An interesting debate has cropped up over on Clarissa Draper's fantastic blog recently. Clarissa asked if she should do a giveaway offering an Amazon gift-card, or if she should use that money to buy and review fellow authors' books. Most commenters thought she should buy and review, but there were a few interested threads I want to pull out.
One of them was that if you want to review a book, the author should send it for free. This is true for ARCs (which, by the way, completely depend on the publisher, not to mention limitations on how many you can distribute). If I ask someone to review my novel, I'd never expect them to buy it, and neither I nor my publisher have any issues sending out free ARCs.
But once the book is available and unsolicited review requests come in, should an author be responsible for sending out free copies of said book for review? Where should an author draw the line?
If I look at my own situation, I receive ten free copies of the final version of my paperback book. (I can usually get more if I request them, for special purposes.) These ten copies go quickly when spread amongst family members and close friends. If I was to send out a paperback for review, I'd need to: a) pay for the book myself; and b) pay for postage. My book costs £7.99 and I receive just under a pound for each in royalties, so that would leave me at a loss. I don't make enough to support my wine habit as it is! :)
I can't see my publisher too keen to send my book out to anyone (I'm talking apart from book bloggers and media) who promises a review, either. Publishing is a business. The goal is to sell books, not give them away. If I didn't sell, both myself and the publisher would go bankrupt.
Another point made in the comments section on Clarissa's blog was that if people help you promote your book in the blogosphere, you should be prepared to do quite sizeable giveaways. Whoa. Giveaways are great if you have the resources to pay for lots of postage, gift certificates, etc. Most of us are writers -- poor by definition. But that's not my main qualm. I don't help people by buying their book and doing reviews because I want something in return, nor do I expect something. For my blogsplash last year, I deliberately avoided offering prizes in return for help. To me (and this is just me), it smacked a little of desperation. I didn't want to have to trade something in return for people's assistance, you know? I wanted people to help because they wanted to help me. And if they didn't (or couldn't) fair enough.
I do my best to help and support other authors because I understand that publishing is a business, and our success and livelihood ultimately boils down to -- whether we like it or not -- sales.
What do you think?
(EDIT 1: I want to make it clear that I do think ARCs should be free, and I'm in no way opposed to giveaways -- quite the contrary! :) What has got me slightly ranty is the expectation, I guess, of something free in exchange.)
(EDIT 2: I'm not talking about book bloggers or media who review books.)