It’s no secret that reading is an expensive hobby. I was fully aware of this fact before I started my bookstagram, my blog, and my Twitter account. I walked downstairs to look at all my books and thought, wow, I have quite the collection here. But the truth is, I don’t really have that many books. Maybe to some it seems like a lot, but in all honesty it’s not. You’re not supposed to compare yourself to others on social media, but compared to the other bookstagrammers I see, my collection is pitiful.
I know, I know, they’ve been doing this for years as I just started, what, barely a month ago? It feels like it was just yesterday. My point is, the amount of money I’ve spent on books compared to how many I actually own is . . . Ugh, I don’t even want to go there. Books are expensive. We all know this. Authors need to make a living, I totally know and support that. My dream is to be an author, so I’d be insane not to support them! A hypocrite! A disgrace! An outrage! And so on.
But, as reviewers, as just plain readers with a love for reading, well, I think we need a break. We kind of deserve a break. Now, I’m not talking to all reviewers right now. I’m aware of how things work: you can request ARCs, and you’re lucky if you get one; you can attend YALC and enter drawings for ARCs; hell, I just won a giveaway by an author of a fantastic book, an author just asked me if she could send me her debut so I could review it, and someone reached out to me on Twitter because they have a book I posted about wanting desperately and they want to send it to me. Guys, I’ve been in this community for not even a month yet. You see that I have one review up. I’ve been on Twitter for about a week, and I don’t even have 100 followers yet (as I’m writing this)! THINGS HAPPEN AND LIFE IS AMAZING.
Am I trying to brag? No, of course not. I just want to stress that maybe this post is for the brand-new bookstagrammer baby who barely has a following and is posting about books they’ve owned for years because they can’t afford to buy these new releases (guilty).
If you are a new book reviewer OR a new bookstagrammer OR a new book blogger, please keep reading, as these first 2 tips will be beneficial for you. If you are NOT any of these and just love reading as a hobby, go ahead and jump down to #3 (or keep reading, maybe you’ll decide to join the bookish community!)
#1 – Social Media: Instagram, Twitter, Blog
In my totally-unexpert-yet-experienced opinion, this is what you really need. These are the real requirements. The best way to get books for cheap is to not pay for them at all, I think we can all agree on that. How do you get books for free? You request them! You win them! You have people reach out to you and offer them up!
- I won a giveaway on Twitter run by an author of two fantastic books. I’m currently reading the one that I won, and it’s so good I’m almost done with it and it’s been about three days since it got here. Definitely doing a review on it. Make a Twitter and follow fellow bloggers, bookstagrammers, and authors. Follow authors you’ve never heard of, be willing to branch out. Just make sure they’re authors in the genre you prefer.
- Another Twitter example: I took it upon myself to change my bio so it mentioned that I review books and would probably “love to read yours too” and said my DMs are “eternally open to debut novels and authors.” I kid you not, a few hours later a lovely girl reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing her YA action/adventure debut, said she’d send it to me if I was, and provided a link so I could check it out before deciding. I said yes, because I love anything YA. But it was as simple as making my Twitter bio inviting! Plus, I love celebrating new authors, because I know someday that will be me and I want to show others the kindness and courtesy I would want.
- Sorry, another Twitter example (but not really sorry because Twitter is so necessary): Someone had a tweet about how blessed they are to receive ARCs and to review such amazing books, and told other bloggers and bookstagrammers (and just book lovers) to reply with a book they’ve been wanting, whether it be an ARC or special edition or hardcover or paperback or whatever. I replied, obviously, with A Thousand Perfect Notes by C. G. Drews, and someone actually replied saying they were willing to give me their special edition version. Of course I freaked out and screamed into oblivion before asking if they were sure, and they said YES! I told them if they ever need anything to let me know because I owe them big time. My point is, it’s that simple my friends.
- Instagram is probably where you’ll grow the fastest, and you can unapologetically post beautiful pictures of books 3 times a day. But on top of that, there are giveaways hosted on there all the time by bookstagrammers reaching follower count goals and from book boxes.
