The Unspoken Etiquette of ARCs


Hello, everyone. Today I thought I’d share with you something that’s been taking up a fairly decent portion of my time recently: Advanced Reader Copies. There is an unspoken etiquette regarding ARCs; obtaining them, and what comes after you’ve been approved for a request.
Note: everything in this post is personal opinion. You may disagree, and that’s okay. It only promotes healthy discussion. As always, I am not writing this with the intention to offend.

EDIT (10/25/16)

Hello, everyone. So ever since this blog post was released, I’ve thought about it a lot. And while I still think it’s important to review the books that you request, I admit that the original tone of my post was uncalled for. I do not condone moral policing- something that I’ve come to realize recently is that moral policing has the genuine ability to cause hurt. And even though your heart may be at the right place, you don’t get to tell people what hurt them and what didn’t. So, I’m sorry for everyone I offended with some of the stuff that I said. I still stand by my general argument – I probably always will, but I do not stand by how I said it.

I could have deleted this post, but I’m not going to simply because I think it’s important to look back at my mistakes and better them. With that, I’d please request that you keep my current mindset in mind while reading the rest of this post. <3

EDIT (Please Read):

It has come to my attention that some people have been sharing this post on Twitter and are actually pretty pissed about it. Calling me unexperienced (which I probably am, since I’ve only been doing this for a year), and saying that I am “jealous/bitter.” All on Twitter- not to me, but among themselves on a public forum that I’m very much a part of.

Okay, then. The thing they take problem with is my idea of theft. Like I always say before my discussion posts, my writing is not meant to offend, so I’m a little surprised that these people – who don’t know me, or haven’t even seen my blog before this post – are resorting to snicker and disregard my opinions, on my own blog, because of one idea that I wrote. When I talk about stealing, I do not talk about unsolicited ARCs. My entire post was about not reading ARCs that you have yourself requested. Some people apparently got super, super offended by this idea that they receive ARCs that they don’t even request, and I called it ‘stealing.’ Sorry, you missed the point of my post.

Moreover, some of them seem to have missed the area where I talk about how it’s okay to not read ARCs as long as you send a note to the publisher, explaining why you couldn’t have gotten to it. They seem to think I expect everyone to read each and every ARC they receive- again, I don’t say that at all in this post, so I don’t know what they’re up to.

As for my comment on ‘stealing,’ I will not take it back. I wrote it, which means I meant it, but not in the way that many people THINK I meant it. I will clarify; but before that: I may be a “new blogger” or unexperienced, and you may have years more experience than I do, but you have no right to share my blog posts and resort to ad hominem attacks because of one word I used. When you request a book, a publisher gives it to you and as ‘payment,’ you give this publisher feedback and publicity. If you don’t do that- you have the product, but you haven’t given back what you were supposed to. In my mind, that recalls stealing, perhaps not in the strictest sense of the word, but reminiscent.

Perhaps what I find the most amusing is how these ‘seasoned’ and “experienced” book bloggers are so set on disregarding any other point of view except their own. I’m flattered that they find my opinion worthy of being discussed, but that discussion should involve the post. So that people with both opinions can actually involve themselves in a debate, rather than coming across nasty things on Twitter. 🙂

Being approved for an ARC is always an honor:

When I first started blogging, I’ll admit that ARCs were a huge factor. No matter how popular of a blogger you become, no matter how many times you’ve been approved for an Advanced Reader Copy, it still feels special. Because you, as a devoted and passionate reader, get to utilize your reading and writing skills to read a book that has not even been released yet. You are in the privileged position to give honest feedback and publicity to both the publisher and the author so that they, in turn can either make the changes necessary or get the word out there for a book that would otherwise be lost in the stacks and stacks of pages released every single day.

It’s an honor to be approved for a request, and I believe it should be treated as such. These publishers think that you are worthy to give an unpublished copy to. In this way, they trust you to not give out spoilers,  they trust you to do your job now and give them what they need in return for the ARC. And it’s important that you do so.

Isn’t that a given?

It should be, but you’d be surprised by how many times I’ve seen people say that it’s okay to not give feedback. When I first started off using Netgalley, I encountered countless posts on countless blogs about how to obtain ARCs and how to deal with them once you have them in your hands (or in your eReaders, as in most cases.) And most people said that it’s absolutely not obligatory for you to review these ARCs you are approved for. Technically, that’s true, which is why this post isn’t called the rules of ARCs. You aren’t, by any rule on Netgalley or any law, required to give feedback to the publishers. But you are expected to, where the “etiquette” part comes in.

Imagine this: Person A requests a book, and Person B also requests a book. A has a good following – if all her followers are amassed from the various social media sites, she has a count of 2,000. B has a fair count too. He has a good 500 followers, which is still a lot, but is 75% less than Person A’s. B is rejected the ARC, and A is approved, because in the publisher’s mind, A can provide more publicity for the book if given a good rating. Which is fine- it’s the fundamentals of marketing. B feels dejected because he really wanted to read the book. A decides that she’ll put off the ARC for a while until it’s closer to the release, but then she just never picks it up, too busy with other books and life. The title is archived, and A can no longer read it. She was approved in place of B- a reader who really wanted to read it, would actually spend time reading it and giving the publisher feedback.

I feel very passionate about this phenomenon. As a person who grew up in a developing country where not enough people get the chance to get the education, and thus the career, they deserve, I feel like it’s a slap in the face for someone who does get the opportunity but does not avail it. One of my cousins studied to be a doctor. It’s a competitive field, and she was obviously smart enough to make it to the end. She was chosen to be a student of a very good mentor, but after college, she didn’t do anything with it. Yes, it’s her choice, as is everything in this world. She can do whatever she wants, because it is her life. I get that, but when I think about a kid who didn’t get into the program, who actually wanted to work as a doctor rather than just graduate as one, what about them? What about those people?

It may seem like a stretch to compare a person’s career to the reading of an ARC, but it’s the same thing, no? On a smaller scale, but the same thing?

