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Thread: Reviewers Who Resell Review Copies

  1. #1
    poemwriter1
    Guest

    Reviewers Who Resell Review Copies

    I'm not sure if I'm posting to the correct board, but I could use some advice.

    Do authors have any recourse when this type of situation occurs: "Book reviewers" accept copies of their book for the sole purpose of stocking their online used book stores? Is there any way of stopping these people? I tend to doubt it considering there are so many . . . but the author doesn't benefit from this one bit. Particularly those who self-publish. (I'm not endorsing self-publishing, merely pointing out a fact.) These "reviewers" are making 100% profit off an "agreement" made with the authors. Any advice?

    (I'm collecting this information for an author I'm currenlty representing. One week after his review copies went out, he noticed nearly 90% of the up for sale in Amazon's used book store. He obtained a list of reviewers and contacted each of the 200+ in an effort to establish a "yes, I'll review your book" response because he's self-published.)

    Thanks!
    Jennifer

  2. #2
    Victoria
    Guest

    Agencies

    Re-sale of books by reviewers is an industry-wide issue, and everyone grumbles about it, from authors to publishers. There's really not anything that can be done about it; there's no law that prevents reviewers from offering books for sale if they choose to do so, and resources like Amazon make it very easy.

  3. #3
    poemwriter1
    Guest

    Re: Agencies

    I understand that it's their right to resale and distribute as they like. My question is about those who pose as reviewers just to stock their online used bookstores. I'm not accusing anyone, but I've come across many and wish to know if there's any recourse for authors. Any advice?

  4. #4
    Victoria
    Guest

    Agencies

    I'm not aware of any recourse, other than writing the reviewer an angry letter. I do think you run a greater risk of having this happen when you approach amateur reviewers. People who write for professional publications are at least somewhat more likely to be ethical about this--though as I said, it is an industry-wide problem.

  5. #5
    bentbrains
    Guest

    Re: Agencies

    I would love some information on this subject also. If anyone has anything to add I could use the information.
    Thank You,
    Frank J. Middleton:jump

  6. #6
    Betty W01
    Guest

    Reviewing ethics

    I've been a reviwer for over 6 yrs and here are some of the things I've learned (and if anyone has any corrections to them, I'm open):

    When a reviewer *asks* for a copy of your book to review it, you have the right to expect that she review it and send you a copy of said published review (after publication, not before...). Once that is done, as far as I know it is up to the reviewer what she does with the book.

    You do not have the right to a positive review, just an honest one (although it shouldn't be unnecessarily unkind), so beware of asking friends to review your books, if they're in that position. It could cause problems for you if they don't like it and are honest and problems for them if they lie.

    If you scattershot review copies to everyone you can think of, you have no such right. A kind (and well-off) reviewer might send the book back to you with a kind turn-down, but she isn't obligated to. Pick and choose who you send copies to.

    If an author asks a reviewer to review a book, they don't have to do it. They can refuse. Maybe they don't read that genre. Maybe they already know they don't like your work. And maybe they just don't want to.

    If an editor asks a reviewer to review a book, the reviewer is obligated to be thorough and honest, and to do with the review copy whatever the editor wishes (most say, keep it, especially if that's the only pay they offer...).

    If the reviewer doesn't like it or doesn't want to review the book for some reason (don't know anything aobut westerns, don't read romances, or so on), it depends on the publication what happens next. Some say, return it so someone else can review it. Some say, do it anyway, say what you want. Some say, Ok, keep it and never mind. And then the reviewer can sell it, toss it, give it away, or whatever. (I've reviewed books so bad that I threw them away afterwards, to protect the general public from contamination :grin , although I was a little kinder than that in the reviews.)

    I'm fortunate in that I usually get to choose which books I want to review. I have so little time to read, I don't want to waste it on trash, not even to review it. And I love telling my readers about a great new book or author!

    Hope that helped... if not, post again and I'll see what I can figure out for you.

  7. #7
    vstrauss
    Guest

    Re: Reviewing ethics

    Some of the books I review I keep, the rest I donate to a local organization that sends books to poor libraries. I personally feel it would be unethical to sell them, so I don't. But I know that many reviewers do. As someone else said, it's an industry-wide issue. It's especially galling for an author to see their ARCs for sale.

