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Advance Readers Copies: What you need to know

A hot topic around the YA book blogosphere... or really any book blogosphere is Advance Readers Copies. Or as you may or may not know them: ARC. ARCs are bound uncorrected proofs of a book, that usually circulates before the books release, early buzz if you will. You don't have them, you want them. You have too many of them, the guilt keeps you up night... Or something like that.

In case you missed last weeks YA Connection, I posted a link to a very informative post by debut author Alexandra Bracken (Brightly Woven) if you haven't checked it out, you should. Here is the link (Dearest Book Bloggers). It's a very informative post whether you are a new blogger or not. I also want to mention a post that author Saundra Mitchell (Shadowed Summer) did about ARCs, (How Did You Get All Those Books- The Author Side.)

I'll occasionally receive emails in the inbox from new bloggers, asking for help, asking for advice, which if you've contacted me and I finally got back to you... (sorry I know I am insanely slow about that... I promise I will work on that) anyway, if you've contacted me, you know that I'm all about giving out advice, trying to spread my knowledge, if you will. If it's any good, I really don't know.

One of the most frequent emails that I'll get is asking about advance readers copies... asking what they are, and how the emailer can get them too. Let me first start out by saying, that when I respond to these emails my first suggestion is to never starting a book blog solely to get arcs or 'free' books. I know people do it, but coming from a (semi) experienced blogger, believe me, it is not worth it! But honestly I wasn't one hundred percent sure what to tell these emailers. So I decided that maybe I should find out.

I wanted to be informative and reliable when I responded to emails like this, I decided to do some research on the situation. I emailed some publishing houses and some authors. A few of them were kind enough to get back with me and this is what they had to say. I have chosen a few of the answers to quote that I found to be very informative. Overall, they all had similar answers across the board.

I asked the publishing houses three questions:

  • How do you feel about bloggers asking for advance readers copies (ARCs)?
  • Do blog stats matter to you?
  • What is the average cost to produce an advance reader copy (ARC)?

Here's what they had to say:

How do you feel about bloggers asking for advance readers copies?

Most of them don't mind getting emails requesting copies. However, they wanted the emails to be short & sweet and professional. They don't need to know your life story. Be sure to include your mailing address. And also realize that they have a very busy job! They may not get back to you in a timely manner don't send them ten emails to see what's taking them so long.

But don't just take my word for it, here's what they had to say:

"I’m of two minds. On the one hand, I love book review blogs. I think they reach the average reader in a way that the New York Times simply does not. But, in my experience, there’s an element of professionalism lacking in much of the book blogging community. It’s easy to tell when a blog has been started because the blogger wants free books, not because they want to talk about books in any real way. When I get an email from someone who’s been blogging for two months and asks for an ARC for every single book in our catalog, that’s a red flag for me. Bloggers are not entitled to ARCs simply because their blog exists—they need to provide a service that makes sending those ARCs worth it, in the form of (and I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot, but I’m going to say it again) thoughtful, well-written reviews. And, yes, we appreciate when bloggers post our extra content, like trailers and videos and widgets and so forth—we create much of that content for bloggers, so it makes us feel like that work is worth it.

I don’t mind people asking for advanced reader copies, but I will say a couple of things:

  • First, ask for small books as well as big ones—or mostly/only small ones when you’re just starting out.
  • DON’T treat your publishing contact like Amazon—just because you ask for a book doesn’t mean it can or will be sent, and furthermore they might not have the time to tell you whether or not you’ll be receiving it. People in publishing are very overworked, it’s important to be gracious and kind to them—and, frankly, that’s the only way you’ll be able to get anything you ask for, because I do not send books to bloggers who harass me. I get some very tetchy, rude emails from people who are angry that the books they requested haven’t arrived, and I stop communicating with those people. It’s not worth it for me to mail books to people who think that my only job is to cater to their whims.
  • If someone at the publishing company says “no” to you, DON’T go around asking other people at the house. It will get back to them that you were doing that—publishing houses might seem big, but they’re tiny. If they think someone else might be able to help you, they will direct you to that person or ask them internally.
  • Be professional! I can’t say this enough. If you wouldn’t write something in a work email, don’t write it to a publishing contact. Unless you are actually friends with that person, don’t overshare personal information. It’s unnecessary and makes things uncomfortable. Just be nice and clear and say thank you.
  • Think about what you are offering to the publisher in exchange for the ARC, and provide that thing. We don’t expect every single book we send out to be reviewed, but if we find that a blogger who asks for a dozen ARCs at a time but never reviews any of them, we will probably stop sending.
  • Alert your contact when you’ve posted a review or are giving away a copy of a book from their house. It’s very helpful, and we appreciate it.
  • Don’t clog up our inboxes with too many emails—they get lost that way. If you have multiple things to say, one email will suffice."

