Thursday, November 28, 2013

Book Girls Don’t Cry: Are We Guinea Pigs?

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Book Girls Don’t Cry is a feature where we will discuss/vent/advise on a bookish topic. This feature is hosted by myself along with these pretty ladies:


What does the guinea pig say?

As a blogger, we’re the ones who often get first look at books. We read and read and say yay or nay so that future readers can make pretty good guesses on which book will be worth their time and hard earn pennies. But… is it becoming rarer to say yay? Are we guinea pigs?

I won’t lie and say ARCs are not fun to have. It’s definitely a pretty cool privilege of being a book blogger, especially when an ARC is one you have been pining for and are pretty sure it will rock your socks off. Problem is, how many crappy books must we read for every great one we come across? Is it just me or has book quality been kinda meh lately? Since Twilight, since The Hunger Games, since Harry Potter; it’s like everyone is out to get the next “big” novel released as fast as possible. As a reader, what that gives us is hundreds of the same-old same-old; mediocre, copycats of the originals that made us fans of their genres in the first place. For instance, lately I feel like dystopians are nothing but disappointment after disappointment. For every one dystopian that is genuinely good, I’ve read 10 that were quite the opposite. Every genre is becoming so oversaturated that finding a 5 star read is almost like finding a needle in a haystack. Is it just me? Am I just picky? Maybe reading 175 books a year compared to my pre-blogger average of 60 have made my standards sky-rocket?

Does it annoy you, at least a little, that as bloggers we may have hundreds of ARCs on our shelves but we’re ultimately those who have to sift through all this bad? I wish reviewing ARCs didn’t mean steering others away from all the bad, but rather “pointing out the winner among winners”. Hopelessly dreaming? Do you envy the “others” who are forewarned – and thus get to read better books? Before I was a blogger (or when I pick a me-book now) I would read review after review which basically guaranteed a 4-5 star read every single time. Even though I love blogging and I couldn’t even see myself not being a blogger, some days I do miss a time where what I picked to read wasn’t a random ARC chosen by nothing more than a 2 paragraph blurb, a nice cover, and maybe a few reviews. Oh, book blogger problems!

Seriously, though, when it comes to books, it’s kinda become quantity over quality, no? Is it because it takes more books to make a living off of being a writer? Is it because more people do it for a living rather than because they love to write? Is it maybe – just maybe – a little bit of cow milking from the million dollar releases (ie Twilight) and such? Personally, as a reader, I’d prefer having only 2 releases a month instead of 200 to choose from if it meant 2 amazingly worthwhile novels.


What are your thoughts on book quality as of late?
Do you feel like finding a great book is becoming harder and harder?

We’re looking for topic suggestions for future BGDC posts! What would YOU like to discuss (can be anything from vents to advice)?
Leave a topic suggestion via this form!
You know you love me!
XOXO, Book Girl

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

Latest posts by Giselle (see all)

49 Responses to “Book Girls Don’t Cry: Are We Guinea Pigs?”

  1. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    Interesting post topic, Giselle. I do envy others for peeps who do get a forewarning about a book but I think that if I never read ‘bad’ books, I would not be able to define what a good book is. So yeah, I feel like a guinea pig but it’s not always a bad thing.

    Brilliant post, luv! <33

  2. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    You hit the nail on the head Giselle! I used to be one of those people who sifted through reviews and bought the ones that everyone was raving about – but you know what, it turns out sometimes their opinions were completely not what I was looking for! I love having a trusty network of bloggers whose opinions I can rely on. We do have to sift through plenty of mediocre, samish books but when we find that gem that we really adore, that makes it all the more important.

