21Oct

Travels & Embargoes

I went to London to have dinner the chap on the left, China (and rather randomly, Tony Blackburn was seated nearby in the restaurant). Then shortly after we met up with the lady on the right, who is covering her face. That’s our editor, Julie, who disappointingly did not turn up in her Halloween costume (she was going to a party later). I was also disappointed I couldn’t snap Julie in said evil-looking costume, because it denied me the opportunity to use the joke “That’s what she wears when she edits manuscripts”. But I’ve used that now, so that’s okay. Anyway, we drank lots of whisky, and converted China to the delights of Laphroaig, and it was one of those very creatively energising days, full of book talk and culture talk and random geek talk.

It wouldn’t be the blogosphere without a little tiff now and then. The big topic at the moment is embargoes, notably of them being broken and of complaints following.

When I worked in bookselling, embargoes came and went all the time (and were broken with astonishing predictability). Bookstores would be in touch with each other to see who broke it first – because as soon as the first one went, we all would start selling the book. Embargoes are a method whereby publishers can try to get a book to chart as highly as possible and make more money by doing so. By limiting the discussion – but more importantly the opportunity for sales – the theory is that everyone will go out and buy a book in that same week and therefore send the book racing up the charts. It’s nothing more than a controlled attempt to maximise sales.

Personally, however, I do feel that it’s bad juju to demand reviewers to follow strict guidelines – especially when a publisher has leaned heavily upon said reviewing community for publicity in the past. I’m just disappointed that a publisher can be in a position to ask for embargoes at all, because not that long ago, they were dismissive of blog reviewers entirely, then a little later they could not get enough out of Being Part Of The CommunityTM and threw out review copies at anyone who would turn their way.

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About Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

39 comments

  1. I recently had the foresight and good fortune to prevent a title being placed on the floor too soon. That’s right folks, the Jedward biography will not be available until the 24th. It is in the building now, but you can’t have it :0P

  2. Your Mysterious Trip to London, now accounted for…

    …and here I was thinking you were perhaps jumping ships to Gollanz! Or at least attending their party.

    Good choice in whisky by the way – though I’m fond of a dram of Lagavulin as well just to keep it lively.

    I personally think the whole outrage over the Embargo imbroglio is utterly silly. Why should other bloggers care? Let them choose to uphold it or not. It’s marketing and everyone involved (should be) adults.

    Hope you enjoyed the City. I spent the day fighting off the blues by wandering through the woods with my delightful children:

    We climbed ancient oaks, filled our pockets with glossy conkers and red-orange rose hips, marveled at mushrooms in the shape (and texture) of human ears, picked wild apples and frost-spit sloes, tossed egg-shaped rocks into brimming ditches and sailed leaf boats down the rapids of the same amid the barrage of our merciless cannons, watched horses run across the pasture with their manes and tails flying, and tracked their prints through the clayey mud of the trails as serious as hunters on the spoor of big game.

    Back home to mugs of hot chocolate, home made cottage pie, and afterwards kids dozing on the couch cushions. Both of them soon carried up to bed, slightly sticky and smelling of chocolate and autumn.

    Not a bad day in the life in the country even if my head’s always in London. Glad you had a night of it there & a safe trip home.

    Enjoy.

    E.

  3. P.S.

    I just noticed that in your picture above, China looks like a gigantic ogre! Especially with his mammoth, shaven mellon. No wonder Julie is hiding.

  4. The embargo thingy is very entertaining because it’s all about venting about the “I cannot understand how this guy is still popular”

    Now if I remember correctly it’s been recently done in what passes for serious reviewing too.

    The “I cannot understand how this guy is still popular” thingy I mean…

  5. Yes, publishers are talking out of their trousers if they think they’ve got a right to place embargoes on reviewers. If they’re that bothered, why aren’t they just sending the review copies out by next day delivery a couple of days before? Are they worried they’ll then get too few reviews in time for high release week sales?

