Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Meandering Monday- ARC distribution

Disclaimer: I really do not want to offend anyone with this post but I really wanted to talk about this. I've tried to write about it as delicately as possible.

So I was talking with my friend Susan of Wastepaper Prose the other day about ARC distribution among bloggers and it got me thinking. Probably more than something like this should. But anyway, I was complaining a bit about how sometimes I never hear back from publicists about my ARC requests. Like, not even a rejection. It bothers me when I don't know what's going on and if I email someone a few times about the same books (with the proper waiting time in between) and they don't reply, I feel like I'm purposely being ignored. That's most likely not the case, but it feels that way. I do know that publicists are extremely busy and I am grateful that ARCs even get sent to me.

But it would be nice to just hear back if we can't get the ARCs we request. The majority of bloggers are very mature and wouldn't lash out or something if they were rejected. We're a resourceful bunch and can either borrow from a friend, or sign up for an ARC tour, or wait for the book to release to either buy it or borrow from the library. Or, heck, even have the publisher send a finished copy for review. We also realize that ARCs are limited and cost a lot of money to make, though I'll talk about the limited aspect later.

My idea was that there should be a publicist specifically for bloggers in every department of a publishing house (children's, MG/YA, Adult, Non-fiction). I've seen one or two publishing houses do something like this- HarperTeen comes to mind with their Digital Publicists. Have someone just completely immerse themselves in the blogosphere and make spreadsheets detailing which blogs review what, and send books out accordingly. Or something else that could be done, which Little Brown does, is send out a mass email with upcoming books for a certain month and seeing who wants what. Do it a couple months in advance, so in November, send an email about books to be released in February. LB then gives a deadline a few weeks away for bloggers to get their requests in by and the books are sent out shortly after. That way, ARCs get sent to the people who actually want them. While I do enjoy HarperTeen's monthly ARC packages that get sent to me and others blindly, I do get some books I simply don't want or just don't have the time for.

This is where the "limited" thing comes into play. If ARCs are so limited, then why are publicists sending out ARCs to people who don't request them, and in the end, may not want them? If you've seen my past couple In My Mailbox vlogs, I've gotten some stuff from adult departments of HarperCollins that doesn't really interest me. Yes, I have been known to read some adult stuff from them but I am very selective of what I read. Usually, it's YA authors I love who also publish adult books with them (examples being Meg Cabot and Sara Shepard). That doesn't mean I want to read other random books being published by you. I've also received some picture books, which are definitely something I never review; luckily, they were finished copies so I was able to just donate them to my library. But seriously, there are times I get an ARC of something and I just don't know what to do with it, even YA ones. It doesn't make any sense to me to do random mailings like that; it's just a waste of an ARC. I don't have the money to send it to someone else so it just languishes on my shelves. Not exactly what the publicist had in mind, right?

That's why I do think having a more request-based operation would be better, but we need someone whose sole job is to handle blogger reviews, requests, and mailings now that the blogosphere is growing tremondously every day. ARCs would then get into the right hands and bloggers wouldn't have to worry about where to put the 10 unwanted, unsolicited ARCs they received that month. Or put more ARCs up on Netgalley. Netgalley is pretty damn awesome because I'm able to get ARCs that I may not have been able to get otherwise (like from Random House, as I never get any ARCs from them). Plus, it doesn't cost the publisher anything so even if I request a title I have a passing interest in, it doesn't lose them any money if I end up not reviewing it because I don't have the time (though I am trying my best to be more selective and to keep up with my e-galleys).

I don't even know if this is even feasible, but I wanted to get my thoughts out there because it was bothering me just keeping it in. Does anyone else have any thoughts, suggestions, disagreements, trolling, whatever they want to add? Leave a comment! I'd love to hear what other people think. Be aware that I do screen comments, but only so spam doesn't accidentally get through. So your comment won't show up right away, but rest assured that it will show up publicly soon enough!


  1. Really enjoyed this post. I agree with a lot of what you said. I watch and look at a lot of IMM posts and see that a lot of people get ARC's they may not want and sometimes even duplicate copies. It seems like a waste of time and money. It would definatly be better if the publishers had more of a system when it comes to sending out ARC's but then again we all know how busy they are.
    Thanks for posting on such an interesting subject

  2. I would love to see a mass email of all the titles available and we could request and only be sent ARCs from among the titles we are interested it. While it can be nice to get surprise ARCs (sometimes I get ones I want to read, but didn't want badly enough to specifically request them) I also sometimes get ones I have zero interest in that someone else might have wanted and not gotten.

