Readers and ARC's: Objectivity Compromised?

Sybil recently asked if other readers get jealous over other readers receiving ARC’s. My response was negative. I don’t much care. What I do worry about is the accessibility of them recently. Almost everyone I link to has had a ARC sent to them by an author. Solicited or unsolicited, who knows. Is this a growing trend now to send ARC’s to readers instead of professional review sites? I find it interesting. I know word of mouth is always good but there was a time when ARC’s were hard to get. Most publishers only sent them to print media and if you had a blog – you didn’t qualify. Of course things have changed.

My question for those who have received ARC’s: Has there been an ARC sent to you that you didn’t like all that much? That you didn’t finish? Did you have to struggle with your conscious to write a review of it stating your likes and dislikes? Decided not to review to avoid the hassle? How many times have had to revise something because you felt it might hurt the author’s feelings? Have you written a bad review of a ARC and then had the author get upset at you?   I can guess half the answers already. My point is that some objectivity is lost in the exchange. When you start looking at authors as your personal friend then there’s a problem. You can’t be completely objective about their work. In closing my thoughts on this topic, some authors are nice and can handle constructive criticism while others cannot. All I am saying is that there are expectations from you: said or unsaid. In my past experience, I think I felt bad once writing a review with the perceived notion of the “author looking over my shoulder experience.” At the time, I was friendly with this author via email. I had recently bought his book, told him how excited I was to read it and when I did, I didn’t much like it and said so.  Never heard from him again. Such is life.

Advertisements

About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
This entry was posted in Avid Musings. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Readers and ARC's: Objectivity Compromised?

  1. Jane says:

    There was a post at another blog – Sybil sent it to me – where authors went to a recent writer’s conference. Someone spoke about publicity and said radio advertisements and blogs were where authors should be focusing their time and promo dollars. That may be why there is an increase in readers getting arcs. Plus, some houses are much more receptive to sharing arcs with readers and some are not.

    I know that readers have had access to arcs for a long time, but I think the rise of reader blogs has only highlighted that. There are several bookstore related reading groups all over the country and Pat Rouse has been known to send arcs or direct authors to send arcs to the leaders of the reading groups.

    Now, as to the last part. I think that is something each blogger has to struggle with. I know that I did in reviewing Lisa Kleypas’ book. I asked for the copy from SMP. Read it and wanted to like it. It was the first ARC from SMP that I ever received but in the end, I had to be honest about how I felt about the book even if it meant not another ARC from SMP because if I started being dis honest in the opinions I give about a book, I wouldn’t like myself but I also think readers could see that too.

    I try not to think about the author when I write the review. And, you know, even with ARCs, I am only trying to read books that interest me.

  2. Avid Reader says:

    Well, yeah, I know you already Jane. Karen S and Bam are other readers who I trust to give impartial reviews. However, there are readers out there that don’t believe in saying anything negative but then I don’t link to them anyway. I was surprised at how many readers are getting ARC’s these days. Thanks for clarifying that point.

  3. Bev(BB) says:

    Has there been an ARC sent to you that you didn’t like all that much? No

    That you didn’t finish? No, way.

    Did you have to struggle with your conscious to write a review of it stating your likes and dislikes? Uh, no. 😉

    Decided not to review to avoid the hassle? Umm, no. No a problem. 😀

    How many times have had to revise something because you felt it might hurt the author’s feelings? Actually had to think about this one. None though.

    Have you written a bad review of a ARC and then had the author get upset at you? Hmmm, not yet.

    Okay, so I couldn’t resist the temptation. 😀 Hey, I’m not even sure if the ARC I got was a normal one that reviewers usually get. I was expecting a manuscript-type thing but it was like a regular paperback with ARC on the cover. Is that what they usually give the authors to give out?

  4. Jane says:

    The funny thing is that good reviews do not earn you arcs because Jayne has been giving out positive reviews for Harlequin Next books left and right. And I have been emailing Harlequin saying, hey, I think you and Jayne would be a good team.

  5. May says:

    I’ve not revised a review. I am very blunt, and I’m either going to announce it in all its dreadful glory or not say anything at all. The latter is hard to do when an author offers me an ARC with the understanding I am going to review it.

    But I have tried avoiding telling the author that I reviewed the book. That is, the review was really really bad, and whilst I posted it before she asked about it, I would not have sent the link to her if she hadn’t asked.

    I don’t think I’m ever going to hear from her again either.

  6. EC Sheedy says:

    I’ve just started sending ARCs out to reader/reviewers, and I have no idea how it will all work out.

