To the annoyance of professional book reviewers everywhere, book reviewing is for everyone now. Anyone with a blog or an Amazon account is good to go, no qualifications necessary.
The results are, as you might imagine, mixed.
But as enthusiastic participants in this nerdy sport, we think it's a positive development in the book world. Yes, there are ringers and sockpuppets out there, but guess what? There are some less than scrupulous reviewers among the professionals as well. There's a little bit of “you scratch my book, I'll scratch yours” going on. So whatever the source, caveat lector, reader beware.
Even the publishers are resigned to this state of affairs and recognize that not only are amateurs writing book reviews, potential book buyers are actually reading some of these reviews. So in an effort to make the best of a dodgy situation, they make pre-publication review copies of some books available to reviewers.
Free books are undeniably attractive, but even more irresistible is the chance to read a book before everyone else has and be among those starting the conversation about it.
Want to play along? There are several sources for review copies of forthcoming books.
Goodreads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing are all reader-centric sites where you can meet other readers who share your taste in books. Publishers and authors often give away copies of soon-to-be released books to members.
Amazon has a program called Vine for those who've reviewed items more or less regularly. Those who have been invited may choose items to try out and review. The items range from sponges and wiper blades to TV sets and treadmills, but books make up the bulk of the items. We both are Vine Voices, as they're called, and only found out by trying the link. Give it a try, you might be a Voice.
NetGalley is a one-stop site for bloggers, librarians, booksellers, and reviewers to request review copies from dozens of publishers. They deal mainly in digital books, which streamlines the process. After you've signed up, you can request books and NetGalley forwards the request to the publisher. It's up to the publisher whether to grant the request.
There are more and next time, we'll talk about some less well-known sources for advance reader copies (ARCs).
So jump in and start reviewing. You won't get rich, you won't even get paid, but you may find you have all the books you can read, no charge.