*Updated: June 22, 2020*
A question I get asked a lot is “How do you get free books?” What people typically mean is, “How do you get advanced reader copies?” If you’re unfamiliar with the term, advanced reader copies are uncorrected proofs of books that haven’t been released. There are physical ARCs, which typically look like the paperback version of the book, although a lot of the times the cover won’t be final, and there are digital, or electronic, ARCs, which come in the form of a file that can usually be read on a tablet or reading device, like a Kindle.
ARCs are typically sent out to the media to create buzz about the book that’s going to be released. Media includes everything from big name publications like Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times to bloggers and social media influencers, like myself. So how exactly do people like me (and you) get ARCs? Well, there are a few ways.
1. Someone will reach out to you
If you have your contact info on your blog or in your bio, publicists or self-published authors may reach out to you and ask if you would like an ARC or finished copy of their book. This is definitely the easiest way to get an ARC, because obviously they want you to have one if they reached out to you. The only downside to this is figuring out how to say no to books you actually don’t want or wouldn’t read.
Sometimes it can be really exciting to be offered a free book. When I first started I said yes to everything and then I ended up with a lot of books I never read. That’s why if you have a blog, it’s a good idea to have a Review Policy page, where you explicitly say what kind of books you do and do not want to receive. You’ll probably still get requests for things you don’t want, and if that’s the case you can either politely decline or you are allowed to ignore emails. However, just make sure that if you do ignore someone’s emails you have no intention of ever trying to work with them. It’s hard to rebuild bridges once you burn them.
2. Request a physical ARC
If there’s a book you’re really interested in, you can request an ARC of the book. Typically, the way to do this is to find out who’s publishing the book and look up their publicity contact information. For example, if I wanted to request an ARC of A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas I would go to Bloomsbury’s website and look up their publicity contact information, specifically for the children’s department since Maas is technically a YA author.
For most publishers, specifically the Big Five, there’s an email address you can write to. There’s a number of ways you could write out your email, but this is how I do it. For the subject line I write, “ARC Request for ‘A Court of Frost and Starlight’ by Sarah J. Maas.” Then my email would say:
My name is Zakiya Jamal and I am very excited for the release of Sarah J. Maas’ newest novel, A Court of Frost and Starlight. I absolutely love all of Maas’ books, both in this series and the Throne of Glass series. I know my followers, just like myself, are already excited about Maas’ new novel and I would love a chance to read and review it early.
I review books on my blog, To Borrow or Buy, which gets about 1,500 views every month. I also post pictures of my favorite books and books I review on my Instagram account of the same name, which has over 4400 followers. If I receive an ARC of A Court of Frost and Starlight I would promote the book on all of my platforms, which not only include my blog and Instagram but also my Tumblr and Twitter. Below please find my name, phone number, and mailing address. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
You always want to include your mailing address in the email, because that just makes it easier for them to send you the book right away rather than having to ask you for it. Typically, you won’t get a response to your email either way, but if they do decide to send you a copy they’ll just send it.
The most important thing you want to do in your email is make it clear why they should give you a book. My following isn’t incredibly big on any one of my platforms, but when combined I actually I have a reach of about 5,000 people, so I always include all my platforms when requesting a book. Make sure to always play to your strengths and if you have done ARC reviews before, especially if you’ve received books from that publisher before, make sure to indicate that as well.
Also, some publishers now do forms for requesting ARCs, rather than emails. For example, I’ve received a few ARCs through The Novl, which is Little, Brown for Young Readers’ social media page. They send out these forms in their newsletters, which come out about once a week, so make sure to sign up for their newsletter so you know when they’re looking for new reviewers.
3. Request a Digital ARC
There are two websites you can sign up for to get digital ARCs: NetGalley and Edelweiss. I’ve received ARCs on both. The best way to get ARCs through these sites is to sign up for their emails. Edelweiss sends out a weekly newsletter, which lets you know what new books have been added to the site and are available for request. NetGalley emails a bit more frequently, but you can adjust your email notifications for how you see fit. You can also always search both sites if you’re looking for a specific book to request.
I wouldn’t say getting a digital ARC is easier than getting a physical ARC, because it always depends on a lot of different factors, particularly how popular a book is. What I will say is there have been a few times when I received a dARC of a book after I couldn’t get a physical ARC. So it doesn’t hurt to try both, especially if it’s a book you really want.
The most important thing to remember about these sites is to always keep them updated. Make sure your profile has your most accurate information, including the most up-to-date links to wherever you post your reviews. Additionally, always add your reviews directly to the sites. Publishers can see your stats on reviewing the books you receive and if you never review books that’ll make them less inclined to approve your request for a digital ARC.
4. Giveaways & Bookish Events
Truthfully, I think I’ve gotten the most ARCs from going to bookish events. I got 10 ARCs from Book Con this year alone, and two more from attending the Brooklyn Book Festival. Additionally, I’ve also won a lot of ARCs from giveaways. In my experience, it pays to receive newsletters from publishers. I’ve won a number of ARCs just by reading literally every email publishers send me and entering almost every giveaway in them.
Additionally, Twitter is a great place for giveaways. Not only do publishers do giveaways regularly, but authors do them all the time. So do bloggers. If you’re willing to look for them, you’ll find there are lots of giveaways happening all the time and if you enter enough of them you’re bound to win some.
5. Books for Trade
If you’re unfamiliar with Books for Trade (#booksfortrade), it’s a hashtag on Twitter in which people list what kind of books they’re in search of (ISO) and what books they’re willing to trade. Typically, it’s very hard to trade for an ARC if you aren’t also trading an ARC. There’s even a specific hashtag just for ARC trades (#arcsfortrade). However, it’s not impossible.
The biggest advice I can give for trading is to triple check that the person is legit. I’ve traded multiple times and I haven’t had a problem because I always go to that person’s profile to check and see if they’ve done successful trades in the past. I also always ask the person to send me pics of the book before confirming an exchange. If you can make a legit trade, trading is a great way to get your hands on a book you really want.
I believe that about covers it. If you have any other questions about how to get ARCs just let me know in the comments. I hope this helps, and that you get as many free books as your heart desires. Happy reading!