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Self-Publishing: All Important ARCs

As you probably figured out by now, self-publishing requires navigating a vast and competitive landscape. Finding your voice and putting it into words is only the beginning. In the pursuit of literary success, the role of ARC (Advance Reader Copy) readers becomes a beacon of invaluable support and guidance.

Self-Publishing: Handling Criticism

ARC readers, sometimes referred to as beta readers but actually different, are a select group of individuals chosen by an author to receive a pre-published version of their book. This version, the Advance Reader Copy, is distributed ahead of the official release. ARC readers play a pivotal role in shaping the final form of the book through feedback, reviews, and early engagement.


REVIEWS

Reviews are the lifeblood of any author, but even more so for self-published authors who don’t have an advertising budget or marketing engine behind them. Early ratings and reviews act as endorsements that not only boost visibility but also instill confidence in potential readers. Positive ratings and reviews create a ripple effect, signaling to others that your book is worth their time and money. In many cases, the quantity of ratings is even more important than the star rating itself.


FEEDBACK

You put words to paper and put them in front of your critique circle, right? If they’re good, they give you encouragement and guidance. Next, you polished your manuscript and sent it off to a few trusted beta readers, didn’t you? They also gave you a thumbs-up and a pile of to-dos. Now comes a broader circle of ARC readers, who will provide a last round of feedback in the home stretch before publication. Because there are more of them, they’ll may spot issues that went unnoticed by your earlier support network. This input is invaluable for addressing any lingering concerns, refining the narrative, and ensuring that the book resonates with its intended audience.


Knowing that your manuscript passed this last scrutiny and received a nod of approval from discerning readers instills a sense of confidence. It affirms that your published work is polished and ready to face the broader world. This can settle nerves as the countdown reaches zero.


FANS

By giving your ARCs to dedicated fans, you bring them into your inner circle. This early access not only fosters a sense of exclusivity but also deepens the connection between the author and the reader. It's a special glimpse behind the curtain, creating a bond that transcends the pages of the book. The gems that give great feedback and write awesome reviews are the ones you want to tap again for your next manuscript. These are the readers you want because they will shout your praises from the rooftops.


NEW FRIENDSHIPS

This might not appeal to you, but I’ve made a bunch of online friends through the ARC process. As an author, other people who love books are my peeps. Those who want to jump the line and get your book first are definitely book people. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that online relationships come from book-related interactions. Not only that, but these are people who genuinely want to help others. That means they’re well-meaning people, which is the only kind I call my friends.


THE ARC EXCHANGE

Swapping ARCs with fellow authors offers a unique perspective. It allows you to step into the shoes of an ARC reader, experiencing the excitement, responsibility, and insights that come with the role. You can get a sense of the quality other indie and self-publishing authors feel is sufficiently polished. The reciprocal arrangement strengthens the writing community.


Because they are also authors, they understand the need for a thorough and valuable review. Leverage their perspective.



HOW-TO

Choose Readers: Identify people in your network who resemble your ideal reader. That’s sci-fi fans for one and YA enthusiasts for another. Make sure they’re an ally of authors, not guilted participants. Reach out through your author network. If you don’t have a network, then quickly collect friends on social media. If you need a place to start, reach out to me on Threads, Twitter, or Facebook. I’ll share your request for ARCs.


Set Expectations: Clearly communicate your needs to ensure a trusting relationship. Be direct but grateful. I state that all I want is a HONEST REVIEW. I’m not looking for editorial feedback, but I’m open to it if they want. I request that they focus on the biggies: plot, character arc, readability, and overall impression.


Multiple Platforms: While setting expectations, let them know the primary place you’d like a review, like Amazon, but list several others that would be helpful, like Goodreads or Audible.

Go to Them: Don’t expect your readers to switch formats from what they’re used to. If they read on Apple Books, provide an ePub. If they prefer MS Word, give them a copy. Kindle can open Word docs, ePub, and PDFs. If they communicate through FB Messenger, talk to them through FB Messenger. Email, then email. Remember, they’re doing you a favor.


Gratitude: Acknowledge their efforts. Write personalized notes. Instead of nagging an ARC, send them a thank you for taking the time a good review takes. Give them shout-outs in your acknowledgments. I’ve been known to send them a copy of my book or electronically give them an Amazon gift card so they can buy more books.


If they go through the effort of providing constructive criticism, be sure to thank them, and express how useful their feedback is. The last thing you want to do is argue with them and tell them why they’re wrong. Remember, they’re trying to be helpful.


Improvement: Be sure to follow through on feedback you get. Use the feedback received to iterate and improve. Consider multiple rounds of ARC readings for substantial projects to ensure comprehensive refinement. If they find typos or a confusing paragraph, try to fix it. Even if you don’t send them a free copy of your book, some of them will buy it. If they see the same mistake, it might just piss them off.



FAQ

Q: How many ARC readers should I have?

A: The ideal number varies, but aim for a diverse group of at least 5. If you can get 15, you’re slaying it. Remember, quality and quantity matter.


Q: Should I only select experienced beta readers?

A: Experience is beneficial, but diverse perspectives, including those of newer readers, can offer valuable insights.


Q: What if ARC readers don't like my book?

A: Embrace constructive criticism and use it as a tool for improvement. Not every reader will resonate with every book.


Q: Is it necessary to implement every piece of feedback?

A: Consider each suggestion thoughtfully. While not every recommendation may align with your vision, patterns in feedback often highlight areas for improvement.


Q: Can I offer incentives to ARC readers?

A: While it's not mandatory, offering small incentives like exclusive content or acknowledgments can enhance the reader's experience and foster a positive relationship. A signed copy of your book as a gift afterward is a nice thank you, but not expected.


Q: How do I handle negative reviews from ARC readers?

A: Approach negative reviews as opportunities for growth. Consider the feedback objectively and use it to refine future projects. That, and use it as a useful data point on who isn’t in your target audience.


Q: What if my ARC readers share spoilers?

A: Clearly communicate your desires. I like spoilers as long as they’re labeled so browsers can skip them. Emphasize the need to focus on general impressions and feedback without revealing key plot points.


Q: Can I reuse ARC readers for multiple projects?

A: Absolutely. Building a reliable team of ARC readers creates a supportive community that can extend beyond a single book.


Q: Should I follow up with ARC readers after publication?

A: Yes, maintain communication. Express gratitude for their contribution, share the published book, and continue fostering the relationship.


Q: Can ARC readers provide marketing support?

A: Yes, many ARC readers are willing to help with promotion. Leverage their enthusiasm by providing shareable graphics, excerpts, and other promotional materials.



In the end, treat your ARC readers as human beings. They are as imperfect as you and I. They’ll forget to read it or blank on providing a review. That’s okay. Nudge them kindly because a late review is better than no review. Recognize the symbiotic relationship between you and your ARC readers, who want to read stuff like what you have to offer. Embrace the process, learn from it, and watch as your book transforms and gains reviews.


 

As always, I appreciate your support of self-publishing and indie authors. In the name of putting myself out there, here are a few of my works.



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