    Blog reviews are already heavily slanted in favour of publishers in that bloggers are that much more reliant on currying favour in order to receive books in the first place and hence far more likely to give positive reviews than are conventional publications. The addition of embargoes really does look like an outright attempt to turn review blogs into part of the publishers’ own promotion. That seems to me a good thing only in the short term, and only for a lucky few; are publishers able to rely on guaranteed publicity and favourable reviews going to set themselves the same standards of quality and originality they might if faced with the full, unfettered critical glare of review before release?

  6. Graham – I forgot about how embargoes were nearly always for celebs. Or in this case “celebs”.

    Eric – now that sounds like a good day indeed. I approve very much!

    Liviu – is it really? I only tracked half the debate then, it seems. It is a great shame that the blogosphere gets like this.

    Matt – absolutely, I quite agree. They are essentially trying to control (and therefore use) reviewers for their own aims. I’m just surprised so few reviewers seem to realise this. At least by breaking the embargo, the reviewer in this case is doing things on his own terms.

  7. I don’t know that it’s a question of reviewers not realising that the industry has finally started to see them as a potential marketing tool and is using them as such. I can’t speak for everyone else and if embargoes were asked for all the time i’d feel differently,but as obvious a ploy as an embargo is, it’s still a request from someone we are doing business with in a tentative manner. Bloggers and publishers still haven’t entirely settled into how the relationship is going to work longer term. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that while we all try to work out how we want those relationships to work, we try to respect requests. At the end of the day, I want people to buy books I think are worth reading, if an embargo helps with that then great. Since if I don’t enjoy a book I am unlikely to finish it (hence the rarity of negative reviews on Un:Bound, life’s too short, rather than I don’t want to upset anyone) so an embargo is unlikely to change my behaviour towards a book i didn’t like.

  8. Huh – we’ve been talking about embargoes and book-blogging etiquette quite a lot over on the Pornokitsch backchannel recently. Not that we’ve reached any conclusions or solutions, mind you. But we’re more or less in agreement with you, re. bad juju.

    Tangentially, four Tor ladies (including Julie) bounced into the party last night in full zombie makeup and gear, and looked totally awesome. Chloe confessed that they collected in the bathroom after work and zombied-up together.

  9. I am in complete agreement with you re: embargoes.

    What surprised me the most is how everybody was prepared to attack and point fingers at the blogger in question but I haven’t seen anyone even remotely considering or thinking or criticising the embargo itself.

    I think that it is odd when bloggers jump to protect publishers and their rights but don’t consider the other side, the side that they are effectively on: that of the reviewers and readers.

    I don’t like embargoes. Not only because I know they are, as you say, an attempt to maximise sales but also, to me it is nothing less than pure censorship to try and control early negative reviews from making appearances.

  10. See now I disagree about this whole embargoes furore. Certainly, from my perspective, as an editor, it’s not about controlling reviews or reviewers but about ensuring information spoilers aren’t put out there to mar everyone else’s reading pleasure. Tor UK very, very rarely uses them and when we do – it’s because we want everyone to get the same feeling of impact at the same time rather than dribbling information out to a select few. It’s about us saying, this is really important to us, we want it to be dramatic, we want everyone to be excited about it at the same time.
    Reviews, when they come, are going to be negative or positive no matter what we want – there’s no control over that and nor would we want there to be.
    With proofs, the reason why we get them out to reviewers early with an embargo, rather than just delaying it until publication is courtesy. We all know how many books reviewers get, we want them to have the chance to actually read it.
    It’s funny that everyone gets antsy about this but in the film industry it’s pretty much a given that most films have an embargo on for review coverage.

  11. Julie, thanks for the input.

    I honestly don’t get the need to protect readers from spoilers. Not only because there are those who like and actively seek for those spoilers but because those who don’t want to know, all they have to do is not read them.

    I tend to think that spoilers out there? Tend to make the wait even more cool. I knew everything that there was to know about HP7 and yet I was there waiting for my postman at 7am by the door. That’s just me and my opinion of course but I really don’t see why publishers should be worried about marring people’s reading pleasure.

