KBoards | a community forum for Kindle Users and Authors

Authors' Forum => Writers' Cafe => Topic started by: HiddenGems on July 06, 2017, 11:06:56 AM

Title: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on July 06, 2017, 11:06:56 AM
The Hidden Gems ARC service has been sending out books for review since October 2015 and since then has just continued to grow into what we believe is one of the premiere ARC services around.  We now have over 5000 reader/reviewers and send out hundreds of books a year - on average more than 1 per day.

While we did start off by exclusively servicing the romance community, we have since branched off and begun to ARC books of ALL Genres.  All of our subscribers have selected the genres that they are interested in reading, and they only get offers to read and review books of those genres. That means we aren't going to send your Horror novel off to someone that is only interested in Young Adult novels, for example. And even within those groups, all readers only choose the books that most interest them (based on the book info you provide prior to us sending out your book), which means that we are ONLY sending your book out to subscribers that at least THINK that they will enjoy it based on that info. So again, that means that we wouldn't send a BDSM Romance to someone that only likes Sweet Romances, for example.

One of the thing that sets us apart from other ARC services is our review rates. While all reviews are voluntary and there are always reasons why some readers that sign up choose not to review a particular book after being sent it, we do keep a close eye on things to make sure there are no abusers of the system. Our service is for book lovers who enjoy reading and leaving reviews on what they read, not for people just looking to get a load of free books and never offer anything in return. As such, we have an average rate of reviews left by readers of over 80%.  That means if we send your book out to 100 readers, you will usually get more than 80 reviews back. Many sites need to send your book out to many hundreds of readers to get those sorts of numbers, which means your book is going out for FREE to far more people than it needs to - potential customers!

And to be clear, these are voluntary reviews from real readers - nothing fake or phony about these reviews. That's why we can't make any guarantees as the the number of reviews you'll get back (and be wary of any service that does!) and we also can't guarantee any sort of average star rating. While many of our reviewers choose not to review a book they didn't like (by far the  #1 reason why reviewers choose not to leave a review), that is up to them completely.  We do all of this to ensure compliance with Amazon and their ever changing rules regarding reviews. As such, we don't believe we are in violation of their rules. Readers are real and never compensated for their reviews beyond getting the book for free, and are instructed to note in their review that it was voluntary and based on a review copy. Authors pay us for the service of sending their books out to our curated list of readers that love leaving reviews, authors are not paying for the reviews themselves (which is also why we charge per reader, not per review returned). Again, be wary of services that do things in a way that may violate Amazon's rules!

While we have thousands signed up for our service, because they are segregated into different genres and only choose the books to read that they are both interested in and have time for, the number of readers interested in any given book may vary greatly. Authors choose how many readers they want their books sent to, but depending on those factors we may not always be able to meet those needs. However rest assured, we will only ever charge for the number of readers we do find, regardless of your original order. If you ask for 100 and we only find you 20, you will only be charged for 20. Romance typically gets the most interest - and we can often deliver hundreds of readers for a contemporary romance novel, while some genres like Young Adult or Science fiction might only get 20-50 readers signed up.  But we're doing our best to improve those numbers, and much of our income goes to increasing our reader base in order to continue to improve our service.

Also note that for romance ARCs, booking is recommended at least 3-4 weeks in advance as we only book 1 book per genre a day, and our romance category usually sells out that far ahead. For other genres there is more availability for now, since we only started doing those other genres recently and are still getting the word out.

For a lot more info and pricing, please see our FAQ (https://www.hiddengemsbooks.com/arc-faq/) - or just go directly to our booking calendars (https://www.hiddengemsbooks.com/arc-program/).

We hope to help many of you with your novel launches in the future, and if you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact us (or reply below).  Thanks!

The Hidden Gems Team
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Red Riley on July 06, 2017, 11:22:18 AM
Bookmarking for when I have my release date set, thanks!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: 555aaa on July 06, 2017, 12:06:17 PM
I'm interested in scheduling your service but I don't see anywhere listed your business name and location.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on July 06, 2017, 12:11:05 PM
I'm interested in scheduling your service but I don't see anywhere listed your business name and location.

