Hiddengems

The Hidden Gems ARC Program

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Hidden Gems ARC Program?

As an author, you likely understand that one of the barriers to selling your book is word of mouth. Taking a chance on a new book is a lot easier if you can see that others have already read it. But if you’re a new author without an established following, or even if you have a few releases under your belt but just released something new, how do you get enough reviews?

Leave that to the Hidden Gems ARC program.

According to Amazon’s Community Guidelines, authors and publishers can provide free copies of their books to readers, as long as they do not require a review or attempt to influence the review.

Hidden Gem ARC readers are made up of volunteers that enjoy reading and reviewing books. They choose the books they want to read, and although they are not required to leave a review for every book (there are plenty of valid reasons why they may not be able to/want to leave a review for a particular book), we do monitor our subscribers to make sure they continue to have time to participate in general. This has led us to an industry leading average review rate of 80-90%, for the books we send to our readers.

All reviews are honest and uninfluenced, which means that whether these reviews are positive or negative is determined by the quality of your book. However, we do our best to match your book up with readers specifically interested in your type of story (so that we don’t send your paranormal romance to readers that are only interested in contemporary, for example), which will at least give you the best chance at impressing them!

Again, to be clear, these are HONEST reviews from volunteers that we cannot force to leave reviews. This means we do not guarantee that you will get a 5-star review from a book that isn’t very good, nor can we guarantee that if you ask for 100 readers you will get 100 reviews. But because we’ve been running our ARC service for the last 18 months, we know that most books will get at least 80-90 in that scenario.  Number of reviews is often also determined by quality, however, since some reviewers choose not to leave a review for a book they didn’t connect with, or don’t feel they can leave a fair or honest review for a book they couldn’t even finish.

No refunds are offered for books that get low review scores, or less than average number of reviews left. It is our experience that these factors are solely determined by quality of the book offered.

Why do I need reviews?

There are many reasons that reviews, especially when early and plentiful, can help your book.

  • Generate Buzz/Word of Mouth – reviews get people talking about your book, and if people are talking about your book, then other people are hearing about your book, and that leads to…
  • Increased Sales – Many people put off purchasing decisions until they hear what others thought about the item in question first. Do you read reviews of movies before you go see them? Look up reviews about a new appliance you’re thinking about buying? It’s the same thing with books. The more reviews you have, the more weight your release seems to have. All else being equal, if the choice is between two books of interest and one has a hundred reviews and the other has only a couple, or even none, most people lean towards buying the book that others have taken a chance on first
  • Influence your Amazon rank – Amazon’s exact algorithm for determining book rank is a closely guarded secret, but there are many that believe that the number of reviews a book has, how quickly they came in, as well as other factors, have a direct influence on rank. An increase in rank means more visibility as you get onto top lists, and more visibility leads back to more sales

Can I ARC an already-released book?

Although most authors use this service for pre-release books (ARC does stand for Advance Review Copy, after all), you are also welcome to use it for books that are already available for sale. (Please note that it is the responsibility of the author to determine whether providing FREE copies to readers violates their existing vendor agreements.)

When should I schedule my ARC?

There are a number of factors that go into this decision, such as your release date, whether your manuscript will be ready before publication and for how long, available ARC dates, etc.

Most authors want reviews to appear as soon after a book is published as possible, so for pre-release books it is best to plan ahead by scheduling an ARC date that falls approximately a week prior to your go live date to ensure that reviews will be ready right as your book hits the stores (our readers are given a week to read the book before we ask for reviews to be left, although they are free to review early if possible). For example, if your book was scheduled to hit stores on April 7th, the ideal date to send it out to our ARC readers would be April 1st, since that would mean reviews would be due on the 7th just as your book goes live. And while you can schedule a book to be sent out MORE than a week before it goes live in the store, we don’t recommend waiting more than an extra week because readers may start to forget what they read, given that many of them are reading multiple books per week.

Note that currently, Romance novels are booking about a month in advance on our calendar, so it is best to book early. You don’t need all of your information when you book with us, as long as you know your date and how many readers you’re looking for, you can lock in a slot via our online booking calendar. But remember that the deposit you leave is used to hold your spot, and is non-refundable, so only reserve a date if you are sure.

What factors typically affect review scores?

