Between a Reader and a Writer: Promoting Books Together

Kathie: I’d love to know how ARCs (advanced reader copies) work. Do you have a set number given to you for free? Are you able to make many changes between the ARC and finished copy?

Jarrett: Every publisher does things a little bit differently, but it seems there’s one thing that’s consistent across the industry — authors never get as many ARCs as they want! For both of my books so far, I’ve gotten just a couple, and then requested more and gotten a few more, and then begged for more and gotten a few more… Regarding changes — it depends, again, on the publisher, and on the timing of things for each individual process. For Revenge of the EngiNerds, I got my ARCs along with my final proofs, which I had a chance to make very minor changes to (basically just typos and inconsistencies). I think that timing is fairly typical, and is why ARCs always come with that “do not quote” warning on them.

How do you normally go about getting ARCs?

Kathie: I will occasionally ask an author for an ARC, and sometimes they reach out to me as well. I also belong to a Canadian ARC sharing group, #bookportage, so I get some that way. I use both NetGalley and Edelweiss+, which are sites that provide e-copies of ARCs to members (usually book reviewers, bloggers, librarians, booksellers). You can request the ARC in which you’re interested, wait for publisher approval, then download a copy onto a device. The advantage is there’s no cost, and with NetGalley, the more you read and review, the more you build your profile and it’s easier to get publisher approval. Some publishers will even auto-approve, which means you can automatically download their books. The disadvantage is the book selection is limited, and the formatting of eARCs can make them very difficult to read. I will read an eARC if I’m really anxious to get my hands on a book, but I do find they can affect my enjoyment of the book. An author may think there is limited interest in their book based on the eARC response, but it’s not a good indicator as I’m definitely not the only reviewer I know who feels this way. I still get declined for books on both sites, so it’s not a guarantee that a request will lead to an approval.

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Kathie’s fondest book-related memory from her childhood is curling up in a chair with her mom reading alternate pages of Anne of Green Gables.
She runs the children’s department in a rural public library in Manitoba, Canada, where she lives with her husband and daughter. She is a member of the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Awards (MYRCA) Committee, and is passionate about sharing her love for middle grade literature.
Find her on Twitter @kmcmac74 and on Instagram  @the_neverending_stack.

Jarrett: I’m glad you’re sharing all this, because I think it’s something that a lot of authors don’t know about it. I knew next to nothing about such sites when my first book came out, and I wish I had, as I could’ve pointed people requesting ARCs there. And I’ve seen some photos of improperly formatted eARCs — they can be really messy! Physical ARCs can have such problems too. For Revenge of the EngiNerds, I went through each of my ARCs and penned in edits. I know that might’ve taken readers out of the story a bit, but I couldn’t send those books out with errors in them.

On social media, I often talk about ARCs as “sneak peeks.” They’re sort of like attending a rehearsal before the big show. I know flawed formatting can affect your enjoyment of a book, but I wonder, do you generally approach reading an ARC differently? Does it feel different than cracking open an officially published hardcover? If so, how does that seep into your reading of it?

Kathie: Interesting questions! Yes, I would say that reading an ARC feels different. For instance, I read an ARC of The Land of Yesterday by K.A. Reynolds last year, and really enjoyed it, but the final copy had artwork and a beautiful dark blue font that wasn’t in the ARC. The finished copy of The Frame-Up by Wendy McLeod MacKnight has the gorgeous artwork photos at the front of the book, which adds SO much to the story when you can see these paintings that are coming to life. Little errors don’t bother me too much. If I have a choice, I’d prefer to read a hardcover over a paperback, so maybe that plays a role as well. So yes, the fact that ARCs are not a finished product is in my mind when I read them.

I frequently see authors asking for reviews of their books. Is there a place that’s best to leave reviews?

Jarrett: Anywhere other readers might see a review is a good place to leave one — Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Amazon and Goodreads are great because they’re up there permanently, for anyone to see. But someone will only usually find those reviews if they already know about the book and are on the book’s page looking for information about it.

Social media is more effective, I think, for introducing new readers to a book. I don’t think any one platform is better than the others — it depends on a person’s audience. I’m not super active on Facebook, for instance (though I’m trying to be better!), so if I were to write about a book on there, it probably wouldn’t get much traction. Sharing it on Twitter and Instagram will get more eyeballs on it. That being said, I almost always cross-post my reviews on ALL of these sites/platforms.

Where do you, as a librarian and a reader, learn about new books? Where do you go to learn more about books that you’ve already got on your radar? Do you like to know a lot about a book before you start reading? What about its author?

Kathie: I get many of my ideas for books to read  from social media as well. I spend a lot of time researching what people are reading, checking out reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, and I have a document at work with release dates for new books in a series, or books that I know my patrons want. I will almost always check the ratings on Goodreads before I purchase a book, but recommendations from readers I trust can easily convince me to try something regardless of the reviews. I also have some authors whose books I’ll pick up regardless of what it’s about (such as Jonathan Auxier), but it’s important to me to support debut and Canadian middle grade authors, too.

