Thursday, December 1, 2011

William Morrow Big Brother is Watching Bloggers...

Earlier today, William Morrow sent out an email to book bloggers about five of their releases for December and January that are being offered for review.

Also in the email, was a press release type document where, "It outlines our new blogger review procedure and will impact your reviews going forward."

This document has raised some eyebrows from book review bloggers and authors alike (mainly on Twitter).

Here is the document that was attached. Note the mention about, "Your job is simply to review the book.." and my favorite, "we will be tracking how many reviews we receive from you."

Any thoughts?

(thanks to Pam at Bookalicious. She knows why)



Carolyn said...


Wow. That's a really unfriendly sounding letter.

I think if I'd received that, I'd be thinking that if I really wanted to review a book from them, I'd get it my own self and to heck with their process.

I can think of a number of nicer, friendlier ways they could have written this letter.

BookStacksOnDeck said...

If you read the whole letter, I think it sounds pretty fair. They might have been giving out lots of free books for the purpose of receiving reviews on them - and not getting reviews. If you were them, wouldn't you probably think of a similar plan to to fix that problem?

Natasha A. said...

I can be very naive sometimes.... but I don't see the big deal.
Why would they send books to reviewers who don't review them?

KB/KT Grant said...

Carolyn: Blogging is supposed to be fun, not stressful. Publishers are relying more and more on bloggers without paying to promote their authors and their books. I'm not sure what this means for the future of book blogging and how publishers are becoming more forceful with their demands for how a review should be posted and when.

Stacks on Deck: I think bloggers shoulder bite off more then they can chew. If a blogger asks for books and they don't end up reviewing them, then the publisher can decide if they won't send that blogger any more books. But publishers are demanding more from bloggers, some who are still one person and don't have a staff of reviewers like big name review sites. This whole, "it's you job" rubs people the wrong way. I can understand publishers getting upset by sending out books to blogs and not getting them reviewed, but setting rules, like you must review in a month or else, seems threatening.

Some reviews that come months after a book has been published can help sales, IMO.

Natasha: No clue. But more often, publishers aren't sending out mass quantities and you must ask for a book. I believe if you ask for a book, you should review it in a timely manner.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like what NetGalley does as far as tracking the number of reviews and then deciding whether or not to allow the reviewer to receive more books. And unlike NetGalley they offer a chance to get a free giveaway/contest on the blog. I can understand they want to be sure actual reviews are posted. I don't have a blog but do volunteer for a book newsletter, so I wouldn't be able to qualify for any of these publishers or aggregators.

Nicola O. said...

I think the system they propose is completely fair, and I see no implied threat at all. Perhaps they will be less inclined to send you books in the future if you don't post reviews, which seems completely fair to me.

Yes, blogging is fun and we don't get paid and William Morrow doesn't get to require anything really, of a blogger, but they certainly have the option to target their review copies to bloggers who will help their cause. They owe it to their authors to make the most of those copies.

This has always been the implied contract, IMO.

KB/KT Grant said...

Anon: I think Netgalley is fabulous and does an excellent job for both publishers and bloggers.

Nicola: What happens if you ask for a book and it's a DNF? Do you still post a review? How does a publisher handle that?

It seems publishers are relying more and more on bloggers for promotion and getting the word out about their authors and books. The reason because bloggers are free and won't charge thousands for ads like some industry magazines and newspapers.

KMont said...

I don't see the problem as ANY publisher having a set of rules for their ARCs or finished copies they hope will be reviewed. The problem isn't whether it's their right to want their books reviewed in a timely manner. It's very understandable that they would want to try to organize this aspect of their business.

The problem I see is in part as Carolyn mentions above - there is a better way to approach bloggers on this issue. What that way is, I can't say for sure, but since the letter is ruffling some feathers to the point of the large discussion on it today, then they obviously didn't prep/review that letter well enough before releasing it to the masses.

It's pretty clear why some are moved by this enough to comment and refute it. Bloggers are too varied and different to be pigeon-holed into one mass set that should adhere to certain rules. Most of us don't start blogs to become some kind of PR machine powerhouse for publishers - it is a courtesy should we choose to do so for them and to run their promos and talk up their blog tours (cuz trust me, it doesn't increase my traffic numbers). Hell, it should be great first and foremost that there's a community of folks wanting to talk books and spread the word on them. We don't want that viewed as a JOB. It's something we love to do. Everyone would love to be able to work in a field they all-out love just as much, but I bet the percentile of us getting PAID to work in any way with a publisher is very low.

