Feral Friday - What to do with ARCs

Hi everyone! It has been awhile, but I have had a lot of bookish thoughts and questions running through my head lately, so I thought it was time to bring back Feral Friday!

Feral Friday is were I discuss a topic, issue or question that is drives me crazy. So here is the latest issue that is sending me feral.

ARCs - What do you do with them?

What are bloggers allowed to do with ARCs/proof copies that they have finished with or are not going to read?

This is a question that I have thought about often, and after Kelly from Diva Booknerd asked about it on Twitter the other day, I thought I would bring it up again (and Kelly is also putting in her 2 cents worth).

I love receiving ARCs - who doesn’t? But I never quite know what to do with them after I have read them. And here is why:

I buy finished copies of ARCs that I read. I am extremely thankful to publishers who send me ARCs or proofs, but I like to have finished copies for two reasons - they are often prettier, and I like to say thank you to that publisher (and author) by spending my money on their product.

I know that not everyone does this… most of us don’t have money to throw around (I don’t either) but I do like to support the authors and Aussie publishing industry. I have no judgement on those who don’t buy finished copies, this is just my personal preference.

Buying a finished copy is also A MUST when it comes to a series - I am very fussy when it comes to matching sets, so therefore an ARC could never sit on my shelf next to its finished product siblings. I just can’t do it.

Since I have some specific requirements when it comes to my bookshelf, this results in having ARCs sitting around doing nothing.

And then there is the issue of unsolicited ARCS received that I know I will not read. I am sure that many bloggers have received an unsolicited ARCs that they will just never read, this could be because it does not appeal to them (for any number of reasons), they don’t have the time or because it is book #2, 3, 4 etc of a series they have not started. The latter is one that really makes me feel bad. I feel ridiculously guilty when I receive a book that is a part of a series that I haven’t read, and while this book sits on the shelf knowing it will never be opened, there are people out there who desperately want to read it! This makes me feel totally horrible!! I know from before blogging that there were times when I could nearly cry when I knew someone received a highly anticipated sequel and they would not read it. It upset me to think that someone out there had something I wanted so desperately and it was only just going to collect dust. It felt unjust and unfair, and surely that must be breaking some kind of book-loving law. And as a blogger, I feel just as bad for doing it.

So what can we do with them?

Options include:

  • Passing them on to other bloggers
  • Passing them on to friends
  • Give them to followers
  • Give them to charity
  • Leave them sitting there, all used or abused
  • Sell them

I have seen each of these options done, and with each option comes a range of questions, concerns and even moral (not to mention legal) issues. ARCs are not to be “transferred to any third party”, “otherwise circulated” or any other variation of these statements. So we have received these books that actually say on them that we cannot distribute these in any way, but are there any loopholes to this? And if there are, is this up to an individual publisher?

So let me go through each of the options mentioned above:

Passing them on to other bloggers: This could be a great option if we know a blogger who wants an ARC didn’t receive a copy. Even better for “smaller” bloggers who aren’t as connected with publishers to get access to ARCs. However, what are the legalities of this, and even if we can do it legally, do publishers mind if we do this?

Passing them on to friends: This could also be good, as although we may have friends who are not bloggers, they have a mouth - and word of mouth is the best form of marketing. Most readers are now on Goodreads and therefore their thoughts on a book are still widely distributed. But, as above, what are the issues surrounding this, with both legal requirements and publishers preferences?

Giving them to followers: This would be a great option, especially for those highly anticipated sequels that fans are hanging out for. But once again, there are legal requirements and publisher preferences to take into consideration, and I think this would be even more of an issue offering a book up publically.

Giving them to charity: While it seems nice to be able to do good humanitarian work, we not only have the above issues to worry about but also the fact that most charities would accept these books with the intent on selling them. Please see below comments on selling ARCs.

Leave them sitting there, all used or abused: Well, while there may not be any legal ramifications of doing this, there are certainly some moral ones. As a booklover, it is just wrong! Whether this is a book that we have read, or a book we are not going to, it feels wrong to not spread the love around. Poor little unloved books just sitting on the shelf crying itself to sleep every night.

Sell them: NO! Just. No! Let’s ignore the legal issue of the fact that these books not only say they cannot be distributed, but they also say “not for sale”, let’s just pretend for a moment that this doesn’t exist at all - IT IS JUST WRONG! Anyone who receives an ARC is in a privileged situation, and should not be making money from it - either before or after the release! I have seen many ARCs for sale, and some for huge amounts (especially prior to the release) and it makes me sick! While this seems to be an option for some, I am highly against it, and I will happily out anyone I know who is doing it.