  12. I don’t see a problem with embargoes. Review copies are provided to the media as a courtesy, so publishers absolutely have the right to place restrictions when the coverage runs. If you buy the book yourself then you can run it whenever you like – when you’re supplied it, conditions are to be expected as long as they don’t affect your integrity.

    And it doesn’t affect integrity as it doesn’t affect the content of the review, just the issue of the magazine or post of the blog in which it’s contained. It’s a simple fact that reviews, no matter how independent and detailed, are intrinsically an unconscious part of publicity. By their very existence you’re publicising the fact that the book exists to an audience. It’s the independent content that matters. Publishers, in my mind, are free to say “Here’s a proof of this book so you have a while to read it, but we’d appreciate it if you ran the review during the month it hits shelves.” It’s perfectly reasonable as a guideline. The only unreasonable ones are if publishers say not to run a review if it’s below a certain score or try to influence the content of said review, but I’ve never come across that in the literary sphere during my years working as a journalist.

  13. I’ll disagree with Julie a bit later, but Jim – what seems be missing from the equation there is why they send you review copies in the first place – for free coverage in order to sell books. That’s the bottom line. They need bloggers to talk about their books to help sell books. Bloggers are completely independent, and this is simply a method to control – be that for excitement or whatever, it still comes down to maximising value, because that’s what businesses do. And if there is a claim that publishers use embargoes because they’re excited about a book – does that imply they’re not excited about others?

  14. But Jim, there is a HUGE difference between

    “Here’s a proof of this book so you have a while to read it, but we’d appreciate it if you ran the review during the month it hits shelves.” as a guideline that can be followed by a reviewer should they wish so and an EMBARGO which is a strict, downright prohibition.

  15. Mark,

    Of course they send you a copy for free coverage, it’s the way that the business works. I’d be shocked if they paid for coverage, although reviews can sometimes be guaranteed (as being published, not in terms of content) as a part of ad deals. The only way to be truly independent is, as I say, to buy the books yourself when it hits the shelves, but then you’ll always be late.

    As Julie said, embargoes are commonplace in film. I recently visited the set of a film that I can’t even name until November next year. And some of the NDAs and embargoes in videogames could have been drafted by the same people who write national security acts. Literature, by comparison, is very lenient in this regard.

    I just don’t agree that it’s about control beyond a very loose sense of a sinister word. It’s about maximising the publicity that you gain from providing a free copy. If it is a problem for the blogger or journalist, then they’re perfectly within their rights to refuse the proof for review, but by accepting it then you enter into a loose contract which, to my mind, is reasonable.

  16. Ana,

    Sure, but as I said above, the blogger is then well within their rights to refuse the proof if they consider the restriction on publication to be too Orwellian. Publishers don’t have an obligation to provide ARCs, it’s a courtesy.

  17. Not quite an embargo, but Angry Robot sent a request to bloggers asking that they agree to accept ARCs only for a 100% guarantee that all of the books in question would be reviewed. I don’t know a single blogger who accepted that restriction (and many of the individual Angry Robot authors have sent out their own ARCs to bloggers individually anyway) as it was unworkable.

    What is odd about the situation is that these embargoes seem mainly to be for inevitably massive-selling novels with insane marketing spends where people are going to ignore most reviews anyway and make their own minds up. Pat’s review of THE GATHERING STORM last year was pretty negative but didn’t seem to impact sales at all.

  18. Jim – sorry, to clarify – are you saying that SciFi Now will tend to review books that have been paid for via advertising? Or that by advertising in your magazine, you’re more likely to review books?

