Friday, 3 February 2012

Discussion: ARCs, Responsiblity, and What It Means to Us

Alright, lovelies. I'm going to get really honest in this post. I'm not going to discuss any of the recent blogger controversy or author drama or what not, but I'm being honest and I hope you guys can respect that.

Blogging is hard. And it only gets harder as you spend more time doing it.

Why? It's pretty simple. When you start blogging, everything's new and exciting. You learn that some bloggers get free books - these magical ARCs*, months before release! But surely, you'll never be that cool. So, you review your purchased books and your library books and your borrowed books.

Then one day, you're cool enough. A publisher or an author sends you an ARC, you, a regular old Joe (or Mary in most YA blogger cases), getting this super amazing, hard to get version of a book you want to read. All you have to do is read it and write a review, just like you normally do. Except now, you've got a bit of a deadline. You want to make a good impression on the person who sent it. You want to promote the book properly. You want to read and review this by the release date. 

This goal's easy enough to do when you have one ARC. Still pretty easy at two. Then you start getting more and more. And it gets tougher. You don't want to let down the people you're working with and you want to use the ARC the right way. But with so many books and only so much time to read and all these release dates that seem like deadlines...it's not easy. You've got your own books you want to read. You didn't necessarily ask for all these ARCs and you might not be interested in some and can't pass it on to another blogger easily, but you want to make sure it gets promoted.

Then you start falling behind. Reviews for ARCs just aren't going to happen by the release date. You might start to wonder how you're going to handle this, when are you going to read these books, and why did you want these supposedly free books in the first place?

This is the kind of place I'm finding myself in. I don't get tons and tons of review books. Compared to many bloggers, I get very few. But I do other things besides reading and blogging. I have my own books I want to read. And sometimes, I just don't want to read something I feel like I have to read. So, I fall behind. Then the push and pull of "have to"s gets stronger because I have even less time to read the books before they come out.

I want to make one thing very clear: I'm not putting down ARCs. I'm not saying I won't read ARCs anymore. Every time I get an ARC, or a publisher agrees to send me one, or I get approved on Netgalley, I'm ridiculously honored that they think I'm good enough to promote their book. But sometimes the weight behind ARCs gets to be too much. 

In the month of January, I read 17 books. "Wow," I said to myself when I saw that number. "How on earth did I manage to do that? I never read that many books in a month!" So, I looked at the books I read. Of those 17 books, only 6 were review books. Of those 6 review books, one doesn't come out for months, so I technically read it because I wanted to. Another pattern I noticed was that the review books I read took me longer than every other book. I managed to read some of my fun books in a day, just one sitting. But some average sized review books took me almost a week.

Currently, I'm reading one review book on my Kindle and one physical review book. Both come out in the next two weeks, so I want them read and reviewed by their release date. I've never had such a hard time reading books I was enjoying or interested in. The physical book is barely holding my interest and the one on my Kindle, while interesting, just isn't keep me involved for long periods of time. I've set both aside several times to read fun books.

The responsibility that comes with review copies has started taking the joy out of reading for me. I want nothing more than to set aside these two books and read something else, but I know if I can get past that mental block, I can really enjoy these and write positive reviews for them. But with the responsibilities I've got right now outside the immediate circle of this blog and the books I read for it. I've got a lot of other stuff on my mind, like making one of those decisions that's going to decide how the rest of my life goes. Adding more responsibilities just makes me want to walk away.

The stress of this makes me just...not want to blog. I won't say it's the only reason, there's certainly other factors, but it's a big contributor. Our second blogoversary was this past December** and I don't think Lanna or I has really stepped back for long periods of time. I think it's starting to weigh down on me. You may have noticed that lately, we haven't been great with posting. For my part, it's become a matter of not wanting to. I've got 8 books that need reviews, but I've got no interest in writing them because it also feels like a "have to." Instead, I've read more books I know I won't review so the number doesn't get bigger. 

