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What is an ARC book? (+ How to Get ARCs Free)

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In this post, you will learn the answer to the question, "What is an ARC?" and how you can tell whether a book is an ARC. Then, you will get more details about ARCs: the difference between an ARC and a galley, how an ARC differs from the finished book, the purposes of ARCs, who gets ARCs and why, and what happens to ARCs after a book's publication.

Next, if you are a person who loves to read books, learn all the best ways how to get ARCs for free below.

As a book blogger who has utilized ARCs from a variety of sources over the years, I have a lot of great tips to share with you from my personal experiences.

Let's get to it!

What is an ARC book?

What is an ARC book?

An "ARC" in book publishing is an "advance reading copy," "advance reader copy," "advanced reviewer's copy," or "advance review copy."

It is an unproofed, but mostly completed, electronic or bound physical copy of a book, sent by a publishing company, author, or PR company to the media, persons in the book industry, and other influential persons a few months prior to the public release of the book, so that these persons may read, review, and help finalize and promote the book's release.

More details about ARCs:

In addition to the above, ARCs may also be referred to as "Advanced Reader’s Editions," "pre-press copies," or "galleys." 

An ARC is generally the same in format, content, and appearance as the final, published version of a book.

While most advanced reader copies come in digital or physical format, they may also come in the form of audiobooks. They may be called "Audiobook Listening Copies" or "ALCs." Because of the cost and time involved with the production of this type of incomplete version; however, audiobook ARCs are far less common.

Thanks to technology, now, even self-published authors and indie authors can produce their own ARCs through companies like IngramSpark. Note that, on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing ("KDP"), ARCs are called “proof copies.”

How do you tell if a book is an ARC?

An ARC book will usually be labeled as such on the cover and/or spine, along with the date the book has been or will be published. The cover and/or spine will also generally state that the ARC is not for resale.cover of arc book

More Details About Advance Reader Copies

An ARC vs. a Galley

ARCs and galleys are similar, but they differ in format, appearance, and purpose.

Today, ARCs are distributed both electronically and as bound physical copies that are fairly similar in appearance to the final version of a book, mostly for the purpose of generating promotion of an upcoming release.

Previously, however, publishers distributed uncorrected, bound galleys mostly for editing and proofreading purposes. They were larger and more plain in appearance than today's ARCs, lacking elements like color and illustrations.

Today, the terms ARC and galley are often used interchangeably.

How ARCs Differ From the Final Published Book

As mentioned, ARCs are unproofed, but mostly completed, electronic or bound physical copies of new books that have yet to be released to the general public for sale.

ARCs are often missing author biographies, blurbs about the book, ISBN numbers, and the final sale price. They may or may not contain final photos and/or illustrations.

However, they may contain a page or separate printout with a short biography of the author and details about the book and/or its marketing strategies, such as the ISBN, price, and release date. These details can be helpful in properly promoting the book.

The final published book may also have slightly different content (in order to correct grammatical errors and/or make changes based on notations in early reviews). The format, binding, and dust jacket may also differ once the book is finalized and published.

The Purposes of ARCs for Authors & Publishers

Authors and publishers send ARCs for a multitude of reasons before a book is published.

First, as mentioned, ARCs serve as an advertisement of sorts to help authors and publishers promote new books in a really cheap and effective way. Just think about the cost of forwarding a PDF to a book reviewer (virtually nothing!) versus producing and paying for a video commercial ad for a product (tens of thousands of dollars). And it's effective because so many book buyers rely on book reviews to influence their decisions amongst so many options and limited time to read.

Similarly, ARCs help generate excitement and buzz for a new book. I can't tell you how many times I purchased a book because "everyone" seemed to be talking about it on social media. It happens several times a month!

Next, ARCs can help publishers obtain blurbs about the book from influential authors and persons to publish on the book cover to help convert a sale.

Importantly, since ARCs are incomplete proofs, book reviews of ARCs can alert authors and publishers to proofreading errors and/or other problematic content in the book, since the book has not yet gone through its final round of revisions, otherwise known as "post-ARC corrections".

Another purpose of ARCs is to help authors and publishers gauge reactions to the book and/or prepare for any negative feedback about a book. This can actually change the content of the book and/or the marketing plan. It can also serve to soften the blow to the author's ego, especially if a difficult controversy about the book later erupts after its publication.

Related post: How to Promote a Book on Social Media for Authors

Lastly, (and my personal favorite), is that ARCs can foster relationships amongst authors, publishers, and those in the book industry. I have become digital "friends" with many, if not most, of the authors who have shared their ARCs with me, which is just generally nice on a human level, and it also helps us all support each other going forward.

