At first I was going to title this post "Do Review Copies Make a Difference?" but then the absurdity of it struck me--of course they make a difference, I can't see how any blogger or other reviewer who accepts any number of them could say otherwise. The question is what difference to they make, and is that ok?
For me, the biggest difference review copies make is in my choice of reading material. Since acquiring my Kindle at Christmas and therefore having easy access to NetGalley titles, you've probably noticed a more secular bend to my book reviews. In short, a greater percentage of my reads are general market vs Christian books. I still enjoy Christian fiction, and still review it, but I've gained easy access to other books I enjoy as much or more, so I've taken advantage of it. Yes, the library down the street has always been available, but they didn't send me emails asking if I wanted the newest release (though I have to say I've learned to love their on-line catalog coupled with the ability to reserve a book and have it sent from anywhere in our large system to my small local library branch for pick-up.)
Another thing I'll admit is that a paper review copy is much more likely to get a review from me than a library book or a NetGalley. If a library book doesn't grab me pretty quickly, it gets abandoned. NetGalleys might get a little more time, just because I don't want to get on a publishers list of "She requests galleys but doesn't review them)--but I am more likely to abandon a NetGalley (or even never get around to reading it) than I am a paper review copy.
What about negative reviews? Well, a paper copy is more likely to get a negative review, simply because most are sent with the understanding that there will be a review written (though if the review is going to be negative, I often offer the publicist the option of just running promotional material rather than writing a negative review. A NetGalley or library book is only likely to get a negative review if the author ticks me off or if there is something worthwhile about the book that I do want to promote. For example, my review of Bumped is on the negative side because I felt cheated by the lack of an ending. I felt the same way about The Thorn. I disagreed with the author's conclusion in Malled. I chose to write about Two Kisses for Maddy because it looked like the kind of book someone like me would enjoy, and I had a specific reason for disliking it, a reason I thought others would share. I have a review coming out next week on a book about Autism that I supposed could be considered negative, but since the book had a lot of positives, and autism is a subject of great interest to me, I wanted to promote those positives. Also, despite the large number of books I read, I buy very few. If I don't get my money's worth, I am likely to let you know.
On the other hand, I started to read a NetGalley of Found in Translation and didn't care for it. I suppose I could have written something about why; but frankly I didn't have anything against, the book, its just that after reading for a while, I didn't want to read any more. The same could be said for Skinny, Wintergreen, and Second Chance Brides, not to mention all the partially read books that have gone back to the library.
In short, offering me a review copy makes it much more likely that I am going to write about your book, but review copies do not control the content of the reviews I choose to write. What about you? What difference do review copies make to your blog?