It's sad, really. I love blogging, so, so much, and I don't want to walk away. I don't want to stop reading. I don't want to stop reading ARCs and being able to create early buzz and promotion for books I love. But it's hard now and it's only going to keep getting harder. 

With all the stress and "have to"s and the tension in the community, sometimes it's tempting to walk away. Drop everything and be done with it. I'm not going to do that and as far as I know, Lanna's not either. Maybe sometime in the future, but I don't see myself stopping any time soon. I have every intention of sticking around and being active in the community and doing my side projects and, yes, reviewing the ARCs I still feel honored to get. But Lanna and I have discussed this a bit lately and we wanted to do a discussion post, so this seemed like a good topic to talk about. 

I'm not totally sure where to go from here, but I feel better having written this. I feel...more motivated I guess. Maybe putting this out there is what I needed. 

So, fellow bloggers, do you ever feel so totally overwhelmed by "have to"s and want to give up? Does the responsibility ever feel to great for you? How do you deal with it? And readers, how do you feel about ARCs? And blogging?

*For the sake of avoiding going on and on, by ARCs I mean all review copies, whether it be an egalley, a finished copy, or an actual ARC. It's just easier to combine it all under one, short title.

**Julie said it was our second blogoversary, but I just wanted to mention that the blog has actually been around and review posting since back in October 2008, maybe earlier (a lot of the badly written reviews have been shifted to drafts instead/deleted completely), so we've technically been at the whole book blogging thing for longer than 2 years. - Lanna

--Julie

Lanna:


Julie explained that way better than I could - I wrote a draft of this discussion and ended up deleting it because it felt like I was complaining about ARC's when that's not what I meant, I was just badly trying to explain how sometimes ARC's can put me in a total reading funk because they're getting priority with me even when I desperately want to read some of my own books (and most of my books are ones I chose and bought for myself).


But it feels like this subject is one I can't talk about because it feels like I'm being ungrateful when I'm not - ARC's are awesome and the publicists and authors who send them are awesome and I've discovered so many amazing books I wouldn't have read if I hadn't been sent them for review. But yeah, like Julie said, sometimes they can be stressfull (especially seeing as I rarely get review books months in advance - it's usually a week to a month in advance with a bunch showing up at the same time all with the same release date).


Anyway...unlike Julie though, I don't find the blogging part stressful. So long as my reading is going fine, the blogging part is easy for me - writing reviews isn't stressful to me, doesn't take up much time and I actually like that part. It's only when my reading isn't going well that the blogging part becomes a problem because while I want to be posting reviews, I'm not reading enough to post as much as I'd like to and then I feel bad for not posting...


I really don't like discussing this, it always makes me feel like I'm being whiny and should just STFU because the solution is easy: just ask not to be sent anymore ARC's. But then, for every 4 ARC's I'm sent that I'm not desperate to read, there's usually at least 1 that reminds me why I love reading in the first place and totally takes me by surprise - it's difficult to decide if that 1 in 4 is worth it sometimes. 


I think it'd be better if instead of just sending bloggers review books, they emailed with the list of ARC's available and only sent the ones that the bloggers say they're interested in. Two or three of the publishers (UK) that send me books started doing this and it's so much better that way. 

Also, I really need to find a better balance in my TBR pile so that it feels like reading is fun again instead of a chore most of the time.

And I'll shut up now...but yeah, anyone else have this problem (either with ARC's or even if you're in school and get a lot of books you have to read)?


Later.

26 comments:

  1. 99% of what I get are unsolicited ARCs. 30 or so a month. I try to schedule but sometimes some get left behind. I take an editorial pass but pass the books on to other bloggers where they will definitely get coverage. I get overwhelmed too at times, but I generally just try to do my best and not stress. Also, I don't get to read my own books anymore and I miss that. Last September I took a month off review books and plowed through all kinds of cool books. I'll do that again this year. I remember being talked about for it "September is the busiest month of the year how can someone take a whole month off blah blah irresponsible blah blah." That was from another blogger. I do not feel beholden to publishers, or authors or anyone but myself. That is the most important thing to remember.

