Helpful Hints #1: So you want to become an ARC Reviewer

This is the first of a series of Helpful Hints for those who want to become a better reviewer or blogger, based on my experience as a blogger and reviewer, with the help of the communities I interact with!

Authors and publishers look for ARC reviewers to help boost and promote new books.  ARC, for those who don't know it are Advance Reader Copies of new books and are almost always e-book copies.  

The benefit of becoming an ARC reader is multi-fold - 

  • You get the book before it becomes available to the public
  • You get it free
  • You get to share your opinions
  • You get to build rapport

The expectations of being an ARC reader are pretty basic:
  • Read the book/listen to the audio that you accept, within the timeline requested
  • Post an honest review to whatever sites you promised to review on
  • Share any typos/formatting errors that you find in the ARC

I asked several authors and PA's what some do's and don'ts are once you start the process and here are some of them:

Before you start looking to be an Advance Reader
  • Be part of the author's community - most Authors and PA's look within the author's sphere of influence first - so be AN ACTIVE part of their Facebook group, a regular commenter on Instagram, Twitter or Tiktok if they have it - but interaction and interest is a great place to start!
  • Review what you read and love, read and like (or even read and dislike) - be fair, clear and reasonable.  Tell the other readers who will see your review what worked and what didn't for you in the book.  Many ARC teams ask  you to submit previous reviews or a link to your Goodreads, Amazon or other review profiles.
One of my fellow reviewers on Facebook shared this:
I've found that the easiest way to get offered an arc is to write a nice review, then post about the author's work often, especially if it's a book that's near to their heart. No expectations, not because I want anything from it, but because I truly want others to know about the book. I think that shows, so I've gotten offered quite a few arcs ad hoc, and made it onto several authors' personal arc teams.
I also joined the GRR team before it was GRR, must be 3 years ago now, and when I really like a book I got from there, I tell people about it. I try to remember the brag pics, but even if I forget, I try to post on my own timeline when the book is released if I really, really liked it.
One of the Authors I ARC with shared this:
I will generally pick readers who are active in my reader group and are publicly LOUD about their enjoyment of my books. I don't just want those reviews on amazon/gr. I want them on social media, I want those readers to share their reviews and my book everywhere they can.
I know my PA is curating a small ARC team and she asks to see previous reviews of my books as part of the selection because she wants consistent readers who are familiar with my brand and what to expect from my releases.

I asked for Do's and Don'ts from my friends who are Authors, P.A.s and fellow reviewers for when you become an ARC reviewer:

DO: know that being an ARC reviewer is an amazing help to authors and we appreciate you deeply.
Don't: forget that reviews on Goodreads and Bookbub are very appreciated too!

DON'T: ding it for typos or grammar in your review if it's anything other than the final version. Even then, it's better to message the PA or author.

DO: tell how the book made you feel an what you like about it. A summary isn't really necessary, unless maybe the blurb is particularly ambiguous.

DON'T: include spoilers in your review without tagging or labeling them as such. Spoilers include plot points that are not mentioned in the blurb.
"And please. If you're going to pick the book apart and list everything you liked and didn't like about it *in detail, giving examples* for the love of Bob, label your review as containing spoilers.#
DO: let us know if something has come up in your life that makes it impossible for you to leave a review. Especially if you have to send review links to someone. We're usually pretty understanding.

DON'T: Take on too much!  Know your limits and only accept the number of ARC's you can handle.  If you read one book a week, don't sign up for two ARCs that are due at the same time unless you have two weeks to read them...

DO: post your review promptly and provide review links to the author or PA so they don't have to chase you.  Make sure you know how they want them reported - most have specific forms or posts to share your links.  

DON'T: stress about leaving an epic multi-paragraph review. If people have the time an energy to do this, it's great, but on Amazon, I'm just as happy with reviews that say "This was fun and steamy. Can't wait to read more by this author."

