I’ve made somewhat of a surprisingly realization recently. I don’t need to pay for books anymore. It turns out that if I ask, publishers will pretty much give me what I want for free. I found this out a few months ago when the publicist for a book I was looking forward to passed over all the outlets I normally review for. I decided to take a shot at simply contacting the publicist and asking if I could have a review copy, providing links to a couple recent books I’d reviewed for that publisher, and basically saying I could publish the review wherever they wanted.
I wasn’t sure I had the reviewer cred to pull it off, but the book arrived shortly and, emboldened by my success, I went down my Amazon wish list and started grabbing publisher imprints and sending e-mails. So far no one’s turned me down. In some cases there was no e-mail response, but the book and press kit still arrived promptly. I’ll still buy books — I read as much stuff from decades or centuries ago as recent releases, and that’s what used bookstores are for, after all — but for those brand new titles that still have publicists working them, I’ll hit them up for a copy.
Although my first foray into writing for an audience was in my student days, for my university newspaper, I’ve been reviewing books for various online magazines nearly as long as I’ve been writing news articles. And I still enjoy getting advanced reading copies of work I’ve been looking forward to. I thought it was a pretty sweet deal as a student still in my teens, and it still seems like a good deal to me today.
I know that technically I could save the two hours I typically spend on a review for paid writing work instead, and then buy the books I want with money left over, but you have to break it up. Some of my paying gigs are of a technical and very constrained nature, utilizing my scientific background and following very specific style guidelines, and it can get tedious. I need to always remember that I enjoy writing, and a good way to do that is to write things that I want to write, not just what I’m being paid to write. This blog should also ideally fall into that category.
And there is a balance. I prefer a certain degree of scheduling tension, which forces me to do this “for the love” writing within a reasonable time-frame, and on a regular basis, and that’s why I commit to a schedule for my unpaid writing just as I do with my paid writing. Agreeing to review something is a perfect example of writing for the joy of it, but still being committed to a reasonable turnaround time. Of course, there is a little more leeway in my schedule than with my paid work.