As an author, you likely understand that one of the barriers to selling your book is word of mouth. Taking a chance on a new book is a lot easier if you can see that others have already read it. But if you’re a new author without an established following, or even if you have a few releases under your belt but just released something new, how do you get enough reviews?
Leave that to the Hidden Gems ARC program.
According to Amazon’s Community Guidelines, authors and publishers can provide free copies of their books to readers, as long as they do not require a review or attempt to influence the review.
Hidden Gem ARC readers are made up of volunteers that enjoy reading and reviewing books. They choose the books they want to read, and although they are not required to leave a review for every book (there are plenty of valid reasons why they may not be able to/want to leave a review for a particular book), we do monitor our subscribers to make sure they continue to have time to participate in general. This has led us to an industry leading average review rate of over 80%, for the books we send to our readers.
All reviews are honest and uninfluenced, which means that whether these reviews are positive or negative is determined by the quality of your book. However, we do our best to match your book up with readers specifically interested in your type of story (so that we don’t send your paranormal romance to readers that are only interested in contemporary, for example), which will at least give you the best chance at impressing them!
Again, to be clear, these are HONEST reviews from volunteers that we cannot force to leave reviews. This means we do not guarantee that you will get a 5-star review from a book that isn’t very good, nor can we guarantee that if we send your book to 100 readers you will get 100 reviews. But because we’ve been running our ARC service for over about 3 years, we know that most books get at least 80 in that scenario. Number of reviews is often also determined by quality, however, since some reviewers choose not to leave a review for a book they didn’t connect with, or don’t feel they can leave a fair or honest review for a book they couldn’t even finish.
Important Note: No refunds are offered for books that get low review scores, or less than average number of reviews. It is our experience that these factors are solely determined by quality of the book offered. Hidden Gems also has no control over – or affiliation with – Amazon or their rules. While we monitor them closely in case they are changed, Amazon is known for enforcing them ambiguously and non-uniformly, and thus we cannot be responsible if reviews are removed by Amazon after they’ve been left by readers for any reason.
There are many reasons that reviews, especially early and plentiful ones, can help your book.
Although most authors use this service for pre-release books (ARC does stand for Advance Review Copy, after all), you are also welcome to use it for books that are already available for sale. (Please note that it is the responsibility of the author to determine whether providing FREE copies to readers violates their existing vendor agreements.)
Of course, but there are some factors to consider.
Most important is whether the new book is a stand-alone, or requires readers to have read earlier books first. If it’s stand-alone, then you can just go ahead and schedule the new book without any other worry. We would, however, recommend at least mentioning that the book is part of a series but stand-alone in the description/blurb field of your ARC.
If it’s not stand-alone, then there is one main factor to be considered.
Each ARC offer we send goes to ALL of the potential readers of that genre. That means that even if you sent Book 1 of your series to our readers previously, there is no guarantee that ONLY those readers will sign up for a later book in the series. And even if we could only send your offer to the readers that got book 1, you would see diminishing sign ups for each subsequent book. That’s because even if book 1 had 50 sign ups, your potential pool for book 2 can only be that high and will likely be much lower. Some members may have left the program, some may not have time to read book 2 when it’s sent as an ARC, some may not be interested, etc.
With that in mind, if you still want to ARC book 2 (or later) of your series, there is a way to do it.
Our recommendation is that each subsequent book in a non-stand-alone series include all the previous books for any readers that haven’t already read the previous books. That means that sign ups for the ARC of book 2 will get a file that includes both book 1 and book 2 in it. Reviews are only for book 2 officially, but if a reader wishes to go and review book 1 at the same time, they’re of course free to do so. Similarly, book 3 would include books 1, 2 and 3. And so on.
Note that we cannot sent out multiple files of each type for a single ARC. So for example, you cannot send us a MOBI of Book 1 and a MOBI of Book 2 for your Book 2 ARC. We would instead need a single MOBI that includes both books 1 and 2 – like a collection.
