Monday, July 31, 2017

Making the Most of Penguin's First to Read Program

Photo pulled from Penguin First to Read

It should be no secret that I'm a big fan of Penguin's First to Read program. I have been entering to win the right to read and review advanced electronic copies of books through FtR for a little over two years now, and I finally feel like I've really figured out exactly how points are accrued (or at least pretty close to it) with the help of Caroline Andrus - Author, Blogger, Designer, and I'm here to tell you all of my secrets. 

Now before I start dishing the dirt, here's a brief run down of how the program works. Periodically new books are listed and you can either guarantee a copy or enter to win a copy to read and review. Review copies are limited, and they are typically split 50/50 between guaranteed copies and non-guaranteed copies, although not always. You guarantee copies by spending points that you can accrue through various actions on the site which I will go into much greater detail on later. You have one week from when the books are first listed to enter before winners are chosen (and guaranteed copies become available). 

If you are selected to receive a copy of a book (either because you guaranteed it or won it in the lottery) you have 42 days to download your copy of the book. Now you can't just download the book to any program you wish. You have to have an app that supports Adobe Digital Editions. There are free apps you can download for your Kindle Fire, Android phone, or pretty much any iDevice you own. I personally prefer the Bluefire Reader app on my iPhone and iPad mini, although reading on my phone can be annoying at times because you can't change the font size on these files like you can with books on the Kindle app, and sometimes the font is tiny. Once you have downloaded your free copy, you have an additional 42 days to read it before your loan expires. So you could take up to 84 days to download and read a book, as long as you pay attention to when your downloads are going to expire. This information is helpful if, like me, you have self-control issues and want to guarantee all the books. As long as you space out your downloads a little bit, you can buy yourself some extra reading time, even if there are multiple books in one batch that you really want to read. 

So now that we've got that out of the way, just how do you get points on FtR? 

The easiest, but slowest, way to get points is just by logging into the site every day. You get 5 points every day that you log on. It takes a while for the points to add up doing that though, and it's not something that I do, because you don't really need to. If you did, I wouldn't have over 100K points saved up right now. So how did I get so many points? 

For the longest time I assumed that I was getting most of my points because people were clicking on the links that I shared on Twitter and Facebook. I'd decided that because I noticed that I'd have 1-2 thousand more points after entering for all the books, and I knew that at least Joood - Hooligan from Platypire Reviews was heading to the site from my links because I always noticed that there were new books on offer before she did. That's where Caroline came in. We started comparing points accrued after we each entered for the books we wanted, and realized that we had gotten close to the same number of points, and it was basically instantaneous. It took us a couple rounds of offers, but we think we finally figured it out. 

You get 100 points each for sharing a link to Facebook and Twitter (and it doesn't seem to be limited to one share per book, although it may be limited to one share per book per day). These points seem to be reduced when you guarantee a copy of a book and share the links at that time (at least I think that's why I never have the exact number of extra points that I should after entering). It is also possible that you get fewer points for sharing from the main giveaway page rather than each book's individual page (we actually don't know for sure on that, and since I have so many points already, it didn't seem worth exploring further for me). So you can get a lot of points simply by sharing links to every book offered at least once. This will help pad the points you get when you first sign up so you can guarantee books you really want to read. I would recommend initially sharing every book even if you don't enter for a chance to win it. 

You also get 400 points for downloading a book you've been selected to read (this may only apply if you guaranteed your copy. I have been getting 400 points for every book I download, but I haven't won the right to read a book I didn't guarantee in several months). But this means you don't need to worry about running out of points by guaranteeing books because you're going to recoup most of the points you spend just by downloading the book. Lately most guarantees have been costing either 500 or 600 points, although I have seen some guarantees cost 1,000 points (not recently though).

You'll get another 400 points for posting a review for a book you were selected to read (again, this may only apply if you guaranteed your copy).

That means a book that cost you 600 points to guarantee can earn you 1,000 points (400 for downloading, 400 for reviewing, and 200 for sharing the links to Twitter and Facebook). With that in mind, there's no reason not to guarantee a book that intrigues you if you get there early enough to do so.

And how do you get there early enough to guarantee your copies?

First of all, don't wait for the email blast. If you do, you're going to miss the guaranteed copies every single time. When there are new books on offer, they're up at 12:01 am Eastern time, and the email blast goes out at like 11 am Eastern time. The site lists when the next offer will begin about a week in advance though, so if you make it a habit to log in once every week, you can make note of when new books will be available (that's what I do). I can tell you that lately books always go on offer on a Tuesday, but it wasn't that long ago that new books were always offered on Thursdays, so the day of the week that books are offered is always subject to change. And books will be offered at least once every month, but most months see two groups of books on offer with one week between offers. Paying attention to the patterns makes it easier to get there before all the guaranteed copies are gone.

I think that is basically everything I have figured out about the First to Read program at this point. So now that you know all my secrets, go sign up and join the fun. - Katie 

8 comments:

  1. Wish I had found your post a year or so ago when I was trying to figure this out. I use the program quite a lot too but wasn't aware of the facebook/twitter info. That was extremely helpful to know so thanks. I've never actually won the right to review a book so if I see something I'm interested in, I pretty much just guarantee it. Great article and extremely helpful too!

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    1. Thank you. It was only a couple months ago that I was really able to figure out how points are accrued, and I just hadn't had time to sit down and write this up until today. I'm glad to hear that some of the info is helpful. - Katie

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  2. This seems like a lot of work. Are the books you're getting really worth it? I will say thanks for sharing the info as I am sure it is going to help a lot of people.

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    1. They can be. I get to read traditionally published books for free before release. Some authors that have been offered are Richelle Mead, Christina Henry, Eddie Izzard, Jane Green, Joseph Finder, Nalini Singh...And sharing the links is actually really fast if you just enter for a chance to win all the books because you can auto-share when entering (that's what I do). And then the other points accrue by standard use. - Katie

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  3. I've never actually gotten anything from Penguin and got frustrated enough that I figured I just wasn't big enough to get any of their copies. This is SO informative. Especially the social media posts and how to work hard to earn points instead of entering all the contests. Thank you!

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    1. Honestly, in the beginning I think it's more luck than anything when entering for books (and I'm luckier than the average person). I did win the right to review books in the past somewhat regularly (now I just have so many books that I've guaranteed that I still need to read and review that I'm sure their algorithms block me from winning one I haven't guaranteed).

      I'm glad you found the post informative! - Katie

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  4. netgallery sounds so much easier - I don't think I have the fortitude for this program ;)

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    1. Netgalley is definitely easier if you can get approved. But this program is open to non-bloggers as well, which is what I really like about it. And I use it a lot because Penguin does not like my feedback percentage on Netgalley (not that I can blame them, it's abysmal). - Katie

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