Yecheilyah Ysrayl, friend of the blog, Word Weaver Writing Contest sponsor, and author of Renaissance: The Nora White Story, joins us today to shed insights on how to do stuff I didn’t even know about. No kidding!
And you need to know it, too.
Why I Built an ARC Team (and what it is)
I didn’t think anything of it.
In fact, I thought it was what everyone was doing.
I thought it was standard and that I was just behind the curve ball.
I certainly didn’t think Dan would offer to give me the keys to the house to explain it.
“Brilliant”, he had said, “People need to know this stuff.” So, here I am. Kicking off my shoes, eating up all Dan’s snacks and checking the fridge for water. I would say coffee but Dan doesn’t have any. Weird.
When I started my Book Review Registry two years ago, I got bit by the Indie Author Support bug. Helping others is a lot of fun and I decided I wanted to do whatever I could to help authors, starting with reviewing their books. I also wanted to do this because I hadn’t, until then, read too many Indie books, which I feel is part of any Indie Author’s responsibility.
But something was wrong.
While I’ve reviewed lots of books, the reviews for my own books were lacking and it was about to get worse. I was about to get burned.
Last year, during the release of The Road to Freedom – Joseph’s Story, I gave away several copies of the book to people who said that they would review it. This was not a situation in which someone stated they may review your book or someone bought the book and made that decision after finishing. No.
“People told me that they were definitely going to review. One person even emailed me to say that they were among those serious people I’d asked for.
Excited, I sent them copies.
Months passed, and then a year. I never heard from the people again. No email. No review. No feedback. I was devastated. All I could do was assume they disliked the book but not even an email to let me know? No insight? No feedback? Did they fall off the face of the Earth?
Yes, I was naive. While I’ve been publishing books for years, I did not always have insight into the business of writing and for a long time my books weren’t even on Amazon. I garnered one or two reviews and I didn’t think much of it as I didn’t understand how important they were. Long story short, when I gave away those copies, I thought that people were supposed to be honest. I thought that people would do what they said they would. I thought that a man’s word was everything.
“What support system do you have in place for your books?”
Me: “Err, what?”
Someone asked me this question during an interview once. It was a good question. It was time I start to look out for me the same as I look out for others.
That is when I decided this year would be different. I would be picky with who I handed my hard work over to read and I would have a system in place to garner more reviews.
I decided that I would have something in place to help me to receive honest feedback from readers who wouldn’t leave me hanging.
Most importantly, I decided this was OK.
As an extremely reserved and introverted person, I don’t like to be out in the front. I’d rather stand in the background. I love helping people. It makes me feel good to make others feel good. But, I had to remind myself that helping Yecheilyah is OK too. In fact, it is critical. It is foundational. If not, then I am a naked person offering you a shirt. If I didn’t take care of me, then I couldn’t possibly take care of others. How can I give if I am empty? I decided this year would be very different. I would place myself at the top of the list. This year, I would keep myself full.
In context, I would create a system to help boost my reviews.
ARC is short for Advanced Review Copy. It is when authors give away free copies of their work before it releases, in exchange for honest reviews. The process involves readers who read the author’s book and post an honest review concerning what they thought of the book. But it’s about more than posting a review. This process also involves readers who give the author honest feedback on the work as well. Some readers even go as far as to help their authors to edit. In brief, giving out ARC’s to readers is the best way to get early reviews during a pre-launch. It is how Renaissance launched with six reviews on the day of release.
Wait…let me back up…
I said giving ARC copies to readers is the best way to garner reviews for your books. This isn’t always the case as not everyone who receives a copy of your book will review it. In some cases, half of the people who sign up to review, won’t. Worse, you may not hear a word from them as to why and there’s nothing you can do about it. After all, no one is ever obligated to review a book and you can’t force them to. This can be a waste of money for authors who cannot afford to give away their work and can also be disheartening. If my book sucked, I at least wanna hear about it (but, like, do sandwich the criticism between two soft pieces of bread, js.)
That’s when I decided to get creative, as Independent artists must often do. Not only would I build a team, but I would create an ARC list that readers can join who are interested in my work. Instead of giving away Advanced Review Copies, I would create an Advanced Review Copy Team.
ARC Teams are also referred to as Street Teams, Beta Readers, or Book Ambassadors and are readers who are often pulled from the author’s email list subscribers. These are the readers who are most serious about that author’s work. They read every book that author releases and truly enjoy the writing and want to help that author out. They are real fans.
