Proofreading by any other name

I have to be honest. I’ve never heard the term ‘ARC team’ before today.  When someone on Facebook mentioned wanting to build up her ARC team, I asked what that involves. I was told that readers can sign up to be on an author’s ‘ARC team’ to recieve early copies of a book on their E-reader to read in return for a review. You know, the kind of reviews cunsumers put on Amazon for books and merchandise they buy there.

Okay. Cool.

It only stands to reason that with so many new authors self-publishing their work, that there would be changes to the way the game is played. Especially in the digital age. From writing a book, to publishing and reading one, there doesn’t have ot be a single slip of paper involved. The same goes for reviews, I guess. Nothing wrong wtih that.

There are apps that let you sign up to become a member of an author’s ARC team, meaning you’ll get a copy of their book in return for a review, either on Amazon or on a blog. It’s pretty straightforward, and it’s a great way to read more books for cheap.

What made me uncomfortable was being told that it’s “The way it’s done.”

Yes and no. Mostly no.

Traditionally, an Advance Reading Copy is an early version of an author’s book that gets sent out for reviews up to 6 months (or more). Those reviews can appear in newspapers, magazines, in/on Kirkus, and online. These are given by qualified professionals.

Getting friends, family, or even strangers to read your book for free in advance is proofreading, plain and simple. Even if they leave reviews on social media, blogs or Amazon for you. Those kinds of reviews simply cannot impact upon your career the same way a write up from Publishers Weekly can.

It’s always great to hear that people enjoy your book. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. But we’re talking about serious business, here. So let’s be clear about the terms. Unless they’re someone who’s in a position to give you a professional review, they’re proofreading it for you. The fact that the word review is involved doesn’t matter. It’s a slippery slope that makes murky the waters of publishing in the modern era.

Getting together readers to preview your book in return for reviews is a good thing. But don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s the same thing as getting professional reviews. It’s not. Not even close.

It bothers me that the line between proofreading and getting real reviews is getting so blurred. It bothers me that new and emerging writers don’t know the difference.

By all means, get all the reviews you can on Amazon, Goodreads, or anywhere else. But don’t settle for that. Don’t let anybody make you think there’s any reason you can’t get ‘real’ reviews. You can, just like any other ‘real’ author.

It takes planning and legwork to get your work out there. You don’t just write a book and sit back on your laurels because your job is done, especially if you’re a self-published author.  You don’t have a publishing house doing all the work for you. You’ve got to get out there and do it yourself.

Do the homework. Find the “real” reviewers. How? Open any book on the bestsellers list. Or, if it’s a hard cover, turn it over. You’ll find reviews from papers like the NY Times, Chicago Sun Times, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, USA Today, et al.

Contact them and find out if they require a hard copy or if they’re cool with getting an E-copy. They don’t mind giving you information as long as you call with a brief question that asks exactly what you want to know. Keep it short and to the point. Find out what they review and what they want from you. Hard copy or ebook? Press kit? Just like publishers, reviewers have submission guidelines. Familiarize yourself with them.
For example, here’s how to submit a book for review to Penguin.

When you know who takes what, write up a press kit to go with your Advance Reading Copy. There are articles about how to write up a press kit. Here’s one with a free downloadable template. But it’s usually just some basic information about your book:
Book title
Author
Genre
Estimated publication date
Brief symopsis – seriously, brief. 2 or 3 lines.
ISBN
Publisher name and contact information – if that’s you, it’s fine. Don’t embellish or lie. If you’re using Amazon, say so.
Edition and language
Number of pages/words
Projected price
Number of illustrations, if any
Trim size – this is the size of your book.
Contact name and information for your publicist – if you’re self-pubbed, list yourself.

That’s a lot of information, but don’t be overwhelmed. It’s information you’re going to need and use as you poblish anyway.

Most importantly, DON’T be impatient. Don’t get so caught up with getting your book out there that you rush to publish. Do it the way the heavy hitters do it. Be patient, do the leg work, be professional about your publishing. That’s how to get professional results.

If you just want to slap a book on Amazon and call it a day, that’s cool. But if you want to take it to the next level, if you want to be a professional writer, put in the work.

One important thing to consider is this: The more proofreaders you have, the more people are reading your hard work for free. Think about that.

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4 thoughts on “Proofreading by any other name

  1. Pingback: Welcome | Lepplady

  2. In the attempt to distinguish what reviewers do, you lessened the value of what proofreaders do. Proofreaders are publishing industry professionals, often with subject matter expertise, who are hired and paid by publishers to find errors that either weren’t found during copyediting or were introduced after copyediting. Unless a book has a large page count, has a tight schedule, or is particularly complex, there’s usually only one or two proofreaders per book. The people you’re trying to distinguish are neither reviewers nor proofreaders — they’re merely readers with an unpaid opinion.

    • It wasn’t my intention to lessen the value of proofreaders. It was my intention to help authors tell the difference between relying on the professionals and giving freebies away to people who can’t really advance their work or their careers.

  3. When I first read this, I matched the word proofreading with the profession of proofreader and was puzzled. Then I realised it was referring to the practice of indie small press authors sending out proofs to be read for reviews or media buzz by family, friends, or fans (as opposed to sending books for review by professional reviewers).

    When I worked in the composition department at Kingsport Press, proofreaders read the proof pages we typeset compared against the manuscript and the house style manual and sent them back to us marked for correction or for query to the publisher. Composition meant taking manuscript or computer files to publishable page formats (aka typesetting), another word with different meaning in different context.

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