The cost of ‘free’

This was inspired by the latest Book Bloggin’ 101 post on Parajunkee’s View, regarding just what it takes to get all these free books that book bloggers are so known for.

Around June of last year, about six months after I’d started blogging, I’d mentioned to my mother, very happily, that I was starting to get PR people contacting me to ask if I wanted a free copy of a book or two, in exchange for a review.

“Gee,” she said, “maybe I should get in on that too, if you can get free books out of it. What do you have to do for it?”

“It isn’t that hard,” I told her, and proceeded to outline what I did for my blog at the time.

I tried to do at least one review a week, but hopefully more. In between reviews, I tried to talk on my blog about books, maybe giving a mid-book update, mention a release date that I was excited about, talk about books I’d recently bought and was looking forward to reading.

I cross-posted my reviews on, at the time, GoodReads and LibraryThing, and linked to reviews on the Book Blogs Ning community.

I had gotten myself a Twitter account so that I can let others know when new reviews went up, to talk to other people about books, to see what authors were up to.

I commented when I could on other book review blogs, to keep up with other reviews, fellow members of the community I’d found myself in the middle of, and to make some friends.

“Oh. That sounds like too much work. Never mind.”

I don’t do half of the work for this blog that I do now. I didn’t really take it seriously then. Sure, the free books were an awesome perk that I was excited about, anxiously looking forward to the day I could get too, but I didn’t make that my goal. I didn’t have any goals at all! I’d started a book review blog because I’d figured, “Hey, I read a lot of books. I have a GoodReads account, and can review them there. Maybe to kill time I should get a reading blog or something.” I was unemployed, I had the time.

Thus it started.

Now, I also post the reviews on, and I’ve recently found out that I have a buyer account on, so I can post reviews there too. I do more networking on Twitter, on Facebook, across other blogs. I’m going to be involved in my first virtual book tour this April. I’ve started a weekly feature that I’m going to keep running with for the foreseeable future. I recently got the guts to contact an author to do an interview. I read a good 50+ blogs a day, enter contests when I can, comment when I’ve got something worth saying, and sometimes I might get lucky in that someone from another blog hops over here and likes what I do too.

And yes, I get free books. Free, if you consider all the other stuff to be nothing.

Book blogging is not something that can just be done in five minutes and then forgotten about later. You get as much out as you put in, and that means a little as well as a lot. Writing a review doesn’t take that long. The cross-posting and advertising takes about double the time it takes to write a review. Maybe more, depending on how you do it. Reading other blogs and making sure people know you’re out there? A few hours a day. Coding and maintenance and making sure your links are all correct? Don’t even get me started.

It’s a hobby, and we do it for enjoyment, but that doesn’t mean it’s all a piece of cake and that book bloggers get something for nothing. We get something for something. Sometimes, like in my case, we bite off more than we can chew when it comes to free books. If you look at my backlog on NetGalley, you’ll see that I probably need to take 2 weeks vacation and do nothing but read to clear about about 1/4 of the backlog, and that doesn’t include any other books that I buy, receive, or have received from others. Free books are great, but they require as much work as any other book you review.

If you want to get into bookblogging, more power to you, and I wholeheartedly support you. But just keep in mind that you can’t just show up and have PR people flooding your inbox with offers of freebies. It takes time, dedication, and more work than some people end up willing to put it.

And if that doesn’t make you think hard about what you want, then let me say this: I’ve seen bookbloggers quit blogging because they’ve gotten flooded with books and review requests to the point where they just can’t keep up with it anymore.


It’s a great perk, but it comes at a price, and that price is dedication and hard work. If you’re willing to put that in, then go for it. If you just want the free books, then maybe bookblogging isn’t really the way to go to get them.

4 comments on “The cost of ‘free’

  1. Great post. The amount of time, effort and thought that goes into book blogging can be as much as for a full time job. I have to admit it took me a couple of goes before I realised what it actually involved and stuck with it (you can see some of my 2009 reviews still there to remind me it needs dedication to blog actively).

    I try not to actively seek out free books from publishers too much becuase my TBR pile is too big as it is and I couldn't cope if I got as many review copied as some bloggers seem too! It's a personal decision. I do accept review copies if an author contacts me and I like the look of the book. I also have a backlog of netgalley to get through, but I know in all cases the books I have on my TBR pile are all ones I want to read. Even giveaways I only enter if I think the books would be interesting! Lots to think about here. :)

  2. Well said! I started my book review blog about a year and a half ago and post at least one review a week without fail. It's an awful lot of work keeping up with it all.

    One thing you didn't mention about getting free books, especially ARCs, is keeping track of when the book will be released and timing the review as close as possible to the release day. At least, I try to do that. A lot of times I just can't get to the book in time (but I try not to post a review more than a few days before the book's released).

    I don't request review copies, although I'll usually say yes if an author or publisher contacts me about it. I just have too many books to read already. Funny that I started the blog to encourage me to read through my TBR pile…somehow it just keeps getting bigger anyway. :)

  3. Great post! I completely agree that it's more work than people think, but the sense of community and shared love of books and reading has been completely worth it :-D I mean, I've finally discovered someone who loves Valdemar as much as I do ;-)

  4. I just started doing this two months ago and astounded at the amount of work it takes to maintain a blog, network, and stay relevant. I am reading LESS now before than I did BEFORE I began my book blog, because I spend a lot of time keeping up with fellow bloggers' posts and communities like SheWrites, BookBlogs, and sites I recently began to contribute to–BlogCritics and Technorati. It's been a lot of fun, but I don't know how people with fulltime jobs do this. I try to reserve working for the hours my kids are away from school, but it inevitably ends up spilling over into their time. The kids do enjoy seeing what books I'm reading and what I have to say, so it's not too bad. But again–it IS an astounding amount of work.

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