Hmm, did you try clicking on the links in the email above?  That should take you to our website which has all of the info needed for scheduling.  We're Hidden Gems, and can take bookings from anywhere in the world since we only deal with ebooks (not physical novels), so everything is digital.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: SA_Soule on July 06, 2017, 12:57:48 PM
The only problem I personally foresee is if you pay $300 for the max amount of reviewers/readers, but only get, let's say, 10 reviews posted, than it is not worth it.

Plus, a writer is paying for reviews without any guarantee of getting reviews posted and...did I mention paying for reviews? Which is against Amazon's TOS, right? And if it is a violation of the TOS, then there's a strong chance the reviews will be removed from sites like Amazon. But maybe not from goodreads...

A reviewer that I've known for years, started charging on Fiverr for reviews (I just sent my ARCs to her blog email and never paid her) and she told me that she had all 5k reviews that she posted removed and she is banned from leaving reviews on Amazon now. I guess there was this big review crack down where Amazon removed thousands of so-called "paid reviews."
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Austin_Briggs on July 06, 2017, 02:02:58 PM
Just subscribed for a Fantasy book (no Romance) - let's see what comes of it!!! :)
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Crystal_ on July 06, 2017, 04:28:28 PM
I love Hidden Gems! I use the ARC service even though I have an ARC team that will get me 50-100 reviews during release week. The Hidden Gems reviewers just leave better reviews on average--they're more detailed and specific. Sure, not all of the reviews are positive, but I find the reviewers are pretty open minded.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Gabriella West on July 06, 2017, 06:49:04 PM
Sounds interesting. How LGBT-friendly is the service?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: JacquelineSweetDesign on July 06, 2017, 06:51:27 PM
I've used Hidden Gems before--last summer--and they consistently delivered a TON of reviews for my books. I don't recall the exact numbers, but it was 50-75 reviews that all seemed like honest reviews, not just a one sentence "I liked it!" or something like that.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on July 06, 2017, 07:44:38 PM
The only problem I personally foresee is if you pay $300 for the max amount of reviewers/readers, but only get, let's say, 10 reviews posted, than it is not worth it.

As I mentioned, our average rate of review is over 80% so that just doesn't happen.  When people get below that average, it is not THAT far below.. but generally there is a very obvious reason why - which is usually that the book has problems and a lot of the reviewers chose not to leave a review rather than a negative one.  The stronger the book, the higher the percentage. We have some books that have hit 100%.  A large number get in the 90s.  So a MAX order is at least 150 readers (if not, then wouldn't get charged $300).  You would never get 10 reviews from that. Not in the 2 years we've been doing this, anyway.

Plus, a writer is paying for reviews without any guarantee of getting reviews posted and...did I mention paying for reviews? Which is against Amazon's TOS, right? And if it is a violation of the TOS, then there's a strong chance the reviews will be removed from sites like Amazon. But maybe not from goodreads...

Again, as I mentioned you are not paying for reviews.  You are paying us to send your book out to our list of book lovers that tend to leave reviews.  We DO NOT require them to leave reviews for every book - and in fact we provide a spot where they can leave a reason for not reviewing instead. This is also why we can make no guarantees on the number of reviews - because that is not what you are paying for.  You are paying us to send your book out to a specified number of readers, that is all.  We just maintain a list of readers that also very often leave reviews for the books they are sent.

We've been doing this for 2 years now and sent out about 500 books and have never once heard from any of our authors that have gotten any reviews removed or had any issues with Amazon over it.  That's not to say that Amazon one day may change their tune, but we read their TOS carefully whenever they are updated and do our best to stay within their guidelines as far as we understand them (they are not always crystal clear, unfortunately).

A reviewer that I've known for years, started charging on Fiverr for reviews (I just sent my ARCs to her blog email and never paid her) and she told me that she had all 5k reviews that she posted removed and she is banned from leaving reviews on Amazon now. I guess there was this big review crack down where Amazon removed thousands of so-called "paid reviews."

Yes, and that example is a clear violation of their service because that is a reviewer charging for their reviews.  Our readers are not paid anything by you OR by us.  They get no compensation at all.  They all do it because they love reading and this is a great way for them to have access to free books. 

