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The ARC dilemma

Monday, August 10, 2009
Posted in: Azteclady Speaks, random ramblings

AztecLady, confusing people since… well, pretty much since birth.

confused crazy

Here’s the thing that’s been going around and around in my head, not letting me sleep.

Just a bit ago an author asked me if I wanted an ARC for her upcoming book. And I said, “Hell, yes, I do! But—I continued—I’m swamped and so behind in my reviews, that I don’t think it would be fair to take one of your limited number of ARCs if I cannot promise you to read and review in time for its release date.”

So far so good, right?

Except that she emailed me with the offer because I had entered a giveaway she held recently for one of those ARCs.

Confused yet?

I know—by now she’s thinking that either I was lying about wanting the ARC (which I want like you wouldn’t believe), or insane (which I obviously am).

Which brings us here, to my trying to explain the way that thing I fondly call my mind works.

Whenever I get a book directly from an author, I feel an obligation to review it as soon as possible. If it’s an ARC for an upcoming title, I aim to post the review in time for the release—whether the author asks me to or not.1

Because I feel the need to give something back, to the author, to other readers, to the romance reading community.2

However, when I get the book through a giveaway, I tend to feel slightly less pressure, time-wise. I relax, I allow my self some latitude, and I’m able to forgive myself if (mostly when) I’m a bit late with the review.

On the other hand, when I get the ARC directly from the author—and often well in advance of the release date, allow me to add—I put pressure on myself to read and review the book in time for the release, or as shortly after as humanly possible.3

Up to now, this has not been too much of a problem—it’s rare that I have more than two or perhaps three ARCs for books due out in any given month, after all, and with a few exceptions I have managed to post the reviews in a timely manner.4

Things are different right now.

This month—and for the next few months, I fear—I am having all sorts of TBR mountain range anxiety. You don’t want to know how many books I came back with from RWA (no, really, you don’t want to know—and frankly, I don’t want to tell you; hell, I don’t want to KNOW) and that, coupled with the *mumblemumble* books that were already here waiting for me, is just scaring the bejesus out of me.

Does that mean I don’t want to get the books I’m offered? Not only no, but hell no!

I want the books and I would just love to get them in advance and review them on release day (or week)… but I don’t want to promise what I am not sure, right now, that I can deliver.

And so I allow myself to enter a big drawing where there’s a chance I might win a copy or an ARC, by chance and the vagaries of random.org, while feeling uncomfortable when offered an ARC directly.

Yeah, I confuse myself too.

Ice cream, anyone?




1 The fact that some of the books on my “to review” list have been there for months and months does not negate this feeling—but it explains the insomnia.

2 No, I don’t think that one review makes or breaks a book, but since I only know two other people in “real life” who read romance, online reviewing is a much more efficient way of getting the author’s name and the book’s title out there, for me.

3 Yes, I fail at that. Often.

4 Did I mention insomnia?


  • It makes perfect sense, so no confusion there for me.


  • Kat
    August 10
    10:15 am

    I know exactly what you mean. And I, too, have TBR mountain range anxiety (after a convention), and I fear I may never be the same again.


  • Makes sense to me too and I read at my leisure unless I’m giving someone a crit and then I do feel obligated to get it done as soon as possible, even if my crit partner says no rush.


  • AL, I definitely think the stressing yourself out over this should stop. You can only do what you can do. Just be upfront about it. 99.9 percent of authors will totally understand. And if it is a problem for them, they have the option not to give you the ARC, since you have been clear that the review may be getting up later than the ideal.


  • Unless the author was giving away the ARC with the request that a review be posted, I don’t think you’re under any pressure to do the review. You entered a giveaway. You won. That’s good stuff, right?

    You need to stop stressing. You can only do so many reviews and if you push too hard, you’re gonna burn yourself out. You’re a great reviewer, so I don’t wanna see that happen.


  • Yup…what everyone else said! When I do giveaways, I don’t expect anything from the winner. And if you’re upfront about being busy, authors will understand! Take a deep breath, pet your TBR pile lovingly, and enjoy it! 🙂


  • Aztec- sweetie, I think you need to stop thinking like a reviewer all the time, and start thinking like a normal reader sometimes. You have no obligation to review this book.


  • What Shiloh said. Unless it’s specified as part of the giveaway, I wouldn’t feel any pressure to do a review in a timely manner. Or review it at all for that matter.


  • Hey, you don’t owe anybody anything. You’re doing this review service for free. It’s supposed to be fun. And when it stops being fun you’ll burn out like Mrs. G. seems to have. So, too bad for authors waiting on your review pile, but you owe nothing to them.


  • You made perfect sense!

    Don’t feel bad about it, hon. You can only do so much.


