I’m also on BookTok, that very powerful side of TikTok that can make or break a writing career. There is currently some discussion (and some argument) about ARC readers and what is happening with them; what they are responsible for and what to make of it if they don’t do the expected.
As someone who is dipping their toes back into self-publishing for at least one story, I’m really interested in this debate. I had not used ARC readers before, and I’m wondering if I should for any future releases I may do. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s step back a step or two.
What is an ARC and what are ARC readers?
An ARC is simply an “advanced reader copy.” Basically, it’s an early, almost-ready to publish version of the book that is sent out to folks (ARC readers) before the book is published in the hopes of generating some buzz about the book. From what I can gather, the hope is the ARC reader will post a review or otherwise talk about the book which will ultimately help get some soft marketing done, which will eventually boost sales, or that is the hope.
Now, this can be invaluable, especially for indie writers, who cannot afford the same insane marketing tricks as larger publishing houses. It’s a relationship built on trust; trust the author places on the ARC reader to read the book, and talk about it, the trust the reader places on the writer to respect their time, opinions and autonomy.
There was a writer on BookTok who was complaining that ARC readers, as a whole, were terrible book thieves, essentially, signing up to be ARC readers just to get free books and not upholding their end of the bargain by talking about said books.
Now, I can see both sides of this argument. It can feel incredibly frustrating for an author to send out ARCs and be met with silence (I can absolutely imagine), and it feels like huge risk for these writers, who might potentially be sending out hundreds of ARCs. For people like me, who don’t make a tonne of sales, that can feel like you’re giving away all the potential sales. Only to have none of it pay off.
I get it.
But I can also see the other side. ARC readers are usually in it for the love of books, I think, not to just get a bunch of free books. But they’re also human beings with a life, and life can get in the way sometimes. We all know that. Perhaps they haven’t offered up a review because they have a lot of books to read, and haven’t gotten to yours in particular yet. Perhaps they’re experiencing an over abundance of ‘life’ things and haven’t picked up a book in ages. Or, maybe, they really didn’t like the book, and they’re just keeping mum about it out of respect of the author.
ARC readers are not always going to be able to put up a review. And, in truth, do they have to?
I’m very curious about how other folks feel, because I honestly thought that the was the deal on the surface of it. Reader gets copy of the book before it’s published in exchange for a review or otherwise talking about said book. But sometimes life gets in the way, and they can’t get the review up in a timely manner… or at all. I don’t know. I’m not sure.
What do you think? If you’re an ARC reader, or ever had been, what does it mean to you? I need to know! Right, I’m off to get other things done.