Authors sending free ARC copies out for early reviews is a tradition that goes back as long as there have been books, and that is why when Amazon recently cracked down on reviews for unverified purchases they did it for everything BUT books.  They know that this is a common practice and as long as you follow the rules and play fair, they seem okay with it.  What we are providing here is no different, really, than an author sending out their novels to their own list of fans. But what about authors without that fan base?  Why should they miss out on reviews?  That's where we come in and help.  In fact, I've actually heard more stories about Amazon cracking down on fan ARCs like that because they are more obviously biased (friends and fans of an author are more likely to give positive reviews and some authors boot off people that give them less than 4 or 5 stars).

At any rate, everyone has their own comfort level so a service like ours might not be for everyone. All I can say is that we will always do our absolute best to make sure we are working within the rules that Amazon sets out, as far as we understand them. And so far that's been working.

Thanks so much for your feedback and good luck with your releases!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on July 06, 2017, 07:48:17 PM
Sounds interesting. How LGBT-friendly is the service?

Are you talking about LGBT Romance?  We do a few of those - probably about 5 or so a month?  Generally we'll get at least 50-60 signups for those books. 

If you're talking about non-romance then you'll have to be more specific, although I don't think we've had any LGBT non-romance novels come through that I can think of.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: RRodriguez on July 06, 2017, 07:59:19 PM
From looking over their website and my understanding of Amazon rules, I feel like this is a pretty legitimate service :) As an (hopefully soon) new author, I know that ARC's are common and popular tools to help boost a recently published book. But for a new author with zero following, it's a huge struggle to get ARC readers to sign up organically. In the future I would like that to be the case, but for a first-timer I'm not opposed to having a little help along the way.  With a service like this I also like that there's a better chance I'm being set up with readers who actually WANT to read my book as opposed to someone just wanting a free book with little intention of actually reading it. As has been stated, no one is being paid to do anything except the service itself which merely sets authors up with eager readers.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: AriadneBeckett on July 06, 2017, 08:08:22 PM
Do you have a separate LGBT segment? For example, for a gay romance/crime drama? Or would copies potentially be going to people who would find gay themes offensive?

Why haven't we heard of you? In my experience so far, successful promotion and ARC services tend to get talked about.

Quote
The only requirement for membership in the ARC program, as a reviewer, is that when you do ask for a book and are selected for that ARC, that you both LEAVE A REVIEW on Amazon, AND LOG THE REVIEW in our form. Many of you are missing that second step, and as such, we have no choice but to drop you from the program. Our authors are looking for a certain number of reviews, and it is unfair to them if we have reviewers not leaving reviews. And logging your review in our form is the only way we know that you have left one.

Is this current? Because my understanding of current amazon policy is that reviewers may *not* be required in any way to leave a review, or feel that their ability to receive future free stuff depends on their leaving a review.

One final question: why did you dodge the previous question about your business location? That poster didn't ask about info needed for scheduling; they asked about where they could see your business name and location.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on July 06, 2017, 09:00:43 PM
Do you have a separate LGBT segment? For example, for a gay romance/crime drama? Or would copies potentially be going to people who would find gay themes offensive?

The way that we have genres set up now is basically a bunch of checkboxes.. so people would select things like Science Fiction or Romance.  Since technically you could have ANY genre of book feature LGBT characters, I don't think it would make sense to have a separate genre for each possibility. 

Instead, what we do is provide a "Categories" field on our sign up form which is where authors enter this sort of Sub Genre info.  So in your example, they would put LGBT or GAY or MM or whatever in that field, and then readers that don't like that sort of content can just skip that offer and wait for the next one.

Why haven't we heard of you? In my experience so far, successful promotion and ARC services tend to get talked about.

Interesting question.  I suppose I could counter by saying that since we sell out weeks in advance, clearly SOMEONE has heard of us - and we also have a testimonial section in our FAQ that lists out some of the comments we had from our previous customers. Not to mention a few of our previous customers have shown up in this thread, which was a pleasant surprise, so they've heard about us as well. 

