Wait, slow down, girl. what’s an ARC?
Right right right. So an ARC stands for an Advance Reader’s Copy or Advance Review Copy. They’re books (can be ebook, audiobook, or paperback) that the publisher/author sends out prior to release to try to drum up some good, buzzy reviews on Goodreads. That way, when your book launches on Amazon, you have people waiting to upload their reviews and tell the world how awesome your book is STAT! ARC listing sites let you pay to make your book available for reviewers to download, with the general understanding that they will leave an honest review. (Although this does not always happen.)
Before I dive into this, I should say, I do talk about the process of formatting and creating ARCs in my more in-depth self-publishing articles one and two, but this post is going to focus more on comparing my indie author experiences with the eARC listing sites: NetGalley, BookSirens, & Hidden Gems. This site has no affiliate links, because honestly, I’m just too lazy to put them in.
So, let’s just get into it then, shall we?
What I like About NetGalley
- This is where the librarians, teachers, and indie booksellers hang out!
- One of the few places where you can get honest, anonymous opinions on your cover
- Most of these reviewers are not writers, and some are actually casual readers!
- NetGalley is big! They have way more readers than BookSirens or HiddenGems, so you have a way better chance of getting out of your bubble.
- You pay by month, not by download. So if 1000 people download your book in the first month, all the better for you!
- You can rub shoulders (virtually) with the big publishers that also use NetGalley
- You get lots of data on impressions, clicks, and post-reading surveys
What I don’t like about NetGalley
- I would estimate that around 25% of reviewers cross-post to Goodreads, and even less cross-post to Amazon. That’s because, if the book isn’t out yet, NetGalley does not remind readers to post to Amazon when the book launches, and it doesn’t require the reader to post to Goodreads. (This is painfully obvious to me as a new NetGalley reader.)
- Not all of these reviews are created equal. Some are helpful! Some are… not. I’ve seen people’s books get bombed on NetGalley because the reader didn’t read the blurb, and mistook a clearly labeled sci-fi for a fantasy.
- I would estimate approximately 95% of the downloads in a two month period occur in the first month, so if you’re going to do NetGalley, one month is plenty
- Cover is KING. If you have an amazeballs cover, people will download your book. (I, alas, do not have an amazeballs cover… but NetGalley is a good place to go look around and see what kind of covers draw people’s eyes.
- Reviews have a way of trickling in. Even if your monthly listing expires on 31 July, if someone downloads it on 31 July, they still have two months to read it and post a review.
- Despite its flaws, I still use NetGalley. At $45 for one month, I’m averaging about $4/review, and it’s worth it to me to get the chance to nab librarian, teacher, and bookseller readers. Now… if one of these days I bust out the big bucks for a killer cover… then we might really be in business.
So I kind of randomly came across this one. Someone on Twitter had described it as the “gold standard” of ARC listings so I decided to give it a shot, but this one’s a little tougher to gage. I *think* I got around 5ish Amazon reviews each for Odriel’s Heirs and Idriel’s Children, but it’s hard to tell… which is part of the problem.
What I like about Hidden Gems
- So your $20 deposit covers 10 readers, which is reasonable. (It’s $3/reader after that… but I have yet to hit this milestone on Hidden Gems)
- You don’t have to finalize your information until about a month before your reserved date (*see in the next section why this is important)
- Reviews seem mostly positive
- Reviews are only posted on Amazon
What I don’t like about Hidden Gems
- The number one problem is that they’re so backed up, you have to reserve a spot A YEAR out. The good news is you can reserve a spot, and then put whatever book you have ready in there. But still… it’s not super convenient for planning purposes. Especially since I prefer to put ARCs out either right before or right after launch. Will I have a book ready for Hidden Gems in July 2022? I’m not sure.
- My second problem is that I have no transparency about what goes on behind the curtain. I don’t have an impressions/clicks/reader data of any kind. The only email I got was, “Hey, we got less than 10 readers, so you don’t have to pay beyond the deposit.” I don’t even know which/how many of these left a review. I can only guess based on reviews that said “I got this ARC in exchange for a free review” that don’t seem to be from BookSirens or NetGalley.
- The reviews seem to be mostly only a few sentences. “I liked it!” “It was pretty good.” etc. (But this could just be my limited experience.) Of course all reviews are wonderful! But I do like the ones that help me grow as a writer by tell me what they liked and what they didn’t like.
- Not for me. The timing issue is too hard for me to plan out, and in combination with the “I don’t really know what I’m getting” situation, I would much rather use NetGalley or BookSirens. Maybe if you plan your book launches a year in advance, this might be worth a shot.
What I like about BookSirens
- It’s $10 for a listing that lasts 3 months, and $2 for every ARC downloaded through BookSirens’ link
- They have easy links to cross-post to Amazon, Goodreads, and BookBub (this one is new)
- If the reader doesn’t review, they give you a credit for the download
- It’s easy to access data on clicks/impressions/etc
- They have a huge database of reviewers that you can reach out to, and they give you a link to send to reviewers. If reviewers use your link to download your ARC, then BookSirens won’t charge you for it.
- They will remind readers how much longer they have to read a book, they will let a reader ask for more time, and when the book launches, they will remind the reader to cross-post.
- Usually BookSirens reviews are very helpful and detailed (mostly because the site has a lot of other indie authors that also review, like yours truly… however, on the downside of this, I don’t find a lot of “average, casual readers” on Booksirens)
- If the reader gives lower than a three star review, they’re given the option not to cross-post
What I don’t like about BookSirens
- Hmmm… I’ll keep thinking about this, but honestly I don’t really have anything bad to say about BookSirens. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best one I’ve found so far.
- If you have to go with one service, I would recommend BookSirens. Bottom line, you’re going to get the most bang for your buck.
And as a bonus round, we have Sandra’s Book Club! This one works a little differently than the others. You can pay $18.75/month to have your book listed at the top of the list, or you can submit a review for another book on the list in order to list your books for a few months. Odriel’s Heirs got a few reviews from this site when it had a smaller book list, but there are a LOT of books listed now, and I haven’t gotten a review for a while. Most of the reviewers are other writers, and if I had to guess, I’d say shorter books usually get more reviews for obvious reasons. That said, I review enough books in the book club to keep my books listed because it’s doesn’t cost me money and it’s still great exposure!
So please keep in my mind this is just my experience and my personal opinion, but hopefully this was helpful to you! If you have any questions or other topics you’d like me to get into, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Or if you have any other ARC listing services you swear by, please let me know. I’d love to give them a college try and add the results to my list!