Reviews, freebies and recommendations

booksIt’s been a few years since I reviewed books on the back of receiving a review copy.  Whilst I spent much of my time writing professionally, this doesn’t afford me much time for reading review copies and my spare time is taken up with having a break from a world of text.

Recent news articles covering “freebies” and reviews online have come to the fore again, so with that in mind, I’ve decided to pen my own thoughts on the subject as a result of a few “debates” I’ve had with creators sending me work recently.

First and foremost for me, if I received a review copy of a book from the author/publishing house, I made that very clear.  I think its very important to disclose this fully.  It can (but not always) have a huge effect on a review.  So the title was good? Was it good on the basis that I received it for nothing?  If I had paid full price for this title would I hold the same opinion?  These are difficult questions because I know that if a company sends me a product for free the level of expectation could, unintentionally be lowered.

This is why in my view, it is important to make it clear to the reader of my review.  They can read why I thought a title was good and decide if my opinion was partially based on the fact that I didn’t have to pay for the title.

The next question I have is difficult for me.  What if I didn’t like the title?  Maybe it was badly written, maybe the story had holes in, or maybe it didn’t rest within my area’s of interest?

If someone has sent me a title, I feel obliged to return that kindness by reviewing their work.  But what if I didn’t like it?

The idea of writing a favourable review of a title I didn’t like is out of the question, most importantly because it would be misleading to the reader, but secondly, if I didn’t have a true belief in the work, then when other people read it, they would form the appropriate conclusions of my writing.

In the case of titles that are bad, or I just don’t like, generally I just don’t give a review at all.   This has itself created problems and resulted in getting into debate directly with an author as to why I didn’t like or review the title.

We have to remember that books, films, computer games all create different opinions.  Some of the most raved about films I found boring, some of the most popular books I couldn’t get past the first few chapters.  It’s all opinion and that of one person does not dictate or equate to the global view of a product.  The general feeling of a product taken from a large number of sources is, in my opinion is far more valuable than that of just a handful of people.

There are some people that are alleged to approach companies proactively and ask for “freebies” in return for review.   This is something which I have never done and would never do.  If I asked for (and received) a free holiday for example, would I give anything but a glowing review in the hope that more freebies would be forthcoming?  That’s a question I don’t want to have to ask myself and why I would avoid any approach of any company.

The Internet is full of genuine, honest reviews.  Conversely there are going to be reviews written on the back of motives of want.  Its differentiating these which is of the upmost importance.

I stand by my recommendations so its vital that they are as accurate and detailed as possible.  If you have sent me work for review and not received one, that doesn’t mean the work was bad as there are a plethora of other reasons why I might not have reviewed it – time is one of the major factors.

My stance is simple.  If I like a product, I’ll disclose how it was obtained and state why I like it.  If I don’t like product (or indeed don’t have the time to dedicate to it), I just won’t review it.

Thank you to everyone sending me material, one thing is very clear, there are many, many skilled and excellent writers out there, both self published and “traditionally” published.

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