Why Don’t Outsiders Trust ‘Received In Exchange For An Honest Review’?

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As book bloggers, we understand the way our community works. We know that some lucky, hard-working bloggers receive ARCs from publishers to help build hype. We know that physical ARCs are more expensive to produce than a finished copy of the book. We love ARCs. We covet them. We worship them.

We also know that as reviewers, the only thing we’ve got going for us is our reputation. So we’ve got to be completely honest about how we feel about books, otherwise what’s the point?

Recently I came across some criticism on Amazon’s algorithms on how they show reviews and I was shocked to see quite a few voices saying they don’t trust ‘received in exchange for an honest review’ reviews. Because the person got the item for free and it is, essentially, a payment.

As book bloggers, we shouldn’t feel bad giving negative reviews to ARCs. Publishers want to know our honest feelings and here’s a secret lots of authors don’t want you to know: Publishers actually LIKE getting the full range of ratings from DNF to 5 stars.

We in the book community know that ARCs are completely normal and we see negative and positively reviewed ARCs all the time. We put hours into our hobby and sometimes getting a much-coveted ARC is a nice way for the publicists to say ‘thank you for all of your time and effort.’

So why is this ‘don’t trust reviewers who get something for free’ attitude in the wider (non-book) reviewing community?


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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9 thoughts on “Why Don’t Outsiders Trust ‘Received In Exchange For An Honest Review’?

  1. Kirra

    That’s a good subject to be addressed. I’ve had a few ARCs sent to me and they have never expected anything of me and have only nicely asked that I leave a review telling them what I thought of it. Maybe these people are just jealous that they’re not getting ARCs? I know I wish I had more of a following so I could get them! 🙂 Also I know if I ever finish a book (maybe one day far, far away!) I would want honest feedback even if it would break my heart if they thought it was awful! I guess we just ignore these negative people.

    1. Nemo

      I don’t think it’s jealousy, and I’m talking specifically outside the book community because I was under the impression book reviewers trusted one another. It seems that, for example, beauty reviewers or household appliance reviewers, or whatever, aren’t trusted because they get the item for free.

  2. Hannah

    I wonder if it has something to do with how in other blogging niches – like beauty – especially when it come to Instagram posts, bloggers are paid to make sure that the product is advertised in a positive light? The whole “you don’t get something for nothing” phrase comes to mind. Book blogging is a whole different scope (much like the paid vs unpaid argument that has been cropping up recently). We’re given something which, while it may sound like it’s free, really it’s not. It’s cost something to make, it’s cost something to send. And when you look at how a lot of the American publishers will send finished (and hardbacks!) to respectable bloggers, that is our form of payment. People just seem to think everything works the same in every industry I guess!

    1. Nemo

      It might be to do with payment – the only book blogger I know who takes payment is someone who specialises in audioboooks and you can pay him to bump your book to the top of his pile. For some reason getting paid is really frowned upon in the book reviewing community! Maybe this is another thing that is different. But even then, getting a book is NOT a payment, and you are NEVER obliged to post a review.

  3. Eilonwy

    This is very interesting, because I didn’t realize people don’t trust reviews of books given to people specifically for review. I’ve seen so many one and two star reviews for free ARC’s that it seems obvious the reviewers are being honest. The one book I won from Goodreads for a fair and honest review got a big “yuck” from me, so I guess my experience also plays into assuming other reviewers are being honest as well.

    Plus what Kirra said. At the ARC point in revisions, an author can still change things, so you’d think the publisher and writer would want genuinely honest reviews, not just “oh, I won this book so I better love it” kiss-up reviews.

    It’s obvious both of you reviewers here are very honest! 🙂

    1. Nemo

      Thanks Eilonwy, I do think it’s important to be honest but I think saying you’re honest is irrelevant. In Australia though, we’re more likely to get finished copies for review, not ARCs, strangely enough.

  4. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight

    You know, I actually can’t remember what I thought about the “received in exchange” reviews before I was a blogger. But obviously, as a book blogger now, I completely trust those reviews just as much as any other. I mean, yeah, there probably are *some* people out there who lie and give great reviews just to get more ARCs… but that’s just life. I mean, there are probably out there lying in their reviews even if they’re not getting ARCs. Or there could be fake reviews posted by the author themselves. Or by their friends and family. Or people could give false negative reviews because those get a lot of attention too. My point being, reviews of free ARCs or no more likely to be untrustworthy than any other review. But I guess non book bloggers might not realize that, and, in a way, I can understand their hesitation. It’s just a shame. Then again, if you read enough reviews, it gets easier to spot the actual helpful ones. I mean, if a review just says, “Wow, this book was the best book ever!” then ok, maybe don’t trust that one lol. But if a review goes into detail about WHY they liked the book, why not trust that?

    I wonder what the non-ARC-trusters think about negative ARC reviews. I mean, I’ve written some myself. I’ve seen them. So it’s not like every ARC review is positive. But do publishers actually like having a whole spectrum of reviews? I always hate submitting the negative ones because I feel like they’ll never approve me for another book again lol. (But obviously I do it anyways because honesty.)

    1. Nemo

      I always thought the ‘received in exchange’ was showing off, like ‘look I got a free book’ and now I think it’s redundant, it’s just nice to know what’s an ARC and what’s an older book.

      Publishers do love the whole spectrum, no one is ever going to deny you a book because you didn’t like it and if they do, you probably don’t want to work with that publisher.

      1. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight

        Ok, I can see a non-reviewer thinking it sounded show off-y. I’m pretty sure I didn’t realize it was a legal requirement either. But I wouldn’t say it’s redundant since lots of review copies given out aren’t necessarily ARCs. I know that I sometimes get backlisted books. But honestly, my eyes just skim over the disclaimer now because it doesn’t make a difference to me whether someone got it for free or not, you know?

        And you’re right, that’s a good point, if a publisher was going to deny me books for being honest, that isn’t a publisher I’d want to work with.

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