Amazon ARC books: A self-publishing guide to generating buzz

Amazon ARC books are a fantastic way for self-publishing authors to generate buzz and publicity for their books before their official release date. An ARC (advance reader copy) is a preliminary version of a book distributed to select individuals or groups before the official release date.

This article will explore what an Amazon ARC is, how to generate an ARC through Amazon KDP and how to distribute free ARCs to reviewers. So if you are a self-publishing author looking to develop early reviews and feedback for your book, read on!

What is a book ARC?

An ARC (advance reader copy) is also known as an advance copy or galley. It is a preliminary version of a book distributed to select individuals or groups before the official release date. Self-publishing authors and publishers typically send ARCs to reviewers, booksellers, librarians and influencers. ARCs generate buzz and publicity for the book before its publication date. They may contain errors or typos that are corrected in the final version. Still, they allow readers to provide feedback and generate early reviews.

Can you use Amazon to generate ARCs?

In short, yes. Still, Amazon does not specifically offer ARC services like traditional publishers or distribution platforms might. However, if you are a self-publishing author, you can create ARC-like copies through Amazon’s print-on-demand service, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

Amazon KDP offers two options that can be considered ARCs: proof copies and author copies. Proof copies are intended for authors to review and approve their book before publication, while author copies are for authors to distribute or sell outside Amazon’s retail channels. Both types of copies are purchased directly through Amazon KDP. Still, they serve different purposes and may have different costs and designations.

Proof copies

According to Amazon KDP, proof copies feature a ‘Not for Resale’ watermark and unique barcode with no ISBN. Proofs serve as a test copy for you to review before submitting for publication.

Purpose: Proof copies are intended for authors to review and check for errors before making their books available for sale.

Cost: Authors pay the printing cost plus shipping for proof copies. The printing cost is generally lower than the retail price of the book.

Availability: Proof copies are available for purchase directly through the author’s Amazon KDP account.

Design: Proof copies are typically marked with a ‘Not for Resale’ banner on the cover. In addition, they may have a barcode with the word ‘Proof’ printed on it. This distinguishes them from final retail copies.

Function: Proof copies are identical in content and quality to the final retail copies of the book. They allow authors to assess the physical appearance, formatting and overall quality of their book before publishing.

Examples of Amazon ARCs (proof copies).
Examples of Amazon KDP proof copies. Source: (top left), (right) and (bottom left).

Author copies

According to Amazon KDP, author copies are prints of your live book offered to you at print cost. Author copies do not include unpublished (draft) changes you have made on KDP. You are welcome to resell or give away author copies you ordered from KDP.

Purpose: Author copies are intended for authors to distribute or sell outside Amazon; for instance, at book signings or events.

Cost: Authors pay the printing cost plus shipping for author copies. The printing cost is generally lower than the book’s retail price. However, it may be slightly higher than the printing cost for proof copies.

Availability: Author copies are available for purchase directly through the author’s Amazon KDP account.

Design: Author copies are identical to the final retail copies of the book. Furthermore, they do not contain any markings or designations indicating they are author copies.

Functionality: Authors can use author copies for promotional purposes, giveaways or personal distribution. They are identical in quality to the books available for sale on Amazon.

How to generate an Amazon ARC (proof copy)?

  1. Prepare your manuscript: Make sure your book is formatted correctly for print according to Amazon’s guidelines. You will need a finalised version that is ready for printing.
  2. Create a new paperback book project on KDP: Log in to your KDP account and start a new paperback project. You can do that by uploading your formatted manuscript and cover design.
  3. Order a proof copy: Before making your book available for sale on Amazon, you can order a proof copy. This allows you to review the physical copy of your book. It may involve checking for any formatting issues, errors or discrepancies between the digital and printed versions. You can order a single proof copy at cost, plus shipping.
  4. Set up a pre-order campaign (optional): You can set up an Amazon pre-order campaign to generate buzz and gather pre-release reviews for your book. This allows readers to order your book before its official release date. You can then send ARC copies to reviewers, bloggers and influencers to help promote your book before the release.

Does Amazon allow the distribution of free ARCs to reviewers?

Yes, Amazon KDP allows free ARC copies to be distributed to reviewers. Here is how you can do it:

  1. Order proof copies: As an author using Amazon KDP, you can order proof copies of your book at printing cost. You can use them to send free copies to reviewers, bloggers and influencers.
  2. Create promo codes (for eBooks): For eBooks published through KDP, you can create and distribute promotional codes. You can generate these codes for free. Then, you can provide them to reviewers to download a free copy of your eBook from the Amazon Kindle Store.
  3. Promote on ARC sites: There are platforms and websites where reviewers and readers gather to discover new books. You can promote your ARC copies on these platforms and offer them to interested reviewers. Websites like NetGalley and Goodreads have communities of reviewers who may be interested in receiving ARC copies.
  4. Distribute directly: You can also contact reviewers, bloggers and influencers directly and offer them a free ARC copy. This approach allows you to target individuals or groups likely to provide valuable reviews and feedback.

When distributing ARC copies for reviews, it is essential to abide by Amazon’s policies and guidelines. For instance, avoid incentivising or soliciting biased reviews, as this violates Amazon’s Community Guidelines. Instead, focus on providing honest review copies to interested parties who can provide genuine feedback on your book.

What is Amazon’s book review policy?

Amazon KDP has specific guidelines and policies regarding book reviews to ensure fairness and integrity in the reviewing process. They are called Community Guidelines. Here are some key points about Amazon KDP’s book review policy:

What Amazon KDP allows

Honest reviews: Amazon encourages honest and unbiased reviews from readers who have genuinely read the book.

