This post is primarily aimed at readers who are considering becoming an advanced/beta reader for an author or publisher, Experienced readers and Booktubers will already know this stuff. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of hard and fast rules that must be followed, more some points to remember and why. If authors or anyone with more experience than me (hands up, I am fairly new on the scene) has something to add to this discussion, feel free to add it to the discussion. I would like to add that this post is not somewhere for authors to vent their pet peeves. I’d like this post to be a valuable resource for readers and new authors alike.

A professional reader, defined by Netgalley, is someone who reads, reviews, and recommends books to other people, whether for libraries, bookstores, in classrooms, or online via blogging.

On a daily basis, my notifications are swamped with information on how to get ARC readers. I get A LOT (should probably have a tidy up, but I’d rather be reading/writing/editing) but what I have not found is really any advice on what readers are agreeing to do when they sign up as a reader. There are plenty of ‘rules’ for authors on what we should or should not do when it comes to readers. There are three basic principals for readers and reviewers to apply to ARCs.

  1. If you are a reviewer/reader and receive an unsolicited copy of a book, you are under no obligation to read or review that book. You didn’t request it.
  2. If you are offered a book for review, and you accept that, then you have an agreement and while there is no legal obligation, it is impolite to fail to uphold your end of it. You are allowed to say no if your schedule is full or not interested.
  3. ARCs are a way for authors to get the word out on their work before the book comes out. If you request an ARC from an author or publisher and they send you the book, it is under the assumption that you are intending to review it and promote the book. 

I can really only speak from experience, but I hit some roadblocks on my build up to pressing ‘publish’ on Charon Unguarded. Of the 12 beta’s I recruited (a mix of volunteers and requests), only 4 came back with any feedback. This is an important part of the composition side of writing. It lets writers know what needs to change, and I think there is some misconception (particularly among newbie authors) about what alpha/beta/ARC readers do. An ARC is supposed to be as close to the finished product as possible and not an editor. An alpha/beta reader is also not an editor. That’s a different stage of the process, and authors should not be expecting their readers to fulfil the role of an editor. Readers are looking at readability, originality, plot, style, and engagement. If an author is asking you for in-depth editing advice under the guise of recruiting readers, walk away. They need to find and pay an editor.

This brings me to the subject of printed ARCs. These cost authors and publishers money to produce, and they should not be sold to or by the readers. Authors are trusting you to help them boost their careers and they don’t get royalties from copies they get printed as ARCs. I’ve seen recent tweets about ARCs being sold on eBay, within days of being sent out. That is not on. If you have finished with an ARC, by all means, pass it to another reviewer, a school or a library. Our services need all the help they can get these days.  What you don’t do is sell it. ARCs are also not a way for fans of an author to simply get hold of free copies. Don’t pick up an ARC just to get a free book. That’s naughty!

The other day I read an opinion piece (linked below) about why he feels that free Indie ARCs are unethical because it counts as payment for reviews. That article has several issues (which are addressed in the comments on the original post), but free ARCs are an industry standard practice. What the piece doesn’t address is the fact that if an author or publisher is asking somebody to take the time to read and promote the book, it would be equally unethical to expect reviewers, whose time and skills they want to enlist, to promote their book at their own expense. You know, the book that the author is being paid for. According to Amazon’s ToS, it’s fine to give a review on a book you didn’t pay for on the provision that you say that you got it free in your review.