The truth about reviewing books for publishers/authors

Hi book lovers. I wanted to talk about something else today. If you’re active on Bookstagram, you will have noticed that I (and a lot of Bookstagrammers with me) receive books for free from publishers and/or authors. In all fairness, I still can’t believe I’m lucky enough to receive books for free and I’m ridiculously grateful for it. But we (including myself) tend to forget that there are some downsides to this and I would like to talk to you about them.

Every now and then, I get a message from someone asking me how to get books from publishers/authors. I always try to help by giving the answer I think is true. You have to have a good amount of followers on one of your social platforms. Maybe you have 10k+ followers on Instagram, maybe you’re a queen/king of book blogging or maybe you have legions of followers on Twitter – it matters to publishers. The reason they send out books for free is to garner publicity for their books. It’s often not profitable for them to send a book to someone who doesn’t have at least ten thousand followers on Instagram. It’s important to realize this once I start talking about the downsides of receiving books. The other thing publishers/authors must like is your style. This means your photos on Instagram and your writing style on your blog. Publishers often want to be able to repost your photos on their Instagram, so it matters how it looks. Everyone has a different style which means that even Bookstagrammers who have tons of followers can have trouble receiving books from certain publishers. The abovementioned things are what I think publishers take into consideration before sending you books for free.

When you’re a relatively new Bookstagrammer, -blogger or -Twitter user, you’re just happy to be submerged in the world of books every day. Once the followers start rolling in, that first DM or email you receive asking you to collaborate is going to make you very, VERY happy. Trust me. The first DM I ever got asking me if I wanted to receive a book for free was from a publisher I’d never heard of about a book I’ve never heard of. Nonetheless, I told practically my entire family and lowkey wanted to shout it from the rooftops. It felt very rewarding.

In the year that followed, I was contacted by a lot of publishers and authors asking me to review their books. I said yes to everything. Yes to all the free books I could get. Even if these books were genres I’d never read. Trust me when I tell you that for a huge book lover, it takes a special kind of restraint to say no to an offer of free books. I applaud everyone that has mastered that ability, truly. Because I said yes to everything, there was hardly time left to read books that I had bought myself. There was always another review copy glaring at me angrily from my shelves. Halfway through the year (this was last year, 2017) I felt overwhelmed by all the books I had requested and had said yes to. It was simply too much, and the pressure got the better of me. Reading started to feel like an obligation, which is something I think reading should NEVER feel like. The number of books I had for review took the joy out of reading because the pressure to go on and on was always there.

The gif (in which I am Jon Snow) illustrates perfectly how I felt.

Don’t get me wrong though. Having so many review copies did make 2017 my best reading year EVER. I managed to read 56 books during the year, something I never thought possible. But besides being overwhelmed by the amounts of books I had to read in 2017, I was also struggling big time with actually reviewing them. Publishers usually request for you to write an honest review. They don’t always specifically state this, but unless you get paid to write a good review (cringe), it is kind of the rule that you have to be honest. So imagine this: you get contacted about a review copy for the first time, you feel honoured and appreciate very much that they want to send you something, but you think the book is awful once you’ve read it. Especially when you’re still a small(er) Bookstagrammer/-blogger, you’re going to feel guilty for not liking one of the first books sent your way because you really want to like the book. There’s also a slight fear that publishers might not want to send you any other books if you’ve posted a negative review of one of their babies. And in all honesty, this is a feeling that doesn’t really go away. At least not for me. Again: it takes a special kind of power to write a negative review about a book you received for free. (Please understand that this all stems from how I personally feel about it – NOT ALL BOOK REVIEWERS EXPERIENCE THIS, but I have talked to several people that felt (and still feel) the same way).

So I guess what I wanted to achieve by writing this post is to have you realise it’s not only great to receive a lot of review copies. There’s pressure to read, pressure to like the book, and it can get overwhelming to the point where reading becomes an obligation. Please keep this in the back of your mind when requesting books and learn from the mistake I made (requesting too many books/saying yes to everything). Receiving books for free is something I’ll forever be grateful for – but it has also shown me that it’s not the ultimate goal, because that goal should always be reading for your own pleasure and joy.

Some of us set reading goals for a new year. I decided that in 2018, I would read whatever I want, whenever I want it. This meant saying no more often to review requests from publishers, requesting fewer books myself and setting a lower Goodreads goal than I did in 2017. It feels very liberating to be able to not read for a week and not feel awfully guilty about it.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this piece in the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!




p.s. If you’ve made it to the end of this post, I also highly recommend reading TheBibliotheque’s (aka my sister in cheese) blog post about negative reviews.