- Speaking of book boxes . . . Follow them, they do rep searches every few months. Work on building your following and interact with your followers (even if your following is small, interaction can counteract that). Take beautiful pictures that you love, because sometimes entries into these rep searches requires you to showcase some of your favorite and most creative photos you’ve taken. If you’re chosen as a rep, there are some requirements you have to follow (a certain amount of pictures you have to post of the box per month, displaying your discount code, etc.), but for a few months (it varies) they’ll send you a free subscription box and most include at least one book! Sometimes special edition, sometimes signed. It’s awesome.
- Blogging . . . This isn’t for everyone, but if you want to get books for free I recommend giving it a whirl. You don’t have to put any money into your blog; for the first few weeks I used the free WordPress package, and that would have worked perfectly fine for me. It was just a personal decision I made recently to monetize my blog and invest in it. But you totally don’t have to do that. Make a free website and post some reviews, provide a link to your website in your Instagram and Twitter bio and update your followers when you have a new post. Follow other book bloggers to build a following. Having reviews up can help you in the future when requesting ARCs, if you want to do that.
#2 – ARCs
ARCs are undoubtedly the best way to get access to books not only for free, but before they’re even available. That’s right. ARC stands for Advanced Readers’ Copy. These are for book reviewers. I should stress that these are unfinished copies of the book and it’s understood that you do not sell these after you’re done with them. I don’t know all of the logistics of this option, as I have yet to get my hands on one myself. It varies by publisher, though. To get an ARC you have to do your research on the author and their publisher, and I definitely recommend searching for examples of emails to send. There’s etiquette to follow, and there are some bomb examples out there. It’s probably a good idea to wait until you have some following (and probably a blog?), because it might look better if you can list a decent follower count so they know how many people will be seeing this review. They’ll also tell you when you can post your review and all that jazz. There’s so much to this option in general, and so much I just don’t even know yet, so I’ll end this one here for now.
I’m personally still doing my research on it. I just wanted to give it a mention because I genuinely didn’t even know this was a thing until after I created my bookstagram, and I about died when I found out. You’re telling me I can get a copy of my favorite author’s book before it’s even released? And for FREE? *dies*. That’s pretty much what happened. I just want everyone to be aware of their options!
Book Depository is so popular in the book community, and for good reason: They offer discounted books! And free shipping worldwide! I have to highly recommend this site. Also, bookstagrammers and book bloggers are constantly doing giveaways of Book Depository purchases. By that, I mean once they reach a certain follower goal they’ll offer up a giveaway. Rather than just offering up a specific book or product, they’ll say the winner can choose any book(s) from Book Depository under $20 or something. And the books are super cheap, so that could easily get you at least two.
I know Amazon is a little taboo in the book community, so I hesitate to bring it up, but I purchase my books from there. They’re cheap (I know this doesn’t help the author, but I feel like I’m trying to do my part to help them by providing reviews) and you can get free two-day shipping if you sign up for Prime. BONUS: If you’re a college student you can use your school email to sign up for a free 6-month trial of Prime. This is what I did, and I’ll probably keep using it after the trial because it’s just so convenient. Basically all the books are Prime eligible, and if there’s a hardcover that isn’t then odds are the paperback is.
[Note: I’m an Amazon and Book Depository affiliate, but I decided against using affiliate links in this post. This post is about helping other readers save money, not making myself money. This is also why I’m not providing direct links to the websites for you, which I would normally do; I don’t want any readers to think I’m trying to be sneaky. So, no links today! Just type “Amazon” or “Book Depository” into search and you can find the websites!]
Go to Goodwill, Salvation Army, any discount/thrift store near you. They sometimes have some awesome finds there (as you can see in my recent Discount Finds post, I scored an Elin Hilderbrand book for SUPER CHEAP) and you may even broaden your horizons and pick up some cheap books you never would have if they were full price (which you can also see in that post). Oh, and you can find some decent furniture at these stores too. I’m going to try to hunt down a cheap bookshelf in a few days, I’ll let you guys know if I find one. 😉
I’ve never tried this, but I’ve seen it happen on Twitter. People will post that they’re looking for a certain book, and maybe it’s one that you have that you wouldn’t mind parting with because you already read (and possibly reviewed?) it. Let them know you have it, and see if they have anything they’d be willing to exchange! Of course, you can always just do your part and send them the book for free. Maybe in the future when you’re posting about a book you want, they’ll return the favor.