There's been some talk lately about whether a reviewer should feel obligated to write a review of a book that was sent to them by a writer or a publisher. I use the term, "reviewer" very loosely, by the way.

Me, I no longer accept them. I used to allow books to be sent to me, but I ended up not reviewing a lot of them for one reason or another. Sometimes it wasn't even my fault, as I passed them on to my small staff of writers and it never happened.

This makes me feel awful and terribly guilty.

Anyone can be a reviewer these days. They don't need a working knowledge of the genre, or its history. They don't need to have the skills to write proper sentences or paragraphs. In some instances it doesn't even seem like they even read the books.

All it takes is a free Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, or Instagram account.

The culture of people getting loads of free books with no obligation is pretty lousy if you ask me. Electronic editions are one thing, but hard copies cost money.

Of course there's no law against it. Anyone is free to accept all the free books they wish. It's an agreement based on good faith, but there is little or no recrimination if the deal is not honored.

I plainly state on this website that I am not accepting materials for review. That does not prevent me from getting inquires from writers and publishers all the time. I try to take a few minutes to politely decline, but if I am too busy I let them slip. If they did the proper research I wouldn't have gotten the requests.

Sometimes authors, friends of mine, will offer me a book with no obligations. A gift from friend to friend. I always decline and buy it instead. I know damned well how much work goes into the completion of a book. Writers deserve to be paid.

I know full well the other side of the coin. When I was attempting to market He Who Types Between the Rows, I paid around four hundred dollars of my own money to send copies to bookstagrammers. I think one individual did a little review. That hurt. Bad.

I know how hard it is to get noticed in the current environment where there are hundreds or thousands of so-called horror authors out there trying to get attention and to get their books to readers. I'm in the same boat. Self promotion sucks, and it's embarrassing. I wish I had some good answers.

In the meantime, reviewers, please try to read the books you receive, and then do your best to review them. I don't think anyone will be able to review everything they read, but I urge everyone to make a strong effort. And try not to overextend yourselves by accepting too many.

Everyone is trying to make ends meet. With few exceptions, there isn't a whole lot of money in writing and publishing. Every sale counts, as does every legitimate review. And every printed copy has to be paid for by the authors and publishers.

I'll continue to buy my own reading materials, or borrow them from my local library.

Written by Mark Sieber

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