Entitlement is One Thing, Attempted Public Shaming is Another

Today, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, a little blog that’s been around a lot longer than mine, posted a review of James S.A. Corey’s Caliban’s War. He begins his review with one of the most asinine first paragraph I’ve ever read:

James S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes was one of my favorite reads of 2011 and I was eager to sink my teeth into its sequel! Sadly, there was a screw-up at Orbit and not only did I never receive an Advance Reading Copy, but I never got a review copy of the novel. It took a while for me to sort everything out, which is why this review of Caliban’s War was so late in coming.

Putting aside for a moment the smug tone and the sense of entitlement, neither of which I have a particular objection to beyond personal dislike, let’s focus on the intent of the statement.

It’s my opinion, and it’s one that I’m not sure can be read any other way, that Pat is pointing a finger at Orbit’s publicity department and shaking his finger at them. How dare they not make sure that Patrick St-Denis has a copy of every book they print that he might want to read well in advance of the general public? His review is late because Orbit screwed up (not because he was unwilling to I don’t know, purchase/NetGalley/library a copy for himself). It took him a while to sort everything out, which makes it sounds like he had to lasso the Orbit publicist and threaten her with a sock filled with quarters.

I hope the absurdity of all that is clear. The sad part is, Pat’s facts are just bad. For example:

  • Orbit does not produce Advanced Review of Copies after the first book in series.
  • Orbit does offer eBook review copies of books anywhere from 30 to 14 days before publication.
  • Orbit does send finished review copies of books right before publication.
  • Orbit is by far one of the best publishers about responding to my inquiries (thanks, Ellen).

Additionally, Pat may not be aware of a few reasons why Orbit may not have sent him Caliban’s War right away:

  • Sending books into Canada from NY is five times as expensive as it is to send it in the states.
  • Leviathan Wakes was Hugo nominated and widely read. Why give copies away?
  • Orbit has developed the most robust eBook review systems in publishing.
  • Pat’s reviews are often poorly constructed and unhelpful.

Lastly, why in holy hell does anyone give a shit whether he got a review copy of Caliban’s War or not? Read it and review it because you want to read it; not because the publisher sent you a copy. I find the entire discussion distasteful and frankly calls into question, at least partially, the quid pro quo implications that so many of us reviewers and bloggers fight on a daily basis. I could talk about those issues at length (again), but instead I’ll just link a few of my past posts on the subject.

Am I nuts, or is this just more bad form from a blogger who seems to provide that almost as rule?

Justin Landon

Justin Landon is the Overlord of Staffer's Book Review. When he's not writing things of dubious value to the world, he's at the gym or being a dad. You can follow him on a multitude of social media, which is strongly suggested lest you miss out on vital information that could someday save your life.

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  • Rob B October 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I’ve sort of half-defended Pat in the past, but this is the thing that crosses the line. Especially because Orbit has one of the better models for dealing with bloggers, one that other publishers should emulate.

  • Richard Auffrey October 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    I agree with all of your thoughts, and Pat’s initial paragraph was complete unnecessary. It presents a negative view of bloggers and only fuels the fires of those who claim bloggers are in it mainly for the free stuff.

  • Kathryn October 10, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    No, I think you’ve pretty much got it.

    I got in contact with a publisher earlier this year, maybe late last year, about some review copies. They told me they’d be sent. They never were. I believe I tried to follow up, nothing again. What did I do? Bought the books (well, all but one), and haven’t said a bad thing about it. Another publisher said they’d send me the third in a series – never arrived. Do anything? Nope. Don’t care, actually.

    Publishers – particularly larger ones like Orbit – have a good number of reviewers and magazines to send copies to. A few may get lost in transit or not get sent out on time. You don’t have a “right” to a copy of a book, particularly if it’s at their own expense – as I believe review copies are. You, certainly, don’t have a right to sit there and huff and puff about how yours never arrived, and if nothing else it’ll turn the publisher off you if they catch wind of it. Why would they want to deal with a reviewer who pulls things like that?

  • Nadine October 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Hey Justin!

    I’m still so new to the book blogging universe that personally, I have received very few (and only electronic) advanced copies of books. But every time I do, I am grateful because – hey, free book!
    I read Pat’s blog regularly and like it well enough. But you are totally right about the smugness of that paragraph. Even if it did annoy him personally that he didn’t receive a copy before publication – something he is probably used to – what does it have to do with the review? Should this make me – a reader, first and foremost – like Orbit less as a publisher? Does it affect the text? Will it help me decide whether the book is for me or not? I don’t think so.

    I don’t really see the point of bitching about the publisher “screwing up” publicly. Personally, I doubt I’ll ever get paper copies of any books (I live in Austria, so shipping is probably twice what the book costs). But then I read books and review them because I like it and it’s fun. And if I’m this crazy about a sequel, I preorder it or buy it when it comes out.
    It should be a no-brainer, right?