DO: reach out to the author if you have questions about things like trigger/content warnings, or if you get into the book and realize there are triggers that mean you won't be able to finish or review. I'm always okay when someone messages and says "hey, I knew the book was going to have X, but didn't realize that meant it was also going to have Y, so I really don't think I can finish it."

DON'T: Freak out if your review gets delayed at Amazon. Every release I get at least one apologetic email from a reviewer that's something along the lines of "I posted a review to Amazon two days ago, but it's not public yet and I'm so sorry and please don't kick me off your team!!" It's fine. Amazon is a jerk. We all know it.

DO: So many readers don't read reviews but will absolutely read recommendations by other readers. so if you enjoyed a book . . .post your recommendation in one of many groups on Facebook, post it to your socials and anywhere else you feel comfortable.

DO: share brag pics on SM whenever you can

DON'T: post reviews in an author's reader group if the feedback is negative. That's an author's space and negative reviews belong in reader spaces.

DO: post the review in as many places as possible (amazon, goodreads, bookbub etc) It's Okay to copy and paste your review to multiple sites - you don't have to write new reviews for each post.

DON'T: DM the author about the book unless they specifically said in the ARC form that DMs are okay.

DO: Tell people you're reviewing an ARC - but don't say it's in exchange or the reason for your review.  My personal addition is "I received an ARC to facilitate my review." but you can also say something like "I got an ARC and this is my honest review:"  or even "I got an ARC" or "I read an ARC"
(If you are curious about why this is important, you can read what the FTC has to say about it in the US- I am most familiar with these guidelines because I started blogging in the US, but use common sense that if you'd want to know someone read the book because they got a copy vs. bought it, disclose: 

DO: If there are typos or errors, follow the requested format to contact the author or PA. We can fix those, no problem, and please remember we are human. They are not there on purpose, but it doesn't matter how many times you read a sentence, how many proofers you use, you become blind to that extra word or letter. Just tell us. We are super grateful.    Pay close attention to whether the copy you received is uncorrected proofed or a final version. 

DON'T: Write a review saying the book is riddled with typos when there was one or two. Again, let us know. We can fix it. Authors are incredibly grateful to those of you who read and review, and appreciate every typo spotted, and every single star and word you take the time to write. 

DO: Post your honest opinion and rating.  I personally qualify lower reviews with "I may not have been the right audience for this book" and I always - even with a 1 star review try to offer constructive and even positive feedback.  
  • DO Try to be objective. Even if you don’t like the trope, base your review on the storyline, character development, grammar, etc. Use CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. Don’t tear people down.  If you have a genuine criticism, try and offer something that you liked too.
  • DON'T make it personal against the author. Sometimes an authors writing style isn't for you, I'd say that rather than the writing was poor.
  • DON'T work in absolutes. What works/didn't work for you might/might not for someone else.
  • DON'T: Especially when posting a negative review, don't try to undermine an author's choices or passions.  If you disagree about a specific issue or just didn't enjoy the book, you can let that be known without being hurtful.  Remember to focus on the book, not the person.  Remember that authors have opened themselves up to your inspection through their books and if you don't want to be name called, bullied or put down, don't do it to an author.

A Few Extras:

* I personally don't review books that I DNF, because I think that I'm not able to give full and honest feedback about the entire book, but if you do decide to review something you DNF, please be clear and explicit about why you stopped reading.

* I provide feedback to the author/PA before leaving a negative review on an ARC and I usually wait until after the initial rush to post.

* Review length is not an issue.  A few well written sentences that grab your attention can be just as effective as a longer review - heck, sometimes it's better!

*Stars/Ratings - how reviewers interpret the scale varies widely - some reviewers 5 star everything they read, while others are regularly all over the map... figure out what each rating means to you and use that to ensure that what you write matches your rating...

What's next:
Next Sunday I will be showcasing sites and groups that authors and publishers use to share ARC opportunities beyond providing them directly.