I’m not sure why I picked a hobby where I am required to write; maybe I have untapped masochistic tendencies. I am a talker in a world of texts, blogs, emails, private messages, tweets, and whatever other strange ways people have created to avoid talking. I am constantly forced to communicate in ways that put my natural talents at a disadvantage, never more so than yesterday in a conversation about ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies). I’ve been upset about it all night because I feel like I didn’t communicate my thoughts well at all and likely made myself look bad in the process. I know this happens to us all on occasion (right?) but I want to try and figure out how to say what I actually meant.
First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
The first m/m romance I ever read was a paranormal short story we read in the vampire group at the local library. Sadly, I can’t remember the title. I began buying m/m romance novels about seven+ years ago when a friend showed me a site called All Romance (ARe). There were loads of free short stories and I was hooked. Like a kid in a candy store, I downloaded everything free. Some of them were good, most of them were not to my taste. But, I had a difficult time convincing myself to delete any of them because they were free books! (I’ll return to this idea later.) The anthologies published by the m/m romance group on Goodreads really let me figure out what I liked and didn’t like, introduced me to a whole new world of authors, and helped me explore my own sexuality in a way I hadn’t before. The most important part of reading those books, for me, was being educated on different types of sexuality, becoming more empathetic and tolerant of others, and having a real appreciation of the lack of representation in mainstream culture for different ideas about love and sex. At that point, the amount of books I was buying was terrifying. Lol. If there was a sale, I was buying all the books in a series because I hate cliffhangers.
Love’s Paradise, Lost
When ARe closed, a lot of authors were screwed out of their royalties. For my part, I am not the most computer savvy person and I didn’t realize I had a computer virus until I was faced with having about 24 hours to try and figure out if all the books I had bought from them opened and if I could re-download them if they didn’t. Of course, everyone else was scrambling. Authors were pulling their books and the whole site stopped allowing me access to my library. I lost a lot of books, some free, but the vast majority were books I had spent years buying.
Just Another Brick In The Wall
I originally started out with Aldiko and was happy with it until one of the updates that I really didn’t like. I also didn’t like how it turned files into parts all in their own folder. I tried a few ereaders, that made strange changes to my library, before I settled on Moonreader and bought the pro-version. I had thousands (arguably more) of epubs by the point ARe closed. I was left floundering about where to buy books from anymore. There was no central place to go that had all my favorite authors. The issue was also one of format. I received a Kindle as a gift, but that is proprietary mobi. My library was way too large to email it all individually to my Kindle and at the time, if you bought books from somewhere else, Amazon charged you a disloyalty fee. I also didn’t want to buy books from Amazon that were in a series so that I would have to remember which books were in which app when I wanted to read them.
Hungry Like The Wolf
I had a good idea about some publishers I liked and made the decision, rightly or wrongly, to continue down the epub route. I created accounts with all my favorite publishers and started buying books from them. But, Allora’s Cave, Samhain, Loose Id…publisher after publisher closed. At that point I was also buying books from Smashwords, but increasingly my favorite authors were flocking to self publish at Amazon and making their books exclusive to Amazon. Today, when I buy a book I go to the publisher first (Dreamspinner, Riptide, DSP, JMS Books, Less Than Three Press, NineStar Press, Bold Strokes Books, Fireborn Publishing, Painted Hearts Publishing, Mischief Corner Books, Torrid Books, Purple Horn Press, Hot Tree Publishing, MLR Press, Totally Bound, Pride Publishing, Extasy Publishing, Mischief Corner Books, Carina Press, and OMG did I forget anyone?) Next, I might look at QueeRomance Ink to figure out where I can buy things. I know that authors receive more of the money if you buy directly from them, so I buy from the authors through Payhip (or any comparable competitor). Then, I look at Kobo to see if I can get a non-DRM epub (not always as this is dependent on the author/publisher’s format preferences), and then I try Smashwords. Whew! That is a lot of work just to buy a book. Masochistic? Maybe. However, I am committed to not letting Amazon have a monopoly and not allowing the big bookstores to force me to use their app or ereader. I should be allowed to buy the app I want and to use of the device of my choosing. I belive this strongly and I am willing to do the work. This used to be something we all believed, but somehow things got weird. Am I fighting a losing battle? Likely. However, the truth is I have enough books at this point that I probably can’t read them all before I die. How many books do I need to win?
Don’t get me started on people voluntarily agreeing to rent access to their own libraries! I have my own cloud. I am not paying anyone to store books I already own because my library is vast and they have taken out the hard drives and SD cards. Gah! I will not rent my own books from myself. I do understand the lure of the Kindle or Nook. You do not have to manage your own library. You don’t have to pay for storage (for now). You don’t have to worry about protecting your books from viruses. But, the cost is that you no longer actually own the book so you need to recognize that.
