The pros and cons of requesting advanced reading copies

Stack of advanced reading copies

I just checked my email, and if that’s correct, the last advanced reading copy (ARC) I requested and was approved for was in December 2017 (The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green). It’s obviously been years since then, but I’ve been getting the itch to start requesting more ARCS — probably because I can count at least 9 of my highly anticipated books on NetGalley right now!

But ARCs don’t come without their risks and problems, so I thought I’d write a pros and cons list to help myself decide.

The pros of requesting ARCs

You get to read a book… for free. Because it’s possible to get through books so quickly, it can be nice to not have to pay. Then there’s also no risk of having paid for a book you didn’t enjoy. It would be nice nice to read a book and figure out if I like it before deciding to buy a physical copy for my collection. Though I suppose a library could do that too!

Plus it’s just… incredibly tempting. You see a free book available (legitimately), and it’s hard to pass that up.

It would be cool to be quoted on the back of a book. Is that every reviewer’s dream? Sadly I’ve never made it there; the closest I’ve ever gotten was having my review quoted on the Amazon listing of a book. That was probably back in 2013 and I never made it there again!

You get to read a book ahead of its release date. Honestly I’m not sure why I included this one, because it’s actually not that much of an appeal to me, but I know it appeals to others. Even if you can read ARCs early, you’re still probably always wishing for something that’s not available yet (like a book you know is coming but doesn’t have the ARC out yet). Shrug.

The cons of requesting ARCs

You’re obligated to read the book.* I know that sounds obvious… you request it, you read it, right? But we all know how TBR piles go. I have a ton of ARCs lying around that I haven’t read yet (and probably never will, if I’m honest). Sometimes you can request a book fully intending to read it, but by the time you get approved you’re not really in the mood for it anymore. And maybe you’d be in the mood again a few weeks or months later, but by that time the book might be released and you’ll feel bad about missing that pre-publication window.

*Disclaimer: I know you’re not really “obligated” in the contract sense, but if you request a book there is a certain expectation that you actually intend to read it. You don’t have to read EVERYTHING, but you should read most books. And if you’re like me, you’ll feel guilty if you don’t get to it.

You’re obligated to review the book. (Same disclaimer as above.) I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, but not a lot of reviewing. If I like a book, sometimes I don’t feel like analyzing it; I just want to think “that was amazing” and have that be it. Reviewing books can be a lot of work. And on a similar note…

What if you don’t like the book? I’m a ruthless DNFer, and I fear how that will go down with ARCs. The thing with NetGalley, at least, is that you have a review ratio (how many books that you’ve been approved for you’ve reviewed). It’s important to keep that up. I don’t mind writing a DNF review if I have strong reasons why I didn’t finish it, but sometimes all I really have to say is, “I wasn’t feeling it.” It’s not an objectively bad book, and I don’t have strong opinions, I just didn’t vibe with the book for some inexplicable reason. But that’s not really enough to write a review.

I even saw one reviewer leave a few DNF reviews like this on NetGalley and the publisher actually said something about them writing non-sincere reviews. I think they thought the reviews were just copy pasted to get the ratio up. But sometimes if you DNF, there’s not a lot that’s unique to say about it.

In the past, my NetGalley ratio has always been good. Right now it’s sitting at 94%. But back in my heyday I was reviewing EVERYTHING I read. Whereas these days I’m not reviewing much at all… and it’s kind of nice.

The book isn’t finished yet. I personally don’t mind a few typos here and there, but my biggest frustration is when a book is expecting to have a map, but the map isn’t available yet. I love maps! I love referencing them as I read. I think they can be hugely helpful in imagining the world and journey the characters take. It’s always a big disappointment if they’re not available in the ARC. (Not to mention that if you have an e-ARC that does happen to have a map, they can be basically illegible in ebooks anyway.)

Now that I’m reading this, it certainly seems like the con list is higher! I wonder if that will be enough for me to resist the temptation?

What about you? Do you request ARCs? Can you think of any pros or cons that I missed off?

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I'm a 30-something California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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  1. I agree with all of yours points, both pros and cons. I’ve slowed down on my reviewing a lot for a few reasons but lately it’s bc I’ve been reading a lot of series straight through. I try to get in the first book at least but everything after that just feels like “yeah, it’s still good.” So I’ve cut back on my requests for ARC’s too. I read quickly but if I’m not feeling something, I’m not going to torture myself to get through it. There are too many books that I do enjoy to waste my timeline that. I rarely use NetGalley anymore just Bc I don’t want the hassle of it. After posting to my blog, magazine, Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub (if I remember), that’s just adding even more work.

    Great post.

  2. I’m behind on reviews of my ARCs and my numbers are down – I keep telling myself I can’t get any more until my % is back over 90 but then a book I REALLY want comes along.

    I don’t DNF many, but I’m still frustrated because they DON’T count in your NetGalley reviewed books. And that’s not fair – I would rather say “I didn’t finish it because it really wasn’t clicking” than leave a 2-star review and say “this book was really unreadable.”

    I also can’t stand really messy ARCS – the ones where the words run together or the paragraphs break badly or words break, and they become a struggle to read. Like, if you want my opinion, please make the digital ARC readable.

  3. I agree with everything you said! Very much enjoying reading without reviewing right now (besides the star rating on goodreads). My brain’s not up for any further commitment. I do miss reading/reviewing ARCs sometimes, though!

  4. I agree with all of your points. For me, the pros outweigh the cons. I actually love reviewing books and don’t find it to be as much work as others might. The one thing for me is that I tend to request too many ARCs at a time and then find myself overwhelmed and not knowing what to read. LOL

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