Thursday, October 13, 2016

Discussion: I Don’t Review ARCs

Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts At Midnight host the 2016 Discussion Challenge.

I guess it’s time to admit it: I’m kind of a hipster. I’m a broke liberal arts student who shuns material possessions, researches the ethics of food, and perks up every time I hear the word “Vintage.” If something is popular, I tend to ignore it. If something can be (mis)construed as a status symbol, I ignore it with every fiber of my hipster being.

Feel free to hate me.

I’ve noticed that my hipster-ish tendencies extend to the blogosphere. Many bloggers seem to be obsessed with acquiring ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies). Even though it’s completely irrational, seeing this obsession in other bloggers makes me not want ARCs. I’ve had my blog for three years now, and I’ve never reviewed an ARC. It’s rare for me to even review a new release. Almost all of my reviews are of backlist books.*

Since I’m very familiar with reviewing publishers’ backlists, I thought I’d share the pros and cons of sticking to the oldies.

*I’m defining “backlist books” as books that were published at least six months ago.

So You Want To Review Backlist Books? 



No ARC drama: ARC envy? Selling ARCs? Greedy bloggers at conferences? Constant ARC-related whining on Twitter? I can just sit back and roll my eyes (in that smug hipster way) at all the people behaving badly. The ARC drama does make bloggers look unprofessional, and it has hurt some of my blogger friends (which fills me with rage), but since I don’t review ARCs, it’s never had a huge impact on me personally. 

No pressure or deadlines: I don’t have to worry about NetGalley percentages or getting reviews up on time. I also don’t feel any pressure to keep up with the new books that are coming out. I read what I want, when I want. If I don’t post a review of a certain book, nobody cares.

Individuality: Sometimes, when I’m scrolling through Bloglovin’, it seems like every post is a review of the same super-hyped ARC or new release. There aren’t many hyped books on my blog.

Financially supporting authors and bookstores: I know that reviewing ARCs does support authors and bookstores, but when I pay money for a book, I know that my dollars are helping keep the things I love alive.


Forever alone: One of the most common comments on my blog is, “I’ve never heard of that book.” Since I usually don’t read what everybody else is reading, I miss out on a lot of excellent bookish conversations.

No “free” books: Books are expensive. Almost all of my books are used or scratch-and-dent, so they’re cheaper than new books, but they still cost money. I understand that ARCs aren’t really free because you have to put a lot of time and effort into your blog before publishers even consider you for ARCs, but still, reviewers aren’t supposed to pay money for ARCs. ARCs are given away in exchange for reviews. 

Pageviews? What pageviews? If you want a lot of people to visit your blog, don’t review backlist books. I put a stupid amount of time into my book reviews. Seriously, those things take me days to write. A review of a new release on my blog gets way more attention than a review of a backlist book. Since I rarely review new releases, my reviews don’t get many views. The backlist reviews I post on Goodreads usually get 0-1 “Likes.”

I don’t get to help build hype: Hype is actually a good thing. (My hipster brain exploded slightly when I typed that.) Hyped books make the money that allows authors, publishers, and booksellers to keep doing what they do. The hype for backlist books is either already over or never happened, so I don't get to be part of it.

Let’s discuss: Do you review ARCs, new releases, backlist books, or all three? Do you have any pros or cons to add to the list?


  1. Reviews are my least read/liked posts as well, whether they're about a new release or not. I've read a lot more backlist books than new releases this year (I think), and it's much more relaxed. I rarely request any review books anymore, only those I badly want to read. I think I've found the middle road :)

  2. I review a mix of ARCs, new releases and backlist but probably focus more on the first two. I have slowed down with ARCs in general but there are certain times of year when all the books seem to come out and the I get overwhelmed. I agree that book reviews get the least amount of attention on my blog which makes me laugh a little since you know it is a book blog.

  3. I don't associate with bloggers who are dramatic about ARCs. I'm just minding my own business and using the perk of being a blogger to read cool books I would've bought anyway early. I feel like it really depends on how you handle ARCs. I find that whole drama about always having to have the newest books super exhausting.

    I don't really struggle with dwindling page views when it comes to backlist reviews. There's definitely a difference between reading obscure books and backlist books. Not all backlist books are obscure, not all obscure books have been published a billion years ago.

  4. I review all three! Less ARCs lately, just because the crazy ARC-obsessed masses is too much for me to deal with. I shy away from it because I don't want to be associated with it. When I do review an ARC, it's for an author I love and really want to help support. As for new releases and backlist titles, I read and review a good mix of both. I'm such a mood reader, that I read whatever I feel like. I also use the library, so I work around their availability.This was a great discussion post and I'm glad you put it out into the blogosphere.

