“Freebies” For “Honest” Reviews?

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Due to what I have seen regularly “out there,” and with my brand new Conventions, as well as my first book, Passports, available on Kindle promo for 99c each until next week [UPDATE: it will run indefinitely], this awkward issue again jumped to my mind. I realized I have never addressed it here before. I feel that I should.

You may recall that I had argued recently that the current “fad” among some indie writers seeking out those now evidently termed “beta readers” (apparently more like “test readers” than just proofreaders) is, in my opinion, a creative mistake. The motivation seems to be rooted in getting pre-publication “feedback.” While on the surface that aim sounds reasonable, I detect in the practice more an underlying unease in the author about his/her writing and a hope to attract as many “reassurances” as possible that the book is actually “good.”

Hmm. Being an author is fundamentally about leaving yourself out there and being honest with readers. It is also about, occasionally, perhaps being harshly reviewed. If you are fearful of criticism and wish to write, you are venturing into the wrong line of work.

Illustration of a stack of books. [Stock photo.]

Which bring us to post-publication reviews themselves. And to reviewers…

…And particularly about authors providing free copies to other writers or book bloggers to offer reviews. It is understood that the reviewer is supposed to disclose that the free copy was accepted in exchange for an “impartial” review. Obviously, though, we know that only if that is revealed to us by the reviewer.

I still have a bunch of two decades’ old freebie textbooks from publishers hoping I would consider using “Dr. So and So’s” latest on “Introduction to American Government” or “Government and Politics of Western Europe” in teaching a class. (I NEVER throw out books.) Now and then salespeople would even show up in the university offices handing them out, and sit and jaw jaw about how great “this one” is. On a couple of occasions such approaches to me worked: I read that free “desk” copy and ordered the book. (I was also mindful of their prices for students. As we know, textbooks are often shockingly expensive.)

Sales and marketing are just that, but there are also lines and we know them also when we see them. So I tread lightly here. And I am well-aware that large publishers certainly “encourage” reviews in major publications (such as newspapers and magazines) of their “big name” authors in order to look to boost sales.

However, sometimes it is also worth making your personal position as an author absolutely clear.

[Top left: Photo by me, 1991, Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan, New York. Top right: George Romney (English), 1787, “Miss Constable.” Bottom left: Likely by Alexandre-Jean Noël (French), c. 1780, “A View of Place Louis XV,” Paris. Bottom right: Photo by me, 1995 (or 1996), Eiffel Tower, Paris, embelished in 2016 with the Prisma app.]

I do NOT provide, and I have NEVER provided, anyone with a free copy (or a copy at a discount while everyone else pays retail) of one of my novels in exchange for a review on Amazon or anywhere else.

I do NOT believe in doing so.

If you are thinking of taking “me” along on your summer break – a lighthearted way here of noting if you buy one of my books – I feel you are simply entitled to know that.

And have a good day, wherever you are in our world. 🙂

Further thoughts?

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