    • Giselle

      Yeah sometimes reading reviews leads you to high expectations and you end up disagreeing with them. I usually read a lot of reviews which gave me more insight on the chances of being a book for me whereas now with ARCs I have to depend on either 1-2 or a handful of reviews it makes the chance to read a book I won’t like much greater. It does make it worth it when you finally come upon a book that is a real winner, though! I wish there were more πŸ™‚

  3. Emily

    Hmmm… Well I think I have to say that I rather agree with you, but I agree with Mel too! πŸ™‚ I think we may have to sift through the bad ones to get to the gems at times, and while it may get frustrating to read bad book after bad book, there’s this excitement when we finally reach the good ones! But sometimes the bad books I read… they can make me laugh at the ridiculousness too πŸ˜› So there is good and bad, and we are guinea pigs, but that doesn’t really take away the joy in blogging and reading for me πŸ™‚ We just know that the gems shine bright after all!! πŸ˜€
    Fantastic post, Giselle!! <33

    • Giselle

      I have read some comically bad books – like so bad that it was at least entertaining in its awfulness haha. No it doesn’t take away the fun in blogging, I just wish the good one hadn’t become so rare. Also it wasn’t THIS bad last year it seems to be getting worse – like pubs give more importance to the # of books they publish and not the quality *shrugs*

  4. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I’m in a massive book slump, with everything I’m reading seeming to be only a two or three-star book, so I might not be the best one to answer this question. However, you might as I’m agreeing with you. We’re definitely guinea pigs. I feel that way about covers, too. Are they pretty enough to get us to squee over them or do they need a redesign? I don’t mind so much being a test subject, though it does send me into slumps more often than reading used to.

    • Giselle

      Me too – probably why I chose this topic to vent on >.< With every 4 star I read I have to be tortured with half a dozen 1-2 stars and another handful of 3 stars. It shouldn't be that rare! lol. Maybe I'll feel better once I hit a few decent reads. I agree on covers they get redesigned way too much! Some of them make sense but some redesigns were definitely NOT for the better and I don't get it.

  5. Tammy @ Books Bones & Buffy

    Wow great topic! I think publishing is in a crazy place right now, and it’s all because of the internet. Authors used to take at least a year and usually more to write a first draft. Now authors are writing faster than ever because it’s so competitive. And that leads to just so so writing in many cases. It seems like this is mostly happening in YA, but I don’t know that for sure. I’m trying to read more adult books because I am tired of all the YA (in every genre) that seems to be the same thing, over and over. Slow down people! Take your time and let those ideas simmer for a while!

    • Giselle

      I know I know some authors who come out with a book every month – although some of them are raelly good books so it’s not impossible to come out with gems in a short while, but still I feel like effort is given torwards # of releases more than quality of the work. Hence the rarity of the gems. I just wish the chance of liking an ARC nowadays was higher than it has been lately.

  6. Pili

    This is a great topic! I agree that by reading ARCs all book bloggers have to go through many many books, from the very good to the not so good…
    Seems that there are so many books coming out using the same old things, more than anything I feel that sometimes the publishers go for the safe things and the “popular” trends… be it dystopians, vampires… And many times the big publishers don’t want to take risks.

    • Giselle

      I guess if something is “in” they better hurry and publish all they can before we get tired of it >.< I guess for people who only read a few books a year they likely don't get as tired of it.

  7. Alexa

    I have to agree that these days it is like sifting through sand to find gold. It has become hard to find those 5 star reads but maybe that is also because I read a lot more than I once did. I’m like you pre-blog I might have read 50 books a year. After I started the blog I now read 125ish books in a year so maybe I’m just raising my standards these days because of all the books I have read.

    • Giselle

      I do believe reading more books makes it harder to find the good ones likely bc we read a lot more of the “same old”. Someone who reads 30 books a year probably don’t notice all the clichΓ©s and annoyances as much as we do.

  8. Maya

    These days I’m definitely a lot more careful with the books I accept to review. I had quite a few mediocre ARCs recently, the ones that felt like a chore to read. So now I’m making sure to only accept ARCs I’m genuinely excited for, and that’s working out pretty great! I have more time to read my own books as well, which is always a bonus. Fab discussion topic!

    • Giselle

      I used to request anything that sounded good and up my alley – but I’ve been duped to many times now I’m very picky at requesting which has helped. I also tend to read them later than I used to. I like to wait until I see at least a review or 2 form people I trust before I’ll give the ARC a try – unless it’s a known author or a sequel etc.

  9. Whitley

    I thought being guinea pigs was the whole point of book blogging? Or at least of a certain style of book blogging, since there’s no set way to do things. You could, technically only review books that have been out for years and fill your blog with 4 and 5 star reads; there are enough books out there from any time period to keep even the most prolific blogger busy.

