YA Guy hates 'em.
Well, let's clarify that. I don't have a problem with ARCs as such. In fact, it's kind of thrilling to see your book in physical form for the first time, even if it's a flimsy paperback and the text will probably undergo changes ranging from minor to ginormous before the actual book is published. I understand, too, why others like ARCs: a chance to read and review a book before it's on the shelves. Some people collect ARCs. And publishers keep churning them out in hopes of generating buzz and early reviews.
But I've got to tell you, my personal experience with ARCs has been an exercise in frustration.
With FREEFALL, I received about 20 ARCs (not to mention the digital ARCs on NetGalley). Being a good boy, I sent out emails to various reviewers in my genre, asking if they'd like a physical or digital ARC. Many reviewers responded enthusiastically, so I sent them the ARC of their choice. Then I sat back and waited for the reviews to roll in.
Which they didn't.
I got a few reviews, sure. Some were very positive, some weren't. That's life. The not-so-positive reviews aren't what I'm annoyed about.
It's the people who don't review the book at all. Ever.
I sent follow-up emails to those who'd requested an ARC. Several responded with firm or tentative review dates. Most, however--if they responded at all--told me that they were too busy to review, or something had come up, or they'd changed their minds. No review for you, kid. Sorry, better luck next time!
This bothers me. And not because it signifies that I'm not a big enough name to merit instant reviews. For all I know, this happens to everyone. But it shouldn't happen to anyone.
Look, I'm busy too. Things come up for me. And I have been known to change my mind from time to time.
But when someone asks me if I'll review their ARC and I agree to do so, I review the darn thing. I recognize that it costs the author (or somebody) money to mail me that ARC, and I also recognize that if I take it, someone else who might have reviewed it doesn't get it. If I'm honestly too busy or foresee that the book's not quite up my alley and I might change my mind about reviewing it, I tell the author or publisher not to send it to me.
We all know of the dishonest things that happen with ARCs. Some people request them only to sell them online. Others, even worse, digitize them and then give them away on free download sites. I can't do anything about those people, who are either outright crooks or just plain jerks.
But to the people who are less criminal than inconsiderate, I'd ask that you remember the investment the author makes in her or his writing, along with the expectation that's attached to the ARC she or he sent to you. It's not a formal contract, of course. You're not REQUIRED to read and review it. If the author was the one who made the initial overture, you might think you have no real obligation to review it. But wouldn't that be the right thing to do? The nice thing to do?
In any event, I think I've finally wised up. For my next book, I'll either survive without ARCs or go digital only. I really don't have the time or money to be shipping books to people who plan to use them only to prop up the furniture.