There’s no better kick-start to a book launch than to have a whole team of fans pushing your book upon release. With an effective group, and plan, you can get book reviews on day one, swell with initial sales, build real momentum, and help get the word out about your launch.
It’s so effective that it is considered a staple to most successful author book launches and is something you can build upon with each launch.
However, how does one build such a team, much less manage it? This can seem hard, especially to new authors.
But the good new is, that’s exactly what I want to teach you in this article — no matter the size of your following or extent of your reach.
In this article, you will learn:
- The difference between an ARC Team, Beta Team, and Street Team
- How to build an effective team even if you’re new
- How to organize your team for maximum results
- A step-by-step guide to working with your team
But first, let’s get our phrases right because there are a lot of names for this process – sort of.
ARC Team vs Beta Team vs Street Team
I’m sure you’ve probably come across these three terms at some point. In many cases they are the same, but there are some subtle differences. So to break down any confusion on these, here is a brief description of each, their differences, and how they apply to this strategy:
ARC Team: Advanced Review Copy Team is a group of people that you send a copy of your book in advance of the launch. This way, you have a cohort of followers who have not only read the book before your launch, but are therefore ready to leave a review the moment you publish your book. Generally, this term is used when they are meant to help build your reviews on day 1.
Beta Team: Beta teams are a group of people who have read your book either while you’re writing or after you’ve written it, who give you feedback and recommendations on what to change. Generally, this term is used when they are meant to help you improve your writing.
Street Team: These are a group of people who are gung-ho on your book’s promotion. Upon the day of launch, they are ready to post about it, and help push its sales through key strategic methods. Generally, this term is used when they are meant to help you push your book sales during a launch.
Each is a group of people that you have set up beforehand to help you with your book and or its marketing. How you use the group, or for what specific intent, is what delineates whether you call it an ARC, Beta, or Street Team.
For the purposes of this article, I’m just going to call it an ARC team. However, I also recommend that while you focus on building an ARC team, think about potentially using all of your ARC members or a portion of your ARC team to perform the functions of a Beta and or a Street team. I personally use my ARC team for all three functions, and I suggest you do too.
A well-curated and managed ARC team can help you with your writing, building your reviews, and creating a large marketing wave upon launch. Here’s how to do exactly that…
Step 1: Find ARC Team Members
There are many ways to find potential ARC team members, but here are some that anyone can do:
- Make a callout on Facebook or other social media you’re actually present on to see if any of your friends would like an Advanced Reader Copy of your book*.
- Put a call for ARC readers for your next book in the back of your previous book – you’ll get a lot of email signups that way too.
- Go to your niche/genre’s Facebook groups, truly be present, and, when ready, ask. This works even better when you position it for the purpose of a beta read because you value their insight in the genre.
- Tweet that you’re looking for ARC readers.
- Network with other authors in the same genre/niche and even become their beta or ARC reader in return.
* While Amazon sometimes removes reviews of friends and family, they aren’t always consistent on it. Therefore, I don’t cull my lists because of it and, if it happens, I just ask that person to leave their review on another market like Barnes & Noble or Kobo – which still helps.
Also, there are some services authors can use to get ARC reviews. They don't run the process for you, but they will help you find people who will read and leave reviews. Some authors may wonder if this is okay with Amazon’s terms, but so long as the service helps to get the book to readers, and isn’t paying or incentivizing the reviewers to leave reviews, then its okay. Also here is a video that helps to explain why Amazon is good with ARCs. And here are some some services that do this correctly:
NetGalley: This is a professional service that has been used for years by publishing companies to get ARC copies out to readers. I wrote a full review here, but basically, they have a large database of avid readers and will work to get the right reader to pick up your book. With NetGalley, you can buy directly through them, which is a bit pricey, or go through Books Go Social, which offers a 50% off when you use my affiliate link to the right and add the code kdpr50. You can check them out here.