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    1. I remember that. It was silly. September wasn't a good month for me to do it, but who's to say it's not a good month for someone else to do it?

      I try to read every review copy I get, but some I just can't and I pass them on to bloggers as soon as I can, but getting to the post office isn't easy, so it doesn't happen as often as I'd like.

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  2. My blog is still small enough that I don't get sent a lot of ARC's. I get some via Netgalley, but am very particular about only requesting books I KNOW that I want to read, and not too many that have the same/close release dates. The same goes for emailed requests from authors - I feel no shame in turning down a book if I just don't feel like reading it.

    So I guess no, I guess I don't feel much pressure, because I make sure not to set myself up for it. I always have 3-4 reviews waiting to be written, but they're always for books that I chose to read, so I don't feel bad if I don't post them by a set date.

    I also try to schedule in advance as much as I can, so that if I don't feel like even opening my laptop one day I know that something is still going up on my blog. Right now I am actually scheduled fully all through February, and it feels great to know that I can focus on reading instead of stressing about my blog.

    I really think bloggers just need to remember one thing; "Don't bite off more than you can chew." If you know you've got a busy month ahead of you, don't request books/sign up for tours or anything else that you know is going to stress you out later:)

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    1. Requesting books has always been pretty rare for me, though it's tempting a lot of the time. And I almost never do tours anymore. I turn down almost every review request I get. Yet still, sometimes it adds up.

      I'm horrible at reviewing ahead of time. Making myself sit down and write a review is a process, to say the least. Once I start, it's fine, but starting itself isn't easy. I also tend to put off review books because their release date is far away and then before I know it, it comes out in a month!

      I try to preschedule and I LOVE getting ahead. I'm just a horrible procrastinator, so it's a rare occasion. When I do, we get at least a few weeks ahead because there's so much back log but, I have to get the motivation first!

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    2. Have you tried giving yourself "rewards"? Whenever I lack motivation I tell myself things like "If I write three reviews today I can go buy frozen yogurt", or "If I schedule a month of Waiting on Wednesday, I can watch Glee afterwards". It helps a lot for me, as well as closing every single tab I usually have open - no checking Twitter or reading blogs when I'm supposed to be "working"!:)

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    3. It actually doesn't work when I try to be productive without multiple tabs open. I slow down and get distracted by all that I could be seeing and peeking in on. I have tweetdeck, so I'll just scroll down a bit, let posts build up, and every once and a while scroll up to see newer tweets. It's just hard for me to be in the right mood and I can't force myself to do things I'm not in the mood for. I always fail.

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    4. "I really think bloggers just need to remember one thing; "Don't bite off more than you can chew." If you know you've got a busy month ahead of you, don't request books/sign up for tours or anything else that you know is going to stress you out later"

      I probably wasn't very clear in my part of the post, but I generally don't do tours and about 95% of the review books I'm sent aren't requested, they just show up randomly (the other 5% I have no problem with and even those aren't me seeking out review books, it's just saying yes to reviewing books that I know I will read; when I'm asked instead of just randomly sent books, then I actually turn down most of the review requests I get).

      That's why I said it would be better if all publishers did the whole emailing a list of available ARC's and only sending the ones the bloggers are genuinely interesting in thing.

      So yeah, just wanted to clarify that; it's not a case of biting of more than we can chew. =P

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    5. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear enough; I did not mean that specifically toward you or Julie, that was more of a general statement that a lot of bloggers can make things easier on themselves:) I understand that when you get boxes of ARC's sent to you that you haven't requested that makes it harder!

      And I really agree with you - if publishers did that emailing thing it would not only make it easier for everyone to read only books they are interested in, but it would also mean more books got sent out to bloggers who care, instead of ending up unread on a bookshelf somewhere:)

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  3. Have you thought about taking on a few other contributors who could maybe read a book or two each month and post a review on the site? That way the site would still have reviews, but the "work" would be spread out among more people.