"I don’t mind receiving emails asking for review copies, but they must be succinct. A request email should always contain the mailing address and information about the blog (like the stats I’ll mention below). A couple tips: keep it brief, and always be professional. I receive a lot of emails with TMI – anything from how a particular book relates to their past relationships to serious issues like life-threatening illness. I love it when reviewers are friendly, but there’s a line between that and sharing impertinent personal information.

Please understand that publicists work on a ton of titles, so they can’t always get back to you in a timely manner. It’s acceptable to follow up after a few weeks, but saying “I know you’re busy” while sending 10 emails is still stressful! And please don’t argue when I ask for stats or tell you that review copies aren’t available. Unfortunately these are just realities of the job!"

Do blog stats matter to you?

In word word: YES!

"Blog stats do matter in the sense that publicity (online and print) is about reaching as many people as possible. But, actually, what matters MORE to me is the way I feel about that blog and the blogger who runs it. If a blogger is a consummate professional and really tries hard to shine a light on our smaller titles, is always letting me know about reviews and writes great ones that are of value to the community, I’ll probably send them whatever they ask for. It’s about trust and assurance that company assets are being invested wisely. If I trust a blogger, I’ll always try to accommodate them."

"Blog stats are very important to us, specifically number of monthly unique visitors. Information about other sites where your posts have been picked up is also good. Stats like amount of Blogger followers or RSS downloads aren’t very helpful, since they don’t track all visitors. Since review copies are so limited – finished and ARCs -- these are the benchmarks we have to use when deciding to send to a blogger (for the record, we look at this the same way as magazine or newspaper circulation). Unfortunately, no matter how favorable or honest a review is, or how beautifully a blog is designed, or how often it’s updated, we really have to rely on the numbers."

"Stats are something that we look at, but they’re not the only thing by any means. For every request I get I check out the blog and if it’s well-written, regularly updated and, most importantly, the blogger is obviously someone who loves reading and is passionate about books then the stats are much less of a factor. I also always look as which other bloggers are following the blogger and if it’s people I know and trust then that helps me too!"

What is the average cost to produce an ARC?

Surprisingly enough, ARCs cost a lot more to make than the finished copy of a book. Which honestly was something that I wasn't even aware of.

"It depends on the ARC (for instance, fancy things like foiling or embossing or glossy covers tend to add cost), but from $16-20 is a pretty normal range. The average BOOK costs a fraction of that to print, because the print run for an ARC is a couple thousand, if that—the print run for a regular book is much higher, and, in some cases, MUCH MUCH higher."

In addition to the questions I asked they also included other interesting information that I think is beneficial to know as well:

"Because of the economy, many publishers (including us) are cutting down on the amount of ARCs/galleys AND finished books that are sent out to media (Surprisingly, galleys actually cost more than finished books). Usually we send about 20-30 ARCs to reviewers, while we’re able to send many more finished books. Galleys are mostly created for long-lead magazines, which are actually printing their content three months in advance of publication. There are a handful of websites/blogs, radio shows, and newspapers that also need and receive galleys, but the vast majority of blogs must wait to receive finished books (a couple weeks before the pub date)."

"Outside of your questions, I would say that if someone “just started a review blog”, they should NOT be asking for ARCs. If they prove themselves to be good reviewers (meaning they post consistent, well-written, thoughtful reviews, negative or positive), a publicist or online marketing person will probably contact them eventually, most likely asking them if they would be interested in reviewing a book that is small for the house, that isn’t getting a whole lot of marketing or publicity thrust behind it. IF they MUST contact a publicist/online marketing person, here are some things new bloggers should not do:

  • Send the same email multiple times (often we get emails that are obviously form emails with just the name of the book and the author name changed—sending one email with a list is preferable)
  • Send an email that is formatted weirdly, with insane fonts and colors—it’s just unprofessional
  • Send an email that tells their life story—just a brief introduction, the link to the blog, a sentence about how long they’ve been blogging, and what book(s) they are requesting is sufficient
  • Send an email without a mailing address! If I get an email from a new blogger requesting a book that doesn’t have a mailing address, I usually ignore it, not because I’m being rude, but because I am very busy and don’t have time to reply asking for a mailing address. The easier you can make it for someone at a house to send you a book, the more likely you are to receive it
  • Send an email requesting every single big title for the house in question. We get a limited number of ARCs per title—for some we get 50, for some we get 250, for some we get 15, and it totally depends and is not always based on how important/not important the book is for the house—and if we don’t get very many, we will probably send to the biggest blogs with the highest traffic or people we know and like. But, if a blogger asks for a title we don’t get a lot of requests for, I will send it almost 100% of the time. If you are a blogger who’s only been doing it for a few months, you’re unlikely to get an ARC for a lead title, but asking for an ARC of something that probably won’t get a lot of attention is a sure fire way to ingratiate yourself to us. Now, post a thoughtful, well-written review of that book, send us the link, and you’re well on your way to being a trusted blogger who we’ll send bigger books to."

But what about the other end of the spectrum... Authors.

I also emailed a few author to see what they had to say on the matter.