Every book is different, but there are common factors that might affect your review scores, with some more easy to fix than others. Here are a few.

  • Weak story – obviously you want a good book, and this is the hardest thing to change. But if the story is boring, cliché or filled with flat characters or plots that don’t make sense, your reviews will reflect it
  • Poor editing – ARC readers will often overlook a few typos or grammatical issues, especially for a book that isn’t yet released. But if your manuscript is filled with typos, character names that change from chapter to chapter, and plot holes that you can drive a truck through, your reviews may reflect it
  • Misled readers – We gather our readers for your book based on information you provide, such as the cover, genre, subgenres and blurb/description. We then choose your pool of reviewers from the readers that volunteered to read your book based on that information. So if you mislead them with your blurb, or gloss over controversial elements, you might end up with the wrong readers. For example, if your book is dark and full of BDSM, but your blurb makes it sound like a light and funny romcom, you can probably expect unhappy reviews. That isn’t to say that we don’t have readers looking for dark BDSM books, but those readers probably didn’t even volunteer to read this book, and readers who hate that type of thing may have joined the pool instead! Be upfront with your readers. That doesn’t mean giving away the whole plot in your blurb, but tell them if there are controversial or trigger elements in your story, if there is or isn’t an HEA or a cliffhanger ending, etc. The more you tune your blurb to attract readers that like your type of book, the better the chances of getting positive reviews!

 

Why choose Hidden Gems to run your ARC?

Once you’ve decided that you want ARC reviewers, you essentially have 2 choices. Run an ARC yourself or outsource to a service like Hidden Gems.

Running your own ARC

Assuming you have a big enough mailing list to use for running your own ARC, there are a few reasons why you still might decide that letting us handle the reviews for your novel is a better choice.

  • Your fans are better off being buyers! Typical review rates, even from author mailing lists, are often abysmally low. It’s not uncommon for us to hear authors complain of getting between 10-30% of reviews back from the books they send out, and that’s from their own list of fans that asked to be on their ARC list! So if, for example, you wanted 60 reviews, that means you may need an ARC list of 200-500. It also means that you’re sending that many copies of your book out for free – to fans that like your work enough that they are likely just as eager to buy it – to only get back a handful of reviews! Hidden Gems has an average review rate of 80-90%, which means we not only send your book out to less people to get the same number of reviews – but you aren’t using up your own fans and potential buyers to do it!
  • Reach a new audience! By letting us send your book out to our list of reviewers, you’re potentially expanding your own audience by exposing new readers to your work who may become fans. It’s not uncommon for us to see comments left by reviewers saying that they loved the book and went and bought all of the author’s previous novels, or went and joined the author’s personal mailing list, etc. When you send to your own list, you’re sending to people that already know about you.
  • Save time and hassle! Managing an ARC properly can be time consuming. Asking readers to sign up, sending them books, dealing with their technical issues, reminding them again and again to leave reviews, wondering how you can tell who isn’t leaving a review so that you don’t send them your next ARC… all of this takes time away from what is really important – writing your next book! So why not let us handle all that headache?

Okay — so why Hidden Gems and not someone else?

  • Reliable – Hidden Gems has been running ARCs since November 2015, and in that time has sent out over 350 books to thousands of readers for hundreds of authors – the vast majority of whom are repeat customers and you can read some of their testimonials below. If you book with us, you know your ARC is going to get delivered without issue and you can expect many quality reviews.
  • Industry leading review percentage of 80%-90% – Why is our review percentage so important (i.e. why do we keep talking about it)? As we mentioned above, the review rates even from an author’s own list are sometimes very small – and that’s from fans! Curating a quality list of reviewers that work for free and voluntarily read books takes a lot of time, money and effort. We didn’t start off with our current average percentages, it has taken over a year to get this high. But many ARC services don’t put the time and effort into doing that. Often these are the “cut rate” ARC review services that “guarantee” a set number of reviews for a flat rate. While it’s certainly understandable to be attracted to these, we urge you to be careful. The reason they can often offer a low price and a guarantee is because they don’t spend any time or effort into curating their list. That means their review rates are often even worse than the numbers I spoke of above. In order to get you 100 guaranteed reviews, they may be sending your book out to thousands of readers. They don’t care, because it costs them the same to send your book out to 2000 readers as it does to send to 100 – but then that is 2000 people that no longer have to buy your book. And for just 100 reviews? And some of them just send your book out to their entire list, not taking the time to match your story with readers interested in that type of book. That might lead to many more negative reviews. The tradeoff may not seem like such a bargain when you consider those factors, but if you do decide to work with a company like that, stay informed. Ask them how many readers they’re sending your book out to in order to get your guaranteed number, and then make sure that number makes sense to you. Ensure that their readers like your type of book! Hidden Gems sends your book out to a fraction of these readers for the same number of reviews. Better yet, we send your book info (metadata) to thousands of our readers when asking for volunteers – and then we select the reviewers from that pool. That means thousands of readers just heard about your great novel but didn’t get it sent to them. How’s that for free advertising?