We would also recommend noting this situation in your description/blurb, however if you need help on how to word it properly just send us a note and we’d be happy to help. A simple example would be: “Note: While this is Book 2 of the series, the author will include Book 1 for any readers that have not yet read it in order for them to catch up.”
Subscribers to Hidden Gems are asked to leave their reviews on Amazon, however while the vast majority of our readers are on Amazon.com, some of the reviewers are from other countries and so a small subset of your reviews may be posted to the other stores, such as UK, CA or AU.
Some of our reviewers also choose to re-post their reviews on Goodreads or their own personal blogs.
There are a number of factors that go into this decision, such as your release date, when your manuscript will be ready to be read, available ARC dates, etc.
Most authors want reviews to appear as soon after a book is published as possible, so for pre-release books it is best to plan ahead by scheduling an ARC date that falls approximately a week prior to your go live date to ensure that reviews will be ready right as your book hits the stores (our readers are given a week to read the book before we ask for reviews to be left, although they are free to review early if possible). For example, if your book was scheduled to hit stores on April 7th, the ideal date to send it out to our ARC readers would be April 1st, since that would mean reviews would be due on the 7th just as your book goes live. And while you can schedule a book to be sent out MORE than a week before it goes live in the store, we don’t recommend waiting more than an extra week because readers may start to forget what they read, given that many of them are reading multiple books per week.
Note that currently, ARCs are booking months in advance on our calendar, so it is best to book early. You don’t need all of your information when you book with us, as long as you know your date and how many readers you’re looking for, you can lock in a slot via our online booking calendar. But remember that the deposit you leave is used to hold your spot, and is non-refundable, so only reserve a date if you are sure.
There is also a spot on the form to join our waiting list in case an earlier date becomes available. If this happens, we will email you asking if you want to switch (and sometimes we will need an answer quickly or will move on to someone else if we are filling a last minute cancellation). In general, waiting list spots don’t come up very often so do not plan on one becoming available. Only book a date on the calendar you are willing to use if no earlier one comes up.
Every book is different, but there are common factors that might affect your review scores, with some more easy to fix than others. Here are a few.
Remember – the more you tune your blurb to attract readers that like your type of book, and the better the quality of your product, the more likely you are to get positive reviews!
Once you’ve decided that you want ARC reviewers, you essentially have 2 choices. Run an ARC yourself or outsource to a service like Hidden Gems.
Running your own ARC
Assuming you have a big enough mailing list to use for running your own ARC, there are a few reasons why you still might decide that letting us handle the reviews for your novel is a better choice.
Okay — so why Hidden Gems and not someone else?
Here are a few of the things the authors we’ve worked with have said about us:
I just wanted to write you a note to say THANK YOU!!!! Before I found Hidden Gems I was using Netgalley. I’d receive over 100 requests but be lucky if I saw 9 reviews in total even a month later. I decided to use you for my new release (a thriller) after hearing a bit of buzz about HG in my Facebook groups. There were around 75 requests and already 41 have posted on Amazon. In two days!!! I can’t believe it. You are now my go-to for all my books. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for finally being a reliable service for honest reviews. Best promo money I’ve ever spent.
– Ketley Allison, To Have and to Hold
These wrap-ups and the reviews themselves have been so helpful in getting each subsequent book more and more to-market (while defining my voice in that market), and the sheer volume of reviews have helped me stand out a lot for a new author – all things I know I couldn’t have done in just 2 months without HG. This service has been the best use of marketing funds, hands down!
– Piper Lennox, The Road To You
I’ve tried a lot of different ways to get reviews for my authors, but this was my first time using Hidden Gems and I’m thrilled with your service. The return rate is far better than most others these days, including NetGalley, and I’ll be recommending you guys to all my clients.
– Jane Ryder, Ryder Author Resources
Hidden Gems is, in fact, no longer a hidden gem as far as I am concerned. The thoughtful response to my initial inquiry re my admittedly quirky little book was enough to convince me that everything I had heard about the value this site provides to authors was true. And the reviews were terrific — a wide variety of well-expressed opinions and even a most helpful suggestion about how to fix a problem that had escaped my notice! HG will now be an integral part of promoting my future titles. Thank you!
