ARCS: A way for indie authors to self-promote and get great reviews

For writers and poets looking to escape the cycle of a million rejections by mainstream publishers and who would prefer to go it alone, self-publishing can be a daunting task. Without the publicity machine offered by the big-name book publishers, it can be hard to find time, energy and money to get your work out there into bookshops and people’s shelves. Plus marketing skills do not naturally come to everyone. Thankfully the internet has made things much easier. Self promotion on ‘indie author’ websites, as well as social networks, has increasingly helped self-driven authors to bypass the suits and agents and reach their potential audience directly. Sites like Amazon are also incredibly friendly towards independent writers, with many niche categories such as vampire fiction, self-help and young adult (YA) being catered for with a sympathetic understanding of what makes their readers tick.

(c) Tsgreer/Wikimedia Commons

The portability and capacity of ebook readers gives authors another means of sending copies out to potential reviewers.

As the World Wide Web has revolutionised the marketing and distribution of prose and poetry, there is a small risk of authors and writers losing sight of the basic, well-weathered means of getting a book ‘out there’. The old-fashioned traditional means of getting one’s book in front of the noses of decision makers and supporters have not suddenly become obsolete several years into the digital age. Thankfully a website offering services to authors has published in plain English a useful and traditional means of enabling potential customers and agents a chance to really see, feel and read your book, as opposed to a quick bio on an online bookstore.

Advance Reader Copies (known in the publishing industry by their acronym ‘ARCs’ for convenience) are preview copies of an author’s work made available by a publisher, or even the author themselves. For publishers, they are routine means of field-testing a book and are made available to journalists and reviewers in order for them to promote and critique a work. ARCs are usually books at their rawest state of presentation – bound, uncorrected, plain-covered proofs. This is partly industry tradition, partly a means of reviewers appreciating and critiquing the book deeply without subconsciously judging it by its cover.

The article encourages authors to turn themselves into one-man or one-woman publishers and have an ARC of their work ready and running to show to friends, family, or anyone who can give them good advice on improving and fine-turning their project. Further afield, an author’s ARC can be useful for passing on to opinion makers and experts in the publishing and media industries. Aim for delivering ARCs to reviewers, media contacts and other influencers, preferably before the official launch of your book, as this will help you gauge response and opinion-based perception, which might give hints to how well the book will be received in public.

Authors who are self-publishing for the first time, at the beginning of a paid writing career, or with limited funds would do best to create an e-book rather than churning out physical copies at great expense. The advantage of e-books are two-fold. You can reel off as many copies as you feel like, and the recipient is not lumbered with a large tome to leaf through. Naturally, you will also save a fortune in printing, binding and postage costs too. Media contacts, and in some cases, bloggers are a good go-to source. If you do have a list of media contacts, the article advises you to send the e-book with a covering letter, just as you would if applying for a job. Remember you are trying to promote your book and get noticed by the journalists/reviewers in question. Always when contacting a news outlet to make sure your brief is addressed to a named individual, rather than addressing it to some faceless and anonymous ‘Book Reviewer’. If you do not have that trusty black book of contacts, then build one up. Search on Twitter for media persons and bloggers on Twitter and follow them. Find useful contacts for journalists in specialist author’s/writing magazine and local/national newspaper outlets and write up an email to gauge their likely interest. Speak with fellow independent authors and exchange contacts. Like in many careers, it is often who you know that gets the job done as much as, if not more, than having the knowhow to get said job done.

Another point worth mentioning that just like applying for a job, you need to make your covering letter stand out from the others in the journalist’s postbag or email inbox. Especially for those authors writing in popular genres like romance and sci-fi, you may well not be the only jobbing writer pitching to a busy journalist and there is only so many reviews they are able to pen in a day in addition to a busy schedule decided by their editor.

(c) Josip Vranjkovic & Tomislav Hengl/Wikimedia Commons

The cover letter should of course introduce the book, but also offer a brief one-page pitch explaining why the person you are targetting should read the book and review it, or even better, give you an interview about your new publication. The more reviews you can get the better. The article advises indie authors to collect reviews from readers on Amazon, and of course they should be strong positive ones. Contacting book bloggers who specialise in your genre is also a great help and it means that their blogs’ visitors will pick up on your book, read it and lend their viewpoint too.

Furthermore, you can discover potential reviewers on a site named NetGalley. This site will happily host authors’ ARCs (in electronic form) and ‘early reads’ (previews) for bloggers, librarians and media people. Alternatively be a bit more direct and approach reviewers on Facebook, Twitter, Google + as well as specialist book sites like Goodreads.

If you write in a particular genre or with a niche audience in mind, soliciting the opinions of experts in that field can also have the advantage of acquiring useful feedback and quotes that you can incorporate into the blurb or introduction of your final published piece. Effective use of ARCs can pay dividends to authors. You create a buzz around your book and more people will sit up and take notice. The end result: your book will have a launch to remember and you can very well make writing and self-publishing a viable and exciting career – which it should be.

For more information and useful links on ARCs, how to make them work for your writing career and further advice, you can find the article cited here by clicking on the link in this blogpost’s ‘Sources’ section below.

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SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय } on Twitter LINK
Katherine L. Logan on Twitter LINK
“Use ARCs to Create a Buzz Before You Launch Your Book” – Biff Barnes, Stories to Tell (26 October 2013) LINK
IMAGE CREDITS:
“File:AmazonKindleUser2.jpg” – ‘tsgreer’/Wikimedia Commons (3 March 2008) LINK
“File:The Unofficial Guide for Authors (book cover).png” – Josip Vranjkovic & Tomislav Hengl/Wikimedia Commons (22 August 2011) LINK
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