But we all make mistakes.

Yes, we do. That’s what makes us human beings. You’re approved for an ARC, and you just do not have the time or commitment to get to it right now. The archive date is fast approaching, and you are bogged down with academics and work and family, or whatever. That is fine, and publishers will most probably understand that. Instead of reading the book and giving them a full review, you can send them a note explaining why you could not get to the ARC in time, and how sorry you are for not doing so. Just like us, publishers are human too, they will probably understand, and your life and health does come first. But tell them that.

Look on the flip-side. You don’t get the time, and you think it’s fine if you don’t give publishers a reason as to why you didn’t read the book. What happens now? Not only have you taken an opportunity away from someone else, but you’ve also broken the trust of the person who approved your request. From now on, you are no longer reliable and will perhaps not be approved for the next title you request from a publisher.

It’s your life and your choices, but you also have a responsibility.

Look, I get it. I’m making it seem like the ARC business is a crazy, twisted, cut-throat thing where you’ll get murdered or demolished if you don’t fulfill your end of the deal. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to sound this sinister. And it’s true that you have your own life and your own choices to think about, and that applies 110% when it comes to your space. Your blog, your websites, your personal life, your relationship are all yours to think about. But when a publisher is involved, and when they hand you a product and you shrug it off, it is no better than stealing. It is a transaction. They give you an ARC, and you pay them back with feedback and publicity- it’s just how the industry works. If you don’t give them back feedback and publicity, you have stolen their product, period.

EDIT: I realize that people have gotten offended with my use of the word “stealing.” Again, it was not my intention to offend. Also, I mentioned above that bloggers are, in no way, obligated to review the books they request- no rule says that, which is why this post is called “etiquette” not “law.” My use of the word “stealing” was not meant in the strictest sense of the word; it was meant as something that feel when I think about people requesting books, getting them and not holding up their end of the bargain. My opinion is my own.

Choices are important- an integral part of what makes us intelligent creatures living on the earth, but responsibility is important too. When second parties are involved in a thing you are doing, it no longer becomes completely about personal choice. Objectivity and nuance can go a long way in life.

I’ve made pretty shoddy decisions, too.

Which is why I’m saying all this. I started off a Netgalley account, requested ARCs left and right with no filter, just because I wanted to read something not yet published. It brings you a good reputation on the blogging community. Safe to say that when I was approved for six or seven in a row, I didn’t have time to read them all. I read two, maybe three, and it all went downhill from that.

Which prompted me to request that my account get deleted, so I can start over with a better outlook on the website, on the industry, and how to better pace myself so that I can get what I want, and can give what publishers want in return. I made mistakes with ARCs- but I have started to fix them.

So what’s the best way to get and read ARCs?

Tips are incredibly important, and can do wonders if you’re just starting out in requesting ARCs. First of all, don’t do what I did. Request one or two books at a time. If you are approved, read them, and then request more. Pay attention to archive dates. When you’re approved for an ARC on Netgalley, send it directly to your Kindle. Once the title has been archived, you cannot download it, but you can provide feedback. 

Pace yourself. If you read two books in a week, don’t request five that are releasing around the same time. Read the publisher’s profile and rubric for approval, and make sure you meet that criteria. And do not – for the love of God, the bookish community, chocolate and all things awesome – leave the feedback section blank, EVEN IF you have not read the book.

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  1. Hi Aimal,
    I also found this post on Twitter, and while I think some of the backlash you’re experiencing is a bit much, I also think that the fact that you made requesting ARCs and then not reviewing them almost as bad as going in to a store and take a t-shirt and leave without paying for it not only harsh, but actually quite wrong!
    I sometimes receive a lot of ARCs from Netgalley at the same time, not because I request that many books at the same time, but some publishers take quite a while to decide whether or not they’ll accept my request. I don’t request ARCs if I don’t plan on reading them, and in most cases, I’m really excited about the books I request. That doesn’t mean that I’m personally taking away the chance for another blogger to receive that same ARC – no matter if I end up reviewing that title or not. I am not responsible for the choices a publisher makes, I am only responsible for my own requests and then what I do with the ARCs I do receive.
    I think that being very harsh – especially on a subject I’m sure you have noticed can cause quite a bit of drama – is not the best way to go about it, and I’m sure you’ve felt that quite a bit these few days. People talking about you ‘behind your back’ on Twitter rather than coming to your blog might be just a way for those people to not drive more traffic to your blog,
    It seems to me that you see this ARC business as being either black or white, while bloggers who have been around for a bit longer can see many different shades of gray in between. I do not agree with you at all about the ‘stealing’ part, even after reading your explanation about only likening it to stealing. Having your opinion and chatting about it on your blog is your right, but it is also the right of other bloggers to disagree with you strongly, and to feel that you have compared them to thieves has made some of them very angry with you – and that is their right as well.
    I hope that as you continue blogging, you may learn to be a little more diplomatic in the way you express yourself, and remember that the people you compare to thieves are only human as well, and bloggers, just like you.

    • Hi! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

      As many people have said in their opinions of me and my blog, I am relatively inexperienced. That is true. I’ve been blogging for most over a year, and have gone on months-long hiatuses two or three times. I am not at all “active” in the book community and what the hot button topics are and how sensitive people are to them. I posted this discussion one day when I thought of what getting an ARC entails. I’m obviously not required to review these books I get, but is it okay if I don’t?

      It IS okay, but it’s also rude if you have no reason. And yeah, everybody has a choice and this in an individualistic society, but I do believe in a polite code of conduct. I realize my comment about “stealing” really offended some people, and for that I apologize. But to take one small portion of a larger post that largely talks about etiquette, as it exists in MY mind, and hold on to it is strange. Especially a part which I have apologize for, have explained to numerous people, and have admitted that it was harsh and probably not the right language to be used.

      I don’t believe having to be diplomatic on my own blog. I believe in difficult conversations and difficult posts- and I’m glad that despite everything, my post has generated a discussion that has made me rethink some of the things I said re: theft. But no, I’m not going to self-censor myself on general discussions.

