One of the most frequent questions I get from other book influencers in the community is “how do you get books from publishers?” There’s this idea that it’s some big secret that only a select few know when that’s really not the case. The short version? There’s no secret. It comes down to persistence and a bit of luck. So let’s chat.
Due to the length and level of detail on this post, please refer to the Table of Contents for quick navigation.
Table of Contents
- Requesting Books/ARCs for Review
- Next Steps
- Questions? Comments?
First, I will be defining book influencer as anyone with a platform who is talking about and promoting books. This ranges from book bloggers to bookstagrammers, booktubers and booklrs, etc.
Second, you will often see me refer to ARCs or Advance Reader Copies. You may also see these listed as AREs, DRCs, and eARCs (which refers to an electronic/eBook version). These are copies of the book that go out to reviewers (trade and independent), bookstores, librarians, and other industry professionals to elicit early reviews and promotion for the book. Not every book gets an ARC, especially if it’s a later book in a series, and not every book gets physical/print ARCs.
A few disclaimers. . .
First, I am by no means an expert, nor claim to be, when it comes to receiving books and working with publishing houses. I have been a book reviewer since 2011 and have had varying degrees of success in requesting and receiving review copies over the years. Publishing is constantly changing and how book influencers fit in those changes shifts with it.
And on that note, this content is based on MY experiences as a book influencer, no one else’s. You might see information that contradicts what you have experienced or heard somewhere else. THAT’S OKAY! I can’t speak for anyone but myself, nor do I wish to try to, so this will be just one of many perspectives.
Finally, and this is the big one I want to get out of the way now:
If you want to be a book influencer just to get free ARCs/books, this post is NOT for you. And there are a few reasons. What we do is work, whether you’re a blogger, bookstagrammer, booktuber, maybe a combination of those, doesn’t matter. It’s a lot of work. And if you’re just doing this for the free stuff, you’re going to burn out. You have to love what you do, and having a platform isn’t a guarantee that you’ll receive books.
Publishing is a business.
Being a book influencer is a hobby.
While you can make some money as a book influencer, with things like affiliate sales and the like, I doubt you’ll bring in enough to make it a full-time job. Keep that in mind when working with publishers and authors. They’re looking to make sales and will look at your platform in terms of what potential sales it might generate. But you’re just as important in this equation and it’s okay to turn a book down or not participate in a promotional tour if you don’t have the time or energy.
With that said, let’s dive in!
NOTE: This guide is assuming that you at least have ONE platform where you talk about books (blog, instagram, twitter, YouTube, etc.). It’s okay if you haven’t been doing it very long.
Building Up Your Platform Stats
You may hear other people say not to worry about your stats, to not let numbers define your platform. And they’re not wrong. The minute you start basing your choices off stats and nothing else, when you start comparing yourself to other platforms, is the minute things go downhill.
Requesting Books is a Numbers Game
But stats are not inherently bad and publishers often want to know how large your platform is when you request a book or place on a promotional campaign (blog tour, etc). So let’s start with the numbers.
Let’s build up those stats!
I’ve read post after post from other bloggers who talk about how you get ARCs and one thing that’s always consistent is your blog stats. Your follower count, monthly blog views, blog visitors. You’re not a good investment if you don’t have any followers and no one is engaging with you online. There is no set amount of blog views or followers you need to reach before you start requesting ARCs (though a general guiding number is around 1,000 followers). But it’s a good idea to build up your following for a few months or so first!
Each publishing house may operate differently and have different minimum numbers they want met before they’ll consider your request. Often these are not available to the public so please don’t get discouraged if you’re declined for a title. It doesn’t mean you can’t receive a book in the future!
But how do you create a following?
Like most aspects of being a book influencer, there is no one way to gain a following so you have to decide what works for YOU and go from there! Generally, all methods come down to 4 basic steps:
- Post content (regularly). This doesn’t mean you have to post every day, but I also wouldn’t suggest only posting once a month. Find a balance in your posting schedule for what works for you.