    Adam – really? That’s interesting. I know someone on Twitter mentioned “One other thing to add to the debate, they have allowed specific WoT “mega-fans” to publish early reviews, makes it even murkier.” The debate continues…

  19. What is odd about the situation is that these embargoes seem mainly to be for inevitably massive-selling novels with insane marketing spends

    I don’t think this that odd. They have got a captive audience who are going to buy the latest WoT even if it is literally one of Sanderson’s turds between two covers. Since they’ve got this audience of willing fanboys they may as well whip them into a frenzy that might boil over into wider recognition. I had no idea Towers of Midnight was even being released; I do now.

    The reason embargos are less common in literature than film and videogames is because blockbuster novels are so rare in comparison. Long may this be the case.

  20. For Christ’s sake, guys, could you please mention my name when you talk about me??? You make me feel like Mike Tyson in his heydays! I don’t recall ever beating the shit out of anyone in the publishing world, so I don’t understand why people should be afraid to name the person who’s in the middle of this fiasco.

    I’m on my way to work, so I don’t have time to elaborate on this. I’ll just copy-and-paste what I wrote on Genre Reader last night:

    “Just chiming in here to say that the email I received from Tor regarding the book was of a more personal nature and even included a link to the first goal by a Boston Bruins rookie. The message I received didn’t include the aforementioned directive preventing us to post any and all content. Had I been playing by those rules, I would have followed them.

    I have the evidence on my AOL account and a copy of the email in question has been sent to Tor. I will not make it public until they get back to me on this, nor will I do if they ask me to keep silent about this.

    Now you can call me a liar, a fuck-up, etc. I can live with that. But I reiterate that the email I got did not include the paragraph you guys have posted. I was simply asked to hold my review till November 2nd. So, as was the case last year, I thought it was okay to discuss the book without including spoilers. I became aware of this directive when I read this post earlier this afternoon, and I now understand why other bloggers are so pissed off. Never expected such virulence, but at least I know where the shit is coming from!

    I could exonerate myself easily by posting the content of the email I received, but I’ll refrain from doing anything till the folks at Tor Books get back to me. I have a feeling that they’ll want to keep this in-house, so to speak.

    Of course, most people will probably say that I’m only lying again, that I’ll do anything to get more hits, that I’m no gentleman, etc. That’s the way love goes. 😉

    And if I do post the email that will exonerate me, I won’t expect any apologies, so no worries. I still maintain that flame-ups like these are more detrimental to the SFF blogosphere than anything else. Food for thought…”

    I will admit that I’m always more than a little dismayed by the amount of hatred I somehow manage to generate with Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist. Popularity breeds jealousy no matter what field you play in and it’s part of the territory, but sometimes I wonder why I bother. Then I realize that the silent majority, those who come in droves, keep reading the blog and don’t really give a damn about those tempests in a teacup.

    As unpleasant as all the crap coming my way has been, it’s not what bothers me the most. I guess I have a pretty thick skin. No, it’s the fact that I’m protrayed as the kind of guy who refuse to work with publishers, who just does his own thing, middle finger raised high, with no regard to the publishing industry. Sure, I refuse to kiss ass. That’s just how I have always been. But ask most authors, editors, publicists, and marketing people, and I’m persuaded they’ll tell you how accomodating I am.

    Ask Liviu and he’ll tell you how maintaining blogs like ours is in many ways a kind of partnership with the publishing industry. We work alongside them every step of the way, it seems. Sure, both sides have their own agendas, but we do meet in the middle where everything overlaps and everyone wants the same thing: Spread the word about great books.

    99.9% of interviews, guest blogs, giveaways, excerpts, etc, you see on the Hotlist comes at my request. So I’m always working alongside publishers to see whether or not these things are within the realm of possibilities. Given how much time-consuming this can be and the fact that I’ve always done it and will continue to do so because that’s what makes the Hotlist what it is, I find it hard to believe that I’m being portrayed as the kind of selfish person who simply doesn’t give a fuck about writers and publishers.

    Thems the breaks, right!?!

