A note on review copies:
The first time you get free books through the door, it's certainly cool. You get books you didn't have to pay for! Awesome. Maybe initially, for the first few weeks it happens, you might feel positively inclined towards publishers for doing this.
Then you realise that publishers deliberately print dozens of review copies per book and send them out to everyone automatically on a list. It's somewhat impersonal, and you are certainly being treated as a cog in the marketing machine. The reason that your negative reviews are not particularly important to the publisher is that it will be assumed that your good reviews will more than balance them out (and if just 2 people buy a book on the strength of your review, the publisher is already quids in). Sometimes you will get a personalised review copy, perhaps with a note from an editor or author suggesting they thought of you specially for that book because of your interests, or your previous appreciation for the author. That's nice and to be appreciated, but I've had those before and given the book a negative or medicore review and not had any problems.
Another interesting factoid: you are highly unlikely to get review copies of one of the Big Fantasy Authors who are around and you may be eagerly following. If you've sold millions upon millions of copies of your books, you don't need bloggers. I've never received a Wheel of Time
review copy. The one Malazan
review copy I got (Toll the Hounds
, IIRC) entailed a lot of work involving recommendations from other bloggers so I was discouraged from doing that again (and was happy to pay out money for them). Another big-selling author (not a fantasy one) wanted me to have a review copy of his latest book so sent me one of his own stock, since the publisher was refusing to send out copies. Sometimes you also get authors who are big enough that ARCs aren't even published for them, so you might get a complimentary copy of the hardcover in the mail, sometimes weeks after it comes out and sometimes long after you've already gone out and bought a copy yourself.
Getting review copies is interesting and very occasionally cool, but ultimately it is not a transaction in return for automatic positive press. If you believe it is (cough Harriet Klausner), you really should not be reviewing anything.
You're not getting as many review copies as in years past???
No. Publishers realised I wasn't likely to review urban fantasy (or rather that subset of urban fantasy with sexy women, men and vampires on the front cover) so stopped sending me books in that genre, which wiped out about 75% of my incoming review copies in one stroke. The dominance of urban fantasy by volume in the whole SFF genre is something that you really appreciate when you're shipping boxloads of them out of your front door.
I'm on pace for about 600 in 2012. Wish it wasn't so, for I need to put these books in boxes and bring them over to local libraries...
I just got rid of 150 books (mostly review copies) down the charity shop, so that's exactly why I'm glad the number of incoming books has now dropped off to something much more bearable (I'd have to count, but I believe it was about 50 for the entirety of 2011, as compared to about 200 apiece in 2009 and 2010; I was never on American mailing lists so I never got as many as North American-based bloggers).
As a university student, anything under 80% was kind of a failure to me.
Universities have a purpose in stamping out things are that are even just 'okay' or even 'just good' to ensure only the very best people get the very best results. For reviewing I don't think there's a need to be that draconian.
And the Rick Martel award for arrogance goes to:
Given their radically different styles of reviewing, it was interesting that both Larry and Pat said the exact same thing in this thread