Blogging Life: Is There a Proper Etiquette for Unsolicited ARCs & Review Copies?

BloggingLife

Recently I received an email from a publishing marketer wanting to know where my review was for an advanced reading copy they had sent. The problem was, this copy was unsolicited. It arrived in my mailbox as a pleasant surprise and after a courtesy Instagram post made its way to small but kind of growing pile of unsolicited book mail. This was not the first time an email like this has happened, and it kind of upset me. The more I thought about it, the more I felt the marketer was out of line to approach me in this manner. After deleting the email (I try not to allow myself to angry respond – lesson learned there) I took to Twitter with my grievances because that is what we do in this day and age of booming social media.

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It turns out that many of you agree (because I am right) and I had some nice discussions about these unsolicited copies and unread review policies (Spoiler – nobody reads them). I wanted to carry that over to the blog and discuss it further because it’s fun to do. So let’s do this!

Unsolicited Book Mail: Is There A Proper Etiquette Involved?

This is a tricky one for me because I say yes and no. Technically, I feel as though I did not ask for it, therefore I am in no way, shape or form committed to respond or react to it. But I also happen to be a nice and appreciative person *wink*.  So do have a haphazard system in place that I hope is courtesy and grateful because I do love book mail and being thought of ❤

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My System (Attempt at Unsolicited Book Mail Etiquette)

Keeping two shelves for ARCs & reviews copies: Here I separate the requested and agreed to reading versus the glorious and ever elusive surprise mail into two defining collections. And well, I bet you can guess which takes priority *double wink*

Contacting the publisher: If I am provided with contact or have the information for the sender (a few I work with regularly will send titles they think I might like) I will send an email thanking them for the book and let them know that if/when I have time to review it, I will be sure to send them the link. I do understand these ARCs cost them money and like to be appreciative and responsive when I can. However, I will not go out of my way to track down senders of the random titles that arrive with no additional information.

Brief promotion without/before reviewing: I always attempt to share the book mail on Instagram and social media in advance. Albeit my following count is hardly worthy of actually labeling this as a promotion. I feel that bringing any awareness to the titles is the least I can do before it goes on the glorious surprise mail shelf.

Reviewing: I will review and acknowledge that it was sent via the publisher and shoot them a link once I am finally able to do. I do not review the random romance or spiritual titles that arrive. To be fair, I have a policy that states I am closed for reviews and do not accept these titles EVER. Should have read that *triple wink* <– is that a thing?

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I appreciate and respect those rare occasions that I am sent the unexpected. Particularly when it is accompanied by a nice note or explanation. I have one publicist who will send books with a card saying “This sounded like your cup of tea” I adore her! I do the best I can to acknowledge and review the titles. But I also believe it is out of line for any publisher to demand a review when the title was never actually requested. I am hoping this is a rare event that I will not encounter too often.

How do you handle unsolicited books? Perhaps you have experienced something similar (although I hope not). Do you feel there is a proper etiquette involved with unsolicited book mail?

Let’s Chat,
Danielle ❤

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84 thoughts on “Blogging Life: Is There a Proper Etiquette for Unsolicited ARCs & Review Copies?

  1. I don’t get unsolicited books by post but if it’s my genre I would probably want to read them anyway and I think I would do the same as you. I do sometimes get surprise emails from authors who just add the book right away. The books are usually not something I’d pick myself so I thank them but tell them that I’m not open for reviews.

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  2. I don’t get unsolicited book post. But my feeling is that if a book is sent without your agreement in advance then it is at your leisure to read. I have accepted requests and and did try to stay within a sort of timeline, though some are still on my list to read. The only timescale I stick rigidly to is for blog tours xx

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    1. Absolutely! 🖤 If it is a tour I will agree to and meet timelines. And on ARCs I request or accept, I try to aim for a review within 2 weeks of release. But with my illness, I also state I am unable to promise timelines and explain this in correspondence (which has always been well met). So I think that it really aggravates me to have someone be so demanding when I promised nothing to begin with and they clearly have not read my policies.