- Promote your content online (the more platforms, the more potential readers/followers). This does NOT mean you have to be on every single major social media platform! But cross-posting is a great way to catch all different kinds of readers and often you can automate some of them so it’s easier on you!
- Network with people in the book community. Yes, I’m saying you should talk with people! Interact with other readers, get to know them, chat about books!
- BE GENUINE! Biggest one right here. Be genuine. Be yourself. You can’t truly fake it ’til you make it in this community.
Post content regularly
Whether you’re creating new content or re-sharing previous posts, keep your platform active! For bloggers, this might be posting a few times a week and sharing those posts on social media. For bookstagrammers, maybe you’re posting 1-3 times a day or every other day. Whatever you decide works for you, try to keep up with it BUT don’t restrict yourself so much that you burn out. REMEMBER THIS IS A HOBBY.
Bookstagrammers: This is especially important due to the instagram algorithm. Taking random breaks between posting can decrease your engagement on future posts before it builds back up again so keep that in mind. Generally posting at least once a day can keep things going without too much damage.
It can also be helpful to find an organizational system that works for you. Something to keep track of posts. In the past, I’ve personally used Google Calendar, a spreadsheet, the built-in WordPress editorial calendar, and a planner (which is what I currently use). Having a system in place can help keep everything on track, especially if you participate in any sort of promotional tour, you’re a rep for a business, etc.
Struggling to think of what to talk about?
Here are a few ideas!
★ Book Reviews
The great thing about being a book influencer is that you never need ARCs to do it. You can review anything you read whether it came from the bookstore, the library, a friend, etc. Start building up an archive of book reviews that have already released. This is also a great time to figure out your reviewing style, if you haven’t already, as well as what kinds of books you want to read and talk about. Book reviews can be posted on any platform too!
★ Weekly Memes/Hashtags
What the heck is a weekly meme post? These are regular features, usually hosted by one or two people, where you share content based on the meme or provided prompt. Often, the host will offer a place to add your post link (more common with blog memes) which can provide your blog with additional page views and a way to connect with the community.
There are lots of weekly post memes floating around and while I don’t recommend doing every single one, you can pick and choose the ones you like. Examples include Top Ten Tuesdays, Waiting on Wednesdays, Stacking up Saturdays, etc.
On social media, you have a ton of weekly hashtags to pick from too! Share a bookish map on #MapMonday, join a weekly/monthly photo challenge, join fun tags like #FolkloreThursday on Twitter, etc. Take your pick and find something that interests you!
★ Discussion Posts
Feel strongly about a topic related to books or fandoms or anything else related to your platform? WRITE ABOUT IT. Discussion posts are great ways for your audience to interact with you, and you might find more people that share your opinion on something! The best part? You can post a discussion on any platform!
But be warned. Social media sites like Twitter allow for easy conversation but you’re limited by the 280 character count (you can use this site to check and see if your tweet will be too long ahead of time!). Instagram also has a character limit for the caption but it’s longer. If you’re looking to start a discussion, social media is a great tool. If you need a bit more space to express your thoughts and ideas, a blog post or video might be better suited.
One thing I’ve personally found useful is keeping a list of ideas in my planner whenever I think of something. That way, when I don’t have more content to post or feel creatively stuck, I can pull an idea from that list!
★ Social Media
If you haven’t done so already, get involved with the book community on social media. You’re going to want to build up a following on at least one platform and it’s a great way to share out those posts you’ve been working on. Plus, the community is fantastic and getting to know the other book lovers out there is HIGHLY beneficial.
You’ll find the book community is really involved on several different media platforms but the ones I hear about the most include Twitter, Instagram (fondly called “bookstagram” by those who talk about books), and Tumblr. You don’t have to be involved on every single platform but become familiar with them and what each can offer a book influencer in terms of reaching out to readers and talking books.
Good platforms to look at include:
- Facebook (specifically setting up a Facebook Page)
Personal Tip: Sign up for an account on all the major platforms with your platform handle. Do you have to use it? No, but you’ll have it if you ever change your mind AND anyone who follows you who wants to tag you on another platform can do so easily.