      • Being diplomatic doesn’t mean you don’t have the difficult conversations, nor that you censor yourself. It just means that you’re an adult who is able to take into account other people’s feelings and thoughts, and that you treat those with respect. And you can definitely be respectful and still share your views about ARC etiquette and all other subjects.

        • I do not understand how my post was disrespectful, apart from perhaps the stealing comment, for which I have time and time again apologized because I did not mean to offend. I DO think that getting an ARC is an honor- it’s fine if you don’t. I DO think it’s impolite to request an ARC and then not get back to the publisher AT ALL. I also said that we are all human; our lives DO come first, but we should take responsibility for this and interact the second party involved. I DO think that if someone requests a book and doesn’t read it, I am sure there was someone else out there who WOULD have read it and probably wanted it more. That’s not the blogger’s fault that the other person was rejected- but my personal values and my experiences as a person having lived in a 3rd world country her entire life do have strong feelings about not availing opportunities.

          I have tried, time and time again over the last few days, to be polite with people who have refused to acknowledge any ideas in my post, and have completely disregarded it for the sake of one word I used- which I have since then edited, clarified, explained and apologized for multiple times. I have been open to other people’s point of views, hence the reason I edited my original post. I have expanded with regards to unsolicited ARCs and my own role as a relatively inexperienced blogger in the community, but I refuse to be ‘taught’ by fellow bloggers HOW I should be voicing my opinions on my own blog. If that means that you don’t see me as an “adult,” frankly, I’m ALRIGHT with that.

          You have a good day, Lexxie. And you can go on with your life reading ARCs as you please, and I will go on with mine with my opinions and my habits.

          • The sad part, though, is that in many ways, I actually agree with you about the fact that the polite and respectful thing to do is to read the ARCs we request and get approved for. And if for some reason we end up not being able to read those ARCs, to give feedback to the publishers via Netgalley or Edelweiss.

            Sorry if my comment made you think that I was actually against that – see how difficult it is to read the ‘tone’ of a post, especially by someone you don’t know?
            I encourage you to continue with your discussion posts, and I’m sure I’ll come back to read and comment on those 🙂

            Have a great Sunday and happy reading.

  2. Books don’t pay my bills — money does so until I get a check or a paypal deposit I am not about to consider review copies to be payments.

  3. I have so many things to say, that I am just going to apologize for the novella right off the bat 😉

    First, I think everyone has pretty much every right to say whatever they please on their blog. So I think it’s great that you posted something you believe in and wanted to talk about! That is fabulous, and I will never think that anyone should stop doing just that! Of course, people will disagree, but you know that. I guess for me, I know that when I post something more controversial, I do it with the understanding that yeah, people very well may not like it, and might talk about it (on the post, on Twitter, wherever) and there’s nothing I can do about that- it’s something I have to consider before I release it into the world, you know? That being said, there is a BIG difference to me between disagreeing with your POST versus comments against you personally (as in whoever told you to quit blogging- that is simply NOT okay, and I really hope you don’t take it to heart).

    ARCs are always going to be a big old controversy, in my opinion. As it stands now, I am certainly not one of those people who has ARCs raining on their doorstep, but I DO get them from time to time- and eARCs more frequently of course. I tell you that because I think it does matter a little to see the perspective that someone is coming from, maybe? I don’t know. But at any rate. I DO understand your “Person A versus Person B” scenario. I feel like anyone who HASN’T felt that twinge of “man, so and so didn’t even read Beloved Book, and I TOTALLY WOULD HAVE if I had the chance” is probably not being super honest.

    I will fully admit right now: I have thought that! I have had the “man, if they gave me a chance, I would take full advantage, I would do the ‘right thing'” conversation in my head. Is it jealousy? For me, being honest, sure, a little of it IS jealousy! Not because of the book even- but because Person A was given that chance, and maybe I feel less than? I don’t know, but it could lead us into the whole “are ARCs a status symbol?” question, and that’s a whole other topic.

    But this is the big thing for me, and something that (and I hate to sound cliche here, but it’s true for me) I have learned over time: I have NO idea what is happening with anyone else. I don’t know how they got the book, I don’t know what the publisher hopes/expects from them, I don’t know why they have or have not read the book, or if they will or won’t. That is basically their relationship with the publisher- and I have to assume that since the publisher IS the one with money on the line, that I need to trust that they are doing what they think is best for their product. And if they aren’t, well, I am sure they see the ramifications and react accordingly. They have business expertise that I don’t have- or want to have, frankly- and I assume that if they feel that someone is using their marketing tools irresponsibly, they’ll handle that on their end.

    I think the problem with the whole ARC debate is that frankly, people don’t like being judged for what they do/don’t do/are perceived to do or not do. Blogging is HARD. Really hard. And if you have not only yourself and publishers and authors and deadlines and website maintenance and ALL the other stuff to worry about, but now have your fellow blogger saying you’re doing it “wrong”… well, that’s a hard pill to swallow. So I do see why people get upset with the controversial issues. I’m not saying AT ALL that you are in the wrong for saying what you think- believe me, I think you have every right!- but I also kind of see where others are coming from too.

    As for the actual ethical issue you pose? I’m torn, frankly. For ME, personally, I do try to read every ARC I request. Key word- TRY. Look, life happens. My kids get sick, or I fall behind… it happens. Out of however many ARCs I have ever requested (over 250) I can think of 3 that I haven’t gotten to (yet). I DO take it seriously- maybe too seriously. I have let other books (books I pre-ordered, books I bought in general) fall by the wayside because of it. Is that right? Probably not. I never went on the crazy requesting binge- actually, it took me a LONG time to even request one book- but then there DID come a point where, yes, I requested a few that I didn’t think I’d get approved for, and sure, one or two that I started to hear bad things about got left behind.