– James W. Gaynor, JANE AUSTEN’S PRIDE AND PREJUDICE IN 61 HAIKU
Thanks so much for this great service. I’m thrilled with all the reviews that came in – 89 of 100 in less than two weeks! And good ones, too – meaning that many of the reviewers took time to consider what made my book stand out, even when they were critical. I’m very impressed with this service and definitely plan to use it again in the future.
– Rebecca Hunter, ONE MORE NIGHT
I just wanted to say thank you so much for your program! I have had very limited success with NetGalley and other ARC programs, but your readers are so lovely and very responsive! An author friend recommended you, and I’m so glad she did. I even got an e-mail from one of your reviewers saying how much she enjoyed reading my book! I’m up to 26 reviews in a couple of days, and I’m pretty sure most of them are from you guys.
– Kirsty McManus, PERFUME THERAPY
Hidden Gems ARC service is the best promotion you can get short of a Bookbub. They’re expensive but they’re worth it. A must-have for any serious novel launch.
– NYT and USA Today Bestseller Krista Lakes
Your ARC service blew me away. You have a treasure there – readers who read and actually post their reviews. Do not know of another place that does this so well. Keep up the good work.
– Edita A. Petrick, RIBBONS OF DEATH
I’m very happy I found Hidden Gems. It is the most professional and effective ARC service out there.
– Alix Nichols, PLAYING WITH FIRE
Thank you very much! I have used ARC services before in the past and 99% of them have been a let-down, this includes the ridiculously expensive NetGalley and quite a few more that get pushed by authors on popular writing forums. It was a breath of fresh air to have a service deliver on their promise, and to have genuine, honest feedback from regular people. I will definitely be using Hidden Gems in the future and wish you the best of luck.
– Greg Dragon, THE JUDAS CYPHER
Thanks so much! I have been so impressed with this service. I’ve tried a lot of different review programs, and this one outperformed the others by leaps and bounds. I will definitely be using Hidden Gems for all my new releases!
– Ellery A. Kane
I have been recommending Hidden Gems to other authors for a while: I have used it 3 times and have found it the best ARC program among several. It’s very well organized and you are able to leave a message so that readers who might dislike or be disturbed by an aspect of your book don’t pick it out. The reviews start to come in 2 or 3 days after booking, and they keep on coming. I signed up for 30 and got 26 this last time round! Afterwards you’re sent the extra comments that the readers made about the book. I find it the best way to give a start to a book.
– L.K. Moore, BLAME THE DEVIL
I just wanted to thank you again for such a fantastic service! I’m incredibly happy with the results and it was such a great deal for the fantastic ARC reviews and reader insight. I even got a few very sweet fan letters from some of the reviewers. Their attention to detail is fantastic–they have eagle eyes! They spotted stuff even my 40 years of industry experience copy-editor didn’t! Thank you so much again, I have told all my author friends. Will be singing your praises in all my groups as well.
– Skylar Hill
Hidden Gems really is the gold standard of ARC!
– Simone Scarlet
If you don’t have an ARC team of your own, HG is the way to go, no question about it. Easy peasy to do, and a real value for your money.
– Erin Wright
Hidden Gems ARC review program was a success for me. I had a great response rate. I got excellent feedback about the book, and I plan on using you guys again in the near future. I see it as a great tool to assess how much the readers like the writing, and where I need to improve. The results were better than I expected them to be. Thank you Hidden Gems!
– Eveline Hart
Your group of reviewers are truly amazing people! I am so glad that I had the pleasure of working with you all. I will be using your services in the future! I have never received such great feedback related to my books. You guys nailed it!! I will be using you in the future. You made this one of the easiest ARC programs!!
– Erin Trejo
Due to high demand (depending on genre, the schedule often books up very far in advance), upon booking you will be asked for a $20*, non-refundable deposit (via Paypal). This deposit will serve to lock down the date that you scheduled.
