Saturday, 4 March 2017

ARCs and POD

One of the disadvantages, I think, of being published using POD - Print on Demand - for physical copies is that it is very difficult to get ARCs - Advance Reader Copies - to the reader before publication for early reviews. (POD is also a beetle when it comes to planning a launch party, especially when you can't guarantee when the copies will arrive...but that might be the subject of another blog! There are advantages to POD of course - for example you don't have to stockpile large amounts of books in your spare room...)

As any author will tell you, it's reviews and recommendation that seem to help most in terms of creating interest in a particular title, and once you get so many reviews on something like Amazon, the book can gain a momentum it would not otherwise have had.

To try to get a few reviews in the past, I've offered giveaways on Goodreads. However, out of the seven copies of three books I've sent out on giveaways, only ONE recipient has ever bothered to post a review in return. (I only ever did the giveaways because I understood that if you were lucky enough to 'win' a copy, it was sent on the understanding that it was in exchange for an honest review. Not in my experience, unfortunately. Maybe I need to include a note in the next lot to remind the reader?)

On Amazon, the majority of reviews I've received for StarMark were only placed after I'd plucked up enough courage to ask the person who contacted me to say how much they enjoyed the book, to post one - but always stressing that if they didn't want to, that was fine! (Have to add that some of the reviews have been left by people I don't know, so they aren't all 'friend' reviews...)

With Kingstone coming out this summer, I've been thinking of how I can improve things. (Yes, I will probably do a giveaway on Goodreads - but that can only be done once I've got the physical copies to give! ie, after publication.)

I did have one idea. Remember my visit to Stamford High School last month? Where I met the Book Club? We talked about Kingstone as part of the Q&A session, and the girls sounded very keen to read the book and asked if they could get hold of it early. I said I would see what I could do.

Because of the limitations placed by POD, I plumped for sending them a pdf copy of the first-edit version of the book. I checked it with Bink first of course, to make sure I wasn't doing anything uncontractual. And the pdf was sent out on the understanding that it wasn't the final version (there are still some tweaks to be made) and with a request not to let anyone else outside of Book Club read it (don't want to affect potential sales!). In exchange, I asked for their reviews and thoughts on the story.
The first review is already in from speedy-reader Hazel, who apparently read Kingstone in one sitting. In her words:

"It's so gripping, I couldn't put it down!" 

"Hooray!" says Squidge.

So it seems like this might be a good way of getting ARCs to readers, whilst relying on POD for printed copies. But doing this has left me with more questions than answers. Like;

Will any serious book reviewers or bloggers take a pdf version rather than a kosher paperback?

Will Amazon allow advance reviews to be posted before publication? (I don't think they do, to prevent...what was the expression? Puppeteering or something like that? Where the author and their mates post only good stuff to big up a book?)

Can you post an ARC review on Goodreads before publication?

Is there anyone reading this blog who is a book blogger or reviewer or librarian and would give an honest review in exchange for an ARC copy of Kingstone?

I think there's a bit more research to do to answer all of these, but in the meantime I know I have one happy reader, at least.

(Seriously - if you are reading this and you are a book blogger or reviewer or librarian with a fondness for children's books, message me! And if you're not one of those but fancy getting your hands on Kingstone as soon as it's published, advance orders are being taken on Amazon right now...)


  1. Great blog, Squidge. I have recently run a giveaway on goodreads and I found it very successful - not in terms of getting reviews but in terms of raising the book's profile. I ran only a short giveaway and within 10 days over 1200 people requested. Yes some of thise people will be 'free-gons' who just want free stuff but most of them are in fact book lovers who especially liked that genre. There us a great post on how to run a successful goidreads giveaway I found really useful. I'll send you the link if you like? Ultimately while in the short term a GR giveaway seems to have little return, what you're actually doing is building for future visibility. Most people gave to see a book approx seven times before they investigate so while it may not have garnered reviews in he short term you've made a reasonably big splash in terms of people remembering your book.

    In terms of ARCs and reviews, I have actively sought out people and screwed up my courage to ask them if they would like a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Some say no, some don't reply, but quite a few said yes. Of those who did say yes about half read and reviewed quickly. Some just haven't (and maybe won't - you can't do anything about this unfortunately, you just don't send them any more books). It's time consuming yo track down reviwers like this BUT it does mean you start to build a list of reliable bloggers/ reviewers that you can approach for the next book and the next - that's worth having. There are lots of ways to find reviewers, I have a list if links if that helps? As for ARC reviews on Amazon, no you can't prepost unless you are a big 5 publisher however you can take snippets of ARC reviews and quote them in the book information section. You can also ask reviewers to post reviews on release day and this seems to be as effective as having pre-release reviews in my experience. On GR reviewers can post reviews as soon as the book is listed - they don't have to wait for release day. Since Amazon cross references GR with the amazon platform it's always worth gettinf people to cross post in both places if you can. Also all the bloggers/ reviewers I have worked with only expect an ebook /pdf. Few ask for a physucal ARC. Worth taking a look at NetGalley, which is where 90% of my nooks come from nowadays. I can't afford to buy do many books snymore do I tequest ARCs via NetGalley and review honestly in exchange. Has Bink looked into doing that?

    If you fancy comparing notes on marketing, drop me a line :)

    1. Jules - that puts things into perspective! Thanks for that. The link to the goodreads giveaway would be good, if you don't mind? And yes, I know it's going to be a lot of legwork to find bloggers/reviewers. Maybe I'm just not brave enough...? ;)

      I'll ask Bink whether they use NetGalley - I've certainly not heard of it, so thanks for the heads up on that one.

      Thanks again for taking the time to post so much useful info.