1. Join Read it Forward
Random House’s Read it Forward promotion is my favorite way to score free books and learn about new authors and genres in the process. Every week, eager readers can register for free hard copy, new release books, some of which are sent as review copies (meaning there might still be slight changes to the text before it’s released in its final form to audiences). Readers are encouraged to read the book and then “Read it Forward” by sharing it with neighbors, friends, or online through blogs or reviews. The idea is simply a grassroots passing around of good books. Over the past two years, I’ve received a half dozen books via this promotion. Because there are a limited number of books, not every registrant is chosen, but registering weekly gives readers a good shot at receiving a book.
2. Become a book reviewer
In a more formal sense, readers can connect with favorite authors directly to review their work online in exchange for free books. Many authors—especially new and up-and-coming authors and serial novelists—send interested readers free books in exchange for “free” publicity through their posts. If you’re already a blogger, you can get free books via BookSneeze; if not, you can get them direct through some writers, like writer Sabrina York who keeps a team of reviewers with whom she shares books and other fun freebies. Search author names in genres you like, as many outline their participation guidelines directly on their websites.
3. Request a desk copy
If you are a teacher (public school, private school, or higher education), aide, assistant or librarian, many publishers send free books as review copies. Sometimes, the publisher asks for feedback on a book, and other times, the book is “gifted” in hopes that you’ll encourage students to get it or perhaps adopt it for use in a class. In other circumstances, books might be sent simply to supplement a teacher’s current instruction in the classroom. College professors might like an extra desk copy from HarperCollins or Simon & Schuster if their students are already using one of their texts. High school instructors might want to add to their in-room library through Penguin. A school librarian might like an exam copy from Random House if thinking of placing a multi-book order for school curriculum.
4. Check O Magazine
Oprah Winfrey loves books, and she wants readers of her magazine, O, to love them, too. She routinely offers great promotions to share books with readers, so be sure to follow her long-running original Book Club and new Book Club 2.0 as well as her O promotions page. This summer, I was one of several thousand of her readers to get a hard copy of Anaya Mathis’ The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (retail $24.95) through a magazine promotion. Check her site monthly to learn of new and upcoming book giveaways and deals.
5. Register for Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats “Every Day is a Big Day” Promotion
From now until December, the Kellogg’s company offers two free Scholastic family books to the first 5,000 people who log in here and complete mini-missions: short (less than five minute) explanations and optional photo uploads of certain activities you and your family commit to doing together during the month. Last month, I received children’s titles in the Geronimo Stilton series and the Boris series, which my seven-year-old has been enjoying. Families don’t get to choose the titles, but they will be age-appropriate based on the information you enter during your free registration.
6. Contact Your State Tourism Office
Your state’s tourism office may very well have free coffee-table, travel or guidebooks available simply by asking. Every year, I request a full-color, several-hundred page Texas Travel Guide which comes with lots of travel and hotel-related coupons! This site can link you to some of the publications available for each state, but consider contacting your state office directly to get new release and limited-print publications.
7. Ask Libraries
Many public and collegiate libraries have yearly book sales to rid their shelves of books that don’t get used, though some cull their collections by giving books away. Last year, I asked my local college library what they did with old annual publications (like the yearly Writers’ Market book), and they offered to give me their old copy! Don’t expect, however, to walk into a library and leave with an armful of free books, but especially if you’re a frequent patron of a library, it’s worthwhile to see if free books are available. (The good news: if you’re unsuccessful, you can still check them out for free!)