Social media ties right into the next step. . .
Promote Your Content Online
It’s all well and good to have a platform but you need to share your content too! Social media has built-in sharing, to a degree, so if you’re sticking strictly to a platform like instagram, you don’t have to do much. But the farther your reach goes online and the more you share, the better your stats are overall.
The best part? You can automate most of it to at least get minimal coverage.
I’d like to introduce you to a fabulous little site called IFTTT (If This, Then That). This website allows you to set up “applets” which are tasks that it carries out based on certain conditions.
For example, I use IFTTT to automatically cross-post every photo I share on Instagram to my other social media pages, including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest. The applet runs regularly and every time it sees I shared a new photo, it will share it and I don’t have to do anything else.
You can use it to share blog posts to your social media pages, save files to Google Drive, email you the weather each morning, the possibilities are pretty endless. Additionally, you can make your own custom applets but you can also simply use any of the ones available on the website (and there are a LOT).
It’s a free website to use and you can connect one account for each platform to it.
★ Schedule your content in advance
Another great tool is the power to schedule your content on the different platforms. Most social media and blogging platforms have some sort of scheduling capability either through their native site or a third party.
☑ WordPress/Blogger. You can simply pick a time and day that you want your post to go live and schedule it in your post editor.
If you are on WordPress, I highly recommend the Editorial Calendar plug-in. It makes moving post drafts around and creating new ones in the calendar view super easy.
☑ Twitter. To schedule tweets, Tweetdeck is a Twitter-specific website that allows you to not only schedule tweets, but also track hashtags (great for Twitter chats), manage multiple accounts and tweet from them in one window, and more. See below for more platforms that work with Twitter.
☑ Instagram. There are all sorts of apps available right now for Instagram management. Platform-specific ones include Preview (my personal favorite), Later, and Plann. There are a lot of others out there so I recommend searching around to find the best one for you. See below for more.
You can schedule posts with a Personal instagram account but they will not automatically post (you will receive a push notification). If you want your posts to automatically post, you will need to change to a Business account, which also gives you access to analytics for the best time to post, etc. To have a Business account, you need a Facebook page to connect it with.
☑ Tumblr. This platform has a built-in queue where you can set how many times you want it to post (up to 50) as well as between which hours of the day. There is a queue limit of 300 posts (I believe) at once, and the queue can include reblogs as well as original posts.
☑ Pinterest. Currently, there aren’t any FREE options to schedule pins for pinterest (that I’m aware of, at least). The most popular option is Tailwind but that requires a subscription.
MULTI-PLATFORM SCHEDULING TOOLS
Not only are there lots of platform-specific tools to use to schedule your content, you can also take advantage of a few that work with multiple platforms:
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest (paid)
You are limited to 10 scheduled posts per account (1 account allowed for each platform) at any given time. Buffer allows scheduling content for a specific time/date as well as provides the option to set up a queue for each of your platforms to post over a period of time.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
The free plan allows for 2 social profiles and 30 scheduled messages. There are additional paid plans available.
Personal Tip: I use Buffer with IFTTT.com so my posts auto-share to my Buffer feed and then post throughout the day rather than immediately to reach a different audience (ex. I share a blog post in the morning but it won’t share on Facebook until late afternoon to reach new readers).
Network with the Community
Of all the ways to start building up your platform stats, I think networking is the most important. Interact with other book influencers and readers, with authors, with publishers. Social media is a great way to connect to a lot of people in one place. Go comment on other blogs. Share posts you found interesting. The community tends to pay it forward on its own. This isn’t the kind of hobby where you can do everything on your own. Connections can make a BIG difference, I don’t even mean connections with publishers, but simply making friends with other reviewers.
As always, make sure you are being respectful of others when interacting. Don’t tag authors on a negative review. Don’t demand books from publishers (via social media, email, any platform). Don’t leave nasty comments because you disagree with someone.
