The Prospective Power of Your Advance Reader Team
There are several schools of thought when it comes to engaging advance readers.
Some authors don’t like to share their books in advance of publication for fear of losing out on book sales. Some authors use a limited number of advance readers solely to catch mistakes and ensure story arcs hit the mark. Others provide ARCs to anyone and everyone, with the hope their book will gain traction “auto-magically.”
I think the first group misses out. They don’t see the big picture, which includes something simple yet profound: the number one way a reader learns about a book is through personal recommendation. If no one reads a book, who will recommend it?
The second group does a little better because, at least with some eyes on their book, they are catching errors, getting “just in time” feedback, and starting the recommendation engine. Yet I feel like those authors are still skipping important marketing steps that can inform their longer-term sales.
The final group is making two mistakes: the first, telling everyone about their book instead of just their target audience, and the second, relying on a strategy that, as a stand-alone, is completely ineffective. Hope, by itself, isn’t a strategy, yet a fantastic strategic plan without it is just sad.
I’m thrilled to be writing on this subject because I know beyond a doubt that, by engaging a carefully selected group of advance readers, your book can find the traction authors with big ad budgets and even bigger email lists can only dream about.
Before I share my process, let me encourage you to read—and proceed—carefully by sharing my experience and results.
With each book I publish, up to and including my most recent release, I have decreased my ad spend and increased the level of secrecy around it, talking about the book only with its ideal readers. It might surprise you that each book sells better than the one before it, even with fewer readers on my advance team each time. True, we might attribute this to continual releases, but it doesn’t change the fact that even if you have a tiny platform, almost no social media, and only a budding email list, you can gain traction for your book by intentionally, purposefully, and (almost) secretly engaging your advance reader team.
So how does it work? Here is my four-step process:
- I identify the absolutely perfect reader for my book to create my book’s Ideal Reader Profile. I consider twenty-five to one hundred qualities and characteristics they may have, including age, gender, and profession, as well as the other books like my book they would most likely have read.
- I ask only people who fit that profile to be advance readers for my book. Those who say yes join my advance reader team (ART). My base goal is sixty people—which means about fifteen reviewers, as about 25 percent of the people who join your team will actually read and review, in my experience—with a stretch goal of double that.
- I engage with my ART in the weeks leading up to my launch by
- sharing a free copy of the book via BookFunnel,
- providing bonuses and prizes to the first fifteen people who buy and review the book (making the review “verified”), and
- communicating with them so they know how important they are to me and my book.
- Keep quiet! Don’t talk to anyone outside of this group about your book before its official release. Truthfully, anyone who isn’t an ideal reader doesn’t need to know about your book anyway—at least, not immediately.
When you engage with your advance readers, and they review your book, it engages the online retailers’ algorithms in a way almost nothing else can. With more verified reviews, online retailers will recommend your book for free to the people they think are most likely to buy and review the book. The kicker is you can’t buy these recommendations—all you can do is engage the algorithms. But when you do, the rest happens almost as if by magic.
Kind of cool, right?
Advance readers can be critical to your book’s short-term success, and having a successful book launch is fun and profitable. Most importantly, that short-term success is a gateway to your business’s long-term prosperity.
Here’s to you and your book’s success!