In all honestly, we haven't really done any big marketing aside from a few (non-kboards) author message boards that are mostly private or semi-private where we got our start, because as soon as we launched we were getting enough business through word of mouth alone.  But that was mostly romance centric - where we got our start.  Now that we've branched into other genres, we're getting the word out a little more aggressively.  Soon, hopefully, we'll be a household name.   ;)

Is this current? Because my understanding of current amazon policy is that reviewers may *not* be required in any way to leave a review, or feel that their ability to receive future free stuff depends on their leaving a review.

Thanks for bringing that to my attention.  As you can tell by the date, that was an old blog post (from a year ago) that we wrote and things have changed a lot since then.  Our reader FAQ has much more current info, and when you quoted that I searched that FAQ to see where I had wrote that, but couldn't find it - although the words sounded familiar.  I actually had to google it before realizing it was from an old blog.  Of course, the next bit that immediately follows the part that you quoted is also pretty relevant, so I will quote that here since you left it out.

Quote

Missing a few reviews is fine and unavoidable, which is why we also have the REASON field in our form...

We've always included that field and always will because we understand that life happens sometimes, and even the best reviewers will miss some reviews or simply choose not to review a book.  But membership in our program is for book loving readers that also like to leave reviews. We'll never remove someone for missing a review or two, and the more books they read, the more they can miss without it being an issue. But if someone is basically just reading and never reviewing, then they don't fit the membership criteria of the list that we maintain. Having a list full of people like that is unfair to both the authors that work with us and the other readers in our list. If someone wants a list like that, to either use for their ARCs or to be a reader for, there are plenty of other ARC services out there that will happily take them to swell their numbers and make themselves sound more valuable. 

Anyway, thanks again for pointing that out.  Even though our FAQ is more clear about all of this (I hope), I will definitely remove that old blog and replace it with a newer one sooner rather than later.

One final question: why did you dodge the previous question about your business location? That poster didn't ask about info needed for scheduling; they asked about where they could see your business name and location.

I don't think I dodged that question at all. I think our business name is pretty obvious - Hidden Gems.  And I just don't see the relevance of providing a physical location for a web-based business that deals exclusively in digital content. Are you asking about where our server is located? Where we physically live? Where our business is incorporated? And why does it matter? Maybe I'm missing something here?

Anyway, thanks for the questions.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Helen_Christian on July 07, 2017, 08:14:49 AM
Shifted Sheets is a direct competitor to Hidden Gems and I can find ZERO bad things to say about them. I used them as an author and I continue to suggest their services in addition to our own.

Many romance authors have heard of them in the groups/messageboards/forums that we frequent. They've never given anything but great customer service and value.

Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: MajesticMonkey on July 07, 2017, 08:23:27 AM
Shifted Sheets is a direct competitor to Hidden Gems and I can find ZERO bad things to say about them. I used them as an author and I continue to suggest their services in addition to our own.

Many romance authors have heard of them in the groups/messageboards/forums that we frequent. They've never given anything but great customer service and value.


+1
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: RRodriguez on July 07, 2017, 09:03:13 AM
Shifted Sheets is a direct competitor to Hidden Gems and I can find ZERO bad things to say about them. I used them as an author and I continue to suggest their services in addition to our own.

Many romance authors have heard of them in the groups/messageboards/forums that we frequent. They've never given anything but great customer service and value.

That's strange, is it usually polite to post about direct competition on someone's sales page? And from what I can tell, there hasn't been any "bad things" said about Hidden Gems either, only that it's fairly new and people have some questions about their services. By the name Shifted Sheets, I also assume it's only for Romance authors/readers.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Mylius Fox on July 07, 2017, 09:07:03 AM
Are you talking about LGBT Romance?  We do a few of those - probably about 5 or so a month?  Generally we'll get at least 50-60 signups for those books.

Hi HiddenGems, how many signups do you generally get for the thriller genre? Do your thriller readers respond well to military/political thrillers? I've got a new release next week and I really like how your service sounds. :)
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: raminar_dixon on July 07, 2017, 09:15:54 AM
Shifted Sheets is a direct competitor to Hidden Gems and I can find ZERO bad things to say about them. I used them as an author and I continue to suggest their services in addition to our own.

Many romance authors have heard of them in the groups/messageboards/forums that we frequent. They've never given anything but great customer service and value.



Same.

