Beta-Readers and ARC Teams:
What are they, and why do I need one? Great question, so glad that you asked. Let’s start with beta readers. Beta readers can be a great resource when you get good ones. Start asking around early as soon as you know you have a manuscript in the works. I am lucky enough to have friends and family that love to read, that were really interested in my book, so I had ten eager readers from the start. The obvious problem with friends and family is: will they tell you the truth? We like to hope so, but the best beta-reader mix is a couple of friends, a few acquaintances, and some readers that you don't know.
If you are already promoting your upcoming novel, put a post-up asking for beta-reader interest in READER groups, on Facebook or Instagram. Do not post these calls in Authors groups, as they are all doing the same thing you are. Sure, a couple of authors might offer to beta for you, but generally, this will be hit or miss, and you cannot expect the same author to always beta read for you, because they did it once. They are working on their projects, too. Make sure you are respectful of the author friendships that you are cultivating, those can really go a long way over time, you do not want to wear out your welcome by always expecting them to take on your projects too.
If you have a website, blog or newsletter, put a beta-reader call in those too. People will respond. Most readers love to get their hands on something new and to be asked their opinion. Most readers will jump at the chance to be involved.
Okay, so what’s an ARC then? Another great question. Let’s move on! So, ARC can mean two things. First-Amazon Review Committee. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? It is just what it implies. A group of folks willing to jump out on Amazon the day you release your novel, or at least that week, and BUY the kindle version and THEN leave a review of it. The best way to do this is enlist your beta-readers to also be your ARC. They have already read it and are best prepared to do an immediate review of it.
Well, if they already read it, why do they need to buy it? You are on a roll, dear friend, excellent question. They buy it, so the review shows it as a verified purchase on Amazon. Less chance of Amazon removing it or not allowing it. Also, a word of advice on this method, while it is widely used, when not used properly, it can cause you some issues later on, in Amazon world, namely due to the algorithms that run the beast that is Amazon. When enlisting your beta-readers to also commit to this obligation, make sure to only ask those that truly read the genre you are writing.
As far as the purchase price goes, you control that, so for the debut week, set your price at.99. That way, your beta readers are not spending too much on something they already read, and hey, you never know what financial situation people are in. They’ll appreciate the low-price tag, since they are doing you a favor.
Why, if I ask them all, I’ll have more reviews? That is correct, however, it will skew the algorithms that now control who sees your book on Amazon. Why does that matter? Because, if half of your beta-readers, now become your ARC, and they normally only read romance, your book will now be pushed to other readers that normally read romance as based on the reviews and purchases by customers that normally buy romance.
For example: Mom, Aunt Jackie and Ethel all read romance. They all join your ARC, and you write horror. You want Amazon to push your book to horror readers. When Mom, Aunt Jackie and Ethel purchase your book and leave a review, Amazon “thinks” your book falls into a genre they typically read and buy (romance), so now your book is being shown to other customers like them, not horror readers.
Okay, so you said two meanings for ARC. What's the second meaning? Moving right along then, the other meaning is just simply Advanced Review Copy. I have seen these produced and offered in a few ways. Some authors purchase proof copies from Amazon, after uploading their manuscript and offer those as ARC’s. Most offer an edited version on PDF, ePub or Mobi file and just email those to their beta-readers and/or reviewers.
*Rule of thumb on reviewers: it is common courtesy and standard practice to offer your industry reviewers an ARC copy or file. Do not expect them to buy your book if you are asking them to review it.
Come back next Monday for more in this series. Want more?
Check out this other blog post from author Duncan Ralston "On Writing Dos and Don'ts" here: On Writing Dos and Don'ts (duncanralston.com)
Did you know that Reedsy.com offers a wealth of free resources and tips for authors on their blog post. Check it out here: Reedsy • Your daily dose of writing, publishing and marketing advice