    As to your last paragraph, I think you’re right about quantity over quality, but I think it’s just because the business model for publishing has changed. Books are cheaper to print, and ebooks are nothing at all. The number of copies you have to sell to make back the cost of printing has gone down dramatically. However, the cost of employing good editors is still as high as ever, or higher. So it has quite literally become cheaper to fling books at a wall and see what sticks than to work on editing a handful of books.

    • Giselle

      Yeah one could only review books that were older. The post was more about the declining quality of books rather than reviewing ARCs. Reviewing ARCs shouldn’t come with only a small percentage of chance that it will actually be good. I know bc of the market $$ it’s become basically impossible, but if authors and/or publishers worked more on publishing quality work instead of publishing x books a month it wouldn’t be like a needle in a haystack to actually find one that was worthwhile.

  10. Kelsey

    I find that lately I’ve had to go through a lot of books I don’t like before I find those ones I just love or even really liked. Especially when it comes to Dystopian, I barely read those anymore.
    It’s led me to a few reading/blogging slumps so far, but I end them usually by reading something I know I will love, sometimes a re-read.
    I can understand that it’s part of the gig, but these days it just seems that there’s way more not so good books.
    Great topic today!

    • Giselle

      I just about gave up on dystopians. The only way I usually read one now is by recommendations after the fact. That used to be my favorite genre and I read a LOT of them so I’m sure that’s part of the reason why. Takes much more to impress me and come up with something I haven’t seen before etc.

  11. Mara A. @ The Reading Hedgehog

    Yes, I do believe that the quality of literature has gone down considerably. I think I’ve only read about six 5-star books this year, and one of them was a Charles Dickens novel, which doesn’t really count. And I do find myself envying those “forewarned” readers sometimes, having had to slog through quite a few bad books as well. Ah, where are the days when I could set aside a bad book and never think about it again? πŸ˜‰

    • Giselle

      5 star reads are rare for me too lately – this past year. So are we becoming pickier or are books getter worse? Maybe a bit of both? I do the same when I want a for sure great book is either go back to my old favorite authors or something that is already released and highly recommended.

  12. Emily @ Falling for YA

    Prior to blogging I had never given a book 1 star and couldn’t imagine DNF-ing something! I didn’t read reviews but I would look at indie bookstore recommendations and covers (also prior to blogging I read a lot of books out of sequence although that is a completely different issue).

    I do feel like publishers are publishing more YA books then ever before partly due to the genre being truly recognized and also because YA has become the new Chick Lit. It is a cash cow that publisher can make easy money off (same with movie companies). while I don’t like being a “guinea pig” for a plethora of sub-par books I understand that is just how the industry works. When the YA boom breaks and everyone moves on to something new and different I think quality will go back up and the quality books will float to the top. Until then we us bloggers are kind of stuck sifting.

    • Giselle

      I remember the first book I DNF I was like NOOOO but then I forced myself because it was THAT bad lol. I don’t remember what the actual book was though I should look it up! I think things are moving to NA now and that market is becoming Waaay over saturated with romance stories that all ressemble one another. I haven’t gotten sick of it yet tough but I imagine I’ll be soon enough >.<

  13. Ashley

    I totally agree. I love getting ARCs, but ever since reading them I’ve had a lot more negative reviews.

    Back when I didn’t read many ARCs (if at all), I did research before reading books. I looked at ratings, I read reviews, and I read the synopsis. If the book got a low average rating, I wouldn’t touch it. If my friends gave the book 3 stars or less, I didn’t touch it. As a result, I had A LOT of 4 and 5 star reviews because I only picked up books that I could safely assume I’d love.

    Now that I read ARCs, I’m often the first (or second or third) person out of my group of friends that reads the book. So, unlike before, I can’t read a ton of reviews or look at ratings. I have to judge it purely on the synopsis, and quite often the synopsis sounds epic but the book itself is crap.

    So yes, I often do feel like a guinea pig, and as a result, I have a lot more 3, 2, and 1 star ratings because I have to be one of the first people to read a book and don’t have a ton of ratings or reviews to look at to base my initial “should I read this?” decision on.