And then, on top of all of the above, do any of the answers change depending on if it is before or after the release date? It can be all so confusing!

There seems to be a lot of uncertainty around what we can do with ARCs (as well as some complete disregard for the known rules). I am sure we all have our own system of what we do with ARCs that we no longer require or we don’t want - some people have made up their own system by what they think is best, some just have them all sitting on their shelves and some have contacted publishers and have discussed options. It can get very confusing, and with each book (and publisher) there may be different preferences. But it makes me sad to think (and know) of books sitting on shelves that could be loved by so many other people.


Kelly’s say:

I too love review copies, those books that you simply can’t wait until they’re in your local bookshop. And it makes you feel accomplished, that someone else appreciates your blogging efforts, that’s why they want our opinion, right? I don’t request many books in comparison to other bloggers, not for fear of refusal, but to allow the opportunity for other bloggers to receive their share as well. Something that sadly, not all bloggers are concerned about. But for every unsolicited or requested copy I receive, I buy at least three books in return and for proof copies I enjoyed, I always buy a retail copy. That’s how I support the industry. If a publisher is generous enough to provide me with review copies, it’s the very least I can do. Every purchase in Australia goes towards the publisher, the company who prints the book, an overhead for the bookstore and most importantly, the author.

Every so often I receive a book which I haven’t clicked with and can’t finish. And not being able to compete a book means I don’t review. So those books I pass onto a blogger that wants to read and review that particular title. Small blogs and new blogs that don’t yet receive review copies and it can also bridge a new relationship between the blogger and publisher too. If by chance I’ve received two copies of the same book or I already have a copy myself, then I contact the publisher and ask what they would like me to do with it, including offering to return the book to be sent to another blogger. More often than not, it results in a giveaway.

To be honest, to sell ARC review copies I think is deplorable. Harsh, but true. You’re making money from something you received for free and I don’t buy into the bullshit that it’s yours to do with what you want. If you scroll through eBay, there are countless ARC and book proofs on there and even if I was desperate to read it, I still wouldn’t purchase on the grounds of me not wanting to line your pockets and making money off something you received in good faith.

A pipe dream, but I think the book blogging community, and especially publishers would benefit greatly from setting up a blogger wide survey even. No, no, it’s not ridiculous and stop rolling your eyes at me. Questions about your likes, dislikes and what you will and wont read. It may help in getting the right books to the blogger who will appreciate that title more so, than someone who doesn’t read that genre, who doesn’t enjoy fantasy, horror or someone who is super fussy about which titles they read. Really, because otherwise they are giving away copies for free without the promotion or review they were hoping for.

For me, that would be the ideal solution. Let’s face it, how many bloggers have you seen that have received a book, never read it and you know it’s just sitting there gathering dust? But you could have read that book, you would have loved that book and now you’re thinking that a home invasion might have been a better way to direct your envy.

No more hoarding to make your shelves look pretty. Bloggers, contact those publishers and start gathering up those titles you won’t be reviewing and ask who wants them. Don’t let them sit there and don’t ask to swap either, I don’t believe if you haven’t reviewed them that you’re really entitled to ask because these books were free in exchange for a review.


What do you do with your ARCs? Are you in the publishing industry and can help out with answers to any of the questions above? I would love to know all your thoughts!


What do you think?

  • JennRenee says:

    i never knew what to do with ARCs until the last year. my local library has am ARC book exchange with the teens. i help out with the teen programs and every other month we set out the arc books with pizza and the teens take turns picking books to take home and read. The next meeting they bring them back and they pick again. They love it. Free reading for them.
    JennRenee recently posted…Review: Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay ClarkMy Profile

    • Kristy says:

      An ARC book exchange is a great idea! The teen program you are involved with sounds fantastic - it encourages them to read, and they may come across books they wouldn’t have otherwise - good on you JennRenee, you are doing great things for the world!! :)

  • Belle says:

    I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve both said. I haven’t been blogging for particularly long, and don’t receive a huge amount of physical copies, so it’s probably not as big an issue for me as others, but I’m often left wondering what to do with the ones I do receive.