And implied contract or no - all that is, is an assumption. When it comes to bloggers, it should actually be assumed that we make our rules because these are our blogs, our money running them a lot of the time and it's our time that we have to choose to not do other important things with. THAT is as far as a job as it gets.

Amber (aka BBB) said...

There are a few publishers already doing some version of this for smaller blogs (HC for one). I don't review WM books (that I know of) but not having more than a month's lead time would be a deal breaker for me. As would the obligation for review.

This sounds like they'll only be sending books requested, likely as a cost saving measure. But publishers who use this model never seem to be able to get the books out in time.

I get that they're tired of wasting money sending unsolicited review copies, but I think they'll see a huge drop in the number of reviews published rather than an increase as they clearly hope to do with their carrot/stick methods.

I know I wouldn't want to be stuck with such a narrow window of time for both reading the book and posting the review.

heidenkind said...

I like the "it is your job" part. It's my "job," really? Because the last time I checked, I'm not getting paid to review books.

Marg said...

There are publishers who already do this. I think a month lead time is probably too short mainly because we all have a gazillion books we want to read, not just the review copies we get. I do however think that the letter is very badly put together and I am not surprised at the backlash.

Pam said...

This problem stems off another problem. That bloggers feel beholden to publishers and want to please them. Last I checked I do this for free and the term FREE BOOKS drives me effing insane. Its not free if I read it, then review it, then talk about it on my social media. I am an independent blogger. I realize that I am not the NYT or Shelf Awareness, so maybe publishers shouldn't send us something they wouldn't send to those places, and maybe bloggers SHOULD be offended when they do.

Sara M said...

I agree that a one month span to write a review is very short. It seems like books from publishers always take at least a week more to arrive than books from authors or other bloggers. I'll forget I won a book in a giveaway because it'll take so long to arrive. So I'm wondering if they realize this happens and if they're going to send them out early enough to take this into consideration. I also read really slow compared to a lot of bloggers. Ten books a month is a great number for me.

My blog is still relatively small, so I haven't gotten many unsolicited review copies. I think I've gotten two. One was a genre I do not read and am not interested in (from a publicist I had previously worked for, not the publisher). The other was book two in a series. I felt really bad about this one, because book one in the series was a DNF, and I never reviewed it. I decided to hold a giveaway for both books and asked that whoever entered/won please write up a review somewhere (blog, amazon, etc). The contact from the publisher thanked me for dealing with it in a professional way, but I also have not been contacted for any new reviews.

My one problem with this letter is that they don't talk about books we don't finish. I personally don't write reviews for books I DNF. They get a mention in my month in review post and that's that. I posted one DNF review in the very beginning (for a book I purchased), and I decided it would be the last because I didn't like doing it. There have been review books that I have DNFed and I feel bad. More often than not I'm contacted by the author, not the publisher, so it feels a little more personal. I don't feel obligated to read and review everything, that's not why I feel bad. But a lot of books I've ended up DNFing are ones that I was really excited for and I feel bad because I wanted to love it and it just didn't work.

Jess Haines said...

As an author, I can appreciate that the publisher is trying to make better use of those review copies. However, the wording of that letter does come across in a rather cavalier manner.

As a review blogger, I wouldn't be pleased to be told that reviewing the books is my job. I do review books now and then. Mostly because I enjoy discussing the ones I feel strongly about and recommending books I enjoyed.

Not everyone can read with that kind of speedy turnaround, and sometimes we don't want to finish the books we were sent. What is WM's stance on DNF books? If you DNF too many, does that mean you aren't going to get more? What if something comes up and you can't handle doing the reviews in a month?

Maybe if they gave the bloggers more time, and didn't make the assumption that it's the blogger's "job" to review (last I checked, none of us were being paid for the publicity we give others through our reviews--ad space is another story...) this letter might have gone over better.


Hilcia said...

I mainly agree with KMont's statement above, so I won't repeat it, except to reiterate that I don't view blogging as a job, but as a hobby I love. But to that I will also add that it can all get a bit tricky.

