Bookish Happenings

The Baby Book Blogger’s Guide to ARCs

The increase in book bloggers in the age of social media and Instagram seems to be exploding!  I consistently see new faces and accounts looking to get involved in reading and reviewing books which is so exciting for our community.  But the one question I see pop up again and again is: “So how do I get my hands on some ARCs?”

Some of you may be wondering… what does ARC even stand for?

An ARC is an “advanced readers copy.”

That means it’s an uncorrected proof of a book that is provided to readers in advance of publication.  They are generally used by authors and publishers to generate buzz for a book prior to publication.

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Before we go any further, let me say this.  ARCs ARE NOT FREE BOOKS!  I mean… yes, they are free in the sense that you don’t have to pay for them.  BUT… the expectation is that you read them, review them, splash photos of their covers on social media, talk about them, and provide some form of chatter for the book.

Being a book blogger can literally be a full time job.  Those of us that have done it for a while know that between the hours of reading and reviewing, staging elaborate Bookstagram photos, organizing our TBRs (to-be-reads) on a spreadsheet to keep track of each book’s publication date, developing questions for Q&A sessions on an author’s book blog tour, replying to publisher emails, and a laundry list of other bookish activities, it’s not as simple as “free books.”

So, if you’re on board for that responsibility and still interested in how to get your hands on one of these puppies, keep reading!

  1. Edelweiss and NetGalley

Galley sites are probably the easiest place to start when it comes to obtaining ARCs.  They offer reviewers an opportunity to request copies directly from publishers electronically by simply creating an account.  Before you ask, these sites primarily provide ebook copies (not physical or audiobook copies).  I’m going to focus on NetGalley because that’s the site I’m most familiar with, but know that Edelweiss is out there as an option too.

NetGalley allows you to search for books based on publisher, genre, most requested, featured, etc.  I would highly recommend that new reviewers check out the “Read Now” section.

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The books in the “Read Now” category are advanced copies of books that are available now to anybody with an account.  They do not require the publisher to approve you for a copy.  This section of the site is a great place to get your feet wet, discover new authors, and begin to build your feedback ratio.  Your feedback ratio is the percentage of books you have read and reviewed of those which you’ve received.  You can see my feedback ratio below is 75% because I’ve reviewed 59 of the 79 books for which I’ve been approved.

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As your feedback ratio grows and your following grows on social media, you will be more likely to receive the books you request.

PROCEED WITH CAUTION: It is super easy to get on NetGalley and request alllllllll the booooookkkkssss.  Make sure you are honest with yourself about your bandwidth to read and review them.  Or you may find yourself with 20 books on your list, a feedback ratio of 0%, and a whole lot of stress and anxiety.

  1. Win Giveaways

Giveaways are one of the best places to get your hands on ARCs and they are everywhere if you know where to look.  For this one, I’ll direct you to my post: Five Best Places to Win Book Giveaways.

I’ll put in a plug here as well for basic book etiquette.  Don’t enter a giveaway for a book you would never read just so you can get it for free.  It’s not cool.  And that’s not really in the spirit of the giveaway.  Again, the intention is to generate buzz for the book, not for it to collect dust on your bookshelf.

  1. Book Reviewer Groups

The book reviewing community is a pretty cool place.  And there are lots of publicity organizations that are looking for bloggers/influencers to spread the word for the books they represent.  Booksharks is one group that I’m a part of that consistently offers reviewers opportunities to take part in blog tours or challenges throughout the year.  Because the community is so large, they do require you to apply for your chance to be an early reviewer and they select those they feel would be the best representatives for the book.  So, growing your following and being an active and engaging reviewer is key!

  1. Developing Relationships with Authors

This is something that takes a little bit more time.  But as you continue to develop relationships with fellow reviewers, authors, and publishers, you may find that authors will reach out to you asking if you will feature their book.  I’ve had several authors contact me directly with requests to review their books.  ONLY SAY YES IF YOU’RE GOING TO FOLLOW THROUGH.  Authors put a lot of time, energy, and passion into writing, editing, and promoting their books, and it’s not cool to get their book for free and not review them in return.

  1. Contacting Publishers Directly

I do not recommend doing this right off the bat!  If you’re new to this whole thing…. see numbers 1 through 3 above.  Those are your best bets.  But, contacting publishers directly is always an option.  I’ll be honest.  I don’t do this very often.  I’ve done it a handful of times and the only advice I can provide is you should at a minimum provide the following information in your request:

  • Social media sites and handles (this includes Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, Tumblr, Twitter, your personal blog… anywhere you review books)
  • The types of books you typically review
  • Number of followers
  • Why you want to read the book you’re requesting
  • Your shipping address
  1. So… Sometimes ARCs Just Show Up?

Yep, they do.  You’ll find that as you start getting involved, sometimes publishers will start to send you stuff that you didn’t even request.  So what do you do?  Personally, I try my hardest to add them to my lineup, read them, and review them.  But if you either aren’t interested in the book or don’t have the time to squeeze it in, the courteous thing to do would be to feature the cover on your social media accounts at a minimum, even if you don’t formally review it.

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Lastly, if you’re new, welcome to the book reviewing community!  And now that you know where to get them, happy reading (and reviewing)!

Bookish Happenings

Author Meet & Greet with Ruta Sepetys

Oh my gosh, you guys!  Last night I got to do a thing (with my friend Randi)!

