All About ARCs

All self published authors face one major issue (unless they’re already super well established): how to get an appropriate amount of reviews onto key selling platforms, particularly Amazon.

With my latest indie release I tried a few strategies, and I’m going to record what went well and what didn’t here. In part this is just for me to remember clearly for next time.

Romance Remedy from Romance Rehab

  • $25 for 1 month. Includes some promo tweets and emails for the whole scheme that feature the book cover.
  • 29 downloads.
  • ? – 0 reviews.
  • 0 Amazon reviews.

I did this mainly because I like this blog and I wanted to see if this could be a win win of supporting them and getting a few reviews. There might have been one rating on Goodreads from this, though it’s impossible to be sure. But to be honest, I saw no unambiguous sign that it gathered any reviews for my book or other books it has featured. Which is a pity.

LibraryThing members promotional giveaway.

  • Free (up to 100).
  • 29 requests.
  • ? – 0 reviews.
  • 0 Amazon reviews

This was free, so I guess that was good. It’s a pain though, as you have to manually copy each email address and email them the book file. Again, no sign that it actually did anything. I received two email replies from the 29 I sent out, one saying they couldn’t open the file, the other assuring me they’d review the book. Neither came to anything. So yeah. I’m unconvinced. I wouldn’t bother again.

BookSprout

  • Free (up to 20 requests).
  • 11 requests/downloads.
  • 7 reviews.
  • 2 reviews on Amazon.

This was at least was easy to do, that’s in its favour. Interestingly, one review was a reviewer who also posted their review to Netgalley, and who got the ARC from my personal ARC list. I mean, good on that reviewer for their dedication to the review sites. 4 more reviews appeared soon after I clicked “request reviews”. One of those was on Amazon, then one more appeared later. The others were on GR. I absolutely will use BookSprout again.

Personal ARC email list.

  • Free.
  • 22 email opens
  • 11 downloads
  • 8 reviews
  • 5 Amazon reviews

This is honestly the best thing I do. It’s no hassle and mail chimp tells me exactly who has opened and who has clicked. Admittedly, it’s difficult to cross reference this with actual reviews, but I don’t mind. I tend to check out the reviewers as they subscribe, so I know they’re legitimate, and I’ve never had anyone I’ve even hesitated about. These are mostly reviewers who liked my previous books, so it’s a win-win. I know the number of reviewers on the list is paltry, but I don’t care, I love them all.

Personal emails to bloggers

  • Free, but a genuine PITA
  • 7 requests sent
  • 5 responses (ARCs sent)
  • 2 reviews (GR)
  • 1 review on Amazon

I have a massive spreadsheet of hist rom bloggers. This took a long time to compile. I’m not sure it was worth it. And I have a list of which have accepted a copy of my books in the past. I intended to do a load of emails as I have with previous books, but I honestly couldn’t be bothered this time. I only emailed reviewers who have liked my books before, but aren’t on my ARC email list for some reason. Ultimately, I want them on that list. And it’s better for reviewers too, as it means if I’m feeling tired and grumpy they don’t get left off my to do list.

NetGalley via Booksgosocial

  • $71 for 1 month
  • 128 Downloads
  • 23 reviews (on NG)
  • 1 Amazon review

First things first, I was not amused when I realised that a different code would have given me a bigger discount and I could have paid just $56 with booksgosocial. If you’re going to use this company, do a comprehensive search and get the best discount code possible. Or you’ll feel sore, as I did. Then the communication was terrible. I paid, got sent back to a “not found” page on their website, then heard nothing for 2 days. I was not amused. Although much cheaper than many other Netgalley options, this is still a chunk of money.

Right. So. 23 sounds impressive compared to previous numbers. But. At least 3 of those are actually reviewers from my own ARC list, who then used the arc to bump up their % reviewed on NG and more than one was from a personal email I sent.

The majority (maybe 20/23) of the NG reviews were cross posted to GoodReads. So that was good. But only one Amazon review is frankly disappointing given how much NG cost. It seems to me that NG has become its own little ecosystem, quite apart from actual book sales. Some authors get sucked into believing NG downloads and reviews are an end in themselves. But the reality is, I saw little indication of actual sales resulting from these NG or GR reviews. They’re just for my vanity.

Having said that, if I was going to use NG again I’d probably use Expresso Book Tours. It’s more focused on romance, puts your book in the “available to request” section rather than “read now” section (where booksgosocial put your book). The “read now” section is full of “extended samples” that no one wants, and virtually none of the major publishers put their books there. A request system also encourages reviewers to post reviews in useful places (like Amazon) in order to keep good standing with the company and maintain approval. Expresso Book Tours is $65 for 1 month, which is comparable to Booksgosocial and quite affordable compared to the $300+ for standard NG access.

In Conclusion

I got a handful of reviews. On GoodReads at time of writing there were 33 reviews and 40 ratings. On Amazon 9 reviews. Not many for the effort and money, but hey, something. What do you use to gather reviews?

TL;DR Get yourself an ARC email list. It’s useful. Even better if reviewers can sign up or unsubscribe on their own. Try Booksprout.

Update:

After posting this, some nice people on twitter made some suggestions. In no particular order:

  • Blog tours with Rachel’s Random Resources (from about £55)
  • BookSirens – they might waive the fee in exchange for a review (meta overload)
  • Broad Universe for NG access ($50)
  • Adding a line to your normal newsletter asking if anyone wants to be an ARC reviewer
  • A reviewer suggested contacting reviewers via Bookbub, Az or FB groups