I remember before I started blogging, I would look on Goodreads and see that people were reviewing books before they even came out. And I wondered: how the heck do they get the books so soon? Then I learned about ARC's. First, I shall define it. Now, I'm not about to give you a technical definition, just what I've come to learn about them from others and my own experience.
ARC: stands for Advanced Reader Copy
Publishers and authors use ARC's as a publishing and media tool to get the hype of a book up and to get people excited for it before it's publication date. They send these ARC's either digitally or through the mail to professional readers and booksellers in the hopes that they will receive back reviews in return. These are uncorrected galleys, which means they have spelling and grammatical mistakes. ARC's are not to be sold, but they actually cost more for the publishing house to make than the hardcovers.
Now I'm sure your first question, whether you're a reader or a new blogger, is how can I get one of these highly sought-after ARC's?
The first way is if you aren't a blogger but know one, then you can borrow theirs. And if you're a bookseller or are BFF's with one, then you already have an in. If you have none of that, the first thing you should do is, if you haven't already, start a blog. It's extremely unlikely that publishers are even going to answer your e-mails if you don't have more than a Goodreads page. As a side note, the reason for starting your blog should not be to get ARC's. It should be to share your thoughts about books.
Once you start that blog, it's not enough to begin contacting publishers seriously. You need to gain a following that the publishers can physically see when they visit your site (which can be done through different widgets, depending on whether you have Blogger, Wordpress, or whatever). Some publishing companies won't even look at the list of books you're asking for if they see you have less than a certain amount of followers or haven't been blogging long enough. Build yourself up, read and write great reviews of books you already have and give the publishers a reason to want to send you ARC's.
Another way you can get ARC's even without being a blogger is to go to conferences. If you follow my blog, you know that I attended ALA. ALA stands for American Library Association, which means it's more of a librarian and bookseller's conference. But bloggers do a lot for the blogging world as well, and anyone can buy a ticket to the exhibits. When you go to these conferences, make sure you're polite and curious about more than just one of their titles. And by this time, you should definitely be a blogger, even if you're only just starting out. They'll be more likely to hand you titles if they see the name of a blog they can look up on your badge.
A final, less simple way, is to go to as many blogs as you can, see if they're holding giveaways of ARC's and enter. It's what I did when I was first starting out, and it's the reason I got an ARC of Divergent by Veronica Roth.
Okay, so you've gotten the publishers to send you ARC's. What should you do with them once you finish them?
[This question is from Anna @ Literary Exploration's discussion on ARC's, but I used my own opinion]
There's a difference of opinion here among bloggers. I read a post a week ago that said the blogger doesn't think people should share them. I don't remember the details, but she didn't think it was right to let other people read a book that you were specifically given by the publisher. But I think it's actually the opposite. They sent it to you to spread the word, and what better way to do that than with sending it out to your other blogging friends, or even just a friend that loves reading. You never know who they'll tell, and that's what publishers want.
What I do is that I usually put them on my shelves. Now that I've read the book, I still want it on my shelf. Now, if it's a digital ARC that I've read and loved, then I definitely want a copy on my shelf. But since I've already read the book, I can only afford to get it after it's published in paperback.
I also let people borrow them. My best friend Michelle is somewhat of a reader and she has my copy of The Diviners by Libba Bray because I know I'm not going to read it right away. Anna and I also trade ARC's back and forth, which really comes in handy when one of us either receives or wins an ARC that the other is looking forward to. It works out really well, especially if you know you can trust them with your ARC's.
If I have extra copies or I didn't like the book, I give it away. This has happened only recently to me because I haven't gotten many ARC's in the mail. But I already had almost all of the books that Harper Collins recently sent me, and I ended up getting extra copies of books from ALA. This will hopefully happen more as I continue blogging, as I know you guys love giveaways and ARC's.
Another thing to do with that ARC: write a review on it.
This one is a little hard for me, but not in the way you think. Since I started blogging, I have reviewed every single book that I've read, both review copies and books I've bought/borrowed/etc. But I read what I want to read. I have an obligation to review a book I'm given to by a publisher specifically for review. But I also want blogging to be fun, so if that means that I don't get to a review copy until a year after I receive it, then that's just how it is. I put a lot of time into this blog; time I could be spending reading or doing other things. I think that entitles me to put off reading a title if I want to read other titles first. I'm not saying I won't eventually get to the book, but this isn't a job I get paid for, so I give myself a lot of leniency. But I will always write a review on an ARC that I've been given.
Well, that's all I've got to say on the matter. Just remember: ARC's are a privilege, not a right. I know, I sound like an overbearing parent, but it's true. Nobody really deserves ARC's, no matter how established your blog is. Publishers could easily decide not to give out any early copies. But they know the power that bloggers hold. Bloggers just have to learn not to be selfish, whether that's bragging profusely about an ARC that you got in the mail or getting two copies over every book you get at ALA or BEA.
Let me know what your thoughts are on ARC's in the comments!