Those of us in the book world sometimes forget just how we got here. Before I started my career as a librarian and before I started writing for Book Riot, if you had asked me how to get books before they’re published, I would’ve shrugged with a grin and told you, “If you find out, let me know.” Pre-published books are cool. It’s even better when they’re free. Many book industry people receive free copies of books before they’re published so they can review, hype, and be knowledgeable for their customers and followers. These pre-publication copies are often called advanced readers’ copies (ARCs) or galleys. There’s a difference between the two, but for our purposes, it doesn’t matter. If you want to be one of the lucky few to know how to get books before they’re published from best chance to lower chances, check out these pathways to pre-publication books.
Attend Conferences/Exhibit Halls
This is the best way how to get books before they’re published. When I went to the Public Library Association conference in March, I came home with something like forty-two ARCs. I totally could’ve taken more, too, if traveling with so many books was practical. I brought a large, empty suitcase anticipating a sweet haul, and boy, did the exhibit hall ever pay off. Conference registration can be pricey, but if there’s a book or library conference near you, it might be worth the cost of an exhibit hall-only pass for the money you’d save on buying the books alone.
Edelweiss and NetGalley
Edelweiss and NetGalley are two databases that allow users to request digital access to books ahead of publication. Both websites require registration before allowing you to view the content. Getting an account approved can depend on your existing activities in the world of books. You’re more likely to be approved if you’re a librarian or otherwise have influence over what people read (blogging counts—sometimes). You’re also more likely to be approved if you leave reviews on the site (this is especially true with NetGalley). Some publishers will even whitelist you according to your influencer position or behavior on the site, meaning you can automatically download titles without going through the requesting process.
When I was looking to get into a public library career, I knew I had to do things to make myself stand out. One of the things I did was sign up to review books for Library Journal and School Library Journal. (These are magazines which libraries and collection development departments subscribe to that inform them about new releases through reviews by librarians. There are other journals like Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, which don’t necessarily require you to be a librarian.) The organization sends you a book on approximately a monthly basis, you read it, review it, and then sometimes later receive a finished copy. Each journal works differently, but Library Journal and School Library Journal tend to send print books.
Friends (Book Sellers, Bloggers, Publishing Employees, Authors, Librarians, Etc.)
If you know an indie bookstore seller or are friends with your local librarian, you might have another in. Those of us who receive a lot of ARCs don’t always have the ability (or interest) to read everything we receive, or might be looking to pass on copies we’re finished with. Librarians will sometimes use ARCs as prizes for summer reading or other events. Book sellers might ask their customers’ opinions on upcoming material to help determine how to stock their store. And author friends may be asked to blurb a title, but might not want to keep it afterward. It can’t hurt to ask those you know if they have copies you can borrow or have.
Ever the danger to our TBRs, Goodreads has taken to doing giveaways to help authors promote books. Sometimes digital, sometimes print, the potential free books are easy to find on the browser site. Simply select the Browse menu, then click on “Giveaways.” Goodreads allows users to select only print or only digital (or both), if you’re only interested in one or the other. You can also sort by those that are ending soon and other useful data. Browse by genre, or sign up to be alerted when there’s a giveaway for a book you’ve shelved. Of course, these are, in a sense, raffles. The chances of winning some books are far higher than others. I’ve entered a few dozen times and have so far only won a single ebook. Good luck! (And if you want an extra shot, try LibraryThing, which does something similar with early review giveaways.)
If you’re a book blogger, you might be in luck. It’s rare, particularly for those just starting out, but if you blog regularly—and especially if you have a niche topic—it’s possible publishers will reach out to you and offer you an advanced readers’ copy of an upcoming book. Written blogs not your thing? Fear not. Bookstagrammers have a place here, too. The more attractive your pictures and the greater the number of your followers, the more likely publishers are to contact you. It’s a long shot, but one you can work on developing.
Those author friends can come in handy, but why not DIY? (Okay, because being published isn’t just like snapping your fingers and it’s done, that’s why.) But, if you are an author, it’s totally possible folks will reach out to you for blurbs on books. They’ll mostly be books that are similar to yours, so be prepared to read a million books about vampires if that’s what you’re writing. Of course, the likelihood of an individual being published is pretty low, so don’t bank on this method (but good luck with your manuscript, if you’re aiming for publication—I’ll be watching for advanced copies of your book).
A Note on Audiobooks
If you’re more of an audiobook person, it’s still possible to receive advanced listeners’ copies. I received a surprise one recently for having interacted with a publisher at the Public Library Association conference. You might also get downloads from publishers through your blog, and once you’ve developed a relationship with a publisher, it doesn’t hurt to ask about audiobooks.
So, now you know how to get books before they’re published. Go forth and read.