Hidden Gems is also a competitor to Hot Stuff Romance and I have to say that they are a valuable, stand-up operation. They do what they say they will, charge a fair price, and work hard to make you happy. I've used them for my own book promotions and for ARC several times and I have always been pleased with the results. My Promo Stacker clients have also used them to great effect. If you need honest reviews, they are a fantastic resource.

That's strange, is it usually polite to post about direct competition on someone's sales page? And from what I can tell, there hasn't been any "bad things" said about Hidden Gems either, only that it's fairly new and people have some questions about their services. By the name Shifted Sheets, I also assume it's only for Romance authors/readers.

Yes, I'd say it is polite, as long as the feedback is not malicious. If you do such a great job that even your competition praises the quality of your services, you're doing something right. HG offers a good service and I don't mind letting people know about it, even if they are technically a competitor to one of my businesses.

Shifted Sheets is also great.  ;)
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Betsy the Quilter on July 07, 2017, 09:17:19 AM
That's strange, is it usually polite to post about direct competition on someone's sales page? And from what I can tell, there hasn't been any "bad things" said about Hidden Gems either, only that it's fairly new and people have some questions about their services. By the name Shifted Sheets, I also assume it's only for Romance authors/readers.

Helen *is* Shifted Sheets.  I read her post as saying that even she has used Hidden Gems as an author, and likes them, and recommends them.  That's how I read it, anyway...

But...that being said, let's keep the focus on Hidden Gems, thanks!

Betsy



/edited for clarity
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Ann in Arlington on July 07, 2017, 09:17:46 AM
Welcome to Kboards!

You're welcome to promote your relevant business, service, product or website here in the Writers' Cafe!

Now that you have an official thread, you'll want to add your listing to our Yellow Pages Listing, found here:http://www.kboards.com/yp/. The listing is free to KB members and is completely self-service; you can add and edit your listing from the page.  More information on our Yellow Pages listing can be found here (http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,195313.0.html).

In your thread here, we ask that the same basic rules be followed as we have for authors in the Book Bazaar:  you may have this one thread about your service and must post to it rather than start a new thread each time.  New threads about the service will be removed.  Please bookmark this thread so that you can find it again to post to.  And, you may not make back-to-back posts to the thread within seven days.  If someone responds (such as this post), you may reply but otherwise must wait seven days, thanks! Also note that very short or one/two word posts with no meaningful information, are discouraged and may be deleted at the moderators' discretion.

Note that members are allowed to provide civil and honest feedback about your service to this thread, and you may respond in a civil manner. In particular, members may have questions about how the service works, what you get for your money, as well as concerns about whether or not it might violate Amazon ToS.

Disputes between you and clients should be handled off site.

Ann
KBoards Moderator

(Note that this welcome does not constitute an endorsement or vetting of a service by KBoards.  Members should do due diligence when considering using a service.)
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: RRodriguez on July 07, 2017, 09:23:54 AM
Helen *is* Shifted Sheets.  I read her post as saying that even she has used their service as an author, and likes them, and recommends them.  That's how I read it, anyway...

Betsy

OH, I see. Since you explained it I see what you're saying. When I initially read it I thought it was like going onto someone Book Cover Sales Page and telling people to go somewhere else instead because their covers are better, and it gave me a bit of a start. Thanks for clearing it up :)
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Betsy the Quilter on July 07, 2017, 09:26:14 AM
OH, I see. Since you explained it I see what you're saying. When I initially read it I thought it was like going onto someone Book Cover Sales Page and telling people to go somewhere else instead because their covers are better, and it gave me a bit of a start. Thanks for clearing it up :)

:D
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on July 07, 2017, 10:11:08 AM
Hi HiddenGems, how many signups do you generally get for the thriller genre? Do your thriller readers respond well to military/political thrillers? I've got a new release next week and I really like how your service sounds. :)

Hi Mylius - So far we've only run a handful of thrillers and the signups are a bit all over the place.  For example, we ran 2 at the end of last month and got 50 sign ups for them, but then we ran one early this month and only had 20 sign up.  So I guess it depends on the book and how you sell your ARC to our audience for sign up, but the readers are there...

Remember though that you only pay for the readers we can deliver on, so even if you ask for 50 and we only send 20, then you only pay for 20. So there's little risk in that regard. 

