Monday, December 21, 2015

How to Get ARC Books (and Not Be a Jerk About It)

A question I often get is "how do you get ARC books?" Or if it's a non-blogger asking then it's more like, "why do you get free books in the mail all the time?" I'm by no means a "big" blogger, but I do have a hefty pile of ARC's (Advance Reader Copies) on my shelf. Once you know where to look, getting them isn't hard. So I thought I'd try my best at making a (hopefully) detailed and comprehensive post on how I've been able to receive ARC's. I won't be covering every outlet out there, because there's a lot of ARC resources I don't actually use. Most of these resources are for bloggers (although I suppose the same rules apply for booktubers) - but even if you're not a blogger you still have a few options, which I'll cover as well. I've also included some ARC etiquette, because - not naming names - but there are some bloggers that go wild with "oooh free stuff!" and it drives me crazy. If you have any other questions that aren't covered here, feel free to ask. I'll try my best to answer! If I can't, I'll refer you to a cooler book blogger that can.

Part 1 - How to Find ARC's

If you've never received an ARC then finding where to look for them is the hardest part (but will soon be super easy once you've gotten the hang out it). These are only a few ways to get them, but they are also my favorite and the methods I've had the most luck with.

1. Ask the Publisher - Offers aren't just going to flood your inbox if you don't put yourself out there, so don't be scared to ask for an upcoming book that you're interested in reviewing. The worst thing that can happen is they'll say no. Which they might, but how will you know until you try? Don't be scared of rejection! Find the publishers website and look for the email of the publicity department. Write a short and professional message including:
  • A link to your blog and a brief description on what your blog is about. Adding blog stats is helpful, but not necessary. Also a brief description on what your blog is about.
  • Some social media links. I usually stick with Instagram, Twitter, and sometimes Bloglovin' (Bloglovin' isn't my favorite, but your blog profile page is an easy and quick way for people to get a general idea on what your blog is about, without having to scroll though your actual blog posts). I don't use Pinterest, YouTube, or G+ very much so I don't bother linking those. Just send whatever you keep regularly updated.
  • The book you'd like to review. Be specific, don't just be like, "hey can I haz book plz."
  • Why they should send it to you. Give them a good reason - remember it costs them time and money to send you a book. Is this the type of book that would really appeal to your blog audience?
  • Your address. "But Natalie I don't want to give out my address if they're not even going to accept my request, can't I do it later?" I mean, I guess you could, but you're just increasing your chances of the publisher ignoring you. They won't always want to take the time to respond to your email and be like "ok sure what's your address?" then wait for you to give it to them, and then go ship it off to you. If you include your address in the original email, what sometimes happens is they'll just ship your book without even responding to your original email. Surprise!
  • A thank you. Because duh.

2. Book publisher blogs
- If you don't feel comfortable sending an unsolicited email request, keep an eye on book publishing blogs. Most big publishers (and small ones) keep a blog somewhere on their website. Sometimes they'll share about upcoming books and mention having ARC's to send out if anyone is interested. You'll still have to e-mail them, but at least it's not randomly. If you're lucky (and if they like your content) they'll keep your contact information on hand and reach out to YOU next time they have ARC's. This is how I started writing reviews for Quirk Books :)

3. Blogging for Books - This site is super easy to use and often has great titles to choose from. The books here aren't always technically "ARC's", sometimes they're just new books, or an older book being republished in a new version or with a new cover or something (for example, a book that came out last year, but was just recently published in paperback is likely to show up here). All you need to do is sign up on the website (you will need a blog for this) and pick out your book! After you've read the book, write about it on your blog and also share it on the Blogging for Books site. There's no deadline, but you must write your review and share it on the site before requesting another book. Your blog stats don't matter here, everyone is accepted! Another cool thing is that you don't have to wait and see if you've been approved for the book you select. If you find a book you want, just click "request a review copy" and boom! It's on its way! In my experience they ship really fast, too!

4. Shelf Awareness Pro - Shelf Awareness is a daily newsletter for people in the book trade (I don't know if having a blog puts you in the "book trade," but it's just a newsletter so we can pretend here). While the actual content and articles are interesting, if you're looking for ARC's then you need to check out the ads. In my experience these books usually take a little while to arrive, but not all the books are from the same publishers so I can't speak for all of them. There are two different newsletters you can sign up for, so make sure to pick the PRO option. Each newsletter will include sidebar and banner ads for various books coming out, and many of them you can click and request an ARC. It'll look something like this:

5. Make it easy to contact you - Sounds like a no brainer, but figured I'd add it anyway. Make sure it's easy to find your email address on your blog. If it's easy to locate and you've made it clear that you accept books to review, eventually someone will e-mail and ask you to read their book. In my experience I've only had this happen with smaller companies and self published authors (which is not a bad thing, just something worth noting). If you don't like putting your e-mail in an easy to spot place (privacy reasons and all that), it's understandable, but it really lessens your chances of getting books. You can have your privacy or you can get free books. We can't have everything!