    By the way, I’ll be reading CITY OF RUIN next. The Erikson proofs have been delayed, so I find myself with enough time on my hands to give a shot to an obscure fantasy writer, one Charan Newton bloke. Makes jam and marmelade during the weekend, I’m told…

    Evil Pat

  21. For Christ’s sake, guys, could you please mention my name when you talk about me???

    It is pretty obvious that as a rampant self-publicist this is exactly what you want and why you broke embargo in the first place. Which is why people aren’t giving you what you want.

    The message I received didn’t include the aforementioned directive preventing us to post any and all content.

    And yet first sentences of your review are: “Okay, so I’m about 2/3 into Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson’s Towers of Midnight. But you should know by now that there is an embargo on reviews, so I won’t get to post mine until November 2nd.” After which you then posted your review of the first 2/3 of the novel.

    I will admit that I’m always more than a little dismayed by the amount of hatred I somehow manage to generate with Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist.

    It is simple: you are a cock. If you manage to fix that then perhaps people will hate on you a bit less.

  22. I think the Angry Robot case is a bit more reasonable than Adam suggests, because it only applies to the physical copies. Any blogger who doesn’t like it can stick with the ebook copies, so it’s not a case of having to promise to review something or getting cut out of the loop altogether.

    I’m more interested in Julie’s argument about preventing spoilers from ruining people’s enjoyment of a book. What kind of thoughtless book blogger posts loads of spoilers in a review, anyway? That suggests to me publishers are being too indiscriminate about who they give ARCs to in the first place, and a bit of quality control is in order.

  23. Wow, what a debate, huh? Implosion indeed!

    Anyway.

    Martin – sorry, mate, but you were a bit hard there. Pat is known -has always been known, in fact- as a guy who doesn’t stand down or mince words; he swears, and that’s him, but he didn’t attack anyone verbally the way you attacked him, so just relax, man, there’s no need.

    On embargoes – I can’t have an opinion, really; see, here in South Africa, the average wait for any book, fic or non-fic, is three months, so most readers here know what’s going to be happening in the book they read anyway. In my case, I accidentaly broke the embargoe for Under the Dome – RJ and Brandon are huge in the genre, sure, but SK is MASSIVE and I didn’t get into trouble, so I can’t see reviewers getting into trouble at all – we are, for sure, offering free marketing and publicity for the books we read on behalf of the publishers, and publicity is publicity, fortunately or unfortunately.

    Where embargoes do matter, I believe, is in bookstores – here we get fined, and the fines are massive, if a store breaks embargo – rightfully, in my opinion. It’s still not a massive issue, though, but it is an important issue in the industry here and the majority of the stores and businesses do keep to the agreements that are signed.

    Either way, blogs breaking embargo isn’t an issue, but I do see the need for embargoes, especially in stores. I’ve got a feeling that many blockbusters would have tanked if there weren’t embargoes, and many people would have been angry to have heard the plot details for Deathly Hallows a couple of weeks before its release. Where I would care about embargo being broken – A Memory of Life and The Crippled God. Both books represent the end of massive storylines and the ends of eras.

    But I will know what happens in Towers of Midnight a month after everyone else, global release date or not: South Africa is just not part of the global publishing industry for it to matter much to us, except for the fact that our having to wait pisses readers off. So either way, embargoes don’t really affect us.

  24. This whole ‘debate’ is giving the SFF blogosphere a rather unsavoury reputation. Personally, it seems to me that there is an element of jealousy involved which has turned into one big pissing contest. Is this what bloggers want to be known for? I think not. Get over it and go back to what you are good at – reading and reviewing books!

  25. I find myself doubting that the majority of the controversy is about the embargo itself. Though, I’d never even heard of such a thing before this week and it sounds a little counterproductive.

  26. Questions of self-publicity aside, and with due respect to the Blogger Who Shall Not Be Named – the main reason for not dropping names is to do with people being more interested in talking about the *topic* of embargoes – what they are, why they’re used, if they should or should not be heeded by reviewers – than what one blogger chose to do.

    It might have sparked the discussion, but if you read upwards towards the source on *this* blog, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

    I hope you aren’t disappointed but it was an interesting topic.