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    1. We actually started as a blog with many people, but others just didn't participate. Then it whittled down to three and Lanna and I worked really well together, but the third person was sometimes a problem.

      We also live in different parts of the world and most likely, so would a third contributor. And neither I nor Lanna has the ability to go to the post office a few times a month to mail off reviews we get to another person.

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    2. The blog originally started with more contributers but it works better with just us two and adding more contributers wouldn't actually lessen the...workload, for lack of a better term, because individually, we'd still have the same amount of review copies to get through (and with more people posting, it's more people to work around post-scheduling-wise).

      But yeah, for me the actual blogging part isn't an issue - I still love that, I just need to snap out of my ARC-induced reading funk and find a better balance between books I feel I have to read and books I want to read because when reading starts to feel like a chore then it makes me not want to read at all. :)

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    3. The reason I ask is because some of your readers (at least, me) are not book bloggers. I don't get ARCs or review books. I never have. But it would be fun to get even one a month to read and write about.

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    4. The problem with that (aside from what I already mentioned) would be the shipping costs and the hassel of going to the post office to send books out.

      You should start up your own book blog though and see if you like the whole blogging thing - this blog really just started as a place for me and some online friends to talk about books. :)

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    5. I have blogs on three other topics. I'm not interested in starting a fourth. But I do love to read, so I visit book blogs.

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  4. I feel this way about blogging in general. Sometimes the responsibility of posting anything - whether a review book or not gets a little too much. Most of us aren't full-time bloggers, we have jobs, relationships and families. We have other things we want to do. I sometimes get bogged down in making sure I'm reading the "hot new thing" because I feel like that's what my readers would want - whether it's an ARC on not.

    I made a promise to myself that this year, I would only read what I truly wanted to read and so far it's been good. I've even reread a few old favorites, which has been heaven.

    I politely thank the publisher for each and every ARC I get, but if I didn't ask for it or agree to review it before it was sent to me, then I don't feel guilty about not getting to it right away (or at all). Sending me an unsolicited book doesn't mean I agreed to review it and it would be presumptuous on the publishers part to assume that it does. I've also never had or heard of a publisher bashing a blogger or severing ties with a blogger who doesn't review every single unsolicited ARC they send. There's just no way any blogger could possibly review everything and publishers know that.

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  5. I try to read for fun and just read ARCs when I need to because their release is coming, but it doesn't always work out that way.

    I know now that I don't have to worry about that, but when it first started happening, I worried about it. I'm a worrier. Sometimes, I still get a little twitchy about it, even though I know it's just me being ridiculous.

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  6. This whole time I nodded, "Yes. Yes. QUITE TRUE OH MY GOSH THERE ARE OTHERS THAT FEEL THIS WAY?" So you're totally not alone. It's hard.

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  7. I felt overloaded, frustrated and unmodivated last year and I stopped blogging (almost completely) for 6-8 months. The thrill had left and it felt like a job. Now I have started again with fresh enthusiasm and enjoyment. I am eager to review, blog and share my opinions again. Maybe a leave of absence will help you feel revived.

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  8. I definitely feel what you are feeling and am absolutely feeling overwhelmed. Part of it is with my own personal life as my husband is in the military and got posted this fall and is living away from us for the moment, and then I had a major death in the family right before Christmas. I put all of this stress on myself to try and complete promises I made but then realized that family is my number one priority, not my blog. I normally enjoy blogging, but when I am reluctant to even enter my office or look at the stacks of books, it's time to take a break. I've already decided that I am not going to accept any reviews for three months this year and take a huge break from both reviewing and blogging. We take breaks from out jobs, so why not blogging? Maybe I will get some fresh new ideas during the break and come back to it with a whole new vigour and energy. Besides, the books will always be there.

