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For Readers

Why do authors give away free books?

By: Craig on August 25, 2020

Our Hidden Gems guest author for today.

By: Craig on August 25, 2020


Have you ever wondered why authors give books away for free? Maybe you’ve wondered how you could be one of the fortunate ones on the receiving side of that. Or maybe you’ve questioned how legit the offer is. What’s the catch? Is it too good to be true? The fact is, authors and publishers have been giving books away for free for a long time, and it’s a strategy that’s beneficial to both the author and the reader. Yes, that’s correct, you can actually help writers by scooping up the books they offer for free. You read that right. They WANT to give you free books.

If you’re book obsessed, you’re probably familiar with the term “ARC”. Perhaps you’ve even been lucky enough to score a book with the ARC designation on the cover. An ARC is an Advance Reader Copy that is intended to be distributed to reviewers for free, usually (not not always) before the official book release. It’s like getting exclusive, VIP access, usually in digital form.

But why? Isn’t selling books how authors pay the bills?

Well, it’s all part of a bigger strategy. For indie authors and traditionally published authors alike, the goal is to have reviews on release day. In fact, these days it’s not just a goal, it’s practically essential. It is very difficult to sell a book that has no posted reviews on major book retail sites. Think about it. Have you ever purchased a book that had ZERO reviews? Probably not, and you likely wouldn’t give it a second look, with so many other options out there. Right? Because authors recognize the importance and value of reviews they will often offer a limited amount of free copies to a select group of readers who will hopefully show their support by voluntarily reviewing their books on important sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Goodreads, etc.

Each review helps spread the word and has a significant impact on the success of a book launch.

It’s a win-win situation. Readers get free books and authors get a boost when their book launches with solid reviews from real readers that provide honest feedback. That “street-cred” leads to increased visibility, chatter and ultimately, sales. Makes sense, right?

Hold on, is this actually legal?

Yes! The authors are not buying reviews. Readers are not compensated (aside from the free book), and the reviews are unbiased, meaning readers leave honest reviews. In fact, even whether they decide to ultimately leave a review is up to them.

The concept isn’t new, it predates Hidden Gems, Amazon and even the internet itself. Publishers and authors have always sent out free Advance Review Copies of their books in order to gather up early reviews and create buzz, the only thing that has changed is how much easier it is for real readers to get them now instead of just industry insiders.

Sometimes authors will recruit and manage their own ARC team, other times they will use a service like ours.

The Hidden Gems ARC program works this same way. Our readers are real people just like you – readers that love to read and then share their honest opinions of the books they’ve read on Amazon. They are not compensated in any way, beyond getting a free e-copy of the book, and they are free to sign up to receive only the books they’re interested in. There are no quotas to how many or few they sign up for, and all their reviews should be honest and voluntary. That means that even if they decide not to review a particular book, for whatever their reason, that’s their choice.

Think of the Hidden Gems ARC program as almost a matchmaking service. We strive to introduce readers to fantastic books in over 15 genres to choose from. Authors come to us to match them with a pool of real readers, interested in their book(s). It’s totally legit, and totally free for readers.

There’s no catch there – we never charge our readers anything.

What are the qualities of a top-notch reviewer?

First off, it’s best to sign up only for books that interest you. It’s not really fair to hate on a book simply because you don’t like the genre. It’s like giving a restaurant a 1-star review because of their fried chicken when you’re a self-proclaimed vegan. We don’t assign books to our readers, they choose the books they want to read and review.

Secondly, make sure you can commit to reading the book in a timely manner. Maybe this ARC doesn’t fit into your schedule. No worries. Check out the next one! We don’t set minimums OR maximums on how many ARCs you sign up for, which makes our program great for the occasional reader or the voracious reader.  And while we do have review dates on all our sign up forms, those are really just dates to aim for – the ideal dates that the author is hoping reviews start coming in by (although sooner is never an issue), but some readers read slower than others, or life sometimes gets in the way and that’s okay. Always better late than never! Just don’t over commit to too many books, in fairness to both the author and other readers.

And hey, if you have to skip a book that you really wanted, why not add it to your wishlist and perhaps purchase it later on? When you can, it’s a lovely way to support talented writers.

Note that while Hidden Gems does not have any limits on the number of books you can read, Amazon may limit the number of reviews you can leave.

Third, be honest in your feedback. Things to consider are whether the story grabbed you, whether you connected with the characters, and whether there were parts that left you confused. It’s okay if you didn’t like a book, but please do respect an author’s hard work by remembering there is a difference between a bad review and a “bad” review

An author or legitimate ARC service will never tell you what to write. As a general rule, it’s advisable to write a review that demonstrates you actually read the book, without including spoilers. A generic review such as “Great read! Highly recommend!” can set off alarms, so do try to flesh it out with a fair, helpful review.

Wondering how you can get free books as often as you’d like?

If you’re interested in becoming a Hidden Gems ARC reviewer, sign up here, and select your preferred genres. We send out emails daily and any time a book in your preferred genres comes available, you’ll be alerted of the details. From there, you can choose whether to sign up or not.

Each book is looking for a limited number of readers, so not all readers will be chosen. But don’t stress, we do our best to make sure everyone gets a chance to read often, and we have new books going out every day, so don’t get discouraged if you aren’t chosen for each book you request. Keep signing up and participating!

A couple of days after the sign-up period begins, an email will go out to the selected readers for that book with an exclusive link to download the book. Pretty cool, huh?

Again, it’s a win-win for both readers and authors.

Does it make sense now why an author would give books away for free? Do you have any questions about ARC programs or services? Just send us an email via the contact form or leave a comment below!

Remember, writers tend to be a pretty nice bunch and they deserve our support, and reviews are a great no-cost way to show them the love!

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About the Author

Our Hidden Gems guest author for today.

Craig Tuch began his own self-publishing career back in 2012, writing numerous bestselling romance novels under a variety of pen names, but has always recognized that he would never have been as successful if he hadn’t also been a part of a strong online community of authors. Through this community he not only became a better writer, but also learned what it took to get readers to discover him in the first place – because it’s not enough to simply write a great book, a self-publisher has to also master the packaging, promotion and marketing of their work. It was from this experience that he founded Hidden Gems, which he continues to run to this day with the goal of providing information and services designed to help authors spend more time writing books and less time worrying about all that other stuff.

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