    Do I contact the publishers? Nope. I feel like they do NOT have time to worry about why I didn’t read one eARC one time. If I DNF, yes, I will leave a reason as feedback. But do I think a publisher wants to hear “yeah, I didn’t get around to that because I had a cold and then the reviews made me think the book was kind of not going to be great, so I moved on”? Nah. I think they probably are very aware that no one is going to be able to review every single book 100% of the time.

    And what it boils down to for me is, I have tried to go that route- I would stress out if I didn’t have every. single. book. read before its release. And you know what it did? Drove me insane. Now, if I read a book late, that is okay! MANY posts I have read from actual publicists and publishers and authors have said that they are FINE with later reviews- in fact, it can help, because it can help generate interest AFTER the release date. And do they expect you to read and review every single book without fail? Nope. They know we’re human. They also know that we, for the most part, work very hard and take it very seriously for no compensation. That’s kind of a big deal. I am sure a lot of us take this more seriously than some people take actual paid jobs, and that says a lot about our devotion to books and publishing. I don’t think that letting a few ARCs go unread negates all the good that bloggers do in the book world.

    So, yeah. I agree that of COURSE no one should just be requesting ARCs that they never intend to read. But I also don’t think that many people, if any, do that. So for me, if I am doing my best, then that’s all I can do at the end of the day. And if someone IS being “that guy” and requesting books without the intention of reading them? Well, yeah, it’s definitely shitty. But it’s also on them.

    (And if you read all this, you seriously deserve a cookie 😀 )

    • Thank you for this comment. I am genuinely flattered that you think this post worthy of having such an in-depth conversation with, so really, thank you for engaging in a debate instead of completely disregarding something I spent a lot of time thinking/writing.

      When I woke up this morning and saw that my blog was getting an unusual amount of traffic (mostly from Twitter), I searched if people had posted this link somewhere. The first few dissenters were very polite; they disagreed, gave their reasons and moved on, and I’ll admit that I found myself convinced on some of the things they said. When the post caught like wildfire, the debate turned into something rather ugly for me. Some of the comments were hurtful, because they did not add to the discussion. And while I did not intend to offend people while writing this post, it became clear that some people clearly wanted to offend me for writing it.

      You’re absolutely right. I do not know what is happening in other people’s lives, and I am a little startled that people are thinking that I am attacking other bloggers in my post. I have been AWOL on the book community for the longest time because of school, and most of the people I follow on WordPress are not veterans. They have been blogging for almost as long as I have – give or take a few months. I do not have a book-dedicated Twitter or Instagram where I follow and interact with the people who have taken it as their responsibility to tell me how wrong I am. I don’t know people who partake in this behavior.

      But that does not change the fact that I HAVE come across posts where people say reading Netgalley ARCs is not obligatory. Which is true. I wrote in the post that it’s not obligatory by any rule or law, but it’s polite (re: etiquette) that you do so. It was a rather general idea, almost a rebuttal to the posts I’ve seen that claim this idea. I did not have specific people in mind- it was a rather general discussion.

      I understand that some of the language I used was offensive to people, and I sincerely apologize for that. This post was, in no way, an attack on my fellow bloggers, who are pillars in the bookish community. And I know my “stealing” comment was harsh, which is why I tried to clarify it. I said it, which means I meant it, but not in the way that people THINK I mean it. I just look at ARCs as a transaction: you request, you get it, please review it.

      Again, like I said in my post, your life and health DO come first, but I think it’s important not to completely disregard the second party involved in the exchange. Most Netgalley publishers have a note in their approval rubric asking reviewers to tell them why they could not get to the book. I think it’s only polite to do so, even if you don’t think they’ll have time to get to your note. Blogging is a hobby – reading is a hobby, but to me, ARCs introduce a responsibility to this hobby. Because it’s not just between you and a book, it’s between you, a book, an author and a publisher, and that has different ramifications.

  4. If you saw my comment on Twitter (re I’m a crook) then I was merely poking fun at myself that may or may not have seemed like an attack. But anyways.

    Before I speak to ARCs, I should mention that I found it difficult to digest the comparison being made that not reading an ARC is near (or even remotely close to) your cousin who decided to not pursue a career in x field. To me, I understood that as you giving a backhanded comment re shaming them for “taking someone else’s spot” and more-or-less trying to retrospectively police them into taking a linear path without any thought as to extraneous factors that could influence it. You might not have meant to take this negative tone at all but that’s what it felt like to me. I think a better example could have been said rather than this. Just my thoughts.

    In terms of ARCs, a lot of what I’m receiving now are months old, already released, and basically, if I don’t take them, they’d be recycled. So I’m relocating to-be-trashed products to my house (which I should add may or may not be read anytime soon, if at all). Not sure if this fits under the stealing umbrella but that’s my perspective as it concerns most of the ARCs I’m receiving now.

    I just had a random thought. And though I don’t have the ins of bookstagramming, does this ARC etiquette hold up there? Because sure they might get ARCs but if they don’t review it but feature it in their shots = publicity — isn’t that close enough to bloggers getting arcs and putting them on hauls and talking about it in their TBRs? Makes me wonder what the benchmark is in value as a means of marketing/promotion.

    But good on you for sticking to your guns!


    • I’m unsure if I saw your comment or not. I saw many comments today, so I eventually just stopped paying attention to who was writing them. But I don’t have a problem with the comments- my problem lies only with the personal jabs being taken at me. You calling yourself a “crook” in good humor doesn’t come under that.

      You make a fair point about my cousin-comparison. I do often make comparisons between smaller things and larger scale ideas. My main point here was getting an opportunity and not availing it, which to me applies in both scenarios. Whether they tie together is up to my audience, but I do respect your opinion. I did not mean to sound condescending or like I was policing anyone- people are free to do whatever they want, and it’s true that I am nobody to tell people how to live their lives. This post was not meant as a policing- it was (supposed to be) a discussion post about ARCs and the implied contracts attached to sites like Netgalley.