  5. I review both. Basically, I read what I want to read. It may be an ARC from NetGalley or a publisher, or a book from the library. If I'm reading, I might as well write about what I'm reading. I have reviewed more ARCs recently because it seems like everything I got from BEA published in Sept or Oct. I'd like to get back to a healthier balance. :)

  6. I totally understand your reasons for not buying into the ARC hype. When I first started blogging I accepted a lot of ARCs and came down with a severe case of blogger burnout, then I took a few years off and read mostly backlist. Now, I write for a major online media outlet and I only accept ARCs or review books for coverage consideration. Not being obligated to post a review takes a lot of the pressure off and I feel like I can enjoy the process more. But I still read a lot of backlist.

  7. Yeah...I don't read ARCs. And I only read new releases because of my classroom library. For years (DECADES), I was the book club member who was all, "Let's not read that new book because then I'd have to buy it." If it wasn't readily available at my library, I didn't need it. (I think when Harry Potter books were coming out I borrowed every single one from relatives/friends who obsessively bought & read them within a week of release.)

    I wrote a post awhile back about the merchandising/consumerism I see growing in the book community. It's also why I'm super ambivalent about Bookstagram.

    Is it extra hipster if I claim to have held these beliefs before "hipster" was a thing? ;) GOD, I'M SO OLD. And bitter, apparently. Anyway, as you know, I love your reviews and the range of books you read.

  8. Almost all of what I read is backlist. Mostly because of economic reasons.

    I suppose a pro would be that the backlist books far outnumber the new releases, so there are more options.

  9. I read a couple ARCs. I'm still a growing blog, and for me, it's the opportunity to get free books and some outside exposure that appeals to me. I'm a literary fiction blogger, and so I like to get the latest maybe-big-literary-fiction novel for free, and reviewing it does get me some attention as a blogger—for example, I was able to get an ecopy (which I usually won't read) of Margaret Atwood's Hag-Seed a month ago, and I actually got a comment on it from her Czech translator, which was really sweet. I keep my ARC consumption down, though, because I want to read books that I actually like, and ARCs aren't nearly as satisfying that way—I only do it for free books and to get books that I already want but that would be too expensive for me usually.

    That's what does bother me about the ARC culture on book blogs—the obsession with the new. I don't think those things are the same, but they're very closely connected. I don't read YA because I don't have a Chicago library card yet (originally from New Jersey) and so, I can't afford to keep up with YA except for a one-off here and there, or a paperback beginning to a series. It's tough sometimes to wonder whether I would get more attention as a book blogger if only I had enough money to read all the latest YA. I don't believe that, really, and that's not what my blog is, but there's no doubting my path to thousands of followers would be easier that way, and that's an example of how ARC/new-book culture is hurting the book blog world.

  10. I love you and all your hipster ways, AJ! :-)

    Lately, I ONLY review ARCs because I picked up SO many at BEA that I have no time to read anything else. And the pressure to read and review is definitely real. I need a bit more balance for sure. But I definitely notice that when I read Indie or backlist books I get a lot less people reading my posts, and that's hard to ignore. Still, a bit more balance would certainly be better. I'm working on that. Right after I read the 50,000 ARCs I got from BEA. And the ones I got elsewhere. Sigh.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  11. I don't review ARC's either and while I sometimes miss being in the "know", as it were, I don't miss worrying about percentages or deadlines. So I'm with you on that. Plus good grief there's enough stuff coming out that I never really have a shortage to read anyway. And while I do review some new releases, it's usually after the early rush of ARC reviews or "just came out yesterday" review. So I'm definitely relating to the cons too. :)

    I go back and forth on whether to start getting ARC's. So far I'm holding off, and I'm kinda happy where my blog is, which is not very big but I get enough traffic that I enjoy interacting and it's enough to keep me busy. I actually like blogs that do backlist and lesser known titles, there's plenty of blogs that have all the bright shiny new stuff but I enjoy finding the hidden gems or older books too.

  12. This is such a good discussion! I'll admit I love reviewing ARCs just because it allows me to read books I'm really excited about even earlier than I could have! (And I'll admit it's nice not to have to pay for every single book I read, although I do end up buying them anyway if I love them.) At the same time, being one in a million reviewing the same book at the same time can be lonely too since everyone has already seen a hundred other thoughts on what you're reviewing. I definitely do enjoy reading backlist books also though. I tend to read them in between new releases to keep a variety on my blog.