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  3. Interesting post and I’m not surprised to see it make its way to your blog from twitter.😉

    The only etiquette that I am aware of with unsolicited copies is that as they are a surprise and unsolicited that you don’t even have an obligation to look at the book. Sure, you can post a picture on SM thanking them, do a book haul post or even email the publisher but I’ve been told by a publicist and a well respected blogger also mentioned as they get hundreds of books that as its unsolicited you have no need whatsoever to read the book at all, no obligation and the publicist said (it was a while ago now but I presume still holds true) that they send them because you are on the mailing list and because they think you might like the title as a ‘just because’ no obligation at all.

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    1. That is my thoughts and understanding also! I do make a point of reaching out to thank them when able as I have developed some great contacts this way (surprisingly as I am amazed each time I get personal response back). There definitely is no obligation as far as I am concerned and yet this has happened twice! It really irritates me because you know me, I am soft and for a moment I started to feel guilty which is ridiculous! Thanks so much Drew 😊

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  4. I get unsoliciteds, but I’ve never been asked where my review was. I think that’s rather demanding = rude in my mind, so I would just tell them I have a full plate with those that I have requested. Annemieke and I were talking about this sort of thing with request emails, especially if they aren’t according to policy, or you are not accepting new books. She answers them all and I just swipe them into trash. Ha ha. 😂 I wouldn’t even answer the email unless they are a publisher you are thinking of requesting from in the future.

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    1. Yes! I was frustrated because a) it was rude and presumptuous and b) they clearly did not read my policies. In this case I was angry typing, so I ended up just deleting the email instead of responding. I often just trash request emails because I realize they are not reading the policies and I have too many other things on my plate. But like you mentioned, I respond to publishers I like working with 🖤

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  5. Usually when I received unsolicited books, it’s usually via email and I just delete the message, especially if it looks spammy and I do not trust the sender and their attachments. Because I’ve been so busy as a high school student (now approaching senior year), I put on my review policy that I am highly selective with requests, but it’s sad that many authors and publishers ignore it. Unsolicited books have no obligation to read at all, but we should display some gratitude. And if we have no time to read it, I would give it away–as least it could be loved by a friend or a library. 😉

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    1. I am not sure the library is allowed to accept ARCs but I do love your idea of passing them on! I know plenty of bloggers and reviewers I could send them to. That is a wonderful idea that would still help promote the book. I delete those emails also. So I do not blame you. Especially with your full plate! I hope you enjoy the summer and have a great senior year. Thank you so much!

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      1. My library actually has a used bookstore (where books are like a couple of bucks each and all funds go to the library), so I usually donate it there. Passing them on is definitely a great way to make sure a book gets to a reader who would love it when you can’t get to it. Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy your summer, too! 🙂

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  6. I have received ebook copies of books from publishers, unsolicited, but I have never heard about being asked where the review is. I think if they haven’t heard back from you, they don’t have the right to demand a review. I usually reply with a yes, or a no and add it to my TBR list if the book takes my interest.

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    1. I have to admit I do not even respond to the emails with unsolicited ebooks any longer. I am not able to accept more at this time and it often frustrates me how often our review policies are ignore. In this case, I planned on reading the book but could prioritize it over commitments. Now I am contemplating not reading it at all as I was so put off by the email 😂

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  7. I don’t recall ever receiving unsolicited books through the post but if I did I think I’d follow your approach. I’d thank them for sending the book but let them know it may be some months before I can read and review it, especially if it’s an ARC and I won’t be able to review before publication. I’d also include details of the book in my weekly update of new arrivals, share picture on IG, etc. To my mind, that’s good enough.

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  8. Honestly, it depends on the senders approach. If they actually take the time to compose an email TO ME and it’s not just an email blast then I will take the time to respond. If it’s a blast, I don’t even respond. Unless it’s a publisher or author I work with regularly of course. If it’s the latter I click delete and move on. Can’t say if I’ve been in your position but you are nicer than I am if you promote it on Instagram at least lol.