    Unless you’re so vain, you probably thought this post was about you.

    Enjoy.

    E.

  27. I’m not convinced fans need to be protected from spoilers. This seems like a slightly patronising approach to me. I’m sure fans are perfectly capable themselves of not reading reviews or leaks of a book they don’t want to have spoiled. I also suspect, setting an embargo on a major title, has as much to do with building anticipation that can then be released in one big flurry of publicity on the day of launch, as it does with guarding reader enjoyment. That said, I think it is important that bloggers, publishers and authors, cultivate a relationship based on mutual trust and respect for the good of our shared interest in literature.

    I also agree with Sam Sykes and Murf61. It seems to me that some of the antagonism directed at the individual whose actions have sparked this debate, seem a tad over the top for just the issue of breaking an embargo to be responsible.

    Regardless of questions of self publicity, what one thinks of this individual, his blog, his actions or those of his supporters; or indeed whether his actions in particular were being discussed here – making personal attacks is poor form in my opinion. The internet is such an easy barrier behind which to hide and hurl personal insults.

  28. I agree that here there has been a great discussion about embargoes and more generally publicity issues and I think that is in no small measure due to the respect Mr. Newton has acquired in the sff community, but the original posts were “J’accuse” style big time and quite inappropriate at least in tone and I would say in content too considering that not all facts were known.

  29. I suppose, as an outsider looking into both book-blogging and publishing – and one who thinks, purely from a reader’s perspective, that the blogging community are pretty lucky to have such access to the industry (free copies before release and so on) – I have to see it as a case of rather churlishly biting the hand that feeds. I’ve only once been given a novel pre-release, and I felt so honoured to have been given it (this is the product of someone’s hard work and imagination) that I wouldn’t have dreamed of going against their wishes with regard to it. I just see doing otherwise as a slap in the face really.

  30. Mark,

    No, I didn’t express that clearly enough. What I mean is that in terms of added value, if a publisher advertises, along with website takeovers, sticky blog posts and the like, then the book can be given a review.

    That doesn’t mean that a book review is paid for, or that it will affect the content of said review in any way whatsoever – editorial and advertising are clearly demarcated as you would expect, and there have been cases where such novels have received one star – just that it will receive a review in an issue.

    But with regards to the comments above, and as someone said, the topic was interesting rather than the specific person or issue in question.

  31. Never have I been so thankful that my new day job has kept me on the fringes of the latest rounds. Oh wait, I received quite a few private messages over the past week, so that might not be accurate. All I know is that after the past year, but especially after the past week, I have become more and more baffled over those uninformed commentators who seem to have this wrong-headed notion that receiving review copies is a “privilege.”

    I have developed a healthy distrust (perhaps skepticism would be a more apt word, come to think of it) of those sending out the materials. Perhaps I should someday transcribe and post all of the hundreds of press releases for “the latest” and “the greatest.” I know it’s a case of publicists (who are underpaid and overworked as a rule) doing what they have to do, but that does not mean that I have to kiss the ring just because I receive something slightly early due to my visibility as a critic, reviewer, and recently as an anthology editor and freelance translator. There’s some absolute shit I’m sent and I’m not going to try and polish those turds. I am respectful enough to just not say a word about the majority of those works that I disliked, but that does not mean that I’m going to curry favor by reviewing something more positively than I believe the book deserves. But since some seem to be making a bunch of noise huffing about Pat and to a much lesser extent myself without ever really questioning their own incestuous relationships with publishers (I believe several mean well, but appear to lack that healthy skepticism I mentioned above), perhaps it’s time for many to remove motes from their own eyes as well? After all, who is buying whom, some silly people might ask. It might be past time to redress that.

  32. Larry – ‘I have become more and more baffled over those uninformed commentators who seem to have this wrong-headed notion that receiving review copies is a “privilege.”’ – Absolutely. It’s bizarre, quite frankly, that many reviewers still look at themselves in this servile manner. Respect is one thing, but for publishers to expect a degree of submissiveness is troubling.

