We could wait for the book to come out and then run to the bookstore like normal people. That's probably the best thing to do. If you're just looking for a free book, don't request ARCs.
You see, ARCs actually cost more to produce than regular books because the print run is so small. They get discounts for the thousands they print for the actual books but not with ARCs. The high price means that not too many get printed. Each ARC costs about $20 to print, and publishers are not making any money on the sale of ARCs so they want to make sure that that ARC is going the distance.
They have to be selective in who they give them to. Each book needs to have the greatest amount of impact in terms of generating buzz and pre-sales. This means that big book bloggers, ARC tours, and gatekeepers get the majority of them. The author is extremely lucky if they get more than five or ten ARCs of their own book. A good chunk only receive a single ARC.
Bloggers, tours, and gatekeepers have spent years (sometimes decades) building relationships with publishers and publicists and they are trusted sources for readers looking to buy.
If you're a blogger hoping to get into book reviewing, you're going to need more than just a newly minted blog and good intentions. Start by reviewing recently published books. If you can't afford to buy a zillion books, get them from your local library. Circulation numbers go a long way not just in funding for the library, but in how many copies they order the next time the author puts a book out or how much promotion and "hand selling" a book gets.
Give honest opinions. Stay professional. Your blog statistics will be a huge factor in determining if you are a worthwhile place to send an ARC. You will need big visitor numbers and lots of comments. This takes time, six months to a year or more of hard and consistent work. Try to review books that don't get as much publicity as others. Make sure those reviews are worthwhile reads and that people are responding to them. The more buzz you can generate, the more valuable you'll be as a review blogger.
Only then should you send a short and polite email to a publishers publicity or media contact asking for a review copy of a book you are excited about. If it's a book that isn't getting many requests, this is a great way to endear yourself to them. Include your blog stats, if you have an ereader, what plans you have for the book after you read/review it (like donating it to a book tour, hosting a giveaway, etc), and include your mailing address. Publishing people are already much too busy to deal with asking for that information and keeping emails organized. If someone with no stats or an address to send the book to and someone who does include that information both email on the same day, the latter would probably get the book.
On that same note, don't include your back history or life story. It's not about you, it's about what you can offer the publisher and author in promoting their titles.
Don't fret if you don't hear back. Don't write again if you don't receive the book you requested. Again, publishing people are busy. If you're successful, you'll receive the book eventually, or get a link to download a copy. It not, try again with another title in a few months. Perhaps your numbers or blog participation wasn't high enough then, or maybe they had simply already given away all of the available ARCs. Whatever happens, stay professional. Just because you have a review blog doesn't mean you are entitled to an ARC of every book that comes out.
If you've got an ereader, you can sign up for Simon & Schuster's GalleyGrab or Net Galley and be able to access ebooks that way. These egalleys expire the day the book publishes.
If you want to get into ARC tours, this is easier than starting a review blog from scratch. Google ARC tour sites and find ones that offer the sorts of books you like. I like Princess Bookie's ARC Tours and The Teen Book Scene for YA titles. There are ARC tours for non-US reviewers and adult genres if you look hard enough.
Princess Bookie's tours are usually paper ARCs mailed around to participants. You get a week to read the book and then send it on to the next participant. Failure to send on time results in "demerits" and you can find yourself blacklisted if you break the rules too many times. After you read, you have something like two weeks to review the book and link to your review from her site.
The Teen Book Scene is a little more involved. Some books are paper ARCs, some are ebooks, and sometimes you don't get a copy of the book at all. However, it's a little more fun because it's not just simple reviews. They work with authors to do interviews, top tens lists, guest posts, and lots of other fun promotional posts. Sometimes you get to keep the paper ARC (or host your own giveaway), and sometimes they mail a single ARC around to those that want to read it. Ebooks will expire the day the actual book publishes.
Tours are lots of fun and a great way to get into reviewing books.
If you're a gatekeeper like a librarian, bookseller, etc, you can also request ARCs and egalleys. Big libraries and little ones with special programs as well as booksellers are great for new books because they can post public displays and posters for patrons to see. Independent booksellers can hand-sell books, and those word-of-mouth purchases are the ones that really get buzz going. If there's a chance that you can help sell books, there's a chance you can get ARCs.
So when you actually get an ARC/egalley, then what?
Then it's your duty to review it, make a post about it, and get other people to take interest in it too. Even if you didn't like the book as a whole, find a way to spin it. Maybe you thought the cover was gorgeous, or the author really did a great job on description. Offer the ARC as a giveaway. Highlight the parts that you did like and maybe the reader who picks it up will like the parts you didn't like. If you just say that the book sucks, that doesn't help anybody. No book is going to be everyone's favorite. There are even people that hate the Harry Potter books. (I know, it's a travesty!) If you have to post a negative review, be sure that it's a thoughtful review and s well-written. You were lucky enough to get the ARC in the first place, so be sure to take the responsibility seriously.
Don't forget to send a link to your review/ giveaway post to the publicity department contact. If they like what you do and the response that your review generates, they'll be more likely to offer you other ARCs. Building PROFESSIONAL relationships goes a long way. They appreciate knowing where the books end up and how many people that book reaches.
A note for authors: There are some that believe that writers shouldn't review books, that their job is to write the books only. They say that negative reviews of a book can be a reason that publishers don't make an offer when it comes time to sell your own book. I haven't heard of any actual instances of this, but it's something to keep in mind. You might think about creating a second anonymous blog for reviewing if you just can keep your reviews to yourself, or instead post "book recommendations" only.
And remember, it's always OK to wait until the book comes out to read it. I'm positive the author, publisher, and bookseller will appreciate the sale!
Have you seen any recent ARC reviews/reviewers that caught your eye?