Backlist vs. ARCs: The Good and Bad – Discussion Post

Backlist vs. ARCs: The Good and Bad…

When I first started blogging about a couple weeks in, I heard about Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) and thought it was an amazing concept. How exclusive would it be to read a book before release? Once I got my blog up in stats I signed up for a NetGalley account and was ready to roll in eARCs. I was approved for 3 and read 1. Then I realised the one I read actually was already released. Okaaaayyy, not quite an ARC then. When I got approved for First Lifeย I thought ‘now I’ve hit the big time’. And honestly, I was disappointed with the book. I didn’t enjoy it like I thought I would. So I joined on with some blog tours for ARCs and once again, disappointment.

I started to examine why if I really wanted to read ARCs. Sure, it’s great to feel exclusive, but it’s crummy motivation to read. On one hand, I can see the benefit of it. Especially if it’s from an author you know and love. Which wasn’t the case for any of the ones I hadย read. I turned to backlist books and actually enjoyed it more. I felt like I was working through my TBR instead of constantly adding to it. I think ARCs can be super fun to get. It was like Christmas when the copy of The Widow I won on GoodReads came in the mail. But books I’ve found and LOVED have always been ones I’ve meant to read for a long time and only finally got to reading.

There’s a constant flurry of interest in ARCs, but also a good amount of drama that surrounds them. And while backlist books don’t get as much hype once their release period is long gone, they have their own benefits over ARCs.

The Good

Backlist Books

  • No rush to finish before a deadline
  • Previous reviews to help you choose
  • Helps financially support the author
  • Great way to discover and promote lesser known books

Advanced Reading Copies

  • Get a book before most other people have seen it
  • Support the author by promoting and sharing their book before release
  • Are the first line of reviewers and set expectations for it

The Bad

Backlist Books

  • More review influence before reading
  • May have less interested readers
  • Reading a book everyone has already talked about and discussed at a length

Advanced Reading Copies

  • ARC envy
  • ARC drama – aka how some people abuse/take advantage of the system for personal benefit
  • No reviews to guide you with whether or not it’s worth reading
  • Deadlines and pressure to finish

What do you think are the pros and cons of reading backlist books vs. ARCs?


    • ltlibrarian

      August 8, 2016 at 8:43 am

      Ahh I suppose that it could be seen like that for sure. I think if the book is one you’re highly anticipating, then it removes that aspect. But for sure if you’re just shooting in the wind and can end up forcing yourself to read something you’re not even interested in, it can feel like homework

  • Got My Book

    August 3, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    I do enjoy getting free books (who doesn’t), but don’t really care about the other stuff surrounding ARCs. I am currently at the point where I only request books that I most likely would read anyway.

    I am also working my way through reviewing the books I already own (since I’m a newish blogger), and I do worry that everyone has already read some of them and may not care.
    Got My Book recently posted…review: Made Me Pout a Bit: The Servants of the Storm | ReviewMy Profile

    • ltlibrarian

      August 4, 2016 at 9:23 am

      Of course, free books are exciting! That makes sense, to request things that are more of a sure bet.

      It’s hard, because sometimes I feel like reviews are more popular when people have already read the book. But it’s hard to know for sure

  • Michelle @ FaerieFits

    August 2, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    I was interesting in the idea of ARCs for like, two seconds. Then I realized I’m a busy person and barely make the time to BLOG, let alone READ ON A SCHEDULE. So do I have a Netgalley account? Yes, I do. And I even OCCASIONALLY request an ARC, but at this point it’s usually based on a recommendation from a friend, or an author I’ve read before. I’ll very rarely request a copy blind.

    I DO, however, do a decent amount of blog tour reviews. I really like this approach because if I don’t manage to finish in time or I end up not liking the book, I can still promo it by posting an excerpt or guest post or something on a scheduled date, so I don’t feel like I’m just abandoning responsibilities as a result of not liking a book enough to finish it.

    • ltlibrarian

      August 2, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      Yessss, just posting regularly is its own struggle, even without the added stress of making sure you read and review an ARC before it comes out. Requesting based on recommendations is at least a good way to avoid getting a dud. Or requesting from the “most requested” pool.

      That is the fantastic bit about blog tours. If it’s not your cup of tea you can help promote it, then once promotion time is over you can still post your review. Which was something I had to do myself once because I couldn’t stand the book, but still wanted to support the author and publisher who gave out ARCs and hosted the giveaways.

  • Jess @ POB!

    July 18, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    Gosh, there is so much ARC drama in the community some days! I try to stay out of it 99% of the time. This year I’ve been reading a lot of ARCs and very little backlist. This means that I also haven’t been reading popular series like The Grisha Trilogy or The Raven Cycle. I’m definitely an outcast in that department. If I had to choose between the two, I think I’d choose backlist over ARCs.

    Thanks for stopping by Princessica of Books!
    Jess @ POB! recently posted…What Matters Most: # of Books, Pages, or Quality? | DiscussionMy Profile

    • ltlibrarian

      July 19, 2016 at 8:50 am

      I think that’s the best policy, to just stay out of it. That’s what I do too. But I get it because people see other people abusing a system and they can’t help but want to speak up against it. That is the hard part of reading more ARCs, is that sometimes you end up missing out on popular series that have already come and gone.