  33. I’ll keep this short as the storm as blow by.

    I’ve always thought that embargoes serve the writer and the book rather than the publisher as they try and keep a lid on plot details that fans really want to know but would probably end up spoiling their own enjoyment by knowing.

    I’m not sure they always serve the reader as you don’t know the merit of what you are getting in advance if you buy it on day of release.

    Of course the other thing that embargoes do is create a marketing bubble that can blitz a book across media. Again not a bad thing for that writer or that book.

    Though this kind of treatment is very rare. I’ve had a few books where embargoes are in place for those spoilery reasons – The Little Stranger and Under the Dome to name the two highest books.

    Now if the whole thing about review copies is a ‘privilege’ or not comes down to a few things mostly human nature and being competitive.

    I’m pretty sure that I can get hold of a copy of most books before they get released. Does that make me privileged? Depends on who you ask? Does that make other people jealous? Definitely! And do I get jealous when people get people get books I don’t? I get miffed in some cases sure!

    But publishing and reading to a larger extent is built on relationships – hence the pile of guilt you hear about, which doesn’t come from the publicists but from the books themselves because most of the bloggers I know see a person who has invested a huge amount of themselves in that book we haven’t read and stuck to the bottom of a growing book pile.

    Books I’ve decided are the worlds weirdest objects for a few bits of printed paper they don’t have bring out behaviour that would be seen as odd in any other circumstance.

  34. Kind of glad I’m well out of these businesses of reviewing and publishing then, that reduce works of fiction to their value in terms of blog hits or purchases. I didn’t see it as submission or servility, and was dressing the whole thing up in a more gentile environment than actually is the case: now rather I see the whole thing as one side saying “do this please, so we can maximise profits” and the other saying “ah no, but if I don’t, I’ll maximise the hits on my site” – on other words rather grubby and self-serving on both ends. Thought it was all a bit nicer than that – books seen just as commodities even by those that’re supposedly reading and reviewing them for the love of it.

  35. @Alex C

    The problem with these discussion of mechanics is that it can give the false impression that the whole blogging of books can fall into:

    “do this please, so we can maximise profits” and the other saying “ah no, but if I don’t, I’ll maximise the hits on my site””

    But the reality honestly is closer to people blogging because they love books and sharing them. There is no money in it for the blogger and after a while the whole hits thing is a false motivator.

    You start off chasing hits most of the time because you want people to hear your voice but hits level off and fall so you either keep posting things that will get you found like posting an embargoed book review or only posting about ‘hot topic books’

    Or you find that hits and the rest don’t matter as much as you thought as you get much more satisfaction from one or two people saying they liked your review or bought the book because of you or they share your passion for an author.

    Don’t get me wrong it’s nice to get review copies but I personally feel it’s a fair exchange – I get a book and the publisher gets a chance of me talking about it. I’m not going to talk about books saying I like them if I don’t.

    That would be not only be false but you can tell people that don’t really love what they are ‘selling’. And I’m not ‘selling’ books I’m trying to get more people to love what I do. I’m hoping that if I keep talking about Paul Magrs enough that more people will discover him.

    What publishers are doing by sending review copies is giving those authors a chance to be discovered and promoted by people that will be passionate about them – see James Long’s review on Daniel Abraham – he got slack off a reader because he was being too passionate about them. WTF is that about?

    It’s very rare to get bloggers/reviewers/magazines/newspapers to something at the same time – so breaking an embargo is a big deal as the pros do as asked only to be scooped by someone that just wants to show off (and you’re protesting too much Pat – you knew there was an embargo and you’ve been around long enough not to have thought your comments didn’t break that request).

    It all comes down to the hassle factor for the publisher – they want a launch like TOM to be special and not because it’s going increase profits – the book will sell itself in this case. But the fans will get a kick and excitement about seeing their book plastered everywhere.

