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.