ARCs. We need to talk about ARCs. Advance Reader Copies. For all of the Bookstagrammers and Book Bloggers out there, please pay attention.
There are do’s and don’ts in reviewing books. Every single book reviewer that is serious about reviewing books needs to understand these rules. Why? Because there are a few of you out there that give us a bad name, because you are doing a lot of “don’ts.”
ARCs Are NOT FOR SALE
Every budding book reviewer covets the moment they can get their first printed ARC or eARC (ebook version). I mean, who doesn’t want to be part of the cool kids club? You know, the book reviewers that get their copies months in advance before the publication date.
Even more exciting is the moment you can get the most coveted title of the year before anyone else gets their hands on it. But the question on many of your newbie minds is HOW DO I GET A COPY?
First of all, ARCs are not for sale, so don’t go on Ebay to buy them. Sure, there are people that sell ARCs on there. The only LEGAL copies are the ones for sale AFTER the publication date. The ILLEGAL copies are the ones for sale BEFORE the publication date.
Illegal??? Yes, they are illegal. That means that the person selling the book can be sued by the publisher. That person can also receive a lifetime ban from any means where they can acquire ARCs (NetGalley, Edelweiss, Book Expos, Book Cons, from the publisher directly, etc.).
If you don’t think the Big 5 publishers don’t pass that list around, think again.
Now, for you little bookstagrammers or book bloggers purchasing the book prior to the publication date, when you post up photos, etc., acting like you received an ARC from the publisher, you are a fraud. Note in this photo of “The Starless Sea” the book says “Not For Sale” down in the lower right hand corner. So why did you buy the ARC?
I can understand being impatient and wanting to get your hands on a copy of the book because you can’t wait to read it. I get that. But don’t post up a photo pretending you received a copy from the publisher when you bought it. You bought illegal goods. That’s like buying drugs and then posting on your blog or social media that you bought illegal goods. Just DUMB.
You’re Giving the Book Reviewing Community a Bad Name
A lot of people that review books have been doing this for some time. They did not take shortcuts. They read the books, shared what they loved about it, and gained a following. Being a book reviewer is a business. We did not have anything given to us on a silver platter.
We do not share our publishing/marketing contacts. Anyone who does is seriously violating trust with their contacts and should be banned. That also leaves a sour feeling with the publishers/marketers when they find out their contact information is being disseminated for purposes of getting free books.
Sure, we can point you in the direction of the publisher’s “Contact Us” page on their website. But that is as far as we can go. You must establish the relationship on your own.
Don’t steal other people’s reviews or photos. Stealing violates policies across all social media platforms and your account can be taken down. Don’t think book reviewers do not alert the book community about bad behavior.
When you do any of this bad stuff, it gives the book community a bad rap. There are no shortcuts to being a book reviewer. You put in the work. You can’t cheat this.
How to Be a Book Reviewer
- You must have a passion and love for books.
- You must read the book and then share your thoughts whether you liked the book or not. Post your review on Instagram, your blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
- Work on your followers. For Instagram, you need to follow other book lovers. You need to engage with them and talk to them on Instagram. BECOME FRIENDS (most important thing). Talk books. This is about sharing the love of books.
- Do not follow/unfollow. Build relationships. Bookstagram is not a fake community. There are real people who love books and want to share their love of books with others. Stay around, learn to become friends. If you are in this only for the followers, just stop. Find something else to do.
- Join engagement groups. Engagement groups have rules. You must follow everyone in the group. You must like everyone’s posts. Try to leave comments. These groups are designed to help you get your likes and comments. But more importantly, if you find the right group, you become friends and share your lives with each other. You talk to each other, warn of bad seeds and help each other understand how to Bookstagram better.
- Join a book community like Booksharks. They offer opportunities to get ARCs, but you have to prove your worth. Booksharks is also a great tool to meet other book reviewers, follow each other on social media (there is a strict NO FOLLOW/UNFOLLOW rule), share your posts with each other, and learn how to become better at being a book reviewer. There’s a lot of business talk. Great for people learning the trade.
- When you build up a following on your social media platforms, as well as numbers on your blog (if you blog), you need to present your numbers when you approach publishers to request an ARC. There are some publishers who will approach you based on your social media accounts and the reviews you leave on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. Some publishers will request to work with you as an influencer. But once again, you have to put in the work to prove yourself. There’s no faking this.
- For eARCs, join Netgalley. Start by selecting books in the DOWNLOAD NOW section. Post up a bunch of reviews based on the books you downloaded from Netgalley. Try to only check out 1 book at a time. They keep track and want to make sure that you have an 80% review rate to ARCs downloaded. Trust me when I say I’m speaking from experience. I went download crazy and have a review rate of 13%. After you’ve posted a bunch of reviews, you can try your hand at requesting titles from publishers. Don’t be dismayed if you’re rejected. Just keep reviewing. Prove your worth.
- Join publisher’s Facebook Book Clubs. So I could tell you which club belongs to which publisher, but I think they keep this a secret for a reason. But I will say that I do post often and start conversations about books and the book industry on Penguin Random House and HarperCollins’s book clubs. I think it’s because of how much I talk in their book clubs that I get approved for many ARCs. They like to see engagement. Also, it’s a good way to show you can be an influencer when it comes to books. Mind you, the book clubs are for book lovers. Not everyone on there is a book reviewer. The community there is just looking for a safe haven away from the politics and BS on Facebook to talk about the love of books. These groups are also a great way to understand the different types of readers out there. They’ll help you write better reviews and blog posts.
- Get on the publisher’s email lists. I think I’m on every single one from the Big 5 (and there are a bunch). This will give you a great idea on what books you should be talking about. Every now and again, I see a book I’ve read that no one else is talking about show up in their emails, just because I wrote something about it on their Facebook Book Club.
- When talking about books, as a book reviewer, keep an eye on who published the book you are reviewing. I usually talk about Penguin’s books on their book club page and only their page. I talk about HarperCollins/William Morrow’s book on their book club page only. When I post on Twitter and Instagram, I make sure to tag the publisher in the post. Sometimes publishers will re-post or post your story in their stories.
- Study the publishing community. Do your research. There are the Big 5, but don’t leave out the independent publishers. There are also a lot of self-published authors. I try to read a little bit of everything, because everyone needs a chance. But study each one. Learn about their different divisions. Keep up with what each publisher anticipates will be the next best book and get your hands on that book.
- Watch what the big book influencers do and learn from them. Do as they do, but better. What I mean by big book influencers is Popsugar, Reese Witherspoon, Jenna Bush Hager, Oprah, even Barack Obama. Just mentioning a book or making it part of their book club sends everyone into a FOMO frenzy. Read what they read and push the hell out of those books, especially if you loved them. If you didn’t…no need to mention it. Only share what you love.
- Remember how I said this is a business? You need to treat book reviewing as a business. It’s not just about reading books and sharing it. That’s the fun part. Growing your numbers, working on your relationships, writing up the reviews, working with publishers and booksellers, etc. takes a lot of work. In the end, you are pushing a sale. And guess what? Some of us are working on a commission. ARCs are designed to help book reviewers decide which books to actively promote. It’s not just about getting a free book. This is ultimately about the marketing and sale of the product. Never forget that.
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. Or if you have something to add that I missed, please share. This is supposed to be an informative post for the new people (and those still struggling to get on their feet in the book review community). If you have a book blog, Bookstagram, etc., please share it.