The Book Smugglers have an excellent post about the recent Librarians vs Bloggers argument. If you want a meaningful post, you may be better off clicking on the link, because I’m just going to ramble.
To summarize the issue, a librarian who attended the ALA in Anaheim expressed her disappointment, because by the time she was done with the meetings and panels and was able to get to the publisher booths, the ARCs were mostly gone. She believes that the majority of the ARCs went to bloggers – the non-librarians as she calls them – who paid the $25 fee and were able to run around getting as many ARCs as they wanted. She was particularly offended by a YouTube video which showed a couple of bloggers and their haul. Publishers Weekly picked it up and ran with it.
The question here is really who should have access to ARCs and where. Who is a “professional” when it comes to books?
If you read this blog for a while, you probably know the Gordon clan’s stance on libraries. We support libraries. We both remember being too poor to afford books. My love affair with libraries started in first grade, when I realized that kid library was on the way to school. I would duck in there on my way back and come out with a stack of books. I’d carry a special bag in my book bag, because the books didn’t always fit. I’m a writer today, because as a child I could walk into a room filled with books and be lent any book I wanted without any money exchanging hands. It was magic.
That’s why we donate to libraries. If we could get our self-published ebooks to OverDrive, I’d do it in a heart beat.
Do libraries help to sell books? Yes. Without a doubt. But their primary function isn’t that of book promotion. Libraries exist, because as a a society, we recognize the need for public education and cultural enrichment. If I had my way, libraries wouldn’t have to purchase books at all. But the reality is, sadly, that libraries have small budgets. Viewing ARCs at ALA for many of them must have been an opportunity to safely preview books in an effort to decide whether or not to purchase them. I totally understand why some librarians would feel robbed of this opportunity at their own conference.
However, the attendees of the conference did nothing wrong. They paid their fee, just like everyone else. Nobody assaulted anybody in a rush to fight over free books. I’ve been to plenty of conventions, and at most, ARCs – and by the way, most of those books in pictures look like early copies, not the ARCs, which are more expensive to print – are either dumped on tables or handed out by publisher’s representative. If I walk by a table and a publicist hands me a book, I will take it and say thank you. Why shouldn’t I? Nothing in the rules says I can’t.
At last Orycon signing in Powells, I paused to chat with an author I knew at her table, and a woman at a nearby table handed me a sampler book and said, “Hey, I am told I should give you this.” I said, “Thank you.” I didn’t know who she was and she probably had no idea who I was. (She was Courtney Milan, by the way.) That’s what you do at a convention – you hand out free books.
There is a difference between stating that there is a problem with organization and calling bloggers “rotten apples.” There is no need to vilify anybody. Nobody has done anything wrong.
Bloggers are also extremely good for books. The hard truth is, some publicists may prefer to hand a book to a blogger rather than a librarian. If they see that someone is enthusiastic about the book, they will likely reason that this person will talk about the book. A well-timed squee from a blogger with 20,000 in monthly blog hits and 10,000 followers on Twitter can sell the book more effectively than a recommendation from the librarian in a small county. Publishing is a business; and while publishers do love books, it is about bottom line.
Do some bloggers feel entitled? Yes. I’ve just gotten a message a couple of days ago asking me for a free copy of ON THE EDGE. The book has been out for three years and has 7,000 ratings on Goodreads. Free books are not truly free – after the contractually provided copies are gone, we have to buy our titles out of our pocket. We give out free copies of the book in an effort to raise its profile and build word of the mouth. Expecting a free book three years after the release is just silly. I showed the message to a couple of friends, and one of them replied, “Yup. She hit me too.”
That said, it took me two seconds to reply back and say that I’m looking forward to her review, but I won’t be giving her a free copy. Also, I am very fortunate in that I can build word of the mouth. Ace’s publicity department does send out ARCs and early copies, and because we have a loyal fan base, we have some expectation that our work will be reviewed. An independent author or an author with less name recognition has no such expectation. They may jump on a chance to have their work reviewed.
It is true that there are obnoxious bloggers out there, who don’t take no for an answer and who expect free books and get nasty when you tell them no. Your chances of receiving free material from the publicists get better if you first take time to build your blog by buying and reviewing books. Grow your audience and approach the publicists with statistics in hand.
It’s also true is that there are some obnoxious librarians. There are obnoxious people everywhere. I had a librarian in Pooler, Georgia tell me that they were not interested in donation of our books, because nobody is interested in that kind of book at their branch. When I explained I was the author, she told me, “Bless your heart.” Look you, I know I speak with an accent, but I spent most of my life in the South and I know what bless your heart with that particular patronizing smile stands for. Not cool. I also had a bookseller tell me rather rudely at a convention that no, he didn’t want his stock signed, because whether I signed them or not, “they won’t sell anyway.” But going to a convention floor after you paid a fee and getting books from piles marked FREE STUFF doesn’t make you entitled or obnoxious. That’s what the visitor pass is for – access to the convention.
You know, you could just have different colored badges. Red for librarians, blue for not-librarians.
I am so tired of this mentality of bloggers vs authors vs booksellers vs librarians vs readers. Can it just be about books?