Critique series: How ARC readers sell your book
When you want to buy a book, what’s one of the first things you look at besides the cover and title? Reviews, perhaps? Book reviews are one of several factors considered when a reader looks for something they want to read, but that brings up a problem: how do you get reviews if you just published a book?
ARC readers do that for you. If you haven’t heard of them before, ARCs are simply “Advanced Reading Copies.” These are books sent to reviewers prior to the book’s publication date. In return for a free copy of a book, they’ll post a review. This allows you to have a number of reviews to show off with your book when it’s ready to go live.
How do ARC readers sell my book?
As I mentioned earlier, whether someone buys a book or not can be influenced greatly by a review. If something doesn’t have reviews, why do you want to buy it? You would be the first to have either wasted your money or invested in a good experience. Is it worth the gamble?
Well, it might be to you, but you can’t assume every reader is like that because they’re not. More often than not, the gamble isn’t worth it because there are dozens of other books like yours, and time is a valuable token they’re choosing to give to someone’s writing.
Ouch! Harsh, but what can you expect a reader to think? They don’t know because they haven’t read your book yet.
If you get people to review it before publishing it, you can build up the hype that will get readers as eager to read it as you are for them to finish it. Good reviews mean good publicity. Good publicity means your books in more readers’ hands.
What if I make my book free? That will get reviews.
Yes and no. Because I’m an editor (and author), I know the value of a review so I leave one. You’re an author, right? Of course you’ll leave reviews. You understand the value. A reader, however, doesn’t always understand just like not all restaurant visitors understand the value of a decent tip.
It’s simple. You might get a review, and you might not.
Money isn’t the only thing at stake here
Time is a valuable thing in today’s age. No one wants to wait, no one wants to be disappointed, and no one wants to waste their time. A free book doesn’t always mean people will read it. If they don’t feel encouraged, they might turn it down because they don’t have time to risk hating what they read.
Even if it’s free, having guaranteed reviews will give your book a bigger boost than the no-cost bribe attempt begging the reader to take a chance.
How can I get the ARC readers to leave a good review?
You don’t. Reviews are the butter to the bread of sales, so why would you want to tarnish the value of it? You’re not giving people a free copy of your book so they can leave a good review; you’re giving them a free copy so they’ll leave an honest review.
Why waste their time, anyway, if that’s what you’re looking for? If all you want is a five-star review claiming perfection, why not just ask a few friends to boast the book for you? Tell them what to say, and give them a few quotes to spice it up. Why not? If you’re going to be dishonest, why not go all the way and have cohorts so you can avoid asking possible strangers to do your dirty work for you?
The goal is not to get good reviews. It sounds crazy, but it’s true.
What if they don’t like my book?
Not everyone will like your book. I’ll tell you that now, and I’ll repeat it. Not everyone will like your book. The world knows reviews are subjective; they aren’t fact. Look at your favorite bestselling book, and I guarantee it has at least one bad review. If not, maybe I should read it, too.
The point is that if you get a reader who doesn’t end up enjoying the story, that’s perfectly fine. It might sting but accept it. It happens. If they continue and leave a review, that’s fine, too. It’s what you asked them to do, and it’s not something you should ever take personally.
But, what if it’s one star? What if it’s my first review?
Remember, you have other ARC readers, hopefully, and you need to give them time. Before launch, it’s not too bad to ask the reader who doesn’t like the book to hold off on reviewing, but that’s only if they ask. If they feel led to review it, don’t stop them. But, if you’re adamant about not having a bad review so early in your book’s career as a publication, ask the reader not to leave a review. Again, this is if they ask you first. You won’t know until after they post it if they don’t ask, of course, but you don’t want to demand someone not review your book because it didn’t match their tastes.
Who are you to say your writing is superior to their thoughts?
That wasn’t encouraging. Why do I want an ARC reader again?
Not just one. More like twenty if you can get that many. Don’t feel so insecure about your book’s potential as a good read. That’s what you’re trying to prove, right?
If you want people to like your book, hopefully, you took the necessary steps to get it there. If you used alpha readers, beta readers, and an editor, you’ve hopefully ironed out the issues that would have once driven your readers away. Those readers liked your book, right? You like your book, right? You’re confident enough to publish your book for others to enjoy, right?
That’s why you want ARC readers. Don’t think of the what-ifs until they come. If an ARC reader delivers a bad review, you’re also more likely to receive a constructive review. Why? You gave them a free book. They have a different connection to you than the stranger who thought they’d give your book a chance. Those strangers can be ruthless.
How do I find ARC readers?
You can find a lot of eager readers on social media or within your own platform. Friends, family, fellow writers, or avid readers are likely to lend their eyes and opinions for a free book. You might have used up some of these resources when seeking alphas and betas, but don’t fret. Like you would with alphas and betas, you should with ARCs. Offer a switch!
ARC readers are usually easier to find than other readers because they’re not being asked to read an unfinished draft. What’s more, they’re usually given a physical copy, and what reader doesn’t want a free paperback?
How do I work with an ARC reader?
This is important, and you don’t want to skip anything I’m saying here. You don’t want to skip anything I’ve said, but whatever. Moving on.
Set up deadlines.
If you’re publishing your book in thirty days, you don’t want to throw a book at someone and hope they read it before then. People have lives, kids, jobs, and other things to do. If you don’t know whether they’ll set aside reading time, you missed a step. Ask and then stress the deadline. Set up an e-mail list and send reminders. Don’t bug them about it, but the fact that you have a deadline is why you want to set one for them, too.
If they can’t do it, don’t beg them.
If they lose track of time and deadline sneaks up, that’s fine. You don’t get to charge them for a book or e-book, and you definitely don’t get to be rude to them for it. You will have some who don’t get to it because life sneaks up on them. That’s why you want as many ARC readers as you can find. Your only readers won’t be the group around you. If that’s the case, you won’t get much income from it anyway. You lack the audience or ambition to find one.
Believe in your book, and hunt down those readers. Tell them how important reviews are, give them a deadline, and keep them accountable—but be polite about it.