If you love to read, chances are you've posted a book review on your blog. Did you know you can get free books to review on your blog? It's pretty easy and a lot of fun. It's worth noting that there's not a lot of money in book blogging. Most of the time, you'll just get a complementary copy of the published book. But, if you love books and reading, a free book is just as good as cold, hard cash! Read on for 17 ways you can get free books to review on your blog.
First, some book blogging lingo.
Page proofs for a book in the proofreading and copy-editing phase are referred to as a galley. Most book bloggers will see galleys in the form of an Advance Reader Copy or Advance Uncorrected Proof (commonly abbreviated as ARC).
ARCs are used by the publishing company as marketing tools and look a lot like your typical soft cover book (though I have come across a few hardcover ARCs), with a few key differences. For one thing, the book will still likely contains errors that will (hopefully) be caught and corrected in the final round of editing. Front and back matter, like a dedication and index, are likely to be excluded. Illustrations might not be complete and it's common to see a blank page with the notation "illustration TK [to come]." If illustrations are included in the ARC, they may be in black and white even if the final version will be in color. The cover is also likely not final.
ARCs are produced as cheaply as possible and have no monetary value (they generally include a big disclaimer on the cover that says "not for sale"). So they usually don't hold up as well as a finished book would, but it's more than sufficient for review purposes.
Many publishers also use e-galleys, which are galleys in e-book format. Like printed galleys, the book may still include some mistakes and be missing illustrations.
Publishers can and do provide finished copies of books for review, but if you're angling for access to a title prior to publication, you're most likely to receive it in ARC form.
How do I get free books to review on my blog?
There are several different options.
The first is to attend conferences and trade shows related to the book industry. Publishers are in attendance with booths set up on the exhibit floor with the purpose of promoting their titles. The American Library Association has an annual conference as well as a midwinter meeting. These events rotate around the country and draw most of the major publishing companies. Your state library association also likely hosts an annual conference, though I've heard that these are not always as well attended by publishers in some states (I live in Texas, which hosts the largest statewide library conference in the country, so I have can't comment on the validity of this statement). You don't need to be a member to attend these events, and can usually purchase an exhibits only registration for much less than the cost of attending the conference. BookExpo America (BEA) is another large trade show popular with book bloggers. I've never been, but Modern Mrs. Darcy recently wrote about her experience attending BEA for the first time.
At these events, publishers will often put out stacks of ARCs that are free for the taking (less frequently, they offer finished copies). You can also ask the rep working the booth if there is a specific title you are interested in, or if they have something that fits what you're looking for (i.e., middle grade contemporary fiction).
Another option is to contact the publisher's marketing department and ask (nicely!) for a copy of the book you're interested in. I've never done this because there hasn't been a book I've wanted badly enough pre-publication, but it can be very effective, particularly if you have a large following on your blog and social media.
Below are links to publicity contacts for the Big 4:
Another, more hands-off (and my preferred method), way to gain access to free books to review on your blog is to sign up for a review website.
NetGalley is a platform that connects bloggers with e-galleys from hundreds of publishers, large and small. Sign up for an account, then start browsing. Once you find a title you're interested in, you can request to be granted access to it. Each publisher approves and denies requests according to their own criteria, so be sure to take a look at their approval preferences and make sure your profile includes the information they are looking for. After reviewing the title, you can submit your feedback (including blog post links) to the publisher directly via NetGalley. Be careful not to request more titles than you can actually review in a reasonable amount of time. NetGalley does track your request vs. feedback rate and a low percentage isn't attractive to publishers.
Blogging for Books is possibly my favorite way to get books for review, if only because it's so easy. Blogging for Books is the book blogger program for Crown Publishing Group. Sign up, connect your blog and social media accounts, and select your first book. These are all finished copies (print copies as well as e-books, though that varies by title) and while there's not a huge selection, but I've never had a hard time finding something I'm interested in. Your book will ship within a week or so, and once it arrives and you've submitted your review, you're free to choose another book. This infographic explains the process nicely.
Blogging for Books drew some criticism when it debuted because they use Klout scores to give bloggers with more influence more access to books. Personally, I think this is a pretty good method of judging online influence, and more fair than just basing it on page views. If you're at all active online, your Klout score is probably already pretty good (I've heard that most brands look for a Klout score of at least 50, though I obviously have no idea what numbers Blogging for Books likes to see); if not, it's easy to increase.
First to Read offers e-galleys of upcoming releases. Access is granted in exchange for points, points are earned in a variety of ways (submitting reviews, reading excerpts, etc.). I find the process a little cumbersome, so I've not bothered to request anything via First to Read, but it's a great option if you prefer to review books in e-galley form.
BookLook Bloggers is run by HarperCollins Christian Publishing. That's not my usual reading taste, so I can't comment too much on this program, but it seems pretty straight forward. Sign up (they look for an actively maintained personal, public blog with at least 30 followers or subscribers), request a book (they offer print and e-books), review it (at least 200 words) on your blog and a consumer website (such as amazon). Once you've done that, you can request another book.
Social reading sites like LibraryThing and GoodReads also frequently run giveaways for ARCs, but your chances of winning are pretty small due to the high number of entries.
Other book blogger programs (I don't have experience with any of these, and they are mostly Christian publishers):
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Know of any other book blogger programs? Please share in the comments.