Who Gets Advance Review Copies & What's In It for Them

ARCs are most often sent to people in the book and/or media industries: bookstore owners, book reviewers, journalists, librarians, writers, editors, authors, book influencers (or, a "book blogger"), podcasters, and teachers.

They are also used for giveaway promotions for free books on various sites and social media platforms (more about that below), which is great for those who are not in the book and/or media industries but still want the opportunity to receive an ARC.

But, since it does take both time and energy to read, review, and promote an ARC, regardless of your industry, you may be wondering, "What's in it for the book reviewers?"

Reviewers receive a book that is: (a) free and (b) available to them before it is available to the general public. For some people, it's worth it, and for others, it's not!

Oftentimes (but not always), reviewers are asked to post an honest book review (such as on their book blog or social media) in exchange for receipt of the ARC.  Sometimes, however, an ARC is simply available for consideration for review and/or posting.

Related post: How to Make Money from Book Reviews

What Happens to ARCs After Publication (& What You Can Do With Your Own ARCs)

So, what happens to an ARC once a book is finally published?

As mentioned, ARCs are NOT for resale. This is both because an ARC is not the final draft of the book and because re-selling ARCs can impact the sale of the final book.

ARCs can be passed along to someone else for free or donated to places like schools, prisons, charities, or even your favorite local Little Free Library.

Or, you can always save them! I do so myself when the author has become a "friend" to me, as a little token of our bookish friendship.

How to Get ARCs For Free

Now that you know what an ARC is, you may be wondering how to get ARCs.

First, you should *generally* be in the book industry or the media in order to receive ARCs. While you need not work full-time in these industries, given the rise of book influencers on social media, you should probably at least have a book-related social media presence on TikTok and/or Bookstagram if you want to regularly receive ARCs.

If publishers and authors aren't already knocking down your door with offerings of ARCs (and this post assumes they are not), then you will need to prove why it's worth it to them to send you an ARC. And a robust social media presence is the easiest way to do that. You may even want to clearly identify yourself as an ARC reader on social media!

Related posts: If you need help creating a digital bookish presence, learn how to start a book blog and/or dive into this beginner's guide to Bookstagram.

However, not all of these methods require you to be in the book and/or media industries.

Below are answers to FAQs about getting ARCs followed by the details about all the best ways to get them.

FAQs

Are ARCs free?

Yes, Advance Review Copies (ARCs) of books are free. They are also not for resale.

How do I buy ARCs?

You can not, and should not, buy Advance Review Copies (ARCs). They are not meant for sale or resale since they are not the finalized version of a particular book.

How do you get an ARC book?

an ARC review website
directly from the author or publisher
book tour companies
email newsletters
giveaways
social media
Amazon Prime

Below are more details about each of the above ways to get ARCs.

How to Get ARCs from an ARC review website

NetGalley and Edelweiss+ are the two most popular websites by which you can sign up to request ARCs. If a new book has an ARC available, chances are that it's on one or both of these sites.

The vast majority of these types of ARCs are in digital format. Limited audiobooks are also available.

In order to improve your chances of actually receiving the ARCs that you request, you should update your profile in detail (and keep it updated!). You should also be an active member of the community, building up a positive reputation and following the rules. This generally means reading and posting reviews of the ARCs you receive pursuant to any deadlines.

How to Get ARCs from Publishers and Authors

If you don't want to use an ARC site and/or are seeking a physical copy of an ARC, you can instead request an ARC directly from the author or publisher, who will review requests and decide whether to send you one.

I have found that email works better than social media messaging for this strategy. I try to find the right publishing contact before I contact the author, as I don't like to put an author on the spot directly.

First, find the right contact and/or protocol for the book's publisher.

This has become a lot easier over the years. I will find the name of the publisher and imprint of the book I want to request via Google, as each imprint may have a different way of requesting ARCs.

Then, I start Googling terms like "[imprint name] ARC request" and "[imprint name] review copy requests." Usually, this quickly results in the location of the contact's email address and/or a specific form to fill out.

Otherwise, you can look for a general media or press email for an imprint.

Second, write a persuasive email request.

Unless a specific form was required by the publisher, then the next step usually is to draft your request.

Your subject line should clearly identify your request plus show the value of working with you. The recipient likely receives a massive amount of ARC requests, so both of these points can really help them organize the requests and make decisions quickly. And when you make others' lives easy, they are more likely to help you.

I generally use something to the effect of: "ARC Request for [TITLE] by Book blogger with [#] Readers."

Then, I write an email that is brief, polite, helpful, and personal. If you have the contact's name, address them by it. Then, state why you are making the request for this specific book, keeping in mind what's in it for them-- not you. Also highlight your strengths (i.e., total social following, focus on that genre, BIPOC reviewer, etc.) and how you intend to promote the book. Lastly, provide your mailing address and gratitude for his or her time.