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  9. I wish more publishers would do what some have started doing - emailing a list of the available ARCs or finished review copies and only sending the ones that are requested. I guess they must get some publicity out of unsolicited review copies, but I often feel bad when I get a book I have zero interest in and know I wouldn't enjoy, and I can't find another blogger who wants it.

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  10. I don't put this much emphasis on my blog so it keeps everything pretty casual. But I do have a stack of ARCs that was really piled up and some are embarrassingly old. I'm not proud of that but I'm not losing my mind about it either. They'll get read and reviewed. I think what really helps is I only take on books that I REALLY want to read. I don't feel obligated to review books that get sent to me at random. I'll add them to my TBR pile but they're not much of a priority. I just am. I'm completely caught up on my digital ARCs simply because I end up reading them at work. Shhhh! And now I'm not open to most review requests so that takes it down a notch too. It's all about where you're comfortably functioning. I feel bad if I don't post daily but that's about where my worry for my blog ends.

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  11. I used to have a book blog, and this is a big factor about why I shut it down. Getting ARCs to review was great...and I never requested them, they just showed up. But then they would come and come and come and I felt so guilty and forced to read/review them, even when they weren't my normal thing. And then book blogging stopped being fun, because it was only fun when I was talking about the books I wanted to read, and I had almost completely stopped reading those.

    So, yeah, I totally understand what you guys are saying.

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  12. I got some great advice from fellow bloggers to just make sure to balance the review books with the books I simply wanted to read. I haven't quite been able to take that advice, but I'm working toward it. I've been trying to have a "me" reads month since December, but I think it will finally happen in March.

    I do feel an obligation to read any book even unrequested ones, but I don't receive that many from the publishers and the ones I do request I'm now trying harder to be selective about.

    I find it so freeing to completely go "off pile" every so often. Because when I do come back to the required reads I find them much more enjoyable.

    I am a reader first and foremost and reading for the love of reading has to be my top priority or it doesn't make sense to be a blogger. But yeah, I find myself completely stressed out about my reading commitments much of the time.

    And I totally love ARCs, but I've gotten in the habit to trade for them rather than request them. That way if I can't read them by release date I have made no promise or commitment to do so, but I still get the chance at an early read and it becomes totally up to me which makes it a "me" read versus a required one.

    I wish you the best of luck and hope you can find a solution that makes you happy - or at least less stressed - because you've put in a lot of time and effort into your blog it would be a shame to quit after all this time or have your love of reading suffer.

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  13. Letting it out can do wonders, so how do you feel now? Book reviews are important to us, we can't just rely on Amzn. As a reader we want to know your experience with that particular book and from there we might or might not take that 'journey'. All comments here are so valuable, mine is you should take a vacation or get a new Coach handbag. :)

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    1. The comments on this post actually did help - knowing other bloggers feel the same way and all that. I decided to take some time and just get some fun reading done this week and put ARC's aside for a little while. :)

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  14. I know the pressure of feeling like you need to get through more than you can. The thing is, life sneaks up on you and blogging should be something you love, not something you feel is your job. When my blogging partner and I (Curlypow) first set up our blog, we made sure that our policies said that we were happy to receive ARCs and would try to review them as soon as we could but there were no guarantees. It was like a safety net for all of the other things that life throws your way. Curlypow has 3 grown children and works not quite full-time hours. Plus she reads much faster than I do so she reads about 4X the number of books that I do. I take my time to read and I used to feel guilty about not getting through the TBR pile to be be honest, if I tried to rush it, I would no longer enjoy it. You might want to consider bringing another friend onboard to help you with the blogging/reviewing as well. We have guest posts from friends who would like to participate but don't contribute on a regular basis. It allows others to get their opinions out there as well without committing to the maintenance of an entire blog. Feel free to check out some of our policies and maybe try tweaking some of your own! www.allaboutyabooks.blogspot.com (The Paperback Princesses).

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