Discussion: My Jumbled Thoughts on ARCs (Or, Why I Fail When It Comes To Reading Review Books But Request Them Anyway)

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The other day I was thinking about ARCs. Actually, I wasn’t so much as thinking about them, but rather laying in bed looking at the pile of ARCs and review books that had been staring me down for quite some time.

Can’t you hear them?

“Read me! Read me!” They say, all vying for attention.

(I can already sense that this is going to turn into a bit of an ARC rant. Feel free to tune out as you wish. My thoughts are jumbled. You’ve been warned.)

Now, I used to be one of those people who requested books, accepted all review requests, signed up for tours — ALL of it. But lately, I find myself just wanting to accept/request books that I am super, super interested in. In fact, the last few ARCs I’ve accepted (the first two of the year) have been:

to all the boys i've lovedthe geography of you and me

Both books that I am DESPERATE to read. But while I really want to read these ones, I find it so hard to stay off of sites like NetGalley or Eidelweiss, and before I know it I’ll be saddled with WAY too many books that I just can’t keep up and then I lose interest. And usually they’re books that look good, but not necessarily ones that I’m super, super interested in.

Darn you, NetGalley!

Does anyone else find that eARCs are horrible? I mean, the books are great and all, but as I look over, I can SEE the books on my shelf waiting to be read, and I can SEE the pile go down as I read them. Not so much with eARCs. I think I’m most productive with them if I’m signed up for a tour or something, rather than just requesting everything and anything that looks good on NetGalley (to let you in on my NetGalley Shelf of Shame stats, I’m pretty sure I have a page and a half of listings of requested — but not yet reviewed — ARCs from 2013. Fail, I know.).

Am I the only person who’s like this? I know I have to get to them sometime, but it’s almost like I feel some kind of lesser amount of obligation when I’m not directly dealing with someone on the other end, like I am when a publisher sends out their quarterly offerings or emails me directly about a review. With those, I can definitely buckle down and read the darn book. But electronic ones? I am SO lazy with them.

I certainly love it when I can deal with a publisher and I think having that one-on-one contact makes me more likely to read a book, but then there’s something else that happens occasionally that I have NO idea what to do with:

The unsolicited book.

I remember a few years ago I received an unsolicited review book and reading the synopsis it was all about a love triangle. Like, that was the whole POINT of the book. I gave it away and wondered if whoever sent it knew me at all since I tend to LOATHE love triangles. I have in my review policy that I’m not under obligation to review unsolicited review copies and have received a few in the past years — I believe I’ve read maybe one out of ten. Sometimes they’re AWESOME books, and other times they’re books I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.

I also have it written in my policy that if you’re going to send me the second book (or third or fourth) in a series, that I’d like to have the other ones because, really, who just starts a series by reading the second book? The other day a publisher sent me the second book in a series I have no idea about. I’m so grateful that they thought that kindly of me to send me another book on top of the one I requested, but now I have no idea what to do with it. Am I obligated to review it? Do I have to go out and buy the first book? What do I do?!?

I don’t want this post to come across as me sounding ungrateful and whiney — what I’m really trying to get at is the fact that ARCs are confusing. It’s so easy to get swallowed up in the whole idea of getting to read a book before it’s released, but I do think that we need to be smart about it.

Here are some of my golden rules for 2014 when it comes to ARCs and review books:

  1. Request and accept only the books that I’m truly interested in, rather than being a greedy monster. If that means staying OFF of places like NetGalley and Eidelweiss.
  2. Unsubscribe from tour newsletters. I don’t need that kind of temptation.
  3. Try and get my butt around to reading and reviewing the darn books rather than letting them collect dust.
  4. Attempt to review ONE review book a week on the blog. At least, try and stay on top of the 2014 books I’ve requested. THAT much I can do.

Now, has anyone seen my dustbuster?

What are your thoughts on ARCs and review books? Are you as confused as I am? Do you make silly decisions when it comes to requesting books and how do YOU stay on top of readings these books — or, DO you stay on top of reading them, or are you like me and fail most of the time?

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31 thoughts on “Discussion: My Jumbled Thoughts on ARCs (Or, Why I Fail When It Comes To Reading Review Books But Request Them Anyway)

  1. Having recently set up a new blog after I got burned out with my last one, I know this temptation all too well. I was the same way when I started–I just accepted, read, and signed up for everything. And I think that, in large part, is why I got burned out with my first blog, and why I ended up taking such a long break from blogging. This time around, I’m trying to be smart about it. I have signed up for NetGalley, and I have a list of books from there that I have to read. When I first signed up for that, I requested a dozen books, most of which I still have to read. So even though I am SORELY tempted to get on and request ALL the shiny new reads, I’m telling myself that I’m not going to until I get more caught up. So far, I’m doing pretty well with it, but I understand what you mean–it can be overwhelming.

