I have a book review coming on Friday, but before I post it I wanted to share with you a change I've made in my book review policy.
When you've got a blog with a good-sized audience marketers of all sorts reach out to you asking if you'll write about their products. Mostly I say no. I don't write sponsored posts here and for a long while I've been declining offers of free product. I don't accept these things because I want to remain impartial. I strive to write about all aspects of the craft industry and don't want to be beholden to any specific company. Instead I earn an income by selling my own products.
The exception has been books.
I'm not sure what it is about books in particular that has made me accept them for free in exchange for a post, when I've rejected all these other products. Maybe it just felt good to get a book early, before it was released. I love craft books and it's fun to open a package from a publisher with a free book inside. Maybe it's because many of my friends are authors and I want to help them promote their new titles. When they offer me a free copy I've immediately responded, "Of course! I'm so excited for you!"
Whatever it is, it ends today.
I'm still very excited to review books. In fact, my aim is to review every softie book on the market because I love them and I totally enjoy reading them, sewing from them, and analyzing them. But going forward when I review a book here I'll buy it with my own money.
Those of us who blog are only human. Whenever we receive something for free there's a feeling of reciprocity that's nearly impossible to fight. The script in your head goes something like this: "I got this for free. That was awfully nice. I should write something good about it, or give it a shout out on Instagram. It's the least I could do." I've tried hard to separate myself from that feeling of obligation, and I think I've succeeded to a degree, but not completely.
More than anything else, I value my independent voice. Spending my own money on the books I review grants me freedom, and it supports my friends who are authors, too, so everyone wins.
An odd side effect of accepting free books for so long is that I've become hesitant to actually buy craft books. There are softie books that have been on my Amazon wishlist for over a year that I haven't bought. In the the back of my mind I think I figured, "Let me wait on this one. There's a pretty good chance the publisher will send me a copy." Those books don't get reviewed here because I'm waiting to get something for free. That's gotta change.
Blogs are the only place you have a fighting chance of reading an honest, in-depth review of a craft book. Craft books aren't going to get written up in the New York Times Book Review. You aren't going to find a meticulous book review in Mollie Makes or Stitch. The absolute best place, and likely the only place, you'll get a real review is from a blogger who's read and sewn from the book and is willing to tell you what they think. When it comes to softie books, I want to be one of those bloggers and I want to speak in my most honest voice.
The book I'm reviewing on Friday is a great example. It's Make Your Own Soft Toys by Rob Merrett. I've had this book on my wishlist since it first came out (under a different title) in 2010. It's got a single Amazon review (which doesn't say much) and I can't find any blog reviews. Finally, last week I bought it at my local bookstore and yesterday I finished sewing a project from it. I'm excited to tell you about it!
You know what? While I was sewing I realized something really important: craft books are worth paying for.