I am by no means an expert and this post is by no means the end-all-be-all of ARCs, so if you have any additional sources or advice, please share in the comments! Also feel free to ask any questions I may not have addressed and discuss this topic with one another in the comments.
1. What are ARCs and who gets them?
ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) are copies of a book that are printed up before the book goes on sale and are sent to reviewers, librarians, bookstores, and similar outlets. The purpose of ARCs is to generate early buzz and reviews, encourage purchases, and assist librarians and booksellers in deciding whether or not to purchase a particular book for their collection/stock.
ARCs are marketing tools. ARCs are actually more expensive to produce than a finished copy of a book (I'm always surprised by that!) and only a small number of ARCs are printed.
ARCs are often a little less polished than the final copy (more typos) and may be slightly different from the finished version (names, different wording of some sentences, minor rearrangement, things like that). Because of these changes, reviewers are asked to only pull direct quotes from the finished version of a book. The cover may also differ from the final version.
Bloggers get ARCs so they can post reviews and help generate buzz for the book. This works primarily as a "word of mouth" type of advertising, so bloggers who have the ability to:
- Reach a large number of people, and
- Provide informative reviews that will encourage book sales
As a general rule, the "big" publishers like seeing a blog up and consistently running for around 4-6 months before the blogger requests a print ARC. You don't have to wait nearly as long to request e-ARCs (I got e-ARCs when I posted reviews on Amazon and did not even have a blog). Some indie or self-published authors will begin pitching review requests when a blogger is less than a month old.
There is also an element of chance when it comes to who gets ARCs and who does not. Remember this! I have been denied an electronic ARC only to have a print copy appear in my mailbox a few weeks later. Sometimes bloggers get added onto a publisher's mailing list without doing anything, but more often bloggers must make the first move.
It all depends on a lot of different factors (some known, some seemingly mysterious), patience, persistence, and a little random luck.
2. Where to get ARCs?
E-galleys (electronic ARCs)
E-galleys are the wave of the future! Personally, I'm pretty bummed about this because I don't have an e-reader, but I can see how much more cost effective it is for publishers to distribute ARCs this way.
If you're a new blogger, publishers are also a lot more willing to give you an e-galley than a print copy, so e-galleys are a great way for newbies to get their name on publishers' radars. Here are a few sources to get you started:
Each publisher has different requirements for users requesting galleys. Expiration dates for galleys vary. I have a more in-depth Tips & Tricks post coming up about NetGalley.
Simon & Schuster's Galley Grab
Galley Grab is no more! Simon & Schuster has moved its e-galley offerings to Edelweiss.
See the Edelweiss Addendum post for more information about this e-galley and publisher catalog service!
There are a bunch of ways you can get your hands on print ARCs, and these are only a few of them.
When contacting publishers, look for an email address for the publicity department. If you are requesting a Young Adult title, make sure you send your request to the children's publicity contact. Here are a few links to get you started:
- HarperCollins + imprints
- Macmillan + imprints
- Random House + imprints
- Penguin + imprints
- Simon & Schuster + imprints
- HarperCollins + imprints
- Macmillan + imprints
- Random House + imprints
- Penguin + imprints
- Simon & Schuster + imprints
Other places you can find contact information:
- On the back of ARCs: Usually you'll find publisher contact information on the back of printed ARCs and/or on the copyright page
- Through your NetGalley emails: When NetGalley sends you an email confirming or denying your request, you can usually find the email address of the publishing contact who handled your request somewhere in the email (look for "on behalf of...")
- Through your NetGalley approvals: If you are approved for an e-galley through NetGalley, sometimes there is an option to "contact the publisher" and this will provide you with an email address for the publicity contact
Authors do not receive many ARCs, but sometimes they do and are willing to send you a copy (rarely--usually their friends and family have first dibs, understandably!). Some authors will also forward your information to their publicist.
Many authors state on their site whether or not they can send you an ARC and how you should go about requesting one, so make sure you read their site carefully before you shoot them an email.
LibraryThing's Early Reviewer's Program
I don't have an account with LibraryThing, so I can't speak on it much. I have heard it is a good source, but you need to review each book you receive in order to receive more.
Goodreads First Reads
I received one of my first ARCs through this program when I was first starting out as a blogger. I've since received one more a few months later, but I haven't gotten any since.
You don't have to review these books, but you should and whether or not you review is a consideration for getting more books from them.
I have only participated in a few ARC tours, but these seem like a great way to get to read ARCs. Sometimes the person putting together the tour will contact you, but more often you approach the tour host and submit an application. There are three types of ARC tours, and you should decide which ones you are comfortable participating in before you commit to any.
