How to Get and Use ARCs as a Librarian

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you know that I am always hyping books I’ve read before they are published. One of the most common questions I get is “How do you get them?” Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs), are free copies of books that are distributed to stakeholders before the publishing date. And I read a lot of them.

It seems too good to be true, but authors, publishers, and agents want librarians to have their ARCs. They want you to:

1. Buy the book for your library
2. Promote the book at your library
3. Write a review of the book

And sometimes they want you to:

4. Put the book into the hands of teens or kids who will write a review of the book.

Capture

Before you start on your ARC gathering journey, ask yourself what you can “offer” the publisher. Do you review on Goodreads? If not, you can start! Do you have a blog? Do you write articles for your local paper? Does your library newsletter have a Staff Picks section? Do you promote books on your local radio or TV channels? Do you run Book Talk events during class visits? If so, how often and how many kids attend? Do you make purchasing decisions for your library? Which budgets do you control? How much of your job focuses on Reader’s Advisory and “hand-selling?”

Publishers don’t approve every request for an ARC. Thinking all of this through before you start requesting is your best chance of ARC success.

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Finding ARCs at Conferences

If you make purchasing decisions for your library, and ARCs would help you, you need to connect with some publisher’s library reps at the next conference you attend. Take your time at the Expo section, and make an effort to talk to the reps at the publisher booths. They have a ton of insight into upcoming publisher trends and they are readers advisory experts. And they usually have ARCs. If you are in Canada, I highly recommend bringing the Dewey Divas and Dudes in for an promo event at your library.

Once you have an established connection with a publisher’s library rep, you might be able to reach out to them when an upcoming book peaks your interest. Don’t expect that you will get every book you ask for – and don’t just ask for the most hyped books (especially if your library is already going to buy it anyway). Bigger publishers tend to have more ARCs to give away, and some may be able to send you regular, pre-picked boxes.

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A mix of ARCs and FirstBook Canada donations to give away at high school Book Talk events.

When I was the Children and Teen Librarian at my former job, I would read or assess ARCs for purchase, and then give them away to kids and teens at Book Talk events. Some publishers sent me boxes of “chapter samplers” to giveaway to kids. Those are amazing for Summer Reading! Just make sure you purchase enough copies of the full book when it comes out because demand will be high!

If you had a success story with one of the ARCs – maybe you loved it and ordered 5 copies, maybe you wrote a review for your local newspaper, or maybe a teen told you it’s their new favourite book – reconnect with the publishing rep and tell them! They would love to hear it. It doesn’t hurt to post about it on Twitter and tag the author too.

Finding ARCs Online

This is how I get most of my ARCs these days. There are 3 main places I look for ARCS: NetGalley, Edelweiss+, and Catalist.

NetGalley

Netgalley Barry Squires
Digital ARCs are available on NetGalley.

NetGalley is a great place to start if you want to browse for digital ARCs. On NetGalley you create a profile (remember, what can you “offer” publishers), browse or search for titles, and request individual ARCs. You are expected to provide feedback and a review for each item that you are approved for – and NetGalley keeps track of your Feedback Ratio.

Your request can be turned down, but I think librarians usually do really well in terms of request approvals. Currently I’ve requested over 70 titles, and have only been rejected for one.

When I purchased all the Children’s and Teen collections at my former job, I found NetGalley extremely helpful – especially when looking at picture books and children’s non-fiction. Now I mostly request adult, teen, and middle grade fiction.

Edelweiss+

edelweiss profile
Part of my Edelweiss+ profile

If you are in collection development or technical services, you may already be familiar with Edelweiss+. But any librarian can make an account, browse books, and request ARCs. I started using Edelweiss+ a couple months ago when I wanted to access a specific ARC, but couldn’t find it anywhere else. Edelweiss+ has a lot. And it’s a great reader’s advisory tool! Most titles in their database have a list of accompanying comparable titles and community reviews.

Like NetGalley, you have to create a profile. Again, focus on what you can “offer” publishers. Where do you review books? What collections do you purchase for? How many views does your review blog get? How often do you run Book Talk events? In addition to your profile, when you request an eARC, you have to provide a reason for wanting it. There are lots of opportunities to communicate with the publishers.

Catalist / BookNet Canada / Loan Stars

catalist logo

Catalist is an online catalogue tool through BookNet that allows you to easily view the catalogues of Canadian publishers. Again, if you are in collection development, you probably use Catalist all the time. If you are a Canadian librarian like me, you have likely also heard of Loan Stars: a monthly list created by librarians who vote on upcoming releases. You can submit Loan Star votes on Catalist.

This is a special one because you can request digital and physical ARCs. So far I’ve received 3 physical ARCs from Catalist – mailed directly to my house. Sometimes on Calalist, publishers will request that you send them your review after your are finished the book. I’ve found it’s also just great practice to browse through the digital catalogues each season to see what is being released.

Using Your ARCs

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I review ARCs every month in my local arts and culture newspaper, The Sound.

Do:

  • Assess the item and purchase it for your library
  • Write a professional review of the book
  • Share your review on Goodreads, your blog, social media, your local newspaper
  • Send the review to the publisher rep, if they have requested it
  • Share photos of the book on social media
  • Tag the publisher in your posts
  • Film a vlog about the book (if you’re into that)
  • Include the titles in Book Talk presentations at class visits
  • Read your ARCs and then give them away to library patrons!
  • When you pass an ARC on to someone else, encourage them to write a review as well.

Don’t:

  • DON’T SELL YOUR ARC! Don’t even donate it to a place that will sell it. You are not allowed to do this. If you do this, you are breaking the trust that the publisher placed in you. You are hurting the publishing industry. You are hurting the reputation of librarians. Just don’t do it.
  • Do not widely publicize a nit-picky, negative review of an ARC. There may be exceptions to this – and I’m not saying that your reviews should be 100% positive or that you should be dishonest. But reading an ARC is not the same as reading a published book. ARCs are meant to help books succeed and to help them find their audience. Submitting a negative review to the publisher via NetGalley is one thing, but posting it all over the internet is another. If you really need to share your negative review, best practice is to wait until after the book is published. And this should go without saying but: if you do chose to share negative reviews – never tag the author.
  • Don’t hoard your ARCs. When you first start finding ARCs at conferences or publisher preview events, it seems too good to be true. Make sure you talk to the reps at each booth, and find out how many ARCs you are allowed to have. Often it might only be one or two. Only take what you know you can use. But also:
  • Don’t let anyone shame you for using ARCs. Publishers and authors want you to have access to their books. Librarians are an important part of the book world, and our opinion matters to people. Let’s use our ARCs to help books succeed!
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A display of books at a publisher preview event.

Advanced Reader’s Copies are wonderful tools for librarians and publishers. I hope I was able to answer some of your questions in the post. If I missed anything, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. Happy ARC gathering!

2 thoughts on “How to Get and Use ARCs as a Librarian

  1. Awww, I see one of my books in one of your pictures, which makes me happy. πŸ˜‰ We have ARC book clubs at my library, where kids and teens can take home an ARC, fill out the little book review form we put inside every book, and bring it back to exchange for another book. Then we type out the reviews and put them up on our website (only using the reviewers’ first names, for privacy). A lot of readers really do like being able to get a sneak peek at books before anyone else, there’s a fun sense of exclusivity in it!

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