      My post was mostly aimed at bloggers who request ARCs and then do nothing at all with them. Unsolicited ARCs don’t count, not in my mind because they were not requested. I realize that I did not make it clear ENOUGH that I was not talking about unsolicited ARCs, but I thought my repetition of the word “request” was signal enough as to what I meant. I haven’t thought about old ARCs- again, my post was aimed at ARCs for books not yet released.

      I realize that some of the phrasing I used offended people and was harsh; I am sorry for that, because I did not intend to cause offense. I have always been true to my opinions and post them without filter, always disclaiming that I do not mean offense. But nonetheless, it seems I have offended many (perhaps even some of my followers), and for that, I do sincerely apologize.

  5. I huffed out a simultaneously embarrassed and relieved laugh at not being the only person who went on a request spree when I first started NetGalley (it’s been just a couple weeks for me, haha), especially since I just finished my first ever ARC book tonight, after two books already went to archive and I still have 9 more on my shelf, and I’ve been feeling all kinds of anxious about how much reading I have to do to catch up x) I agree with you though, it’s just common courtesy to put your best effort into reviewing the books you are generously approved to read as a blogger and a reader in general. I know from my recent mistakes that I need to plan better in the future when it comes to requesting galley books. I also know that it’s okay to make those kinds of mistakes, and have a few books get archived or forgotten because that’s just life. But treating arcs disdainfully or dismissively is just not cool. I hope people take your words to heart and reconsider how they approach publishers and sites like NetGalley. (And that they stay off your Twitter…another not cool thing in the blogging community. You are handling it with grace and poise, and I commend you for it. Keep it up, and please, no matter what your hidden haters say, keep on blogging!)

    • I think a lot of people to do that when they’re first starting out. It’s exciting to know that you can read a book not yet available to the general public.

      Of course life happens. Blogging is a hobby; reading is a hobby and hobbies should never hinder you from work, family etc. Which is why I wrote in my post that your life and health DO come first. If you cannot get to an ARC, that’s beyond fine, but I think it’s important to tell the publisher with a little note. Many publishers on Netgalley request in their approval rubric that if you cannot get to an ARC, just let them know why. It’s only polite to do so, no?

      Thank you for your comment. 🙂

  6. I feel like this has already been said a lot today but I’m going to add my two cents.

    First off, thanks for sharing your opinion. Even if people don’t agree, it’s your blog and your opinion. Always feel free to share it.

    I am going to be one of the people that doesn’t agree with you. I don’t think bloggers HAVE TO read any books they get for review, even if they requested them. I know I don’t. I still post about the books though and try and do my part to help spread the word. I feel like that’s an important thing to do too. And bloggers should never have to email a publisher to explain why they didn’t get to a book unless they committed to a review for a blog tour. Otherwise it’s up to us what to read and review.

    Also, its not even close to stealing when you don’t review an ARC you got for review. That’s an extremely harsh way to put it and I don’t think it’s a correct way to word it.

    Once again, thanks for sharing.

    • Having been indirectly told multiple times on Twitter to “stop blogging” if I can’t handle it, I very much doubt that the giants in this community think “baby bloggers” (another quote) like me are free to express their opinions. But I appreciate the sentiment, and I thank you for coming to this post and expressing your opinion.

      I said in my post that yes, bloggers don’t HAVE to review books. There is no law or rule that says that, which is why I named my post “etiquette,” not something else. The polite code of conduct aka etiquette of the ARC business is that if you request a book, and are approved, you provide feedback or publicity. It’s not a rule; it’s etiquette. Re: post title. It’s also not a rule for you to e-mail publishers back; it’s etiquette. At least it is in my mind.

      Many people seem to think that this post was a moral policing of sort. I am sorry people were offended by my use of the word “theft.” It was not my intention to offend anyone, and perhaps that word was a harsh one, I admit. It is not stealing in the strictest sense. But my experiences in life are very different from many other people’s (in the book community)- having grown up in a developing society where opportunities are rare and often not availed has given me a different outlook on MANY little experiences that other people do not have. Which is not to say I am smarter, or better, just that my opinions may be different or even extreme. I grew up in an extreme society- my experiences were extreme, and so are my opinions.

      However, it is uncalled for that in a community that strives to celebrate books, expression and conversation, book bloggers are jumping on the opportunity to bash an opinion different than theirs. Not you, since you are one of the few people who decided to engage in a conversation in a mature manner, so again, thanks for that.

  7. Well, first off, kudos for going after a very sensitive topic in the blogger community. However, I think your facts are a bit distorted and kinda harsh.

    First of all, no one is ever obligated to review an ARC they received – solicited or not. Blogging (for 99.9% of us) is a hobby, not an occupation. We are not contractually obligated to review anything. That doesn’t mean their won’t be repercussions if you flake on reviewing something you swore you would, but that’s common sense. You may be denied in the future or ignored. Or not taken seriously by publishers and publicists.

    Having literally talked to publicists about this, I can attest that they don’t expect you to always review everything. For your person A and B scenario, a lot of times publishers will send blogger A that book because even if they don’t review it, they feature it on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram in a “bookmail-esque picture. THAT also counts as exposure and covering a title. It’s putting a book on someone’s radar.

    Lastly, I read your note and “you have no right to share my blog posts” … It’s a public blog. It’s not a private page. You put this post and every post on this blog out there for public consumption and discussion. Would you be upset if people were sharing a kickass review you wrote on Twitter?

    As a blogger, every post you make is public. It’s meant to shared and talked about; that is the essence of blogging. I get it – you’re likely not happy that this post has taken a somewhat negative hue, but when talking about a hot button issue, you had to have known that people would share and discuss this. If you want a private forum where you can limit who sees and shares your posts, maybe you should try livejournal or another site where you can restrict access to approved readers.

    • “You have no right to share my blog posts and resort to ad hominem attacks.” I’d suggest you read the entire sentence instead of just one part of it. I have no problem with people sharing my posts, but if you share them and resort to call me “bitter” and “jealous” for sharing my opinion, it is absolutely uncalled for. I welcome discussion, as is mentioned on the top of this blog post. I welcome disagreement and conversation but I will NOT stand for personal attacks on Twitter that are not even to my face. People can say whatever they want but say it to me.