Your platform is a hobby but an author or publisher isn’t going to want to work with you if you’re disrespectful to others. Nor will other book lovers want to interact with you. I emphasize this because I have seen a LOT of hate and disrespect over the years in the community. The majority of people are absolutely lovely so don’t be the exception!
This is the one thing I can’t give any advice on but is probably the most important.
Be yourself. When you share your passion for books, rather than parroting what you THINK people want to hear, you’re going to enjoy being a book influencer so much more and others will enjoy following you. There are enough genuine and fake people out there that we can tell when you’re the latter.
Be genuine, and the rest will follow in time.
Okay, take a deep breath.
That was a lot, I know. Does it mean you have to use every single I said in order to build a platform up? Absolutely not! All that information is there for you to pick and choose what you think might help YOU succeed in your endeavors. Whether that’s simply talking books, working with publishers, whatever the case, I’m only here to offer some insight from one perspective!
The second portion of this post deals primarily with requesting Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of books.
Requesting Books/ARCs for Review
So my stats are pretty good. Now what?
You’re feeling pretty good about your current blog stats. You’re interacting with your new friends and followers. Everything’s looking great! But now you want to get out there are start reviewing some ARCs. But it’s important to remember one thing:
ARCS ARE AN OBLIGATION
When you receive an ARC, you are not required to review it. The law isn’t going to come down on you if you don’t or anything like that. HOWEVER, the publisher decided that you were a good choice to receive that ARC, and ARCs are meant to be read, to be promoted. They are not just free copies of a book that you should hoard and never do anything with. So think about a few things before requesting a title:
- Do I want to read this book? Don’t request a book just because it’s popular.
- Do I think I will like this book? You may not in the end but if it sounds like you’ll enjoy it your reading experience has a better chance of being a positive one.
- Can I commit to reading and reviewing this book right now? Don’t go request-crazy if you know you don’t really have the time to dedicate to the books.
Alright, I understand.
BUT HOW DO I GET THEM?!
A great way to get started with ARCs is to request electronic ARCs, or e-ARCs. You can do that on websites like NetGalley and Edelweiss, where publishers will post books available to either request or read now (meaning you can simply download the book to read without approval).
If you are newer to reviewing, it tends to be easier to get approved for eARCs compared to print ARCs so these can be great options to get on a publisher’s radar.
Of the two, NetGalley is probably the easiest to navigate and a great place to start for reviewers. There are a few things you’ll want to do before you start requesting:
- Make an account
- Complete your profile
- Your bio is where you can talk about who you are, what you review, as well as WHERE you review online and what your current stats are (monthly views, followers, etc)
- Don’t forget to list your social media pages!
- Add your Kindle email (if you have one) – trust me, it makes life a LOT easier
- Select the genres you like
Once you have everything set up, you can go Find Titles and explore! NetGalley breaks the books up by genre so you can search by that or do a specific search for a particular title. You can also look at books available for request or available to read now.
☑ Available for Request titles mean that you will need the publisher’s approval before you can access that book. You can either be approved or denied. If you are approved, the book will appear on your Shelf and you will be able to download it, as well as provide feedback.
☑ Read Now titles are ones you can download without publisher approval. These can be a great way to give yourself a bit of credibility as a NetGalley reviewer.
Make sure to only request books that are approved for your location (US, UK, AUS, etc) as a publisher may not be able to approve your request from outside of that country for legal reasons. These are noted on each book’s page with the country’s flag and a label.
☑ Wish for It! For some titles, you won’t see a request button but, instead, a Wish for It! button. Publishers will randomly grant wishes to reviewers and sometimes they will announce it on social media, sometimes they don’t. These titles are not available for request in the usual method.
The Feedback Ratio
On your account page you’ll see a feedback ratio listed and the NetGalley recommendation of 80%. This number is how often you provide feedback in comparison to how many books you’ve been approved for. It’s a good idea to keep this number pretty high by reviewing books as soon as you can. A higher ratio can mean better chances at getting approved for titles.