    Thank you for this post. I’m totally with you on this.

    • Justin Landon October 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      You’re my favorite Austrian blogger. I can say this with some measure of confidence.

      • Odo October 11, 2012 at 3:01 am

        Actually, I happen to have a free postion for “favorite Austrian blogger” at the moment, so I’ll give that blog a try :)

    • Gabriele October 13, 2012 at 9:16 am

      But if Pat acutally BUYS books he won’r have any money left ot travel and then come back to complain that he didn’t meet any pretty girls. ;)

      What put me off his blog some years ago was the amount of ads. That’s not a blog, that’s a running commercial with some news every hour. I don’t blame bloggers with lots of hits to activate the Google ad function that will give you a bar with 2-3 ads somewhere on the blog and a few extra dollars, but Pat is overdoing it for my taste. ,

  • neth October 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    So, do you think if I say how much I agree with Justin on this one that Orbit will send me review copies?*

    *sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  • Rob B October 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    I commented on the post on Pat’s blog about 2 hours ago, which is now awaiting moderation. Wonder if he’ll either

    1) Make a defensive post in response to your post, Justin
    2) Let my comment (and I imagine other similar comments) through and defend himself in the comments thread
    3) Ignore and go about wearing his rose-colored glasses

  • Michael Cummings October 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Actually, FWIW (not disagreeing), Orbit will send ARC’s for ongoing series too. I was granted an ARC of The Blinding Knife, book 2 in Brent Weeks’ latest series, and while the process isn’t always perfect, Orbit (Ellen :) ) was awesome about the whole thing. The thought that reviewers are entitled to a copy of a book, no matter how big their following is, is preposterous. Review the books you like; if the publisher sends a copy in advance or after the fact, awesome, but the sense of entitlement is insane.

    • Justin Landon October 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm

      Those aren’t ARCs, Michael. They’re finished review copies. In other words, it’s not available months in advance, only once the book goes to press officially. Or at least that’s been my understanding. If there were/are bound galleys available early, it must be in VERY short supply.

      They do bound galleys for standalone novels and first books in the series (example, KJ Parker’s Sharps)

  • Abhinav (@abhinavjain87) October 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Oh that takes the cake for this sort of thing. I’ve had problems with some publishers sending out books (in the middle of one right now) but I’ve never thought it good form to complain about it in my reviews. Because that’s irrelevant detail that my readers don’t need to know. And complaining about it just because a previous novel was *my* subjective top read of a previous year? Uh uh.

    His own “explanation” in the comments reads like really bad justification after the fact. Sigh… the lengths some people go to vent their entitled anger.

  • Bryce October 10, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Calling people out on their BS. That’s half the reason I read fantasy and definitely one of the best parts of sff blogs. Thanks. :)

  • Liviu October 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    I disagree a little bit with this post; while Pat may sometimes be a bit too boastful about this or that (like the famous Paul Kearney claim), here I think it is simply a case of “hey people asked me why i did not review this and this is why”; maybe it should have been put in a comment to the review, rather than the review itself and maybe the wording was poor but I think the tendency to assume the worst of him is a bit unbecoming.

    • Justin Landon October 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      Whoa whoa whoa, I can’t have anyone disagreeing with me. . .

      You make a fair point, Liviu. The whole comment is inappropriate though. Saying, I didn’t get to this because I didn’t get a review copy is fine. Saying, I didn’t get a review copy, and I had to sort out why that was, so it took me a long time to get it, is not. At least that’s my opinion. I think Pat has a problem thinking before he types. I’m not sure there’s any terrible intent behind it, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call him out on it when he oversteps.

      I hope others do the same for me.

  • Stefan (Civilian-Reader) October 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    I completely agree with this whole post.
    Orbit – both in UK and US – have been amazing at getting books and news and so forth to bloggers. In fact, they were the first to send me stuff – Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy – and boy did I pester them (very politely) for books 2 and 3…

  • Aidan from A Dribble of Ink October 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    All it would have taken was a comment along the lines of ‘Sorry this review is a little late, I had some trouble getting my hands on the book. I know a lot of my readers are looking forward to my thoughts, since Levithan Wakes was one of my favourite novels in 2011.’

    It definitely comes off as tasteless, and I can’t imagine the folks at Orbit are overjoyed, either.

  • Liviu October 10, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    No disagreeing that the way the comment was formulated was inappropriate – my point was that carelessness was more likely than bad intentions and this idea of “shaming” Orbit which I think is far fetched.