    • Ashley

      Oh, also I agree that it seems like there are loads of ‘meh’ books out there lately. I don’t know what it is… I wonder if there are actually more crappy books, or if I’m just becoming more critical/harsh as a reader due to the amount of books I read.

      • Giselle

        Ha that’s what I’m wondering too. Am I getting picker or are books getting worse? Also since bloggers read more books tahn most – usually – we probably get sick of the tropes and clichΓ©s but readers who read 20 books a read wouldn’t even realize it was a book that’s the same as 2937129837 others. I did start reading ARcs closer to release date lately I’ve been in reading funks and I want some early reviews first. I’ll leave the guinea pigging to others for a while haha.

  14. A'ishah Rose

    I don’t believe that quality has necessarily gone down, but quantity has gone up. There are still plenty of amazing, quality books being published, but the availability of terrible books is also going up like crazy.

    I definitely think it has something to do with being a book blogger. The number of books read versus pre-blogging days as well as the books we choose to accept play a huge part in it. For me, I have a habit of accepting too many books that I might not like without thinking about it a lot. This means I end up trying things way out of my comfort zone, which can be good, but also means I probably end up reading a lot of things I am not fond of and which I wouldn’t have otherwise read. (My TBR pile before blogging was pretty much all books that I knew would be 4-5* that I’d wanted to read for years.)

    I think the main thing to remember here is choice. I’ve been an actual guinea pig and that involves a lack of choice or a lack of consent. We have the ability to accept or reject anything we read or review. We don’t have to finish or review every single book we receive or request, even though it might feel like an obligation. We have an enormous amount of power and choice in terms of what we choose to read and review.

    • Giselle

      The guinea pig thing wasn’t literal – I meant it as just a figure of speech as a “product tester”. As far as choice I agree it’s our choice to read what we want, but what I meant was even though I’m very picky about which ARCs I request for review and which of them I actually read, I still end up reading a lot of bad books because no matter how closely we choose, ARCs have very limited number of reviews, even right before it releases. So it’s less of an educated choice and more of a guess or hope that with the very limited information we have on the book, we’ll like it. Unless we wait months after its release which I do sometimes. But then that kinda defeats the purpose of having ARCs.

      Quantity has definitely gone up, but I also fine book gems are much fewer and farther between that they used to when there were not as many releases per month. Makes sense since quality/quality is a balance. Being a blogger and reading LOTS of books is definitely a factor, though. We see a lot more of the same old same old that those who read less will not come across as much so won’t be sick of it yet etc. I guess we can’t win them all! πŸ™‚

  15. Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books

    I’ve noticed that finding books that I genuinely like is getting harder. There’s so many more books that are coming my way, that finding books that I absolutely love are harder to find. Reading a string of books that are just barely decent puts me into reading funks. But I think when you do find books that you love, it makes you think, why can’t all books be this good, and thus makes you pickier (or at least, it makes me pickier). I’m happy when other bloggers warn me to steer away from “bad” books. I don’t want to waste my time or money with book that is mediocre at best and awful at worst.

    • Giselle

      Reading funks are the worst and I feel like I’m constantly fighting to get out of one, when I am, I get another 2-3 bleh books. Is it too hard to ask that every book be a 5 star? Lol

      I did notice that bloggers who have been at it a while tend to be “pickier” than new bloggers. We get sick of seeing the same thing over and over I guess. I’ve also started to read ARCs closer to release date so I can see early reviews first. It’s helped some πŸ™‚

  16. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    You know, I was thinking about this very same thing the other day. I’m grateful for the all the ARCs that I get as a book blogger, but at the same time, I’m pretty sure that 60% of the books I get are just plain shitty. I feel like I’m spending my time reading more “meh” books than books that blow me away.
    I usually try to read early reviews before I request anything, but sometimes my need(greed, really) gets the best of me.
    And I’m with you. There are way too many mediocre or terrible books releasing lately. It’s why I’ve been sticking to adult romance books. I know they have the same theme, but at least I don’t expect it to be amazing like I expect YA books.
    Great post, Giselle.

