I'm going to go against my usual approach for my QT blog posts, and make this one a bit personal since every experience is different and I can only address my own.
As a debut writer, I dreamed of the day I'd get to hold my bound book for the first time. That day came, and it was amazing.
What had never crossed my mind is how little control authors have over some aspects of the industry. I'm not complaining, I'm just trying to demystify the system for aspiring writers. I don't have a book review blog and had never requested an ARC, so this has all been very educational. Sure, I'd asked my published friends about it, but every experience is different.
Here's what I've learned:
- ARCs are marketing tools, not freebies. Ideally, every one of them will generate multiple sales (in some cases hundreds of sales).
- Most authors receive very few ARCs (some authors get only one or two) as they are primarily intended for bookbuyers, reviewers, and librarians.
- ARCs are expensive. They usually cost much more to produce than the hardcopy book itself, due to the smaller print runs, which is why publishers don't distribute them willy-nilly.
- Check the author's website for ARC information. Often, as in my case, the ARC contact information is on the author website and blog.
- Check the publisher's website for request information.
- Write an email requesting the ARC specifying your intended use of it. Include the link to your blog or site on which you intend to buzz or promote the book.* You don't have to be a huge reviewer to score one.
- Win one in a giveaway. Sometimes giveaways create enough buzz to make the surrender of the ARC worthwhile for the author or publisher.
- Get an e-galley. NetGalley is one of the sources for these. The reviewer will receive an electronic galley of the book that "disappears" on the release date.
- Go to a publishing industry conference. Lots of times, publishers will give away promotional materials including ARCs. ALA, BEA, and RWA are examples of conferences where ARCs can be obtained. Again, they are not just freebies; the hope is that the recipients will generate buzz about the book.*
- Don't take it personally if you are not given an ARC. I'm sure I speak for most authors when I say that I wish I could give an ARC to every single person who has interest in it, but it just isn't a reality.
- Impatience is not a qualifier. "I simply cannot wait that long" is usually not enough if nothing is offered that warrants the expense on the part of the publisher.*
- "I can't afford to buy your book." This one, though I understand and sympathize, doesn't usually work. After release, most books will be in libraries and used book stores. Libraries are free.
*Please note: Nobody likes every book. Accepting an ARC does NOT obligate you to give it 5 stars or say it's the greatest book ever. It is given in consideration for an honest review--if review was the purpose. (I would suggest however, that you not request an ARC in a genre you do not like. If you do not like teen romance, for example, it is not a great policy to request an ARC for review knowing you will probably hate it. Remember it is a marketing tool aimed at the target audience. I've read several ARC reviews in which the reader slams the book and gives it an awful rating only to close with something along the lines of: "This is not the kind of book I usually read, but teens will probably love it.") Pick ARCs you will probably like and then be honest in your review.
Final thoughts: If authors say no to requests, it's not because they don't want you to have an ARC, it's because they are expensive and hard to come by, and in today's market, the buzz from that ARC might be the only publicity that author gets.
I came across excellent article by literary agent Holly Root on this topic. She has some strong feelings about ARCs in today's market. Please click HERE to read.