Become an Expert, Get Free Books
I remember visiting the home library of my PhD advisor, Chris Aanstoos. One wall in the study had a fireplace. The other three walls were full of books. "A lot of these were sent to me by publishers, publicists, authors, and journals," he said.
"Must be nice," I thought.
Now it is ten years later, and I am beginning to understand what Chris was talking about.
In the past year alone, I have received about 15 books by mail and a few more digitally. About ten of these I would have purchased on my own, so generous publishers have saved me a few hundred dollars on books!
How to Get Free Books
I don't have a popular blog or YouTube channel. I don't have ten thousand followers on Instagram (or even an Instagram account for that matter). I don't make a living reviewing textbooks or scholarly monographs. I'm just an ordinary college professor who publishes occasional research reports, books, and review articles. That's all.
But now I have been publishing articles and books in the same kinds of areas for long enough that my name has started coming up. Or so I imagine. I don't actually know what is happening, but all the books I am getting makes me feel like that is what's going on.
I've only experienced it from the other end. When I submit a book for publication, the publisher asks me about the kinds of people who might be interested in reading it. So I prepare a list of names of people who publish in the same area of my book's topic. These scholars are sent a query letter from the publisher, and sometimes they get a book straight away. Sometimes there are strings attached, such as "will you please write a review of this book?" or even "will you rate this on our Amazon page?" And so on. It is part of the publicity strategy. Sometimes printed copies are promised to scholars who have reviewed previous versions of a book. I have received free books for all of these reasons.
Sometimes a publisher will send copies of a book to a journal's book review editor, and this editor sends these gratis copies along to scholars who have promised to write book reviews. I've never done this, because I don't like being on the hook for writing a book review about a book I don't really like.
More often, however, I only receive books that I am dying to read by authors who I have grown to admire. THese authors realize this because I go on and on about how great and interesting their ideas are in my own writing, and the authors, I suspect, wanting to read more about how inspiring and wonderful they are, ask the publisher to see to it that I get a copy of their latest work. (If I am smitten by the book, I will have no choice but to write a review. If I don't like the book, I usually write a candid letter to the editor or author themselves.)
I recently sent an e-mail to an author I had never heard of. His publisher had sent me a recently published book, which I thought was really good. I sent him an e-mail asking a question I had, and then we started a dialogue. He asked me for my honest opinion about the book, and I shared it. My opinion was that it was mostly good, but that I thought there was a serious oversight; something was missing. I never heard back from him!