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    1. Thanks haha. It felt rather rude and I found myself angry typing, so in this case I ended up deleting. But I definitely would respond if it was someone I worked with regularly. To be honest, I am not sure I will even read the book now. Maybe that is unfair.. but they irked me 😂

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  9. Hey Danielle,
    I get unsolicited book mail from a couple of publishers and if it’s before the publication date and a book that sounds really good or an author I love then I try and slot it in my schedule. And if not, I put it in a pile I hope to one day get to and review. Saying that, I’ve never been emailed asking where my review is and if you receive it unsolicited I don’t think you have an obligation or a time limit to have it read/reviewed. 😊

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  10. If I get unsolicited book post I generally take a pic and share on twitter or Instagram, tagging and thanking who it came from then it gets put on my very large pile never to be seen again unless it really piques my interest!
    I stick rigidly to blog tour reviews but anything else is either what I agree with an author or a book I feel guilty for having for so long.
    In my mind if they can’t read my review policy which clearly states ‘Closed’ then they don’t deserve a response. I have had several authors nag me about when the review would be up,unless it was a specifically agreed date I put it back to the bottom of the list for annoying me!! xx

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    1. Right! I make an effort to read them when time allows and I do share on social media, but my policy even states I am closed for reviews. It frustrated me for that reason and because I was under no obligation. Surely there could have been a better approach? Like dropping an email to ask me if I am enjoying the book or asking that I send a link when I review. Oh well 🖤

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  11. Yeah, you can’t hand someone a random book and then send emails when they don’t read it on your schedule. That’s just rude. I’ve never gotten unsolicited books from publishers, but I have gotten unsolicited ebooks from self-published authors. I delete them because my policy says I don’t take them. Also, my TBR pile is so big that it’s spilling off the shelf. I don’t have time to read unsolicited stuff.

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  12. You should put a bold disclaimer up that says Unsolicited books are SENT AT YOUR OWN RISK!!! (also they may be sent across the USA to my BFF ) HAHAHAHAH jk!!!! I really think they are read at your own pace unless you have something set up with the author/publisher. So you are all good to delete that message. 😀

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  13. The only unsolicited books I receive are PDFs from indie authors. Since our review policy states we do not accept these, I simply delete the email. I used to reply to authors politely explaining this, but they would keep sending me emails with books attached so I don’t waste my time anymore, just delete.

    However, I thought publishers understood that sending unsolicited (or even solicited, really) ARCs doesn’t always mean a review in return. I assumed they just took the financial hit and hoped for marketing in return. It is strange to me that they would ask where your review is for a book you didn’t ask for! Can you imagine if everyone did this? What if we all started receiving makeup and vacuums and cookie sheets in the mail with follow-up letters demanding to know why we didn’t review the product that arrived in our mail? Wouldn’t that cross some sort of line?

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    1. Right! I mean it did upset me, but it is also incredibly odd!!! And I know I did not ask for this book. Even more strange is that it has happened twice. I am hoping this will be the last of it. I seem to attract the unusual 😂 I delete all of the unsolicited ebooks as well. Like you I tried for so long to follow up politely, but it became a waste of my time. I justify it by telling myself that that is why I took the time to write a policy 😉

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      1. I’d be upset, too. Life is stressful enough without feeling like someone’s yelling at you for something that isn’t even your fault!

        Well, yes. Not to be obnoxious, but why I should I read someone’s 400-page book and take an hour or more to write a thoughtful review if they couldn’t take three minutes to read my review policy?

        Off topic, but I feel the same way about the many, many people who address all our correspondence only to Briana like I don’t exist. Because her name appears first in the sidebar and I guess they didn’t read any further! Well, guess what. Maybe I had time to review your book and Briana didn’t, but you didn’t offer it to me, so… :b

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  14. If it’s unsolicited, I will thank the publisher with an Instagram post that I share on Facebook, then do the same with Twitter, but there is no way you can work on a deadline with every book you receive out of nowhere. If asked when I will be reviewing, I simply reply that life takes its time, so does reading, and that I will notify them whenever the review is up online.

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  15. Danielle I have recently come to experience this problem. Simon & Schuster have sent me several physical arcs of books I wanted to read anyway, so I was pleased/delighted to receive them. Recently however they have sent me two books that I have absolutely no interest in reading. I don’t want to jeopardize my relationship with this reputable publisher, but I really don’t intend to read these two particular books. I thanked them on Twitter, but that will be the extent of my involvement.

    For some time now I have received many review requests that have come from authors and sometimes publishers that have a digital ARC attached to the email. I answer these emails politely, but I seldom have any interest in reading the book. I do NOT feel obligated to read these books which I did not ask for and often haven’t even heard of before. I explain this in my email answer stipulating that I will let them know if I do read and review the book, but that there is a high probability that I will not get to it.

