Blog – Posted on Tuesday, Dec 07
How to get ARCs and Read Books for Free!
Looking for a way to fund your passion for reading? Or maybe you’ve got a Bookstagram or book review blog that you want to take to the next level? Let us introduce you to the wonderful world of ARCs. Advanced Reader Copies, or ARCs for short, are copies of unpublished books offered free of charge in exchange for honest reviews.
Yep, you read that right — free books! Offering ARCs to readers benefits authors and publishers because it generates material for marketing campaigns and helps build hype before a book’s release. For readers, this not only has the obvious benefit of free books (!), but can also help grow reviewer platforms — ranging from classic book review blogs to BookTok.
“Got it. So where do I find these free books?” Worry not, dear reader. In this post, we’ll reveal some close-kept secrets of the publishing industry and tell you how you can get your hands on some sweet ARCs.
Side note: ARCs and beta copies are not the same. Beta copies are unfinished versions of a manuscript sent out to readers in exchange for feedback and potential edits. ARCs on the other hand are the final version — authors aren’t looking for suggestions, just honest reviews.
Many publishing houses offer ARCs on NetGalley — here, readers and reviewers can access books free of charge before they’re released in exchange for leaving a review on the site. Some books have a “Read now” option, while more exclusive ones require you to submit a request.
NetGalley mainly offers eARCs so it’s as simple as downloading the book, cozying up in your favorite reading chair, and getting started on your review! That said, be careful not to take on more book reviews than you have time for — on NetGalley especially, failing to submit a review will affect your credibility. (Fun fact: in the publishing world, a “galley” is not a medieval rowboat — it’s actually short for “galley proof”, referring to the metal printing trays used in traditional presses! Nowadays, it’s become almost synonymous with ARCs.)
To get the most of reviewer experience on sites like this, make sure to link your account with any other platforms where you actively post reviews so that people know where else they can read your reviews and access your content. It’s also worth taking your time to craft a good reviewer bio as this is where publishers will look first when you request ARCs. Make sure to include where you usually post your reviews, how many followers you have, and your favorite genres.
Other legitimate third party sites where you can find ARCs include:
- Edelweiss — works in a similar way to NetGalley where you can apply to read and review ARCs.
- Amazon First Reads — if you have Amazon Prime, each month you can read one book prior to its release.
- Rockstar Book Tours — virtual ‘book tours’ where book bloggers can apply to write guest post reviews of free ARCs on the host site.
- TLC Book Tours — book bloggers can apply to review an ARC on their own website
- Hidden Gems Books — sign up to the mailing list for emails with books available for review.
- LibraryThing Early Reviewers — authors and publishers advertise available ARCs and reviewers can apply to read them.
- Shelf Awareness — email newsletters which often advertise ARCs available for review.
Another great place to find ARCs is Reedsy Discovery, Reedsy’s book review platform, where you can read and write reviews of all the best new indie books. Generating reviews can be especially difficult for independent authors — by becoming a book reviewer on Reedsy Discovery, you’re helping authors have the best book launch possible, and snapping up the best new indie ARCs while you’re at it!
Hundreds of authors submit their books as ARCs to Reedsy Discovery — if you want access to read and review the hundreds of books in the submission pool before they even launch, all you need to do is apply to be a Discovery reviewer. Your review will go live on the author’s launch day and be exposed to thousands of eager readers in your genre!
Not only will you gain free access to new books, but you’ll also be able to grow your audience and become a book influencer in your chosen genre. Your profile can also complement an existing blog or Bookstagram and, when readers enjoy your work, they can send you $1, $3, or $5.
If you’re looking for some help structuring your book reviews, check out our free book review templates!
Many avid readers and reviewers will be pretty familiar with the book recommendation site Goodreads, but did you know you can also use it to get your hands on more ARCs?
Through Read and Review groups, authors can post that they’re looking for reviewers for their latest release. All you have to do is sign up for a book you want to read, wait for the author or moderator to send you a copy, and post your review to your Goodreads profile!
You can also use the groups to post whether you’re actively looking for books to review and accepting review requests. This lets authors know that they can message you directly if they’re looking for more new ARC readers for their books.
Here’s a few more legitimate Goodreads groups to get you started:
- Read 4 Review
- FREE BOOKS for Book lovers
- ARC of Authors
- Authors & Reviewers
- Making Connections
- Advanced Copies for Review & Book Giveaways
- Goodreads Reviewers’ Group
Which review community should you join?
If you’re not already following book reviewers or publishing professionals on social media then you’re missing out on a whole world of opportunities. Twitter and Instagram are two of the quickest and most effective ways to get your name and face out there and start building connections with authors, publishers, and fellow reviewers!
You can post reviews directly onto your profile or, if you have a book review blog, then you can post links to your reviews as and when you publish them. Make sure to tag publishers and authors too (usually only if it’s a positive review)! Once you’ve established your presence as a reviewer, you can try messaging authors and publishers directly to ask about review opportunities — it might seem too informal at first, but more often than not they’ll be happy to chat with you there.
Popular hashtags to look out for:
Bookstagrammers and self-published authors will occasionally also share opportunities through their accounts if they’re in need of ARC readers, or you can sign up to their newsletters where they’ll likely advertise when they’re looking for ARC readers. Finding ARCs this way means you’ll not only receive a free book, but you’ll also be supporting authors perhaps at the beginning of their careers — you can proudly watch their journey progress and see how they grow as an author.
Direct via publishers
If you can’t find anything on the review sites that pique your interest, you can try approaching publishers and authors directly via email. You might already have a specific book in mind, or you can research specific publishers upcoming releases.
When you send your requests, make sure to include “ARC Request” or “Review Copy Request” and the title of the book in the subject line of the email. In the body of the email, show that you’ve done some research into the book and the author and explain why you’d be a good fit to review it — include some links to your own blog and make sure you have recent reviews in the same genre. It’s no good applying to review the next big sci-fi hit if so far you’ve only covered period romances.
Some of the bigger publishing houses also have dedicated influencer review programs where reviewers who’ve already built up a following can apply to receive regular ARCs. These are more likely to be physical copies so that you can really make the most of them on social media! Here are a few to get you started:
- Random House Influence Program: based in the US, minimum 5k followers, title-specific mailings to #OwnVoice reviewers.
- Macmillan Influencer & Reviewer Program: takes follower count and genres into account, added to a database to be shared with internal publishers and marketing teams.
- Viking, Penguin Books, & Penguin Classics Influencer Review Requests: based in the US, minimum of 1.5k followers, priority to BIPOC reviewers.
- Grand Central Publishing Influencer Program: looks more at content than follower count, also offers ebooks on NetGalley.