New Policy: No reviews of free books

I am announcing a new policy to which the staff of Confessions of a Small-Church Pastor will immediately adhere. Okay, I’m the only staff there is, so I am the one immediately adhering. Drum roll, please!  Okay, here it is:

I will no longer review free books on this blog. If I review a book, you know that I paid for it myself.

It’s not that I don’t like free books, or don’t appreciate publicists and authors sending me free books, because I do on both counts.  But, I have noticed that my gratitude for getting a freebie seeps into my review.  I say all the positive stuff and just overlook the stuff with which I take issue.

Not that I review every book sent to me, which by now totals upwards of 25 or so.  But, I do read them, at least until I get the gist of the book.  At that point I have decided that either…

  • a) this is a bunch of pop fluff; or,
  • b) this is good and helpful stuff for me and my readers.

If a book meets the “good and helpful” test, then I have reviewed it, and I hope those reviews were both good and helpful.  I have never given a positive review for a book I thought had real problems; and, I have never fudged on a review to say something that I did not think was true.  I just left out the stuff that I took issue with.  Which is not fair, good or helpful.  So, in the words of Bob Newhart, “Just stop it!”  — which I have done.

Here’s what I’m going to tell publicists and authors who want me to review their books:

Send me the book summary via email along with your pitch as to why this fits my readership.  I will consider reviewing the book if the subject matter fits the editorial guidelines here (there are some, read below), and if the book is a resource useful to my small church community of readers and contributors.

Here are the editorial guidelines I use when writing, so most books would need to fit somewhere in here:

  • I don’t do Bible studies, devotionals, scripture exegesis, doctrinal discussions, or other stuff that is found on sites that do all of that stuff better than I could.  The closest I come to a Bible study or scripture interpretation is posting my sermons each week.  I do that because other small church pastors preach each week, too, just like I do.
  • I do offer practical insight into small church ministry, so if the book or resource fits that criteria, I stand a pretty good chance of buying it and reviewing it.  Practical insight for ministry in a small church is a larger category than you might think, so don’t be discouraged.
  • If I decide to review a book or resource, I’ll let the publicist/author know of my decision, and when the review will run.  No advance peeks at the review, no approvals, nothing but notice of run date.
  • I’ll buy the book myself (I buy lots of books — Amazon loves me!), so this is not as big an obstacle to getting reviewed as you might think.

That’s it — simple, straight-forward and clear, I hope.  What do you think?  Let me know if you think I’m nuts to turn down free books, or if you like the new policy.  Thanks.

7 thoughts on “New Policy: No reviews of free books”

  1. your nuts…grab the free book….just because its free does not mean you cant be brutally frank about it…
    The publisher needs you more than you need the free book.

    Journalists get free books all the time..and ruthlessly review do movie critics.

    If you dont want free books…send them to me! 🙂

  2. My stated policy on reviews is don’t ask. I review the things I want to. When I was working at the bookstore I started reviewing the free music I got. Simply because I was tried of people asking me what I thought about an upcoming CD

  3. You do make a good point against reviewing free books, but I would also say that your readers benefit when you review more than just books that you would likely buy. If a publisher sends you a book that they feel is appropriate for — and plans to market to — your readership, but you read it and say otherwise, then that is helpful to me. I’d rather you vet the titles from the pool of books received, instead of the publisher vetting which to send your way.

    My $0.02. : )

  4. I do reviews, but only ones that I am interested in. I tell them to keep the rest. If I have a personal interest, or if it might fit my ministry as a new tool I will do it. But I have not hesitated to give a bad review, and I do warn that I will generally post on Amazon – positive or negative – my review.

  5. I’m with Mark E, send me your free books! I participate in Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Bloggers and I just posted a review on my site about their American Patriot’s Bible. I had no hesitation in giving it a big thumbs down. But your policy does give you more credibility. Consumer Reports also does not accept freebies. It buys everything it tests.

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