Today, I thought I’d take some time to tell you about eARCs, and how NetGalley and Edelweiss+ work.
An eARC, or electronic advanced reader copy, is an unfinished digital copy of a book that publishers put out before a book’s release date to generate buzz from people such as reviewers, bloggers, librarians, and booksellers. Individuals create profiles on sites such as NetGalley and Edelweiss+ that explain their role in the book industry and request approval from publishers for access to a particular eARC. Once a publisher approves a request, the eARC can be downloaded onto a phone, Kindle, or computer to read. Like a physical ARC, an eARC is not the final version of the book, and changes are frequently made before printing the completed book (the changes are usually minor, as major ones cost the publishers money to reformat large portions of the book). eARCs are often missing maps, illustrations, and acknowledgements, graphic novels may be in black and white, and many have formatting issues not found in printed ARCs, but since many publishers are currently cutting costs by eliminating printing physical ARCS, an eARC is an easy and convenient way to read a book before it’s available to the general public.
As mentioned, the two main players in the eARC world are NetGalley and Edelweiss+. These are sites that act as a liaison between the reader and the publisher. They showcase the books that are available by each publisher, and the user can then request access to titles that are of interest to them. It’s important to note that NetGalley and Edelweiss+ aren’t the ones making decisions about who gets access to a book; it’s the publishers that decide who gets approved or denied. The strength of a user’s profile and their record for providing feedback are key factors in publishers deciding whether or not to grant a request. Publishers also have the power to grant auto-approvals, which means a user can automatically download one of their books without requesting and waiting for approval, and these are highly coveted in the reviewing world.
My thoughts about eARCs
I have a love/hate relationship with eARCs. I prefer a physical ARC because I don’t read as closely on a device. It’s difficult to flip back and forth, and the formatting issues have ruined a read for me more times than I can count (if you’ve tried to read a novel in verse and the line breaks are all over the please, you’ll know what I mean). On the other hand, I try to read as many middle grade books as I can to assess what I want to add to my library’s collection, and you can’t beat the cost (free!) and ease of downloading a book. I’m fortunate to have excellent profiles on both NetGalley and Edelweiss+ (I’ve worked VERY hard to get to this place after years of reviewing) so I rarely get denied a request. Sometimes the wait for a publisher’s approval can be very long; I’ve waited several weeks on multiple occasions. My biggest piece of advice for those new to these sites is to request just a few eARCs at a time and review them in a timely fashion. NetGalley keeps track of your feedback ratio and says that a rating over 80% is recommended for a good profile. I know many people who start on these sites and go hog wild with requests, and it can take a long time for your ratio to recover. “Request, Review, Repeat” is a great motto for building your profile on these sites.
NetGalley or Edelweiss+?
Ah, the big debate, is one site better than the other? There are advantages and disadvantages to both sites. Many users say that NetGalley is easier to use and more visually appealing than Edelweiss+, and I tend to agree. It can take a while to set up filters and make Edelweiss+ give you just the information you want, where NetGalley is easier to navigate. I also find NetGalley’s help and FAQs more useful. In general, I’ve found NetGalley’s approvals come a bit more quickly than Edelweiss+, and they offer badges when you read certain milestones such as achieving the 80% ratio or reaching 100 reviews. NetGalley also has an app, which I haven’t used as I download titles to the Kindle app, but I’m curious to know your thoughts if you use it. In general, I like NetGalley for its ease and user-friendly layout.
But my major issue with NetGalley is that as an international reviewer, I can’t access all the titles they have available. Many publishers on NetGalley restrict their approvals to US readers, and though international readers can “wish” for a title, my wishes have rarely come true. This is incredibly frustrating. I’m sure many of your have heard me complain that I couldn’t access Kenneth Oppel’s books, a Canadian author but whose Bloom series was published in the US. For this reason alone, I’ve started to use NetGalley only when necessary, and I spend most of my time on Edelweiss+.
Edelweiss+ has a better selection of middle grade titles available than NetGalley and doesn’t have the international reviewer limitations that NetGalley does. Edelweiss+ also has the option to immediately download certain titles, which is a great way for a new reviewer to start building their profile. You can set up widgets on your home screen to have the information you want at a single glance, and put filters on your searching to limit it to just junior fiction. I keep a “highly anticipating” shelf with titles that I’d like to request, and usually check in daily to see what was just added. I also like that you can give some detail about why you’re requesting a particular title, and when reviewing a book you can use a number rating system (or not) to indicate how you felt about the book. There are lots of videos and tutorials available to explain how to set up your home pages and customize searches. For me, Edelweiss+ is the site of choice, but a lot depends on the user and their location.
Please feel free to leave any questions or comments about eARCs, NetGalley, or Edelweiss+ in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.