- Tours where you get to keep the book: These are the only tours I will participate in. The pros are obvious- you get to keep the book! Not only do you get a book out of the deal, but you also don't have to pay postage or worry about short deadlines for passing on the book (though you do, of course, still need to make sure you meet the review deadline for the tour). The cons are that there are very few book tours like this offered.
- Tours where you must share the book: These are the most common type of ARC tours offered. The pros are that you get to read an ARC! The cons are that you must pay postage, read the book faster, and you don't get to keep the book.
- E-galley tours: These are closer to the first type of tour in pros- you get to keep the book, you generally have longer to read the book, and you don't have to worry about paying postage. The only con is if you don't have an e-reader (like me!).
This is Amazon's ARC program and, as far as I can tell, it is invite-only. I have NO IDEA how Amazon chooses who to invite. All I know is you must post your reviews on Amazon, and you probably need good "helpful" ratings (not sure what they consider "good") and you probably have to publish your reviews often. It seems like members of this program receive a decent amount of books.
See Krystle's comment below for some insider information! (Thank you, Krystle!)
Sources for Reviewers AND Non-Reviewers
Even non-reviewers can receive ARCs! Here are a few ways I know of to snag an ARC if you're a non-reviewer, newbie reviewer, or established reviewer:
There are ALWAYS giveaways going on around the blogosphere, and many of them are giving away ARCs! I got one of my first ARCs from a giveaway hosted by Kelsey from The Book Scout. Different bloggers and authors (yes, authors host giveaways on their blogs!) have different rules (some want you to follow their blog, sometimes you have to tweet, some don't have any requirements, etc), but generally you do not need to be a reviewer in order to enter.
This is a FREE daily e-newsletter you can sign up for, and I'm pretty sure you don't have to be a reviewer. When you sign up, make sure you register for the "PRO" edition. This edition contains a compilation of publishing and book-related news, but it is also the newsletter that has all the ads in it.
Ads? Who wants ads, right? This is one situation where you very much want ads, because these ads more often than not are links you can click on to request ARCs!
I've received a bunch of ARCs through Shelf Awareness and I highly recommend checking it out. The actual content is usually pretty interesting, too.
This is a site run by the publisher Random House and there are a few different ways you can get ARCs.
The only way I'm personally familiar with is through their Buzz Bucks program. You fill out little quizzes or do quick activities to earn Buzz Bucks that you can then use toward getting books. Most of the books are finished copies, but sometimes they do offer ARCs (though, really, free finished books are pretty exciting, too!).
They also have message boards where you can sign up to receive ARCs. I've never participated this way, so I can't give any details, but it seems like a great program.
Swap with other bloggers
A ton of bloggers are more than willing to swap books with you. Off the top of my head, I know Tayte from Reading in Paradise is currently looking to swap books.
Ask your local librarian or bookstore
These people sometimes receive ARCs. It can't hurt to politely introduce yourself and ask if you can leave your contact information with them in case they have any ARCs they are willing to pass on to you.
3. Should you write a review policy?
YES! Even if your blog has only been running for a day, you should write a clear and to the point review policy. You can use my Review Policy as a guide if you'd like.
The biggest shock to me when I first started blogging was the incredible number of authors who would contact me for review requests (particularly indie and self-published authors). This WILL happen to you, so it's best to be prepared.
What you should include in your review policy:
- What book format do you accept? Not accept? (ARCs, finished copies, audiobooks, e-books?)
- Will you accept self-published or indie published books?
- What broad genres do you accept? Not accept? (YA, middle grade, adult?)
- What specific genres do you accept? Not accept? (Dystopian, fantasy, paranormal, contemporary, etc?)
- Contact information (include your email address, do not include your mailing address)
You might also like to include information on whether or not you will host giveaways, author guest posts/interviews, blogger guest posts, and if you will participate in ARC tours.
Review policies will make your life so much easier. Trust me. If you need to decline a review request (and you will encounter this at some point), it is much easier to point to your review policy ("I'm sorry, as stated in my review policy, I am not currently accepting e-books/short stories/dystopians/books with a character named Frank/etc for review").
Your review policy will also help you avoid getting review pitches you don't want anyway. Some people won't read your policy, but many will (my self-published requests dropped drastically after I stated in my policy that I am not accepting self-published books for review). Stating what you will and won't review up front saves both you and the requester time and frustration.
4. What to write in your request?
There are many different ways to go about writing a review request. The following is a list of things you may want to include:
- Briefly introduce yourself (use your real name, both first and last)
- Blog name and type of books you review (YA, MG, adult?)
- Blog link, and links/mention of any other place you regularly post reviews
- Your blog stats (Date/Year you started blogging, number of unique visitors per month, pageviews per month, how often you update your blog--NOT including memes, etc)
- How you promote books on your blog (reviews, author interviews, author guest posts, giveaways, etc)
- If you work in a book-related field, include that (library, bookstore, etc)
- A short reason why you're interested in the book, if applicable (don't make this about YOU, show how you can help THEM)
- Your mailing address (very important to include!) and your email address (yes, write it out)--you can include this in an electronic signature
- The title of the book(s) you are requesting (+ ISBN/Imprint, author, publication date)
- Links to previous reviews you have posted, preferably for the same imprint or similar book (thank you Jana!)
