One of the singular most common questions one will encounter in almost any group of readers where one member of the group mentions having recieved an ARC is “How can I get one?”. It is a question asked with somewhat alarming regularity, to the level that some authors have recently spoken up about writing being a business – and they are not wrong.
As we saw in the discussion of the business justification for Advance Review Copies, ARCs are, when used ideally, loss leaders for the publishing agent – the idea is to give away X copies of the book in anticipation that these free copies will generate AX sales, where the larger A is the more money those involved in writing and publishing the book are making. As a business strategy, it suffers one flaw that could one day prove to be fatal:
Not all people requesting ARCs are trustworthy.
They either are not aware of ARC etiquette or actively ignore it. While little can be done about someone who actively ignores ARC etiquette other than not giving them an ARC in the future, I am seeing more and more publishing agents being more and more explicit about ARC etiquette before selecting a given reader to receive an ARC.
Which leads directly to the titular question here: What can a given reader do to increase their chances of receiving an ARC?
The obvious first answer is to ask. This is a bit bold if you are unknown to the publishing agent, and I do NOT recommend this. Certainly not unless the publishing agent at least has some idea of who you are.
But in general, one should work to prove they are trustworthy from the publishing agent’s perspective. Show them why they can trust you to uphold ARC etiquette. No author wants to give away a book to someone who is just looking for free books. They are, after all, running a business. They need to have some indication that you can benefit their business, and that you aren’t just there for yourself.
How can one do this? There are a few things that come readily to mind:
- Review books you are reading, even without these books being ARCs. This shows the publishing agent that not only do you read with some regularity, but that you also review even when you don’t necessarily have to – you want to tell others about the books you enjoy, even when you paid for the book yourself. I can tell you that my own ARC work picked up heavily after I began making it a point to review literally every single book I read, though to an extent this was a bit coincidental. However, given that many publishing agents ask for your Goodreads profile before approving a given reader, it is somewhat expected that they are checking your profile for frequency and quality of reviews you’ve already done. I actually was sent an ARC invitation just this morning simply due to the fact that a personal assistant to a particular author had seen my reviews for the prior books in the series this new book will be in on Goodreads – that particular author has never been featured here, as I read her books before this project existed.
- But Jeff! Where should I review books? In general, review the book at the point of purchase – the website of wherever you bought it. In addition to this. Amazon and Goodreads are always good places for book reviews. Bookbub has become another one that authors are beginning to request more frequently.
- And what should I put in my review? My advice here tends to be to write even just a few words – I think Amazon requires around 20 or so – about how you felt about the book. The people who write the description of the book agonize over how to present the overall plot of the book without giving too much away, so you don’t need to worry about that. Note anything that stood out to you that is NOT a spoiler, be it the author’s writing style, the cadence of the story, a particular character you loved, really anything. Your perspective on a book could be the thing that convinces someone else to buy the book, so just speak from your heart about how you felt about the book. There really isn’t more to it that that.
- Follow publishing agents on social media. This serves a dual purpose in this particular context. For one, it shows that you a reader are interest in their work. You’re not just some bum looking for a handout, you actually want to know them and what they are doing. Also, at least some publishing agents are known to announce ARC giveaways or ARC group membership openings via their social media pages, so you can potentially get an ARC just from this.
- Engage with publishing agents on social media. This one is similar to the last, but more involved. Basically, get to know them and let them know about you. Show that you are a dedicated fan and potentially even develop a level of a friendship with them. Basic human psychology tells us that someone is more likely to grant a favor to a friend than a random stranger, so being aware of who you are and having a positive experience with you can in fact go a long way here. This is actually how I got my start with ARCs, and how I’ve gotten several of them over the years – including some recent ones, after my reviews were already speaking for themselves in their frequency and quality.
Others may have other “strategies”, but the above is how I’ve gotten as involved with ARCs as I am.
But let me re-iterate:
Hell, that’s just good life advice – particularly when you want something from another person.