    • That’s great that you’re doing better! That’s how I was like when I started, requesting EVERYTHING. It’s such an easy way to get burned out. Hopefully you can stick to your plan!

  2. I have not and will not sign up for NetGalley or Eidleweiss because I can barely handle the (small) amount of review books and ARCs I get directly from publishers! And I think I would feel the same way you do – one of the things I love about book blogging is building relationships with people in the publishing world. I love that NeWest Press recommends books for me – not just whatever they’re pushing this season, but books they really think I’d like.

    I’ve thought about pursuing some “big name” ARCs or review books (new Emma Donoghue and Heather O’Neill to be specific) but I’m kind of scared off by some big publisher’s policies – I saw one where they want you to review the book within two weeks of receiving. Like – what if I’m reading something already? Or the kids get sick or something? I don’t need that kind of pressure! Same issue with The Afterword Society, which I think is a really cool idea, but the timelines are WAY too short for me. I can read pretty quick but I often need days or weeks, sometimes even months to process what I want to say about a book.

    Unsolicitied books – never received a physical copy. Ebooks I pretty much ignore.

    I completely understand the allure and the conflict of ARCs though. I actually told myself NO MORE this year till I catch up but just accepted two more in the last week, but neither come with a deadline and I’m not imposing one on myself. They’ll get read and reviewed eventually… when I feel like it!

    • I already suck with the timelines some publishers give. Two weeks after receiving just doesn’t work for me! And I’m such a mood reader that I might rate the book lower based on enjoyment because I just wasn’t in the mood to read it. It’s great to build relationships with publishers! I’ve only done one NeWest Press book, but I really liked it. Might have to try another soon!

  3. I only get eARCs because I don’t have physical room, but I have to make a list of what I have to read otherwise review books will get buried. And since the birth of my third tiny human I only request books I really, really, really want to read. In general I like eARCs, though.

  4. I am coming back to this because I had to think about it!

    Let me start with this: This year I am very different than in the past. I will only request books from authors or series that I am already reading! I just have too many unread eArcs that I never got too and I want to start knocking them out 🙂

    Previously–I seriously go click happy in NetGalley and Edelweiss. It was crazy stupid of me but true!

  5. I’ve amassed quite the pile of e-ARCs already for 2014! It’s crazy to me how often I get approved for review copies on NG or EW, and I often underestimate how often I read and what I’m in the mood for. I’ve officially decided to STOP requesting books after this week — at least until I knock out all the remaining NG books I have (which is definitely doable). Great guidelines for yourself regarding ARCs though! And good luck 🙂

    • It’s the mood thing that gets me all the time … I’ll request something and if I don’t read it right away, I find that I can never get in the mood to read it. Maybe if I had less books on my shelf staring me down wanting to get read …

  6. Since all of our publisher contacts are American, only a few of them are willing to send physical ARCs to me, so I’ve pretty much stopped requesting them, or I respond with a “Yes, but I’m in Canada.” So I have to rely on Netgalley and Edelweiss a lot, which isn’t too bad (plus, I don’t have the shelf space for paper ARCs), except I need to connect my reader to my comp for EW and it wipes out all the old eARCs I haven’t read yet. (I’ve already spotted an upcoming problem, of needing to transfer an April EW ARC but still having tons of old review eARCs I haven’t gotten around to yet. Book blogger problems haha)

    I review ARCs on a weekly basis, and I have schedules and spreadsheets to keep track of that. I do have a bit of a hoarding problem haha so I’m trying to limit myself to request/accept ARCs no more than however many review spots I have available for the month. I’m doing well so far this year, but I also still have books from last fall that haven’t even read!

    I’ve also started prioritizing books I haven’t requested but I’d grab them if they were available — like a backup wish list. If an unsolicited book happens to be on that list, AWESOME. If not, I’ll have to decide if it’s worth giving up what I have my eye on for it. (Of course, I also have a few unsolicited books that I haven’t reviewed yet too… )

    Whoops, this became long-winded haha.. but basically, I’m usually preeeetty good with reviewing ARCs for books that haven’t been published yet. But if I haven’t by a week or so after its release date, it takes me a looooong time to play catch-up.