    But I do like reader sites that are really into romance and women’s fiction. (And I’m finding more and more of them all the time. Amazing!) Until the web there was nothing but a great misty void between the reader and writer; it’s great that the chasm is closing–that the reader has a place to say what they like or dislike about a book or the publishing world in general, and the writer has the chance to hear it. This is all really good stuff.

    I know there are no guarantees I’ll be reviewed when I send out an ARC, and certainly there’s no guarantee the review will be a good one. There’s every chance the reader might hate the book and say so, but as Avid said, “Such is life.” I write, the reader reads, we bond–or not.

    EC

  7. Jane says:

    Any comment, Keishon? How funny that you would post here, Ms. Sheedy, because not just the other day, I told Keishon that your book (which you sent for review) was a good suspense read because I know she likes those books. 🙂

  8. jmc says:

    I’ve only received one ARC: Monica Jackson sent me a PDF version of the ARC of her Mr. Right Now with the name Luby changed to Ruby after I mentioned over at Dear Author that the name kept me from buying it. The book was released in 2005 or early 2006 I think; the e-version of the ARC arrived in my inbox December, 2006. Is it still an ARC if it was posted after the street date of the book? Or does it then become a complimentary copy from an author?

    I read the book and reviewed it. Liked it but didn’t love it and thought it needed more page space and development, maybe another draft. And I said so in my review. I didn’t worry about posting my opinion or hurting feelings; however I phrased my opinion, it wasn’t an attack and I knew (or expected, at least) that if Ms. Jackson read it and was offended or wanted to discuss or dispute it, she would contact me or post.

  9. Avid Reader says:

    [quote comment=”7290″]The funny thing is that good reviews do not earn you arcs because Jayne has been giving out positive reviews for Harlequin Next books left and right. And I have been emailing Harlequin saying, hey, I think you and Jayne would be a good team. Alas. Radio silence. Of course, this may be because when I first started gettting ARCs from Harlequin, I didn’t much like them and blogged about it and so they may have totally written me off.[/quote]

    See what I mean? Sensitive people. Too sensitive. Just proves the point that publishers and some authors have unsaid, unstated expectations of you, as a reader, to give positive feedback to their work. Too bad for Jayne since she liked their books more than you did.

    Bev – ARC would say it on the cover. I have received a unbound manuscript before but anything that is uncorrected proofs is considered ARC’s unless someone want to correct me?

    Ms. Sheedy, thanks for commenting! I like you already just from what just said. I hope that sending ARC’s to readers works out for authors. Ultimately, it’s the publicity that’s wanted more than a good review, right? To get your book out there in the open and if the reviewer happens to like it, great. Like Jane said, she really liked your suspense book and had me looking for the one book I had in my TBR pile that I bought by you. Room 33. Oh and she has me already anxious to read your next book that’s coming out as well.

  10. EC Sheedy says:

    Ms. Sheedy, thanks for commenting! I like you already just from what just said. I hope that sending ARC’s to readers works out for authors. Ultimately, it’s the publicity that’s wanted more than a good review, right? [/quote]

    Me again. (Can anyone tell I’m sitting in a wheelchair, bound, recently broken ankle duly raised as per Doc’s instructions )

    Avid, yanno . . . authors are of a mixed opinion when it comes to publicity. Some like it hot and as much of it as they can get and they’re intimidatingly professional in their promotional efforts. The idea is visibility sells books, which makes absolute sense in our media driven world.

    Then there are the shadow writers who love to write, but loathe the promotional activities that the book industry seems to require these days. If the shadow writers had their way, you’d know them only through their work–and publicity be damned. In truth the act of writing attracts the solitary soul. And for many (I know some *very* shy writers who write crazy steamy romance) the idea of putting themselves in the limelight is truly scary.

    So is it the publicity a writer wants, or a good review? I’d say it truly depends on the writer. None of us like bad reviews, but we’re pretty good at

  11. xina says:

    Are ARCs handed out as freely in other genres, or does this happen more regularly in the romance reading community? I wonder how prevalent this is in general fiction, mystery, science fiction..ect. Are those authors as willing to part with an ARC to more or less…get the word out about an upcoming novel.

  12. EC Sheedy says:

    [quote comment=”7299″]So is it the publicity a writer wants, or a good review? I’d say it truly depends on the writer. None of us like bad reviews, but we’re pretty good at[/quote]

    Oops! Big cyber hiccup, left a dangling sentence.

    I meant to say: As writers we’re pretty good at taking our knocks. I don’t know a writer who hasn’t been wounded by a bad review, but they’re all still breathing.