  17. Anya

    I hear ya! I kind of like it though >.> I think the special club aspect of ARCs still has me in its sway, haha. I also have the luxury of still mixing in the older books that I want to read, so I think I have a better ratio of good to crap πŸ˜‰

  18. Maja (The Nocturnal Library)

    I absolutely agree with you, Giselle, but I do my very best not to think about it too much. I actually miss the times when I was free to read whatever I felt like reading at any given time instead of writing things in my calendar and hoping I won’t fall behind.
    But yes, sifting through all the horribleness (is that a word?) that comes our way is sometimes hard, but it makes me feel even more special when I discover a hidden gem. In a way, that makes it all worth it.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  19. alisa selene

    That is one of the reasons for me I don’t pursue getting arcs often and only request authors I already like..I like reading at a leisurely pace and getting to read whatever I like. When I was accepting tons of them I started to lose my enthusiasm for reading because a lot of them were not great reads and I felt obliged to read them anyway. Great post!!

  20. Savannah

    You know your right. lately I feel that everything I read is something I already read. It hard to find that gem that will give me what I’m looking for. And it seems that formula to books is easy. I can usually figure out a plot before I’m even 50 pages in.

  21. Kaz @ Notes on Novels

    I’ve given up on requesting YA ARCs, mainly because I was disappointed with the quality of the writing – so yeah, I totally agree with you.
    Requesting unpulished galleys is bookish roulette so to speak but every so often it’s worth it. The trouble is that every publisher announces that whatever is new in their catalogue is “the next big thing” which is possible, but given the quantity of what is published measured against the few releases that actually take off, also highly unlikely.
    On a more personal note, I sincerely hope that publishers don’t see me, or any other blogger, as a guinea pig. It doesn’t seem a very respectful way of viewing someone who does you a favour by spreading the word about whatever you’re trying to sell.

    Cheers, Kaz πŸ™‚

  22. Jasprit

    You have described me perfectly in this post Giselle, I remember before I started blogging I hardly used to read the amount of books that I read nowadays, and I go through slumps all the time. Also back then I read whatever I wanted and whenever I wanted, and with all these time constraints its definitely making it difficult to enjoy a book if I was able to read it at my own pace. And like you said, it is super hard finding a book which totally wows you, as so much as already been done before. Thanks for sharing another brilliant post with us Giselle, I definitely enjoyed this weeks topic!

  23. Chloe Lee

    I get what you mean. I really appriciate getting ARCs but I wish I could just read good books instead of wasting my time on sucky ones. I hate writing negative reviews πŸ™

  24. Rose

    I HATE that every d*mn book is about vampires, like Vampire’s academy, the movie looks so worse I think. I’m getting a bit sick of all those love story’s… I would like to see more young adults without that.

  25. Amy @ Book Loving Mom

    Well said babe!! Like you, I obviously love blogging, but sometimes the not great books start to bring you down. On the other hand the awesome ones make you beyond happy and excited to share how much you loved them!! I’m glad I can do a service to people who are looking to find the awesome and not wanting to go through all of the not awesome!

  26. Jackie

    I feel like I should preface this comment by saying I’m not a book blogger of your level. I may get the odd free ARC through Goodreads or through generous bloggers hosting giveaways, but most of the time I’m spending my own money…or a family member’s money who gave me a Barnes and Noble gift card for the holiday. So, I don’t have to deal with that feeling of obligation to read ARCs to maintain a brand/a blog/a author-publisher-blogger relationship. Honestly, I admire the bloggers who are so invested that they get the ARCs because I recognize that ARCs are kind of a double-edged sword. Books are awesome. Free books that haven’t hit the shelves are even more awesome. But, there is a lot of work that goes into earning those free books, and that’s not a pressure I envy.

    For me, 2013 has been a doozy of a year for books. I read more now than I did in the past, so I’m becoming more critical of books. I know there are gems out there, they’re just not the ones I pick up apparently. I’ve read so many mediocre books this year that it lead to an unintended, several month hiatus. It’s easy to write a review for a book that I loved or loathed, but mediocrity doesn’t stir up any emotions. Trying to formulate a couple of paragraphs about a book when all you really want to say is, “This book was meh. The end.”. That doesn’t build readership!