The price is $2* per reader with a 50 reader minimum, up to 150 readers. For 150 or more, the price is capped at $300. If you ask for the MAX, we will accept all qualified readers that sign up for your book and only charge you $300, however if less than 150 sign up you will only be charged at the standard rate of $2 per reader. This is true for any number you order – as not all genres have lists that can meet the number of reviewers requested. So if you ask for 50 but we only get 20 signed up, you’d only be charged for those 20.
The initial $20 deposit will be deducted from your final bill. The final bill must be paid prior to your book being sent out, and you will be invoiced as soon as we have the number of readers signed up for your book that you have requested – at the latest this would be the afternoon before your book is due to go out.
Note again that Hidden Gems DOES NOT GUARANTEE how many readers will leave a review, nor will we refund the difference between readers and reviews. We also DO NOT GUARANTEE what rating any of the readers will give you. These are HONEST reviews by REAL book loving readers. Such guarantees would be against the Amazon TOS so be wary of any service that promises this!
The fee you pay is for the service of having your book sent out to the number of readers you desire – readers that have expressly volunteered to read your book based on the information you provided (see How do I get started?). How many actually leave reviews and the rating of those reviews is based more on the quality of your book than anything else.
However, please note that Hidden Gems reserves the right to send your book out to more readers than you were charged for (but never less). This is done in cases where we have new, untested reviewers that have applied to read your book and we don’t know yet whether they are reliable reviewers. Sometimes we will add these new readers free of charge (generally no more than 10-20% of your booked number, but usually less) to test them out. The result is that in rare cases you may end up with slightly more reviews than you paid for.
*Canadian orders are charged tax based on the province of the author
There are a number of steps to our program, but only a few that you have to worry about. We do most of the heavy lifting.
Note that although readers are given a week before we remind them about leaving reviews, if your book is available on Amazon prior to the review due date, many readers will leave their reviews early – when they finish reading the book. However, some slower readers may take longer than a week. The week is more of a guideline that we ask readers to use in planning which books they sign up to read. Some readers even take a week or two beyond the review date before they’re done.
And again, since all of our ARC program subscribers are genuine, unpaid, voracious readers that have voluntarily signed up to read these free books, Hidden Gems cannot force anyone to leave reviews, nor can we make any guarantees on the number of reviews you will get – however, the program is made up of readers that generally leave reviews and when we identify any that are not participating anymore, they are removed. But even the best readers sometimes don’t review a particular book for any number of reasons, and that’s okay. Life happens. We only remove reviewers that are consistently not participating.
Also, it is important to note that we do not have any control over Amazon and their evolving rules. While we do our best to follow all of Amazon’s rules as we understand them, those rules are notorious for being both ambiguous and applied inconsistently. Amazon has a long history of removing reviews (and entire review histories) it (or it’s algorithms) believes have broken some of those rules, and Hidden Gems cannot be held responsible for reviews that go missing due to these factors as they are outside of our control. We do our best to keep track of these issues and deal with them as best we can, but often our hands are tied as much as anyone else’s when it comes to Amazon. At the very least, if we believe that reviews were removed unfairly from a book or reviewer that is brought to our attention, we will provide guidance to the author or reviewer on any next steps that we are currently aware of that may help resolve the situation.
Given the above, here is a sample timeline for a book called “HG Super Novel” that has a scheduled date of April 3rd.
It happens to the best of us, sometimes. The important thing is to inform us as soon as you know you aren’t going to hit your date. While our deposit is non-refundable, if you give us enough notice we will work with you to move your date if possible, free of charge. Generally, if you tell us at least 2 weeks in advance we can work something out, however anything less than that and you may have to forfeit your deposit. We will do our best to accommodate you, but the issue is that opening up a date at the last minute means it can’t always be filled in time – especially as we send out book info to our readers 2 days ahead of scheduled dates. In those cases we may suggest moving your date, but that you will have to forfeit your deposit in the event that we cannot fill the original date with someone else’s book. If we do find someone to fill it, then we’re happy to not charge you. However, please note that there is only 1 free date shift per book allowed.