A lot of people ask how to get free copies of books – either for review, or just for reading. There are many ways to get free books legally and without bending any rules.
I should point out at this juncture that I support authors and traditional publishing, and I would never advocate book “piracy” to anyone just to save a few pennies on buying a book. It’s not fair on the people who put a lot of effort into crafting their work – so don’t do it!
This is a short, 4-part series which I’m going to run from today and over the next 3 Mondays. In this post I will cover the basics of getting an online presence which will help with Part 2 – Getting Free Books for Review. Part 3 will cover How to Get Free (and Very Cheap!) eBooks, and part 4 will cover How to Get Free (and Very Cheap!) Paper Books. All the sites will be accessible to mainland UK, but check for other geographies.
Building an Online Presence
In today’s electronic world, having an online presence through which you can review and recommend books is a must. If you want to start receiving good quality ARCs (advance reader copies) of top authors’ books from publishing houses, you need to be able to show that you can provide something in return. There are a number of ways you can do this, all of which are free or very low cost.
1. Get Blogging!
A blog is a great way to start getting your name “out there”. If you just want to set up a free blog then Blogger and WordPress are two good places to start. However with a free blog you’re limited to using their URLs – e.g. www.anywebsite.wordpress.com – which can look a little unprofessional. If you want to project a truly polished image then you can buy your own domain name and host the website yourself. This is a little more technical, but not too difficult to achieve.
You need to purchase two things – your domain name (e.g. the www.mywebsite.com address that people will type into their internet browser to find your site), and hosting (i.e. space online) for the website.
If you want a super-cheap domain name, take a look at Namecheap who offer domains starting at 88¢ (or approximately 65p) – as long as you don’t mind your domain ending with “.xyz” or some other random suffix. If you’d like a traditional “.co.uk” domain they cost around £7 per year with a registrar like TSOhost. As well as your domain you need hosting. In the UK I would always recommend purchasing hosting from TSOhost. Their “lite” package starts at £14.99 per year and their support team, which are all UK based, are amazingly helpful and friendly. They will help even the most novice of novices set up their own website (I’m a web developer by day and I recommend TSOhost to all my clients, as well as using them myself).
The last thing you need to start blogging is blogging software. For this I would recommend downloading WordPress which is free to install on your own website. There are lots of guides to installing WordPress on the WordPress website, YouTube and various other websites, as well as a plethora of resources available for you to use – both free and paid – so with a little effort you can have a fantastic and professional website for £22 a year!
If you’re going to start a blog for book reviews, make sure the majority of your content is book reviews!! You can have a little bit of off topic stuff here and there, but if your books reviews aren’t the main focus, publishers are less likely to ask you to review for them.
2. Get Socialising!
Social Media is the next area to concentrate on. Reposting your reviews and blog posts on Facebook and Twitter is a good way of increasing their social reach. A single tweet can get hundreds or thousands of views within minutes, driving traffic to your blog. It’s also a good way of thanking authors and publishers publicly for any ARCs you may receive. As your mother always said – good manners cost nothing!
Once you get a good bank of reviews built up (and if you’re running your own WordPress website) then have a look at adding a plugin such as Revive Old Post to automatically post your reviews to social media at regular intervals. It’s a good way of keeping up your online presence when you’re away from the computer.
3. Get Reviewing!
Once you’re all set up, then all that’s left is to start writing your reviews. It’s good to have a review policy on your blog setting out the genres you like, the kinds of books you’re accepting for review, your rating scale and how authors and publishers can contact you. This is more likely to generate requests to your contact email address.
When you write a review you should always state if the book has been received as a review copy, but make sure your review is honest. If you didn’t like the book then say so – but be constructive! Authors and publishers know not everyone will love every book, but don’t just say “I hated it” and leave it at that. Always try and include some positives in every review if you can.
Even the most prolific of bloggers will take time to build up a following – so make sure you join recognised review sites such as Amazon and GoodReads to cross-publish your reviews. Always link back to your blog in your review so that people know you have a blog as well. But these are good sites for contributing directly to a new book’s success by reaching out to a large number of people.
Next week I’m going to cover how to get free books for review. If you don’t want to miss the post, then subscribe to my weekly newsletter by filling in the box with your email address. I never share your email with anyone and you can unsubscribe at any time.