Dear Teen Me,
Whoa! An author just sent you a book and you didn’t even request it! And what’s this? BOOK MAIL ON THE FRONT PORCH?! Shut the front door. But. . . well, you don’t really have any interest in either one, now do you?
What are you going to do?
This blog series is not intended to be what I think ALL (teen) book bloggers should do or know, but what I wish I could tell myself. But I hope that these posts are helpful to some of y’all (or at least start a decent discussion).
You get home and look! There’s a book in your mailbox that you never requested. Perhaps you never even heard of it. And yet, there it is. More recently, I’ve had this happen to me and — at first — it seems like a gift! A publisher (or author) felt that I would be a good choice to promote a book.
When I first started blogging, I didn’t know about requesting ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies), or that publishers sent ARCs out to reviewers. How. Cool. Is. THAT? Even cooler is when you get a book without even asking for it because it just shows up. Yay surprises!
This is what would be considered an unsolicited book. It might be an ARC or even a finished copy (paperback/hardcover). Did it show up in your email? Then there’s an unsolicited eBook. The format doesn’t matter. What does is that the book was sent without you asking for it.
When I first found out that publishers just sent books out like that, I had 2 questions I asked myself:
- When will I start getting unsolicited books?
- Do I have to review them?
When Will the Books Start Coming?
In my early blogging days, I thought ARCs were a sign of blogging success so if you were “good enough” publishers just sent them. That is NOT true. ARCs are not a measure of success. They’re a marketing tool. Your worth as a blogger isn’t determined by whether or not you receive ARCs or early finished copies.
It also means there is no exact time when you might start getting books. It depends on the blogger, the publisher, the phases of the moon, and what you had for breakfast (I’d go with pancakes). Everyone’s timeline is different and you can’t measure your own success against someone else’s.
So one day, a book shows up that you didn’t ask for. Enter question #2.
Do I have to review an unsolicited book?
The short answer? No. I feel like there are these ideas floating around out there about what you do and don’t have to do with unsolicited review books that deserve mentioning.
“If I review the book, they’ll send more.“
The idea here being if you review whatever they send you, then you’re somehow proving yourself to them (the publisher) and you’ll get more books in the future. I can honestly say that’s not always true. There are a lot of factors that go into who gets what book and you might get one and not another it happens. I’ve had it happen to me. Reviewing unsolicited books doesn’t guarantee more will be sent to you.
“I’ll never receive another book if I don’t review this one.“
On the flip side, there’s the idea that if you don’t review a book you receive, then you get “blacklisted” as a reviewer and never get anything again. Also not true. You’re allowed to turn books down that you’re not interested in. I’ve done it with complete success and it hasn’t damaged my relationship with that publisher. You probably shouldn’t go on a public rant about how you never want to read a book sent to you because that’s just bad form and all, but you can definitely turn a book down (or just ignore it) and nothing bad will happen.
“I’m obligated to review this book that I’m not interested in.“
Um, no. You don’t want to review a book? There’s nothing stopping you from not reviewing it. You are under no obligation to review (or even read) a book that you didn’t ask for (if you asked for it. . . well, think about that one a bit more).
I’m terrible about this one. I know that I’m ultimately not obligated to review a book that I didn’t request, especially if I’m not interested in it, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling some sense of obligation because I want to help out, I want to be supportive of the publisher/author if I can. More recently, I’ve come to understand that forcing myself to read a book I have no interest in and didn’t request doesn’t end well. I usually end up disliking the book and giving it a low rating. That’s not good for anyone. So, it can be hard sometimes, but you are not obligated to review a book you didn’t request.
So what are my options?
“I’m interested in reading the book!”
Great! Read that book! If you want to, you can review it too but you don’t have to. And if you do review it, you can send that review to the publisher and start developing a working relationship if you haven’t already!
“I’m NOT interested in reading or reviewing the book.”
I’ve run into this problem a number of times. On the one hand, I want to help out the publisher and author and feature the book, but on the other, I don’t want to even read it. So a few things you can do instead:
- Feature the book on social media. You could take a photo and post it on instagram, share the book’s Goodreads page, etc. Any coverage is better than no coverage, and if you want to contact the publisher you can say that you’re not interested in the book but featured it on your media page(s) instead.
- Write a non-review post or make a video. Feature the book in a haul post/video, talk about it on your blog. You don’t have to read or review the book to cover it but, again, you’re still providing coverage.
- Offer to feature the author instead. Host the author on your platform with an interview or guest post. This showcases the book and author, gives your platform great content, and provides a simple alternative.
- Give the book away. Start a giveaway for the book to spread the word! Who knows? Maybe the winner will read/review it instead.
- Send the book to another reviewer. I love this one, personally, because you can send the book to someone who’s genuinely interested so you not only make their day but the book is more likely to receive a bit of promotion too.
- Donate the book. Give the book to your local library, school, shelter, etc.
- Do nothing. You’re not obligated to do anything.