People in the book community are always talking/writing about ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies – also known as galleys). Whether they are talking about how to get more of them, that they are drowning under a mountain of them, or their excitement for receiving a highly anticipated one, ARCs are fairly common knowledge. Actually, for most people, they may even seem essential for being successful in this particular community. I’m here today to talk a little bit about them, and potentially hurt some feelings (not intentionally of course, it’s just that my opinion of them is a little unpopular).
What are ARCs?
As previously stated, ARCs are advanced reader copies or galleys. What that means is that a book that has not been published yet is made into a “preview” copy, and sent out/given out to reviewers to photograph, read, and review in order to create hype around the actual release of said book. These “copies” are NOT sold, and should never be sold/bought though unfortunately you do see them floating around on sites like ebay. You CAN trade ARCs though (via Twitter or other social media) which is highly encouraged. I should also mention that they come in both print and e-book formats.
You know how “influencers” and celebrities are constantly being sent free stuff so that they can sample and then promote those items? It’s the same thing with ARCs. Publishers want reviewers to promote their book before it is published so that it may boost pre-order sales, and/or regular sales of the book once it is published. Its free advertising. Publishers pay the cost of creating the advanced copy, and sometimes the cost to ship it to book influencers (or reviewers) and get a load of free hype surrounding their book in return.
Why do I want ARCs?
For some, ARCs are a status symbol. Receiving an advanced copy, especially of a highly anticipated or desired book means you’ve made it in the book world. You get to read (and sometimes hold) a book that everyone else wants, before them. You get to help promote something you really love, and know that you helped it flourish.
Some people also collect ARCs of their favorite books/series. They scour the internet in search of those copies to add to a collection that most likely already has several other copies of the same book in it (truth be told though, if I could get my hands on ARCs of some of my favorites, that would be AWESOME).
Ultimately though, you want an ARC because you love a series/author so much, and simply cannot wait until publication to get your hands on the next one. Getting (personally) highly anticipated ARC is the holy grail. You don’t have to wait anymore to read this book that you so desired.
How do I get one (or all of them)?
There are multiple ways to score ARCs. Bloggers better than I have written extensive How To’s so I am just going to sum it up briefly.
- If you want digital copies of whatever you can get your hands on, there are sites like Netgalley and Edlewise that you may sign up for (for free) and shop around that way. You do need to be approved for titles, and you do that by filling out a form about your social media presence and your influence level. They don’t want to just send these copies out to anyone! They want people who are likely to promote it to other people who would be interested in buying them.
- You can also apply directly to publishers most of the time. Whether it is filling out a form on their website to join a mailing list, or emailing specific people, I have found that if you are willing to take digital form over physical, it ups your chances of being approved/sent a book.
- If you want physical copies of books, you might have to work a little harder. You have to get on publisher mailing lists, which often requires giving them information about your influence level and blog stats. Sometimes you can email a person directly about getting specific titles by explaining why you want one so much (along with your blog stats).
- If you are like me and striking out that way, another way to get ARCs is to attend book conventions. Things like Yallfest, Book Expo, etc. are crawling with physical copies of pre-published books. You may need to pay a fee to get in the door, and wait on massive lines (and potentially miss getting specific titles because the hype is real) but I am sure that you will leave with something. Does it pay for itself at the end of the day? Maybe.
- I don’t know about other libraries but sometimes you can win/receive ARCs from your library! Personally I have gone to these big book conventions, for my library, and brought back tons of ARCs that we give away to patrons as reading prizes during the summer (and winter). It’s worth asking about sometimes!
I have the ARCs, now what?
Depending how you get them, you may be obligated to read and review the book. This is the part that trips a lot of people up (especially me). Being a mood reader, I find it hard to sit and force myself to read something that isn’t peaking my interest at the moment, especially if there is something else I would rather read. And this is why most bloggers warn to not over request books because you end up with piles of stories that you have no interest in whatsoever. Some people even have deadlines for review, which can become stressful and take the fun out of reading.
If you have an abundance of physical ARCs and need to free up space, you can offer them up for trade. Personally though, I have found that if they aren’t super new/hyped or super rare, you won’t have much interest from anyone because we all have the same copies already.
I have a real love hate relationship with ARCs. I joined Netgalley when I started this blog because that’s just what you do. I requested a bunch of books because I didn’t know what I was doing, and then read none of them. Now I won’t even sign into my account because I feared my score was so low I couldn’t show my face there ever again. I also sent/filled out tons of forms to join mailing lists with no bite back. I felt really left out. Everyone was always talking about being sent books from publishers and I was here wondering what I did wrong to not be one of them.
But I wasn’t always left out. Being a consistent member of BOTM for over 2 years has earned some perks. They have sent me e-ARCs of books they were considering as choices twice now. I also have the privileged of attending Book Expo for my library (which is one of the largest book conventions in the US). Because my boss is so awesome, I was able to shop for myself as well as the library and went home with at least two books for myself each trip.
The more I think about it though, the more I have come to realize that maybe I don’t want ARCs anymore. This year at Book Expo, I was able to score one of my most anticipated releases this year, The Girl the Sea Gave Back. I had it in my hands, I brought it home. I gloated on Twitter. But I couldn’t bring myself to read it until I had my pre-ordered final copy in hand. Why? Because I had recently seen a tweet from one of my favorite authors saying that she edited the crap out of her book, deeming it almost unrecognizable, before resubmitting it to her editor. I also knew that that book had been given out as ARCs at Book Expo (sadly I missed a copy of it, they ran out).
Here’s the thing; I don’t really re-read books. There are so many books out in the world for me to read, that I feel guilty “wasting time” on one I have already read (and enjoyed). My fear with ARCs though, is that they will change the story from the ARC that I read to the finished copy. There are two problems that branch off of that fear. 1. I will read and review this ARC with strong opinions about how certain things went, etc. and could end up giving false information because that part I talked about in my review was cut from the final copy. 2. I miss out on a great book because I read the ARC before it was re-edited and published, and won’t go back to a story “I already read.” Truthfully, it is also why I don’t really read ARC reviews of books I am anticipating.
I think my main problem is that I have a really terrible case of FOMO and that’s why my relationship with ARCs is so complicated. I want them because everyone else has them, but I won’t read them if I have them because I’m worried it will be different than the versions everyone else will read.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever been worried about a book turning out different than the ARC you read for it? Let’s talk about it!
Sorry, I know this was a long post.
I just had to get it off my chest as it was bothering me a bit.