  • Leslie Myrick

    July 18, 2016 at 10:35 am

    I just started with ARCs…and I now realize I was so lucky because I LOVED the first two I read: “All the Missing Girls” and “The Invoice” then the third I did not finish…but I think I will continue to read both ARCs and “older” books…which is why I am currently reading 5 books at the same time….with 3 others “on my ARC shelf” not opened yet. It was fun to feel “relevant” with those first two but now I realize how lucky this was!!
    One of the books I am reading now is “All the Light we Cannot See” and even if I love it, which I expect to, it will be difficult to feel relevant with my post when I feel like the last person to read it. But still I must read it!
    Leslie Myrick recently posted…The Cubs: Historical Reading Part I โ€“ 1908 and the Merkle GameMy Profile

    • ltlibrarian

      July 18, 2016 at 1:43 pm

      That’s great! I’m happy you had a great experience with your first two ARCs. I think it’s fine to review a book that’s already been widely reviewed because who knows if you’ll bring a different perspective to the table. And I think that people do really like to see what other people thought of a book they already read.

    • ltlibrarian

      July 18, 2016 at 8:52 am

      You might be surprised by that. I remember when I first signed up for NetGalley I was sure I didn’t have the stats to get approved for anything. But even new bloggers can usually get approved for ‘less hyped’ titles. Though not all will be an advance, sometimes there are ones are there that are already out but you can still get a review copy.

  • Read Diverse Books

    July 15, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    I had ARC-envy for a few weeks as a blogger, then I realized it’s not really worth it for me. You’re right that a lot of ARCs are untested and some of them have turned out to be pretty bad!
    July was my ARC / Review-copy free month. I am only reading books already in my TBR, ones I own and have wanted to read for months, and it has been one of the best months!

    I’ll continue to read a few ARCs here and then, mostly to help out small authors and presses because that’s something I enjoy.
    Read Diverse Books recently posted…The Ultimate Diverse Reading List โ€“ 300+ Book Recommendations!My Profile

    • ltlibrarian

      July 18, 2016 at 8:50 am

      That’s great about your July reads being much better! Yes, the best thing about ARCs (I find anyway) is calling attention to books that may not be getting any and helping that author promote.

  • Aditi

    July 15, 2016 at 10:41 am

    I love this post! I find myself switching between Backlist titles and ARC’s whenever I can BECAUSE READING IS THE FUNNEST THING EVER, RIGHT? I try to give my review copies reviews a quick turn around rate, after all, that’s what I received them for, right? But I never force myself to keep reading something I’m not into, or start something I’m not in the mood for. And the DRAMA around ARC’s. IT PHYSICALLY MAKES MY HEAD HURT.

    I love this post! Agreed that there are pros and cons to both and that reading should be a balance!
    Aditi recently posted…Review: Tanya Tania by Antara GanguliMy Profile

    • ltlibrarian

      July 15, 2016 at 11:17 am

      IT IS! That’s a good policy to have, not forcing yourself to read something that you’re not into. The hope is that you like every review copy you get, but obviously that doesn’t always happen. The drama for sure is a headache causer.

  • Geraldine @ Corralling Books

    July 15, 2016 at 7:05 am

    Lovely post! I know I used to just read ARCs when I was blogging – but since then I’ve gotten so disillusioned, because I always felt the pressure! Personally, I prefer backlist books – just because of all those pros you’ve mentioned there! Plus the cons are kiiiind of pros to me – if a friend of mine really likes a book, I’ll check it out! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Geraldine @ Corralling Books recently posted…When I First Saw You | The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGeeMy Profile

    • ltlibrarian

      July 15, 2016 at 8:55 am

      It’s true that having a lot of friends that already read the book can solidify that it’s probably going to be a great read. It’s too bad about the pressure of ARCs though. There’s a lot of personal responsibility involved so I can totally understand feeling the pressure. And sometimes I find myself fighting to like the book because I know it’s promotional for the author.

  • Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    July 15, 2016 at 2:11 am

    I agree with your assessment! It’s hard because like, how do you NOT request ARCs when they are right there? But some of those cons…. yikes. Like, I just read a book where there were basically NO reviews, and I feel super weird being the first person to post something because what if I am WRONG and the book was actually terrible or awesome or whatever? Not that it would change my opinion, but it’s just a weird feeling! And ARC drama… haha I have decided that if we didn’t have ARC drama, we’d just have some other drama, so we might as well get some books in the process? ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I DO enjoy a backlist review too- I would be sad if we ONLY reviewed ARCs! Great post!
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    • ltlibrarian

      July 15, 2016 at 8:52 am

      It seems especially hard on a site like NetGalley where it’s like browsing an online store where the books are free, so it’s easy to get tempted to request a ton of titles. Ahhh that’s a lot of pressure to post that first review, but I guess I would feel good knowing that I’m helping out? Like if I was that author I would be super happy someone reviewed.

