I am writing to you now because I love you all very much. And it is because I love you that I must share some advice, both from myself and from many of my friends who work in the children's book industry, both as authors and on the publishing side. Recently, I've noticed that there are far, far more of you than there were just last year. I look forward to getting to know you all over the next few months and chatting about books and life and school and publishing. Welcome to a very wonderful and fun community!! I have a really marvelous group of book blogger friends that I've gotten to know over the past year and a half (and I've been lucky enough to meet some of them in person). They've been at this a long time, and they're names you would probably recognize. Coincidentally, they are also the ones that get attacked most frequently, either because others claim they hog all the ARCs or they're stuck-up. This, as you'll see, is not the case. They've spent years working hard to build relationships with marketing and publicity departments, and they very rarely make the mistakes I'll list below. But I digress.
Dearest book bloggers, I am writing to you because I--and others--have been noticing some slightly disturbing trends as of late. This is really hard for me to do, because I know that it's easy to be misunderstood when communicating through email, and because I do love and appreciate everything that you guys do for the author community. BUT... I have to get a few things off my chest.
Guys, let me start off by saying that it costs A LOT of money for publishers to produce ARCs. I asked some of my coworkers for a rough estimate of how much money it takes to produce one, and their guesses fell between $16-$20. When we're about to acquire a project, we create what's known as a Profit & Loss statement (P&L). It helps the publisher figure out how many copies to print, what kind of specs can go on the book jacket (shiny elements, matte, etc.), how many returns the book might see, how many we would have to sell to recoup the advance, etc. We generally factor in several thousand dollars to account for ARC printings. This is why many publishers have been reducing the number they're printing (Did I mention that ARCs are often are put together by hand?) in these hard economic times. It is cheaper for a publisher to send out a finished copy of the book. Seriously. When you are sending an email and requesting 20 ARCs at once, I hope you will remember this.
Second: Guys, you are a very creative bunch. So what's going on with everyone ripping everyone else off? It's one thing to borrow certain routine posts (such as Kristi's In My Mailbox Feature), but at least give one another credit. Also, I know web design is very hard, but there's absolutely no justification for ripping others' blog designs. (Likewise, there is no excuse for stealing/being "heavily inspired" by anyone's website, including authors'. It is not fun to see your work and ideas on someone else's blog with zero credit.) You all are unique and wonderful--let your design show that, and let your features reflect who you are as a person and reader. I think you'll find that's a great avenue for gaining more followers. Take Sharon Loves Books and Cats, for example. I LOVE Sharon (as do many authors), not only because she's honest with her reviews, but because she loves books and cats! I can barely say her name without saying, "Sharon, who loves books and cats." Clearly Sharon is more than her love for books and cats, but it's so unique and endearing and it keeps me coming back to her blog.
Thirdly, please don't expect that we, as authors, have an unlimited supply of ARCs to pass out, or that we can snap our fingers and have them to you within a month. Publishing is a very slow business, full of people who are often overworked and cannot get to everything at once. Please be patient! We all want to get these books into your hands, but it might take a while...
Fourthly, it is a bad idea to copy and paste the same ARC requests to multiple authors. It is especially bad when you request the wrong book from the wrong author.
Here are a few points from one of my industry friends. Again, I'm sharing this because I feel like this is good information and great advice. It's not meant to be a personal attack or any such thing.
1. Know your blog - Install Google Analytics on your blog and track how many page views, unique visits, and comments you get. Compare them with your blogging friends. This should tell you just how many people your blog is reaching. If it's not that many, you cannot expect publicists and online marketing folks to send you as many free books as you want. Just like in print publicity, there is a heirarchy of importance that is determined by audience size or perceived prestige, which often has something to do with the quality of material you offer and how long you've been around. If you want to become a more prestigious blogger, blog well and often, participate in the community, and WAIT. The most influential and respected book bloggers are the ones who have been doing it consistently and well for years. Until then, you cannot be demanding things from people whose job it is to use expensive assets (i.e. ARCs) to increase sales of a product whose profit margins are already small.
2. Be professional - As was previously stated, ARCs are not free to the publishers. They are a business asset whose entire point is to increase sales of a book. They are expensive to produce, in short supply sometimes, and useless post-pub, so publicists and online marketing folks have to use them in the best way possible. If you would like to review them, you must appear professional and trustworthy. Send short, courteous emails that explain clearly what you would like and what you will do with them. Make sure your emails show the quality of your writing. DO NOT send the same copy/paste email over and over again, we notice things like that. The font should be readable, both in type and color. This is a business relationship, not a personal one. If you post about a book you are sent for review, you should always send an email with a link to whomever sent you that book. It's just polite.
3. Be understanding - There are varying amounts of ARCs depending on the perceived in house need. A book that the house determines needs advanced buzz or will be very popular will probably get lots of ARCs printed; a book so huge that it doesn't need buzz will get zero (like the later Twilight books). Some books don't have ARCs at all because the manuscript came in too late for them to be printed. Some don't have a lot because the book isn't a high priority for the house. There are a million reasons why a publicist might not be able--or want--to send you an ARC. You're not entitled to anything by virtue of having a blog. You prove yourself a reliable blogger every time you communicate with a publicist, so if you treat them like Amazon, if you are demanding and entitled, you will damage your relationship with that publicist. I'm sure this goes for authors as well.
4. Be NICE - If you don't get a response from an email you wrote to a publicist, or you don't get a book you requested, don't write a rude or testy email about it. People in publishing work REALLY HARD. There is no downtime, and if we do mailings it happens after hours a lot of the times. If you get a book from a publisher, it is likely someone stayed very late in order to send it to you. So even if you were promised the book, know that it can take weeks for a someone to find the time to send things--don't check in about ARCs you requested until a month after you sent the original email. If you KNOW it was sent out (as in, the publicist said, "I sent it today"), then you might alert them that you hadn't received it if you genuinely thought it had been lost in the mail. But, again, politely.
5. Support the industry - BUY BOOKS. You should be buying more books or taking them out of the library than you receive for review, if you really love books so much. SHARE ARCS.
On that last note, there's a great program that Harmony Book Reviews set up called the One Arc Tour. Check it out--it's a great idea!
Again, I love you guys greatly (as we all do), and I hope you'll take some of this advice to heart. If you'd like to leave me a comment feel free, or you can send me an email if you have questions about publishing or thoughts you don't want to share publicly.