I’m going to admit something I feel is a cardinal sin in the book blogging world: I originally got into book reviewing for the free books.
Now, do I love reviewing books and sharing my love of books with others? Yep. I’ve made a lot of great friends in the book blogging world. Even at its worst, I enjoyed being part of the community because in general, everyone in it is ridiculously nice.
But when I joined back in 2011, I did it mainly because I hoped to get a few ARCs.
I’m the only child of a single mother. We’re both huge book lovers. Money has always been an issue for us, and it got especially bad after Borders closed, because they were the store that allowed us to buy as many books as we were able to with their frequent 40% – 50% off coupons. For a while, our libraries weren’t ordering as many books as they had once done, and if they did, it was a year or more after the book was released. Even at a used bookstore we had to be careful how much we spent.
Due to my mental illnesses, I didn’t have a job at the time. So when I heard that book reviewing might nab me a few free books, well… I went for it. I discovered a great hobby in the process, but at the end of the day, I wanted those free books.
I’ve never felt safe, I guess you’d call it, admitting this in the community. In every post about ARCs or about becoming a book blogger, you’ll read the line, “Don’t do it just for the free books!” Or, “It’s not all about the free books!”
Well, for me, it is all about the free books. Due to my lower middle class life, I can’t ignore the hard, cold fact that getting ARCs saves me a lot of money in a month, never mind a year. But, like with many things about my life, I’m ashamed to admit it.
For me, it was never about being excited to read a book early, although that is certainly very wonderful. ARCs were a necessity of the hobby. If I wanted to become a book blogger and keep up with all the other blogs, I would have to review all the newest and hottest stuff, and the only way to do that was to get ARCs.
Even recently, when I found out my mother went to the store and got me a book I’d been desperately looking forward to, I didn’t feel excited. I felt guilty that she decided to do that and treat me, because we’re tight on cash this month yet again.
This impacts me in other ways too, outside of wanting ARCs. I can’t do giveaways, because I can’t afford postage. I can’t afford to go to major book conventions like BEA, or even ones closer to home. If I can’t get an ARC of a book I really want, I have to wait until I can manage to squeeze my budget a little to find enough spare change to buy it later on. I’m not saying any of this for pity or sympathy; merely stating the facts of my life and how, at times, it makes me feel distanced from the book blogging community at large.
Now, is book reviewing/blogging a time consuming hobby? Absolutely. And it’s true that if you’re just in it for the free books then you’re going to get burned out fast on how much effort it actually requires.
But I’d like it if, maybe, I could talk about needing those ARCs in order to save money for gas, or food for me and my cats, without feeling like someone’s going to judge me behind my back for not being a book blogger for the love of book blogging itself.
Thankfully, things are slightly better than they were when I joined the community years ago. My library is no longer stretched for money, and in fact I am now an employee at my regional branch.
I still need those ARCs. And yeah, I’m still in it mainly for them. I simply don’t have the luxury of doing otherwise.