    - Victoria

  8. #8
    DaveKuzminski
    Guest

    Re: Reviewing ethics

    After learning of the practice of selling books by reviewers some time ago, I instituted one criteria at P&E. If a reviewer asks for a book to review, P&E views that reviewer as obligated to do a review. Only then is the reviewer entitled to do what they want with the book, even sell it.

  9. #9
    HapiSofi
    Guest

    Re: Reviewing ethics

    The Strand, the biggest and best-known used book store in Manhattan, has a large flat display table in the area next to the registers, so you wind up standing next to it while you wait to pay for your books. It's where they put all the resale reviewers' copies, many of which are stamped NOT FOR RESALE.

    If you're looking at a single instance, there's no way to distinguish between a reviewer who only accepted the book in order to sell it, and a reviewer who found that he or she had nothing useful to say about the book, and a reviewer whose editor spiked the review and ran something else in its place.

    For that matter, having a review copy turn up on Amazon a week and a half after it's mailed out doesn't tell you whether the reviewer wrote something or not. Shelf space is limited. Reviewers sell their copies. And editors spike reviews.

    Multiple instances may reveal patterns. People who ask to be put on review lists, but seldom write reviews, are probably not pure in their intentions. Small publications that require two copies if you want to get reviewed may be suspected of selling the extra copy. People who ask for review copies of expensive titles months after they've come out have failed to understand the program.

    I used to hang out with a middling prominent reviewer, and several times was present when his mail arrived. He got so many books that he couldn't have read them all if he did nothing else all day, and that's not counting the time it would take to write the reviews. He also didn't have the time, money, or resources to pack them all up and mail them back to their source.

    Book publicists at big companies have interns and assistants and mail rooms. Small-scale publicists do their mailings in big batches. He was an underpaid writer, with little spare time, and might with luck have had a few extra first-class stamps in his desk drawer. Every book packed up and returned would have been a separate piece of mail he'd have to take to the post office.

    Reviewing pays peanuts.

    If you want your book back, enclose a SASE with enough postage to mail the book. If you want your SASE back if they decide to keep the book, enclose a letter-size SASE with a single first-class stamp on it.

    My friend was generous about giving away books he wasn't going to review. Still, every so often I'd meet him down at the Strand, where he'd be offloading a carton of review copies. He was scrupulous according to his lights. He didn't sell galleys and ARCs before the book came out, even when he could have gotten a premium price for some hotly awaited title. Otherwise, sure, he sold them; he'd have been squeezed out of his own home if he hadn't. And, having committed this heinous act, and being now flush as he reckoned such things, he would sometimes offer to treat me to a sandwich and a cup of coffee at a modest local diner.

    And sometimes I treated him. Reviewing may pay peanuts, but it's not like anybody's going to retire rich from selling review copies, either.

  10. #10
    DaveKuzminski
    Guest

    Re: Reviewing ethics

    I would like to add that P&E doesn't condemn reviewers for how they dispose of books when those are sent unasked by publishers or writers. In those instances, the law states that they can do what they want just as everyone can decide what they want to do with something sent unsolicited through the mail. P&E's sole intention is to counter those one or two "reviewers" whose sole purpose is for resale and not for producing a review.

    P&E is aware that a review might not be published, though it would be viewed as reasonable for a reviewer to provide a copy of the review to the publisher or writer. After all, they spent their time and money producing and sending that book to the reviewer. It will cost, at most, the price of a first class stamp to send a copy of the review even though it might not be accepted by a publication.

  11. #11
    Tish Davidson
    Guest

    Re: Reviewing ethics

    Having been a children's toy and book reviewer at one point in my life, I think your requirement that every book a reviewer requests must be reviewed is too harsh. Often I got catalogs from major publishers asking which books I would like to preview for review. I would select a few, usually based on a theme I was working on and send their check-off list back to them. Sometimes these books ended up not fitting the theme (one can't always tell from the blurb) and sometimes I thought the books were just plain poorly done. I believed my responsibility to my readers was to recommend good books for their children, and to alert them to poor books by well-known or well publicized authors. If what I considered an inferior book was written by a reltively unknown author and not being pushed by advertising, I saw no reason to take up the very limited review space to say this is a book not worth buying. I read it, considered it for review, and rejected it as not being worth the column inches, yet by your criteria, that is unethical. I think reviewers should have the serious intention of reviewing every book they request (but not the hundreds and hundreds of unsolicited books that arrive every year), but when it doesn't work out after due consideration, I don't think they own the author a copy of an unpublished review of an explanation of why they didn't like the book enough to review it. I think asking for the book obligates you only to serious consideration and does not guarantee a review.

