As a book blogger and a bookseller, proof review copies are a perk of the trade. I was all set to write about how great it is getting free books, often months before they are due out. It become quite the pleasant surprise, tearing open the jiffy bag with boyish abandon and never quite knowing what treat lay hidden inside. It’s just like Christmas morning, except it occurs six days a week.
That was until one hefty hardback toppled off a groaning bookshelf and hit me smack on the head. It literally then hit me in the face: I had become a proof whore.
When I started reviewing titles I got the occasional one here and there. But after awhile, I went quite simply berserk. Everyone likes a freebie, right? If there was a free book going, on Twitter, on Facebook, on a newsletter, I would pounce. The words ‘free copies’ produced a Pavlovian reaction in me and I’d be off, emailing or tweeting my address to anyone with a book and an envelope large enough to send it to me. I was averaging five a week and it became a perpetual onslaught of packages and parcels which was then duly noted by my postman.
But then the little voice in my head started to ask some nagging questions: was I going to ever read or review all these books? Some kind soul in an office somewhere had taken the time and the effort to post me these books. That’s a good five minutes of their day spent on sending it to me – I know this to be the case as I’ve done the same during my time on work experience at publishing firms. Looking at some of the titles I’d collected, the answer was no, so the irony isn’t lost on me that the book that nearly knocked me unconscious is one I’ll probably never read.
Fortunately, I’ve managed over time to build up some good relations with a number of PR reps. I try to only request titles I know I can devote the time to as that way, someone else can give the other books a fair chance. It’s a calculated risk though, as through the proofs I’ve broadened my reading horizons and there have been titles that I’ve absolutely loved but would have never have read for one reason or the other. I discovered authors such as Jeremy Duns, Megan Abbott and Kate Pullinger, and felt so passionately about them that I championed them on my blog and also in the bookstore where I work. All of these arrived in the same way, in a jiffy bag, through my letterbox.
So for other book bloggers out there, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of quantity over quality, but once in awhile, you find the hidden gem. Then one day, a hardback takes your eye out. Who knew that book reviewing could be a potentially hazardous occupation?