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Learning from my Mistakes: Advanced Reader Copies

Good books are written every day, and great books are not as rare as one might think. Whether an author writes the story of a generation or a reductive ill-conceived collection of words, no one will know unless they give it a try. Sadly, books that deserve a lot more attention go unnoticed because authors do not do enough to get their stories in front of people.

Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) are one of the most powerful tools for launching a book that an author has in their arsenal. Early reviews have the potential to start conversations about a book, give an author content for marketing, and create champions for a book before it is even out.

I lay 75% of the early success of No Heart for a Thief on the early reviews I got from my ARC team. The other 25% goes to my cover. Reviews and covers are often the first things people see when they are thinking about picking up a book, so I invested time and money in both.

A little over two months before I published my novel, I had a cover reveal. At the same time, I put out a call for ARC readers with no stipulations about a reader’s platform or review history. Felix Ortiz’s artwork did the heavy lifting of getting people’s attention, and I used that attention to sign up ARC readers.

I gave eARCs out to nearly everyone who requested one on the form I created. The few exceptions were because of concerns with bots and/or content on their social media pages. But I didn’t stop there. I reached out to reviewers that I had researched, emailing and messaging YouTubers, TikTokers, bloggers, and Instagramers who reviewed indie fantasy books.

The response was better than I could have hoped for, which I credit to the cover art and my blurb. I could have stopped after a few weeks with a few dozen ARC readers, but I kept pushing. When I finally received my physical ARCs from IngramSparks, I put out another call. Even when my release date was two weeks out, I still approached new reviewers and accepted additional requests. My goal was to have as many ARCs out in the world as possible.

I ended up sending out over 80 ARCs, the vast majority of which were eARCs. I only gave out a total of 12 physical ARCs.

Did everyone review my book? No.

Did a lot of people review my book? Yes, and positively.

I released my book with over 30 reviews, and several more came within the first week of publishing. And as they came in, I used quotes from the reviews to create social media ads. They led to more preorders than I ever dreamed of as a completely unknown author.

Now, the title of this series is “Learn from my Mistakes.” So far, I have only highlighted steps that went very well for me. Don’t worry, there were mistakes along the way.

To start off, I held my cover reveal with one blog. It went well, but I would suggest reaching out to several bloggers and YouTubers to launch your cover more widely. I didn’t know what the convention was, but you can have more than one person do a cover reveal. If you do so, my suggestion would be to be open about having multiple people involved.

Second, I didn’t reach out to fellow authors as much as I should have. I assumed that most authors would refuse, but several were happy to read my book.

Authors with followings, even if they aren’t large followings, can do a lot to boost your book. Authors lend a different kind of creditability to some readers.

Third, I didn’t use my physical copies strategically enough. When I got a shipment in, it was later than I would have liked, and I sent the copies out to whoever responded to a tweet I posted. It worked out for me because some people with followings in the community reached out, but I should have been more strategic. In the future, I will use physical copies to get people with larger platforms and/or visual platforms like YouTube.

Last, and this might be the biggest mistake I made. I got my expectations up too high. I sent out over 80 ARCs and expected most people to post a review. But I forgot that people have lives and preferences, and sometimes, an ARC doesn’t make the cut.

In the middle of it, it is hard not to overthink it and get your feelings hurt. Instead of counting the many reviews that were coming in, I got bogged down in counting the ones that hadn’t.

Publishing is not a sustainable industry unless you do a good job protecting your feelings. That doesn’t mean openly defending yourself from negative reviews or hiding away from the community. It means you have to learn how to focus on the positives, don’t place strict expectations on yourself, especially when you cannot control the outcomes, and create plans for helping yourself through the difficult moments.

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