Category Archives: marketing

Dos and Don’ts of Advance Reading Copies

Advance Reading Copies—Dos & Don’ts for Self-Publishers

four different hardcover books in different colors spell "OPEN"

Open your book! CC image “BYU faculty survey…” courtesy of opensource.com on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

How do you go about getting one (or more) of those nifty recommendation blurbs from well-known authors on the back cover or inside flyleaf of your book?

How can you time your book to appear when a notable review of it is also released?

What about getting test audience feedback on your story or their reaction to your cover?

You can do all of these with Advance Reading Copies of your book, also known as ARCs.

Advance reading copies: benefits

At the most basic level, ARCs are a preview of your forthcoming release. Prior to the main print run (or mainstream e-release, if you are not doing a print version), you print/create a select number of copies and send them to select people. Emphasis: select. You are not saturation-covering the known literary universe.

ARCs are NOT final copies of your book. You can use them to check for errors, formatting, and print production choices. You may also think about tweaking the cover, now that you have an example of it in your hands and not only a PDF.

You can get test audience feedback with ARCs. In addition to more private feedback directly to you, you can use advance reviews to your advantage on sites such as Goodreads and Amazon, and to reach out to bloggers and others. ARCs are great for reviews and author blurbs, because you can get a copy of your book into the hands of reviewers before you publish to a wide audience.

Advance reading copies: don’ts

Although your ARC is not the final copy of your book (and you should clearly state this in all copies), appearances matter.

  • Don’t send out a messy ARC. Make sure your formatting is clean and neat.
  • Avoid sending out your ARCs before you’ve had at least one major editorial pass. Readers don’t care how awesome your story will be later if they think the book is a hot mess right now. Remember, they can post advance reviews on various websites.
  • Avoid hedging about your genre. Readers will not be pleased if they receive a horror story when they expected a comedy, or vice versa.
  • Don’t send out your copies without basic proofreading. You might be surprised how many people focus on your spelling over the story, even if you tell them they’re reading an advance copy.
  • Don’t send out ARCs that are not CLEARLY labeled as such.

Many authors don’t think about the ARC until they’re through with the editorial process. However, I have had clients who were excited to share their book, and who really wanted to gather blurbs and reviews prior to release. In some cases, they sent out unedited manuscripts in the form of a Word document to readers. Unfortunately, this produced mixed results. I would strongly caution you against this tactic. Most people have certain expectations when they hear the word “book.”

ARCs and beta readers

As I mentioned, ARCs can be a great way to get feedback from your audience. However, they are different from true beta readers.

Beta readers are your writing colleagues and others who read your work while it is still in progress. These people have a high understanding of the writing process and sensitivity to the challenges and excitement you encounter while writing your book. They help you brainstorm, they commiserate with you, and provide you with craft feedback. They are a small group.

ARC readers on the other hand read what you hope will be the final product. This can be a much larger group than the beta readers, especially if you send them to reviewers and bloggers. They may or may not care about your process; they review the book in front of them as though it was the real thing. They may not have craft insights to share with you, and instead react with words such as “boring,” “awesome,” “interesting,” and so on which do not help your writing process—though they do help you gauge whether you’re reaching your audience.

What you should do with ARCs

  • Do clearly mark your ARC copies as “advance” and not final.
  • Do proofread them before they go out!
  • Do read reviewer guidelines and send ARCs to reviewers several months before you wish to publish.
  • Do tell your readers what to expect in terms of your book genre.
  • Do use this opportunity to see how you feel about the print production and the cover.

The bottom line

Advance reading copies are your book’s ambassadors to the world. You can generate advance interest in your book, get blurbs and recommendations from other writers, receive glowing reviews, catch errors, and take the temperature of your test audience. ARCs can do this best when they are produced and used with care and attention to quality control. As with every other part of the book process, think about what you want your ARCs to achieve.

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The Money Issue: Creating a Book Budget

The Money Issue: Creating a Book Budget

Scrabble word BUDGET is a key for indie book publishing

Key to any book publishing, indie or otherwise. CC image “Budget” courtesy of airpix on Flickr and stubblepatrol.com. Some rights reserved.

Books don’t come free. In addition to your blood, sweat, and tears (am I being melodramatic?), you need to have a plan in place to conquer the hard financial costs that are part and parcel of publishing. Like any other business, your book has operating expenses, and it deserves a budget. Continue reading

typewriter keep the self in publishing

Keep the “Self” in Self-Publishing: 
Steer clear of shady providers

Keep the “Self” in Self-Publishing: Steer clear of shady providers

typewriter keep the self in publishing

In self-publishing as in life, be smart about who you work with.

If you’ve tried self-publishing, you know how much work it is. While the benefits are great, we all want help sometimes. Publishing companies that promise to do the work for indie authors sound like a great deal.

Careful. Not all of these are legit, and the terms of the agreement can have big repercussions for you—notably a poor product (book), and a big price tag.

Anytime you ask someone to help you, be wary of what you are giving away. Below I outline shady practices to watch out for, and how to protect yourself. Beware of offers that sound too good to be true.

Why vanity presses and self-publishing “package” deals are a bad option

Vanity or subsidy presses publish your book for a fee. They offer to cover editing, layout and cover design, and printing. The promise: to make your life as an indie author easier by streamlining the publishing process.