    The fact that you were contacted a second time asking where your review was – I think – highly presumptuous of them (bordering on rude). That would be like me giving you a sugary treat, not knowing if you like sugar OR if you were diabetic and couldn’t eat sugar. THEN asking you how delicious it was. Not fair, not polite, and, in my mind, not acceptable.

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    1. Yes, it truly pushed limits with me. I ended up so frustrated that I decided not to respond because every email I attempted to type was coming out truly angry. I want to maintain solid relationships with publishers and try to promote and even review ASAP with books I want to read. I work them in. I personally think that this publisher has a rep who might be a little off. I am not sure I even want to read the book now.

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  16. I barely receive solicited books, much less unsolicited! But I think I would also go the route of doing an Instagram/Twitter/Facebook post for promo and not review the book unless I wanted to. Honestly, publishers are so focused on Instagram and similar platforms these days, since they tend to have a larger reach than a blog, that I’m surprised they would even really care if you didn’t review the book. I mean, some people get books JUST to post a photo on Instagram, without any expectation they’d actually read the thing.

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    1. Right this is my thought also. And exactly why I make sure to share on social media before shelving for later review. To be honest, this is the second time. I think that one of the marketers for this publisher may have some issues they need to work out 😆

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  17. I don’t get unsolicited book post, my blog’s too small for any publisher’s to take notice of me lol. But I have had unsolicited stuff sent to me when I used to review things on amazon years ago and I learned from other reviewers that anything unsolicited wasn’t expected to be reviewed. If a publicist sends something unsolicited then there’s no contract for you to review. I too would stick it in an instagram post (just because I love sticking my book post on there :p ) but I wouldn’t feel obliged to read it and would put it on my ‘maybe’ tbr pile. That publicist who contacted you though was very rude and wrong to do so. When you agree to review a book or request one for review that’s a bit like a contract, an agreement to review it, but a book you haven’t requested doesn’t need to be reviewed, it’s the publicists fault for sending it without asking. Don’t let it get to you, you’re reviewing for free, something that publicist clearly forgot. So don’t let it upset you and your health ❤ ❤
    OMG- that cat! 😀 😀

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      1. I understand, when I started book reviewing and blogging I felt so guilty for turning away any book or even any offer of a book…It took me a long time to realise that guilty feeling was not fair on me and it was the fault of the people contacting me. So don’t feel bad if you ever feel guilty, just let it pass or do what you did now…write a blog post to vent 😉 😀

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  18. I rarely get unsolicited copies, but if I do, they are usually from the book publicist who knows my book taste very well, so I do read them. I have never been asked where my review is. I think that would be rude if the unsolicited copy was sent, since you didn’t ask for it, plus it’s not like you’re paid to read and review books, just saying!

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  19. Not that I have the same issue. I totally agree, if you didn’t accept the book you are under no obligations, to read it let alone review it. If this is becoming annoying you could put something in your review policy stating what you plan to do with unsolicited books. At that point it’s up to them if they want to take the risk of sending it.

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  20. I haven’t received any unsolicited books, but if I were in the same situation I would be annoyed to say the least by the gall of the PR person emailing you. Since they clearly have your contact information, the least they could do before nagging you is sending something as a heads-up perhaps? Why they are sending it? I don’t know. I just think it’s rude.

    And you definitely seem to do your due diligence when you receive them! I think if your review policy clearly states your preferred genres and you are sent something outside of that you are under no obligation to review. I probably would tweet a thank you and pass it on to someone that would enjoy it more than me.

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    1. Thank you so much Kaleena ❤ I certainly try to give each one proper attention as I am so grateful when they do arrive. It did upset me and at this point I have decided I am not going to review the book out of principle. It was pushy and rude. I would not have minded an email asking if I was enjoying the title or to send them a link when I finish the review. That could have been a gentle nudge huh?

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  21. I do review a lot of the books I read, Danielle, although I am by no means in your reviewing league. I have also received unsolicited emails with books attached and I delete them. I only read books that I want to read and I already have a huge pile of books on my TBR. I just can’t entertain anything that I haven’t specifically agreed to.