Testimonials

Here are a few of the things the authors we’ve worked with have said about us:

Hidden Gems ARC service is the best promotion you can get short of a Bookbub. They’re expensive but they’re worth it. A must-have for any serious novel launch.

– NYT and USA Today Bestseller Krista Lakes

I just wanted to thank you again for such a fantastic service! I’m incredibly happy with the results and it was such a great deal for the fantastic ARC reviews and reader insight. I even got a few very sweet fan letters from some of the reviewers. Their attention to detail is fantastic–they have eagle eyes! They spotted stuff even my 40 years of industry experience copy-editor didn’t! Thank you so much again, I have told all my author friends. Will be singing your praises in all my groups as well.

– Skylar Hill

Hidden Gems really is the gold standard of ARC

– Simone Scarlet

If you don’t have an ARC team of your own, HG is the way to go, no question about it. Easy peasy to do, and a real value for your money.

– Erin Wright

Hidden Gems ARC review program was a success for me. I had a great response rate. I got excellent feedback about the book, and I plan on using you guys again in the near future. I see it as a great tool to assess how much the readers like the writing, and where I need to improve. The results were better than I expected them to be. Thank you Hidden Gems! – Eveline Hart
Your group of reviewers are truly amazing people! I am so glad that I had the pleasure of working with you all. I will be using your services in the future! I have never received such great feedback related to my books. You guys nailed it!! I will be using you in the future. You made this one of the easiest ARC programs!!

– Erin Trejo

How much does it cost?

Due to high demand (depending on genre, the schedule often books up very far in advance), upon booking you will be asked for a $20, non-refundable deposit (via Paypal). This deposit will serve to lock down the date that you scheduled.
The price is $2 per reader with a 50 reader minimum, up to 150 readers. For 150 or more, the price is capped at $300. If you ask for the MAX, we will accept all readers that sign up for your book and only charge you $300, however if less than 150 sign up you will only be charged at the standard rate of $2 per reader.

The initial $20 deposit will be deducted from your final bill. The final bill must be paid prior to your book being sent out, and you will be invoiced as soon as we have the number of readers signed up for your book that you have requested, or the night before your book is due, whichever comes first. If you do not get as many readers signed up as you requested, you will only be billed for the number of readers that did sign up (even if your number is below our minimum threshold).

Note again that Hidden Gems DOES NOT GUARANTEE how many readers will leave a review, nor will we refund the difference between readers and reviews. We also DO NOT GUARANTEE what rating any of the readers will give you. These are HONEST reviews by REAL book loving readers. Such guarantees would be against the Amazon TOS so be wary of any service that promises this!

The fee you pay is for the service of having your book sent out to the number of readers you desire – readers that have expressly volunteered to read your book based on the information you provided (see How do I get started?). How many actually leave reviews and the rating of those reviews is based more on the quality of your book than anything else.

However, please note that Hidden Gems reserves the right to send your book out to more readers than you were charged for (but never less). This is done in cases where we have new, untested reviewers that have applied to read your book and we don’t know yet whether they are reliable (i.e. will leave reviews). Sometimes we will add these new readers free of charge (generally no more than 10-20% of your booked number, but usually less) to test them out. The result is that in rare cases you may end up with slightly more reviews than you paid for.

How do I get started

There are a number of steps to our program, but only a few that you have to worry about. We do most of the heavy lifting.