      Hahaha that’s a good point about ARC drama. If it isn’t one thing it’s another. It would be pretty sad to only see ARC reviews, older books need love too!

    • ltlibrarian

      July 15, 2016 at 8:48 am

      Yes! I had the same thought when I read your post like “omg, I was just talking about that.” There is a definite freedom in reading backlist that doesn’t always exist in ARC titles.

  • Cait @ Paper Fury

    July 14, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    Honestly the reason I like ARCs is just because free books. ahahah DON’T TELL THE BOOK BLOGGERS. I’LL BE IN TROUBLE. But honestly, it’s helpful if one doesn’t have the funds to buy a lot of books! I can still embrace my love of being a bookworm and reviewer, and basically get compensated for it with a free book. :’) In Australia, they do lots of just review-copies, so it’s actually a completely finished book. Which is nice! And also in Oz, there are some publishers that do NOT want us to talk about the books pre-release (idek why, it seems besides the point of an ARC to me??) so that takes the pressure off having everything reviewed before release dates.
    But I do like backlist titles! It’s sad so many epic books get lost because they’re “old”. Wah. Old books don’t equal bad books! Although I do understand the lure of the shiny. ๐Ÿ™‚
    ANYWAY! I’m actually meaning to read more backlist books…last year I did better, but this year it’s been pretty newbie-reads intensive for me.
    STILL! Very interesting discussion! And I think it’s pretty equal for the pros and cons there, right?!
    Cait @ Paper Fury recently posted…My Peculiar & Somewhat Insensible #BookwormConfessionsMy Profile

    • ltlibrarian

      July 15, 2016 at 8:46 am

      Hahaha well you DO read a lot of books so even with free books as a motivation I feel like you get to them and promote the way they want. That’s so strange to not want you to talk about a book pre-release. And kind of interesting. I wonder if they just want people to be able the buy the book as soon as a review is out. Vs. counting on people to remember to get the book when it’s actually out? Yesss, it’s true that a lot of books seem to fall by the wayside to the newer and shinier.

      I think so! I tried to make the pros and cons mostly equal so I didn’t bias the discussion too much.

  • Mara @ Mara Was Here

    July 14, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    I can definitely see the appeal over ARCs. Even I’ve felt it (and still feel it every now and then). However, I do also enjoy backlist books more than advanced review copies, because it gives me more time to read without being pressured, unlike for ARCs where deadlines are basically a must, which sucks because then I might just end up forcing myself to read a book instead of enjoying it on my own time. ๐Ÿ™ Great post!
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  • Grace @ Rebel Mommy Book Blog

    July 14, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    Great post!! I have been loaded up with ARCs for so long now. I have finally slowed with requesting them because I have so many backlist books I am dying to read!! I am doing the Make Me Read It readathon and chose all backlist titles and I have read 3 so far and have had them all be 5 star ratings. I never have that happen – especially when I am reading all ARCs. Plus the whole no deadline thing for backlist is lovely. Still, ARCs for my favorite authors are hard to resist!!
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    • ltlibrarian

      July 14, 2016 at 4:09 pm

      Ohh the Make Me Read It readathon is a great way to make sure you get to them! That’s the great part about reading books you’ve really wanted to get to for awhile, they tend to be really good. ARCs for authors you love would absolutely be hard to resist. I’ve yet to go through the process, I suspect that I might just haul my butt to BEA next year to pick out the ones I’ve been more looking forward to.

  • Briana @ Pages Unbound

    July 14, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Great post! I review mainly backlist books and books that are new but have maybe been out a couple months, since I tend to get then from the library.

    There’s been a movement in the blogosphere of people saying they want to see more reviews for backlist books, but (like anything you post) the actual interest can be hit or miss. People will read reviews of a backlist book–if they’ve heard of the book. Post about a more obscure book, and you’ll get fewer views. Alternatively, sometimes if you post about something “too” popular, people aren’t interested either. They read 500 reviews of, say, CINDER, when it came out. So they’re less interested in yours now.

    Which is not to say you shouldn’t reviews backlist books. (As I said, I do all the time!) But I think it’s worth noting that the professed interest and the acting reading of those reviews doesn’t always match up. But you can have the same experience reviewing ARCs. If you’re reviewing an “under known” ARC, people care less than if you’re reviewing an ARC for the next John Green books. (I think he doesn’t actually get ARCs, but that’s not the point. :p) And a lot of people don’t even like reading reviews for books they haven’t read themselves. Sometimes a review of an ARC only really picks up steam after the book has been released.
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    • ltlibrarian

      July 14, 2016 at 1:51 pm

      That is so true. There can be outcry for more of something, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into page views. And you’re completely right, backlist books that are popular already and well read will still often get more views than a book no one has heard of. I think people want to discover new books while also being sceptical of reading books they’ve never heard of.

      It’s also a good point about people not wanting to read a review until after they’ve read the book. Even myself, I have more interest in reading reviews for books I’ve already read than I do in books I haven’t. Maybe there’s a way to start formatting reviews for lesser known books such that people are interested? It’s a conundrum.


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