Whether you’re traditionally or independently published, getting people to read and review your book before it releases is a powerful technique for boosting your book sales. Traditional authors and savvy indie authors send ARCs to influencers to get people talking about the book before it releases.
What is an ARC?
ARC stands for Advanced Reader Copies. An ARC is a pre-release version of your book that is usually printed on demand. There may be wording on the cover that indicates it’s an advanced copy or that it has not been copyedited yet.
You can give these copies to influential people and ask them to review your book when it comes out.
Think of it like a movie DVD that is sent to movie critics before the movie is released in theatres. Those critics saw the movie ahead of time, either on DVD or at a special screening, so they could write a review for the New York Times on the day the movie comes out.
Traditional publishers sometimes provide authors with 50-100 ARCs. For indie authors, printing ARCs can be a significant expense. If your author copies cost you $3.50 each, and shipping is about the same, you’re looking at a $700 expense to print 100 copies. So, you need to be strategic about who receives your ARCs.
You don’t have to print 100 copies. Indie publishers can decide how many ARCs they want to print or send digitally. If you’re very strategic, you may get the same results with only 20 printed ARCs.
No matter how many you print or send, authors often wonder what they should do with all those advanced reader copies.
Eight Ways to Use ARCs to Promote Your Book
You have many options, but today we’re going to cover eight ways to use your ARCS to promote your book. And, for consistency’s sake, our suggested numbers will assume you have 100 copies to work with.
# 1: Host a contest with KingSumo to give away ten copies of your book.
Use a KingSumo giveaway to build your email list by giving away copies of your book.
King Sumo is different than other contest tools. Entrants get one entry when they enter the contest, but they get bonus entries when they share the contest on Facebook, Twitter, and when other people enter the contest using their magic link.
Suddenly, everyone who enters your contest wants to persuade more people to enter your contest. By the time the contest ends, a lot of people have signed up via email to win a free copy of your book.
The rule of thumb is to use the bait that will attract the kind of fish you want to catch. Don’t give away an iPad, or you’ll attract fans of iPads. Give away your book or a collection of books similar to yours.
Giving away ten copies through KingSumo can be a great way to build your email list.
years ago, I ran a Novel Marketing contest through KingSumo and doubled the Novel Marketing email list. Many of my clients have doubled their email lists in two or three weeks. It’s very powerful, and the viral sharing element makes it special.
# 2: Host a Goodreads Giveaway to Give Away 10 Copies
Goodreads made some changes that made their giveaways more powerful, more exclusive, and thus more expensive than they used to be.
It used to be that anyone could give away their books on Goodreads. Now, only authors who pay for the service can give away their books on Goodreads.
Fewer authors are willing or able to pay for giveaways, which means you don’t have to shout to get attention. Your giveaway gets more attention because fewer authors are running them.
You can give away e-book copies or paperbacks on Goodreads. I particularly like giving away paperbacks before the book comes out because it’s the only way a reader can get a paper copy of your book before it releases.
The advantage of Goodreads is that when readers enter the giveaway, your book gets added to that reader’s shelf. Then Goodreads notifies that reader’s friends that they added your book.
When your book releases, Goodreads will notify all those readers. Sometimes they’ll even send an email on your behalf saying, “This book that was on your shelf is now available for purchase.” This attention will drive readers to your book and will also help you get Goodreads reviews.
The downside is you have to pay Goodreads $199 to $599, depending on the type of giveaway you choose, but it can be very effective.
# 3: Send copies to high-profile and relevant bloggers.
Authors often ask me if they should do a blog tour. You should only do a blog tour if the bloggers you’re partnering with have an Alexa score lower than 1,000,000. Think of the Alexa score as a ranking. The lower the number, the higher they rank. You can find the Alexa score of a blog with this plugin or by visiting the Alexa website.
It’s important to understand that the Alexa score website has been tracking website data for over a decade, and it has nothing to do with the Alexa smart home speaker.
As a rule of thumb, if someone is blogging on Blogger, they probably don’t have a popular blog. Giving them a free copy of your book for a blog tour will likely be a waste. Talented and savvy bloggers moved from Blogspot years ago.