  1. First, select the primary genre of your novel to ensure we send your book to the right set of readers. Hidden Gems started off ARCing only Romance books, but we now handle all genres. The genres available are:
    • Romance
    • Erotica
    • Mystery
    • Science Fiction
    • Fantasy
    • Thriller/Suspense
    • Horror
    • Humor/Satire
    • Young Adult
    • Self-Help
    • Cookbooks
    • General Non-Fiction
      (if your book does not fit within one of these genres, please contact us)
  2. Select an available date from our calendar and pay the small deposit to lock in your date. Complete the information as best you can, however you can always send updates for any info you don’t have at the time of booking to contact@hiddengemsromance.com.
  3. The best way to ensure you get readers that not only leave reviews, but enjoy your book enough to leave positive reviews, is to provide us with as much metadata type information about your book as possible for us to use when gathering potential reviewers. Thus, at least 3 days prior to your scheduled date, make sure you’ve sent any info that you did not include when you originally booked, or notify us of any changes. While all of your info can be added at the time of your booking, many authors schedule their ARCs far in advance and don’t have their info available. You can send this info to us via email at contact@hiddengemsromance.com.This info includes:
    • Book Title
    • Pen Name
    • Sub genres/sub categories
    • Cover
    • Description/Blurb (see What factors typically affect review scores? for more details)
    • Release Date
    • Number of readers requested (min 50, or just say MAX to ask for as many as you can get)
  4. A day or two before your ARC is scheduled to go out, you will receive an invoice (via paypal) for the balance owing. Pay that promptly so that your book goes out on time, as scheduled.
  5. Make sure you’ve sent us your book files (PDF and MOBI are required, EPUB is encouraged) prior to your scheduled ARC date.
  6. On your scheduled date, the selected readers will be given access to your book
  7. A week later, those same readers are told to leave their reviews and given a link
  8. 2-3 weeks after your scheduled date, we’ll send you a wrap up email with any comments left for you from our readers

Note that although readers are given a week to review, if books are available on Amazon prior to the review due date, many readers will leave their reviews early – when they finish reading the book. However, even though reviews are “due” a week after your book goes out, that does not mean all reviews will come in that day. The majority will come in within a week, with some slower readers sometimes leaving reviews even later.

And again, since all of our ARC program subscribers are genuine, unpaid, voracious readers that have voluntarily signed up to read these free books, Hidden Gems cannot force anyone to leave reviews, nor can we make any guarantees on the number of reviews you will get – however, the program is made up of readers that generally leave reviews and when we identify any that are not participating anymore, they are removed. But even the best readers sometimes don’t review a particular book for any number of reasons, and that’s okay. Life happens. We only remove reviewers that are consistently not participating.

Sample timeline:
Given the above, here is a sample timeline for a book called “HG Super Novel” that has a scheduled date of April 3rd.

  • March 31st – All metadata info for HG Super Novel should have been emailed to Hidden Gems by end of day today (or earlier), if it wasn’t already added when the book was originally scheduled online
  • April 1st – Details of “HG Super Novel” are send to all of the ARC readers in your given genre and volunteers to review it begin to sign up
  • April 2nd – Book files (PDF, MOBI at least, EPUB also encouraged) should have been emailed to Hidden Gems by end of day today (or earlier)
  • April 2nd – Final Invoice must be paid by end of day today
  • April 3rd – Book is delivered to selected volunteer reviewers by Hidden Gems to match your desired number
  • April 9th – Reviews are due, majority start coming in today
  • April 10th – Depending on how many reviews were asked for, they will continue to come in for about a week, possibly longer – although the majority come in within the first 3 or 4 days of the review being due
  • Late April – Wrapup email arrives with comments (if any) left for your book from readers

Help—I scheduled a date but my book won’t be ready!

It happens to the best of us, sometimes. The important thing is to inform us as soon as you know you aren’t going to hit your date. While our deposit is non-refundable, if you give us enough notice we will work with you to move your date if possible, free of charge. Generally, if you tell us at least 2 weeks in advance we can work something out, however anything less than that and you may have to forfeit your deposit. We will do our best to accommodate you, but the issue is that opening up a date at the last minute means it can’t always be filled in time – especially as we send out book info to our readers 2 days ahead of scheduled dates. In those cases we may suggest moving your date, but that you will have to forfeit your deposit in the event that we cannot fill the original date with someone else’s book. If we do find someone to fill it, then we’re happy to not charge you. However, please note that there is only 1 date shift per book allowed.