Paying My Blog Fees in ARCs – Did It Work?

Posted February 7, 2020 by Amber in Blogging / 6 Comments

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At the beginning of 2019, I decided I wanted to experiment with an idea bouncing around in my head.  I’m a self-hosted blog, and not a big one, but I made this choice because I liked the freedom it allows in customization and plugins.  The Ultimate Book Blogger Plugin (and, subsequently, its sister plugin Book Database) have made that decision really worth it for me… but I am a hobbyist blogger.  What does that mean?  It means everything I pay in hosting and design comes out of my pocket.  In my case, it means I have no affiliations, I’m not a product rep, and I choose not to place ads on my blog.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m okay with that.  It was a choice I made and honestly, everyone puts money into their hobbies.  Casual athletes, in particular, pay a lot more than a simple hobbyist blogger.  I could add advertising anytime, if I wanted.  Don’t worry!  At this point, I don’t plan to do that ever.

But, I was curious.  I wanted to see if I could cover the costs of my blog with the value of ARCs I received through the year.

So, no problem.  I tried to balance my desire for “all the ARCs” for best value with my new, higher standards for the books I requested in 2019.  Because I knew I could cover costs if I requested everything, but honestly, I don’t want to read every book that pops up on NetGalley. So how did that go?  Is it possible?

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My Costs

  1. Blog Hosting & Maintenance: $19.99 (x12)
  2. Annual Domain Renewal: $13.00
  3. BookCon Tickets: $77.72 (<- counting this because it’s where I got a bunch of physical ARCs)

TOTAL: $330.60

That’s a lot of ground to cover.  And yes, before people jump in and let me know I could get hosting a lot cheaper – I know. :). But I get a lot more than just my hosting from BookHost and I am sticking with it.

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My ARCs

Each of these books, with the exception of some of the physical copies I received from BookCon, were books that I looked into and thought about before requesting.  In previous years, I had done a lot of cover requests, and ended up with books I wasn’t really keen on.  Despite wanting to pay my blog fees, I made sure each book I requested from NetGalley in 2019 was one I thought I would enjoy and could give a good review to.

Now, I didn’t actually end up enjoying all of them, but that’s the chance you take with any book.

 

Technically speaking, both Kill the Farm Boy and Skulduggery Pleasant were not ARCs, but they were free books I got at BookCon, so I’m counting them as part of this bartering value.  That makes a total of 46 books in added value to my personal and digital library.

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The Value of the Books

This next bit is going to get a bit long as I count out each book and their value, so if you’re not interested in the particular math of this experiment, you can scroll down a bit and see the results!

Just as a note… not a single one of these books was listed as full price… so I used the reflected sale price in my calculations.  After all, if I bought it right now, it would be on sale, so I wouldn’t be paying the full price anyway.  It didn’t seem fair to count the listing price wit that in mind.

These values come from Amazon so I could have a “one stop shopping” experience, as I’d be pulling Kindle values for the ebooks from there anyway.  Other sources would have different prices, maybe probably just at listing price.

  1. Wicked Saints, eARC: $9.99
  2. Immoral Code, eARC: $10.99
  3. Romanov, eARC: $1.99 (<- Daily Deal when I checked)
  4. Descendant of the Crane, eARC: $8.99
  5. Spin the Dawn, eARC: $10.99
  6. Middlegame, eARC: $14.99
  7. Ever Alice, eARC: $7.95
  8. House of Salt and Sorrow, eARC: $10.99
  9. Starworld, paperback ARC: $11.64 (<- using hardcopy value, paperback not available)
  10. The Waking Forest, eARC: $10.99
  11. Magic for Liars, eARC: $13.99
  12. King of Fools, eARC: $9.99
  13. Upon a Burning Throne, eARC: $12.99
  14. Summer of ’69, paperback ARC: $12.32 (<- using hardcopy value, paperback not available)
  15. Storm and Fury, eARC: $9.99
  16. The Lost Coast, paperback ARC: $8.39 (<- using hardcopy value, paperback not available)
  17. Marilla of Green Gables, finished hardcover: $18.98
  18. Solving for M, eARC: $9.99
  19. The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, eARC: $9.99
  20. Six Goodbyes We Never Said, eARC: $9.99
  21. Shadow Frost, eARC: $8.69
  22. Gravemaidens, eARC: $10.99
  23. Pirate Queen: The Legend of Grace O’Malley, paperback ARC: $14.22
  24. The Grace Year, eARC: $9.99
  25. Scars Like Wings, eARC: $10.99
  26. The Orphan’s Song, paperback ARC: $7.77 (<- using hardcopy value, paperback not available)
  27. Sabrina: Season of the Witch, paperback ARC: $5.99
  28. War Girls, paperback ARC: $14.26 (<- using hardcopy value, paperback not available)
  29. Steel Crow Saga, paperback ARC: $13.29 (<- using hardcopy value, paperback not available)
  30. A Match Made in Mehendi, paperback ARC: $5.41 (<- using hardcopy value, paperback not available)
  31. Homerooms and Hall Passes, paperback ARC: $8.49 (<- using hardcopy value, paperback not available)
  32. The Beautiful, paperback ARC: $8.49 (<- using hardcopy value, paperback not available)
  33. The Good Luck Girls, paperback ARC: $8.99 (<- using hardcopy value, paperback not available)
  34. Rebel Girls, eARC: $9.99
  35. Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, eARC: $9.99
  36. Skulduggery Pleasant, paperback: $7.49
  37. Kill the Farm Boy, paperback: $6.99
  38. The Storm Crow, eARC: $7.39
  39. The Girl the Sea Gave Back, eARC: $9.99
  40. Mother Tongue, eARC: $10.99
  41. Anne of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait, hardcopy: $18.98
  42. Who Put This Song On, paperback ARC: $14.31 (<- using hardcopy value, paperback not available)
  43. Foul is Fair, eARC: $9.99
  44. What Makes Us, paperback ARC: $12.39 (<- using hardcopy value, paperback not available)
  45. Ruthless Gods, eARC: $9.99
  46. You Too?, eARC: $9.99

