You may have heard of ARC readers, but how exactly do you go about getting some of your own? And once you get them…what do you do with these people?!
I’d like to share my recent experience in recruiting ARCs (advanced reader copies). I might not have done everything perfectly, but since I’m quite satisfied with the results, I thought I’d share what I did and learned, and hopefully, you guys can take something away from it.
For this novella, I’ve had 70 ARCs: 46 downloaded the book and 19 reviewed it. I only have 4 and 5-star reviews. Hooray!
Someone with experience in marketing books told me that if I had been hoping for about 30 reviews (which I had been), I should have had at least 100 DOWNLOADS. So, that means I would have had to shoot for 150 to 200 ARCs. But he also told me that these are actually really good numbers and starting with 15-20 isn’t bad at all. Shooting for more reviews might not even be worth it.
For the first time, I didn’t ask people to reach out to me individually. It’s WAY too much work, especially if you want a lot of ARCs. Instead, I created a sign-up sheet where people could put their names and email address if they were interested. I closed the sign-up sheet once I had enough people. Here’s what I did next.
The steps to finding your ARC readers
My recommendations are based on my experience, but of course, this is not a “how to.” This is simply me relating what I think worked well.
1. Manage your expectations
The very first thing you need to know is that not everyone will read your book, and out of the people who will, not everyone will review it. It’s exactly like beta readers. Some people will just ghost you. My advice is: don’t chase these people out, it’s really not worth your time. Just know what to expect. If you’re lucky, 20 to 25% of your ARCs will actually review your book, so recruit accordingly.
2. Be as specific when recruiting
Let me be super clear on that one. When recruiting ARCs, YOU WANT THOSE GOOD REVIEWS. I used to think “Well, if they put a bad review, it’s the game.” Yeah, no. Those first reviews are super important, and you want to maximize your chances of having only good ones. Can you keep people from putting a one-star review? No, you can’t. But you can do your absolute best to recruit people who will like your book.
That’s why you need to be SUPER precise when it comes to the genre. When I recruited mine, for example, I told them it was paranormal horror, but I didn’t stop there. I added that it was creepy and eerie more than scary and that there was some gore, but it was still pretty mild. Since I recruited ARCs on a group for horror lovers, I felt the need to add that anyone loving extreme horror or bizarro would NOT like my book, and I kindly asked them not to volunteer if this didn’t sound like something they’d like. If you write, say, romance, specify whether it’s “clean” or “spicy.”
Whether the couple is straight or gay, or anything they’d need to know. By doing this, you’re maximizing your chances of avoiding a stupid review like “this book was not for me for this and that reason.”
3. Let them know that a rating alone isn’t useful
Some readers don’t realize that putting a one-star review without giving any explanation is hurtful. Whatever their rating is, kindly ask them to explain why they gave it, so it helps future readers in making their choice. This applies to good reviews as well. Be super nice to them and gently ask to actually WRITE a review, even a really short one.
4. Follow up with more instructions
Once you have recruited your ARCs and are ready to send them the book, give them a few more instructions by email. I tried to be concise because no one wants to read a gigantic email, but when sending the book, I nicely told them that they should never hesitate to reach out to me to let me know of any typo they found in the book. We writers know this, but readers don’t.
Explain to them that despite all the edits you gave your book, and despite a professional editor editing it, some nasty typos still slip through. Be super nice. Be grateful. I’ve had four or five people sending me a DM to tell me they found a little something. When people do this, thank them profusely for their help and tell them you will fix it right away (which I did each time).
Usually, people will be super happy to have contributed and helped. And most importantly, by doing this, you may also avoid a nasty review like “I couldn’t finish the book because of the typos.”
Oh, and one thing I’ve learned AFTER the book came out. Some people genuinely don’t know how to review a product on Amazon. Two people reached out to me to ask how they could do it. So, in the future, I’ll make sure to add how to review in the email Bookfunnel sends on release day.
5. Remind ARC readers to review
Once my book came out and everyone received a reminder to review, I myself sent a gentle reminder with my author email address to ask people to review if they haven’t done so (a few days after the release). I might have gotten two or three additional reviews after this email. In the end, make sure to thank them again for their help.
6. Check who downloaded your book
Bookfunnel (and I imagine other sites like this one) will show you who downloaded your book and who didn’t. With the names you collected, you’ll probably be able to match who reviewed your book. Make sure to keep these people as ARCs in the future (should they want to do it again). Don’t harass the rest of them, just leave them alone and don’t ask them to be an ARC anymore.
You may have noticed how many times I said you should “kindly ask.” This is super important, at least to me. I personally don’t respond well to someone shouting orders at me. I respond with kindness. People will usually respond a lot more positively and be more inclined to help you if you’re super nice to them.
I hope this is helpful for someone. Happy ARC hunting!
About the Writer: Amélia Cognet is a suspense and horror writer who loves books, tattoos, rainy days, and fluffy sweaters. She lives in sunny California with her husband Christophe and her two-year-old daughter Kara. Sign up for her newsletter on her website.