    Publishing is a business but I’ve never met anyone that works in it who hasn’t sold the book to me as what the book is – something like you’ll like this because it’s like x,y,z or you like crime or I know you don’t read it but it’s good because of…

    You get the idea. The death of a book is being left undiscovered and more bloggers probably should invest more time in those books that don’t get talk about and try and discover more they’d like.

    I guess the question my fellow bloggers need to ask themselves is would they keep blogging if they didn’t get review copies? And if they didn’t get them what would they blog about?

  36. It’s just a business, people. I select what interests me in some form or fashion and I critique it. If companies want to make certain things visible, yes, they can send it to me, but I’m not going to be going anymore out of my way to consider certain titles. Simple as that.

    And Gav, I’m more than just a book blogger these days. I’m beginning a career as an occasional, freelance translator and my priorities deal with other matters. I might contact editors or authors for materials for translation, but that is a very different matter from commenting on the quality of the works, since what I’m doing in those situations is writing/composition and not strictly evaluation. So would I be doing what I do without review copies? Certainly, since I’ve made the switch already, for the most part at least.

  37. Hi Gav,

    You’re wrong about this. I’ve been on the Tor Books mailing list since late 2005, when debut novelist Brandon Sanderson put me in touch with his publicist because he felt the Hotlist was exactly the kind of venue which could give exposure to ELANTRIS. That’s irony for you! 😛

    Since then, I’ve received most of the Tor titles in ARC form and finished copies of ALL the books they have published. That’s a shitload of books, we can all agree. Since late 2005 and prior to TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT, if I remember correctly Tor has only published two embargoed titles. The first was THE GATHERING STORM last fall and then THE WAY OF KINGS this summer. These two are the ONLY titles for which Tor ever requested that I hold off my review till the pub date. And yet, for both of these titles, there was never a directive that the books couldn’t be discussed on MBs, blogs, Facebook, etc. The understanding was that they simply didn’t want major spoilers to be revealed. Hence, along with several bloggers who received ARCs or review copies, I did discuss both TGS and TWoK rather extensively on many occasions and on various venues.

    Having no clue about the directive that every other blogger received, I firmly believed that it was “business as usual” when I did discuss ToM on Westeros and on the Hotlist. Had I known, I would have refrained from doing so. Some people commented that over the years I have become a good friend of Tor and it wasn’t in their best interest to “punish” me. Well, let me go on the record and say that Tor have always been very good friends of the Hotlist. So it goes both ways. My blog has been a window providing exposure to many, many of their books, true. But it’s also true that Tor has provided a whole lot of exclusive material for which I had exclusivity, which shows you that it really goes both ways.

    I have strong relationships with several publicists at Tor. To those who say it was a publicity stunt for the Hotlist, I wouldn’t put that in jeopardy for the sake of an extra 1200 hits (what the post garnered so far from all the shit that’s been coming my way via disgruntled bloggers and WoT MBs). Considering the amount of traffic the Hotlist gets on a good day (an estimated 7000 to 8000 hits with the RSS feeds), such paltry bonus numbers wouldn’t make any kind of sense.

    Cheers,

    Patrick

  38. @Pat which is all fine except you start your post with:

    But you should know by now that there is an embargo on reviews, so I won’t get to post mine until November 2nd.
    And the release of your ‘thoughts’ is the equivalent to a review – as you’ve evaluated what what you’ve read so far.

    Fair enough that it’s not an evaluation of the whole or fully formed – which is potentially worse in some peoples books and it looks like you’ve given in to reader pressure and given them what they want.

    As you’ve acknowledged an embargo I can’t see how you can say it was – business as usual. Because once you’ve said embargo the rest feels like a calculated thing to break the spirit of the thing.

    Which is mostly what this shit storm is about. Genuine error by a very business man or calculated bending of the ‘rules’ – and after the quote it’s not feeling like a mistake. Sorry.

  39. Lesson – Don’t reply on an iPhone.

    It should say busy man not business man.