In our frantic search for replacement beta readers for Dead Man's Trigger a few months ago, I was asked about making advance reader copies, or ARCs, available to a selected audience before publication. At the time - neck-deep in a troublesome manuscript edit that I wasn't sure I could complete on schedule - it wasn't a prospect I could entertain with any equanimity.
My decision then was not to offer anything until after our copy editor had had a chance to go over it once. Once I had the manuscript safely in our beta readers' hands and the dust cleared from accomplishing that major goal, I had time to reconsider the question, and do a bit of research into the value ARCs provide for indie authors and publishers. What I learned caused me change my mind about offering ARCs for DMT and perhaps for other, future books from Metaphor Publications as well.
What an ARC is - and isn't
The appropriateness of the acronym aside, an ARC is a pre-publication version of the book sent out to those who request a copy, usually reviewers. For the Big Publishing houses, they are usually unproofed galleys, or some version of that, and will say so somewhere on the cover, near the title. Some publishers charge for them. Others charge full cover price for them, if the author's following warrants it.
An ARC is not a fully-proofed version of the work. Its designation as "pre-publication" implies that, but it's worth repeating here out in the open. This could well be a tricky pitfall for indies, whose works tend to be held to a higher standard of "error-free" than books published through the "big five" of traditional publishing. ARCs are "unproofed," and may suffer from formatting errors as well as some grammar and punctuation issues. Rational or not, readers tend to give more of a "pass" on those kinds of problems to traditionally published books than they do for indie books - and indie authors have to keep that in mind when they consider the issue of whether or not to offer an ARC of their book.
As an indie author and publisher, I'm no stranger to the notion of giving my stories away, so there was never any danger that I'd be deluded enough to think that I could charge for an ARC of our books. Of course, in an ebook ARC, there are no expensive printing costs to cover. The worth of any book has always been in the story it tells, not in the current market value of the pages and ink it represents - electronic formats have at last made that point clear to everyone.
The "quid pro quo"
The last, and most convincing point covered reviews. All reviews are a HUGE part of the algorithms that go into ranking books on AMZN, and AMZN currently owns about 80% of the ebook market. We play by their rules, if we want to play at all. Their rules state that we have to play the "review game" with them and with every other product on their marketplace, and we have to keep up with their quixotic, ever-changing ideas about those reviews, too. As of November 2015, their ranking algorithms favor products (including books) that get lots and lots of reviews.
And that, friends, brings us right to the point of this post. We are offering advance reader copies of Dead Man's Trigger to members of our reading audience who understand that what they're getting is free, SUPER-early access to the second book of The Raven & The Iris trilogy in exchange for putting up with some extra formatting errors, more than a few stray commas, and what may look like some very silly punctuation choices. This ARC is available in PDF format only, without the cover image, and in order to take advantage of it, you'll want to have read Raven's Tears first, of course.
All Michael and I ask is that you leave a review in exchange on DMT's Amazon sales page (not up yet, that's on my list this week), in return. Tell other readers what you thought. Tell them what you liked, and what you didn't. Even if you hated the story or what we've done with the characters, or maybe especially if you hate it, leave a review, anyway! You don't have to be clever, or entertaining, or even particularly literate. Just be honest about what you feel and think as you're writing it, and you absolutely cannot go wrong.
Getting in touch
Michael and I have several social media accounts, but you're most likely to find us, and our company account, on Twitter:
Metaphor Publications: @Met_Pub
Just follow one or more of those accounts, if you haven't already, and tweet us your request.
Metaphor Publications also has a Facebook page. I'll be linking this post to that page - comment there, if you like, requesting the DMT ARC, and we'll respond as soon as we see it.
If you prefer email, you can send us a request at support )at( metaphorpublications )dot( com, too.
If you don't receive a response to your request within two or three days, it's likely we got swamped with requests, and that's a good thing. Send us a kindly word in reminder, and we'll make sure we answer as soon as we can.
Michael and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you again for your support of our fledgling small publishing house, and for your unflagging enthusiasm for our stories. We hope that this is the kind of offer that will deepen the relationships that we have with you - because between us, we've got a lot of stories to tell.