ARCs: What they are, how to get them, what to do with them.
What are ARCs?
An ARC is an Advanced Reader Copy, also called an uncorrected Galley, and it is used as a marketing tool to help spread publicity for that specific title. ARCs are given to booksellers, librarians, reviewers, and as of late, bloggers. ARCs are not free books. They cost money to make, and money to send. ARCs are to be used for publicity purposes, including reviews. ARCs are not to be sold. They aren't finished books. They still have mistakes in them. They are used to spark buzz about a book in order to get people excited for that title.
Who gets ARCs?
Booksellers use ARCs to determine whether or not they will stock their shelves with that book when the time comes to start ordering. Librarians use ARCs to determine the same thing. However, not every bookseller or librarian gets an ARC of every title. At my local library, the ARCs go to the main offices where librarians then decide what titles every library in their district will receive. That means that although there are about 15 libraries in the district, the ARCs are only going to one place. The same goes for bookstores.
For example, I work at Barnes and Noble. Now, I know Barnes and Noble is a huge corporation so obviously there is no way that every store would get an ARC of every book. That's a ridiculous thought. However, we do get ARCs on occasion. The ARCs are given to us by the publisher in order to get booksellers reading titles early so we are better prepared to sell the book when the time comes. I have a friend who works for a chain of indie bookstores in my area. She's the head of children's marketing for the entire chain and receives TONS of ARCs every week. She picks out the ones she really wants to read and gladly passes along the rest to booksellers and bloggers.
And of course, we get ARCs. Bloggers receive ARCs as less of a sales tool and more of a publicity tool. We get ARCs so we can write reviews and spread the news of a great (or not so great) book. We help build excitement for that title. We may not place books directly in a buyer's hands, but we help plant the seed. We spread the word about great titles and share out enthusiasm about amazing books that we love and want to hug, and place on our pillow at night. Don't pretend you haven't done this. And we do it for free. We don't get paid to read stacks of books and then spend hours writing reviews, formatting posts, etc. We do it for free, because we love to read.
How do I get my hands on that coveted ARC?
I didn't receive my first ARC until I was well into blogging. I didn't even know you could ask for them. I didn't know what they were, how people got them, or what they were for. When I started blogging, I was just writing about amazing books that I had bought, borrowed, etc. (Of course I was also writing about horrible books too...) I started blogging because I love to read and I love to recommend great titles, not because I wanted free books. And that is the first step.
In order to get your hands on ARCs, you have to be committed. Post consistently for at least 6 months. Spend time commenting on other blogs to build your network. Hang out on Twitter and make yourself known. Build a following. Be yourself. Most publishers request that you blog for at least 6 months and have a minimum of 350 followers. Some ask that you blog for at least a year. It all depends on the publisher. I waited until I was about 6 months into blogging before I started requesting anything, and I didn't get my first ARC until I had been blogging for 10 months. That is a long time to commit to.
Once you've established yourself a bit, send out some emails. I started by simply requesting multiple titles in an email to a publisher. Things to include in your emails:
- Your blog name and a link
- Your stats (followers, length of time blogging, unique visitors, email subscribers, Twitter followers, etc.)
- The title of the book, author, and ISBN number
- Why you want to review said books
- Gratitude and professionalism (You would think this would be a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised.) I always start my emails with, “Hello and thank you for your time” and end them with, “Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you”
- Keep it short. Publishers receive massive amounts of emails a day. The shorter your email the better. Keep it quick and to the point.
Other ways to get ARCs:
- Friends. I give out my ARCs to my blogger friends all the time. I have so many that I don't have space for them. And most of them have come from my friends. Friends like to share with friends. Of course, don't make it a habit of attempting to befriend people simply for their ARCs. We're not stupid, and we know when people are using us. Also, most of my ARCs are given to me by friends who just have too many.
- Conventions. I know you've seen all those posts about ALA, BEA, and other cons where people come home with tons of ARCs. If you can swing it, you should definitely go. Go to ALA, BEA, Comic-Con, and any other con you can find. Not just because you want a ton of books, but because it's a great chance to network. As always, don't be greedy, that's how we get a bad reputation. I went to Comic-Con and managed to come home with two new publishing contacts, tons of new followers, and several new friends. Conventions are a great place for bookish people like us to get together and be ourselves.
- Giveaways. If I can't pawn my ARCs off on my friends I host giveaways. Tons of bloggers hold giveaways for their old ARCs. Find them and enter!
I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to get them, I just can't think of them right now.
What do I do with them when I'm done?
- Shelve them. I know a lot of people like to keep ARCs simply because they enjoy having ARCs on their shelves. If you want to keep them, go ahead!
- Give them to friends. ARCs are in high demand with bloggers and there are a lot of us who can't get our hands on them. I love to pass on my ARCs to other bloggers because it means that not only will they get the chance to read and review it, but that's one more review out there for that book that the publisher doesn't have to send out and ARC for.
- Host a giveaway. Say your friends don't want it. Or maybe you just feel like being generous. Have a giveaway! There are going to be tons of people who would love to have that book on their shelf, even if it is an ARC! If you're going to host a giveaway, ask the publisher first. I've never had an experience where the publisher cared, but it's always polite to ask!
What do you do with your ARCs when you're done with them? I know a lot of people donate theirs to the library, but my library sells donated books in their monthly book sale and I can't stand when ARCs pop up in the inventory so I try not to contribute to that.
Also, do the author a favor and buy their book if you really loved it. Authors don't get paid for ARCs so if you never buy finished copies because you keep your ARCs, you're doing that author a disservice. If you can afford it, buy up finished copies of books you've read as ARCs so that you can help support an author you love and you'll help insure that they continue to publish amazing stories for you.
Remember, ARCs aren't free and you don't deserve them.
I get a lot of questions about ARCs and how to get them and things like that. It seems like a lot of people are really into blogging simply because they want free books. But ARCs aren't free. ARCs cost about $15-$20 each. And publishers and authors make no money off of ARCs. So imagine how many ARCs publishers send out each year, an author friend of mine did the math and discovered that publisher can easily spend over $100,000 on ARCs alone. So don't get greedy. If you're only blogging to get free books than you're doing it for all the wrong reasons. Blogging takes a ridiculous amount of time and energy and if you're not passionate about books than you will never succeed at it. I blog because I love spreading the word about great literature and I want to encourage teens to read and love reading. I spend hours on the computer formatting posts, writing reviews, as well as hours reading books that are both fantastic and not-so-great. I do it all for free.
If you request an ARC, make that commitment to reviewing it. By receiving the book in the first place you're entering an unwritten agreement that you'll do your part and review the book whether you liked it or not. Same goes for ARCs you get from giveaways, conventions, friends, etc. ARCs are a marketing tool and if you don't plan on using them for that purpose then don't bother asking for them or taking them. I always consider ARCs to be review books because that is what they are made for. If you're just going to read them and shelve them like you would any book than buy a finished copy. Don't be greedy and just take it because it's “free” because it's not.
Don't act like you deserve to get every ARC out there. I don't deserve them and you don't deserve them. ARCs are a privilege that we receive through hard work and professionalism. When I get denied a title from the publisher I don't throw a fit and demand they send it to me. I graciously thank them for taking the time to even read my email or look at my blog and remember that they have sent me plenty of titles in the past and I thank them for their generosity. Publishers are not required to send us anything. They do it because bloggers can be a good marketing tool when we're passionate enough about the books we're reading and reviewing. We will never replace booksellers or librarians. These people actually put books in the hands of buyers. We may spark their interest and even convince someone to buy the book through our own words, but we do not replace the amazing people who physically put books in the hands of teenagers on a daily basis. Remember that.