Book blogging is an immensely satisfying hobby. It transforms the traditionally passive pastime of reading into something active, engaging, and often challenging. It encourages you to come at a book from various angles, to read a wider variety of genres and authors. It builds you a community of like-minded readers who are excited to discuss literature with you.
Getting started with book blogging, however, can be tricky. The most frustrating part being how to obtain review copies of books. And getting these review copies is important for a number of reasons:
- Review copies give you a chance to be extra relevant in the conversation. You can read the book before release, get your feelings and opinions down, and become a sought-after news source for that particular book.
- Review copies save you money. Being serious about book blogging means having to sink a lot of money into books, but if you can obtain ARCs, you can dive head-first into the world of book blogging without breaking the bank in the process.
- Review copies allow you the time to read and review a book. When reviewing a book that’s already out, there’s the creeping dread that, once you’re done, the world will have moved on. ARCs remove that dread.
So, the first step when getting into book blogging, besides setting up the blog itself, is knowing how to get your hands on advanced review copies (also known as ARCs, galleys, and proofs). Every good book blogger relies on ARCs to keep their blog afloat, relevant, and in the conversation. And here’s how to do it! Your first step to book blogging.
What are ARCs?
Also known as galleys or proofs, ARCs are free copies of an upcoming release which publishers send out to reviewers and bloggers. They come in two forms: digital and physical. Digital ARCs are much easier to obtain, so it really helps if you have an eReader like a Kindle. In fact, having a Kindle is all but vital for being a good book blogger, since many publishers prefer sending digital ARCs.
Physical ARCs are usually only sent out by publishers that are in the same country as you, since international postage is pricey. This type of ARC also comes in two forms: rough and finished. If it’s close to the publication date, you may receive a finished proof, which means it’s the same quality as the ones sold in bookshops. Unfinished or uncorrected proofs are in paperback and may contain typos etc (because they’re uncorrected).
When approaching a publisher for an ARC, they will often appreciate you asking for a digital, since it can be sent as a PDF via email and you can then simply download that PDF onto your eReader. However, if you’re in the same country, feel free to ask for a physical ARC since these are vital Instagram material.
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How to Request ARCs
There are three ways to request ARCs, and all are very simple and stress-free. Doing them in this order, however, is definitely the best approach.
1. Request them online
This is the simplest way to request ARCs, especially when you’re first starting out with book blogging. I’ve already mentioned more than once that you can reach out to publishers via email but, in actual fact, you often don’t even need to do that. Instead, there are two websites you can turn to as your middle-man: NetGalley and Edelweiss.
I’ve mentioned that ARCs are also known as galleys. Well, these galleys are often found on NetGalley. Not every publisher offers their books via NetGalley and, if they don’t, you’ll need to go down to step 2. But many do, and so it’s up to you to sign up as a member of NetGalley (it’s free) and then simply browse through their catalogue of review copies. You can browse by publisher and by genre, look at the release date, and hit ‘request’. Requests can take a few days or even a week, and you may be rejected if it’s a book that’s in high demand.
Once you have your ARC/galley/proof downloaded to your eReader, happy reading! Only thing to remember is that, as well as your own book blog, you need to post a review on NetGalley. For every book you download from NetGalley, make sure to post a copy of your blog’s review on the book’s NetGalley page with a link back to your blog (free publicity!). If you don’t do this, you’ll be rejected for galleys going forward. Book blogging is all about tit for tat: free copies for reliable and honest reviews.
Edelweiss works in almost exactly the same way as NetGalley though, I will confess, I rarely use it. NetGalley is the more popular site to turn to. But, if a book isn’t on NetGalley, definitely check Edelweiss before emailing publishers directly. Speaking of…
2. Approach publishers via email
Full disclosure: every single PR person that I have come to know via book blogging has turned out to be the kindest, sweetest, bestest person ever. What I mean is: don’t ever be afraid of reaching out to publishers for ARCs. They want to give them to you. At first, it seems almost cheeky asking for a free copy of a book that isn’t even out yet. For bookworms, this is a dream come true. But what they’re getting in exchange is an honest review and free publicity from you. It’s a good deal.
The first thing you need to do is to get to know your publishers. Know which ones publish the genres and authors you love and want to review. Visit their site, check out their upcoming releases, note down a few that you’re interested in, and then find the person you need to reach out to.
Every publishing house has a page on its website – either in a drop-down menu, at the top, or at the bottom of their homepage – called ‘contact us’ or ‘press’ or something similar. Here you’ll find the email addresses you’re looking for. Copy the relevant email address and send over a friendly email requesting an ARC.
When emailing publishers, put in your subject line something like “ARC Request” or “Review Copy Request”. Feel free to add the name of the book as well. Then, in the body of the email, simply state who you are and add a link to your blog, then specify which book you’re hoping to obtain an ARC of.
If you’re worried about sending your first ARC request, fill your blog with a few reviews of recent books you’ve read, so that they can see the calibre of your writing. Most importantly though, don’t stress. As I said, publisher PR people are the best people.
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3. Use Twitter and Instagram
Publishers and their PR people are big on Twitter and Instagram. So, take a bit of time to find and follow them on these platforms. While you’re there, start following fellow book bloggers to fill up your community with good, helpful people. These are, after all, your people.
When it comes to Twitter, most PR people will have their DMs open and many will follow you back if you make it clear in your bio that you’re a book blogger/reviewer. Instagram DMs are always open, which makes everything simpler.
While these platforms aren’t as formal as emailing, most PR people and publisher pages are happy to receive messages requesting review copies via Twitter, making Twitter as valuable a tool as emailing when it comes to asking for ARCs. It also allows you to build a more friendly and fun relationship with those awesome people who work for publishers. And, once you publish your review, make sure to share it via Twitter and tag the publisher (provided it’s a positive review, of course).
Twitter can be a toxic place, as many people often tell me. However, if you do as I do and only follow bookworms, you get the most warming and comfortable community you could ever ask for, and you’ll quickly find yourself spending more time on Twitter talking about books than you do actually reading books.
Building a Following
Book blogging is a hobby for many, but for some it can become a full-time job. Or, at the very least, it can get you a little money here and there. To get to this point, you’ll want to build a following. There are two ways to accomplish this: social media, and some Google savvy.
Building a social media presence is all about following and being followed by the right people. Getting your reviews retweeted by other bloggers and by publishers is the quickest way to get your name out there. From here, it’s a matter of being a regular tweeter who offers interesting book-related content and encourages healthy discussion. Also, make sure to tweet images of books often. Everyone loves that.
What I mean about Google savvy is knowing what books are going to be a big hit in the coming months and getting yourself a review copy. Put your review out a few days or a week before publication and people will start to search for reviews of the book on Google. If your review is up, it’s yours they’ll find. The more people visit your site and read your reviews, the more Google’s algorithm will reward you and bump your reviews up the list.
Will predominantly writes about the books of Books and Bao, examining the literature of a place and how the authors have used the art of storytelling to reflect the world and the culture around them.