Request for comment: review books

Some of the books I discuss here are ones that I have received from publishers. This was especially the case when I was reviewing for the now sadly closed Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. I have, however, rarely (if ever?) made this clear in my comments. Not from a desire to hide that fact, or in any way be deceitful; rather it’s never a habit I got into, and sometimes I forget the provenance of a book I really want to read! Some book bloggers do a very good job of announcing it (I think of Sean the Blogonaut). So what I’m wondering is… does it make a difference? Should I make a conscious effort to notify my readers of when a book was given to me gratis by a publisher or author? I’d be very interested in your thoughts.

17 responses

  1. Newspapers and magazines never list their source of the book, as it’s accepted that it will have been sent from the Publisher. Whether the publisher has sent it to you or not doesn’t affect your summing up of the review BUT it could be interesting to mention why you decided to read this book (“It was sent to me and the blurb sounded awful but the storyline was great, etc…)

    1. You’re right, where I got the book from doesn’t affect my view, which is one reason why I haven’t been too fussed. I don’t think I’m quite in the league of people assuming books I read are necessarily review copies! πŸ˜€

  2. I think a lot of people assume reviewers get review copies of all the books they read which are “new”. Bollocks of course, but this means I don’t think you necessarily need to call out when you have gotten a review copy.

    I don’t do it in my reviews and never really have had anyone ask me about it.

    1. Hmm interesting about people making that assumption. Maybe I should start clarifying when books AREN’T review copies! πŸ˜€ I’ve never had anyone ask me about it either. Thanks Paul!

  3. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, so forgive me if my meandering comments become incomprehensible at some point. I even talked a little bit about this in a recent post on my reviewing process.

    After some consideration I’ve come down on the side of preferring when reviewers declare when they have received books for free.

    1. I realised that my default assumption if someone doesn’t say where they got a book is that they bought it. And if my default assumption is wrong I prefer a reviewer to correct it.

    2. While I know most reviewers don’t let the fact they received a free book influence what they say, when someone has shelled out their own money for a book it tells me they REALLY wanted to read it. That tells me there was at least something compelling enough about the idea of the book to make someone pay money for it.

    3. When I do my own reviews I find that for myself I find it a bit easier to answer the question “does this story provide value for money” if I’ve spent money on it. And that can add something to the review.

    4. I think the average review reader has a perception that reviews where the book has been bought are more independent, with emphasis on the word perception. I’m yet to run across a reviewer who is substantially swayed by getting free books from publishers. In fact, most complain that the free books get in the way of them reading the books they want to read. However, in cases where there can be a perceived conflict of interest I’ve usually found it is best to be proactively up front in declaring it, even if you think it’s a bit silly.

    Of course you could argue that if a reviewer spends money on a book and the book is no good, they could soften their review to prevent the image that they were stupid enough to buy it in the first place. So perhaps I don’t know as much as I think I do about what the average review reader thinks.

    5. In my head there is also a difference between “received from the publisher” and “received from the author”. When a reviewer receives a book from the publisher, as a review reader I recognise there is a degree of separation. When it is direct from the author (especially when the reviewer and author live in the same country) I worry that politeness might kick in and result in a milder review. Otherwise awkward conversations at the next convention might ensue.

    Of course all these points could be influenced by the fact that I don’t tend to review books from publishers. I’m mainly reviewing books as an attempt to reflect on what I’m reading and hopefully improve my own writing. So that might bias my thoughts on the topic!

    That’s enough waffle from me. Move on and read the other comments, they are much more likely to be informative.


    1. Thanks for such a thoughtful reply, Mark. I think all of your points are worth considering – and yes, the difference between receiving from a publisher and an author is significant, with potential for rather fraught relationships…! I wonder whether this is something that changes when you get to be a big-name reviewer, where people might seriously be concerned about whether you’re using your influence in some vaguely nefarious bookish way; I don’t think I have to be concerned about that πŸ˜‰ Maybe I’ll start tagging reviews as “bought with my own hard-earned”…

      1. I was just thinking (reading the other comments) that perhaps the default assumption about where you source your books changes as your reputation grows. I agree that I do assume that people who are paid to review (e.g. newspapers) most likely source their books through publishers etc.

        Perhaps it is the non-paid reputation of book bloggers that leads me to assume they buy their own books unless otherwise stated?

        Ha! I thought about going the “I paid for this out of my own bank account” route as well, but let me tell you it feels a bit funny writing that at the end of a review. Like you’re asking for a medal or something πŸ™‚


        p.s. am I going crazy or did the whole theme of your website change while I’ve been writing this comment?

        p.p.s. I wouldn’t underestimate your influence in the Australian market!

        1. Backwards…
          I am under no illusion about the limit of my influence πŸ˜‰
          My theme changed a couple of times – I got bored!! (Sorry for influencing your sanity)
          Reputation has a lot to do with it, I think, and definitely also the unpaid aspect of it.

          Still something I need to think about…

  4. I haven’t stated where I received my copy in the past, though I have at times when it’s been from NetGalley for some reason.
    When I receive the book for review purposes from small press, I usually link to their page where it can be bought, in a small attempt to encourage readers to buy from them, but I don’t track whether anyone clicks through (if that’s possible) and then I also worry that people think I’m earning money through the clicks.

    Where I get the book from doesn’t influence my reviews either, so it didn’t cross my mind as something to do from the start, then I just never began. Eek.

    1. Where I get the book from doesn’t influence my reviews either, so it didn’t cross my mind as something to do from the start, then I just never began

      Sounds very familiar πŸ˜€

  5. Makes no difference at all, Alex. Your reviews are insightful, unbiased and pleasure to

  6. Shara @ Calico Reaction | Reply

    I say yes. Whenever I get a provided copy, I always disclose it, because I want to give the readers context: while I know, personally, I’m going to be fair reviewing a book, I want them to have the ability to take into consideration whether or not it was a provided copy, which might change the weight of the review for them. So if I keep getting free copies and I keep loving said free copies, my readers might take those reviews less seriously. On the flip side, if I get a free copy and I still give that book a negative review, readers might pay greater attention.

    Just a thought. πŸ™‚

    1. Yeh this is what I’ve been thinking over, and wondering whether I ought to have been doing so from the start, that issue of perception and whether free copy = different attitude from other readers.

  7. I don’t miss them or need the information. But in your case I have learned how to interpret and trust your opinions and judgement.

    In places where I don’t know the reviewer I don’t look for the information either. But in those cases I won’t make reading decisions solely on that review anyway.

  8. There was a big push towards disclosing where a review book came from a few years ago. I tend to do it just in the tags I use. I don’t shout it out loud because I would like to think that when I do write my reviews I give an honest opinion and not be influenced by where it came from in the first place. And I know the reviewers who I trust to do the same thing!

  9. If you were in the US you’d be required by law to, I believe. But as you’re not πŸ™‚

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