    I never met or had email conservations or direct personal communications with Pat beyond occasional comments on his blog – I reviewed the anthology he edited which I enjoyed, though I got a copy from the publisher and I kind of like the authors he featured there, but I tend to enjoy his blog more than many others not least because he is more candid and “less controlled” for better or worse…

  • Matt Gilliard October 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    I frankly can’t understand why anyone might feel entitled to review copies or ARC’s. It’s great that those of us with a large following, who have cultivated the right relationships, have managed to secure most of their reading material for free. (I am not one of those at the moment) But that’s on me. I read and review because I enjoy it, not for free books. To call a publisher on the carpet publicly, because you didn’t get a gratis copy of any book is unprofessional, and well, just plain rude. Talk to your fellow bloggers about your ire, disappointment, etc privately where such statements belong.

    That’s just my two cents, for what they are worth.

  • Elfy October 10, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Well said, Justin. Totally on your page with your reaction to Pat’s little rant in the opening of the review.

  • Khaldun October 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    While I agree in general with what you’ve written, I find the title of this blog post somewhat ironic, given the fact that you’re basically publically shaming Pat for what amounts to a perhaps-too-quick annoyed-at-a-publisher post on his blog. I think you might have responded differently, although your frank honesty is something I have come to enjoy in reading your blog, so perhaps not.

    • Justin Landon October 10, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      LOL Khaldun. You’ve got me there! I can’t refute that!

  • Peter October 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    The only refute I’ll make is that Pat went on to give an absolute glowing review of the book. Your quote, while accurate and leading off the review, is a bit out of context without the rest of the review.

    Interesting post, though.

  • Ross October 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    That did kind of sound a little douchey on Pats part… I think most fantasy book bloggers are afraid to disagree with Pat as it could be “career ending” in a way. I applaud you for saying what most of us were thinking.

  • Odo October 11, 2012 at 3:03 am

    “Orbit has developed the most robust eBook review systems in publishing.”

    Hmmm, can anyone please point me to it? I’ve tried contancting Orbit several times in the past in order to get review copies and never got a response. Well, in fact, I got a response from the US branch and they said that they’d be happy to send them but, since I live in Spain I must contact the UK branch… which has never replied to my enquiries :(

    • Mieneke van der Salm October 11, 2012 at 8:40 am

      Odo, as far as I’m aware Orbit doesn’t send out review copies outside of the UK or US etc. I’ve been told it’s a rights thing. That was last year though, so maybe they’ve changed their policy again.

      • Odo October 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm

        Oh, thanks, that would explain it. However, they could have replied at least… Today I’ve contacted them again asking for a review copy of The Hydrogen Sonata. We’ll see what happens.

    • Stefan (Civilian Reader) October 14, 2012 at 10:40 pm

      Try Netgalley.

      • Odo October 15, 2012 at 11:20 am

        I use NetGalley but I seldom see Orbit titles there. No trace of The Hydrogen Sonata, for instance.

        • Michael Cummings October 15, 2012 at 11:30 am

          Not sure if this is universal, but they rarely make their books public on Netgalley. The last arc I got was via a direct link on netgalley (didn’t even know they did that) to a private download page.

          • Odo October 15, 2012 at 11:34 am

            OK, thanks. I didn’t know about those direct links either.

  • Jared October 11, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Justin: AMEN. This is absolutely ridiculous.

  • Bibliotropic October 11, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Perhaps there was a screw-up with Orbit and he was supposed to get an ARC but it didn’t come on time, or any number of things. But that paragraph does have more than a whiff of entitlement to it, I must admit. I myself get a lot of review copies of books, but I don’t blame the publisher when there’s one that I don’t get, even if other people around me are getting it. I’m not entitled to free books. Sometimes I have to do what every other reader does and go out and buy them for myself. I’ve had review copies come a month or two late. I’ve had people offer to send me books and then they never come and nobody ever responds to my inquiries again. Stuff happens, and while it’s disappointing, it’s always in my mind that I’m really lucky to get the books that I do get, and I don’t want to end up being one of those people who feels entitled to every free book that I want just because I might someday get around to reviewing it on my blog.

    Also, what is it about Pat’s blog that seems to generate so much controversy and hatred from other bloggers and yet he still manages to keep popular and respected? Seriously, it boggles the mind!

  • Mieneke van der Salm October 11, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Sigh, classic Pat I guess. How he stays so popular, like Ria says, I’ve no clue!

  • David Greybeard October 11, 2012 at 10:08 am

    I stopped reading Pat’s Fantasy List years ago. He generally is full of himself and I’m not surprised by more evidence of asinineship.

  • Aidan from A Dribble of Ink October 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Also, what is it about Pat’s blog that seems to generate so much controversy and hatred from other bloggers and yet he still manages to keep popular and respected? Seriously, it boggles the mind!

