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Random Thoughts: Early Reviews

Every once in awhile a book blogger/reviewer will get a book in advance of publication. Whether it be electronic or printed, these are coveted, cherished and lovingly absorbed by those who have had the good fortune to receive one.

Even if part of the reason bloggers/reviewers may want these ARCs is for bragging rights or to inspire envy amongst their peers, the main reason is simply that reviewers are fans and cannot wait to see, at the earliest possible date, how a story unfolds from an author they know or one they want to get to know.

The general policy for receipt of these books is simply that a review is written. No expectation is demanded of a favorable review, nor is any compensation given. A positive review is certainly appreciated by the author or publisher, but sometimes a negative review – even if not informed or well-written – can generate enough buzz to boost sales. Sometimes bad press can be good for profitability even more than good press.

And of course recipients are happy to write their review in exchange for receipt of the early book. The appreciation for just being considered to receive these books will typically have the reviewer reading the book the moment it arrives in their mailbox.

Whether they were amazed by it, loved it, liked it or didn’t, that opinion will be disseminated to an audience that could span the globe. Whether their site has a large following or a small one, one click to tweet, to “like it” on Facebook or to mention it on another blog will vastly increase the audience.

While much has been discussed about the cost-effectiveness of distributing these books and who the appropriate audience might be to receive them, the eARC helps to get these books to a wider set of reviewers, and thus the chance for the buzz to spread farther.

And there may be some reviewers who prefer the hard copy so they have something tangible they can gloat over, or those who simply prefer to read a printed volume versus one on the computer or on an eReader, there are a number of reviewers/bloggers who simply want to be able to read and review these books, no matter the medium. And if getting the book electronically is the only way to receive these books, then it is most certainly better than getting nothing.

I, for one, am quite happy reading books on the computer, but of course prefer reading them on any one of my three eReading devices. But the one benefit that a printed book has over these electronic books is that when finished reading, it can be passed along to another reader or review so that there’s a “two for the price of one” with the printed ARC.

Granted, there are many who aren’t willing to pass along their copies, but if their reviews cause even one person to click a link to buy the book, they’ve already made it worthwhile. As that one buyer is then yet another person who can spread the word (positive or negative) and create interest.

While bloggers/reviewers are not marketers – we aren’t paid for our reviews – bloggers/blogs can be, directly or indirectly, a very good marketing tool for publishers and authors. While some will only post their early review, that is not the norm. Often there will be an image of the book cover, a countdown widget, a badge, a link to online booksellers, a link to other blogs with reviews of the same book, a link to the author’s website or blog, or notifications of upcoming releases by the publisher in the same genre.

All these unintentional marketing efforts are done by reviewers simply from receipt of this advance copy, their love of books, love of the author and in more cases than not, from their own purchase of a book.

Due to costs of printing these books publishers can and should be somewhat selective in who they pass them along to, but online reviewers/bloggers should not be wholly removed from the equation. Even if the publisher has no control over whether the recipient of the ARC acts in bad faith and passes on the review, or whether they post a poorly written or negative review, in most cases (and I have not done a cost-benefit analysis here) it would seem their dollar stretches pretty far with each book handed out.

And again, although bloggers are not beholden to the publishers for receipt of these materials, we generally tend to request or hope to receive books we think we will enjoy, from authors we like. And any efforts we do – taking time from our day to post reviews, passing on the word to our friends and family, etc. – we do simply out of our love of reading and our desire to spread the word for books we love and authors we want to see succeed.

And in our efforts to be as helpful as possible, for those of us not privy to the ins and outs of the book publishing world, the only real question that remains is how early should the review post to provide the best “bang for the buck”? When the book is first available for pre-order? Within a week or two of release date? They say timing is everything, so when is the best time?

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