New segment! On Fridays, when I’m able, I would like to give back to the awesome book community. I’ll share any knowledge I’ve gained, or spotlight other fabulous book bloggers/social media users who are ROCKING it!
Today: How to get the biggest books from the best publishers–for free!
STEP 1: BECOME A PUBLICITY VEHICLE
There are a TON of books out there. Publicists these days are going crazy trying to get your interest. It’s tough. Between cute kitten videos and Friends marathons on Netflix, trying to get public interest in a particular book, let alone a stack of books, is enough to make anyone go bonkers.
They need YOUR help. Before the books come rolling in, you need to build a publicity vehicle. For me, I started getting books at the library (free!) and posting my reviews on Amazon (free!). Warning: that’s a humbling experience. Folks can vote your reviews up–and down! I suggest going with a free blog like wordpress, blogger, or tumblr.
Next, take your vehicle for a drive around social media: Twitter, Instagram, YouTube (you don’t want to see my face on YouTube). Most importantly: INTERACT. You’ll find people and they’ll find you. Make a game out of it; keep track of your social standings with Klout.
Another tip: if your goal is free books, make sure your vehicle is painted bumper-to-bumper in books. When publishers start looking at you, they want to see you talking about books. Cats and wine are totally acceptable, but make sure you let them know you love talking about and promoting books!
STEP 2: FIND THE BOOKS WORTH PROMOTING
Now that you’ve built a platform for yourself and have connected with some other bookish friends, find new books to review. Key word: NEW. Find what the publishers are promoting and help them promote it. I like to go to the “coming soon” sections on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Both have some neat sorting features. If you’re in with your librarian or local book sellers, they’ll have some great catalogs and newsletters as well.
Here’s the ultimate first stop for free books: Netgalley, Edelweiss, and Blogging for Books. The two former ones require that you have an e-reader or computer, the latter one sends out physical copies of books. Go there! Netgalley especially has tools to sort through publishers and books to see what is coming out and what types of people the publishers are interested in giving books.
STEP 3: KNOW THE PUBLISHER, KNOW WHERE THEY LIVE
Okay, so digital ARCs aren’t your thing? You want something in the mail? You want to hold the new books? You want to hug the new books? You want to SMELL the new books?
First, you have to know who publishes the new books. In the tools above, you’ll find the books and most often see who is publishing the new books. Goodreads is also a great source. Once you know the publisher, you’ll need to know where to contact them. It’s uncouth to ask in public forums like Facebook and Twitter.
Go to the publisher’s website and look for “contact us” or “publicity contact information”. If that fails, Google the publishers name along with the words “publicity contact”. I’m going to make it easy for you. Here are some of the biggest publishing houses in America and their publicity contact pages:
Hachette Book Group (Little, Brown, Grand Central, Center Street, etc.)
HarperCollins (Harper, Ecco, Dey Street, William Morrow, etc.)
Macmillan (St. Martin’s Press, Tor/Forge, Holt, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, etc.)
Penguin (Dutton, Penguin Press, Riverhead, Viking, etc.)
Random House (Crown, Doubleday, Dutton, Knopf, etc.) This page has merged Pengiun contacts.
Simon & Schuster (Atria, Scribner, Simon & Schuster, etc.)
That should keep you busy.
STEP 4: WRITE THE REQUEST FOR A NEW BOOK!!
There are two types of books that you may see ahead of publishing date:
Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) that are bound copies sent out months in advance that may still be edited before the…
Final Copies, which are the finished deal. These are the books that the public will see and buy in droves.
You’ll want to write a nice note to the publisher telling them how awesome you are (publicity vehicle) and which book(s) you would like to receive. Generally plan to write your letter 3-4 months in advance for ARCs and about a month in advance for a finished copy. Each publisher is a bit different, but those are pretty good averages based on mine and other bloggers’ findings.
Make it easy for them! Connect the dots. Tell them who you are, why you want the book, and how you can promote the book. Include links to your sites and profiles. Perhaps give examples of how you’ve helped them in the past. And–very important–give them your address.
One of four things will happen: they’ll respond and tell you they are sending the book!; they won’t respond and still send the book; they’ll say “no”; or, instead of saying “no” they’ll usually opt to ignore you. Remember: they are super busy. It’s nothing personal. Don’t feel bad if they ignore you.
If you send your request far enough in advance, and you haven’t heard anything in a couple of weeks, don’t be afraid to send a follow-up request (or two). I like to tell them that I already sent a request and I’m following up with another request. I know they’re busy. Again: make it easy for them.
The more you drive your vehicle, the more books you’ll get.
STEP 5: KEEP YOUR PROMISES, LET THEM KNOW ABOUT IT
Another crucial point. If you say you’ll post a review, make sure you post a review. If you say you’ll take a picture of their book with a pack of elephants, make sure you have the elephants ready. Whatever it is that got their attention, follow through.
This is golden: send them a follow-up email. Give them the links to your coverage. They may not respond, but they’ll definitely appreciate the email. It makes a world of difference for them. And, chances are, they’ll remember you next time!
There are some other great articles about getting free books. You’ll definitely want to check out this from ReadWriteLove. She includes a TON of helpful links with plenty of her own helpful advice. Be sure to follow her blog, too!