OK, now can you please explain the magical 50 Amazon reviews thing to me?

Jarrett: Ha! Supposedly, once you have 50 reviews on Amazon, your book is assigned some better algorithm that gets it in front of more people. But I don’t really know if that’s true. I think a lot of authors embrace it and push for it because it’s a tangible goal, and easier to energize people to leave reviews with that goal in sight.

Lerner_author photo
Thanks to a pair of bookish parents and older siblings, Jarrett discovered the wonders and delights of reading and writing at an early age. He hasn’t stopped doing either ever since. His first-ever book project was a comic book about a family of ducks, titled “The Ducks.” Now he writes about farting robots, belching knights, and other very serious matters. You can find his first book, EngiNerds, wherever books are sold. That book’s sequel, Revenge of the EngiNerds, hits shelves February 19, 2019, and he’ll be launching new series in 2020.
Find him online at www.jarrettlerner.com and on Twitter @Jarrett_Lerner.

Kathie: Incidentally, I somehow got banned from writing Amazon reviews, so reviewers need to make sure they are following the review policies. Until I can straighten that out, the only place I’m posting them right now is Goodreads.

Jarrett: You shared this with me a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t believe it! Whoever (or whatever) is doing the banning over there at Amazon needs to get better at their job! The fact that YOU — an incredibly knowledgeable and thoughtful reader and reviewer — can’t share your thoughts but someone saying “This book looks stupid — 1 star” can is ABSURD!

But… I have to admit that it is sort of delightful thinking about YOU getting banned from something, Kathie! I like imagining you sipping from that mug of yours with the Michael Moore quote about librarians being subversive, quietly plotting the revolution. Maybe the robots over at Amazon are just on to you!

Kathie: Ha, ha, my secret controversial and revolutionary double life, so secret even I don’t know about it!

I often hear authors say that it’s uncomfortable to promote their own books, and they limit how often they talk about it. As a reader, I expect to hear an author discussing their work, and I probably follow them so I do hear about it. I know social media can feel like a big time commitment, but do you feel like your books have made more connections because of the investment you make in connecting with others?

Jarrett: Social media has been HUGE for me. It has opened doors that I wouldn’t have otherwise even known had existed! And in addition to being responsible for getting my books in front of more people and keeping me in the loop about upcoming opportunities and things like that, it has enriched my life in many other ways. I’ve made wonderful friends. I’ve found fantastic creators and their fantastic creations. It’s brought me all sorts of joy and inspiration.

I think all of this has to do with my not viewing my time on social media as “promotional,” as something I HAVE to do. Because, yeah — I’m uncomfortable promoting myself as well. I think the key is to be genuine, and to share your excitement about whatever you’re excited about. I talk about other people’s work a lot because I am sincerely excited about it. And I talk about my daughter because I am excited about her, too. When I share all these sides of myself, I think it’s more comfortable for me to ALSO share about my work. But the truth is that that’s only one part of me. I read as much as I draw and write. And some days, I sing silly songs with my daughter more than I do ANY of that.

I’ve heard some authors toss around ratios — like, post three times about someone else’s work for every time you post about your own. And if you need to view it like that in order to make sense of it, that’s obviously fine. But my best advice would be to just be yourself, and share ALL the sides of yourself that you are comfortable sharing. I really think you can sense authenticity. And if you want to view it in terms of promotion, every post or tweet you put out there into the world, whether it’s explicitly about your work or not, has your name on it, and is, in a way, promotional.

How has connecting with authors been for you on social media? What do you respond positively to? Is there one form or another of self-promotion that seems better than another?

Kathie: I love every part of connecting with authors on social media! I genuinely want to help get good books into the hands of other readers, and so I’m happy to spend time promoting authors and books. I recently asked the question on Twitter if authors wanted reviewers to approach them to request ARCs, and the response was a resounding yes. I think both reviewers and authors are nervous about approaching each other because of the imposter syndrome where we don’t feel “qualified” or “good enough” to reach out and ask for something, but both parties benefit from these interactions. I love hearing about the inspiration for a book, the process involved, and yes, I actually love hearing about kids and everyday life because it makes the author feel more approachable. I’d say don’t be afraid to share whatever you’re comfortable, but it doesn’t all have to be book-related. I’ve connected most with the authors who’ve shared their lives beyond their writing.

Wow, we covered a lot of ground in this post! I hope both readers and authors learn something from it, and it helps break down some of the barriers between them.

Jarrett: Agreed! Let’s do it again soon!

. . .

Click here to read Kathie and Jarrett’s first conversation, “What Happens When You Don’t Enjoy A Book”

3 thoughts on “Between a Reader and a Writer: Promoting Books Together

  1. Interesting and informative conversation. Thanks for sharing!
    Incidentally, I got banned from reviewing on Amazon, too! I only review books I really like, and I guess it flagged something to have so many only high ratings.

    Liked by 1 person

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