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

  13. I totally get this. When I first started blogging, I felt the pressure to try to read as many books as possible, and to get ARCs. But after blogging for a while, I've started to feel like it's some kind of competition. I don't really have the time to read ARCs when I have a million other books I want to read, and the majority of them are all backlist books, just because I haven't had the chance to sit down and read them yet! And, like you, it always takes me forever to write my reviews. And with new releases, I feel obligated to say a lot, even if there's not much I want to say. It can be so frustrating!

    Erika @ Books and Stars

  14. I've actually been thinking about this topic for a while and although I review a mix of both, I normally don't go crazy over ARCs or galleys. SURE it is awesome to get one but it's not a priority for me, honestly! Great post!

  15. I don't read/review ARCs either, and you're actually the first other blogger I've seen who doesn't (although I'm sure there's more of us out there!). I occasionally read newly released books (basically, if it's by Sarah J. Maas, I'll read it as soon as it's out!), but not often, although it is very interesting how many more page views you get for reviewing a new, hyped book as opposed to a backlist one, even by a really popular author. Reviews take me so long to write too, so it is kind of disappointing that so few people read them unless they are about new books.
    There are definitely so many pros of not reading ARCs, particularly the whole 'staying clear of ARC drama'! I just like to read what I would have been reading anyway with no pressure or competitiveness, although I guess getting free books would be kind of cool! Oh well, that's the life of the book blogging hipster I guess! Awesome post :)

  16. I review an ARC from time to time, but I'm mostly about reading backlist books. "Very back" list.

    I don't even look at the traffic to my site. Right now, at least, it's not why I blog.

  17. I like to mix it up! I have ARCs, backlist books, new releases, and new-ish books that were sent to me for review *after* release. I'm trying to find a good balance between all of these. Early on, I let ARCs take priority and reading them turned out to be a chore because I wanted to read new books (and I still bought them...) but was prevented from doing so out of obligation. In 2017, I have decided to take on fewer ARCs. I don't want to burn out as a blogger!

    Thanks for such an honest and relatable post, Aj. :)

  18. I read and review a lot of ARCs. I do like getting a chance to read books early. I do try to squeeze in other books as well and I review them on my blog when I do. My problem is that I want to read everything so I request more than I should and buy more than I should. I will have a huge stockpile of books to work my way through once I am old enough to retire. Great post!

  19. I definitely read and review a lot of ARCs, but I enjoy reviewing backlist titles just as much. I agree that when a book is hot, that individuality factor can be frustrating. I feel less inspired to review a book that is ALL OVER my feed. I try to only choose ARCs that really speak to me - so I think I end up with enough titles that are off the beaten path to make me feel better about the individuality thing. (The other pros you mention don't really apply to me - I don't feel the drama, I don't request too many so I don't feel any pressure, and if I really love an ARC, I usually end up buying a hard copy either for myself or as a gift). I love that receiving ARCs gives me a steady supply of books to donate to the Prison Book Project in my area, too. :)

  20. This is the best blogger article I've read the entire week, although I'm guilty as charged :P The hype with getting ARCs are crazy, especially when it made readers/bloggers slightly aggressive and violent (I'm appalled that they can behave such ways!). I strongly agree on the reviewing datelines, sometimes they are so close to each other that it felt suffocating, but that's the price I have to pay for wanting to read one so I guess there's that, to me the best part of having an ARC is to be able to get a book I like for free. Ever since I moved back to my hometown, a trip to the bookstore takes me hours and that's why I turned to ebooks and ARCs. I do miss the feeling of having to read a book without the need to post a review. Reading should be fun!

  21. I really enjoyed this topic and hearing your thoughts on the matter.

    Currently, I don't accept review copies. I have recently rejoined Netgalley though, as in the new year I'm hoping to start including more e-galleys and arcs on my blog. I read what I want to read, and share my thoughts on a given topic in the way that I feel like I want to. When it comes to requesting books on Netgalley, I only request those I would truly pick up myself anyway.

    Deadlines and such can be a pain, but for me I actually enjoy that aspect of blogging (previously) as I am a SAHM and so I don't have any other 'work related' challenges, if you know what I mean. So I liked having something to focus on that wasn't being 'mum', y'know. The reason I don't currently accept them is because I wanted to work on getting my own books down for the time being, and have better control over the books that are coming in. I feel like I'm in a good place with that now.

    Regarding the drama and such surrounding ARCS, I have seen a few things here and there on Twitter, as well as a couple of posts, and people be crazy!!! Like, it's only books at the end of the day. I don't involve myself with that kind of stuff.