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  1. Ah, dit is zo herkenbaar! Ik ben vanaf maart 2013 actief als blogger en een van de redenen dat ik het afgelopen jaar zo weinig gelezen heb (of blogposts heb geschreven) is omdat ik de druk te hoog vond liggen. Ik moest van mezelf zo veel recensies schrijven dat ik er allemaal een beetje in verdronk.

    Toevallig (na het GDPR proof maken van mijn website) ben ik eindelijk weer aan het schrijven, en ik ben zo blij dat ik er weer plezier in heb. Ik accepteer niet langer alles, slechts maar een klein aantal boeken omdat ik ze ook echt wil lezen en ervan wil blijven genieten.

    Het is en blijft geweldig om boeken te mogen ontvangen en ik ben er zo dankbaar voor, maar ik doe het (eindelijk) wat rustiger aan. Het moet natuurlijk wel leuk blijven!

    1. Tof om te horen dat mensen zich erin herkennen! En ik ben blij dat je ook het plezier in het schrijven en lezen weer hebt teruggevonden – dat is echt het allerbelangrijkste!

      Op een gegeven moment ging het bij mij echt te ver, en was ik ook al het plezier in lezen verloren. Gelukkig heb ik toen, na wat tijd voor mezelf genomen te hebben, het weer allemaal opgepakt. Maar zodra je geen zin meer hebt om te lezen gaat ook de zin om blogposts te schrijven en Instagramfoto’s te maken omlaag… vermoeiend.

      Oei oei, volgensmij is mijn blog nog helemaal niet GDPR proof (eerlijk gezegd heb ik hier nog niet eens bij stilgestaan voordat jij het zei… s.o.s.)

  2. Yes to all of this!! I’ve also had moments where I said “yes” to a book and not liking it. It’s a really rough position to be in. Now, I say “no” to most books unless I can be pretty sure I can give the book at least 3/5 stars in the review.

    Thanks for sharing!


    1. Hi Sofia – so glad to hear I’m not alone in all this. We bookworms often face the same problems but not everything gets talked about. I’m glad you (just like me) learned from the experience and are saying no more often! It feels so much better to not have too much on your plate :).

      Btw, your blog looks gorgeous!

  3. Honestly I’m aware of how much pressure can you feel when publishers send you free books. The same happens with beauty gurus and makeup. Despise that I still want to start a blog about books/reviews, etc. I’m new to your blog, but I’d want to know if you have written about getting started in this world (blogging and books). Maybe you know about someone who has written about it before? Sorry if I’m bothering you. Have a great day btw!

    1. Thank you so much for your reply Noelle. It is not my intention to not make you want to start blogging, so I’m really glad to hear you do want to start! It’s quite a process setting up everything, so I recommend focusing on one thing first (either Bookstagram or a blog) and branching out later. That’s how I did it and this way you allow yourself to build up one platform first before starting another (which is loads of work).

      I did find a post that might help you start a blog though:

      Good luck!! 🙂

  4. This is wonderful, Femke! Thank you for being so honest about your experience and really opening yourself up. I personally am building my review blog & bookstagram right now, which includes requesting titles on NetGalley, etc. So I appreciate you not sugarcoating the pressures that I myself am juggling right now. Keep up the amazing work, and I hope 2018 is your best reading & reviewing year yet. 😀

    1. Hey Dee! It makes me happy to hear that my post is being appreciated. A lot of people seem to forget the pressure that comes along with free books. I do hope you manage to juggle it better than I did last year – just remember that the books will always be there, whether you read them now or later (and when you have to buy them, you’ll think twice about whether or not you REALLY want to read them).

      All the best of luck with your blogging + bookstagramming my friend! 🙂

  5. Hi Femke,
    Jouw “presure to read” doet me denken aan de boekenlijst die ik MOEST lezen op de middelbare school. Na die tijd heb ik lang helemaal niks meer gelezen. Maar inmiddels ben ik weer op stoom.
    Ik snap nu wel waarom ik dat ene review nog altijd niet gezien heb…..;-)

    1. Moi Elly,
      Dat was inderdaad verschrikkelijk…. volgensmij vond niemand lezen leuk op de middelbare. “Het Gouden Ei” van Tim Krabbé is denk zo’n boek dat niemand ooit voor de fun leest :).
      Ik heb eindelijk gister een foto gemaakt en de recensie komt deze week nog online: JEEJ.

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