    Great blog! It is just so fabulous to find readers who take the romance genre as seriously as the writers do.

    And, Avid, you mentioned you bought one of my books. Thank you, thank you. I never knew I had cockles in my heart until your comment warmed them. 🙂

    EC (who doesn’t know how to insert a smiley face.)

  13. Avid Reader says:

    [quote comment=”7300″]Are ARCs handed out as freely in other genres, or does this happen more regularly in the romance reading community? I wonder how prevalent this is in general fiction, mystery, science fiction..ect. Are those authors as willing to part with an ARC to more or less…get the word out about an upcoming novel.[/quote]

    Excellent point. Wish I could answer that. I was speaking more about the romance community in general, your fellow readers who authors have tapped, or they themselves have tapped for ARC’s. I think it’s neat but I am wary of it’s implications, wrongly perceived or otherwise. I don’t solicit because it obligates me. In some way, shape or form, expectations are perceived. I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking for something then reading it and then saying, you know, it didn’t work out, sorry. I’d rather be the one approached first. For me, that works. We’re human. I don’t like trashing a book but if it’s bad, it’s bad and I will say so. You have to separate the author from the book. That is not always an easy thing to do for some people. Feelings are always gonna get hurt. No matter what. And every author wants their book to sale well. It’s their career. I try to stay outside all of that.

  14. Avid Reader says:

    Hi Ms. Sheedy,

    First, sorry to hear about your ankle. Ouch.

    You know, that’s why I choose another career because I can’t sell anything to save my life 🙂 I wouldn’t know where to be begin. However, thanks for talking with me and I look forward to reading your books! I think authors do have a positive impact on readers when they share a little of themselves. After this exchange, I feel like buying your whole backlist because you’ve been so nice. Thanks again.

  15. xina says:

    A bad review from and ARC or otherwise…I think there are some authors who could take the bad review knowing not everyone is going to love their work. I would think they’d know the risks by sending it out. And on the other hand, I think there are some that wouldn’t because..they are human too. I tend to think of the person behind the book in that some are more sensitive than others. Those may be the authors who like to maintain a distance between the general community and themselves. I can’t say I blame them.
    I won an ARC once…and I was thrilled and thankfully I loved it when I read it.

  16. Janine says:

    Has there been an ARC sent to you that you didn’t like all that much? That you didn’t finish?

    I’m relatively new to blogging and getting ARCs. So far, the only one I haven’t finished that I read in ARC form was Meljean Brook’s

    Did you have to struggle with your conscious to write a review of it stating your likes and dislikes?

    No. That is, I did struggle over the grade but not because I got it as an ARC. The struggle was because even though I didn’t want to finish reading it, I felt that it had some strengths and that the grade (DNF) might not reflect that. So I wrote an opinion column about that struggle, in which I stated my likes and dislikes with regard to the book, and my grading dilemma.

    However, I don’t feel that my struggle had much to do with the fact that we had gotten an ARC of the book. I don’t think readers should have to struggle with their consciences over that, since no matter what the author or publisher prefers, they aren’t asking for a dishonest opinion.

    The New York Times Book Review gets inundated with free ARCs, many they don’t evne look at, but I don’t see them pulling their punches with the ones they review. I realize that Dear Author is a far cry from The New York Times Book Review, LOL, but I think that in this case The NYTBR is worth emulating.

    Decided not to review to avoid the hassle?

    No. The way I look at it, authors are getting something out of the deal. Our site gets a fair amount of traffic for a romance site (according to Alexa.com, our ranking isn’t too far behind AAR’s), and our reviews are also syndicated through BlogBurst. By sending us an ARC, an author has a chance to get us to review their books in time for the book’s release. That means our readers will be reminded that the book is in stores (or about to hit the store shelves), and will be more likely to buy it.

    If this wasn’t a good deal for authors and publishers too, we wouldn’t be getting ARCs or review requests. So why would I decide *not* to review?

    Just today, we got requests from Ellora’s Cave to review four different books. I felt bad saying no to these requests, especially since I’d turned down a bunch of others recently, so I agreed to take a look at one. There are authors out there who really want us to run a review of their book, so I’d be more likely to feel guilty for not reviewing a book than for reviewing one, however negatively.

    How many times have had to revise something because you felt it might hurt the author’s feelings?

    Everyone has their own style of reviewing. Personally, when I write reviews, I try for honesty, fairness and politeness. I won’t pretend to like something I don’t like, and I will mention a book’s weak points. But I do think about the authors as people and sometimes I revise my words if I feel I’ve said something that might be viewed as mean-spirited. In those cases, I will just find a more polite way to make the same point.

