A couple of days ago I took part (very fleetingly) in a discussion on Twitter. Apparently one of the reviewers I follow had had the validity of his review questioned because it was an ARC he had received for free. The implication was that, since he got the book for nothing instead of paying out hard-earned cash, his review had no integrity. That it didn't count.
Huh?! Call me stupid, but don't the majority of review sites all receive their review copies for free from publishers and authors purely for review purposes? Does that then make every single one invalid by default? Isn't the whole customers being allowed to post their own reviews on purchases a relatively new thing?
Reviewers are now required by law to state whether they receive a book for free or not. I've posted reviews that are a fairly equal mixture of free and bought, and yet given my honest opinion regardless. My philosophy is if I can't find anything nice to say about a book, whether free or not, then I simply wouldn't write a review. I like to enthuse about the books I love, not tear down someone else's work simply because the style/content/theme aren't to my personal liking.
I see no reason for someone to claim a review is invalid because the book came free - unless, perhaps, that is the philosophy of the person making the accusation. Judging by the mixture of good and bad reviews on sites that receive ALL their books for free, that clearly doesn't happen - at least, not as a general rule. Even in the occasional case where it does, the number of sites/blogs etc posting reviews, and customers rating their purchases on the sites where they were bought, should ensure a fair spread of reviews and opinions.
It's hard enough for some authors to get reviews. Unless you're a big name or can pay for them, or are lucky enough to have a publisher that submits to reviewers for you, it's a hard slog and a long wait to receive them with no guarantee you'll get one or that it will be good. So many people who buy a book from somewhere like Amazon don't leave a review. I confess I never used to. It's only in the last year that I've come to appreciate how much a review can mean to an author, even if it's only a star rating and a 'I liked/loved/enjoyed it.'
So please, do your favourite authors a favour and leave them a review. It doesn't have to be an essay, just a few words. And incidentally, if you're looking for a reviewer yourself, there is a comprehensive list in my Pages at the top of the blog - I think we're currently up to 144 and adding new ones every week. :)
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