    Blogging and reading are both hobbies of mine, and they shall remain fun activities of mine.

    I loved hearing your thoughts on this topic, as well as the variety in the comments.

  22. I agree with a lot of your points.

    Reviewing ARC's can be pretty stressful since I feel like I need to read/review them before the publish date (even though I've heard publishers say it's fine to publish a review after the release date). So, I don't read too many ARC's.

    I like reading author's backlist titles a lot, there's less pressure and I often find titles that deserve more love. I agree though, one con with reading a bunch of backlist titles is that when you post reviews you don't get too many views. Then again, most of the time my most popular posts aren't actual reviews. They're usually list posts. Everyone likes a good list, I guess. :P

  23. Technically I don't review ARCs, since I exclusively do audiobook reviews. I review a mix of new & backlist titles, and even accept/request a few review copies. It's not my favorite thing to do, both because of the deadline and because I feel bad when I have to give such a book a low rating.

    I totally hear you about the high amount of effort (I write long reviews) and low amount of attention for backlist reviews though.

    My most recent discussion: Grappling with Goodreads

  24. I review EVERYTHING.πŸ˜‚ I have this huge need to just read all the books of ever *nods* But I only review them on Goodreads. My blog is like 99% ARC reviews and I'm totally okay with that because I like hype and I love having people to discuss books with and get excited over the new things coming out. :D I actually barely ever see any ARC envy or drama? which is great. I must hang out with the right people.πŸ˜‚

  25. I'm not hugely fond or ARCs that I get too much in advance as I can't post the review straight away (on my blog / Goodreads or anywhere other than NetGalley) so it seems pointless.

    I like new releases though and if I receive something that's not out for a few weeks or months I deprioritise it until just before it's published.

  26. I sometimes review ARCs, not very often though. I think there's some pressure on bloggers who get ARCs because the whole point is for them to read and review the book. If a person is a mood reader, that makes things hard because I may no longer feel like reading the book I requested once I get it.

  27. I do review ARCs. Almost exclusively at this point, which isn't necessarily a good thing (I worry about all the things you talked about above- that I will just be another person in a sea of writing reviews for whatever the newest "it" book is). BUT it is one of the best ways for me to actually WRITE reviews. The pressure is actually really helpful to me, because if I feel like I NEED to write a review, I do it, whereas often I don't otherwise. I'll put it off, or whatever, and so ARCs hold me accountable. I do like reading backlist reviews though! I think variety is SO key, so I like when, like you said, every person isn't reviewing the same book! So I think your way is just fine- good, reallY! Love this post!

  28. Ahh, I totally feel all your comments about backlist reviews (pros + cons). On other blogs, I think I appreciate the backlist reviews more than the ARC/new release reviews because of that point about individuality you made. Although, I do like to keep track of what new books are coming out, even if I don't get around to them for a couple years! I never felt pressure to read new releases until I started book blogging :P Sometimes I do want to be part of that hype... But mostly, I still just read whatever I feel like, whenever I can get a hold of it. I usually only review ARCs of books that I was already interested in for one reason or another.

  29. I tend to review backlist books more than new releases or ARCs. I find that easier given I have a huge pile of unread books, and more freeing, as I get to pick and choose what I want to review. With ARCs, I feel obliged to read and enjoy them, which isn't so fun. I know what you mean about not getting much pageviews on those reviews though! Personally, I like that you review non-hyped books. I always look at your reviews and find something new!

  30. I used to review a lot more backlist titles, but then BEA happened and that all went to hell. I do want to go back to reviewing backlist titles, I don't think I've reviewed one this year. Perhaps I have a little hipster in me too, but it does help your blog stand out in the midst of the all hyped books. But yes, the catch 22 is that readers ARE looking for those hyped books.

  31. I constantly hear in my comments that my visitors haven't heard of the books that I read. Quite often they think it's something new, although I post the publishing date. I am quite often surprised by the number of people who don't recognize a classic.
    I do read ARC's, but am particular about what I choose, never swoon over them, and am forever avoiding books that have too much buzz. There have been times when I have broken down years after publication to read a buzz book, although I have loved a couple of them after breaking down years after publication.
    As far as the free books go, I find some freebies through classics, and have found plenty of good deals on books that have been released long ago.
    I am not really sure why some bookish sorts avoid older publications. With dozens of books being released every month, many that I would like to read at some point, I could never read everything that I would like if I only read them around publication. Plus, there is no waiting at the library for backlist books, which I love.