Booksprout: Unlike NetGalley, where they work to get you reviewers from their system, Booksprout offers you access to their reviewer system where you can work to find and orchestrate reviewers of your ARC. They also boast an ARC management system as well. You can check out Booksprout here.
Booktasters: Like NetGalley, this service will work to get you reviewers for your book. Their service includes both Amazon and GoodReads.
BookSirens: Another alternative to NetGalley. This service will help you get more from your ARC Team, as well as having a community of readers who can add to your reviews.
Step 2: Organize Your ARC Team
This step is one that most authors miss and is probably the most crucial step towards getting a great ROI on the effort: organize how you handle the team.
Working with ARC team members is like herding cats:
Most ARC members had good intentions when they said they’d take an ARC copy and leave a review. But life happens and many will not come through in the end.
However, if you are organized, and keep up communications throughout the entire process, you’ll see a much higher percentage of your ARC team members come through.
So, how do you herd cats…I mean readers? By creating a tracking method:
I used Google Sheets on the above, but you can use Excel or any other numbers sheet.
Let’s break this down:
Name and Contact: Name is self-explanatory. However, the contact is important. Some of your team members are best reached through things other than email, like Facebook messenger, text, etc. Keeping your lines of communication straight is important. Furthermore, having a digital trail of what they said they would do can help too.
Last Communications: One of the difference makers that I’ll discuss further below is the importance of constant communications. Many authors make the mistake of just contacting someone, asking them to join, and then nothing else…until they need something. This is a recipe for mundane and lackluster ARC team strategy results. Plus, if you don’t keep up communications, your team members will become less responsive as well.
Information: Here you can write important notes about the team members. Could be anything — like tendencies or information you learned in your past communications with them. Perhaps they had a recommendation after reading your book, or perhaps you have a feeling you’ll need to communicate more with them. Either way, you should absolutely add to this block, build upon it, and keep it updated as you go through the process.
ARC Sent: This checkbox helps you to know who of your ARC team has received an advanced review copy. As you work to build your list of team members, you’ll find that some wouldn’t do well with a copy and are instead best for helping with marketing momentum, or other purposes. So, marking who has a review copy and who doesn't helps.
Review Published: As you’ll see in my strategy below, when it comes time to asking for reviews from your ARC team, it’s important that you check to see if a review was left. Either they let you know or you saw the review on your own. This single management step (plus my tips below) will be the difference between only getting 20% of your team to act and getting >85% of your team to leave reviews.
You might be thinking that using a tracking sheet is overkill. However, if you’re building a great team, you’ll have 25+ ARC team members (or more). Imagine trying to remember who is on the team, where they are in the process, and keep up legitimate, personal communications — all while you’re preparing for your book’s launch. That’s a lot. So, get organized!
Step 3: Keep Your ARC Team Engaged
A mistake many authors make is when they get ARC team members to join, they only contact them for three things after that: sending them an ARC, telling them about the launch, and asking for reviews.
I promise you, if you do this, you’ll see less than 25% of your ARC team actually leave a review or help with promotions.
In order to keep your ARC team engaged and feeling important, so they'll actually leave reviews, here are some tips you should employ. Also, I think these are what allow you to have an effective launch, without feeling like you’re ‘using’ people or being slimy.
- Personal and Individualized Communications: It’s easy to put everyone on an email list and blast out your requests. However, when you do this, you lose a personal connection. Furthermore, if you’re mass emailing or mass communicating, it’s easier for your ARC reviewers to not take action – they’ll feel less accountable. However, if you’re having personal communications with each individual, it’s harder for them to shirk their agreement or feel like you aren’t depending on them specifically.
- Keep up Communications Beyond Requests: After someone has agreed to be an ARC reader, it’s important to communicate with them beyond just asking for things. Check in with them, or give them personal updates on what you’re doing. See what they think about the book.
- Seek Their Input and Advice: Nothing empowers or makes a ARC team member feel valued more than if you seek their advice or recommendations. Ask questions about the launch or the book. As they give advice, they’ll also feel more like a part of the effort — and have more buy-in for your book’s success.