Example: I just received (on November 29th) review copies from a publisher for books released November 1st. Review within one month? If the above becomes a trend across the board, then... yeah... they can keep the books and I'll continue to buy my own as usual, and review them at my own pace. Thank you.

Felicia the Geeky Blogger said...

I don't really have a problem with it because the fact is you don't have to take any of their books. It isn't like they say we are sending you these books and you have to do it. They are saying if you agree to take the books then you agree to the terms. They are probably shooting themselves in the foot BUT it is their foot to shoot themselves in.

Di said...

I'm a reader, not a blogger, but here's some thoughts. Since I like organization & hate waste, I think they may be addressing some issues in what sounds like a fair way. If a blogger consistently doesn't review books they receive, that is a waste. When I first read what the subject was I thought it was going to be about something I saw mentioned not long ago, that a publisher was insisting on good reviews. It'll be interesting to see what happens to this program, is it above board & they are just trying to streamline, or will bloggers that give their books poor reviews cut off from receiving the free books. But, a blogger could get their own copies, but would they if they hadn't like an authors books in the past? Time may tell.

Jennifer Sicurella said...

I read a bunch of WM books and I completely understand why they need to do this. They seem to have been sending out review copies willy-nilly. Many times I've received the 15th book in a series from then without requesting it and having no desire to read it. I can't imagine they've been getting many reviews this way.

Granted, the letter could have been worded better, but they seem to following the lead of other publishers that have been doing similar things without anyone complaining.

Anonymous said...

Terrible letter. The tone was condescending and officious.

If I had a blog I would write a response telling WM to take my name off of their mailing list, and I would make a point not to read or review any of their books.

I completely understand a publisher's wish to avoid waste and only send reviewers books they want to read, but book review bloggers make publishers' lives and authors' lives a lot easier by doing the job publicists don't have time to do. But publicists still get paid, and publishing execs also get paid a heck of a lot more money than the rest of us do.

I hope book bloggers understand what WM is doing here. They are treating you like employees while you are offering them a service they absolutely NEED and rely on right now. Books don't receive the reviews or publicity they once did. WM has no right to send a letter to you with rules unless they are paying you. It isn't the book bloggers fault that publicists send out tons of books multiple times to the same bloggers.

The letter probably wouldn't have annoyed me as much if WM had simply stated they would only send 2-3 books a month to bloggers after a request has been made. The other stuff about having one month to review and "your job" is insulting.

I have no voice as a reader, but I hope WM realizes how inappropriate that letter is.


Anonymous said...

And this is why book bloggers should band together like the fashion bloggers did. I understand WM's position, but the impetus behind this letter oversteps boundaries. Book bloggers are great, and they've spread the word on great books, but it seems publishers now view you guys as a part of their Marketing Department, and I know y'all aren't getting salaries or 401K benefits!

The Book Vixen said...

Hmm, I don't have a problem with most of the letter or the requirements. It's kind of like our own review policies, isn't it; they're letting book reviewers know upfront what they expect when giving out free books.

I don't like how they worded the "Your job is simply..." part. My book blog isn't a job. I don't get paid to blog about books. It's my hobby and I do it for fun.

The "review the book within a month of receiving it" might be a bit on the short time frame end but if I couldn't meet the requirement, I wouldn't request the book.

I work with a publisher that sends 3-4 emails a month with a selection of books for me to choose from. Those emails also tell me when my review is expected to go up. If I can't commit to their time frame, I don't get the book. If I can, then I do.

I would think most publishers are keeping tabs on who reviews the books they're sent. They're sending out books for a reason after all, right? To be reviewed and to gain exposure.

bookdout said...

I understand that WM and other publishers need to create better systems for distributing review copies. The wording could have been better but essentially the terms are fair - if you choose not to accept those terms then that is your right.
Payment may not be in cash but a book has monetary value and the process is a professional exchange of goods for services.
I often see bloggers who read and review maybe five books a month with weekly IMM posts with half a dozen publisher arcs listed which seems like a waste to me and other bloggers seem to receive a random selection of unsolicited books that they aren't interested in. An improved targeted service is better for everyone, authors, publishers and book bloggers.
For me personally one month is unlikely to be enough lead time so that is something I think could be reconsidered - I prefer it when publishers make the book available but then have ask the review be posted within a week of its publication - then I can plan accordingly.