Several companies will manage review teams for you for a pretty reasonable price. Make sure to read Part One to get the context of this article, including the key distinctions between the services that I’m reviewing. I’m going to tell you about the ones I have personal experience with as a reviewer, Booksprout and BookSirens. Read Part Three to learn more about BookSirens.
Booksprout appears to have over 500 ARCs going at any one time in a wide range of fiction genres (with romance, fantasy, and sci-fi seeming to be the biggest categories) and a handful of nonfiction topics.
I don’t know how it works on the author end, but I understand that Booksprout does have some safeguards in place, like watermarking files and removing reviewers who don’t follow through with reviews. Booksprout works on a subscription basis, with a free option as well as paid levels that allow multiple ARCs at the same time, more reviewers (including unlimited), and more flexibility.
Potential reviewers on Booksprout can scan covers, titles, and authors and find out more about a particular ARC. When a reviewer first joins Booksprout, they can only sign up for 10 ARCs until they post their first review. As a reviewer, I can opt in to receive notifications when my favorite authors have a new ARC available.
The site calls these all ARCs. While most ARCs on Booksprout are true advance copies, I’ve seen “ARCs” for an author’s midlist book or timed to go with a promotion besides launch. I believe that authors have much control over the precise timing. Believe it or not, I’m signed up for ARCs that aren’t due until January 2020! (Note that this is written in February 2019.)
As I’ve posted book reviews at Amazon and Goodreads for my Booksprout ARCs, I’ve sometimes been the first reviewer–I do try to get mine in right at midnight–but sometimes I’ve also seen 15 or 20 reviews already posted for a new book!
On its website, Booksprout boasts a 75% review rate. They send reviewers a reminder a couple of days before the review is due as as well as let us know when a book “goes live.”
Here are my tips to authors about how to get the most out of Booksprout:
- Have your cover ready. Reviewers window shop by looking at covers. Have yours ready before you start the ARC process.
- Don’t just copy and paste your standard book description into your ARC description. Especially, don’t post it straight from AuthorMarketingClub’s HTML editor! Why? If you accidentally include the part at the bottom of it about scrolling up to buy a copy … well, reviewers won’t be impressed.
- Make your book description stand out to attract the right reviewers. Let the potential reviewers know exactly what genre and subgenres your book falls under. Let us know if it is a part of a series (and the other titles of your series in case we want to review those as well). Let us know the premise and the central question and a little bit about the characters. Why would we want to read your book?
- If the ARC book is in the middle of an established series, offer to send the previous books to the ARC reader. Two authors of ARCs I was interested in did that recently, and I thought that was an awesomely generous offer of them. I already have warm fuzzies about their ARCs.
- Don’t require your reviewers to share their review on every online book retailer or book hub. Booksprout monitors more review sites than BookSirens: Booksprout itself, Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Bookbub, Google Play, and Smashwords. I would suggest requiring only two or three and make any of the rest optional for the reviewer. There was a book that I wanted to review, but the author required every single bookseller and book hub out there as one of the review sites. While I am on several of them … I am not on them all; neither will most reviewers be! I suggest making Bookbub an optional site, as international reviewers outside of the US cannot post there.
- Give your reviewers enough time to read your book. For some reason, some authors like to have a very short review-by date. The worst I’ve seen is an author who puts up an ARC only two days out from when the review is due! I’ve had to bypass books that interest me because I just couldn’t make the author’s timeframe. Give your readers time to find your ARC; we don’t all check for the newest every day. Then, give them time to read the book and write a thoughtful review; reviewers do have other commitments that they fit reading in around! I think the ideal review window for books is about 3 weeks, though busy reviewers like me appreciate an even larger window.
- Check and double check the format of your MOBI, ePUB, and/or PDF. While your ARC doesn’t have to be perfect, make it as close to perfect as possible. Certainly, after you make a book in a particular format, check and double check that it looks right in the appropriate apps. I received a MOBI for an ARC lately that was all broken up. Luckily, Booksprout allows ARC reviewers to email authors, so I let the author know. To her credit, she got out a new version that was beautifully cleaned up within hours.
- While you’re checking format, make sure your book is well edited. There’s little that annoys a book reviewer more than consistently bad grammar, punctuation, and spelling. I’ve seen shockingly bad grammar in ARCs and outright errors (like the front letter being left off a word). I highly recommend using a grammar checker like Grammarly or Pro Writing Aid to catch glaring errors and doing one read-aloud pass through of your text; Word can do the latter for you via the Read Aloud function on the Review tab. If you feel like you MUST get out a less-than-perfect version of your book, say so explicitly in the book description and the author’s note to ARC downloaders. You might even ask us to bring mistakes to your attention.
- Don’t make excessive demands of your reviewers. Booksprout gives a little space where you (the author) can leave a brief message to those of us who review your ARC. Usually, these are little friendly reminders, offers of previous books in a series, or a simple thank you. But occasionally an author will use it as a soapbox to tell the reviewer exactly what they want in a review: say this (or don’t say that), talk about my characters like this, etc., etc. I actually chose NOT to review an interesting book because an author left just that type of message. If the author was that demanding of me before I reviewed, I could imagine being lambasted after the review.
- Choose a day in the middle of the month for your ARC’s due date. For whatever reason, authors tend to make their ARCs due at the beginning or end of the month. I have had to pass on some books I would like to review because I really don’t want to have 6 book reviews due on the last day of the month!
- If you appreciate a reader’s review, let them know. I’ve received lovely notes back from authors stating how much my review made their day. Let me just say … it makes MY day to get such a note from an author! It could be the start of a beautiful author-reviewer friendship!
Continue on to learn more about BookSirens in Part Three…
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