But don’t go request-crazy!
NetGalley makes it REALLY easy to request eARCs. Too easy, sometimes. It can be tempting to request a lot at once but, remember, if you get approved for those books they’re going to bring that feedback ratio down unless you can get to all of them.
Edelweiss can be a bit tricky and often times it is easier to request through NetGalley if the book you’re looking for is on both (this is not always the case). Once more, you’ll want to set up an account and fill out your profile.
When you go to request, you’ll see that Edelweiss has books To Request and To Download that work much like NetGalley’s requesting and “read now”. You’ll have the option to either place your request, which requires filling out a small form, or download a title using the button to the far right of its box.
Once more, publishers will need to approve any request you make before you have access to a particular title. But one thing Edelweiss DOES have is access to publisher catalogs which is a great way to see what books are coming up.
Now I know this is probably what you were really excited about, right? How to get those coveted ARCs you see people post about online. I’ll tell you now that who you know definitely helps but it’s also a fair amount of luck. I’ve had publicists recognize me from my social media accounts and I’ve been contacted by imprints I’ve never heard of before. You never know sometimes.
But let’s say there’s a particular book you REALLY want to read and review on your blog. There are a few steps to take.
#1 – Figure out what publishing house & imprint the book is from.
You can usually find this on Goodreads.
“Imprints” are smaller divisions of a larger publishing house. For example, Balzar + Bray is a children’s/teen imprint of HarperCollins. You can find out which imprint belongs to which publishing house with a quick search online.
Additionally, you may see imprints grouped together like FierceReads which includes the children’s/teen imprints of Feiwel & Friends, Imprint, Swoon Reads, and more. Those imprints are a part of the larger Macmillan publishing house but may also be shared through the FierceReads website and social pages.
#2 – Locate the publicity contact for that publisher.
Now this is likely where you got stuck. An easy way to find these general publicity emails is to check the contact or media pages of the publishers in question. Some may have forms instead, so you may have to submit your requests through those instead of via email. I’ve included a list of LINKS below to the contact pages of some of the big ones.
I say links and not emails because you might not be a young adult reviewer reading this, you may want to contact a smaller imprint, and so on. This way you can determine which email is the best one to contact.
UPDATE: I put together a big list of general publicity contacts for you to use as a reference! It includes INTERNATIONAL contacts but only what I was able to find so please note that it is not a COMPLETE list. But it’s a good start.
Not sure which publishing house the imprint is in? Google is a great help for that. I also recommend making a spreadsheet or document with which imprint is under which publishing house. This way you have a quick reference and it will save you a lot of time.
Already have a contact for the imprint you’re requesting from?
A contact would be someone who may have responded to your previous email(s) about a book. You can also sometimes find a publicist’s contact information on the back of physical ARCs. If you already have someone within the imprint you have established a working relationship with, then send those requests to that person.
Personal Tip: When you request books from NetGalley and are approved, you will receive an email informing you of that approval (usually the subject line starts with “Your request to view BOOK TITLE from PUBLISHER”).
The sender email will show “firstname.lastname@example.org” BUT if you click to see more about the sender (on Gmail, click the arrow next to “to me”), under the “Reply-To” field you can sometimes find a specific email to send your review to. One way to start a working relationship with an imprint is emailing your NetGalley reviews to them as well as submitting them through the NetGalley platform.
PLEASE NOTE that not every approval will have an email to send to, nor should you abuse this option as it may have a negative effect on future chances. It’s just to get your foot in the door.
#3 – Email your request!
Hopefully at this point you have an email either dedicated to your blog or at least one that isn’t from 6th grade that you’d be embarrassed to share with anyone else. So make sure to use that. But what to include?
Generally, my introductory emails include:
- Who I am and where I talk about books (YOUR PLATFORM)
- What kinds of books I read (brief summary)
- The book I’m interested in (I include the TITLE, AUTHOR, and RELEASE DATE)
- WHY I’m interested in it (doesn’t have to be a long explanation)
- If you’ve reviewed previous books in the series or by that author and enjoyed them, link them here too!