Free Candy, Candy
I started to follow a lot of book review blogs and join in many facebook authors’ groups so I knew what was being published and when (and where). At this point, I started to follow all the individual authors I like. I found wonderful things like Booksprout, Instafreebie, Bookfunnel, and Netgalley. I had loads of free books (again!) and was introduced to all new authors in the genres I like. I often enter contests on book review sites or in author groups and win. But, the price is every single bit of your free time. Many of these rafflecopter giveaways make you follow every single social media place an author is on in order for the chance to win a free book. So, I get emails from Amazon, Bookbub, the author’s blog, the author’s newsletter, the author’s publisher, etc. every single time this author publishes anything. (No I do not Tweet, so I often do not win because I don’t get all the points available.) That is thousands of emails since I follow hundreds of authors. Often, I get ARCs emailed to me–sometimes it is because I signed up to be in an ARC group, sometimes not. How can you not download a free book?
At first, many of these authors were new to me. Some of these authors publish several times a month. I was having a difficult time keeping up with reading them, let alone reviewing them. Also, sometimes the quality is not there if an author is writing several books a month–I have doubts these are all written by the same person or just not bought in order to sell. (Yes, sadly that is a thing.) The etiquette is that if you receive a free book, you should review it. The author has given it to you in order to show you their writing style in the hopes you will both buy more books, and review it so others will buy more books. I am behind on two books right now and feel really pressured about it because downloading the books obligated me to review them. That is exactly why Amazon has changed their rules so that an author cannot give you a free book in exchange for a review, only in the “hopes” of one. Most people don’t seem to care, but me, I sit and worry about it–hence this post instead of me actually reading the books. Me feeling pressured takes all the enjoyment out of it. This is entirely my own fault and no one else’s.
Cogs In The Wheel
This is where Amazon and their algorithms kick in. An author really needs to have as many people as possible buy and review their book within the first 24 hours of a book’s release so that Amazon will help advertise the book because it is “hot.” That is what drives the ARCs. Do established, popular authors really still need to give away free books in order to increase their sales? I have no idea. I know Neil Gaimen is not going to be giving me a free book any time soon. I am not talking about books given to professional review sites, but let’s talk about those now. Because Amazon pays you if people use your links, I do not begrudge either authors from using Amazon links on their sites or in their newletters, nor book review websites from doing the same. However, when I ask authors if they are going to sell their book anywhere but Amazon, they tell me they don’t really sell from other sites. This is why. If you do not include links to other sites as options, are most people really going to drive themselves crazy looking for other places to buy your book like I do. Nope. I think I am unique there. Sigh. Is my ego so big that I think authors care about what I, one person, think about their publishing and moneymaking strategies? HELL NO. We all have to do what is best for ourselves and we are all doing the best we can.
Fell On Black Days
Anyone can become an Amazon affliate. I am one. That means that if you click on an Amazon link on this site, I may get 4 cents. Because I believe Amazon shouldn’t have a monopoly, I provide links for other places for you to purchase every book I review, but if you are going to buy from Amazon anyway, I figure maybe four cents might be nice because this ARC reviewing takes A LOT OF TIME. If you do not have at least three clicks where people buy from your links within 180 days, Amazon drop you from the affiliate program. This is likely what will happen to me.
This is the point where I think I will talk about free books, which I have poked at throughout this article. I don’t know how one would go about being on Megan Derr’s ARC team if such a thing even exists. Or Sean Michael? Or Amy Lane? Or Kim Fielding? Or Eli Easton? Or Jordan Castillo Price? Or. Or. Or. Maybe I started this whole process too late and that ship sailed many moons ago. I know these authors are auto-buys. I would think they have enough name recognition to drive their sales, but what do I know. I am algae in the great book sea. I tend to get free books from lesser known, less established authors. Many publishers will not give you ARCs unless you have at least 500+ followers on your blog, some publishers require 1000+. That is not me. That may never be me. I buy all these books that are the top of their genre that I don’t even get to enjoy reading, because I have been reading free ARCs and reviewing them, as I promised. When book review sites post their best books of the year list, I feel like I lost out because even though I usually own them (I bought them), I have not had time to read them.
Right now, this algorithm business is what is causing Amazon to hold all the cards and increasingly holding us all hostage to this pressure to give and review ARCs in a neverending stream of stress. Many times if an author only sells through Amazon, an ARC is the only way I can read their work at all. I should be happy about free books! And believe me, getting free books worth having is a full-time, unpaid job–my time and my mental health are worth more. Right now, I liken it to an all you can eat buffet–sometimes it’s better to not go for that second plate. Sometimes, you need storage room so it’s time to delete the books you didn’t enjoy and will never read again. You don’t have to eat everything off your plate. Sometimes, you should not download the free book. Sometimes, you should order off the menu–just buy the one book you actually want.
Mamma’s Got A Brand New Bag
My new stategy is to join a professional review site where I can have access to ARCs from bigger publishing companies that I would not be able to get ahold of myself. Those reviews will not be posted here; this is my personal site. I plan to unfollow and leave the ARC groups for some authors whose writing is not to my taste or whose books are so frequent, I can’t keep up. I will not download all the free books. I will not download all the free books. I will not. Lol. Be patient with me as I implement this new strategy.
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
What does that mean for you, random blog follower? That means, I hope this blog will be reviews of: ARCs from up and coming authors that I enjoy, authors I love whose books I have purchased, and books I have won in contests that allow me to try something new. I want to enjoy my book reading. I do not like giving bad reviews, but I will if I have to whether the book is free or not. I will reduce my social media interactions because I don’t want to be friends with authors, I want to read their books and be non-biased about my opinions. I hope you want all those things too.