You’ll find popular blogs on Medium.com and on blogs that own their own domain.
Once you find a relevant blogger with a high score, reach out and ask if they’d like a copy to review. Don’t send a copy out of the blue. Contact the blogger before you mail your book so that they expect to receive it and know what to do with it when it arrives.
# 4: Send ARCs to Journalists
My book, Courtship in Crisis, tackled a controversial topic. One of my launch team members was so excited about my book that he bought a case of ten books and mailed them to journalists he thought would cover the topic.
Because of his outreach, I got five media interviews, and one journalist even came to my office. I was so thankful for his enthusiasm for my book that I gave him a second case of books, which he mailed to more journalists.
This launch team member was in my target audience, and he sent the book to the journalists he listened to.
When you mail a book to a journalist, always include a letter explaining why this book is unlike anything they’ve ever read. Journalists are always looking for a new, edgy angle. Finding that hook that makes your book interesting is powerful.
Reporters and radio talk show hosts receive tons of books every month, so be sure to mail your books to people who may already be interested in talking about a book like yours.
It’s harder for novelists because journalists don’t talk about fiction as much as nonfiction.
Novelists will have to be creative in pitching a book to journalists. But for nonfiction writers, find the journalists who cover your topic, who have that beat, and they’ll be most likely to write about your book. If you’re not sure how to begin contacting journalists, listen to our episode about How to Create a Press Release.
# 5: Ask Your Launch Team to Recommend Influencers
Ask your team if they know an influencer who would be interested in your book. You might be surprised to find out who some of your launch team members know. Make a list of the leads, and then follow up with your launch team members. See if they were able to contact the person they knew.
You can also ask your launch team which influencers they regularly listen to. Which podcasts do they listen to? What YouTube channels do they subscribe to? Which blogs do they read? Which talk show is their favorite? They might not have a personal connection, but you will still have the lead. Maybe someone else in your circle knows someone who can connect you.
The top YouTubers have more viewers than the top TV shows. YouTubers are easier to contact, and they receive fewer books in the mail. So contacting a YouTuber who influences your audience is a great strategy.
# 6: Send signed copies as personal thank yous to launch team members who go above and beyond the call of duty.
A signed copy is a great way to thank launch team members. I sent a signed copy to the guy who mailed my books to journalists because I appreciated his help.
Think of friends, family members, or fellow writers who have contributed to your book in some way. Send a signed copy to your best beta reader or an editor who improved your book.
On some launch teams, the members need to buy the books so that their reviews will be “verified” by Amazon. If you can’t send a physically signed book, send a bookplate sticker with your signature. The nice thing about a bookplate sticker is that you can write a personal note, sign it, and drop it in the mail for the price of a stamp. It’s economical and personal, and your fans can place that sticker on the inside cover of your book.
# 7: Give a Signed Copy to Your Patrons
Authors who use Patreon can send signed books to patrons who give at a certain level.
Before your book releases, announce that everyone who becomes a $10 patron before the book comes out will get a signed copy of every book that comes out.
Even if you have to buy the book yourself, it’s still worth it because these people give you $120 a year through their Patreon membership. Even if you wrote four books per year, giving signed copies to your $10-per-month patrons would still be profitable.
Every month Novel Marketing Patrons get a bonus episode, a Q&A episode, a bonus bundle, and huge discounts on our courses. We are very thankful for our patrons, and if we ever publish a Novel Marketing book, our top patrons will all get a signed book for free.
# 8: Allow Influencers (or Pastors) to Request a Free Copy on Your Website
Pastors and other influencers get free books in the mail every week that they never read.
Instead of spamming those people, add a form to your website where they can request a free copy. On the form, require the URL of their website so you can validate their information. Do your research and find out whether the person is a real pastor of a real church or a true influencer.
WordPress Plugins like Contact 7, Gravity Forms, and Jetpack can help you insert a form on your website.
If you gave ten of your 100 ARCs to each method above, you’d have about 20 left. What would you do with your remaining copies? What have you done in the past with your advanced reader copies? Let us know in the comments under this episode on AuthorMedia.social.
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