Feedback, Reviews & the ARC

Amanda Read

This blog is all about feedback. I recommend seeking feedback at every stage of your manuscript through to – and beyond – publication. Initially it will improve your manuscript. Then, once published, reviews boost sales, and the more reviews the better.

I also offer tips on how to source feedback and reviews.

Feedback on Drafts

Peer review feedback helps you improve as a writer. Not everyone will love your writing, nor should you aspire to please everyone. However, sometimes being a writer means you are too close to the coalface to know when a fault is staring you in the eye. A well-considered critique, backed up with specific examples, will highlight areas for improvement.

If you don’t have a ready-made network to hand, you could try asking at local writing events/clubs, or online (where you might find a group specifically geared to your genre), or how about setting up a write club from scratch.

Don’t limit your write club submissions to the manuscript alone, try out your synopsis on the group, even your agent pitch letter if need be.

Just before you send your manuscript to agents, have one or several beta-readers review the manuscript in its entirety. Avoid asking friends and family, unless they are familiar with providing feedback on literary work.

Advance Reader Copies

Publishers often use a secure online platform, such as Netgalley, to distribute multiple free copies of a book before it is published, in return for a review. These are the Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) which, all being well, will generate a buzz around your book so that it hits the ground running on release day.

The good news is that these platforms aren’t exclusive to traditionally published authors. The not so good, but understandable, news is that they don’t come cheap.

Netgalley allows indie authors to list books directly, or with a discount through partner associations, such as the Independent Book Publishers Association, or Books Go Social.

A more affordable option is Book Sirens.

If you are intending to self-publish, don’t be tempted to use ARCs in the same way you would beta-readers. The reviewers will expect your story to be the final version, give or take the odd formatting issue, and will judge it accordingly.

However, the click through rate (how many times a reader clicks for more information after seeing the cover, and then how often the book is requested) can tell you whether the book cover, tag line and blurb are pulling the readers in.

If you plan to make use of ARCs, you must allow sufficient time for readers to read and review your book. At a minimum, I suggest two months before release date, three months is better, and six better still.

Publishing with Amazon

As I have said elsewhere on this website, Amazon does not allow you to give away electronic copies of your book on other websites if you are enrolled with KDP Select. You are allowed to offer your ebook free on Amazon’s website, and you can buy your paperback at production cost to do with as you wish. These options are only available from the release date.

Customer Ratings & Reviews

Online customers look to customer reviews to decide whether to buy your book. When they see just a few reviews, all 5*, the potential customer will assume these reviews are from your friends. What matters, therefore, is the number of reviews, probably more so than the rating. More than ten reviews gets them interested, thirty will encourage them to buy.

A low rating may be a sign that you aren’t targeting the right audience. Although, admittedly, it might mean that your book just isn’t good.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial reviews are those by professional reviewers, such as published authors, or journalists. They add credibility to your writing, and can be used in marketing, or as a shout line on your book cover.

Some respected companies offer an editorial review for a charge. A Kirkus review can add kudos, as it is recognised by media and libraries, but don’t expect the review to equate to more sales, nor that it is the most effective marketing tool. Kirkus reviews come in the region of 250-300 words, but you may find the substance of the review lacking.

Quite often, 200 or more of the promised 250–300 words of the review will be spent on rehashing your plot. I don’t know about you, but if I’m reading a review I don’t need to know the plot. I want to know how this story made you feel.

Giacomo Giammatteo, Alliance of Independent Authors Watchdog, June 2014

Bottom Line

  • In the early days of your manuscript, feedback is essential to smooth out hard edges and resolve plot flaws.
  • Advance reviews help create a buzz around your release date.
  • A good cover, tag line and blurb are essential to attract potential readers.
  • Customer reviews boost sales. The more reviews the better.

Disclaimer

This article is intended as a guide only. Reference to any service provider on this website does not constitute an endorsement of that service or the service provider, nor, indeed, that I have any experience of these services. It is strongly recommended you do your own research before paying for any services.

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