    If it’s a book I’ve enjoyed, I have no problem with it sitting there (I have a couple of shelves just for ARC/giveaway copies) but there are always some that I haven’t enjoyed as much and would prefer to pass on to someone who will.

    Definitely a tricky situation. Hopefully some publishers (or even authors) will throw their two cents in.

    • Kristy says:

      It is tricky for me, as with the ones I enjoyed I will buy a finished copy, and for those I didn’t enjoy/read are still sitting there. I don’t like books just sitting there unloved.

      I might try to get some answers from publishers and post their responses for another Feral Friday. That might help a few people work out what the best thing to do with unwanted ARCs (well, it will help me at least lol).

  • Renee says:

    This is really interesting! I never get ARCs probably because I haven’t started running my book blog yet but considering that my bookshelf is ALREADY overflowing (whoops!) this will indeed be helpful for future reference! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kristy! (and Kelly too hi Kelly!)
    Renee recently posted…daughter-of-blood-and-starlight:

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    • Kristy says:

      Oh Renee, the overflowing bookshelf is something we will always struggle with! I personally only ever request a book if I know I WILL read it… but that still doesn’t help with the question of what to do with it afterwards, as I generally also buy a finished copy.

      I hope that overflowing bookshelves will always be a problem :)

  • Beth says:

    At the moment, I’m not really at a stage where I receive many ARCs, but still, this was a really interesting post. I’ve never really thought about the legal ramifications of giving away books sent to you for reviewing purposes, but I suppose an ARC is a bit like a contract between publisher/author and desired blogger… giving them away rather negates on that!
    I love the idea of having a blogger wide book survey, but the logistics would be a nightmare! Still, it would give smaller bloggers the chance to review something that they’d really love, so that would be nice!
    Beth x
    Beth recently posted…19 Thoughts When Reading: Shadow and Bone | Leigh BardugoMy Profile

    • Kristy says:

      I don’t think many people think of any legal ramifications, as I doubt a publisher would really do anything to a blogger who gave an ARC to another blogger or a friend etc… but it is always in the back of mind. I don’t like breaking any form of confidence or contract, and I have entered into one with a publisher when they send me a review copy.

      A blogger wide survey is a great idea, but like you, I don’t know how this would be managed logistically. It would ensure that books are not provided to people who won’t read them, and like you say, that allows more room for smaller bloggers to obtain them.

  • Honestly, we’ve started offering up a UK trade and giveaway section that will include arcs of books we don’t fancy keeping, but if that doesn’t work, I usually offer for friends to pay postage and they can have it, or I give it to my library which uses them as giveaways or gives them to children to borrow so they know whether to get a book in or not, which I think is great, it helps them know what’s going to be popular and what’s not, and I love helping! Such a great post girls!<3
    Amanda @ Beautiful Bookish Butterflies recently posted…7 Design Resources I Can’t Live WithoutMy Profile

    • Kristy says:

      I love the idea of giving ARCs away that you no longer like. The #booksfortrade phenomenon on Twitter that has recently exploded is fantastic (although there is still one UK ARC I want but can’t find lol).

      Friends are great for giving ARCs too, as are libraries, but I am always worried about handing them over, due to being told to “not to distribute”. But I don’t want them sitting there doing nothing when others could love them :)

  • Shannelle says:

    I hate people selling ARCs, because you’re profiting from something given to you for free. :/ And as for unsolicited ARCs, I really feel that that is a practice that should be abolished. Most big bloggers get sent everything, while those smaller ones who might be able to read that ARC right away get nothing. There’s a small chance of getting exposure from the blogger if you send it when they didn’t ask for it, but if someone is clearly passionate and requests an ARC, it’s only common sense to give it to them, because it could actually be utilized.
    Shannelle recently posted…The Summer Story of May 10, 2015My Profile

    • Kristy says:

      I cannot understand how people can sell ARCs, it is just morally wrong (not to mention illegal). Also, how are these people not caught doing this?

      I don’t receive all that many unsolicited ARCs, and out of the few I have received, some I have loved, others I have not. And in all honesty, I would rather a title go to another person who desperately wants that book. There are few instances where a publicist has gotten it completely right and sent me a book that I utterly adored, even though I didn’t request it - but mostly this has been books that haven’t been publicised as yet, and I probably would have requested it anyway.

  • […] Kristy and Kelly discuss what to do with ARCs. […]

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