    But this is the case for me whether or not there are ARCs involved. Getting an ARC won’t change what I say about a book.

    Have you written a bad review of a ARC and then had the author get upset at you?

    No, but I’ve only reviewed a small handful of ARCs so far. Meljean Brook was a class act when she commented on my thoughts about Demon Angel.

    I can guess half the answers already. My point is that some objectivity is lost in the exchange. When you start looking at authors as your personal friend then there’s a problem. You can’t be completely objective about their work.

    I guess I just view it differently than many people on the web do. I don’t look at an ARC as a personal gift. If I really love the book, I buy another copy anyway, and if I don’t like it, the fact that it was free doesn’t make up for the time spent reading a disappointing book.

    I don’t look at an author as my personal friend just because I have her ARC. The way I see it, I’m doing her enough of a favor by taking the time out of my busy life to read the book and write up my honest opinion of it. So I don’t look at the ARC as a bribe or a favor or anything that requires reciprocal back-scratching on my part. We state plainly on our site that we might not like the book, and that we might not even read the book. If an author knows that and still sends it to us, I don’t owe her anything more than honesty, fairness and politness if I choose to review it.

    In closing my thoughts on this topic, some authors are nice and can handle constructive criticism while others cannot. All I am saying is that there are expectations from you: said or unsaid.

    Shrugs. I can’t help that. Look, authors probably feel the same way about readers. Some readers expect things from authors, said or unsaid. That doesn’t mean that an author should write based on those expectations. Neither should a reviewer.

  17. Avid Reader says:

    Hey Janine, all valid and interesting viewpoints. Fair enough, fair enough. Ah, Demon Angel. I remember that. What authors do you enjoy from Ellora’s Cave? I didn’t know you read any of their authors.

  18. CindyS says:

    I have not been offered ARCs or asked for any for many of the same reasons as you. I would feel a sense of obligation but that might just be my personal make up. There is that saying ‘nothing is ever really free’ for a reason 😉

    Also, I like being able to just write my thoughts about a book without worrying if it looks professional or would be offensive to someone. I really am writing what I think about the book for other romance readers and I’m hoping that others are doing the same. That said, you are bringing something I have been starting to wonder about to light. I have only become recently aware of how many bloggers were getting ARCs and it does make me wonder if it changes how they will give their opinion.

    I guess it is how the person receiving the ARC is looking at it. AAR, Smart Bitches, Dear Author – they all give their honest opinions and publishers and authors are still sending them their stuff. So if you as the blogger are thinking that you are doing a service then I could see not having a problem giving an honest opinion of an ARC. If you are more like me, just a reader who talks about a variety of things including books, you might feel pressured into making more of an effort when an effort was really the last thing you were looking for 😉

    Lazy CindyS

  19. Tara Marie says:

    It’s only been recently that I’ve been getting review requests from authors I’m not familiar with, I’m thinking it may be tied in with what Jane said about promotion. And to be honest I’ve been rather lucky of the 5 or 6 ARC’s I’ve received I’ve thought them “good” or better. I do have one I’ve not read that I’m feeling a little leery about as it’s not something I’d normally read, but if I don’t like it’s still important to be honest.

  20. Jane says:

    There was actually one author who I thought got a bit snotty (maybe that is the wrong word) for a review I did, suggesting that I didn’t like the book because of some sort of past history and she wondered why I bought the book and read it when I was just not going to like it. That really irritated me because I had bought the book, not because I wanted to dislike it, but because I wanted to give it a fair shake. It made me kind of sour on her and I’m not likely to pick up another book of hers to give her a second chance when the first book was so meh for me.

  21. Bev(BB) says:

    When I first set up my original website after having the column on AAR, I had already decided I wasn’t going to review and pretty much let that be know. That was at least over ten years ago. Authors still asked if I wanted ARCs to review occasionally. Back then, I had authors seem upset when I said I had bought but hadn’t yet read their book yet . . . as if that was somehow a panned “review”. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen as much. There is no accounting for the logic.

    And people wonder why the word leaves a strange taste in my mouth. 😉

    Bev – ARC would say it on the cover. I have received a unbound manuscript before but anything that is uncorrected proofs is considered ARC’s unless someone want to correct me?

    What Linnea sent was a mass market paperback clearly labeled as an ARC. I’d never even heard of that before. Since I’d already read the first half the book as an ebook there certainly wasn’t any expectation that I wasn’t going to love it. Well, mostly. I was a little leery of where she was going with the rest but knew she could do it so that wasn’t a problem. Anyway, all that aside, I would be curious to know who these mass market paperback ARCs are normally meant for, though, because they can’t be the norm.