    Whether you enjoy his blog or not, there’s no denying that Pat is a highly visible and far-reaching member of the blogosphere, and one of the most visited independent SFF blogs. Much of the controversy comes from other bloggers who take their position within the industry a little more seriously than Pat and are frustrated with the way that his antics often misrepresent the validity of the blogosphere as a medium for serious criticism, discussion and fandom news. Pat’s utter refusal to ever admit that he’s made a mistake (as evidenced by his response to some of our criticisms in the comments section of said review), and seeming disinterest in evolving to keep up with the relationship that has matured between, readers, publishers, and bloggers, is also a source of amusement among many of the bloggers that have grown up alongside him. He had an undeniable influence on establishing the blogosphere and first bridging that gap between bloggers and publishers, but, while that’s important to remember, it’s also important to remind blog readers and members of the publishing industry that Pat and Pat’s Fantasy Hot List doesn’t always represent the entirety of the blogosphere and also doesn’t reflect the relationships that the rest of us maintain with our readers and publishers.

  • Scott October 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Great post Justin. I agree with all of it. Pat’s tone and execution in said paragraph is just poor throughout.

    Though I’ve never expected much from him since his blog is (you’re right) very unhelpful. I don’t put a lot of stock in his site any longer.

    We don’t get oodles of review copies or ARCs for our site. We get some though and every time one shows up in the mail I am totally humbled that they thought enough to send us a copy.

    I would certainly never let a review depend on receiving one.

    But then, I buy books I want to read, so maybe I’m strange. :)

  • hippogriff October 11, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    I have mixed feelings about this and I can see both sides. While it does smack of entitlement, publishers have created this beast by giving stuff out free in the first place. Personally I wonder about objectivity in a review if 1) you didn’t put down your hard-earned money for the material and 2) if you think what you write in your review could jeopardize your relationship with a publisher. That fact that Pat makes these kinds of statements lets me know that he is not simply a marketing tool for the publishers, otherwise he’d just tow the line. So crass, possibly…but also transparent.

  • Linkspam, 10/12/12 Edition — Radish Reviews October 12, 2012 at 6:31 am

    [...] Entitlement is One Thing, Attempted Public Shaming is Another Or: “Don’t you know who I am?” on the part of Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist. Or something. [...]

  • Zachary Jernigan October 15, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Love this. Well said smackdown to his sense of entitlement.

  • josh October 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    Since Pats is one of the main review sources that many readers use, I feel your bashing of his reviews to be weaksauce.

    • Justin Landon October 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      I don’t begrudge your opinion, Josh.

    • Matt Gilliard (@52reviews) October 15, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      It’s thinking like that that disturbs me. Because Pat’s site is popular, dissenting opinions or criticism of his statements and reviews are weak? Pat’s popularity or lack thereof is not at issue here, and there is nothing weak about criticism. Book reviewing is at its heart both commentary and criticism, and Justin is well within his rights to state his opinions. The fact that so many reviewers and readers have chimed in here, show that a large group of folks actually come here with that expressed purpose in mind.

      As always, just my two cents.

      • Nadine October 16, 2012 at 3:37 pm

        I get that feeling too. Just being well-known and popular enough does not exclude you from the common rules of courtesy. Pat’s comment did not diminish his review, but neither did it add to it. So why bitch about the publisher and make it sound like the people who work there are neglecting their job (of sending him free copies of all the cool new books before publication)?

        If you look at the comments to Pat’s post, you see people defending him and making this discussion here sound like the craziest, most outrageous accusation. If Pat’s allowed to share his thoughts on a publisher, we’re surely allowed to share our thoughts on his comment. The rules have to work both ways, right?

        Plus, I think the “Justin is just jealous” comments are ridiculous. Since when is talking about ones hobby (like reading and books) a competition? Maybe I missed the secret rules on book blogging…

  • Cuendillar October 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Can you people read between the lines? I’m seeing the green-eyed monster all over this thing here. Yes, Pat’s review can be interpreted the way some of you do, but I highly doubt that’s the way it was meant. The man is a big name in the business, and I bet he keeps track of a lot of publications partly be seing what drops into his mailbox. In the specific case, if you would bother to read the comments on the review, you would see that Pat actually held a contest where the winner would recieve an ARC – meaning someone at the publisher would have told Pat to expect copies.

  • Rob B October 15, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Since Pats is one of the main review sources that many readers use, I feel your bashing of his reviews to be weaksauce.

    Since when does quantity equal quality.

    By the same token, Terry Goodkind, Stephenie Meyer, and E.L. James are paragons of literature

    • Michael Cummings October 15, 2012 at 8:36 pm

      I think you sparkled when you said that. Might just be a plug-in in chrome, though.

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