One of the perks of being a blogger is you often get free items in return for a review. DVDs, food, gadgets, new tech — a good review is an excellent marketing tool, so most companies see these freebies as part of the cost of doing business.
Book publisher, William Morrow, however, is looking to reduce that cost and they want to see a bigger return on their investment.
Earlier this week, the LA Times published the text of a letter that was sent out to book bloggers. It outlines a new system where, instead of getting random books in the mail, bloggers will be asked to choose their review titles from a list.
Nothing wrong with that. It’s more work on the publisher’s part, but it’s targeted so it should make for more and better reviews.
Now here’s the part that got everyone in an uproar:
If it isn’t already clear, WE LOVE THAT YOU LOVE OUR BOOKS! And to allow us to continue to offer free copies and free shipping to you committed book reviewers, we will be tracking how many reviews we receive from you. If we notice that you request books but aren’t posting your comments or sending us the link, we may suspend your ability to receive review offers from us. We know you’re busy bloggers -– if you don’t think you’ll be able to post a review within a month, please pass on that offer so we can continue to offer you free books in the future!
Still sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? The blogger gets a book of their choice for free and in return they have to post a timely review. I’ve been reviewing DVDs for years and that’s always been the agreement, in print or implied. But according to the LA Times, bloggers are angry that “their hobby was being treated like an obligation.”
Am I the only one who thinks that’s crazy? Hobby or not, if you agree to take on a free item (I’m not talking about items sent randomly without prior permission) you should review it within a reasonable amount of time.
The bloggers are also angry because they see this step as a slap at blogs. “Can you imagine them sending this to Horn Book or The NYTimes?” said Pam Coughlin, a blogger for MotherReader.
Well, no, because first of all, the NYTimes book reviewer probably turns in reviews on time and second, I imagine more people see a NYTimes review than one on MotherReader. (If I’m wrong, feel free to correct me.)
Maybe the real issue here isn’t unreliable book bloggers, but blogs themselves. Blogs are slowly getting pushed into the background thanks to Facebook and Twitter and even Tumblr which is more graphics than text. eMarketer’s stats show that Fortune 500 companies have slowed down on blogging. Mommy blogs are still going strong but how many people are reading them?
Personally, I believe that blogs are still the best place to find news and information about whatever it is you want to know. A blog post gives you room to deliver all the facts and your opinion about them. You can’t do that on Twitter or Facebook. But I’m a writer and a reader, and I fear that I’m in the minority when it comes to the love of words.
Which brings us back to books and book reviewers. The publishing business is running on a thin margin, so it’s understandable that they need to insure better returns on their investment. And that could mean more rules and passing on “hobby” bloggers in favor of professionals.
Do you offer review items to bloggers? We’d like to hear about your experiences.