If you’ve been part of the online book community for any amount of time, you’ve no doubt heard about ARCs. These early review copies, provided by publishers for free, can be highly coveted and are pretty vital for getting reviews out and building buzz for a book around its release date (unless you’re already a well-known, popular author with a large established audience. Then you can get away with things like surprise book releases *cough*JLA*cough*).
How does one obtain ARCs? Sometimes publishers will send them out unsolicited, but mostly you need to request them. The creation of websites for digital eARCs, namely Netgalley and Edelweiss, makes this process easier and more accessible for many reviewers, especially international bloggers. Sometimes reviewers will giveaway ARCs to their followers (also one of the things I really loved and wish I saw more of was bigger reviewers giving away ARCs to up and coming reviewers so they’d have the chance to review them too) but that’s pretty rare.
I want to take a moment to point out there is a slight difference between ARCs and review copies. ARCs usually come out a bit earlier, with limited physical copies, and it isn’t uncommon for them to have unfinished/ different covers. Review copies are finished editions of the books. For the purpose of this post, when I say ARCs I’m referring to both ARCs and review copies.
Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to read and review a few ARCs, mostly eARCs. I didn’t get many, not compared to other reviewers, but it was always exciting getting the notification you’d been approved for a copy, or having it arrive in the post. However, a few years ago I decided to no longer actively request ARCs and honestly? I think it’s one of the best blogging decisions I made. You really don’t need ARCs to be a successful book blogger.
But why did I stop requesting ARCs?
The obligation to review
When I received an ARC, I often felt obligated to review that book in time for the release date. Is this a set-in stone rule? Not really, but it is the ideal I suppose? In any case it was something I really struggled with at times. Still struggle with, actually. I have four or five unsolicited ARCs I received two or more years ago waiting to be read.
I’m a massive mood reader, and unfortunately it felt like 80% of the time I never felt like I was in the right mood to read an ARC before its release date. What did I do? Was it better for me to push through the mood and force to myself to finish the books, or wait until I was in the right mood and have a better reading experience? I never really figured out what the best approach was.
Lack of Time
More than anything else, this was the biggest contributing factor to why I stopped requesting ARCs. Between vet school and work, I barely had time to read. I was lucky to finish a book once a month. This only added to the difficulty I had reading and reviewing in time for a release caused by my mood reading. I didn’t think it was fair to ask for an ARC when I could not guarantee a decent turn around for review time.
I didn’t feel like I was a “big enough” blogger
For those of you who don’t know me well, I’m a pretty anxious person. With this anxiety comes a healthy dose of Imposter Syndrome for pretty much anything I do.
Happy Indulgence might be one of the biggest blogs I’ve been a part of. Before I was here, I was posting at Readers in Wonderland. At RiW I’d say we had a pretty decent following, but I couldn’t help but compare myself to other, bigger blogs and I never felt like I was up to par. I would wonder why I would receive an ARC when there were so many other, bigger blogs that could attract more attention competing for the same ARCs, so I didn’t even try.
Being rejected is disheartening
This follows on nicely from the Imposter Syndrome part. Because my following wasn’t big, a lot of my review requests were ignored or rejected. Which for the bigger, popular releases it was something I’d expect but when it happens again, and again, and again, it really gets disheartening. It makes you wonder why you bother trying to request any review copies to begin with.
My TBR was about to crush me
My TBR pile is over 200 physical books high, and I’d have at least another 100 ebooks waiting on my ereaders. With so many unread books waiting for me, I feel guilty enough buying new books, let alone requesting upcoming releases.
Because I’m not so worried about new releases and am more focused on getting through my TBR I’ve found some amazing forgotten gems! I love having the opportunity to promote the backlist books that came out 3 or more years ago that might not have gotten the same buzz as the big releases.
Guilt when I didn’t enjoy it
There’s nothing worse than receiving an ARC of an exciting upcoming release and then not liking it. I hate writing negative reviews for any books, but the guilt triples when it’s for an ARC you were lucky to receive. One of the reasons publishers provide ARCs is promotion, and it feels like you’re doing the opposite when you write a negative review.
This is not helped when, a few times a year, an author gets up in arms because they took a negative review too personally and creates subtweet drama on book Twitter. Thankfully the vast majority of authors aren’t like this and fully support reviewers, but there is still a lingering fear of it happening to you.
Something to remember: the main point of providing free ARCs is to generate honest reviews. I tend to enjoy reading a mixed review that outlines exactly why a reviewer didn’t enjoy a books more than glowing reviews (how many times has hype led to a disappointing read?). Mixed reviews help adjust expectations when you go into a book and can really improve your reading experience.
I felt guilty for asking
Every now and then (not often thankfully) I stumble across a tweet or something which claims “Bloggers only ask for ARCs because they want free books”.
Um, no. That really is not the case. But that’s a whole other kettle of fish and not the point of this post.
This negative mindset made me feel guilty when I asked for a book to review. Was I being annoying (another overlap with the Imposter Syndrome)? Was I taking a copy away from a more deserving reviewer, someone who could love the book more than me? Was I just wasting someone’s time?
Do you request ARCs? What do you like or not like about them?