Publishing a book and then talking about it does not guarantee sales. In fact, with nearly 1 million books published each year in the US alone, getting discovered by readers can seem impossible. And it can be even more unnerving to find out that the first 30 days after your book launch can play a critical role in the future of your book—because, within this time period, your book is most likely to go up Amazon book rankings.
This is where beta readers and ARC readers come in—the feedback they provide you with and the reviews they leave on public forums are what helps boost your book sales. While these two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there are significant differences between a beta reader and an ARC reader. This article will explore these differences, what qualities are required by these readers and where to find them.
Beta readers vs ARC readers
Beta readers are useful for getting feedback on your unpublished manuscript, typically before it’s sent off to a professional editor. Beta readers will go through your entire story and provide helpful insight on how to improve it. They will recognize plot holes, point out grammar errors (but it’s not an explicit part of their role), and even let you know if your characters are well-developed and likeable. Beta readers are not editors or proofreaders.
ARC stands for Advanced Reader Copies, which are pre-published books that are sent out to selected readers (called ARC readers) to create a sense of excitement among your target audience. ARC readers are given a free copy of your book in exchange for an honest review.
What qualities should you look for in beta and ARC readers?
- They should be honest and trustworthy
The most important quality in a beta and ARC reader you should look for is honesty. They should be readers who are able to provide honest feedback and constructive criticism with finesse.
- They should enjoy your genre
Picking readers who are not into your book’s genre can be counter-productive, since they’re unlikely to enjoy your story and won’t provide much useful feedback. Find those who have read books similar to yours in the past and would be thrilled to read and review your book.
- They should be experienced readers
An experienced reader has the ability to detect inconsistencies in plot and character development that most others would not notice. They will also not shy away from giving negative feedback because they know that that’s what authors are looking for, not a shower of praise.
Where can you find them?
While choosing beta and ARC readers from among your friends and family may seem like the easiest choice (after all, they’re the ones who would be the most excited about your book), it’s important to make sure they will not hesitate to provide honest feedback and reviews. They may not want to hurt your feelings, so let them know beforehand that you’re open to receiving any and all suggestions.
- Social Media
Social media platforms are teeming with passionate booklovers. Instagram, for instance, has a whole subcommunity of bookworms called Bookstagram, where readers with hundreds of thousands of followers talk about the books they love. There are also numerous Facebook writing groups dedicated to connecting authors with beta and ARC readers. If you’re active on social media, finding them will not be a difficult task.
- Writing Communities
There are plenty of writing communities online that you can join and find people eager to read and provide feedback for your manuscript. In fact, these writing communities are likely to have other writers looking for beta and ARC readers themselves, and you can simply swap manuscripts with them.
- Mailing Lists
Having an author website or blog is important in order to establish yourself as an author and connect with your readers. Use your website to set up a mailing list and send out occasional emails giving your subscribers the option of signing up to be your beta readers/ARC readers—in exchange for a free copy of your final draft or pre-published book!
Besides being a haven for readers, Goodreads can also be a writer’s refuge—with its countless writing groups and groups for book discussions, Goodreads can easily connect you with experienced readers who are into your genre.
Beta readers will help you get a secure footing in your story, while ARC readers will increase the hype of your oncoming book. But remember, you know your book and your characters best. You know what you want out of your book, so choose your readers wisely.
Sharika Hafeez is a nerd, and she’s proud of it. Growing up, she fell in love with books and writing, and is currently following her undergraduate degree (for some mysterious reasons) in Physics. She likes procrastinating by watching the stars with a steaming cup of tea, composing poetry in her head.