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    1. I agree Robbie. I do love when books arrive and appreciate, so I do what I can. But in this case it was ridiculous to contact me in such a manner. But it has happened twice. I think the publisher has a rep with a bad attitude personally. If it happens again, maybe I will find the appropriate person to forward my concerns to 🙂

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  22. Loved this post! ❤ I completely agree with you… Like I said on Twitter, I never receive physical book mail in the first place (which in some weird way can be seen as a blessing, since I don't have to deal with the mails mentioned above), but I've had a few similar situations with eARCs. Mails like: "here's a copy of *insert title of either a genre I don't read or one I might want to read but don't have time for* and promotion material, we want to see something on your blog soon!!" And of course they are offended if I politely decline or if I fail to review a book I never asked for in the first place. Like we said before, somehow it's as if we're writing our book review policies as simple decoration for our blog and most don't even read then. And if it's stated clearly on our blog, why are we to blame for not doing something we said we wouldn't or couldn't do in the first place. 😉

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    1. Exactly! I know you and I see eye to eye on this one 😉 I think that over calming down a bit and venting my frustrations, I have decided that I will not be reviewing this particular book. That may sounds spiteful to some, but I cannot uphold such ridiculous behavior nor do I have time to humor it ❤

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      1. I 100% agree with that decision! We have so many books on our shelves that need to be read in the first place, and that behavior doesn’t really inspire a desire to actually read the book in the first place. Kuddos to you for taking that decision! ❤

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  23. I agree that it’s out of line for a publisher to demand a review for an unsolicited review copy, especially if this is someone you’ve had no real working relationship with in the past. And I also think that your way of dealing with unsolicited books (and emails) is very fair. The few ARCs I’ve gotten out of the blue I make a point of highlighting on Twitter and thanking the publisher for sending, but I don’t necessarily rush them to the top of my review pile. At the end of the day this is a hobby and there’s no reason to push yourself into reading books that don’t interest you…or that you don’t have the time for after covering the books you actually requested! Great discussion ♥♥

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  24. Oh yeah, you’re definitely not required to review anything the cat drags in (so to say). Although I don’t get unsolicited book mail (cause I live in the wrong country lol), I still believe that’s the case (so maybe it’s good that I don’t get it? xD)… Especially if it’s the kind of genre I don’t read?

    I would have still let the marketer know, politely, that I never promised to read that book, so no review would be forthcoming, and that maybe they should stop sending unsolicited mail to me if they will always expect a review.

    I do agree though that doing an Instagram post for mail like that is nice and not hard to do at all, so why not.

    Great post!

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    1. Thanks🖤 So I admit in this case since it was the second incident, I end up deleting the email and setting the book aside in frustration. But normally I would do as you suggested and send a polite follow up. Unfortunately, I did not have one in me at this point 😭 I think that if it happens again I may sadly ask to be removed from their mailing list.

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  25. This is a great-great post!
    Ok, so, I have only ever received 2 unsolicited books… I have been of course tremendously grateful because that means that somewhere someone went through time and effort and resources to post this book out to me. On the other hand, as you say, these books didn’t necessarily end up on my priority tbr queue. I have yet to read those, in fact. However, I have also not received an email from the senders querying where the heck my reviews are- I probably wouldn’t know how to react… and being optimistic that I will receive more unsolicited books, I know at least kind of know what to do…
    I agree with you, though- unsolicited book does not mean that you have to prioritize it- book reviewing has become more and more a kind of a ‘transaction where both parties agree to something’ (based on goodwill, of course w/o the whole money side) and it seems this is the only way to keep all sides somewhat on track… hmm.. I hope I just made sense 😀 Great post, Dani! I am glad you got your point validated by the community, too! 🙂

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    1. Thanks a million Stan! I love surprise book mail and am always thrilled to make a mailing list or be thought of. It was just so off putting (the email). I would have been ok with a gentle nudge asking if I enjoyed the book or requesting a link when I review 😉 It was not as polite though. Sadly, if it happens again I may ask to be removed from their mailing list.

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    1. I always try to read them as soon as I have time (aka completed my promised tbr). But this rep ticked me off to be honest (second time) so I do not think I will. Too spiteful? Maybe. I am seriously considering being asked to be removed from the mailing list if it happens again. I read and review as fast as my little vertigo suffering behind can haha ❤

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  26. God, what a topic to discuss. A tricky one, to be honest.

    It IS totally out of line for a publishing marketer to be demanding after gifting you a copy. You are, on no level, obliged to read book mail that has been gifted, unless it´s been discussed beforehand ( terms, set schedule for review posting ). All this “I´ll send a copy and assume a review will fly in..preferably yesterday… that doesn´t work. Not without some form of exchange.

