In January I released my 6th book. As I look back over the activities that I’ve used to promote my books it is like going from the Stone Age to the Industrial Revolution. I’m not quite to the point where I can just write. Actually, I’m pretty far from that. As I’ve built up a modest reader base, however, I’ve been able to employ some more advanced promotional techniques.
Issuing advance read copies is one of those techniques that I employed with my last two books. For the book, Frank Incensed, I only issued a few. It was partly to get reaction from readers and secondarily to get reviews on launch day. I tried to give the readers enough time so that they could read the book and review it on Amazon, Goodreads, and any other outlet on the day the book was released.
I definitely saw some bump in sales and ranking due to this. For my latest book, Blood Orange, I was much more aggressive in seeking out advance readers. I issued 30 copies to the members of my street team (more on that in a subsequent post) and approximately another 80 copies to people that I sought out through my mailing list. That’s about a 15% hit rate. That resulted in about 15 reviews on Amazon the day that the book was released. Could this have been better? Of course. I was hoping for about 25-30 reviews. This book, however, had extenuating circumstances, but more on that later.
First, what is an advance reader and how does this group differ from beta readers?
Advance readers get the book when it is finished and ready to be published. It is the final edited copy. No changes will be made based on their feedback unless some big, ugly, hairy error is found.
Using advance readers is a coordinated effort. It takes a bit of organization, but you can use technology to help you. Free technology. The first thing I did was compile a list of those that volunteered to be advance readers. The best took I have found to do this is MailChimp. You can import a spreadsheet with your contact list. You can also, for a minimal monthly cost, add automation to the mix. This allowed me to send a reminder to my advance readers a week before the book was released, the day before, and the day after reminding them to review the book. All of this happened while I was happily Internet and eMail free on a cruise ship. The whole MailChimp process is a series of blog posts on its own. Look for that in the future.
There downsides to using advance readers. Of course. That’s why I’ve compiled another handy dandy pros and cons list so you can decide for yourself.
- Releasing your book with reviews in place on day one helps your ranking on Amazon
- You build further rapport with your readers and they enjoy being part of the process
- Your book appears mature upon release. A lack of reviews makes readers nervous about spending money on your work
- You get honest feedback from your readers that help you improve quality
- Like with beta readers, you are forfeit sales to those that are advanced readers (or do you). I’ve had a number of advance readers purchase the book anyway
- As with beta readers, you are putting your work at risk. This is true, but it’s at risk even after it’s released as an eBook on Amazon. Most readers tend to be honest.
- You risk receiving bad reviews. Ouch. If that happens, It probably would have happened anyway, but by giving your book away, you probably increase the odds. You can combat this, of course, by picking your potential audience carefully. The worst review I ever received was my one and only two star review on Amazon. It was one simple word, boring. I was devastated, but when I dug a bit further, I found that the only other reviews this reader had done was for gardening books. And they were just as enlightening. My point is, if you write erotic romance, don’t send your advance reader copies to people who like Christian oriented books.
Advance readers can be useful. Even though the results were not what I hoped for on Blood Orange, I will be using this technique for my next book. The reason it wasn’t as successful for Blood Orange, was the timing. The book was set to release on November 13, 2015. I timed it to be ready for huge Black Friday promotions and planned a marketing blitz throughout the holiday season. If you remember what happened that night, Paris was attacked by ruthless terrorists. Part of the attack was near a sporting venue. My book centers on just that kind of attack. I immediately pulled back on promoting the book and didn’t bother my advance readers, or anyone else for that matter. I didn’t start actively promoting it until after the first of the year. It was a tough decision, but I still feel good about it and I still think the advance reader process is a good one.
Please, those of you who have different experiences with this or questions for me, please reach out through the comments.