TOTAL: $482.18

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The Results

So, obviously this isn’t a perfect system.  It relies on sale prices, but not necessarily the value of the book at the time I received it.  Also, as you’ll see from the various notes, many of these books do not have paperback releases yet, so I had to rely on hardcopy prices so I have the values for a physical vs. electronic copy.  Honestly, I think this worked out in a lot of places, as some of the hardcopy values were lower than electronic values?

At the end of the day, I spent $330.60 on blog-related expenses.  Between keeping my blog pretty and of course the visitation of you lovely people so I’m gifted ARCs… plus all books I received by attending BookCon, I received books in the value of $482.18.  BookCon paid for itself (those specific books make up $101.48).  Monetarily, BookCon did not impact the bottom line enough to make a material difference.  Obviously there were other things to be had there as well, but going did not make a huge difference in ARCs for me (as I’ll discuss a little more in a minute).

Ultimately, I profited $151.58.

That’s the cold, hard math of it.  So yes, if you don’t mind reading whatever and you live in the United States (I think this is a key factor – it’s a lot easier for people living in the States to get ARCs) it’s absolutely possible to be self-hosted and ad-free and still get your money back in free merchandise for review.

That said.

Is it worth it?

That’s a lot more complicated answer.  Some of the books I received as ARCs were ones I wanted to read, and would have read anyway, so having access to them was great.  Some of these eARCs, I loved and went on to buy in hardcopy.  So, in those cases, they were worth their value.  Although, I never (never) purchase ebooks because it is not my preferred medium… so was it really worth it?  It has the allure of buying something you weren’t planning to buy because it was on sale.  Was it a good deal?  Yes.  Would you have bought it otherwise? No.

In some cases, I ended up with ARCs I probably would never have found on my own, and I really enjoyed them (StarworldA Match Made in Mehendi!).  These books are worth twice as much to me, because they were a discovery as well as items of monetary value.  Don’t you just love unexpected books that wrap you up?

On the other hand, there were eARCs I didn’t enjoy and would have been better books to borrow from the library.  At least half of the physical ARCs I received from BookCon I ended up donating, so those did not have a continuing value to me.  BookCon was a really hit-or-miss situation as far as value goes, because I ended up mostly with books I wouldn’t have read otherwise, and while I liked some, others were donated.

So value is tricky.

Regardless.  It’s nice to know that if I wanted to, I could really make my blog pay for itself in ARCs, as long as I wasn’t too picky and kept getting eARCs (which is how publishers mostly prefer it anyway).

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Do you think your blog supports itself?  A lot of people wait for that step, or until they have 1000 followers, or something similar before they go self-hosted.  Have you considered trying to make your blog “pay for itself”?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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6 responses to “Paying My Blog Fees in ARCs – Did It Work?

  1. This is an interesting experiment for sure. I do have ads on my blog, but I like the idea of not having them at some point. The value of arcs for me is low as I accept fewer these days than in years past.

    • Amber

      This definitely isn’t a model I could keep up unless I wanted to keep reading 50 ARCs/year… which is 30-50% of my total reading. It was definitely an interesting experiment, but not one I intend to repeat at this time. ?

  2. Interesting post! Not something I’d thought about before (I suppose you could complicate it further and add in a cost for the time it takes as well). Thanks for sharing

    • Amber

      I chose not to include my time as a factor, because I had to accept that I blog because I enjoy it and because it’s not a second job. Honestly, between ARCs and advertising, I don’t think it’s possible for a blogger to make enough money to pay for their time (I average 1hr./post and post 5 days/week). I believe one would have to be sponsored somehow to do that. Once upon a time, booktubers may have been able to garner enough followers/views to monetise but even these days that’s a lofty goal. Blogging is a labor of love – fully *for profit* couldn’t exist without some sort of paid sponsorship. ☹️

  3. It was interesting to see you break this down monetarily, and I liked the way you took me though your reasoning. I only want ebooks, and I read 432 books last year, so I know it’s worth it for me, but I also understand going to cons and ending up with piles of unread books (I have stacks of them from when I used to attend conventions). Even if it didn’t quite work out money-wise for me, I get a lot out of blogging. I love being part of the community and mingling with people, who understand me and my reading habits.

    • Amber

      At the end of the day, blogging really is a labour of love! The one factor missing in my calculations is my own time… because I can’t quantify that. The value of the time I spend blogging in a monetary sense is early upward of $100/wk., and you just can’t make that sort of money in goods. ? I’m the same as you – I get a lot of joy from blogging that with or without the ARCs, it’s worth it. I’m glad you feel that way as well!