Discussion: Are ARC’s Actually Worth It?

Potentially unpopular opinion alert….

Recently, I noticed a bit of a trend with my review ratings being higher than normal. Whereas I’m usually pretty stingy when dishing out stars (two and a half is ok, three is good, five has to be earth shattering) I found I was consistently rating books at around the four star mark and one month even had two five star reviews. Unheard of. So what was going on?

I did a bit of light digging and found that my NetGalley deadlines were pretty quiet for the months in question. Hmmm. When I looked closer, I found that I have a tendency to not enjoy NetGalley ARC’s as much as books I’d obtained from other sources (bought as new, bought second hand, borrowed from the library or a friend). That’s odd, right? 

Now, I’m not saying that I haven’t found some amazing novels on NetGalley. A quick flick through my book journal shows brilliant books like Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy, The Feather Thief, Bitter and The Woman in the Window all came from there, plus many others. However, I definitely feel like there’s a tendency for me to find an ARC a bit meh. Why?

Well, I guess there’s a pretty slick PR department at NetGalley who are professionals at making books sound A-MA-ZING when in reality, they’re probably not. In my reading life, they’re the only professional source of book marketing that I engage with. The only other thing that comes close is authors or blog tour organisers who directly approach me to review their books. The thing is, a direct email is so much more personal that I’m far, far pickier about participating. I have to be almost entirely sure that I’m going to like the novel before I agree to review it because, well, how super awkward would it be to send a negative review directly to the author or the person who was counting on you for some publicity? I have almost zero qualms about sending a negative review to NetGalley though because it’s so…impersonal. I’m just a random person sending feedback via an intermediary. Nothing ever comes of it so there’s no fear. 

Apart from the marketing angle, I guess the idea of free books gives me a kid-in-a-sweet-shop mentality. I want them all! I was exactly the same when I first bought a Kindle and discovered the Top 100 Free chart. Unlimited free books from the comfort of my home! My dreams have been realised! Then I started reading them and found the quality to be…let’s say variable…trending towards the lower end of the scale (again, not knocking anyone, I’ve found some great free books over the years. They just tend to be few and far between). 

But Lucinda, you use the library! Free books! It’s the same thing, right?

Well actually, no. Firstly, the library doesn’t send you vaguely manipulative emails every five minutes telling you that only 100 people will get to read this book now or give you professional marketing literature about a book that they’ve been told to push. The most you’ll get is a “If you liked this you might like…” or an impartial recommendation. Plus you can still only have six books at a time (presumably to stop people like me with no impulse control from turning up with a wheelbarrow and emptying the shelves). The library exists as a publicly funded entity, NetGalley is a profit making PR firm. 

Major. Difference. 

But you must buy books that you don’t like?

Yes of course but since I’m not a millionaire they tend to be considered purchases. I see buying books as a treat, so I need to choose wisely. I’ll spend far more time looking at reviews, reading synopses and shopping around than I would for an ARC. I mean, I could be spending that money on gin.

So, are you going to stop using NetGalley?

Of course not, I’m not an idiot. Free books, remember?!?

Seriously, I don’t think using NetGalley is a bad idea – on the contrary, it’s a brilliant resource for book bloggers like myself. I’ve found lots of amazing novels through the site and I love it when I find out that my request to read something has been approved. I am going to be more restrained though. I’d like to spend more time on my actual, long-standing TBR instead of succumbing to the latest whim. Boringly Annoyingly As always, it seems like moderation is the key. 

What are your thoughts on sites like NetGalley? Do you find a difference in your enjoyment of ARCs vs bought/library books? Let me know in the comments!

14 thoughts on “Discussion: Are ARC’s Actually Worth It?

  1. I’m always a sucker for that the first 100/500 people get to read. It’s like my brain just jumps on it, “Me! Me! I want to be one of the 500!” And then like thinking about it later would you have read this if you had to buy it and it’s usually like, eh, maybe? Or probably not. Long story short I’m trying to moderate myself as well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been pretty choosy on NetGalley, I mostly stick with books I’ve seen recommended or authors I’m familiar with. I think reading ARCs is about taking chances though, which means you might love or hate a book. I don’t think that’s all bad. Where I run into trouble is when I have too many ARCs all publishing around the same time, then I find the stress of finishing them and writing timely reviews really takes away from my enjoyment of reading.

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  3. I totally have that ‘kid in a sweet shop’ mentality – have become better but am still clearing the backlog from when I first joined! Unfortunately/ Fortunately (depending how you look at it) my library allows 20 books at a time…and I may have ‘borrowed’ my boyfriend’s card…and I may have maxed them both out…

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    1. I’m still doing that too! I’m so jealous of your overly generous library, if I could borrow 40 books at a time I’d definitely be doing so. Then bankrupting myself with library fines 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have 40 at the moment and some reservations on the way. Any time my boyfriend actually wants to borrow a book I have to do some juggling to make enough space on his care, lol. I do occasionally get hit by fines but never mind too much as it’s all going to buy more books 😀

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  4. Yeah I totally hear you about a lot of arcs being potentially meh. I’ll be honest, because my tbr is so huge and I don’t want to waste my time with lousy books, I’ve always been really strict about what books I request. Though of course I’m tempted to do the kid in the sweetshop thing, I have strict rules, so if I barely ever request anything. It also helps that when I started out blogging, I didn’t know what it was a thing and even when I found out what it was I didn’t start requesting till I’d been on the blog about a year- I dunno, but I think this curbed my impulse to go wild cos I saw a lot of meh reviews for arcs and wasn’t tempted to read a bunch of those sorts of books (actually, the one time I requested a book at total random, it ended up being meh, so yeah, that’s why I’m strict with myself 😉 ) The downside of using netgalley less is fewer freebies, the upside is fewer meh books 😉

    Anyway, great post! Though the real question is what kind of (inconsiderate) library only lets you take out 6 books at a time!? (both the boroughs I’m a member for let you do 12) How are you supposed to overborrow books when it’s just six?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry, BOTH of the boroughs that you’re a member of? Are you cheating the library system? How could you do such a thing? Also, how? Just, you know, asking for a friend 😜.

      I know right? I’ve been complaining about the six book limit since 1987. It was a nightmare when I was a kid and borrowing shorter books that I could get through in an hour. Probably why I started trying to read classics when I was far too young.

      So yeah, when I found NetGalley and they were like HAVE ALL THE BOOKS I was like request request request request and now I’m still working through the backlog of meh. Only fourteen left to go (sigh)…


  5. Amazingly insightful post. I’ve cut back on NetGalley requests considerably (maybe one or two a month) for several reasons, one being what you cite…my need to be pickier because of mediocre reading experiences. I still love NG but I tend to look for new releases in series I’m already up to date. I do a lot of research before buying a book and almost as much for library rentals. And, I’ve found my ratings tended to be a bit higher.

    Liked by 1 person

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