    I’m not sure I can entirely fault an author for a mediocre story. They had a story they needed to tell. I’m glad they had the guts to get that story out. I feel more frustration with the publishing houses that keep trying to shove these mediocre stories into our hands though. Did they really think the story was good, or are they just desperate to keep lining their pockets? I think you’re right in saying that the market is becoming too saturated with certain genres. How many different ways can we write a dystopian novel before they all start sounding exactly the same? I understand that no idea is truly original. But the reader hasn’t been given an opportunity to step away from a genre. That time away from a genre is necessary to make recycled ideas seem fresh again.

    I think this perception of a market flooded with mediocrity is perpetuated by the book blogger as well. Think about it: You’re reading close to 200 books a year. The market is already saturated with certain trends. The array of books that are sent to you are probably limited to an extent. You’re that person who has to endure the dystopian novel that sounded like the other 30 dystopian novels that were sent your way this year. I can understand why you might feel like a guinea pig, but maybe that’s not the case. Maybe you haven’t had the opportunity to read books with fresh eyes. You’ve read the same worn out storyline 30 times this year. You don’t have the luxury of reading without a critical eye anymore, so you’re going to become harder to please.

    We shouldn’t approach reviewing as “sifting out all the bad” for our audiences. At the end of the day, reading is subjective, and our reviews reflect that. When we read something that we think is mediocre, it doesn’t mean that every reader will see that book as mediocre too. That person reading your review may not read as many books as you (I mean, plowing through 175 books a year is kind of like a superpower). Therefore, they won’t be as critical of a reader. To them, that storyline that you’ve read 30 times could be a brand new idea for them. And just because book bloggers deem a book a must-read/the best of the year/awesomesauce, doesn’t guarantee that every reader will feel that way. I’m pretty sure we’ve all picked up books based on blogger raving recommendation and ended up hating the book. And then we blogged about it because it makes for interesting discussion!

  27. Cayce

    “how many crappy books must we read for every great one we come across” That’s one of the reasons that I rarely read/request ARCs anymore. I love the idea of ARCs, but honestly, to me it’s just not worth it.
    “feel like dystopians are nothing but disappointment after disappointment” I feel that, too. I really want to read Pawn, because everyone seems to love it, but the fact that it’s dystopian (and a series!) makes me hesitant.
    But I do admire book bloggers like you, Giselle. Ya’ll save me quite a lot of time and money. πŸ˜€
    And I agree, I’d prefer less releases, too, if that would mean better quality.

  28. Aman

    Oh, that’s such a debatable topic. I agree that we are the guinea pigs because we get to read so many early review books, but then again, most of the time, they are such bad reads. It helps to balance out the review books with the books you own, but I hate when I’m no longer interested in the book I requested and I’m trying to read it just because I have to. Now that’s a crappy read!

  29. DeAnna @ Mommy's Reading Break

    I don’t really have ARCs like you do, but I have found that in the last couple months, I have been very unlikely to give higher than a 3-star rating to most of the books I’ve been reading. I don’t know if I’m just in a funk or if my standards have been set higher during this past year (my first blogging and highest reading year every), but I’m getting very frustrated by it! I need a 5-star book that I can’t put down!

  30. Amanda @ Late Nights with Good Books

    I definitely feel as though bloggers can be seen as guinea pigs. I’ve felt that way since I started my blog, actually. The main reason I haven’t received many ARCs is that I’m hesitant to ask for them if I know nothing about the books and haven’t read many reviews. I prefer to read books that I know I’ll enjoy. And sometimes that means I miss out on early excitement and hype, but it’s generally worth it to wait and make sure the book sounds like something I’ll really love. Also, I feel guilty accepting a book for review and not liking it.

  31. Katie @ Doing Dewey

    Personally, I’ve found it very rare that I have a bad experience with an ARC. Sure, there are a number of mediocre ones, but that’s true of books I just grab off the shelf at the library too. I’ve only read one or two books that were actually unpleasant to read. Of course, if you don’t just grab books off the shelf and always look at reviews, I can see where there might be a bigger drop in quality when you start reading ARCS.