaway or got them at the library (I’m a little behind in my Incoming! posts at the moment, as you can imagine). I do this mainly because I always love finding out about different, new-to-me books on other blogs, and if you all were to rely on stumbling on good books through my reviews (I only write one to two a week), you’re not likely to find too many here. So my Incoming! posts are are the best way I can think of to share with everyone the books in my TBR pile. Not to mention, on a slow day, it gives me something to blog about.
So you see? In the words of John Ceepak (from one of the books I recently raved about), it’s all good.
Wait a Minute. Why Only One Bad Review?
Now you might be thinking to yourself, “How come only one bad review out of twenty?”
The thing about my reading habits is this: I am an extremely moody reader. What this means is that I have a lot of books lying around partially-read. I can’t even call these books DNFs (did not finish’s), because most of the time, I’ve put the book down because I just didn’t feel like reading that particular type of book at that particular moment.
So you see why it would be totally unfair to review a book that I haven’t finished, especially when the DNF status might very well be only temporary?
Now, there are books that I just don’t have any intentions of finishing – my “true” DNFs, so to speak. I don’t review those, either, simply because my threshold for not wanting to finish reading a book, ever, is very low – not even the 50-page point that a lot of people have.
I figure it’s just as unfair to review a book that I’ve only read a handful of pages of.
So what this all means is … if I’ve finished a book, it’s likely I’ve enjoyed it. Or at least, it was readable enough for me to give it my time and finish it. The result? At worst, a lukewarm review, at best, a raving recommendation (see above for full description of raving recommendation, complete with quotes). In the case of the negative review of that one ARC, I didn’t realize it was a book I didn’t like until the end. There’s not much a moody reader can do about something like that.
And that is why it’s rare for me to write a negative review. Except, of course, if the book is an ARC. (Just joking!)