An ARC Reader Reward System?

Chick-lit, romantic comedy by K.S. Brooks and Stephen HiseI’ll be honest; I’d never done anything with Advanced Review Copy (ARC) readers until the release of my most recent collaboration with the Evil Mastermind, Triple Dog Dare. It was all new territory, and it felt weird.

I don’t like asking people for anything, let alone to read a 100,000 word novel and be ready to write a review when the book goes live on Amazon. That seems like a lot to ask of someone. I stopped reading books for review long ago when the requests to do so became overwhelming. I was receiving emails from complete strangers from all around the world (not kidding) – with their manuscripts attached – asking me to review them. Unfortunately, I had to draw the line. So, I had to be frank with other authors; I would not be able to offer a review swap.

So…what incentive do these people have to put this kind of effort into something for someone they may or may not even know?

This is an extremely difficult question to answer.

If you “offer” things to these readers, it could be construed as a “bribe” to elicit a favorable review out of them. Some of them are happy to do the job solely because they enjoy reading books before the public gets to. I think that’s super cool. But I still feel like their effort deserves something special. So, again, what can be done?

Hise and I worked it so that the ARC and Beta readers got the following:

  • A private link to the book’s video trailer unavailable to the public
  • Advanced notice of the release date
  • Advanced notice of the free promotion
  • Advanced notice of the 99 cent introductory price
  • Promise of a discount coupon for the print version

Is this enough to show gratitude for reading 300 pages – on a deadline? I dunno. I guess it’s a fine line. On release day, I received an email from someone involved in the process stating “You treat your ARC readers very well.” Did we? We tried to. We tried to keep them in the loop without inundating them with emails and/or reminders. Is there a perfect balance?

If you were to (or have) participate in an ARC capacity, what would you like to see from an author?

As an ARC reader, I would like to...

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Author: K.S. Brooks

K.S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist, photographer, and photo-journalist, author of over 30 titles, and executive director and administrator of Indies Unlimited. Brooks is currently a photo-journalist and chief copy editor for two NE Washington newspapers.Β  She teaches self-publishing and writing topics for the Community Colleges of Spokane, and served on the Indie Author Day advisory board. For more about K.S. Brooks, visit her website and her Amazon author page.

29 thoughts on “An ARC Reader Reward System?”

  1. Why did I choose to be an ARC reader for you guys?

    a. Because I think the two of you are cool
    b. I was confident that that cool factor would translate to great writing

  2. A few authors that I have been an ARC/Beta reader for have offered a chance to win a prize as a token of their appreciation. I love raffles and such, so this appealed to me. I have also used this method in my own writing endeavors as well. It does seem to increase the readership count when you want more feedback on a certain essay, short story or book. πŸ™‚

  3. I beta read for a lot of people which while not exactly the same is close enough. And sometimes I receive stuff for doing so (swag or whatever). I appreciate it, but never expect it and whether or not I agree to do the same for the next book by the same author isn’t influenced one way or another.

    The only thing I do expect is to be appreciated and not feel that I’m being taken advantage of (which means expectations well beyond what I signed up for). I’ve only had one author fail in that regard and I no longer beta read for him or her.

    1. I, for one, get perplexed on what’s okay and what’s not. Since you’re a professional reviewer, to me, I feel like offering something might actually be crossing some kind of line, which then makes me feel bad, because your time is worth just as much as everyone else’s. My motto for dilemmas like this is “when in doubt, do nothing,” so I do nothing, and then I feel badly. Maybe we need a post about what’s okay to do and what’s not if your beta or ARC reader is a professional reviewer?

  4. Hmmm. This is treading on dangerous territory in a way. Obviously, for Beta readers, it’s probably advisable to offer something tangible. They’re doing real work and as much as they may enjoy reading early drafts, it’s still work, especially in that they need to provide you with useful feedback. I’ve never used Beta readers, but I intend to for my next novel. I honestly feel that Beta readers deserve a significant investment. Right now, my plan is actually to offer the first 20 a customized novel-themed T-shirt and a free copy paperback copy of the book once it’s published.

    For reviewers, though, and ARC copies, I don’t see how you can ethically offer anything beyond the ARC. In fact, for me, any time I’ve reviewed work by other authors, even though I know I can get an ARC, I buy the final product when I can. This is kind of funny, because I rarely write negative reviews. If you take your reviews seriously, it seems to me, you really shouldn’t be looking for benefits or freebies from someone. I think this is especially true in this new indie author world. Your credibility is important. But more importantly, the credibility of independent publishing is at stake here.

    One last thing: I wonder if it would make sense for IU to set up an ARC archive system where reviewers can register and be vetted as bona fide indie reviewers. Centralizing a system creates discoverability. If authors were charged a nominal fee to archive something, say $20/month for up to three months, it would be an interesting experiment.

    1. Hi David, interesting points. I, for one, present fully professionally-edited and formatted manuscripts to beta readers. I send them a nearly finished product. I’m more interested in getting feedback from them about what parts of the book did and/or didn’t work, whether there are any plot holes, etc. So I’m not asking for, nor expecting, a free edit. Many authors choose to use beta readers prior to editing, and that is their choice. But, no matter, I still want to be fair and reward people for their time.

  5. I’ve seen quite a few APBs about becoming a beta-reader but only answer the ones (a) that look really interesting and (b) when I know I have the time. I don’t expect anything in return for it, and always plan to pen an honest review. One thing I have noticed on occasion (NOT with TDD!) is that authors sometimes will not give me a solid timetable about when they need the review or when they plan to go live with their publishing. Because of that I have at times found that I’m just skating in with edits a day or two before they push the button, which I’m sure is stressful for the author and could render my time and effort as negligible. I think your idea of weekly updates is perfect; not too much, not too little. You guys did a great job with it.

    1. Hi J.P., thanks for stopping by. Are you talking about an opportunity to win a signed print copy, or should each ARC reader get one? If you meant the latter, what if the authors use 20 or more ARC readers?

      1. I think it would depend on how many you use. If you use more than 5, then I would go with a free, updated e-copy of the book when it is released. I really like ALL of the rewards you used. Great ideas!

  6. I get a lot of eARCs to read, more than I possibly can get to. I don’t expect anything in return. It would be great to be notified of promotions. I’m getting better at say no to indies if I can’t get to their books for release date. I’d be uncomfortable getting anything in exchange except… Story Cartel does a sweepstake for a hard copy or sometimes a gift card. The only time I won I emailed the author to see about getting an ebook of the next in the series instead because I knew she had a review & get another ebook program and my house has run out of places for printed books.

    1. That’s great, Tasha. I also think a lot of authors may not go forward with a print version, and if they do, they may not be able to afford to send print books to each of their ARCs, especially if they use 30 of them. πŸ™‚

  7. A very interesting article, KS. The concept of ARCs is not new to me, as there were some unforseen print errors in the first hundred run off of my first book, β€˜Surviving’, and the publishers sent some of them out as promotional, uncorrected proof copies and some as reader ARCs. However, since going strictly ePublishing, I’ve never considered using them for the purposes you have mentioned, before now.

  8. Why did I accept to be an ARC reader? Because I knew the book would be good, written by two exceptional talents, and because I love to help indie authors. I’m of the opinion that if an ARC reader expects something in return, they’re not the person for the job.

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