Monday, July 9, 2012

The Blogger with the Most ARCs Does Not Rule Bloglandia

One of the biggest ongoing discussions in bloglandia is the amount of ARCS a blogger will be lucky enough to receive from publisher and/or authors. There seems to be this belief if a blogger gets all the preciouussss ARCS, they’re the best of the best of all blogs. The issue of ARCs comes into play during various conferences bloggers may attend. Book Expo America is one of these were there has been mentions of bloggers go buck wild crazy to get their hands on much coveted ARCS, so much so that they’ll give a beat down (hair pulling and the like) to possess one. I witnessed such a thing at BEA where a crowd of people rushed around a table to get their hands on the young adult books that were highlighted during the BEA Young Adult Editors' Buzz panel. It was a real feeding frenzy, which for the life of me I couldn’t understand because these same books were going to be signed by the authors and available at the publishers’ booths over the course of the week.

Then there was this same grabby grab the ARCS at this year’s annual American Library conference (the ALA). Each year I’ve heard from some source or another about bad blogger behaviors from those bloggers attending ALA. Kelly J at Stacked Books gives her full account of this year's conference and her opinion about bloggers who have taken all the ARCs before librarians can get to them, including two bloggers (their first time attending ALA) who posted a video showing off their book swag, which came across as bragging. Questions have arisen about bloggers being allowed to go to a conference like ALA, even though it’s open to the public, and as long as you pay the registrations fee, just like BEA, you’re allowed in regardless of your title or role in the publishing industry/community.

ALA states on their website: “The Annual Conference is the world’s largest event for the library community. Bringing together more than 25,000 librarians, educators, authors, publishers, literacy experts, illustrators and the leading suppliers to the market, the Annual Conference gives you a once-a-year opportunity to advance your career and improve your library.”

ALA does sound much like BEA, which was once for booksellers. Note the “literacy experts” mention. I would assume a book blogger is a literary expert, correct? And if a blogger is paying the registration price just like a librarian, don’t they have the right to attend and take ARCS?

Part of attending a conference like ALA and BEA is having the opportunity to get ARCS. But the main goal of going is just not to pad your personal library and get these books that are are a nice part of your registration fee. The purpose, IMO, in attending an industry event like ALA or BEA is to network, meet industry professionals and those who work for the publishers and the authors. It’s to learn of new and exciting trends in the publishing world. I think we can all agree that librarians and book bloggers want the same thing- to promote books and those who write them and everything incredible about the written word.

My purpose in going to this year’s BEA wasn’t to get ARCs. Yes, it’s a nice perk, and when you walk around the BEA convention floor (I can’t speak to ALA since I’ve never gone), you can’t help yourself but want the books being spotlighted. I liken it to being a kid in a candy store. Like this year and every year past, I treated myself as a reporter who was reporting on behalf of my publication, aka my blog. I do this for any event I attend, even for NYC Comic Con. I was in the reporting mode and took pictures and notes and met with people to report this event. My ultimate goal wasn’t to grab every book offered to me, unlike some who when all was said and done grabbed hundreds of books just because they could.

I didn’t create my blog for the sole purpose of getting free things aka books. I started my blog with an emphasis on publishing and books and authors because no one I surrounded myself off line read or wanted to discuss books. I wanted to find that community I could connect with and found that on-line. I would think the majority of book bloggers want the same, but sometimes I wonder if the recent book blogs popping up are created just so they can get free books.

The book blogger who gets all the ARCS don’t have all the power or are the best of the best. I’ve had people ask me, what makes a book blog a success? Is a book blog a success by the amount of ARCS they’re offered? Perhaps for some, just like the number of traffic or unique hits a blog may get. A person’s success if subjective, just like that experience when reading a book. In a given month, I will receive 30 ARCs or books, ranging from print to ebook. With online sources like Netgalley and Edelweiss, plus free Kindle reads, this has increased tenfold. Does that make me a powerful blogger because I can get my hand on coveted books months before their release?

Let me share a story of the very first ARC I was given. It was back when I was blogging elsewhere on another blog. Around this time a blogger, whose blog was more like a review website, was sent a book I was dying to get my hands on. They received the book a few months in advance of the release date. At this time I thought publishers only sent out ARCS to online review sites and not book blogs (this was back in 2007). I contacted the blogger in possession of this coveted book who I had communicated in the past with. I simply wanted to know about a certain character’s role in this book. The blogger, in not so many words, told me to get lost; they weren’t going to tell me anything. I felt they did this purposely to rub it my face that they got this book and I didn’t. I really have to thank that blogger for what they did because I took it upon myself to do something I thought I would never do before. I went on the publisher’s website, found an email address for book requests, and wrote a professional sounding email asking for the book, thinking there was no chance someone would respond. Less than a week later, a publicist responded back and said they would send me the book, a hard cover of all things! And then they opened the floodgates. They asked if I would be interested in receiving other books each month. I was more than open to receiving more books and started reaching out to more publishers for review copies, aka ARCS. To my surprise, they sent them to me. I then decided to start my own blog because I loved talking about the books I read. And the rest is history.