    I don't get books from LB but Macmillan did something similar for the winter catalogue - they emailed it to bloggers and we could reply with which books we wanted to read. I would even love to see something automated like net galley but for print ARCs - you click the titles you are interested in and then it will tell you if it was accepted or denied.

  3. I think this was a very thoughtful post James.

    And I agree with a lot of what you say. I love the idea of a mass email letting you know which books are coming out - I think Egmont did this for a while, and I liked getting it even if I only once got a book from them (because of the outside of the US thing). It sort of helped me plan my buying schedule.

    I'm very realistic about my situation as a Blogger Outside the US, there is practically no presence of the major publishing houses in my country and I've learned to deal with that. Which is also why I love Net Galley, it's a great system where I review what interests me and it even allows me to read outside my comfort zone from time to time.

    I also love they tell you -sometimes faster than others - when you didn't get the book you requested. I like that, again, it helps me plan my blogging schedule.

  4. Girl, you speak the TRUTH!

    If you don't wanna send me a copy to review, then please just shoot me a 10 sec email saying "thanks, but no thanks" instead of keeping me on pins & needles until I see other bloggers get the book & have to hang my head low bc I wasn't a lucky one!

    And yes, they keep sending ARCs to bloggers who already have a mile-long list of books to read, who might never even get around to reading them; instead of giving it out to bloggers who could better promote the book! Don't even get me started on the duplicate copies!!! (seriously, why would you send a blogger 3 more copies of a book they already read & reviewed?!?!)

    I agree w/Rebecca in that there should be some kind of catalog where we can request print ARCs so everyone gets a fair shot.

  5. James this is a great post and I agree. I wish more reps/publicists would send either a yes or no email when you request a book or books. I know they are busy but a quick email to let us know would be greatly appreciated so that we know what is coming or not coming.

    Seeing as I live in Canada I presume if I don't get books that either they didn't send them or they got lost in the lovely (not) mailing system. Which if that is the case doesn't look good.

    I think that perhaps the reps/publicists need to have someone working with them so that they can handle the emails etc so that bloggers aren't getting multiple copies or that the right books are getting into the right hands.

    I love getting unsolicated books but when its something i know i won't read I feel bad because its just sitting there with no review.

    I know it was mentioned and I think its a great idea to have some kind of system like netgalley but for finished books.

  6. A great post - it baffles me that a blogger who may only read a book or two a week nevertheless has IMM posts each week with half a dozen books she has received for review. As well as the duplicates and books they aren't interested in.
    Publishers would be smart I think to have their own Netgalley like set up for their print titles where bloggers can apply for ARCs and be approved - I think it would significantly cut out wastage.
    Like Alex I am outside the US where publishers rarely distribute ARCs to bloggers so while I sometimes watch on with envy it doesn't directly affect me but I still think it seems like a silly system.

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd out

  7. Vivian - there is actually a book I literally got FOUR copies of. I specifically requested it, so they sent me an ARC a week or so after that. Then later on, they sent me two more ARCs during mass mailings and finally a hardcover copy. It just seems like such a waste that I got two more ARCs, I wish they could have checked that it had already been requested and sent a month or two earlier.

  8. James, I hear you. Believe me, authors are equally frustrated when our own publicists don't reply to our polite and occasional inquiries (unless we happen to be the big book of the season, in which case we get the red carpet treatment and they have spent tens of thousands of dollars to make certain every single one of you bloggers have heard about the book, received t-shirts and gorgeous tickers, ARCs, ad nauseum). We pine for a system valuing both your time and ours, and that the books we have lovingly crafted over months and years would get into the hands of readers who will adore them. May this post goes a long way toward achieving the goal!

  9. Georgina- I get a duplicate every so often. I think I got like 3 copies of Harlan Coben's Shelter. A system would be fantastic and I hope that one gets worked out soon.

    Rebecca- I saw Macmillan's email and that was good. Not sure if Houghton Mifflin Harcourt still does it, but they had an online checklist where you could request review copies by checking them and then submitting the form. So it's similar to what you suggest but I like your addition of being notified of acceptance/denial.

    Alex- Thanks! Netgalley is pretty awesome and I am very grateful for it, along with Galley Grab from S&S. I honestly think publishers should take a page from S&S and put the majority of their upcoming books available online; it would help so much. Right now, it seems they are only putting high-profile releases up.

    Vivian- First off, I am a male so not a girl, lol. But yes, it is very frustrating to not hear back and never get a book.

    Cindy- I think the main problem may be communication. We all have our various contacts, but they may not necessarily be the contact for a specific book, so we then get the same book sent to us from our contact and then from the actual publicist. Hence why I think just one person should handle bloggers and the regular publicists can focus on everything else for their respective titles.

