Is it okay to give eBooks away in return for reviews?

Hello there. I was searching thunderbird books on google, and came across one with an interesting title, so I went to check it out on Amazon. When I scrolled through the reviews, I quickly found most of them contained a sentence or two like this:

I got this in a giveaway and this is my honest opinion.

I received this book for free and voluntarily reviewed.

I received the e-book for free and voluntarily reviewed it.

I received this ebook free in exchange for an honest review

Only four out of the twelve reviews do not say they are reviewing it because they got a free copy. Is this allowed? Personally, I find it a little odd, as people could be biased after you gave them free things. Or is this more common on Amazon?

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Its standard practice across a number of industries. Youtubers often get review copies of games, readers get ARCs, filmed reviewers get to see the movie early, etc.

Having a book release and having some reviews to include or blurbs to help show readers the book is good can help sell a copy.

If reviewers had to pay for every book that they reviewed, there would be a lot fewer reviews made, which hurts sales overall.

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Yes, but you cannot REQUIRE the review, you cannot exchange reviews (I’ll review yours if you review mine), and you cannot control the content of the reviews.

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(As I don’t want to hog Ree’s thread, I’m just going to ask my question over here)

@thatCalamity, it seems like that for BetaBooks to be truly useful, you have to at least buy the 15 euro a month package. Is it really worth that amount of money?

That’s for getting access to the list of readers, yeah. If you have beta readers already, the free version is pretty sturdy. I havent tried using the reader database yet, but I’m looking to try it out with some of my non wattpad work. I can report back afterward when I know if its helpful.

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I get large part of my books for “free” for reviews from major publishers. They send me ARCs (advanced reader copies) in exchange for reviews to create buzz ahead of and during the publication date. They do this because I have large engagement on social media and my blog.

When you get a copy for the purpose of reviewing, you have to disclose you got it for the purpose of reviewing to follow FTC (Federal Trade Commission) guidelines. At least, that’s the standard in the United States, though I’m sure there may be something similar elsewhere.

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What is an “advanced reader copy”? Does it mean you get a fancier book?

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Hope this helps:
It’s a copy of a book given to certain people who are permitted to read it before its actual publication date.

An ARC is the pre-published, almost-complete version of a new book that is circulated to “advanced readers.” The identities of these readers may vary, but typically they are book reviewers and media reviewers. They can read the book before its publication date so their reviews can coincide with the book’s debut.

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Thank you. That explains a great deal.

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It’s a copy that comes before the finalized, published version. Usually not all of the formatting is done and some of the content may change between the ARC and the published version. ARCs are used for marketing campaigns and getting blurbs.

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I’m not familiar with the industry but I will say this - the second I see that they received it for free, I disregard the entire review and move on. That’s a customer’s perspective on it, it almost seems counterproductive to me.

Some law or regulation in the US requires reviewers to inform readers if they received something of value in return for posting the review. Obviously, a free copy of the book counts as “something of value”.

I know that they have to inform readers that they received the book for free, I’m just saying that when I see a review mention that they got the book for free, I disregard it. I don’t deem it as trustworthy as a review from the average customer.

They’re not really receiving it for free, though. Getting it for free, all they’d need to do is post the review without reading it or taking any time dissecting it. They’re getting the product in exchange for their time and some work. An influencer receiving a product to review is expected to take their time with it to formulate their own opinion and inform their audience of that opinion. The books I evaluate for review I usually spend a lot more time on than the ones I personally buy. And, since books are expensive, I get a lot of books from publishers because I always request them.

Most reviewers won’t request books unless they feel they’ll enjoy them, because they don’t want to waste their time with something they’re not going to enjoy.

I see how you feel about seeing that “got it in exchange for a review” statement (that was me too before I jumped into the reviewing world myself), but that was just my perspective when I get things to review, specifically books, since I do it. I’m not going to spend 4-8 hours with a product unless I think I’m going to enjoy it. Though, a lot of my audience who go on to purchase books I recommend are my dedicated audience on my social media and my website. I’m not sure if anyone has ever been swayed to purchase after seeing my reviews on retailers. I think trustworthiness is dependent on audience. A lot of the people getting things in exchange for a review are mainly posting their reviews for their audience elsewhere, the retailer post is just something else to do.

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I understand what you mean. When writers I know ask me to review their book, I actually ask them NOT to give me the book for free, because I don’t want to put that disclaimer on the review. I would review honestly either way, though.

That’s just my opinion on it, I’m not saying the reviews aren’t honest or anything like that. There is just this built-in lack of trust when I know they were given the book to review.

Part of it is because the only books I’ve noticed this on were books from Wattpad that went on to be published, so I’ve seen the die-hard fans that were really excited to be given the opportunity to receive an ARC. I know they’re already biased because I’ve seen them around Wattpad.

The other part is because my work does the same thing. We send products to vloggers for free so they can try them out and give us a review. Those partners want to keep us happy so that we’ll send them more new products in the future, so while they’ll be honest about what they liked and disliked, it always seems sugarcoated to me and not very genuine.

Obviously if it’s such a popular practice, it still works. And I definitely don’t blame authors for doing it. I just take all of those reviews with a grain of salt, and skip down to the ones that didn’t receive the book for free.

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I know! That’s why I said I see how you feel. I’m a bit of the same, with not trusting completely. I have specific blogs and channels I trust with their reviews. I think review products are really audience dependent, at least in my experience. So someone posting on their blog to their trusted audience will have more a different impact than someone on a retailers review section, since the audience on the retailer site are likely unfamiliar with the reviewer.

I’ve only worked with bigger names, like MacMillan, S&S, Penguin, etc. From time to time I still work with cosmetic companies. Between the two, I think my book reviews have generated more sales than the cosmetics, even when my channels weren’t focused on books.

Though, re: fans getting ARCs, I think that’s a bit of a smart marketing move, if the fans have an audience, and maybe not completely biased but moreso a better investment. Sending content to fans is a better guarantee of better reviews, and in the end the purpose of ARCs is to generate buzz prior to publication. The fan would probably like the finished version, too, even if they didn’t get the ARC. ARCs aren’t cheap to produce, at least not physical ones, and even eARC distribution can get costly on NetGalley and Edelweiss. Other outlets still get ARCs or bound manuscripts that have a less biased opinion, like Kirkus, Libraries, etc.

I’m just rambling my thoughts, because I’m really interested in this sort of stuff :sweat_smile:

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And you know a lot! I was thinking of doing reviews myself, but only for books I would actually read myself. Plus, I need to check out the various blogtour options, that’s another possibility. But reviews are what I enjoy doing and I read a lot and very fast, so this makes sense.

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a lot of people are offered or request books early in trade for an honest review (like NetGalley or eidelweiss.pluss). It is a part of marketing strategies from publishers to create focus around upcoming releases.

I basically only read YA / NA fantasies with hints of romance. I have total control over what I read. I don’t use blog tour companies much, mostly only NetGalley and Edelweiss, or I contact the marketing / publicity department directly. The blog tours I’ve been included on came directly from the company. Most of my reviews aren’t even part of blogtours. I don’t request books unless I feel like I’m going to like them or I’m really excited about the release. I want to help the authors not hinder them.

I think I’ll add that to my future posts of how I get ARCs and work with publishers.

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