Being able to read and review upcoming books before publication is a perk of running a book blog that I love. How doesn’t like free books? With Advanced Reader/Reviewer Copies (ARCs) comes responsibility because they are a publisher’s marketing tool to generate word-of-mouth buzz for a book. It’s exciting to be part of that. But every book reviewer needs a plan to manage ARC stress to avoid burnout.
It’s a “great problem to have,” but ARC-related stress is still stress and the best way to manage it is to get organized. Here are 5 tried and true methods to manage ARC stress that I’ve cultivated over the last four years.
- A Note About ARC Access
- How I Manage ARC Stress
- End Notes
- ❓ What are your tips for reducing ARC-related stress?
A Note About ARC Access
Before I dive into the post, I would be remiss to not mention the inherent privilege of ARC access – particularly to the point of being overwhelmed. For many readers outside of the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, access to books is difficult. The issue of access is exacerbated with Advanced Review Copies (ARCs).
Learn more about the struggles of an international book blogger from Marie @ Drizzle Hurricane Books and consider the ways you can use your privilege to support and advocate for international readers.
How I Manage ARC Stress
This post has been sitting in my drafts since May 2019, shortly before I attempted my first ARC Ban (spoiler alert: it didn’t work). Over the years, I’ve tried a number of methods to tame ARC Mountain because let’s face it: I have self-control issues and mood reading leads to many slumps.
Keep a List of Review Obligations
There are many ways a reviewer can receive books for review and it is easy to lose track of them if you don’t have a system in place. One of the first things that gave me ARC-related stress was the fear that I’d forget about a book I agreed to review.
One of the best ways to calm task-related stress is to create a list. Because I receive ARCs from various sources (authors, publishers, Netgalley, and Edelweiss), I needed a central place track them – thus the first iteration of my Reader Spreadsheet Template was born in mid-2018.
Consult List of ARCs Before Accepting/Requesting New Ones
Once you get into the habit of tracking all ARC obligations in one place, you can understand your current time commitments at a glance. This makes it very easy to determine if you have the bandwidth to accept the new book within your personal preferences. (I aim to review in the month prior to publication when possible.)
The vast majority of the book blogging community review as a hobby in their spare time along their jobs, families, and school obligations. We all have varying amount of time and read at different paces, and the best way I’ve found to manage ARC stress is to carefully consider each book before adding it to my list.
You know how long it typically takes to read a book and how much time per day you are able to dedicate to reading in a perfect world. I refer the estimated amount of time available to read as “Unicorn Time” because no day or week works out as planned. Some days are busier than others. Others we are drained and unable to read. Slumps happen and sometime all you want to do is re-read your favorite books. Very few weeks work out as we expect, so when they do they are as rare as a unicorn!
Limiting ARC Requests
Limiting the number of ARCs you accept goes hand in hand with consulting The List of ARC Obligations. If you know at best you finish one book a week, it might make sense to limit yourself to no more than four ARCs per month. If you like to balance your backlist with ARCs, take that into consideration when setting your loose limits.
That’s right, I said loose limits. These are just guidelines and sometimes publishing conspires against us and publishes all the books you’re anticipating in the same month (or week). Depending on how much time you have before publication (next suggestion) and other factors only you can determine, you can choose to accept more than your guideline. The key is to know how many requests you have pending and make a conscious decision every time.
I personally began limiting myself to 4 ARCs per month in 2019, which has been cut in half since the pandemic. I’ve found limiting my ARCs per month has helped curb unweildy TBR piles of review obligations, but it’s also helped in unexpected ways. Most interestingly, I am now pickier with my ARC requests and as a result I don’t pick up as many ‘meh’ titles anymore. I go with the books I’m confident that I will love and steer clear of “my gut isn’t sold but it sounds kind of neat?” books (looking at you Rule).
Try to Request ARCs Months Before Publication
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that the further in advance you get your hands on a review copy, the more time you have to read it. This comes in very handy for me as a mood reader whose moods cannot be trusted to adhere to TBRs and reading schedules.
Having more time to read a book is useful and helps alleviate a lot of my ARC-related stress. Often times I read a book months in advance because the mood was right, and then I have the review ready for whenever I plan to schedule it. (But this also helps when you have review writing slumps as it gives you more time to write them.)
Writing Reviews Once a Book is Finished
If you have the memory of a goldfish like me, writing your reviews as soon after finishing them is crucial. This also allows for you to plan your reviews within your blog’s content schedule! I love writing my reviews really early and scheduling the post out.
A lot of the time though, I don’t write my full review right away because I also experience writing slumps (which are the literal worst). I always try to write a “word vomit” review draft after finishing a book where I don’t worry about the review’s grammar or flow. I get my immediate thoughts on the page with my favorite quotes and save it as a draft to capture my thoughts and feelings, and then go back to edit it into a finished review later.
I hope these methods help you manage ARC stress and maintain (or regain) your love of reading! We all started reviewing books because of our passion, but if you’re anything like me the stress sucks the fun out of it sometimes.
Ultimately the pressure we put on ourselves to read and review books is largely unfounded. Every publisher I’ve worked with over the years has understood and many don’t expect “timely reviews” anyway. Besides, I don’t think that it necessarily is in the book’s best interests to have all reviews published within a 6 week window. Since publishers tend to do their book marketing in the month prior and two weeks post publication, reviews posted weeks or months later serve an important role in getting the book out there to a new audience!