  • Ditto for me for everything you said in your post (except the part about all those books you came home with from RWA). 😉

    In fact, I’m carrying a lot of guilt myself for not having gotten around to reviewing a handful of ARCs I was so generously given this past spring. I try to remember that blogging and book reviewing is a hobby and should not be something to cause stress or anxiety. I’m not always successful about that, but I try.


  • Chryssa
    August 10
    6:57 pm

    AL, I’m confused about why you’re confused.

    As others have said, it makes perfect sense, but you also need to stop stressing like this. Reading is supposed to be fun. Yes, you take reviewing seriously, but as long as you write reviews about the ARCs/books which come with that condition, the rest of the reviews are all driven by what works for you in terms of choice and schedule. And I’d hate to see the quality of your reviews compromised because you feel compelled to up the quantity! (I’m already amazed by how many books you read and review.) How frequently do we readers complain about that trade-off among authors and their output?

    Also, while I’m sure having a review posted within days of a scheduled release is great for authors, (virtual) word-of-mouth is a funny thing. It can still carry a lot of power in subsequent weeks and months. Of course, you may not want to trust my opinion on that considering how late to the party I often am when it comes to books-with-buzz. After all, I am the person who just “discovered” JD Robb this year. *hangs head in slacker shame*

    Deep breaths, Azteclady. Deep calming breaths. Remember, reading is fun. You’re not getting paid to do this — yet.


  • Myra Willingham
    August 10
    8:56 pm

    My TBR pile fills a small bookcase. I wish I could put a dent in it but my primary means of making a living is as an editor. That TBR pile keeps climbing.


  • You could build a small cottage out of my TBR pile, and that doesn’t count the ebooks. But I still have trouble saying no to a great looking book : /


  • Ann Bruce
    August 11
    4:07 am

    Reading should be fun, not stressful.

    If someone is giving you a gift (i.e. book), there should be no strings attached. Otherwise, it’s not a gift. It becomes an obligation. It’s like those so-called gifts at the make-up counters. If they were truly gifts, everyone would get one and not just people who spend $50 or more.

    That you review the books you receive is a nice-to-have for the authors; it shouldn’t be a must-have.


  • Thank you, everyone, though I fear I must correct a misconception: no one is putting pressure on me to read and review.

    Well, no one but myself. 😉

    Veinglory, I’m not quite at the small cottage stage (yet), but yeah, three bookcases and counting–plus eARCs and ebooks.


  • I followed that 🙂 And while I can see your dilemna, but I’m with Shiloh – unless the author was giving away the ARC with the request that a review be posted, you shouldn’t feel obligated to write a review in a timely manner. But I’m guessing you’re feeling like you should anyway? (((azteclady)))


  • I used to go crazy thinking I had to review a book or an ARC as soon as I got it or tried to post the review a few weeks before the book came out to build up the buzz. With some books I do that but I am only one person and can read only so much at a time. Don’t feel bad at all. Reading should be fun, not work.


  • Anon76
    August 11
    2:43 pm

    Yep, AL, you def need a chill pill. The pressure you are putting on yourself is unfounded, and like others, I feel it will take some of the joy out of your reading experience. That to me is one of the worst things that can happen in the world. (In perspective, of course.)

    Shake off the feeling that you must review all books/ARCs you win. Good heavens, I don’t know author one that expects that when they hold a contest. (Okay, I have seen the rare contest where the author states that’s part of the deal, but that is usually from the odd bird and happens like, .000000001% of the time.)

    And as for the RWA books? I’m assuming they weren’t given to you, so those are for enjoyment. If one totally strikes your fancy and you feel a burning need to write a review, then do so. Otherwise. Relax. It’s all good. LOL


  • I agree that you shouldn’t feel obligated to read or review a book under any circumstances. But I can see your dilemma about ARCs. The point of getting an advance reading copy is to read it in advance, no? So I think it’s nice of you to be honest with the author about not accepting her ARC. I’m sure she understands.


  • I don’t review everything I read – not even close. When I know I have to review something later (rare, but sometimes I do oblige myself) I read it differently. It’s not like a ‘relaxed’ read, ya know? So I prefer not knowing if I’m going to review a book before I read it. Which is a very long way of saying, I don’t do the ARC thing because I know I’d feel, as you do, that there’s an obligation to review timeously.


  • CindyS
    August 12
    3:49 am

    I think winning an ARC with no expectations is definitely different than being offered an ARC. You were upfront and honest about how you couldn’t promise to review the book in time for the release. After that it’s the author’s call whether they want to send you the book.

    I think you did the absolute right thing.



  • I remember us discussing this at RWA. I hate turning down an ARC I really really want but know realistically I can’t review it for the author. It’s just torture. All you can do is be honest and hope you’ll get asked to dance again.


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