Have you ever wanted to read a book before it was released? Maybe you read about it in a newspaper or online and couldn’t wait to get your hands on it. Perhaps you like the idea of finding the next great book before anyone else so you can be the one to tell the world.
Lucky for you, there are many ways of getting a hold of unpublished galleys, generally referred to as advance reader copies (ARCs) or advance reader editions (AREs).
Some ways of obtaining ARCs are easier than others. I, unwittingly, took one of the most time-consuming routes when I became a book blogger.
A blog where you discuss and review books can eventually encourage authors and publishers to send you published and unpublished books for you to review. However, it takes a lot of work to attract this attention. This can mean posting multiple times a week, and actively participating on multiple social media sites to build your blog’s platform. It can be a really fun experience, but probably not worth it if you can’t commit to keeping up a schedule.
Another way to get ARCs is to attend various book festivals and conventions. BookCon and the American Library Association’s (ALA) summer and midwinter conferences are just a few examples of places where book publishers will bring print ARCs to give to attendees. Many of the authors of featured books will also attend.
While these conventions are a lot of fun and great places to meet fellow book lovers and authors, a big downside is that they can be quite expensive. Like any convention, you have to pay for admission, and unless you live in the city hosting the convention, there will be travel costs involved as well.
Are there any convenient and cheap ways of obtaining ARCs? Yes! The two caveats to this are that you’ll have to be okay with reading digital copies only and writing a quick review when finished.
There are three websites I visit regularly to obtain ARCs: Netgalley, First to Read and Edelweiss. They all operate slightly differently, but they share a common goal: to grant early access to readers in order to stir up buzz about a book before it is published.
Netgalley and Edelweiss are big hubs for many different publishers, while First to Read is specifically for Penguin Random House. These sites are all free, but you must set up an account. Once signed in and looking around at the different titles available, there are several more steps to take before you can start reading. Once you find a book you want you will have to request it, and will either be approved or denied at the publisher’s discretion.
Books projected to be more popular will be harder to get (and books expected to become bestsellers might not even be listed at all), but there is a way to improve your rankings — and that’s where reviews come in.
On Netgalley, and I believe Edelweiss too, the percent of books you review impacts the likelihood of being approved for books in the future. Once you complete a book, there is an option on the site to leave a review. Publishers have access to see your review, as well as the percentage of books you were approved to read that you ended up reviewing.
Seeing as publishers use these sites to hype their book through review accumulation, if you rarely review, you probably will not be approved to read many books moving forward. Luckily, there isn’t a length requirement for reviews, so even if you leave a few sentences of thought, that will be enough.
First to Read does not punish you for not reviewing a book, but it definitely rewards you if you do. This site runs on a point system. You gain points for interacting with the site (signing in, reading an excerpt, writing a review, etc.) that you can redeem in several ways. You have to redeem points to request a book, and often you will have the option to guarantee getting the book. Guaranteeing requires a lot more points, though, so you have to be sure you really want it.
One more important thing to note about these sites is that once you are approved to read a book, you are on a time schedule. The software of the site is set up so that you will no longer have access to that book after its release date. So, if you don’t finish the book within that timeframe, which has happened with me in the past, you’ll have to purchase the released version of the book in order to finish it.
It can take a little while to learn the ropes of these sites, but once you do they’re very rewarding. They’re a great way of finding great books you might not have heard of otherwise — and you get to read them before anyone else!