Here's a quick sample of how I generally write these requests to publishers. For the purpose of this example, I am pretending the book is from a local author to show you one way how I would make a personal, specific case for why I should receive the ARC :

Hi [NAME]!

I'm a book blogger at The Literary Lifestyle book blog, which currently has [#] monthly readers.

I'm writing to respectfully request a copy of [TITLE], if available. It's been on my radar because it's based in Philly, where I live, and I just LOVE to read and review local books from local authors! My posts about [SIMILAR TITLES] can be seen here: [URLs]. I am hoping to do something similar to promote this book too.

The above posts get about [#] views each month, and my social media following of [#] followers is also comprised of mostly Philly based book lovers like me who I think would also adore this book!

If you are able to grant this request, first of all, THANK YOU! And second, my mailing address is: [ADDRESS].

Thank you so much for considering this request. Either way, I can't wait to read [TITLE]!

-Jules

Timing tip: You should make your request three to six months prior to the publication of a book. The further out the better, since more ARCs will be available then!

Sometimes you will hear back on your requests, and sometimes you won't. Sometimes the answer will be yes, and sometimes it will be no. Sometimes, a book will just appear on your doorstep!

If you cannot locate the right contact, then you may want to reach out to the author via email or social media messaging. In this case, I still tend to play it extra respectfully and simply let the author know I can't find the right contact and ask them for the contact-- before ever actually asking for the ARC. It's a touchy thing asking someone personally for a free copy of the work they poured their soul into, even if you can do a lot to help them promote it, so I try to balance that extra cautiously.

Lastly, if you have a strong social media presence, you can sign up for publishers' influencer programs to receive ARCs.

Here are just a few of the bigger, more popular ones:

Another great influencer program is not directly through a publisher, but rather through Libro.fm, by which a handful of "Audiobook Listening Copies" or "ALCs" from various publishers are available to download on the first of each month. I personally use and love this program!

Libro.fm Tip: Libro.fm is an audiobook retailer that supports independent bookstores. While not required, as a thank you to Libro.fm for this ALC program and as support for independent bookstores, I like to maintain a monthly membership at Libro.fm. When you start your own Libro.fm monthly membership, you can get 2 audiobooks for the price of 1 with the code LITLIFE.

How to Get ARCs from Book Tour Companies

Book tour companies are kind of like PR companies for books specifically. When you sign up on their websites as a book influencer, they will reach out to you with various opportunities to receive (usually) physical ARCs in exchange for posting certain content on a certain date, like the cover of the book, a summary, or a review.

They are called blog tours or book tours because on each day within a certain timeframe, a different influencer posts the book. So, it's like the book is going "on tour" around various influencers' pages for several days. This can generate a lot of buzz fast for a book because it benefits from a blitz of publicity in a short window of time.

There are many book tour companies out there, but to get you started, here are a few of the more popular ones:

Of note, if you want to continue receiving ARCs for book tours, you should follow the rules for each tour.

How to Get ARCs via Email Newsletters

Visit the websites of your favorite authors and publishers and subscribe to their email lists. They will often announce ARCs that are available upon request. Here are a few newsletters from the bigger publishers to get you started:

How to Get ARCs via Giveaways

You can also get ARCs when you enter to win book giveaways on various sites. This method is great for those who are NOT in the book and/or media industry because anyone can enter! Here are a few good places to enter ARC giveaways:

Often, your favorite bookish social media influencers will also giveaway ARCs they receive. Just follow along and enter them when they pop up. I have both given away AND won several!

Related post: 23 Places to Enter Book Giveaways

How to Get ARCs via Social Media

There are so many ways to get ARCs via social media. Here are a few ways:

  • Enter to receive them on targeted ads you receive (I have won them this way!)
  • Enter giveaways (see above)
  • Join ARC groups and/or book swap groups on sites like Facebook and Goodreads (Just search for themand join them!)
  • Use "ARC" and "book reviewer" related hashtags on Instagram so you are found by authors and publishers
  • Make geniune connections with influencers, authors, and publishers

How to Get ARCs via Amazon Prime

Lastly, did you know that you can get ARCs as an Amazon Prime member, whether or not you are in the book industry?!

Amazon First Reads is a program by which Amazon Prime members can sign up to receive an email each month with a group of books available to be read via the Amazon Kindle app prior to the books' releases. Some are free, and others are very cheap! I have read several ARCs for free this way.


Now you know the answer to the question, "What is an ARC?" plus more details about ARCs and all the best ways to get them.

Pin this post to Pinterest because you can refer back to it when you want to request an ARC.

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