ARC Management Tips: How to Avoid Over-Requesting
For the past 3 years, I’ve kept my ARC feedback ratio sitting pretty at 100%. Now, I’m fairly proud of this accomplishment, but I have to admit I wasn’t always this on top of things. When I initially figured out how to request ARCs online at NetGalley and Edelweiss, I went hogwild. I mean absolutely nucking futs, requesting everything I thought I’d ever might want to read. I managed to keep my response rate at a miraculous 70%, but only at the sacrifice of my free time (and sanity). It got to the point where I was only reading ARCs and still had more than I could manage.
If reading ARCs has ever felt like a chore, this post is for you!
Then I left my job as a bookseller and had create a new account to request as just a blogger… and it was the golden opportunity I needed to change how I handled ARC requests. Never again would I allow myself to get so buried! It’s frustrating when something that is supposed to be fun and exciting turns into an obligation. I knew I needed to make a change, and had several motivations:
- I wanted publishers to know they could trust me to review every title I requested.
- I wanted ARC reviewing to be less stressful and more fun.
- I wanted time to focus on all my non-ARC books.
- I wanted to minimize the number of negative reviews…
- and conversely maximize the amount of positive reviews (which are infinitely more likely to be shared by the publisher/author).
- I wanted to satisfy my OCD need for perfection.
And you know what? With this new system I’m about to share, I achieve ALL THE THINGS!
Here’s what I changed:
I started by implementing a few personal mantras:
Read the best books first.
Life is too short to read books you’re not enjoying.
These mantras were already working brilliantly for all of my other reading, so I finally grew a brain and applied the same philosophy to ARCs reading, along with this system (which can be used for to make any reading more enjoyable, not just ARCs):
Step one: Make a list of high-priority titles
I’d be willing to bet you already have a mental shortlist of the upcoming releases you are just dying to read. My suggestion is to make it official – go onto Goodreads and create an “Upcoming Releases” shelf and add all of these high-priority titles to it. A handwritten list works just as well, but I prefer using Goodreads to organize things because they have nifty little shelves that are relatively easy to populate (and it can be a lot of fun to see cover art pop up sporadically). I took it one step further by splitting books into “Upcoming Releases with Covers“, and “Upcoming Releases without Covers” because I’m anal.
Step 2: Only request titles from this list
Pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? But I tell you, it has completely revolutionized the way I handle ARCs. If you visit my shelves, you’ll notice between the two of them there are only about 45 books. If all of them were to be made available as ARCs, I might die of pure bliss, but I’d also be pretty darn overwhelmed to read them all. However, since I’ve been doing this method, I’ve noticed only about 1 in 10 ever becomes available as an ARC (the ratio is probably a lot higher for those lucky ducks who get ahold physical copies…jerks). For me, this works out to about one new ARC available every 3 to 4 weeks (i.e. totally manageable!).
This two-step system seems ridiculously simple, but really works if you don’t cheat. ;) Here are a few tips to help you stick to it:
->Avoid the “Ooh, shiny!” requests:
This is the most important piece of advice I can offer you. Even with the Goodreads system in place, it’s hard not to fall victim to the “oh!!! It’s so pretty!” requests. We’ve all done it, especially during ARC droughts – a tempting title with a gorgeous cover and interesting premise pops up and it’s SO EASY to give in. Resist the urge!!! Even if you don’t have anything else requested, Murphy’s Law states that the minute you send for a title, two you’ve been dying to read will become available (because Murphy is an asshole). This used to happen to me all the time. My priority would obviously be the books I’ve been dying to read first with the best intentions to get back to the “shiny” ones, but of course I seldom did. #fail
Just don’t do it. See something shiny? Great! Mark it as to-read on your Goodreads profile and move on. I’m serious! I even have bullet points to emphasize how not spontaneously requesting will benefit you:
- You won’t over-request.
- It will free up time for you to focus solely on the books you’re most excited about.
- You can experiment with the “shiny” titles later without obligation.
- There’s no pressure to finish them (because the worst thing ever is to push through a book you’re not enjoying).
- You can stick to the books you know you’ll have the best chance of enjoying.
- You’re not really losing out because things from your highly-anticipated list are the shiniest of all and discovering one of them has become available is the biggest thrill. You wouldn’t want to take away from that by not being able to pick it up immediately, would you? ;)
->Set a comfortable review schedule:
The ARC world seems to be one of feast or famine. I can easily go 2 months without anything from my list becoming available all the sudden to have five of them appear at once. This is why creating a schedule has been so important. Based on what I know of my own reading habits, I allot at least two weeks to read an ARC and compose its review. Realistically, I could probably swing it in a couple of days, but the buffer allows for life to get in the way (as it most often does). Additionally, I write biweekly reviews for Southern Utah Independent newspaper, so I have extra motivation for a set schedule to make sure I don’t have more ARC reviews than slots to run them. On my calendar, every other Thursday is blocked out for ARC reviews. As I get approved, I go through and write in each title accordingly (this also helps me keep track of archives/publication dates for each ARC ensuring everything runs within a reasonable timeframe).
If you can’t fit an ARC into your comfortable schedule, don’t request it. If and only if you’re ahead of schedule (or best yet, caught up completely) then you can add more. Take it from me, scrambling to get it done on time is no fun. And for the record, I’m still talking about requesting additional titles from your list. Not “shiny” ones.
->Never request a sequel in a series you’ve not yet started:
This is kind of a minor tip, but I did this to myself a couple of times and I still haven’t fully recovered. Let me tell you from experience, it’s absolutely miserable trying to get through a book you’re not enjoying knowing you have a second one to attend to afterwards. Pure. Misery. Additionally, even if it turns out you like this series, reading the first one always seems strangely like doing homework and becomes an obligation in its own right. So, even if you are sure you’ll love the series, don’t do it.
->Don’t hedge your bet by anticipating declined requests.
Because the minute you do, you’ll get approved for all of them and then you’re effed. Besides, if you prove yourself reliable, the number of declined requests will decrease over time.
I hope you found these tips helpful – they certainly have revolutionized how I’ve approached reading and blogging in general and I am definitely happier for it. Not to mention I have a beautiful 100% feedback ratio to keep me happy. I’m also operating under the theory that I’m more likely to get approved in the future if I can prove to publishers that I’m reliable. It’s a win-win situation.
I’d love to know – how do you manage your ARCs? Do you use any of the methods I do? Or, even better, do you have a totally different system that works for you? I’d love to hear about it. :-)