  12. #12
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Reviewing ethics

    Many, many of the on-line review sites are little more than someone's web page or web log. What influence they'll have on anyone's decision to buy or read your book will be minimal.

    The important reviews are:

    Booklist
    Publishers Weekly
    Kirkus
    Library Journal or School Library Journal

    After those come the larger newspapers and news magazines:
    The New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Time.

    Your home-town newspaper will probably review your book.

    That's nine, maybe ten copies. And if the reviewer resells the book, donates it to a library, or uses it to shim up the short leg on his kitchen table after that, it doesn't really matter.

    Publishers will send out tons more review copies than that, under the theory that 90% of your promotion budget is wasted, but you can't tell in advance which 10% isn't wasted, and copies are cheap.

  13. #13
    AnneMarble
    Guest

    Re: Reviewing ethics

    Many, many of the on-line review sites are little more than someone's web page or web log. What influence they'll have on anyone's decision to buy or read your book will be minimal.
    I think it depends on the site, though. Some of them have been established and have good reputations. There are cool sites like The SF Site (and I love Victoria's reviews! :hail ). And the romance novel site I used to review for has been around for years and has received millions of hits since its inception. It even got a great review in Entertainment Weekly.

    Maybe it's a genre thing. The big-time reviewers often do only limited reviews of genre fiction. On top of that, their genre reviews sometimes appear to be written by aliens, and I don't mean that as a compliment. :head Also, in romance, the reviews in the couple of print romance magazines were often too glowing, never detailed enough. So the web finally gave readers a place to find detailed, not-so-glowing reviews.

  14. #14
    vstrauss
    Guest

    Online reviews

    I agree, Anne--for genre books there are a number of worthwhile online review sites, which perform a valuable service in providing the kind of detailed reviews that are the norm for non-genre books, but which genre books generally don't get in the mainstream press--review coverage for genre books being confined mainly to the capsule reviews of PW and others. They also address a gap in print genre review magazines like Locus, by providing a wider range of reviews. Print genre mags (at least in the case of SF and fantasy) are often pretty biased in their review coverage.

    Even where the online reviews aren't 100% of professional quality, some of these sites get a lot of traffic and offer good exposure, so it can be worth an author's while to solicit a review (since publishers often overlook them). However, as Jim said, the majority of the online review sites aren't really worth approaching.

    - Victoria

  15. #15
    Betty W01
    Guest

    Re: Online reviews

    Check out Midwest Book Review.

    www.midwestbookreview.com/index.html

  16. #16
    NomadPress
    Guest

    review copies

    Why would anyone send out 200 review copies of a book, especially a self-published one? Book trade review sources would require a maximum of 20, 25 copies, and depending on the genre, trade publications and/or mainstream book review sources would eat up another 25 to 50 copies. Most of the writers at these kinds of publications are unlikely to resell books, but even if they do, it's the cost of doing business and potentially receiving positive press for the book. A good review in a major trade or book trade publication is worth the money spent printing review copies.

    Authors should be very careful about sending out books to freelance reviewers without checking out where their reviews regularly appear. They might be better off working with their publisher on a Booksense promotion where their book will go directly into the hands of booksellers for review, rather than relying on word of mouth from people outside the industry. Go to www.booksense.com for more information about their White Box programs.

  17. #17
    veingloree
    Guest

    Re: review copies

    The best move would be to not post to reviewers who don't have published reviews?

  18. #18
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: review copies

    Don't send review copies to reviewers you don't regularly read.

    Useful agents are agents who have represented books you've heard of.

    Publishers who are worth querying are publishers whose books you find on the shelves in random bookstores.

  19. #19
    HapiSofi
    Guest

    Re: review copies

    (blink)

    Nomad, I could try to excuse myself on the grounds that I don't read all the boards here, and have thus missed out on quite a few of your messages (I just now went and read a bunch of them); but I nevertheless apologize for taking this long to realize that you're the real thing.

  20. #20
    Gone
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Posts
    3,587
    Note that using NomadPress' conservative numbers, you're looking at 45-75 copies sent out for review. Before you argue that your "traditional" press does everything for you that the big boys do and doesn't charge you a dime, ask yourself if they're sending out 45-75 review copies at their expense to promote your book.

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