If I give you a book, do you owe me a review?

This was a discussion that started in my Facebook feed last week and I’ve been thinking about it, ever since. Not surprisingly, I suppose, there were many varying views on this question.

The original post went something like this, “If you are given a free book, you are obligated to post a review.”

As an author, I certainly agree with the spirit of the statement. All writers hope to get reviews, positive ones, but even negative reviews are helpful. And it is a difficult task to get reviews. I don’t know if there are any statistics on it but it seems that a very small percentage of readers actually post reviews on anything they read.

However, the question for me is if I give away one of my books freely is the receiver obligated to write a review?

In my case, no. I make no assumption that giving away one of my books will result in a review. I would certainly be happy if that were the case, but it isn’t something I expect. Just as I wouldn’t expect my buddy Zelda to buy me a latte this week because I treated her to one last week.

Why do authors give away books anyway?

There are many reasons authors give away books, certainly the hope of getting reviews would be one of them. Probably because they’ve been told by a marketing ‘expert’ that giving away books results in getting reviews, will skyrocket them to the top 100 list, make them super visible to potential readers, somehow make them a best-selling author, etc. I know plenty of authors who would disagree with that ‘conventional wisdom.’

But an author may also give away a book to:

  • Entice you to sign up for their mailing list
  • Get you acquainted with their writing and become a fan
  • Increase their rankings in various bookstores within Amazon and on other online book retailers
  • Encourage you to buy and read their other books
  • Otherwise increase their sales stats
  • And probably some reasons that none of us would think of

However, regardless of the reason that an author may give you a free book, does that obligate you to give them something in return?

I don’t think it does. And if it does, perhaps it should be called a trade rather than a freebie?

What about you? Do you believe that if an author gives you a free book that you are obligated to review it? Do you typically review the books you read? If not, how come? Is the offer of a free book intriguing to you or a sign of desperation? What do you think about free books? Feel free to share your views in the comments below.

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4 thoughts on “If I give you a book, do you owe me a review?

  1. Hi Annie,
    I receive books from independent publishing house Legend Press prior to their release in exchange for a review – seems like a fair trade to me! However, every now and again they will send books I haven’t asked for or agreed to review, just because! Sometimes I’ll review these, and sometimes I won’t get around to it. I’ll always post a snap on social media, because it takes very little time but is of considerable benefit to the author 🙂 Receiving books from authors themselves is a little different – I suppose I always try to promote as much as I can and to do for others as I would like done for myself. In conclusion, I don’t think a review is an obligation when given a free book, but it’s nice to be nice! Xx

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  2. Hi Marie,

    How are you sweet lady?

    I agree with you – if a book is sent with the understanding that you are getting the book in exchange for an honest review, then a review definitely should be done.

    However, if an author/publisher is simply giving away a free book, then I don’t believe the obligation exists there. It is nice to be nice, that’s true.

    Cheers,
    A

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  3. Only if the reader has agreed to do so in exchange for the free book, otherwise no. I’m on wattpad and to get feedback from readers, the main thing you do is a post a chapter a week, Youll gets lots of feedback that way. As for reviews all you have to do is find a book review book and ask. ^-^ So as for giving it away you can gently ask the reader if they are willing to do so or not. Perhaps talk to those cool book bloggers? *Shrug*

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    1. I agree – if the reader agrees to do so, then they should. But if that isn’t part of it and the writer wants to offer a free book as part of a promotion or to exchange an email address – or heck for some other reason, I don’t think the reader is necessarily obligated. That being said, I try to review everything.

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