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The Williamson County Public Library in Franklin, Tennessee hosted an author event with Ruta Sepetys, author of Salt to the Sea and Ashes in the Snow (formerly titled Between Shades of Gray).  They provided a free screening of the movie adaptation of Ashes in the Snow followed by an author Q&A with Ruta and time to meet with her and get books signed!

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Let me put a plug in for the library for a second.  Your taxes pay for the library.  You should use it.  The library is such an incredible resource and tool at your disposal and all it takes is walking in and getting your library card.  Thank you so much to the library staff who organized this free author event for our community.

The movie version of Ashes in the Snow was so good.  I really enjoyed seeing the book come alive.  Although there were some changes made to the story (let’s be honest… there always are), they didn’t impact the overall message.  Ruta shared that the extras in the film were Lithuanian survivors and their descendants which felt very special as I was watching the movie.  If you’re a fan of historical fiction, I would highly recommend watching this film.

After the movie, Randi and I got meet Ruta up close and personal.  She signed copies of Ashes in the Snow for us and chatted with us briefly about growing up in Farmington Hills (in the neck of the woods Randi and I both lived in Michigan).  She was so sweet, kind, and down to earth.

Ruta’s books have come to be some of my favorite historical fictions.  She has a new book coming out in October titled The Fountains of Silence!  I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

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Bookish Happenings

Adventures at McKay’s Books (Nashville, Tennessee)

You’ve never been to a used book store quite like McKay’s.  If you’re in Tennessee or North Carolina… or if you’re visiting Tennessee or North Carolina… or if you’re nowhere near Tennessee or North Carolina… you should check this place out.  It’s quite the experience.

My friend Kristine and I are on a quest to conquer all the bookstores in Nashville (even if she doesn’t know it yet).  Our first stop on this bookish tour was Parnassus Books and we took a strong detour to McKay’s.  Where Parnassus is an expert in the new and bestselling, with plenty of author meet and greet opportunities, and chic, trendy, bookstore design, McKay’s is like a thrift shop on steroids.

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We walked in and immediately it was major sensory overload.  People were grabbing shopping carts… in a book store.  I thought to myself, “Is that really necessary?”  Turns out it is.  Imagine rows and rows and rows… and rows… of bookshelves from floor to ceiling jam packed with used books.  Kristine got there before me and when she texted me to say she was in the Bargain Fiction section, I figured it would be pretty easy to find her.  Wrong!  My first thought when I walked into the building was, “Um, how the hell do I find Bargain Fiction?”  Luckily, McKay’s is pretty smart and puts laminated cards on the end of each aisle with a list of genres and the corresponding aisle in which you can find that genre.  Thank you for that!

When I found Kristine she had a couple of books in her hand.  Bestsellers.  Each for $1.50.  That is not a typo.  Ridiculous.  I found myself perusing the shelves of Bargain Fiction with my head permanently tilted to the right, neck craned, reading every spine in the hopes I would find some steals.  Folks, Bargain Fiction included titles like Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris,  Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, and One Day in December by Josie Silver (all for $0.50 to $1.50).  It was not your typical “bargain” section that has beat up Danielle Steel mass market paperbacks.  Although it had those too…. for $0.25 a piece.

I picked up this luxurious haul of books by authors Diane Chamberlain (author of The Dream Daughter), Elin Hilderbrand (author of The Identicals and The Perfect Couple) and Tatiana de Rosnay (author of The Rain Watcher).  Four books for $5.46.  You cannot beat that.

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Now… I know this is a blog about everything books.  But McKay’s is in the business of so much more than that.  Think board games, toys, puzzles, DVDs, electronics, comic books… the shelves go on for miles.

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And one thing that I find super unique at McKay’s is how organized it is.  You can walk into most thrift shops and expect to see shelves of junk that have been picked over and are in disarray.  These shelves are borderline immaculate, organized alphabetically by author, and very well maintained.  If you’re allergic to thrift stores, I would consider this place the exception to your allergy.

If you’re looking for fantastic books at a low price, you need to check this place out!

Bookish Happenings

Read Across America Day 2019

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!  You would have been 115 years old today!  And in honor of your birthday, we celebrate Read Across America Day, a celebration of reading and literacy to encourage our children to pick up books and enjoy!

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I was lucky enough to participate in the Read Across American celebration at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt (the incredible place that I work) which we celebrated on Thursday.  When the email came through asking for staff and faculty volunteers to read books to children, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.  As we all know, I love books.  And I love the chance to share that love with others, especially kids.

I will admit that I signed up with no frame of reference for what I would be doing.  I just knew I would be reading in a 30 minute time slot.  I imagined a flock of children huddled around me as a read a classic book, excitedly kneeling closer and closer to get a glimpse of the pictures.  But when I showed up at 2:30 PM there were no children.  Imagine my surprise when I walked into Seacrest Studios, the radio studio within our hospital donated by the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, and was told I would be broadcasting to all the rooms in the hospital!

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I scurried over to the stack of books from which I was to choose: Hop on Pop, The Very Clumsy Click Beetle, Where the Wild Things Are…

And what did I choose?  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day!

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I didn’t realize how short the book was until 10 minutes later, I was done reading!  It went by in a flash.  And although there weren’t any kids in the studio with me, I hope I put a smile on their faces and the faces of their families from the comfort of their rooms.

What are you doing to celebrate Read Across America Day?

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