What is an ARC?
ARC is short for Advanced Reader Copy. Publishers send out ARCs and galley proofs to booksellers, librarians, and reviewers in the months leading up to a book’s publication date in order to generate buzz about the book before its release. Other publishers will send out finished copies of a book in the weeks leading up to the release date as a way to generate even more publicity.
Should I accept ARCs?
This is an individual choice that every book blogger has to make. Some bloggers prefer to stay away from ARCs because they don’t want to feel compelled to write reviews, or because they’ve gotten bogged down in ARCs before after requesting/accepting more than they are physically able to read. Other bloggers love ARCs because they are free and they give bloggers a chance to write about new releases in a timely manner. It really depends on your own blogging style, and there’s plenty of middle ground to explore.
Writing a Review Policy
I would recommend that every book blogger have a written Review Policy somewhere on the blog. This lets authors and publicists know whether you you are interested in receiving review copies and what to expect from you as a blogger. The Review Policy should include information on what genres you do and do not accept, whether you prefer e-books or physical copies, whether you cross-post reviews, etc.
Where can I get ARCS?
If you have decided to accept advance reading copies, there are a number of ways to go about getting them.
- Authors/publishers read your review policy and contacting you directly. This method is better for more experienced bloggers or people who already have connections with publishers.
- NetGalley and Edelweiss are two websites that connect bloggers with electronic review copies. You get to browse a catalog of books and submit requests for review copies. The publisher views your profile, which includes information on your background and your blog’s stats, and then can choose to either accept or deny your request. This method is best for newer bloggers, because many publishers won’t require you to have been blogging for a long time before granting you access to eARCs.
- Contacting the publisher directly. This is my least favorite method of obtaining review copies, but I’ve occasionally requested a book directly if it’s something that I’m extremely excited about and have been anxiously waiting to read. This won’t always work, particularly if you’re a small blog, but if there’s a book that you’ve been anxiously waiting for then sometimes it’s worth a try.
- Attending conferences like BEA/ALA. The vast majority of review copies on my TBR (to-be-read) pile come from interacting with publishers at Book Expo America and the American Library Association conferences. Not every blogger will want to or be able to attend conferences, but if you get the chance, I’d highly recommend it, because it’s great to be able to meet authors, bloggers, and publicists in real life instead of just interacting online. If you can’t make it to a conference, there are often parallel virtual events for bloggers (ie. Armchair BEA) that are great for networking and sharing in some of the excitement.
- Giveaways can be found on other blogs, Goodreads, and in newsletters such as Shelf Awareness.
- Publisher mailing lists. Many publishers have mailing lists for book bloggers that let them know about upcoming review copies. For example, I get Angry Robot’s Robot Army e-mails, which talk about upcoming releases and let me know when new books have been added to NetGalley.
- Blog Tours are a virtual version of the traditional book tour, where authors travel the country speaking and making bookstore appearances to promote their books. In a blog tour, each blogger is assigned a date to post a review, giveaway, author interview, guest post, etc. for a specific book. Different blog tour companies have different rules, so it’s good to read the fine print before agreeing to be a part of a blog tour. For example, some companies that you hold off on posting negative reviews until after the end of the tour. I’ve had great experiences working with TLC Book Tours, and would highly recommend them. One word of caution on blog tours is to make sure that you don’t schedule too many of them close together, because it can get stressful if you’re struggling to read books before the tour date.
Disclosure is the single most important ethical consideration when reviewing books that you’ve been given for free. The FTC requires that you have some kind of disclosure statement on ARC reviews, ie. “I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.”
Another consideration is whether you consider a review copy to be an exchange (and therefore feel obligated to write a review), or whether you consider review copies as books to be considered for review. There’s a fine line between the two, and it becomes more of an issue if you have time constraints or bite off more than you can chew.
And then there are negative reviews. Even if you think you’re going to love a book when you start reading it, sometimes it turns out to be a dud. What do you do if you’ve accepted a review copy and hate it? What do you do if you can’t bring yourself to finish the book? Some bloggers choose to write reviews for all of the books they read, whether positive or negative, while others (especially when reviewing indie books) prefer to let the author/publicist know that they won’t be posting a review because they didn’t enjoy the book.