    And to be brutally honest – You´re not obliged to write a review for anything that´s sent to you. This whole ARC business isn´t binding, unless you sign documents. What you and I ( and everyone else is doing ) is a form of exchange. And it isn´t even that when there hasn´t been any type of communication involved. .

    If there wasn´t any specific mention on review details and you get a book sent then you can definitely see it as an act of kindness. This sounds so harsh but you have to take a step back and see it from a sober POV. Because you already know WHY you´ve been gifted a book. Someone wants a review. D ´uh. They´re expecting something in return because they find you trustworthy enough to read / review. This is where people shouldn´t expect. This is also where people need to learn how to communicate.

    What many publishing marketers forget is that we´re not a drop – off reading market that offers reviews on the side. You aren´t a cavewoman who happens to have an exceptional vocabulary, working in a book factory where people can throw a book at your feet and EXPECT you to know what the next steps are.

    Everything else is acceptable if there has been communication involved. That can be a quick “Yes. No.” or you can a week long email exchange. No matter how…. the key is to get in touch.

    This is also a good example on why I hit the breaks in the ARC business. People expected too much.

    Great post, my dear. ❤ ❤ ❤

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    1. Aw thanks so much ❤ I have only encountered this poor form of behavior twice with same pub. I am thinking if it occurs again I may ask to be removed from mailing list as much as I hate to. But I always read and review what they send as soon as I can. So this pushy. I would have been ok with a gentle nudge of a reminder like "Hi how is the book" or "please drop us a link when you review" but I do have prior actual commitments and do not appreciate being made to feel bad ❤

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      1. That´s so awful that they use that number. And, yes. If it happens again then you can definitely get yourself removed from the mailing list. Probably the easiest option. I don´t like pushy either. It takes all the fun out of reading. ❤ Did you get back with the pub marketer?

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  27. PS- If I were you I wouldn´t react. It´s up to you if you want to read or even find time to read unsolicited copies. If I´d receive an unsolicited copy that isn´t close to my cup of tea you can bet I won´t even think about reading it. I would, though, contact the publishing marketer and have a civilized exchange, giving my thanks and such. That´s as far as I´d go. Going with your gut feeling is always the best way to handle things. ❤

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      1. Aah. okay. Question answered. Lol. Probably also for the best. I think there´s always a fine line between giving a response and giving a response, you know? You don´t want to jeopardize your good name but you also don´t want to let something like that happen again. I fully get that.

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  28. I don’t get any unsolicited book mails which, for me, is a relief? I already have a hard time choosing which book reviews to take up and which to decline! I doubt I’d take the time to read an unsolicited copy, especially if it wasn’t a genre I like. Even publishers I’m acquainted with ask me if I’m interested in a certain book before sending it my way!

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  29. Wonderful post! I’ve only ever once gotten unsolicited book mail and I was so excited that I dropped everything and read it right away lol. I feel like if you didn’t ask for the book then you are in no way obligated to review, or even read it, although it would definitely be nice to do so. You definitely seem to be handling this well. Now I wish I had this particular dilemma because how fun would it be just cassually get book mail!

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  30. Great post, Danielle. It was definitely nice to see you explore the opinions of others on Twitter and then here on this matter. I think any and all unsolicited books should not come with a secret please-read-and-review-as-soon-as-possible clause. We never asked for them after all! 😀 And hopefully, if they sent them our way, it’s because they MIGHT interest us. If it’s clear that it has nothing to do with our interest, then it’s really their loss for sending a copy that could’ve been read, loved and reviewed by something else. As for someone asking you for a review of something you didn’t ask for… That has to be a really desperate marketing job… I’m going to assume it’s cause they don’t have anyone asking them for ARCs of those books, so they go hunting for those who got unsolicited copies hahah

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    1. That would be my assumption as well, but this book is making rounds! It is not the first time it has happened with this publisher. Being honest, thinking about it now I am beginning to believe I made in on the mailing list and someone is having a hard to discerning who actually requested titles and who they sent to unsolicited 😉 Maybe they need to get better organized at this point. Neither book that they contacted me about was one I requested. Who knows? Thanks so much Lashaan!

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