      Yes, no one is ever obligated to review ARCs, something I ALSO mentioned in my post. I called this post etiquette, not rule, for a reason. Etiquette is the polite code of conduct- and the polite code of conduct when you receive ARCs that you request is to review them and/or publicize them. I assume my use of “feedback or publicity” implies reviews OR the Instagram, Twitter, etc. posts. My post constantly mentioned people REQUESTING ARCs and not doing anything with them afterwards- unsolicited ARCs do not come under that criteria, which is why I did not mention them.

      Again, I stress that I welcome discussion. But I will not stand for personal attacks from people who do NOT KNOW ME, who have never been to this blog before, and who think it is okay to be outright nasty to people who post opinions on their blogs. Have a nice day.

  8. I actually heard about this post on Twitter. So, hi! 🙂

    I think maybe part of the problem is that ARCs can get complex. Personally, I receive very few ARCs, and most of those are things I requested on Netgalley. So, they’re things I wanted and I don’t have an overwhelming amount, but if I don’t get around to reviewing them (very rarely this happens), then the publisher isn’t really even losing anything on me because they didn’t pay to print a copy of the book to send me.

    However, some bloggers have completely different circumstances. They have tons of print ARCs. Some they requested; some they did not. And I think if someone is in this situation and suddenly has some life situation where they need to sit back and say “I can’t read all this,” they have to feel ok with that. They have to feel ok that not prioritizing a blog they run as a hobby doesn’t make them a bad person. Maybe that was the issue people took with the word “theft.” While I’m sure you’re not even suggesting people need to prioritize blogging over their jobs, health, school, etc., it’s possible some people read it that way and felt really stressed out, exactly at a point in their lives when they need to someone to reassure them it’s actually not the end of the world to set aside the ARCs and work on getting better grades in school, or whatever they need to work on.

    I actually agree with you in general. It’s polite and professional to review as many ARCs as you can and not to request more than you’re ever going to read. I don’t think many bloggers do that, but I have seen many bloggers post about a time in their blogging careers when they just requested EVERYTHING and then realized they couldn’t read it all. But most of them also come to this realization and cut back to a manageable amount of ARC requests on their own, so as a community I think we’re doing fine.

    However, I wouldn’t quite consider ARCs payment. The basic understanding is definitely that the publisher sends you an ARC in exchange for your review (or, actually, in many cases for your consideration). However, you can promote the ARC in other ways: post on Instagram, share on Twitter, give it away to someone who will review it. I think that’s fine for completing your end of the bargain if you can’t actually read the book yourself for whatever reason.

    Also, though, there’s really no contract. It’s not really payment. Bloggers don’t sign any contracts saying they have to review the book, they have to complete the review by a certain date, or if they don’t read and review there will be consequences. Bloggers are essentially free promotion for publishers/authors. And with that comes an understanding: If you don’t have a contract, if you’re not actually paying people to complete a service, you are totally risking that they will not prioritize the task. If someone has to pick between reading an ARC and doing a good job at work, they’re going to choose work, and the publisher is probably going to understand that. For a guaranteed review, publishers will pay Kirkus or Publishers Weekly. Sure, if you never review the ARCs sent to you, publishers will stop sending them, but that’s basically the extent of the relationship between publisher and blogger.

    • Hello! I’m glad you’re one of the only people who actually came to my blog to respond instead of resorting to ad hominem attacks on Twitter. 😀 I enjoy healthy discussion, and having a conversation is super, super important to me.

      I agree with you. I offered my own example as what I thought constituted bad conduct in the ARC world. Where I requested ARCs, couldn’t get to them and didn’t let the publisher know either. I don’t know how physical ARCs work, because I have never received one. And I know a ton of bloggers receive physical ARCs that they have not requested, and I think this post does NOT apply to these bloggers. My post was aimed at people who specifically request ARCs, don’t read them AND don’t let the publisher know why. A lot of the people who seem to be offended by my post mention that they do not have the time to get to each and every ARC, which was something I addressed:

      “You’re approved for an ARC, and you just do not have the time or commitment to get to it right now. The archive date is fast approaching, and you are bogged down with academics and work and family, or whatever. That is fine, and publishers will most probably understand that. Instead of reading the book and giving them a full review, you can send them a note explaining why you could not get to the ARC in time, and how sorry you are for not doing so. Just like us, publishers are human too, they will probably understand, and your life and health does come first. But tell them that.”

      I realize that my use of the word “stealing” may be the source of the problem. But I do not mean stealing in the legal sense, whatsoever. I know bloggers are not required to review books- no law or rule states that, which is why I called this post the “etiquette” of ARCs, and not anything else. It is the polite code of conduct to review the books you are being sent. It is not stealing in the strictest sense of the word (or maybe even in any sense of the word), but it’s just something I, personally, feel in my own mind as someone who has seen, all her life, opportunities taken away from people who might want them more. Which may be a problem in itself since publishers don’t give you ARCs because you deserve them; they give them to you because it’s marketing.

      My doctor-career analogy was something I feel, on a personal level, as someone who lived 18 years of her life in a country (Pakistan) where people do not get the opportunities they deserve, and my connection of this to the ARC industry was entirely based on personal experience. And for this, I have been called “bitter” and “jealous,” and have been assured – in the most patronizing of ways – that I’ll get to read the book anyway, so I should calm/simmer down.

      • Yeah, I think a note to the publisher that you’re not going to get around to it could be polite. I expect they have some pretty good statistics going at this point, though, and can probably figure “Ok, we want about 70 reviews so we’re going to have to send out about 110 ARCs because we know 40 of those people won’t review the book.” Even so, I think if bloggers have realistic expectations of what they can and can’t review, that can only be helpful both to the publisher and to them. If you know you read 50 books per year, and so you average about 4 books a month you actually read, I think it makes sense to be really aware of that. Maybe you don’t want to request 15 books a month because the reality is that you’re probably not going to get around to reading them all, and now you’re just stressing yourself out. Plus, yeah, if you have a pretty good idea you’re not going to get around to those ARCS, that it might be nice to try to help get them into the hands of other bloggers.

