blog about reviews writing

Sunday, July 6, 2014

How To Get Free Books

Sometimes, when big-deal book bloggers post pictures of the huge stack of books some random publisher mailed to them for review, small-time bloggers glare at the screen.  How does that even happen?  Why does nobody send me stacks of free books?  Is there witchcraft involved?

Publishers don't send me big boxes in the mail, but you've probably noticed that I get my hands on the occasional ARC.  Maybe you're wondering how you can get one, too.  It's not so much a matter of having 24601 followers--it's all in knowing where to look.  And learning the appropriate witchcraft.

Maybe you should take this guide with a grain of salt because I don't take book blogging anywhere near as seriously as a lot of big-time bloggers.  Which is probably why I'm not a big-time blogger yet, and probably never will be, which is totally fine with me.  Also, you guys seem to like the GIFs, and what serious book blogger uses so many GIFs? 

Here are eight methods of getting free books:

(Note: ARC stands for "advance reader's copy".  It's an early, not-for-sale edition of a book that publishers send to reviewers before the actual release date.  Usually, the only difference between an ARC and a finished copy is a few typos here and there.)
  1. NetGalley.  NetGalley is an online service that allows book bloggers and other reviewers to read e-copies of upcoming books.  Publishers list the book, and then reviewers can request access to this book.  Most publishers do prefer that bloggers are fairly established and have a decent following, but this varies from publisher to publisher and book to book.  It's easier to get approved for a lesser-known book, but I'd suggest requesting anything that looks interesting, because you never know what could happen.  Occasionally, they'll put out books that are open to anyone, approved or not.  The downside is that you have to have an ereader, unless you want to read on your computer or iPhone.  
  2. Goodreads First Reads giveaways.  Goodreads allows publishers/authors to list book giveaways that any Goodreads user can enter.  Sometimes they list ARCs, other times published books.  It's almost all physical copies, not ebooks.  Whether you win or not is mostly random, but site activity, genres of books on your shelves, and past reviews of First Reads books are also factors.  If you won a book through First Reads in the past, and reviewed it, you're automatically more likely to win another book.  You're not required to review it, of course, but why wouldn't you, if it means more free books?  Pro tip: Whenever you enter a giveaway on GR, it posts about it to your profile, meaning that everyone who follows you or is friends with you can see that you entered this giveaway.  Maybe this is cheating a little bit, but I always remove this story from my feed (you can do this by clicking the little x in the corner).  That way, news about the giveaway doesn't circulate as much, increasing your chances of winning.  
  3. Blogger Lift Goodreads group.  There's a group on GR for bloggers called Blogger Lift.  Anyone can join.  There's a "reviewing" section in the forum, and sometimes, authors will post in it, looking for reviewers for their books.  In exchange for a review, they'll give you a free copy of the book.  People will also post links to book giveaways that they're hosting on their blog.
  4. Z Street Team.  The Z Street Team is a mailing list that anyone can sign up for--blogger or not.  Once you register, they'll send you emails about upcoming YA books from Zondervan and related publishing imprints (all Christian), and sometimes let you request a free ARC.  
  5. Other giveaways.  If you go looking for them, book giveaways are everywhere.  They're on book blogs, author blogs,  or available if you follow a publishing house on Tumblr/Facebook/whatever.  Your chances of winning are usually pretty slim, but it's better than nothing.  
  6. Request an ARC.  Another option is directly emailing a publisher's marketing/publicity person and asking for an ARC.  This doesn't always work, and again, it depends on your blog following, and probably the current phase of the moon.  There's an introductory how-to post here and here, and the second one even contains a list of email addresses of various publishers, so you don't have to go digging around on their website for it.  Even if the publisher declines your request, they might put you onto a mailing list that will provide opportunities for blog tours or even available ARCs.
  7. Penguin Teen's blogger program.  I just found out about this, so I don't know much about it yet.  It seems to be pretty straightforward: you fill out the form with your reading preferences and some blog stats, and then they'll make ARCs available to you.  I'll let you know when I learn more.
  8. Cuddlebuggery's Little Blogger, Big Ambitions project.  The LBBA project is specifically aimed at new bloggers, or those without a large following.  To qualify, you have to have less than 600 followers, and receive less than 600 pageviews per day.  Once you register (and doing so is easy), you can enter yourself in giveaways for ARCs donated by other bloggers.  Yes, it's still a giveaway, which means the books aren't guaranteed to show up at your door, but your odds are still much, much better than most other giveaways.  (added 7/10/14)  
  9. When all else fails... 
For anything involving requesting an ARC, you'll need to provide blogging statistics, like number of unique visitors per month, unique pageviews, etc.  Get comfortable using Google Analytics.  It looks a little daunting and confusing at first, but the data is so much more reliable and in-depth than the simple stats you'll find on Blogger.  (Yes, there is a difference between Blogger's pageview numbers and "unique pageviews".)

If you review enough ARCs from a publisher, they might just start sending you books they think you'll like.  This would be awesome, but you can't count on it.  Until then, you'll have to stick to the above methods.  None are guaranteed except the library, but they're a good starting point.

Do you know of another way to get free books?  Let me know!
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