My relationship with book publicists presents a bit of a conundrum. For an awkward, anxious, introvert like me their infectious enthusiasm can sometimes make them appear like my next best friend. Of course, they are not. They are looking at how best to promote their books and do their job. As a book blogger I can play a small part in this, but I will not necessarily be at the top of their list for ARCs. Sure, they want review quotes they can use in promotions, but ideally they want these quotes to come from widely recognised sources. What they look for from me is that I talk about their books on social media and elsewhere, post reviews on public sites, spread the word along with others to generate a buzz. If I like a book then I am happy to comply.
So, where is the conundrum? Most of the books I receive have been sent at my request. I approach many publicists accepting that my request may be ignored, particularly by the bigger houses. This is fine, they are busy people and need to get their books in front of those with the most influence. Naturally I am cheered by those who respond positively to my requests. Who doesn’t wish to feel valued?
Recently though I have found myself in a troubling place. Publicists promise me books which do not arrive. Requests placed via Bookbridgr go unfulfilled. I know that there are a limited number of review copies available so assume that my potential contribution is not regarded highly enough. This makes me sad. I see the buzz around the book and feel that I have not been invited to the party.
Over the summer I had some amazing books to read for which I am very grateful. These came from a number of sources, but I noted that books from the smaller publishing houses reminded me in particular of why I am such an avid reader. The variety of subject matter and quality of prose were unfailingly exceptional. With the big push towards Christmas approaching, and my feelings of dejection growing, I decided that I would see how I got on reading only books from these smaller presses.
As with any rules I set myself when reading, I will break them if it suits. Thus, when I had the opportunity to attend an event where Hilary Mantel was to speak I diverged from my plans to read Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. These were such great works I am glad I did. I would not wish to rule out any source.
Otherwise though, I have given this month to books from Orenda, Urbane, Salt, Galley Beggars and Arcadia. Had I been more organised I would have made requests to Cutting Edge, Cargo and Influx whose books I enjoyed so much earlier in the year. I decided that, as part of this series, I would also read a self published book or two. In the past I have accepted a few of these with mixed success. Whilst I do not doubt that there are many high quality, self published books out there, the pool is so much bigger and it can be hard to find those I will enjoy. We will see what I think of the two that I have added to my pile.
The quality of the books read to date has encouraged me to seek out other small publishers and I have been promised more titles which I hope will arrive in due course. I am still likely to request certain books from the bigger houses. ‘A Little Life’ came from Picador and was an incredible read. I would not have wished to miss ‘Purity’ which came from 4th Estate, the same press as the Mantel books.
Being sent any book to review is a privilege, especially when I am sent an advance copy and may join in the publication buzz. If I put the time and effort into reading and reviewing though, it is good to have my efforts appreciated.
What are other book bloggers recent experiences? Would anyone else care to share their thoughts?
A very interesting post and I found myself nodding in agreement with many of your comments. Its always a privilege to receive any ARC but I too have found that promised books have not arrived from the larger publishers, even when I’ve been asked if I wanted them. There are excellent smaller publishers who have sent me some great books recently – Orenda, Head of Zeus and more recently Scribe UK who have sent the Tania Chandler (Please Don’t Leave Me Here). Its good to have relationships with the big guys but its always good to foster relationships with the smaller publishers too as they and their excellent books can sometimes be overlooked.
Hi Jackie, I enjoyed reading about the perspective of a book blogger and I’m chuffed to hear about your support for smaller publishers. I’ve been fortunate to ‘meet’ book bloggers like you via the Facebook Book Connectors group and this has helped me source bloggers to read an ARC of my debut, Talk of the Toun, which will be published next month. I’m with a very small independent publisher who has no such person as a publicist so the onus has been on me to build relationships with bloggers. I was a reader long before I was a writer so I truly value the time and effort of bloggers who are reading and reviewing books to support writers. I often blog about launch events, do author interviews and try to help promote other writers by tweeting praise etc as I now appreciate how important it is, especially for a debut novelist, to raise their profile. Please let me know if you’d be interested in an ARC of my book and I’ll pass on your details.
Thanks for adding to the discussion Helen. I will look out for you over on Book Connectors 🙂
Interesting post. The same thing happens with beauty bloggers when pr’s promise a product and it doesn’t arrive! I’m so chuffed to receive any ARCs as I love reading too
Excellent post. I recognise much of this. (I’ve wondered a bit if forgotten promises, failure to reply etc may be caused by publicist turnover – several times by the time I’d emailed to say I had posted my review, the person who sent me the book had moved on.)
I ask for books, but appreciate that there are many bloggers, almost all more influential or better known than me. It is, as you say, just a privilege to get anything.
Some of the small publishers are excellent – I’d add Freight Books to the list – and I think it’s good to support them because of the vitality and breadth of outlook they bring. (One is also less likely to get lost in a maze of imprints!)