        In some sense I think this is really an on-going debate in the blogging community, and you’re just in the middle of the most recent debate. We have pretty similar discussions about “Did people take too many books from BEA? How is that woman actually going to read the 100 ARCs she grabbed? Isn’t she taking them away from people who would have actually read them?” for instance, so you’re not necessarily raising questions that other people haven’t raised.

        Sorry about the Twitter backlash. Sometimes Twitter does get personal. And sometimes I think people sincerely believe they’re being polite by subtweeting instead of directly saying something mean to the blogger, but the original blogger always finds out about the Twitter conversations, so we’re not really saving anyone’s feelings here. And I definitely think we should stick to debating the issues instead of the person.

        • Of course. I think it’s so important to be aware of how and what you request. I’m a relatively new blogger, so most of my requesting happens on Netgalley. I made some bad decisions in the past, but now I pace myself. I know I won’t want to read more than two ARCs in a month, so that’s how many I request and read. It’s a completely different story if the ARCs are unsolicited- if they just show up on your door, and you’re not interested or have other things to get to, it’s probably even okay to completely ignore them and not let the publisher know. Since you didn’t request them specifically. My post was directed at a very specific set of people: those who REQUEST ARCs, and then don’t review OR publicize them. But it seems that it didn’t come across that way, hence the announced edit.

          I’ve been on hiatus for the past few months due to school and what not, so I wasn’t aware of all the BEA drama going on. I thought of this post when I was thinking about what discussion post to write, that’s it. I was aware people would have spoken about it in the community- I just hadn’t realized how viciously people would react to a somewhat unpopular opinion.

          I think that if the Twitter people had come to my post, or tweeted me on Twitter and had the conversation, they wouldn’t have called me the things they did. I very much doubt someone would say, to my face, that I was bitter or jealous for having an opinion, or that I should just stop blogging. So in this way, subtweets were even worse. This Twitter mob-culture is so problematic. Maybe I’ll make a post on it. 😉 😛

  9. I am going to have to disagree with you on how not reviewing the ARCs you requested counts as stealing. (And we will probably have to agree to disagree on this topic, and that’s fine! It’s your opinion and it’s mine)

    The main reason I think this way is because once you receive an ARC or an eARC, it belongs to you and you have the right to do what you want with it. There actually was a court case that addressed this when it came to promotional CDs, which yes, is not an ARC, but it’s still an item that had promotional content and it was free (the article can be found here for that!: (really hoping that link doesn’t turn this comment into spam). (This is also why selling ARCs is an ethical or moral case, rather than an illegal act, which I am not getting into because this is not the topic, so onwards with the comment!) So with that, because that ARC now belongs to the blogger or whomever, it is now theirs to do what’s fit. Whether that means reviewing it, or not, there cannot be any consequences to them. They are not held under contract to review that book. But yes, there might be a chance that publishers notice that you aren’t reviewing the ARCs, but I have no idea how publishers work or whether they even care or not, so I have nothing to say on that.

    So yeah, I think that’s it from me. Again, this is just why I think it doesn’t constitute as stealing, and you don’t have to agree with me at all.

    • Thank you for being the first person who disagrees with me, and has commented in a polite way. I was startled when I came across people talking ABOUT me, rather than TO me, so I appreciate this.

      I mentioned in my post that you are not obligated to review and publicize ARCs. The law doesn’t require it, publishers don’t require it, and Netgalley obviously does not require it. I also mentioned that this is the very reason my post is not called the “rules” of ARCs, but the “etiquette.” It is the polite thing to do to provide the publisher with what they want in exchange for ARCs, which is what etiquette means: the polite code of conduct. Perhaps stealing was not the word that fit the scenario perfectly – after all, etiquette and rule are two different things. So I completely see what you mean about that.

      I am genuinely sorry if my phrasing has offended people on the bookish community- it was never my intention to do that, but I see people responding to my post with every intention to offend ME.

  10. This is such a great post and something that we all should be thinking about when requesting ARC’s. I’m kind of glad that I’ve not really been swept away by this phenomenon. Because I’m such a mood reader I don’t typically request an ARC unless it’s a title that I’ve been desperate to read. In a lot of instances I’ve been person B, the one that doesn’t get the approval. It can definitely be dejecting, especially at the beginning but I’ve learned to not let it bother me because at the end of the day I already have a slew of other books that need reading. I think it’s important that we consider our own limitations when requesting ARC. Everyone will go through a phase of going request crazy but I think it’s so much more important that you look at your reading patterns and also how busy you life is before deciding on the number you request. That way it saves you from stressing out too much about needing to read and reviewing them.

  11. ARCs are a two-way transaction. I believe that if the publisher agrees on letting you access a book prior to its publication date, it is only fair that you stick to your end of the silent contract by giving them feedback. As a non-native English speaker and living in France, I first requested many books because I was sure I would never get approved. Thankfully, some publishers are okay with it and I received my first ARCs. Now I pay more attention, both to the approval requirements and the story. If I am only mildly interested, I pass. I also learned the hard way that it’s better to take a look at the release and archive dates!

  12. Thank you. So. Damn. Good. And of course yes when I first started on Netgalley I requested like 9 books and got approved on 7 of them. Lessons learned 😂 happy reading!

  13. What a fantastic post! I have to say, I was requesting a lot of books before, and now I feel so much better, almost not requesting books at all, except when those books really interest me. I think at first, realizing that there are SO many books just made me want to get them all, hahaha. And you’re right, I agree that if you request a book, it’s sort of a responsibility to spread the word about it a bit 🙂

  14. This is a very insightful post and makes perfect sense. I am having trouble keeping up, but I also just try to request books I am interested in.

  15. Love this post! I totally agree with everything you said and I had the same exact problem when I started on NetGalley. Luckily I got my shit together real quick and managed to send apologies to the books I didn’t get around to reading and now I make sure to only request the books I really want to read.