Step 4: Send out ARC Copies
At this point, you have your Advanced Review Copy ready, and you have an organized list of readers. How exactly do you send it to them? Well, there are really three ways to do it:
- Just send a word document to your readers: Although the easiest, this is not recommended. First, many of your readers would prefer to read it on their kindle or a similar device. If you make it hard for them, they’ll be less likely to participate. Second, through this, you’ll also have many word documents floating out there and chances for piracy increase dramatically. But it is the easiest way.
- Format your writing into .mobi, epub, etc: While this is doable considering that you’ll need to format your book anyway, the problem with this is finding out which version your ARC readers want, making sure copies don’t get out on the internet, and sending instructions on how your readers can upload their specific version to their specific device – you’ll have at least 3 sets of instructions and it’s a bit painful. I’ve found that when I did this, I had to run support a lot and deal with frustrations. So, this option is much better than #1 but still problematic.
- Use an ARC Delivery Service: Usually, by paying a minimal fee, you can have a ARC copy service make it easy for people to not only download their preferred version, but also get instructions on how to install on their device efficiently. Furthermore, the good services will also make it so the link you give to your ARC readers to download the book will only work once – meaning that if the link somehow leaks out on the internet, the book can only be downloaded once before it becomes a dead link. This is the safest, easiest and most recommended method.
There are a couple of services out there who will help you with delivering your ARC, but there is only one that I personally recommend: Book Funnel. It’s run by Damon Courtney, who has been an excellent resource to the writing community. Book Funnel is always improving. Plus, their pricing is extremely affordable — starting at $20 a year.
Step 5: Implement This Special ARC Prelaunch Strategy + Price
This is an extra step that you don’t have to do, but it is a staple to many book launches. I call it the “Secret Prelaunch Pricing strategy.”
This strategy involves launching your book 2-3 days before your official launch. There are many reasons why you’d consider launching your book in secret before you publicly announce it, but the biggest one of all is that you use those 2-3 days to get your ARC team to leave their reviews on your book. That way, when you go to publicly announce that your book just launched, the first interested buyers who show up see the glowing reviews, which will serve as social proof.
This will produce a much higher conversion rate for your initial marketing efforts and usually means a much more successful launch as a whole.
Besides just getting reviews before the launch, there are also some other reasons why authors like to do a secret prelaunch:
- It allows you to check your book description formatting and ensure there isn’t something off with its look – be sure to use my book description generator tool to help.
- When you publish your book, Amazon has you select BISAC categories, and then you are put into certain Amazon categories (if this is a foreign concept, check this out). However, you can use the following process to add more categories and change your categories. But you can’t do this until you have published.
- Upon publishing a book, it takes Amazon about 2 days to show your book for your selected book categories. Therefore, using this strategy, you can get your Categories showing, before you send your wave of promotions to the book.
- Amazon takes between 2-4 days to create the “Look Inside the Book” feature if not prodded to do so. There are many shoppers who use this to decide on books. So the sooner you have it, the better your conversions.
- It allows you to get your ASIN and ISBN number set, as well as links for your book prepared and added to the marketing efforts on launch day.
- Basically, it reduces to the stress of launch day, by allowing you to take care of some things before THE big day comes.
You could setup a preorder, and setup some of the above, however, this doesn’t allow you to do all of the above.
So, basically, by launching early and not telling anyone but your ARC team, you can give yourself enough time to ensure your book’s sales page looks as good as possible, and has great reviews to start with. This will make your launch strategy and promotions that much more effective from ‘public’ day one.
Step 6: Manage the ARC Launch Day and Results
Whether you do Step 5 above, or just launch, the purpose of this day is to motivate your ARC readers and get the most out of them. Now, I don’t mean this in a superficial or slimy way. If they are on your team, they not only agreed to help, but also received a free copy of your book.
Most authors just send out an email letting readers know and that’s it. But if you do this, you should expect to have lackluster results. It’s not that your readers are mean or don’t want to help. It’s just that life gets in the way and people get busy.
