How to Get Free Books (Before Everyone Else)

You probably know the typical ways to get free books. Libraries still exist, and young adults are using them in droves (CW: the word “millennial” is used superfluously). You can use Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, though there’s always a price with Amazon (specifically Prime membership or a monthly subscription payment and maybe your pinky toe someday). If you follow your favorite authors on Goodreads you’ll get invites for giveaways, which are a mixture of pre-pubbed books and ones that have already been published. You can even do it the real grassroots way and trade books around with friends.

But there’s a way to get books before all your friends if you play your cards right. And if you consider yourself an “early adopter” of literature, if you want to be the first in your group of friends to know how the latest thriller ends, and you are willing to write reviews, you need to dig juuuuuust a little deeper. But if you’re here right now, you’re probably willing to go the extra mile for a good read.

(Quick Glossary:

  • ARC –> Advanced Review Copy (a copy of a book you get before everyone else in return for a review)
  • Galley –> Basically the same as an ARC except sometimes less polished
  • DRC –> Digital Review Copy (an advanced copy you can read on your e-reader or computer)

Aaaaand back to the good stuff…)

net galley logo

Get free books in your favorite genre from NetGalley

NetGalley is a magical place where you can apply to get DRCs (digital review copies) of books within the genres you like best.

Publishers post upcoming books on NetGalley so they can get as many quality reviews as possible before the book comes out. Readers request advanced copies and someone at the publishing company, sometimes a marketing/publicity intern (yes! it has been me before!), screens them. The publishing company can either auto-approve you for all future books or decide on a case-by-case basis who they think will give them a substantial review. Here are more details on how it works.

NetGalley favors librarians, teachers, booksellers, publishing professionals, and reviewers.  There’s not a lot of value for publishers to give copies away to people who aren’t going to promote the books somehow. You might be able to get away with just being a steady and thoughtful Goodreads reviewer if you aren’t working in the book industry somehow. In that case, the more reviews and social media posts—#bookstagram anyone?—the better. Find out more about how to better your chances of request approval and how to download the actual DRCs here.

Your ratio matters on NetGalley (though it means something a lot different than it does on Twitter). That means how many books you’ve actually reviewed out of how many of your galley requests have been approved. My current ratio is not great (40%), and that will probably make it hard for me to get the coolest new books for awhile. My e-reader broke after I’d already downloaded the DRM protected files, and since I was busy anyway I didn’t bother to ask for new ones. Whoops. It’ll take me about five more books to get my ratio up to a respectable level again.

edelweiss+ logo

Browse, List, and Get Book Downloads on Edelweiss+

Book marketers pay very close attention to their Edelweiss+ presence. It’s a lot similar to NetGalley except with a lot more detail and functionality. Its sorting tools are particularly impressive: You can go by genre, pub date, price point, awards, publisher, and whether it’s frontlist (released within the past year) or backlist (more than a year old). Even if you don’t get approved for a DRC, you can track when different books you want to read are coming out, sort them into lists, and get more in-depth information about each title.

Just open an account as an individual, type up a bio and get started. Here’s a little more detailed info on what to do. One fun thing here is you can make a case for why you should be approved for every book you request. Full disclosure: I literally just created my personal profile and requested my first book, too, and I M VERRY EXCITE.

bookriot logo

Get ARCs through publisher’s mailing lists

Mailing. Lists. Get. You. Free. Stuff.

This might be a lowkey bribe, but signing up for mailing lists is a great way to get cool stuff (it’s going to happen you guys…any day now). Anyone with a mailing list is going to offer you a competition or something free at some point. You can do it through reader-centric blogs with multiple writers like BookRiot, or you can go right to the source: publisher mailing lists. For instance, I recently reviewed an ARC (VOX by Christina Dalcher) through Penguin RandomHouse’s mailing list. The imprint, Berkley books, sent it in the mail along with a letter containing all their social media accounts that I could tag in my posts. And I know they looked at it, because the author responded to me on Twitter. ????????????????????

The cool thing about joining the mailing list for a big publisher is they can be a funnel for the smaller imprints that make up the company, which means those contests will come to your inbox. And another thing is these companies often set aside a certain number of ARCs for contest giveaways in addition to the ones they send to trade reiewers. So in these cases, you aren’t just getting DRCs (all that most individual bloggers can look forward to), but actual physical books.

But don’t forget to give your favorite small publishers love too. Joining a smaller community definitely has its perks, and your opinion and presence is highly valued.

Did I forget anything? Comment below or join the Hybrid Pub Scout mailing list and drop me a line!


Hybrid Pub Scout is connecting a community of readers, writers, and publishing professionals to build a better publishing world. Sign up here for free podcast updates and news about all the amazing projects that our contributors are putting out. 

Share this post!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Join our troop

Be a part of our growing community of readers, writers, and publishing professionals who are working together to create a better literary world!