Build a Classroom Library with FREE Books!
If you want to add new releases to your classroom library without breaking the bank, you’ve come to the right place. It can be a challenge keeping up with new books and is it really worth investing in titles before you even know if your students will like them? In this post, I’ll share one way to get FREE books for your classroom library.
For two years I co-hosted the YA Café Podcast, a weekly roundtable discussion of new books. Since we released our episodes the Thursday after the books are published, it’s obvious that we weren’t reading at super-speed and producing an episode in two days. Nope! Our not-so-secret strategy is that publishers send us the books early, and for free. You don’t even have to run a podcast to make this happen—I’ve been receiving free books for four years.
Publishers want YOU to read their books early.
For every book on the road to publication, publishers set aside a small number of advanced copies to send to early readers. We call these Advanced Review Copies or ARCs for short. Publishers send these to readers who are purchasing influencers. This includes bloggers, librarians, and of course—you! Publishers especially value teachers’ opinions, since you could influence hundreds of students to read a book.
You will always receive books in exchange for an honest review, so you’ll need to share your thoughts on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. These don’t have to be New Yorker-level reviews, and a few paragraphs will suffice.
There are essentially two ways to approach this, each with its own implications for your classroom.
1. Electronic copies
The easiest way to get early copies is to join a website like NetGalley. You can search a wide range of electronic copies, request them, and have them sent to your Kindle or eReader. As you start submitting reviews, you will improve your reader rating and publishers will be even more likely to send you books!
It’s easy for publishers to send out a high number of eBooks because they’re so cheap to produce. This means it’s more likely that you’ll get the books you want, especially as you write more reviews.
This is a great choice for you if you prefer to pre-read books before ordering them. You’ll pay full price for the copies you buy for your classroom, but you’ll have a good idea of what you’re getting.
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2. Hard copies
Additionally, you can request hard copies directly from the publisher. This takes more work, but you’ll end up with a physical copy that you can later add to your library.
Each publisher varies in how they’d prefer to receive ARC requests—it could be via email or fax (I use eFax!), so check their websites for this information. You’ll want to have your titles in mind already (there’s no easy way to browse, like NetGalley has), so check BookBirds and EpicReads to see upcoming releases. One shortcut is to see what’s available on NetGalley, but write to the publisher for a hard copy.
Because they are small-batch printings, physical ARCs cost publishers much more to produce than the final book. For that reason, you may not always get one. Still, it’s possible to develop a good relationship with a publisher and eventually get on their distribution list for ALL of their YA releases. How cool would that be?
Writing Your Requests
The next step is a written request. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for requesting an ARC, but here are a couple of tips to help get your request approved.
- The email subject should be “ARC Request: (Title) (Author) (Publication Date)”. This helps assure that it’s being read by the person who makes distribution decisions.
- In the email itself, bold the words (Title) (Author) (Publication Date).
- Explain your purchasing influence. Do you recommend titles for purchase for your school and county libraries? (If not, could you in the future?) If this doesn’t apply to you, you should play up the number of students you teach, or the number of students in your school.
- Link to a review you’ve published, whether it’s on your blog, Goodreads, etc. Show the publisher what they’re investing in.
Developing a Relationship with Publishers
Remember, what publishers want more than anything is to build buzz for their books. If you receive an ARC, be sure to shout out the publisher and the author on your social media! Tag them in your photos and say thank you. If you get a hard copy, #bookmail is a great hashtag to celebrate. The more you post—even before your formal review—the more likely you are to continue receiving books. Lastly, remember that you are an influencer. Show the publisher that you’re reading and sharing the book. 🙂
You can also develop a Review Board in your classroom. Have students apply to be early readers and let publishers know in your ARC requests that this is happening. You can ask students to read a book a month and send you their reviews via email. This is a great way to give students agency in adding books to your classroom library. You could also create a book review section of a class blog where you publish their thoughts.
Reading books in advance is great fun, and an easy way to get free books for your classroom! It will make you and your students feel like part of a club, and you’ll get to share your early thoughts with the amazing online educator community.
That’s it for today. Be sure to check out the YA Café Podcast for new book recommendations each week!