So, instead, I send out a personalized email letting them know about the launch, and then follow up emails checking in to see if they left a review, or if they did any book promotion tasks they agreed to do (thinking Street team functions here).
Here are some of the things I do in those communications:
1st Launch Correspondence:
- Let them know today’s the day
- Include a link to the book’s sales page on Amazon. I don’t use the special review link here because if I have the pricing setup, this is a chance for them to purchase it.
- If I did the pricing tactic, I let them know of the special pricing just for them
- Remind them this is a secret launch
- Ask them to let me know when they post their review because I'm eager to read what they thought
- Let them know that if they haven’t finished the book yet, they can still just leave a review and change it later
- Thank them for being awesome
If you don’t see a review from them (because you should be tracking as per step 2), then after a couple of days, give them a nudge with the following correspondence
2nd Post Launch Correspondence (no review yet):
- Thank them again for being a part of the team
- Ask if they’ve left a review yet
- Remind them that if they haven’t finished reading the book yet, they can always leave a review and change it later
- Include a special Review Link so it goes straight to the review
Sometimes that still won’t get them to act, and if they don’t, then its up to you to decide if you want to keep trying or just let it be. If they are a good friend or we have a great relationship, I’ll keep trying. This is why previous communications are so key.
Example ARC Team Communications Plan
As I’ve explained above, consistent communication is extremely important to mobilizing your team for great results.
So, to help you see the big picture, here is an example of the communications I would make with each ARC Team member, after they agreed to join the ARC team:
After Agreement: Send them the link to download the ARC copy, and include a tentative timeline.
If greater than a month: Send a message every two weeks or so to keep friendly. Usually I like to talk about the writing process and, depending on how I found them, talk shop. Keep the relationship warm and cordial.
About Two Weeks Before Launch: Check in to see how the book is coming along and ask for advice or thoughts on the book. If they haven’t started, then I love to ask them to just give some advice on the first chapter/into. This usually gets them going.
One Week Before the Launch: Give them a heads up about the launch next week, let them know the plan, and ask for their advice.
Day Before Launch: Let them know that tomorrow is the launch and that, for the first two days, you’ll be making special pricing at $0.99 but to keep that a secret. Tell them it's just for the team and thank them for participating.
ARC Team Launch Day: Notify them that the book is live and send them a link to the book’s sales page. Ask if they can leave a review. If they haven’t read it yet, or haven't finished, you can let them know that it would still be great to leave a review now, and they can always change it later when they are finished. Also, ask them to let you know when they’ve dropped the review because you can’t wait to read it. This will show them that you really care about what they write and you will read it. It also helps you to track who has and hasn’t followed through.
After You See Their Review: Thank them profusely for the review. If it is a happy review, celebrate with them. If it has constructive feedback, take it seriously and tell them how much you value their opinion.
Two Days After Launch and They Haven’t Left a Review Yet: Contact them asking if they left a review yet, and if so, ask them which one is theirs because you must have missed it. This lets them know that you are personally looking for their input. Also, this is the best time to send them the special review link if they haven’t submitted yet — which takes them right to the review page of the book.
A Couple Weeks After Launch: Send them a full breakdown on how the launch went, celebrating with them (you are a team after all ). Share some quick notes on what went well and what didn’t. Then, mention your next work.
Now, there could be more comms depending on who your readers are and your connection with them. If they are a Author-in-Arms, there could be more comms on the art; and if they are a friend, it could be just about life. But either way, through this example, you can see how important consistent communication is.
ARC Team Ho!
Couldn’t help but quote one of my favorite childhood characters growing up…haha. But, now that you know how to build an ARC team, get them the ARCs, keep them engaged and get better results in the end, I encourage you to get started immediately. This tactic should not be saved to the very end of your launch, but should start as soon as possible.
Do this strategy effectively, and you’ll have a larger and better ARC team the next time. This only makes your next book’s launch that much better.