Great, you think. You’re already self-publishing and paying for it. What makes this model bad?

The answer boils down to three things: the fees, the quality of work, and the rights.

The fees: these outfits charge high fees for work you can get at better prices through a legitimate small press or by hiring individual service providers.

The quality of work: if the price looks lovely and low, it means they are saving money somewhere, usually with dubious editing, restrictive and generic cover design options, and up-sell options for marketing (typically not included in the package price).

The rights: a traditional publisher pays publishing costs, and retains rights to your book in exchange. This is how they (hope to) recoup their costs and profit. Vanity presses ask you to pay for the publication costs, and yet retain the same rights. Um, what?

Avoid this arrangement. Vanity presses and “assisted self-publishing” offer low-quality, low-value options for a high fee and the privilege of keeping all your rights.

A note on rights: if you decide to publish another edition, or an eBook or audiobook version, or you want to do ANYTHING ELSE with your material, like distribution deals—you need rights to your work. If giving them away to a for-fee company sounds like a bad idea…it is.

How to tell if a “publisher” is shady

  • They charge you a fee, and yet they take royalties from the sales of your book. What? A traditional publisher PAYS for your book, and makes its money back through sales. These assisted self-publishers haven’t risked a dime on the production of your book, and should receive no royalties.
  • They give you budget editorial and design at a markup price. You pay more for less.
  • They charge you a “setup fee,” which is a sneaky way for them to cover their costs. Why are you paying a setup fee? Your package deal is meant to cover the cost of production.
  • Sales: They require you to purchase your own books. They want you to “guarantee” a minimum number of sales prior to publication. They pressure you to buy copies of your own book in other ways, such as through an Author Guide or special discount offers.
  • They offer/pressure you to pay for “expedited” editing, or special website placement, or inclusion in book fair catalogs, or “enhanced” marketing.
  • They usually retain rights to the cover art, typesetting, and digital assets. If you back out of the contract, you’ll have to start from scratch with a word processing document (and a lighter wallet).
  • They don’t disclose fees upfront (a HUGE givewaway).
  • You can’t get a human being on the phone (or email).

What’s in this package “deal”?

When you purchase a bundled deal, always, always, ALWAYS know exactly what’s part of the bundle. What is included? What is extra? What do the individual items cost if you were to purchase them on an “a la carte” basis?

When they say marketing, what does that mean? When they say editing, what does that entail? (Go here for descriptions on types of editing.) When they say cover design, how many looks are they giving you for that “special price” (with a designer you haven’t chosen)? Make them get specific.

Marketing promises especially give me the heebee-jeebies. Are they talking about radio, TV, print, digital? Are they going to do your social media management? Are they going to add you to a speakers bureau? Are they only “listing” you on Amazon? Marketing comes in a LOT of flavors. Not all will be relevant or useful to you. Don’t pay for what you don’t need.

If they don’t specifically say what they are offering, you aren’t getting it, and you may be asked to pay (a lot) more for what should be a basic service. Read the fine print.

The bottom line

Don’t give away the benefits of publishing your own book. As an indie author, you have control over the decision-making and the rights; plus you can earn much more per book sold than with a traditional publisher. Why would you give these away?

Stay away from companies that promise a lot for a little, retain exclusive rights to your book, pressure you to purchase copies of your own book, and ask you to pay for these “benefits.” Stay away from companies that don’t disclose their fees and spend most of their time up-selling you expensive products you don’t need, and that don’t deliver on basic (necessary) services such as editing and design.

Remember: it’s the fees, the quality of work, and the rights. Before you agree to hand over your rights and your cash, know what you are signing away.

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Any doubts? Ask me or another provider you trust, and use the resources at Writer Beware.

male lion lies on his back with paws over his face

What your book title says about your book

What your book title says about your book

(and your subtitle and back cover copy, too)

Let’s start with a quiz:

male lion lies on his back with paws over his face

What was he thinking with that title? CC image “I Can’t Bare to Look” courtesy of Rennett Stowe on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

1. My book’s title/subtitle is:

  1. That thing I put on the front cover
  2. My best way to grab potential readers
  3. Descriptive and poetic
  4. Clear and concise

2. My back cover copy:

  1. Is a small space for text on the back of the book
  2. Is a great place for all my positive reviews
  3. Gets the reader to open the book
  4. Is my opportunity to talk about my story/me

Right, my own blog post title may have given this away, but bear with me.

Book titles are a marketing tool

Writers are strange about our titles. We think the title needs to be poetic and perfect, and the subtitle needs to cover everything there is to know about our book. The answer is no, absolutely not. Continue reading

Exposure: Bad for you in the mountains, Good for your book

Exposure: Bad for you in the mountains, Good for your book

red cardinal on a branch in icy rain

Your book should stand out. CC image My Cold Weather Friends courtesy of John Flannery on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

In Colorado, we hear a lot about local, homegrown, extreme weather.

Many of the weather disaster reports are related to the mountains in some way. Every year, people go missing, are hit by lightning, and suffer from exposure from rapidly changing weather conditions at higher altitudes. Exposure in the mountains is a bad thing. Exposure can get you killed.

For your book, on the other hand, exposure is exactly what you want. The more people are talking about your book, the more people are aware of it. And the more people are aware of it, the greater your opportunity to convert them into readers and buyers. Continue reading