Monday, May 18, 2020

Why I am reading a lot fewer ARCs

Reading with a cup of tea

The blogging landscape has changed a great deal over the five years that I have been blogging. Back in the day when I started, it was all about blogs promoting books and authors and blog tours. Now, it's much more about Facebook and Amazon advertising. The book industry has changed. How has this changed in terms of reviewing books for me?

When you're a blogger or a reviewer (and reader) you are often given ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) of books to read before the books are released in exchange for a review on all the pertinent platforms. Amazon, Barns & Noble, Bookbub, Goodreads, etc., and wherever else you can leave a review.


In my early days of blogging, before my blog and I established a name for ourselves, I would seek out blog tours hosting review tours and sign up for ARCs to review books that interest me for content on the blog. As time passed and I become known to authors and publishers, I got on PR lists and author lists and was sent a lot of books to review, often more books than I could realistically get to. I would also get unsolicited requests from authors who have found my blog in one way or another. And let us not forget NetGalley which is a wonderful resource for review books. Fast forward to a few years later and there are author and book groups and in those groups there are often authors looking for reviewers and ARC team readers. The source for review books was endless.

Starting out with nothing, I'd take on as much as I could handle. Before long, it became more than I could handle. And then of course, life got in the way and I was starting to get enough content for the blog so I didn't need to rely on blog tour companies for content as much and I could create my own content.

Then the whole publishing landscape changed. Indie publishing became a big thing. Amazon had their thirty-day cliff. Authors started rapid releasing.

Five stars

When I first started blogging, I would get between two to four weeks to review each book and I'd get them ahead of time. I could get them scheduled into the blog calendar and into my reading time. As time progressed and authors were releasing books more and more frequently, that reading and reviewing window got smaller.

These days, in a best case scenario, I get two to three weeks to review a book before release date. A bit more if it's a trad pub author and the publisher controls the book release. They tend to have a longer term plan between getting ARC copies out, promotions, release day, etc. With indie authors, the reading and review window got tighter. In some instances, an author would send out an ARC and within two days (that's the shortest I've encountered) the book was live. I barely had time to finish my previous book I was reading and pick up this next book. And on top of that, authors are releasing more and more books even more frequently. One author I enjoy releases at least a book a month, frequently two, sometimes three books a month. It's all I can manage to keep up and let's face it, I want to read other authors too.

Electronic calendar

Aside from all of that, over the last many years, I've scaled back the frequency of blogging because the popularity of blogging has waned, but also my life got busy. I went from blogging daily, almost seven days a week to now one day a week. It works for my lifestyle. That said, I still like maintaining the blog because it keeps me connected to an industry I love, as well as authors and books I adore. I never want to lose touch of my first love which is reading books. That's why I started the blog in the first place.

As with scaling back the blog, I've also scaled back ARCs. These days I am very selective with ARCs and only take on review books from established authors I already know and love. And I might only take on one or two ARCs a month. My reading time is limited and I am finding that I'd like to read more books of my own choosing and not to a deadline. It's more fun to read what I want when I want, and with only a few review book commitments at a time, I can do that. I'm clear with all authors and publishers I take on an ARC from that I will review within a reasonable timeframe or get to it as soon as my schedule allows. If I don't think I can get to it anytime soon even if I'm interested in the book I will turn it down.

This leads me to my current reading habits. I read a couple of ARCs a month that I will review. If I take on an ARC I will do my best to review it within the timeframe I have promised and I only take on ARCs when I know I can meet my commitment to the author or publisher. Aside from that, I read what I want and I would rather buy the book and read it when I have time than take it for free and never read it or review it or not be able to do it in a timely manner. I don't think it's fair to the author or publisher for me to take a book and not review it as promised. That's just a rort. And it's unfair and dishonest. And that's not who I am or want to be. I turn down more than I take on these days. And I buy a lot more books.

Girl with big pile of books

Finally, I want to touch on new to me authors. I get a lot of new to me authors contacting me to review their books. Even if I'm interested in their books I don't always take them on. Because of time, because I may not like their book and don't want to disappoint them with a DNF for the first book of theirs I read. If I'm interested in a new author, I will buy their book to try out. If I love them, great. I may even seek them out and see if they have a spot on their ARC team (rare) if I'm crazy over their books and they have stolen my heart. Usually though, I just buy the books and read them and review them off my own bat on the blog because I do like variety on the blog and I like to feature new to me authors I've enjoyed there.

So this is me with regards to review books and ARCs. I understand this may lessen my chances of getting ARCs but that's okay. I will continue to support authors I love and new to me authors I'm interested in by buying their books. I don't want to be in a situation where I am not meeting expectations and review obligations. And I want to read what I love when I can and when I want. I know some friends who review and I see the burden of having so many books to review wear on them. Of course, they promise to review the books as soon as they can and with the best intentions but I can also see how it tires them out and they end up with reading fatigue. I don't want that for myself. I want reading to continue to be a joy and a fresh experience each time. Something I want to do and look forward to doing.

Buying books bookshop

I'm not saying no to all ARCs and all review books. I'm just saying I'm a lot more selective these days in order to do your book justice and to also save my own sanity. In saying all that, if you ARC and review books, how many do you do in a month? Or if you don't, is it something you'd like to do?

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  1. Hi Deanna

    this is a really good post and so true, I get offered ARCs from some authors and sadly as much as I would love to read their books I know I won't be able to fit them in, some authors are a must read for me and I am in a lot of review groups and am pretty good at getting them done as close to release day as possible and I honestly tell everyone that that is how I do them, Netgalley I love and it scares me I have a lot from there that I am behind in but I do get to them they will all get read and get a review done :)

    There are so many good books being released these days and no matter how fast I read I am always a little behind

    Have Fun


    1. Helen, you always do such a great job of reviewing books but yes, they seems to pile up quick and I'm always falling behind since there are more books than time to read them all.

  2. Really interesting article. I try and read as many of my writing friends as I can. Many of them I’ve followed their carers for over twenty years. If I really don’t like a book I don’t leave a review. I found I finished about 60 books a year. I only read about an hour a night and on holidays. The rest of the time I’m writing, looking after family or working. I always make sure I read a few new authors but I never leave a bad review for them. This industry is hard. Glad you and Helen are out there reviewing. That’s how I met you.

    1. As a reader and blogger, I feel it's important for me to provide a range of reviews of the books I read. I don't love everything and I think it's okay to say so.