Lately I’ve noticed a few authors in Facebook groups and on Twitter lamenting how hard it is to get book reviews and the lackluster results they received from ARC services. (For those of you who aren’t aware, there are paid services, like NetGalley, where an author can post their book in the hopes that a reader will offer a review in return for their free copy. I say “hopes” because it’s not a guarantee. But more on that later…)
Full disclosure, Romance Rehab does offer an ARC service much like NetGalley. It’s on hiatus for the time being while we do some major site upgrades (eekk!!), but we’ll be back soon because the majority of authors who’ve used the service were pleased with the results. That said, what follows in this post is what we’ve found in our dealings with both readers and authors in regards to ARC reviews and reviewers—and information on how authors can keep their expectations of such things...realistic.
Here it goes…
There’s NO guarantee
You can’t demand reviews in exchange for a free book. That’s against Amazon’s TOS. All book review services can do is ask nicely and remind readers that taking a free book and NOT leaving a review is a dick move. Some services kick readers who frequently fail to review off their island (so to speak), but that still doesn’t really solve anything. I mean, even if they eventually get banned from downloading, they still probably got dozens of free books they didn’t review. (Quick aside: I firmly believe that people who take a free book with no intention of leaving a review are in for some bad reading karma, but I can’t prove that.)
So, long-story-short, even if you have a bunch of downloads as a result of an ARC review service you’re using, there’s no way to know how many of those downloads will actually result in a review. And if it turns out that you get no reviews...well, that sucks, but it’s not the fault of the ARC service. That’s a reader thing, and no one is the boss of readers. It’s just a sad fact you have to accept when you send out ARCs.
You MIGHT have gotten reviews...but it’s unclear
Readers who receive an ARC are supposed to add a disclaimer saying where they got it. A lot of readers forget to add this disclaimer. Why? Life, I’m sure. And reasons. The point is, the ARC service you used might’ve generated some reviews for you that you’ll never be able to track because the reviewer got distracted and forgot to add the appropriate disclaimers. *shrugs* It happens.
Deadlines?? We don’t need no stinkin’ deadlines!!
Just like you can’t demand a review in exchange for an ARC, you can’t demand that someone leave a review within a certain timeframe. Folks will leave a review when they’re darn good and ready. And just because someone downloads a book today, that doesn’t mean they intend to start reading it immediately. As an author, you have NO idea where your book stands on a reader’s TBR list. It might be first, or it might be dead last. So, if you got downloads from an ARC service, say, last month, you might not actually start to see reviews for months (or years) to come. You’re rolling the dice and hoping for quick reviews, of course, but like we already said, there are no guarantees. Expecting super speedy results from an ARC is just setting yourself up for disappointment.
Reviews could be ANYWHERE
Book reviewers are all over the place. Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Goodreads, Kobo, Twitter, personal blogs, Instagram, Facebook...reviewers might post their review on any one of a gazillion sites. Just because you didn’t get as many Amazon reviews from an ARC service as you would’ve liked, you might have reviews pop up in other places. And who is to say that an Amazon review is any more valuable than a review on any of the other sites? The point is, if you’re closely tracking the results of an ARC service, you better be prepared to Google yourself fairly extensively.
There are a few non-tangible benefits to consider when you use an ARC service. Some ARC services promote your book on social media, and it’s never a bad thing to get your name out there in front of more readers. And, if someone downloads your ARC and LOVES it, they might go out and immediately buy your other books. That sell-through is something that you’d have a really hard time attributing to your ARC service, but it’s a possibility you can’t completely discount, either.
Low downloads? Have you considered your role?
If you used an ARC service and didn’t get the number of downloads you were hoping for, it’s possible that it’s the ARC service’s fault. Maybe their audience is too small, or their promotional efforts aren’t what they should be. But it’s also possible that something you’re doing is wrong. How’s your cover? Your blurb? Did you help share the ARC service’s promotional posts and mention the freebie to your readers on your own social media outlets/in your newsletter? Is your book in a niche market that doesn’t have as many readers as some of the other books featured on the ARC service at the same time as your book? It’s easy to place blame on the ARC service if your results were lackluster, and they MIGHT actually be at fault. But it’s also possible that they did everything they could and the blame, at least partially, lies with your precious book baby and your marketing efforts (or lack thereof).
And if you’re contacting book bloggers directly and gauging their interest in an ARC, there are many ways to improve your chances of getting their attention.
A few other things to keep in mind:
So, I guess the point we’re trying to make is that there are LOTS of things to consider when you’re evaluating an ARC service’s success rate, and sadly, some of those things are extremely hard to measure. There are no guarantees, and no ARC service can force readers to do, well, anything. The best advice we can give is to be patient, and keep your expectations realistic to avoid bitterness and disappointment. (And quit whining about a lack of reviews where readers can see you, will you? It makes them uncomfortable.)
Anything y’all would like to add? Let’s discuss!
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