Written by A Guest Author June 18th, 2021

The Key to Effectively Utilizing Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs)

By Aliya Hall

Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) are a helpful tool for authors to jumpstart the reader review process, which is crucial to help get new releases noticed. Traditional publishers often release a set number of ARCs to book bloggers or reviewers to help raise awareness and hype for upcoming books, and for indie authors this marketing opportunity cannot be underestimated.

But why would I give my book away for free?

You have already invested so much in your story, and this is just one more facet of investment. By sharing ARCs with interested readers, you’re utilizing word-of-mouth tactics to boost reviews and recommendations before your book is even released. With reviewers drumming up interest, readers are more likely to preorder or pick that book up because they already know more about it.

But like all things with marketing, there are multiple aspects to keep in mind before you start sending out ARCs.

What makes the most sense for you?

How you choose to handle ARCs is a personal decision. You’re in charge of who gets one, the number you want to send out, as well as what the format looks like. There are pros and cons to each option: You just have to decide what works best for you.

Digital copies are the most common format of ARCs to send out because it’s the cheapest in terms of production and shipping costs. Even without a traditional e-reader, readers have multiple downloading options to access your book. That said, physical ARCs are often the most sought after. For book reviewers on Instagram, printed ARCs make it even easier to take impressive photos that will capture their followers’ attention and gives readers an idea of what your book will look like in their hands. While it costs more for print copies, depending on how many you release and who they are given to, physical editions might be worth the price.

Screening readers and what to watch out for

It can be tantalizing to offer ARCs to friends and family first, but it’s important to make sure you’re casting a wide net to get your book in front of as many readers’ eyes as possible. The number of people you choose to have ARCs may depend on what format you choose and your marketing budget, but shooting for around 20 reviewers will help cushion your book reviews on launch date.

Creating a submission form for readers to apply to be an ARC reader is one way to put a list of potential ARC readers together. Sharing the synopsis of the book as well as genre or content warnings for applicants can help them determine if this book is the right fit for them, and helps you tailor your audience. Their answers can also tell you where they will be reviewing your book, what format preference they have, and what their social media or Goodreads following looks like.

You can also use a form to educate ARC readers who aren’t familiar with the process about what is expected of them. Although you will probably always have situations where a reader doesn’t review the book or post about the book, there are precautions you can put into place to mediate that behavior.

Some authors have set requirements that ARC readers must follow if they’re going to participate in the process — particularly if they receive a physical ARC. I’ve been part of ARC teams where the author has asked us to post two Instagram photos featuring the book, as well as doing an unboxing in our Instagram stories. Although this method still isn’t foolproof, it is more likely to keep away people who are just looking to get a copy of your book without actually reading or reviewing it.

Preparing for launch

Before you get the ARCs into reviewers’ hands, make sure you schedule enough time for them to read your book before its release date. Not everyone reads at the same pace, and having a one to three month lead time ensures reviewers have enough time to finish the book and review it before it releases.

Bio: Aliya Bree Hall is a freelance journalist and writer based in Portland, Ore. She is currently editing her first novel, an adult F|F science fantasy. When she’s not writing, she’s hosting Sapphic Stories Bookclub (and Other Queer Tales) or cohosting the podcast Shit We Wrote.









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