I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity and to read some authors I would have never had read if not for the publishers’ sending me books, the majority of which were debut or lesser known authors. That’s what’s wonderful about book bloggers overall. They're great at word of mouth and introducing the world to debut or little known authors who wouldn’t have the chance to shine because most mainstream review publications only highlight much buzzed books, the authors or establish authors who can make their publisher a great deal of money.

As much as there are mentions of greediness and rudeness at conferences, there are examples of extreme generosity and selflessness. I witnessed this first hand at BEA while I waited on line to meet John Green and to get a copy of The Fault in our Stars. It was a ticketed event, but I didn’t have a ticket, and was in the stand-by line. Elizabeth of Gossamer Obsessions had a ticket. The line was huge and there were some who had purchased, VIP, jump to the head of the line passes, much like those tickets at amusement parks. When she saw me, she offered me her space in line.I almost accepted, but declined because she was a big fan of John’s. Instead of waiting around, I left. Later on I saw Elizabeth again and she told me she gave up her space in line for a another, a teenage girl, who was a big fan of John Green. Elizabeth didn’t have to do that, but she did. And knowing a teenager would meet an author she admired, especially when it’s believed most teenagers don’t read, is what counts. (Correction: Elizabeth told me that she gave her ticket to the mother of a teenager. Still, very admirable to give her place up in line.)

I’m interested in your opinions on this issue whether you’re a librarian, publishing industry insider or book blogger. Should ALA and BEA or other industry minded conferences limit the type of people attending? Again, if it’s open to the public and if you’re willing to pay the registration price, shouldn’t you be allowed to go, including taking any ARCS available? Also, many of these book drops the publishers’ have at their booths are first come first serve. If you miss out on getting a book, regardless of being a librarian or blogger, who’s to say who should have it over the other?

For more on this issue, check out these sites:
Agnostic, Maybe: Raiders of the Conference ARC
Book Hooked Blog: R-E-S-P-E-C-T



Blodeuedd said...

I mean if you pay to get in then you should get those ARCS, or make new rules that they can't get in or that some things are librarian only.

As for ARCS, I created my blog to talk to people. And I get so sad when i see new blogs popping up and the first thing they post about is how to get ARCS. That does make it seem that they created it for one reason only.

Amanda said...

I have a blog where I write crappy reviews about the books that I read, I'm also on my local library board, and have been for four years. I haven't been to the ALA conference, nor BEA. I did however, go to our state's local library conference. At the conference, my friend and and fellow board member stopped by the Playaway booth where they were showing off their Playaway Views. My friend and I came home and beat down our library director's door and told him we wanted those in our library. Because of that, we eventually became a library that is beta testing their product. After all of this long story, and experience, I would like to think that if I went to the ALA conference, I would want to network with other library-types, learn how to promote my library, and basically get new ideas keep the library strong in our community. If faced with a feeding frenzy of bloggy-types, I probably wouldn't make the trip back. I guess if you pay your fees, and ARC's are what you want, then you're entitled to them. If you're in it for the library aspect, it sounds like a situation where you would have to struggle to go home with new ideas about library issues.

mepamelia said...

I for one don't understand why a blogger would want a lot of ARCs. If you write a review of a book 2 weeks or a month before it's published and it's a book I want to read I might not even read the review (I prefer surprise and discovery on my own.) Then, by the time I get around to reading it on my own I don't think there's any point to commenting/discussing the book on that blog.
So, I can see people who are readers being excited about being first to read the next big/new thing, but I think bloggers should take care how many ARCs they gather up/review.
Of course that's just me. Maybe other readers/blog-visitors love to read reviews a month before they can get their hands on the book?

AnimeJune said...

Awwwww, thank you! To be completely accurate - I didn't give my ticket away to a teen, but to a teen's mother because she wasn't able to come to the conference.

I think there's entitlement issues on both sides of the blogger-publisher relationship that outsiders might not know.

PUBLISHERS and AUTHORS need to realize that free book promotion is a POSITIVE SIDE EFFECT of book blogs and their positive reviews, not the PURPOSE of book blogs. Therefore, ARCs are not "paying for" good reviews.

Similarly, bloggers need to understand that ARCs and free books are a POSITIVE SIDE EFFECT of blogging - they shouldn't be the PURPOSE of blogging, nor are bloggers ENTITLED to ARCs because they are book bloggers.

KB/KT Grant said...

Blodeuedd: Like you, I created my blog to talk to people and not to win some popularity contest or to receive freebies. Far too many Book bloggers seems obsessed with getting as many ARCS as they can.

Amanda:I think part of it has to also do with the professionalization factor. Librarians get paid, book bloggers don't. For some reason if you're given a salary or some type of monetary payment, you a higher standard when it comes to your career.

Mepamelia:I find myself having that same problem. The majority of the books I read are ones I don't review because they're underwhelming or just so blah that if I reviewed them, I wouldn't have much to say.

AnimeJune: Oops my bad, I thought you had given it to a teenager. Still, not many people would move from their place in line for another.

Tasha B. said...

For the past 3 years I've heard reports of bloggers "stealing" ARCs at ALA. I certainly don't approve of that behavior, but the people who run the conference haven't changed anything--the general public is still allowed in, people are still given ARCs. If it was really that much of a problem one would think the organizers would change something. I can't help but wonder if this isn't a case of isolated incidents being blown out of proportion.