- My blog stats (follower count, monthly views)
- My mailing address and email for NetGalley/Edelweiss (if you’re under 18 please check with your parents about sending your mailing address out to publishers)
- A thank you!
Make sure you proofread your emails!!
These emails don’t need to be very long. Just enough to tell the publicist who you are, what you want from them, and why you’d be a good fit for that book.
Publicists are busy people! They don’t need to read an essay in their inbox. Be polite. Be concise. And don’t be afraid to share your excitement for a book (in a professional manner).
Email Request Template
Disclaimer: This is just one potential email format in case you need a starting point.
Hello! (<– if you know who you’re emailing, use their name instead!)
My name is [INSERT NAME] and I blog/review [SPECIFIC GENRE/AGE GROUP] books at [PLATFORM], which has [TOTAL FOLLOWERS, rounded] and receives [MONTHLY VIEWS/REACH/etc]. I’m writing to you to request a review copy for the following title(s):
- TITLE by AUTHOR (releases RELEASE DATE)
I’m really excited about this book because… [ADD YOUR REASON] and think my platform would be a good fit for it because… [REASON].
If you’ve reviewed previous books in the series or by the author, you can include those here!
I accept print and electronic review copies [change to fit your preference] and have included my mailing address below for your convenience. My NetGalley/Edelweiss email is [INSERT YOUR EMAIL].
[ADD YOUR ADDRESS] (It’s always a good idea to include this in the initial request email if you want physical ARCs so the publicist doesn’t have to hunt for it)
Thank you for your time and consideration.
In the signature, you can link to your social media pages, if any, and also include a breakdown of your stats by platform (followers per account, views, etc) if you want to justify your total follower number.
#4 – The Waiting
Once you’ve completed the first 3 steps…. you wait. You might receive a response. You might just receive the book in the mail. You might get both. You might get nothing. Personally, I’ve had better luck with some publishers compared to others. It’s a matter of time, patience, and persistence.
You’ve built up your platform. You’ve started requesting books for review. NOW WHAT?!
write those Book Reviews!
If you are approved for any electronic ARCs or receive a physical advance copy of a book in the mail, make sure to review it!
☑ Pay attention to the imprint’s guidelines about when to share your review. The common answer is to share your review no more than 30 days prior to the release date of the book. Some imprints specific no more than 1-2 weeks beforehand. You can sometimes find these guidelines on NetGalley on the imprint’s page. If you can’t find a response or are not told, the 30-day rule is usually safe to follow.
☑ Make sure to email your review and/or submit it to NetGalley/Edelweiss. Don’t forget to post your review through NetGalley/Edelweiss for electronic ARCs or email the publicist/general publicity email the link to your review.
Personal Tip: You can add a review for ANY book on Edelweiss, even if you haven’t been approved for a review copy. If you are reviewing other books on your platform, you can add those reviews on Edelweiss which may improve your chances of a future approval (no guarantee).
☑ Keep track of which books you have for review! This is really useful once you start reviewing more books and for different imprints (should you choose to do so).
I created a Tracking Template spreadsheet for keeping all of your review titles (as well as your publicity contacts) in order for easy reference. Feel free to use it, or use the layout for inspiration, whatever works best for you!
Personal Tip: Eventually you may reach the point where you receive an UNSOLICITED book for review or coverage (i.e. you didn’t request it). If you’re not sure how to handle that, you can check out this post for more information on a few options!
Keep Creating Content!
If you love talking books, keep on doing it! Your platform will grow over time and you may receive more opportunities as it does. Either way, this is a great community to be a part of!
You stuck it out through ALL THAT. Congrats!
I hope that you found at least some of this guide helpful for your future book influencer endeavors. Now I’d like to open things up to you for questions or comments, what you’re still not sure about or could improve this guide further.
If you liked this guide, I’d appreciate it if you shared it on social media or pinned it on Pinterest!
And keep scrolling if you want to ask additional questions or leave a comment!