6. Bonus websites and resources I haven't actually used - Here's a few more places to check out. I haven't tried these so unfortunately I won't be much help troubleshooting, but if you have a lot of luck with them let me know! If you have another resource you like, leave a comment and I'll add it here!

Part 2 - Don't be a Jerk About It

Ok, now you're a pro and everyone in the universe wants to send your their ARC's. Yay! But here's a couple things to keep in mind.

1. You don't need to (and shouldn't) take any book you can get - Scenario - Let's pretend that Scholastic is looking for people to review the newest Harry Potter book - but you hate Harry Potter. It might seem tempting to request one because you know everyone wants to know about the new Harry Potter book, so should you get it? No! Ugh. But why not?
  • Publishers won't like it - Requesting a book you don't like obviously means you'll have a write a review on a book you didn't like. Publishers will see the reviews you're writing (because you're making sure to share it with them, right?). Obviously you're not expected to enjoy every book you read, but if they notice you requested a book you weren't even interested in reading, guess who's going to have a harder time getting books from now on? And no, don't lie about enjoying the book. You're not that great at lying.
  • Other bloggers won't like it - Mainly because they really wanted to review the new Harry Potter book, but Scholastic ran out of ARC copies. And they love Harry Potter, so the fact that you got one and they didn't will make them bitter and not want to read your blog anymore. I'm not saying we all have to be BFF's in the blogging community, but don't go out of your way to make enemies. THE INTERNET NEVER FORGETS.
  • You won't like it - Seriously. Why make yourself read a book that's not even your type? There will always be more books to get. So just don't do it.

2. You won't like all the books (even when you think you will)
 - Now, let's say you requested a book that you thought you'd like, but unfortunately didn't. It happens. You should still write an honest review, but if you're going to say you didn't like the book then you need to say why you didn't like it. Saying "it wasn't my type of book" or "the characters drove me crazy," doesn't tell people anything. Go in depth and explain why you didn't like these things. Just because you weren't interested in reading about that alien love triangle doesn't mean that no one else will; and if you simply say a book sucks with no explanation then you're turning people off from a book they might actually love! That isn't fair to the publisher that sent it to you. Back in August I wrote an almost 20 paragraph review on The Book of Strange New Things - a book I absolutely hated. While a bit messy, I think it might be the longest and most in depth book review I've ever I fueled by hatred? Maybe. Anyway, I didn't like the book, but I was very specific on what rubbed me the wrong way, because everyone isn't going to hate the same things I do.

3. Don't take on more than you can read in a timely manner - UNLESS you've specified that you won't be reviewing the book for (x) amount of time. Some people will be ok with this, but some are looking to have reviews by a specific deadline (especially if it's a book that isn't released to the public yet). I think it's especially rude to ask for a specific book, only to take ten million years to read and review it. I'm not a fast reader, and recently I had to turn down a book offer because the author asked if I could read it and have a review out in two weeks. I was tempted by the offer, but with work, other books, and regular life crap, the timeline just wasn't realistic and I didn't want to burn a bridge with the author.
Part  3 - What if I'm not a blogger?

Then what's your problem? Just kidding. If you don't have a blog there are still a few options, but books will be harder to come by. Honestly, if you want free books then you're better off going to the library (secret: I see ARC books in the library book store ALL THE TIME, except they're not supposed to be sold, didn't hear that from me).

1. First to Read - This is run through Penguin Books, and while you don't need a blog, you're encouraged to write a review on the website. But! You get points for it. The way it works is you sign up, and when you pick your ARC (digital copies only, but the major upside is that there's a lot of popular authors to choose from), you're entered for a chance to receive it. There's no guarantee that you'll get it, but even if you never get picked there are ways around this. The more you participate on the site - requesting books, sharing books, reading book excerpts, taking surveys - the more points your earn. The points can be used to purchase guaranteed access to an ebook on the site. I don't use First to Read much anymore, but last year I used it to read the newest Ken Follett book, because I had no interest in paying $39.95 for it.

2. Goodreads First Reads - Goodreads is always hosting hundreds of giveaways for books, including ARC's. You just click enter and accept. It works like a raffle, so obviously your chances of winning aren't too great. I've entered quite a few and have never won anything! Maybe your luck will be better than mine. I mean, someone has to win, so why not you? If you DO win, you're not required to write a review; but again, you're encouraged to write one on Goodreads. A Goodreads review doesn't have to be as long or thorough as a blog review, so if you have time to request a free book, you can make time to write a Goodreads review.

3. Blog giveaways - Follow some book bloggers with similar reading tastes as yours. Bloggers love hosting giveaways! Also, book bloggers are often looking for a way to trade or get rid of their ARC's (because when you no longer need them it's tragic to throw them away, but you're not allowed to sell them or donate them to another place that will attempt to sell them).


I hope this has been even the slightest bit helpful :) Don't forget about me when you become famous and are writing book reviews for Kirkus. If you have any other resources you'd like to recommend I'd love to hear about them! I'll check them out and maybe add them into this post. Now go forth, and read!

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