When I first started requesting ARCs I was SO shy (ok, I still am) and I ended up writing very little in my request. Too little. I pretty much stuck to my blog stats and the book's information. My requests had no personality and did nothing to show the publisher what *I* could do for *them*. Even though it may feel uncomfortable tooting your own horn, it is important you include enough information about your blog and your accomplishments.
As far as I can tell, it is better to include all of your review requests in one email. That is, if you are requesting three titles from one publisher, ask for all of them in one email, not three separate emails.
If you are contacting the publisher for the first time, try to keep your number of requests to a minimum. Newer bloggers are more likely to receive titles that are not getting as much advertising attention. At this time, you may also offer to host an author interview/guest post. If you are more established, you may also offer to host a giveaway.
4. What to do after you've requested the book?
Wait. Don't bother the publisher with a million follow up emails. Publishers are very busy and oftentimes they won't even email you back (the book will just appear in your mailbox...or not).
If you get the book, great! Read on to #5.
But what if you don't? It's disappointing, I know (really, I know), but it isn't the end of the world.
- Do not get discouraged--review requests are denied for all sorts of reasons, and some of the reasons have nothing to do with you personally
- Do continue working on improving your blog (there is always room for improvement)
- Do not argue with or insult the publisher/author--be gracious, say thank you for their time, and move on
- Do read the book when it releases (you wanted to read it, right? Now you can!)
- Do send your review to the publisher
- Do not say anything snarky about them denying your request
- Do wait a few months and then try again for a different ARC (maybe ask for a "smaller" title)
5. What to do after you've read the book?
Writing your review
You write your review! If you request an ARC, then you should write a review for it, even if you did not love the book. It's ok, publishers understand not every book will work for every reader. Just make sure to keep your review respectful.
If you absolutely cannot write a review, then it would be good to try to find another blogger who will read and review the ARC you received. You may also want to email the publisher and ask them what they prefer you do. You can offer to find another blogger to pass the ARC along to or see if the publisher would like you to host a giveaway for the ARC.
Publishers don't expect you to review every book they send you, especially if they've sent you a copy you didn't request. BUT, if you consistently receive ARCs but then do not review them, they will take note of this eventually and they will stop sending you ARCs. So if you want to keep receiving them, then you should review them.
When to post your review
You can post your review whenever you'd like (unless the publisher/author requests a specific date), but publishers tend to prefer you post your review within a month of the book's release.
Most don't mind if you post up to a month before the book releases, but some publishers (like Simon & Schuster) ask that you wait until after the book has been released. Check NetGalley's Publisher Approval Preferences page for specific publishing house preferences.
Also make considerations for what your blog readers prefer. If your blog primarily caters to librarians and booksellers, then you may want to post your reviews much earlier as these types of readers tend to use reviews for collection development.
If your blog primarily serves people who read for pleasure, then sticking to the "around release date or later" rule of thumb is a good idea (these readers--myself included-- often get frustrated if they can't buy the book soon after reading the review. Plus, it's also easy to forget about a book if you hear about it too early).
After you've posted your review, you should email a direct link to publisher and thank them again for the opportunity. If you post your review to any other site (Goodreads, Amazon, etc), then be sure to also include direct links to your review at these sites.
What to do with the ARC
If you do not want to keep the ARC after your review has been written, then you can give it away. Your local librarian or bookstores may appreciate getting your ARCs (they use ARCs to help determine whether or not they want to purchase the book for their collection. Librarians also use them as giveaway prizes.).
You can also give it away or swap with a friend or another reviewer/blogger. You can host a giveaway on your blog, donate it to an ARC tour site, or set up an ARC tour of your own. If you host a giveaway, then authors and publishers usually like to know about it so they can help you spread the word (more pageviews for you = good, more publicity for them = good).
The only thing you should NOT do with your ARC is sell it.
6. Additional information
The following are sources for additional information about ARCs. All of the sources are phenomenal and I highly recommend checking them out. Many other bloggers have written up advice on acquiring ARCs. If you know of any I haven't listed, please link them in the comments!
Books with Bite
All Things Urban Fantasy
Authors and Publishers
- Peachtree Publishers
- Saundra Mitchell
- Alexandra Bracken
- The Book Publicity Blog (Read every post you can find about bloggers and review copies. Seriously, this blog is a goldmine!)
What have your experiences been with requesting ARCs? Do you have any advice or links to share? Please feel free to ask questions and answer whatever questions may be posed in the comments!