  16. I don’t think getting ARCs and not reading them is stealing, but it is not holding up your end of the bargain, like having a friend who doesn’t pay you back right away or something.

    It’s probably not a good habit, but it’s not the end of the world. I think bloggers can be under a lot of stress. The best thing I ever did was step away from the arc craze and just reviewed books I bought and requested a few books here and there from NetGalley. I may not be a popular blogger, but if reading what I want when I want is important to me, which it is, I’d rather be less popular bc I’m not reviewing titles on the day of release.

    • Perhaps stealing is a term most people wouldn’t use, but in my head, this business works a lot like a transaction. You ask for something, you are given it and when asked for ‘payment’ (feedback/publicity), you don’t oblige. I know a lot of people wouldn’t agree with the exact term; just something that fits in my mind, haha!

      It’s definitely not the end of the world. Like I said, a person’s life and health should always come first, but it is this person’s responsibility to tell the publishers when they cannot review a book. Just leaving a note that says, “I can’t get to this book at this moment. I am under a lot of pressure with school” or something is still 200x better than just not providing feedback.

      Now, I request one or two books in a month- only those I am sure I will read. This way, I can retain my sanity, without being under so much pressure to review so many ARCs, and publishers remain happy because they get the feedback they expect!

  17. I have to sheepishly admit that I’ve been one of those that have gone on requesting sprees before (it’s certainly much easier on Netgalley than anywhere else-I mean it’s just a click away). As you know (and as you mentioned), with personal and academic obligations it’s really difficult to read and review some titles for their release dates-but I’m usually good at trying to meet them especially for all the titles that I’ve personally requested (either via email or Netgalley).

    However, I know it’s sort of bad but I don’t feel as obligated to read and review unsolicited copies. Sometime around last year I started getting them in the mail from Random House (idk why or how because it’s not like I have PO box) and they would be of titles that were interesting but not really for me. Even though I know I won’t be reading those I still try to promote or spread awareness of them in some way (either through Instagram or through book haul posts).

    Anyway, wonderful post, Aimal! I totally agree with you on the unspoken etiquette that comes with requesting and reading ARCs. Being able to request them and getting the occasional approval is a great privilege. 😀

    • I don’t think that’s bad at all, Summer! I think this post applies to the ARCs people personally request, not the unsolicited copies sent to you. Since you didn’t ask for them, I don’t think you’re obligated to read them at all. It’d be nice for the publisher if you did, but I don’t think the ‘etiquette’ is as necessary as it is otherwise. It’s so lovely that you publicize the unsolicited copies anyway- that’s a very nice thing to do.

      I’ve been trying to start request physical ARCs, but it’s not going my way yet. 😛 I hope I get a copy before I lose my mind hahah!

      • I sort of wish that publishers didn’t send unsolicited ARCs to random people (I actually emailed Random House to tell them I rather them not since I’m a slow mood reader-but no reply) because there are others that may want them more (I think you mentioned this, haha). Sigh. But thanks for making me feel a little better, Aimal!

        Yay, for requesting physical copies. I’m so impatient and the fact that publicists hardly reply (understandably so though) is sort of maddening for me. XD (And if it makes you feel not so alone… I don’t think I’ve ever gotten an ARC from Harper Collins, and I’ve requested a lot from them. :3 )

  18. I feel like almost everybody goes on a request binge when they first join NetGalley. I did, and I’m still trying to recover. I really try to get any ARCs I get reviewed by the requested date, but I would rather have a good review posted a day or two late, than a rushed review that isn’t that good posted on time. I don’t that readers should request ARCs and not review them, that goes against everything they were created for (in my opinion).

    • Hahaha, yes! I wish I’d come across a decent tips post before I started using Netgalley! Of course, my post is mostly aimed at the idea of not providing any feedback whatsoever. Late reviews, or incomplete reviews still manage to do the job- publicity. Not giving the books any sort of recognition at all is so bothersome.

  19. As an author this is very interesting. For my debut novel Pathfinders, I had reached out to about two dozen reviewers about an ARC. Only two had the courtesy to come back and accept my offer – more than a month later. I guess I should be a little more discerning in the future about who I pick. Thanks for sharing.

    • Sorry to hear that! Outright ignoring an author request is also something that bothers me- it’s just so rude. If you’re not interested, you can always politely let the author know so they can ask someone else instead of waiting for you to get back for days and weeks! x

      • To share from the other side of the spectrum: My review policy says I’m not accepting review requests, and people email me anyway. So, yes, I often ignore them. My email address is only on the review policy page, so it’s not as they could have missed the policy.

        I’ve also had a couple bad experiences with authors arguing with me when I tried to politely decline their review request. So a few unprofessoinal people ruined it for everyone because I now find it safer to just delete review requests.

  20. I admit I have quite a few ARC’s piled up but I was sending them to my kindle from day 1 so I can still review them all. I am now requesting less and switching between nnew and older ARCs so I don’t get behind on the old ones. I fully plan to read them all even if it is eventually which is not great I admit, but a late review is better than none and I am rectifying it now.

    I don’t really think if you don’t review iit’s stealling but it is bad form, the authors are expecting some recognition for their hard work and they deserve it. I always feel guilty for late reviews and always apologise to the publishers, won’t do much but will clear my conscience a little and it’s polite. Great post

    • Yes! A late review is always better than no review at all. Personal life and time restraints get in the way all the time, but as long as you provide some form of feedback (or even an apology,) it should be good. Stealing might be a strong word, but I’ve always viewed this business as a transaction. You ask for something, you are given it and are asked to provide feedback. If you don’t, you have what you asked for but didn’t give back what the other party wanted. In my head, that’s a little like stealing, but I understand why people may not agree with that exact term.

  21. Ah yes. I definitely had a similar experience to this. I really had to start restraining myself and asking, “Okay, do I REALLY want to read this book?” Once I started doing that, I feel like it’s been better.


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