    • That’s great that you can prioritize your books! I had done that for a while and it really worked, but now that I don’t have ALL the time to read, I’d rather just read what strikes my fancy. I do wish that I’d get unsolicited books that I actually wanted to read, but sometimes that’s just not the case. That’s great that you’re good with reviewing ARCs … I wish I had your ability! 🙂

  7. I had to stop taking them in years ago when I came to a kind of blogging crisis and wasn’t reading or blogging very often (I was at a much bigger, solely book focused blog back then). Then I had my oldest and my reading went down even more. I’m to the point where my reading time is so limited that I just want to read what I want to read. Occasionally I’ll request a book or accept one but more often than not it just sits on my shelf. I have purposely never looked at netgalley. I’ll just happily enjoy my backlist, thankyouverymuch. 😉

    • That’s how I’m getting to be. I do have reading time but now I find that I don’t want to read all the time when my guy is napping. I’ll watch a TV show or clean the kitchen or just look at things on the internet. It’s not as high a priority as I thought it would be.

  8. I pretty much fail most of the time. I turn into a little requesting-monster when I go onto NetGalley or Edelweiss, though I’ve been doing better lately.
    The unread books from my shelves are staring at me accusingly while I read all these books I’ve requested…

  9. I was actually pretty good at only requesting books that I really wanted to read. That and keeping it to a manageable number, at least at the end of my blogging days..lol I tend to avoid NetGalley and never signed up on Edeleiss. I always found that I was much more likely to read the eArcs in a timely manner because I would download them onto my Kobo, which of course meant I now had a time limit to read them, so I’d get right on that..lol

    • That’s so true! I always send them to my Kindle and then my Kindle dies … it’s funny because everyone said I’d use my ereader a lot more after a baby, but I’ve only read one ebook this year. When a feeding lasts only 5 minutes, I don’t have time for more than one page!

      • James has a couple of fussy hours a day in the evening (blah) where he just wants to be carried while you walk, so I walk around with my ereader and read that way. I have read 3 ebooks in the past week and only 2 chapters of my Harry Potter book that I’m on 😛

      • You’re doing awesome! I’ve read lots of graphic novels in the past while and have been working on the same book for a week. It’s a long one though!

  10. I didn’t used to struggle with eARCs but I have started to for some reason >.> I’d like to think that it’s because I’m getting accepted for more than I used to, but I’m pretty sure that’s not true, haha. I don’t feel so bad about prioritizing physical arcs over earcs though since I’m pretty sure the physical arc cost more for the publisher to send ya know? I could be wrong and would be really interested in someone who actually knows about these things, but it seems likely ;-).

    I’m setting a couple of rules for myself. I already have the rule of generally sticking to traditionally published, big six books since then I at least know the quality is likely to be high. There are a couple of smaller pubs that I trust, so I review for them as well. I’m trying to only request books that I’m actually excited for (ie knew about them before seeing them on NG/EW), but that is only being mildly successful. I’ve now started trying to avoid NG and EW, but that makes me worry that I’ll miss the request window for a book I really really wanted to read ya know?

    • I used to accept LOTS of books but yeah, I try to stick to just certain publishers lately. AND only accepting a few a month, if that. I still have TONS of galleys to catch up on, but at least I’m not just making it worse.

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  13. I only request a few books from Netgalley because I feel shy when I get approved for a book and I don’t feel like reviewing it. But I have a lot of unread books that I have yet to touch. *shame*

    • I’m terribe with NetGalley in that way … in the moment I feel like I want to read the book, but then it goes neglected. I’m better with my physical books, but still some sit neglected.

  14. I had to unsubscribe to tour newsletter – I just couldn’t keep up with anything else and I was getting too stressed out about it. I’m got much better at reducing my print ARCs but I just can’t help myself on NetGalley – it’s something about how you can’t see them physically piling up. I still have a bunch of 2013 ones as well and they make me feel so guilty some times.

    • I’ve unsubscribed from lots of tour newsletters. I feel like if I don’t see them, I won’t get tempted to sign up. I’d rather just relax and do my own thing. I think it can also get to a point where it seems like all the blogs are posting the same thing at the same time and to me that’s a little annoying.

  15. Oh NetGalley or Edelweiss. I get on and think, “Oo that looks good… oo that one looks good too!” About 30 min and 35 clicks later I have a major galley hangover and clickers remorse! I can’t even tell you how many books I have from 2013 and 2014.. oof. I always read the physical copies first and then move to earcs. As for unsolicited books that get sent with your requested ones? If I am interested, I read them or get the rest of the series from the library. If not, I just pass them on in a giveaway. 🙂

    • Passing on books you’re not interested in as a giveaway is a great idea! I always tend to leave them on my shelf thinking that one day I’ll get to them … I’m so terrible for overclicking on NetGalley! I was on there the other day and was impressed with myself for not clicking on anything!

My home is where my books are. - Ellen Thompson

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