Advance Review Copy (ARC) for Book Launch Success
Before you publish, it’s common practice to give away pre-release copies of your book. These are called ARCs which stands for advance reader copy or advance review copy.
These books allow fans to create a buzz by reading and reviewing your book before it’s released and prepares them to post a review on Amazon when the book is published. The more awareness you create around the launch of your book, the better your sales will be.
Who Do You Send Your ARCs To?
Advance copies of your book are sent to the press, your launch team, and influencers who can help you get the word out about your upcoming launch.
ARC readers (excluding the press) are expected to write reviews for Amazon, but they can do much more. For example, ask your ARC readers to:
- Blog a review on their own website
- Post a review as a guest writer on a relevant website
- Film a video review for YouTube
- Post a review to Goodreads or LibraryThing
To help your ARC readers (and yourself), it’s a good idea to create a highlights sheet to reference the sections of your book that you want them to talk about. Clarifying what you want your ARC team to do makes the marketing of your book easier for everyone. If you want feedback, ask for the kind of feedback you want. If you just throw your ARC out into the world without any instruction or encouragement, you will be disappointed.
Since you are giving away a book as an incentive to leave a review, you need to ask the reviewer to include the following in posting to Amazon, “I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.” For a detailed reason why you must add this disclaimer, read our blog Everything You Need to Know About Amazon Reader Reviews.
Different Types of Advance Releases
The following is a list of ways to pre-release part or all of your book:
- Beta copies
- Advance review copies
- Sample chapters
Each of these has different applications. Advance review copies are not the same as beta copies of your book, nor are they galleys or samples. If you are confused about what your pre-release material is used for, everyone else will be confused too!
Let’s take a moment to discuss what ARCs are not:
The beta phase of book development happens when you finish a second or third draft of your book and need feedback from real readers. Traditionally, this is used for fiction, but in the self-publishing world, authors of all types of books employ beta readers.
Beta copies are in manuscript form and are sent to (typically unpaid) test readers. What you want from a beta reader is an early critique of the viability of your book. (Which sounds sort of like a review, but it’s not.) A beta reader will tell you if the book is engaging. Their job is to look for problems like plot holes, lags in the story, unfinished ideas, or repetitiveness. Traditionally, beta readers are not professional editors or proofreaders. They are not supposed to write a review of your unfinished book, at least not based on the beta copy. They are volunteers who help you fix your book BEFORE it goes through proofreading and design.
Can you use the same people as beta readers and ARC readers? Perhaps. It depends on if your team is willing to read the book twice with completely fresh eyes and for different reasons. Not everyone can or is willing to do this much unpaid work.
Sample chapters are also not ARCs. Sample chapters generate sales and are intended for a cold audience that won’t value your unfinished work. In fact, indiscriminate circulation of unfinished work can hurt sales. Do you want to be ridiculed for typos? I doubt it. You want your paying customers to have the most polished and immersive experience possible. An early version won’t give them that.
Galleys are similar to ARCs, they are just a much fancier version. Galleys tend to be an exact or almost exact version of your final printed book. In the self-publishing world, galleys are seldom used because they are expensive to produce. Traditional publishers send galleys to consumer publications and book buyers. Galleys are used to generate early editorial and consumer reviews and to stimulate distribution.
How Do You Qualify ARC Readers?
The most important qualifier is that your ARC readers must be willing to write a review! You are wasting your time if you take all comers without pre-qualifying and getting commitments first. The job of an ARC reader is to read your book, form an opinion, write a review, and post their review in as many places as possible. Amazon is the priority, and each ARC reader is required to post to Amazon. However, the wider the distribution of their reviews, the better.
Because we want these reviews posted far and wide, the second qualifier is influence. An ideal ARC reader has a large following and they are trusted in their community. Imagine if your mentor or someone who has achieved the success you’re after told you that a book has changed their life and you have to read it. Would you buy it?
You want your ARC readers to have this same kind of clout.
When Do You Create an ARC?
Remember, an ARC is a finished version of your book. A good way to measure if the book is finished is to ask yourself, “Would I send this out to a journalist?” At the very least, your book needs to have passed through editing and proofreading, have a cover, and a complete blurb. In short, the core of the book is done.
Do you need the foreword, endorsements, and every little bell and whistle? No. In fact, sending out your ARC is a good way to get endorsements. However, you don’t want typos or a hard-to-read layout unless you want that mentioned in your reviews. Furthermore, if you send an unfinished book to trade publications, at best, you’ll get ignored.
A Word About Intellectual Property
Once you publish something (which includes an ARC), for all intents and purposes, you have copyrighted the material. However, there have been rare occurrences where an ARC was stolen and published to Amazon before the author released the book. This is a repairable crime, but do you really want to track down book pirates and prove your case to Amazon in the midst of a book launch?
In light of this, you probably want to start your copyright filing and include the following language in the front and back matter of your ARC – “Advance Proof / Not for Sale.” If you’re really worried about it, you can have each page watermarked, you can use a distribution service that tracks each copy that is sent, and you can even ask your readers to sign a confidentiality agreement. (The confidentiality agreement is overkill in almost all cases.)
When Do I Send ARCs Out?
In the self-publishing world (which moves much faster than traditional publishing) you will create your ARC two to three months before your release date. When you form your launch team, one of the first things you will do is distribute the ARC. This gives your launch team time to read your book and to prepare their plan to help you promote it. Much of your book launch group activities will be based on the ARC such as chapter discussions, cover reveals, and requests for endorsements. Furthermore, if your book is outcome-driven, activities from the book will be shared.
In traditional publishing, ARCs are created six months before release. This has to do with soliciting reviews from mainstream media outlets and preparation for distribution to bookstore chains.
How Do You Distribute Your ARCs?
The simplest way to distribute ARCs is by email in PDF format. No matter what word-processor you use, you will have the option to export your book to a PDF file. Distribution can be as easy as attaching the file to an email. In most cases, your launch team members will be on your mailing list. If you are recruiting launch members through social media, make sure to ask for their email. A landing page that requires an opt-in to claim the ARC is a good way to capture these needed emails.
Note that if you join the Amazon Select program, you have agreed to distribute your book through Amazon exclusively. This means that once you go live with your release, you need to remove or deactivate access to your book through any other distributor including ARC services like BookFunnel.
Now that you know a little bit more about the importance of ARCs, think about who you’d like to invite to your ARC reader team. ARCs are an important marketing tool when launching your book. The more awareness you create around the launch of your book, the better your sales will be.