What makes an ARC Team unique is that instead of authors giving their books away to anyone who says they’ll read it,
a team creates a partnership between author and reader
and because partnerships benefit all parties, no one is left hanging. Readers have access to free books in exchange for their honest reviews and feedback and Authors increase their number of reviews and get behind the scenes feedback on their work. For my team, readers also qualify for freebies every now and again based on their level of support because, well, reading takes time and no one is obligated to review your book. For those who do take this time, why not give back? Let me make it clear that this is not the same thing as giving away awards in exchange for reviews. That’s not recommended and I do believe it’s against Amazon’s terms and conditions. The incentive part of my ARC Program is to show gratitude to the readers who take the time to support the work to the fullest. In other words, they are passionate about helping. They go all the way in.
If you are looking for a creative way to increase your number of reviews (and feedback), consider creating an ARC Team.
I don’t mean giving away ARC copies of your book to random people. I mean creating an email list dedicated to readers who are willing to offer their time to reviewing your books and providing feedback. In this case, you are not just throwing manuscripts out into the ether to see who will bite. Instead,
you are organizing a group of dedicated, active readers who you can be sure will review your books (or at least offer feedback)
without transgressing Amazon’s terms and conditions. These are not people you paid, forced, or coerced. These are people who are there for you because they choose to be. (If done right, you should always ensure that members can unsubscribe anytime).
Members who are not actively participating, not reading, reviewing, or giving feedback, are removed from my list. This is not to be mean. This is because there is no freedom without responsibility. It’s important that we are all held accountable for what we signed up for. As an author, I have given you a free copy of something I worked very hard on. This means that I am losing money giving it to you. All I ask in return is feedback. It does nothing for my growth to have readers who sit around opening emails and clicking on links while providing nothing in return.
How to Start Your ARC Team
- Create an email list using your platform of choice, MailChimp, Mailer lite, etc. Inform your regular email list about your ARC Team opportunity. They should be the first to know. These are already people interested in your work so it only makes since to start here. Spend some time recruiting from your regular email list. I would say to give it about a month. People are busy so give them time to sign up. (So, start months before your next book releases) Let them know the benefits of such a program and what your rules are.
- Create rules. Like I said, there’s no freedom without responsibility. Be clear on what you expect from the program and what you will and will not tolerate. (A time limit for reading the book is part of my structure because it’s important I get the feedback I need to make changes in a reasonable amount of time. This also ensures this process doesn’t last forever but feel free to run your team however you like.) Just be sure there are some guidelines in place. Have clear goals for your team and always leave the door open for members to unsubscribe at any time.
- Disclaimers. Since we’re talking about rules, run your program however you like. But, I’d like to strongly recommend that for readers reviewing any book on Amazon, to include a disclaimer at the front end of any review of a book they did not buy. This ensures the review is published on Amazon. Something like “I received a copy of this book as a gift from the author” or “I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review” is good. I recommend the first statement (so that it doesn’t sound so obvious) but I’ve never run into problems using the second either so both are good. (Readers, if you advanced read the book but you also bought it, you’re good. The disclaimer is only recommended for those who did not purchase the book but are leaving reviews on Amazon. It helps so that Amazon’s bots don’t suspect any funny business from too many reviews being posted by people who didn’t purchase the book.)
- Expand. After you think you’ve gathered enough readers from your list, put the word out on your blog. I just did this myself but my email list has known for some time now. After a couple months with no new subscriptions from your email list, it may be time to put the word out on the blog.
- Be patient. My team is a small one right now but it is growing little by little. Don’t expect a whole bunch of people to sign up all at once. All good things take time.
- If there’s one risk to this it’s that not everyone will want to purchase your work if they can get it for free. BUT you take this risk anyway when you give away ARC copies to random people, which always poses a gamble. Additionally, it could also go in the opposite direction. You can also have readers become more interested in your work. I have members who still bought Renaissance when it released even though they read an earlier copy. When people are part of the process, they feel more of a connection to you and the story and will, therefore, purchase the book regardless. Once people show interest in your writing, if they really like it, they tend to support you.
Don’t be afraid to take risks and to showcase your work to people who can help you to improve your writing.
One thing I’ve learned in life is that you never know what people are thinking and it’s a bad idea to assume that you do.
Yecheilyah’s ARC Team Sign-Up Form
For readers of Black History, Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, and Young Adult
Blog – https://thepbsblog.com/
Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/Yecheilyah-Ysrayl/e/B00ML6OHFA
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8336941.Yecheilyah_Ysrayl
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