The Troubling Trend with ARC Readers

As the end of the year (and the holiday season) approaches, I’m noticing authors asking for reviews more than normal- which they tend to do at this time of year, as more and newer reviews tend to kick AI algorithms at various retail/ recommendation sites into gear.

And that is all well and good, but I’ve also become much more involved as an ARC reader this year, branching out from doing it consistently for one author to joining a few different ARC programs for various publishers, genres, and general (NetGalley). And it is within this ARC work that I’ve been noticing a troubling trend over the last few weeks in particular, though I’ve seen evidence of it literally for years.

That trend?

People who will receive an Advance Reader Copy from an author or publisher with the understanding that the person will read it and leave a review of the book, with most authors and publishers desiring the review to be left on release day or week… and then not leave a review.

Now, the various “publishing agents” (authors, publishers, and anyone else giving out ARCs) will usually try to gently remind people to leave the reviews and couch it in conciliatory language such as “Maybe you got busy or forgot, but could you please leave your review this week” or some such. Others are quicker to remove the reader from the ARC program.

But here, on this blog today, I want to speak to these readers a bit directly:

To be quite blunt, I don’t give a rat’s ass what your excuse is. For most of the programs I participate in, you literally have months or at minimum a month to read a 300 ish page book. Meaning if you read just 10 pages a day – just 10 minutes per day, for the average reader – you’ll have that 300 page book read inside the month you have before it releases. I don’t care your situation in life, you can find 10 minutes per day to read the book you committed to read *and review*. If you can’t, you should voluntarily resign your position as an ARC reader until your life calms down to the point that you can.

Note that I’m not claiming you have to read every book in whatever program you’re in, just the ones you actively commit to. If a publishing agent sends you a book you can’t commit to, rather than asking if you wanted it first, send them a note and at least let them know up front that you may not be able to have it read in time and give them what you think is a reasonable time frame for you to get it read *and reviewed*. This is basic common courtesy, people!

And if a publishing agent changes the release date to a date sooner than you can finish the book, let them know that you will honor your original commitment but cannot commit to the new date, particularly in situations (as I’ve had somewhat recently) where the book publishes more than a month earlier than the date you were given.

Not reviewing a book you have been given as an ARC, with the full understanding that such a review is part of the implicit contract, is THEFT. Now, the author may not call you out on it (and probably shouldn’t, for PR and business reasons), but I’m sitting here today on my own blog calling it exactly what it is, and if I’m stepping on your toes… be glad I’m not kicking you in the ass like you deserve.

Have a shred of honor and dignity, y’all. Stand by your commitments. And if your life has changed to the point you can no longer regularly commit to reading ARCs from a given publishing agent, contact them to let them know you are withdrawing from their program and why, so that they can replace you with someone who *can* commit to reading and reviewing.

Authors, particularly the indies that I tend to read more of that don’t have massive marketing systems behind them, will tell you that a person that will simply leave a review on even Amazon – much less other sites such as Goodreads, Bookbub, BN, BAMM, or others – are almost worth their weight in gold as far as sales go. On Amazon, once a book gets just a few dozen reviews, Amazon’s AI will start recommending the book, and the more reviews a book gets the more Amazon’s AI starts recommending it. Social media works similarly, with a few people talking about something results in that topic being put in front of ever more people. It is how many authors, particularly those just on the cusp of being able to write full time or those struggling to get to that level, make the money that allows them to write more books.

And ultimately, that is why I get pissed off – not only are you stealing money from the publishing agents, but you’re indirectly stealing enjoyment from me. Because if an author has to go back to a day job to pay the bills rather than writing more books, that means that I don’t get to continue reading a series I enjoy. If another author decides that he can’t continue to write series books and has to focus on stand alones because the later series books don’t get as many reviews and therefore don’t get as many sales, that means that I don’t get conclusions to series I have invested quite a bit of time myself into.

So do everyone involved a favor. Make yourself feel good by following through on your commitments. Make the author feel good by helping them make money so that they can feed their families and continue to write us more books. And make me happy by allowing me to read ever more amazing books from authors at all stages in the game.

Leave the damn review.

Just do it.