ARC reviews: Amazon allows reviews from ARCs as long as they comply with its guidelines. Amazon specifically states, It’s OK to review a free or discounted book (advanced reader copy) you received from an author or publisher. However, they can’t require a review in exchange or try to influence the review.

Disclosure: Reviewers can disclose that they received a free or discounted copy of the book for review purposes. Still, the review must remain unbiased and not violate any other guidelines.

Quality and relevance: Reviews should focus on the content and quality of the book. They can include opinions about the writing style, plot, characters and overall reading experience. Moreover, they can comment on price and availability.

Respectful language: Reviews should be written respectfully and not contain any inappropriate language, personal information or discriminatory remarks.

Amazon Community Guidelines concerning compensated reviews make an exception for ARC copies.

What Amazon KDP disallows

Fake reviews: Amazon prohibits fake, fraudulent or incentivised reviews. This includes reviews written by the author, friends, family or anyone with a vested interest in the book’s success.

Paid reviews: Reviews written in exchange for compensation or any form of payment are prohibited.

Review swapping: Engaging in review swapping or trading reviews with other authors is against Amazon’s policies.

Violation of community guidelines: Reviews that violate Amazon’s community guidelines, such as posting offensive or inappropriate content, are not allowed.

Manipulation of reviews: Any attempts to manipulate or artificially inflate review ratings are strictly prohibited. They may include creating multiple accounts to leave positive reviews or using review aggregation services.

Authors and reviewers must familiarise themselves with and adhere to Amazon KDP’s review guidelines. Violations of these guidelines can result in the removal of reviews, suspension of accounts, or other disciplinary actions by Amazon.

How much does producing an Amazon ARC book (proof copy) cost?

The cost of producing an Amazon ARC (proof copy) through Amazon KDP varies. It depends on factors such as the book’s trim size, the number of pages and whether the book is black and white or in colour. Additionally, the shipping cost varies based on the method and destination.

Amazon states, When you order proof or author copies through your KDP Account, you will pay the author price for your books. You can calculate the author price by multiplying the print cost for your book in your selected marketplace multiplied by the number of copies ordered.

In other words, Amazon KDP typically charges authors the printing cost plus shipping for ordering proof copies. The printing cost is calculated based on the book’s specifications (size, colour vs black and white, etc.). It can generally be lower than the retail price of the book.

However, to get an accurate estimate of the cost of producing an Amazon ARC for your book, you can follow these steps:

  • Log in to your Amazon KDP account.
  • Navigate to your bookshelf and select the paperback book project for which you want to order a proof copy.
  • Click on the ‘Order Proof Copies’ button or a similar option.
  • Follow the prompts to specify the quantity, shipping method and shipping address.

Amazon KDP will provide you with an estimate of the total cost, including the printing and shipping fees, before confirming your order. You can also use their printing cost calculator to get the precise amount.

Keep in mind that the cost may vary depending on your location and the options you choose. Additionally, ordering multiple copies may result in lower per-unit printing costs but higher overall shipping fees.

How to prepare an Amazon ARC for publication?

Preparing an Amazon ARC for publication involves several steps, including professional editing and indexing services. Here is a guide on how to prepare an ARC for publication using these services:

Editing services

  1. Find a professional editor: Look for an experienced editor who specialises in your genre or type of content. You can find an editor through freelance platforms or professional organisations.
  2. Discuss your needs: Communicate with the editor about your goals for the text and any specific areas to focus on. For instance, plot consistency, character development, grammar or style. Next, establish which editing service your book needs (developmental editingline editingcopyediting, etc.)
  3. Incorporate feedback: Implement the editor’s suggestions and make any necessary revisions to improve the quality and readability of your ARC.

Indexing services

  1. Understand indexing needs: Determine if your ARC requires an index. Indexing is typically used for non-fiction books to help readers navigate the content by providing a detailed list of topics and page references.
  2. Hire a professional indexer: Look for an experienced indexer who understands the requirements of your genre or subject matter. Indexers can be found through professional organisations or freelance platforms.
  3. Incorporate the index: Integrate the finalised index into your ARC layout. Ensure that it is well-organised and easy to navigate for readers.

Prepare the ARC for publication

  1. Finalise formatting: Ensure your manuscript is properly formatted for publication, including page layout, font styles and chapter headings.
  2. Design the cover: Create an eye-catching cover design for your ARC that reflects the content and attracts potential readers.
  3. Print and distribute: Once all editing and indexing tasks are complete, print the ARC copies using Amazon KDP’s print-on-demand service. Distribute the ARCs to reviewers, booksellers, librarians and influencers to generate buzz and feedback before the official publication date.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, Amazon ARC books are an excellent way for self-publishing authors to generate buzz and publicity for their books before their official release date. Using Amazon KDP, authors can create and distribute ARCs. Those ARC copies will allow readers to provide feedback, generate early reviews and help promote their books. With these tips on generating an Amazon ARC, self-publishing authors can set themselves up for success and make the most of their book release.

I am an experienced editor, working with non-fiction, academic and business books. If you need a second pair of eyes preparing your manuscript for book launch, contact me for a free sample edit (and remember to use my early bird discount).

Good luck with your book promotion!

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I am an editor, indexer and a lifelong lover of literature with a PhD in literary history. I am an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, a student member of the Society of Indexers and a vetted partner of the Alliance of Independent Authors.