I asked them:

  • How do you feel about bloggers asking you for advance readers copies?
  • Do blog stats matter to you?
  • How many advance readers copies do you usually receive?

How do you feel about bloggers asking you for ARCs?

Most of the times authors are flattered when they are asked. Unfortunately, they don't usually have arcs, which will be discussed in more detail in question three. But most of the time they are happy to forward your request onto their publicist.

Here's what some authors had to say:

"I love it when bloggers show interest in my upcoming releases, and feelbad that its impossible to have enough ARCs to fulfill all the requests. I admit that I do become frustrated when people ask for "review copies" of a book that's been out for several years, but I think sometimes newer bloggers don't understand exactly how the system works. But hey, it never hurts to ask. Just please don't get angry when we have to say no."

"I get a lot of this, and while I don't mind the question, I feel bad about the answer I usually have to give. I don't get enough ARCs to send out to reviewers, because there are just too many reviewers out there."

"I feel honored to be asked IF the blogger is a serious reviewer who is fair and thoughtful in their reviews."

"Well, now my advanced review copies go exclusively out from my publishers, except for the contest copies I receive, so it sort of irks me that they went to the trouble to find my e-mail address and e-mail me when right on my website it says: "If you'd like to be considered as a potential review venue, please send your requests along with your physical mailing address, your blog visit statistics, and a little bit about the popularity of your blog to (an email address would be here... but i'm keeping things anon here.) It's not hard to find this bit of info -- it's right in the FAQ -- but I feel like a lot of bloggers just make a beeline straight for my email without even taking in any of the info on the page. It makes me feel sad and underloved and like they should give me roses and have some foreplay before they ask me for an ARC.

Most bloggers do go through my publishers now, much to my relief, because it was incredibly time consuming to go through the requests, and the ones that don't . . . it makes me wonder if they're a newbie, a jerkface, or merely a non-careful reader, in which case, how in depth will their review be?"

Do blog stats matter to you?

Yes they do, but so do a ton of other things!

"Absolutely. What is the point of having a glowing review on someone's LiveJournal that gets ten hits a week? ARCs are expensive and limited, and you're basically gambling $7-15 on every ARC you send out, hoping you'll get a review. So yes, stats matter.

But basically, when I was sending them out myself, I wanted decent traffic. And that means 100 followers for a blogger blog or at least 100 unique hits a day (not repeat hits or internal ones). It's also nice to see an active commenting community on the blog -- I don't care what the stats are, again, if they have fifteen unique comments on a post, I'm going to send them one, because they have commenters who are likely active on other blogs as well, and that's worth more than 100 silent readers."

"What matters more to me is a solid history of book reviews on the blog."

"While I don't send ARCs to reviewers, I do sometimes send some of my personal copies (author copies) of the final product to reviewers, and yes, blog stats matter. Those copies are sent out in hopes that the resulting reviews will catch the attention of some readers who have never heard of me or my books, and the bigger the reviewer's readership, the greater the change that will happen."

"They don’t really; what matters is the fair and thoughtful review part. But I think they do matter to the publishing houses."

"Blog stats (as in visitor numbers) matter a lot less to me than content, quality, and appropriateness of the target. I'm more likely to send an ARC to a blog that writes quality reviews, a blog that writes a lot of reviews (as opposed to taking books but never reviewing them), a blog that tends to review books in my specific genre (i.e., don't send your fluffy chick lit novel to the blog that likes things dark and serious), or a blog whose reviews I agree with and respect. I always want the blogs I read and follow to review my books, because obviously, I care about their opinion. If a blog has liked my books in the past, I think they are a good target for future releases. If a blog has disliked my books in the past, even if they are well-traveled and write quality reviews, I'm less likely to send future books to them. They probably wouldn't read the book (hereby wasting one of my few ARCs) or like it if they did. I definitely keep a list of the bloggers who have reviewed my book for future inclusion of ARCs, and I hope even if I don't have enough ARCs to send them all, that I can do something else to let them get a sneak peek of my book."

How many advance reader copies do you usually receive?

The unanimous answer for this one, is not many. Something to remember when you email an author.

" themselves usually has very, very few, and asking them for an ARC is a far more dicey proposition than asking the publisher."

"With one exception, I've never gotten more than five, and I only got one of my latest release."

"Even before they come, I know I owe five or ten to my agent to send out to the foreign rights people, or I've been given the responsibility to distribute ARCs to authors we're going to ask for blurbs, or etc. I do know that with every single one of my books, I've distributed all but one ARC that I kept for myself."

"I was lucky and got 20. I know authors who have received only one copy."

So there it is. This isn't just a post for new bloggers this is just for reviewers in general. I'm not trying to pick on anyone, so don't take this as a personal attack. I learned so much myself, asking these questions, and hopefully you have too.

Also.. forgot to mention this, but THANK YOU to the authors and pubs that got back to me, you know who you are!

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Advance Readers Copies: What you need to know + novel