As an author, you likely understand that one of the barriers to selling your book is word of mouth. People tend to buy new things that they know others have already taken a chance on. In the world of online book sales, the standard way that this is achieved is via book reviews. But if you’re a new author without an established following, or have released a brand new book, how do you get enough reviews? That’s where our ARC program can help.
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.
So in order for an author or publisher without an established set of readers to distribute their book, they can do so through us, to our readers. Our ARC readers are made up of volunteers that enjoy reading and reviewing books. They are not required to leave a review, which is why we cannot guarantee any minimum number of reviews you’ll get – all we can do is provide you with guidance as to what are averages are. Similarly, we are very clear that all reviews are honest and uninfluenced, so we cannot guarantee that your reviews will be positive – that is mainly up to the quality of your book. However, we do our best to look for readers that are interested in your type of book, so that we don’t send your paranormal romance to readers that are only interested in contemporary, for example.
Again, to be clear, these are HONEST reviews. We do not guarantee that you will get a 5-star review from a book that isn’t very good. The quality of the book is up to you. All we can do is try to match you with a reader that is most likely going to enjoy your book — more on that below.
Also note that although most authors use this service for pre-release books, you are also welcome to use it for books that are already available. 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. Readers are given a week to read the book before reviews are due.
ARC books are currently sent out daily. Readers are given a week to read the book (or longer, if you choose), at which point a link to the book on Amazon is sent out where they can leave a review (for books already live, links to leave reviews will be sent out with the book so that some may come in earlier than a week).
Since all of our readers are genuine, unpaid, romance novel lovers that have voluntarily signed up to our program, 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 romance novel lovers that generally leave reviews. As the lives of readers change and they no longer have time to regularly participate, they leave the program and are replaced with newer readers that have more time to spend. But even the best readers don’t always have time to leave reviews, and that’s okay. Life happens.
Currently, the average number of reviews that a book receives from the readers in our program within about a week or two from being sent the book is around 70-80% (of the number of readers that were sent the book). That number continues to rise as new readers are attracted to the quality of books being sent out in our program.
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. Thus, at least 3 days before your book is due to be sent out, we ask that you provide the following:
* Note that your description or blurb, in this case, should be as honest and open about your book as possible. While a blurb written for Amazon in order to sell your book is designed to cast the widest net in order to attract as many readers as possible, the description here is almost the opposite. You ONLY want to attract people that will like your type of book. This means be very honest. For example, you might want to note if the book has an HEA or a cliffhanger, and don’t try to hide controversial elements that may turn off, anger, or trigger certain readers, etc.
The HG ARC program currently has well over 4000 readers, so it is likely that no matter what your details, there will be readers interested in checking out your book!
Why is Review Percentage important and why do some services charge a flat rate for the reviews they deliver?
Be wary of flat rate services that promise you a certain number of reviews for one low price. Often, the way they do this is by sending your book out to hundreds or even thousands of potential readers in order to deliver some guaranteed number of reviews that may only be 50 or 100. The thing to consider here is that those readers are also potential CUSTOMERS that no longer have to buy your book, whether they left a review or not. Whenever dealing with a company that makes these promises, ask how many readers they’re sending your book out to. Many of these services can charge a low price because they are building low quality lists and not doing any work to weed out non-reviewers. Their percentages may be as low as 10-20%, but it doesn’t matter to them because it costs them the same to send your book out to 2000 readers as it does to 100. The effort is in attracting and building a quality list. However, to get 100 reviews, you may have now lost hundreds or thousands of potential customers who got your book for free.
Hidden Gems only has to send your book to a fraction of these readers to get the same number of reviews, but we send your book info to all 4000+ members of our list. That’s a lot of free advertising to people that aren’t going to get your book for free…
To schedule your ARC, use the calendar on the order page to select an available date. Dates fill up fast, usually weeks in advance, so do your best to plan ahead. Because of the high demand, 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.
Once paid, you will be asked to fill out the order form with as much info as you currently have, although most of this can be changed up to 3 days prior to your scheduled date (by emailing us at email@example.com).
The price is $2 per reader with a 50 reader minimum and no maximum (if you order the max, we will accept all readers that sign up before your book is due to go out but your price will be capped at $300 no matter how many sign up – if less than 150 sign up, you will be only billed at $2 each). 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.
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 romance 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 the question above for that list of book metadata information). How many actually leave reviews and the rating of those reviews is based more on the quality of your book than anything else.
Once you’re ready to proceed, go back to the order form and select your date. Fill in as much information as possible, and pay the deposit.
Once done, you will receive an email reminding you of the process and key dates, but here are the details in case you deleted that email:
At least 3 days before your book is due, send us the book metadata information listed above and confirm the number of readers you are requesting (if you do not confirm this number, you will just be billed for the number you originally asked for).
Once we have this information, we send out the call for ARC readers. This is an email to our entire list of over 4000 readers with the details of your book. Readers are asked to explicitly opt-in if they are interested, and your readers are chosen from the pool of readers that sign up.
Once we have enough readers signed up, we will send you an invoice (Paypal) for the balance of your bill ((Readers X $2) – $20 deposit). Pay that ASAP, because your book will not be sent until it has been received in full.
The night before your ARCs are due (or earlier), you must also send us the book files. At a minimum, we require the books to be sent in .mobi and .pdf format. Other formats are up to you. You can send these files via email to us (firstname.lastname@example.org).
On your scheduled date, the selected readers will be given a link to download your book and told that they have a week (or longer, if your book isn’t going to be live within a week) to read it.
After a week, they are sent a new email with a link to the book on Amazon where they are free to leave their review.
A few weeks after your book was sent out, we will send you a wrap up email to let you know that the ARC is complete, and to send you any comments that readers may have left for you.