What Is An Advanced Reader Copy(ARC books)?
An ARC, or an Advanced Reader Copy, is a common tactic in the publishing world to generate reviews and attention for a book before it’s even published. The author or publishing company will give out ARCs to a select group of readers with the understanding that those readers will then review the book. This exchange is a win-win for both parties: they get to read the book for free before anybody else, and you get valuable feedback and (most importantly) reviews.
We’ve already discussed just how important *getting reviews* is to the overall success of your book, and giving out ARCs is one of the most effective strategies to do that. However, you have to plan out and coordinate your ARCs as part of your *book launch* and well before the actual publication date, or else your efforts are probably going to be wasted.
Timing is everything. You need to send out your ARCs enough ahead of your publication so that your readers actually have time to get through the book, but not so much so that they’ll forget about it entirely. This amount of time can vary, but usually it’s going to be somewhere around 2-3 weeks. If your book is considerably shorter or longer than the average nonfiction book (ours are typically about 30k word, for reference), then consider adjusting your time accordingly. The bottom line is that you want to give them just enough time to read your book and still have it on their mind.
How you choose to send out your ARCs will factor into when you should send them out as well. *Audiobook ARCs* exist, but are a lot less common and a lot more trouble when you consider that your *audiobook* is typically produced and available for purchase, at the quickest, weeks after every other format is available. So while you may want to look into giving out ARCs for your audiobook, we’ll only be looking at the two major formats here: digital and physical copies.
Sending out paperback or hardback ARCs is obviously going to be the more expensive and time-consuming option, but it can be advantageous if you’re trying to get an important person in your industry to read and review your book. If you’re trying to solicit a review, receiving a physical book in the mail will get their attention much more attention and be much more effective than what would basically be a spam email in their inbox.
If you want to just get your ARC to anybody and everybody that wants one, then a digital format is the way to go. It’s inexpensive (often even free) and easy to make, not to mention quick to get out in one mass email.
Ultimately, it comes down to quality versus quantity. Do you want *a lot of reviews* to boost your book’s rank and visibility, or score a few high-value reviews to raise your book’s perceived credibility? Luckily, you don’t actually have to pick one or the other. My recommendation is to give out digital ARCs to anybody that signs up for one and then try to solicit those specific people with a physical copy. As always though, it’s up to you. One of the greatest things about being an *independent author* is that you make each and every decision for your book. Here, you can decide between digital, physical, or both.
If you’re familiar with Amazon’s Print-On-Demand service, then you may have already noticed that Amazon will currently only create paperback copies and only when a customer orders one. So aside from your author’s beta copy, you are not able to produce your physical ARCs directly through Amazon.
While that’s admittedly annoying, that doesn’t mean that you can’t produce physical ARCs. You’ll just have to go through another platform that provides POD to do it. Personally, we use *IngramSpark*. They allow you to order a batch of paperback or hardback copies for only the price of print and shipping. Their setup is similar enough to Amazon’s that you can pretty much copy and paste information, but just be careful that you’re setting for the correct dimensions and other small details like that.
I highly recommend slightly altering the cover to add a watermark that says “ADVANCED READER COPY– NOT FOR SALE” or something along those lines. It’s unlikely that someone would try to go sell that copy, but the watermark would pretty much guarantee it. It’s just one of a million little safeguards that you need to consider when it comes to your book.
Before ordering your ARC copies, you should first get just one to make sure that everything is formatted and printed correctly. If you end up finding a mistake when you open up a caseload of copies, it’s already too late. Getting a beta copy will save you from that.
After you’ve checked that everything looks good and you get your ARCs, you then have to coordinate getting your readers’ addresses and shipping them back out. This part is kind of a pain, I’m not going to sugarcoat it, and that’s why I recommend only doing so for the people that’d actually matter.
With digital ARCs, the process is a lot faster. It’s a matter of getting people to sign up for the ARC on your website or elsewhere and then emailing out a PDF copy with an ARC watermark. Some people like to include a password to access the PDF, so you may also want to consider including that for extra security.
Once your book is live, you should send out one more email to thank your reader for their time and to remind them that your book is now available to review. You can personalize the message by including their name, which also will increase your email’s open rate because people tend to take notice when they see something addressed directly to them.
Don’t send the email out to all of your ARC readers at the same time. Doing so will likely lead to a sudden influx of reviews, which may look suspicious to Amazon and lead to legitimate reviews being removed. Instead, sort the email addresses into different groups to message on different days. That way, the reviews will come in at different times, and you’ll avoid any potential issues.
When it comes to getting reviews, ARCs are a time-proven strategy to garner those initial reviews that get your book the traction needed for success.