Jonathan McCalmont has raised an interesting question about whether bloggers that review genre books online are perhaps being a little short-changed by publishers. He suggests that given the amount of time and effort that are involved in maintaining an active blog, publishers should perhaps be offering bloggers more than just ARCs. Gabe has also posted a thought-provoking article about the idea. I thought I'd add my own views to the mix...
Firstly, I feel we need some perspective here.
As much as bloggers may not like to admit it, we ultimately reach a very small percentage of genre readers. Probably less than 10% of fantasy fans actually read online blogs, and so the blogs don't really have any influence on books sales. Even a popular blog like Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, which attracts over 1000 visits a day, probably doesn't affect book sales much. If Pat gives a book a bad review, it certainly doesn't mean that 1000 people are now not going to buy that book. Using David Bilsborough as an example once again, his book got slated almost universally online but that doesn't appear to have really affected its sales that much.
So, why should publishers have to offer more than ARCs when in reality genre blogs don't really help their sales that much? I'm actually surprised that some publishers are happy to send out ARCs to blogs that only receive 15 hits a day (no offense intended here - we all have to start somewhere). Is the potential audience really worth the cost to the publisher? Personally I regard a free book as more than adequate reward for my time and effort. I've already saved a considerable amount of money by receiving ARCs rather than having to buy the books. Plus I often get the book months before it is published - for a genre fan like myself, that's another bonus.
Gabe has suggested that by posting reviews and interviews, we're performing a service for publishers. I'm not sure I agree. I run this blog because I love the genre and I enjoy writing reviews and features. Perhaps I am by default providing a service for the publishers, but I certainly don't think of it like that and it's not the reason I do it. I doubt the publishers seriously view it like that either.
I think one of the reasons why compensation beyond ARCs has been mooted is because many bloggers receive unrequested books from publishers, and thus feel pressured into reading books they don't want to read simply because they've been sent a copy. In these cases, I understand why the free book may not feel like suitable compensation for the time invested.
I think the solution here for bloggers is simple: don't read the books that you don't want to read. If you've not requested a book that has been sent to you, then you have no obligation to read it. I don't have nearly as much time to read as I would like, so I'm very careful about which books I read. I turn down must books that are offered to me because I want to avoid exactly the sort of situation I've mentioned above.
Overall, I personally feel that the time and effort I have so far invested in this blog has been more than compensated by the free books I've received (not that I care much about compensation - I started this blog just for fun and it always will be just for fun).
The bottom line, I feel, is that perhaps bloggers who feel they should receive more from publishers in return for their efforts are forgetting why they started blogging in the first place, and are making unrealistic demands that don't tally with the actual influence they really wield.
As always, feel free to give your own views.