  22. Janine says:

    [quote comment=”7313″]Hey Janine, all valid and interesting viewpoints. Fair enough, fair enough. [/quote]

    LOL. I didn’t mean to go on so. This whole ARC debate is interesting to me because I never looked at an ARC like something that should obligate me to say nice things, until I heard that other people feel that way.

    I wonder, if authors in other genres are giving ARCs to bloggers, then do those bloggers also feel this way? Or is it a romance genre thing, because we are mostly women in this genre, and women are more likely to believe that if you can’t say anything nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all?

    [quote]What authors do you enjoy from Ellora’s Cave? I didn’t know you read any of their authors.[/quote]

    I haven’t up until now. I’m an Ellora’s Cave virgin. But I just agreed to try one. We’ll see how it goes.

  23. Jane says:

    I think that they are the norm. My girlfriend, the bookseller, recieves gabs of these bound arcs for both mass market, trade and hardcovers. I’ve received arcs from Harper Collins, SMP, Hachette, Harlequin, Random House, and Penguin. I have only once (in one mailing) received an unbound book. The rest are bound. Some look like the actual paperback with the cover art (Tor, Warner and HC). The Berkley ones are all trade size and bound with kind of construction paper. SMP’s was a hardcover size with a trade paper cover. Harlequin’s were the same.

    If IIRC the times that bookseller friend receives manuscripts is generally from the author directly because the authors are only allotted a certain amount of arcs (maybe only 5 or maybe 20) to send out. So if they want additional people to read them – then they print those out. Kresley Cole sent a really nice bound galley version that she probably had bound at Kinkos.

  24. Sybil says:

    damn it, people all over here taking my name in vain and not telling me… le sigh. I told you people to knock it off until I had time. sheeze like you couldn’t wait until Monday to post something really nifty.

    The conference in question which is seems mz jane forgot – again. Wasn’t a romance conference. That was what I found mucho interesting. It was a writers conf in San Fran. Author talking about it was Teresa Bodwell. I think that is how to spell her name.

    As for the rest of it, I totally disagree. Yes, some people can’t do it. But many can, although personally I would say get them from the publisher over the author because then it is the publisher coin.

    I was told by someone once never to except anything from an author because you won’t be able to give it a fair review. And because of that ‘warning’ which I see had a whole other point to it now, if an author sent me something I gave them this whole song and dance first. If you want my opinion I will give it to you otherwise don’t and anything I opened with the idea I am going to review this, I did. Regardless of if I liked it or not.

    I said it much nicer though…

    For the most part though the idea that ‘authors’ are a persons friends because they have exchanged a couple of emails is dumb. And shows a lack of objectivity on the persons part out of the gate. Hell I have emailed with a lot of authors. Some once or twice, some tons and I could count on one hand the number of authors I would call a friend and I would have fingers left over. There are many authors I adore for whatever reason and I can’t think of a one of them that I have LOVED everyone of their books.

    But for me, I wouldn’t be able to like the author if they had that sort of expectation of me.

    Although I do find it sticky when an author requests to do a guest author day. Because you can’t… you can send me your book and if I like it maybe. Which comes out sounding vain as shit… But the only authors I invite are ones I read, recommend or want to read for some reason. The only time that is different would be line weeks. But that is also something for whatever odd reason I wanted to do. Or something I found interesting.

    To me if you lose contact with someone over the review of their work, you really didn’t lose much.

  25. Sybil says:

    accept even…

    I will add you are right in the case of people openly begging for ARC’s in any way shape or form and only giving out good reviews or praise.

    yeah, review would be a loose term there

  26. Avid Reader says:

    Sybil – I was waiting for YOUR comments, my dear. I dreaded them, actually.

    You have authors who ask for author day? Interesting.

    Alas, I won’t have to worry about being on nobody’s list to send me shit. LOL. I get a few requests but these folks are brave. Anyway, I appreicate everybody’s comments, I really do. I was just curious and you all gave me something to think about, offered different perspectives, much appreciated.

  27. Sybil says:

    dreaded?

    me?

    I am sweetness and light damn it!

  28. Bev(BB) says:

    [quote comment=”7375″]dreaded?

    me?

    I am sweetness and light damn it![/quote]

    Yeah, but, ya know, too much sugar and strobing lights give me my worst migraines, Syb.

    Ahem.

    Could. Not. Resist. That. One.

    😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s