    Shelleyrae- Thanks so much for the comment and your input! I do agree that a system like Netgalley would be good and maybe even save a lot of time, money, and energy.

    YA Author- Thanks for leaving a comment! I know it can be frustrating for you guys as well, especially if you're a mid-list author. I hope this post does help in some way, though I'm not sure how many people will actually see it, lol.

  10. We really appreciate those of you who investigate the books and try to get copies so you can help spread the word. By only talking up the hottest book of the season, it contributes to the system by which mediocre books (granted, that will probably sell well and appeal to the common denominator) get all of the money and some outstanding, beautiful books get virtually no marketing budget. It's only getting worse with the current economy, such that many excellent authors are turning to self-publishing. Midlist books are created by publishers, not by the quality of the work. (Btw, "midlist" is kind of an insulting term, considering that almost all books fall into this category.) Thanks for doing your best, James!

  11. YA author- Sorry. I didn't mean to use the term "midlist" out of context and definitely didn't mean any insult to anyone.

    I love looking through catalogs and finding all kinds of books. I do my best to spread the word about debut authors and also am a loyal fan to some authors that don't necessarily get the big red carpet treatment.

  12. I completely agree with everything that you have said in this post. Even though I don't receive ARCs because my blog is fairly new and most publishers would like you to have a certain amount of followers and what not, but if I did receive ARCs I can totally understand why we'd want it to be simpler. It's not like it's overly difficult to come up with a spreadsheet. And it's not like it won't make THEIR life easier, right?

    Awesome post! :D

  13. Like LittleRedReads, I'm new to the blog review world, though I'm not entirely new to the world of reviewing books, so I have yet to receive arcs from publishers or even establish a pub rep. I wouldn't even begin to know where to start inquiring about ARCs from publishers.
    So yes, I agree that it would be nice to see some sort of organized way of getting ARCs that would allow folks to get the books they want. I'm more than willing to review the less than popular titles. I just need an easy way to find/request them.
    And yes, it is discouraging when you do get the courage to request an ARC but then you never hear back from anyone about it.
    Great post James! Thank you for posting what many of us have been thinking. =^-^=

  14. I absolutely agree with what you say! In fact, just the other day, I was bemoaning the fact that publicists send parcels after parcels of unrequested books to bloggers living in US while they do not send a requested book to Malaysia due to mailing costs (most of my readers are in US, so marketing/sales isn't a right reason for this case). I've never quite understand why they do that, and probably will never understand why.

    One of these days, I think I'm going to invite a publicist and interview him/her anonymously about this issue. :) :P

  15. I also have "fears" when I send in repeat requests because I go all high-anxiety. "Am I being too pushy?" "Have I not sent in enough reviews?" "Am I not reading enough?" "What can I do, what can I do, what can I do?"

    It is dizzy-making at best and completely frustrating at best. There is one company in particular that has no interest in me whatsoever, however I would love to know WHY! ; )

    I think this post is great, and I'm going to DM you in a moment.


  16. I have the feeling that this might spark a debate :) However, it may be hard for publishers to keep track of who is most consistent and where there tastes vary. Obviously they want there to be good reviews so there are more consumers, so they usually send books to who has liked similar books in the past. Although I love the idea of digital publicists. That's one thing that I'd like to do when I'm older and looking for a career. :)

  17. I absolutely know how you feel. Requesting ARCs can be such a confusing process, and I think it probably only makes it harder on the publishers too? I sent out a couple of requests last week, my first ones, to test the waters but didn't receive any responses, at least not yet. I was googling to see if this was a common thing and came across your post. Understandably, they probably get tons of requests, which is why I agree that the current system doesn't work for anyone. I have no idea if they sent me books yet or if I did something wrong in my request, but if they were denying me I was kind of hoping for an email back since I"m new to the process, something short saying what I might improve before sending another request in the future. So I am holding out hope that perhaps they only had time to send me a book and not to reply. I would love to promote some upcoming titles and they certainly wouldn't just sit on my shelf.

  18. Stephanie- Keep an eye on my blog in the new year because I'm going to doing a great series of posts with Gabrielle Carolina (who commented just a few above you) that will be very beneficial to bloggers regarding requests. :)

  19. Terrific! I'll be looking out for that. I read a few advice posts regarding requesting before I did (The Story Siren, etc) but it's difficult to know exactly what numbers they're looking for. As a new blogger (six months) the idea of reviewing ARCs can seem like an unattainable unicorn, ha!

  20. Hello, i am just wondering, how can you be put in the mass email list by some publishers? sometimes its so annoying to look at each publisher and try to find out what books they're releasing. So a mass email would be amazing.

    - juhina