Are ARCs All They're Cracked Up To Be?

28 March 2015

Though most book bloggers don't start off their blog for the sole purpose of receiving free books (and if you did, shame on you!), it's a common goal for most of us. We work very hard to promote books, and while ARCs and review copies are a nice reward, they're also a cause of great stress for a lot of us. At the end of the day, these books come with strings attached - after all, nothing in life is truly free, right?

So, for those of you who don't know what an ARC is, let me try and explain: also known as an advanced review copy, ARCs are books that are printed well before the book's publication date and are given out to bloggers (amongst various other media outlets) as a way to promote the book ready to up those sales on release day. More often than not, ARCs are available by request only and as they cost the same to print as a final copy, there's usually a very limited amount of them - after all, giving them away for free means that the publishing company is actually counting on high release sales to reimburse the cost of printing those elusive ARCs. Because of the limited amount available, most publishers will expect a review unless you're very careful with your wording and they agree to send you one without the guarantee of a review. It's rare, but it does occasionally happen.

Personally, I don't - and probably never will - request ARCs. Finished copies are a different story, but that's a discussion for another day. I do have a few reasons behind my aversion to advanced copies, though:

I don't like feeling obligated to write a review.

No matter how much I think I will enjoy a book, there's always a chance that I won't. Although negative reviews aren't necessarily a bad thing (see my post on negative reviews), I don't want to think that I've taken away the chance of someone else reading and loving the book, thus gaining the ability to promote it in a much better manner.

I'm a mood reader.

ARCs come with a deadline - publication. Though it's not a tragedy if you can't read and review a book before publication, that is kind of the point of ARCs and I always feel so guilty if I can't make it happen.

Unsolicited ARCs and review copies.

Once you establish a relationship with a publisher, they will sometimes send you ARCs that you haven't requested - it's unusual, but it does happen if the novel in question is similar to previous books that you've requested. Again, this makes me feel incredibly guilty if I can't read and review it, despite having not asked for it.

Though ARCs are a good marketing tool, I, personally, don't think they're worth it, more often than not. How about you? Do you think ARCs are all they're cracked up to be? Ot do you feel, like me, that they come with too many strings attached?