In terms of military/political I can't speak to that as the ones we've run so far haven't been those type. But again, if you are clear and upfront in the meta data that we send out to readers, then only ones interested in those types of books will sign up.

Hope that helps, but let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Marishka on July 07, 2017, 10:19:41 AM
Hidden Gems is truly a hidden gem! Their service is fantastic, especially for the romance genre, but they're branching out to other genres as well. They provide a platform to connect authors with readers who are responsive and want to engage with the authors and the books and leave reviews. The readers post both good and bad reviews, I should add, because the readers are real and their reviews are honest. I've used their service for a recent launch of my book and I have to say, I was very impressed!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: IntoTheAbyss on July 07, 2017, 10:42:36 AM
Do the reviews tend to be posted on Amazon or Goodreads or both?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on July 07, 2017, 12:20:04 PM
Do the reviews tend to be posted on Amazon or Goodreads or both?

Our focus is on Amazon.  That's where we ask reviews to be left, as that's where the vast majority of authors want their reviews.  But some readers do also post links to goodreads.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: SA_Soule on July 08, 2017, 11:07:31 AM
Quote
Authors sending free ARC copies out for early reviews is a tradition that goes back as long as there have been books, and that is why when Amazon recently cracked down on reviews for unverified purchases they did it for everything BUT books.  They know that this is a common practice and as long as you follow the rules and play fair, they seem okay with it.  What we are providing here is no different, really, than an author sending out their novels to their own list of fans. But what about authors without that fan base?  Why should they miss out on reviews?  That's where we come in and help.  At any rate, everyone has their own comfort level so a service like ours might not be for everyone. All I can say is that we will always do our absolute best to make sure we are working within the rules that Amazon sets out, as far as we understand them. And so far that's been working. Thanks so much for your feedback and good luck with your releases!

I appreciate the time you took to address my concerns. Thank you!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Nicholas Erik on July 08, 2017, 12:12:40 PM
This is the best review service in the business, hands down. Used them for an urban fantasy book that was was sent out to 25 reviewers ($50). I got a minimum of 13 - 15 reviews that I can personally verify came from Hidden Gems. The owner indicated that 20 - 21 of the people submitted a review link to them, but I only went by how many people left the standard "I got an ARC copy" text. So consider my estimate very conservative.

The reviews were in-depth - e.g., the reviewers clearly read the book - and they send you selected comments from their reviewers. A mix of 3, 4 & 5 stars, which I like - some review services are legit, but everyone gives you ten word 5* reviews and it just looks kind of silly.

For comparison, with most services I'd expect maybe 2 - 3 reviews. Hidden Gems gets my highest recommendation.

Nick
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Huldra on July 08, 2017, 01:21:17 PM
I've used Hidden Gems for their romance (Contemporary) ARCs twice last year.
Both times they have had outstanding service, both before and after, and the reviews garnered via them were generally much higher quality than from my own ARC list. (They go into a lot more detail that'll help future readers decide whether or not to buy, instead of just fangirling)

My first run was amazing, with an ~85% review rate. My second only hit about 60% (and no, there wasn't a problem with the book) which made me hesitant on using them again due to the cost. Regardless of that, HG delivered the service they promised, with excellent customer care. I also don't know if they have managed to improve their ARC list since my last run with them in the autumn.
Part of what makes services like this follow Amazon's rules is that there is no way of guaranteeing how many reviews you'll get. Please do keep this in mind when reading statements of "generally 80% rates, unless there's a problem with the book."

All in all, this is the review service I recommend to authors who are struggling with building their own ARC list, as long as they do have a sizable launch budget.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on July 08, 2017, 02:20:25 PM
My first run was amazing, with an ~85% review rate. My second only hit about 60% (and no, there wasn't a problem with the book) which made me hesitant on using them again due to the cost. Regardless of that, HG delivered the service they promised, with excellent customer care. I also don't know if they have managed to improve their ARC list since my last run with them in the autumn.
Part of what makes services like this follow Amazon's rules is that there is no way of guaranteeing how many reviews you'll get. Please do keep this in mind when reading statements of "generally 80% rates, unless there's a problem with the book."

Hi Huldra - When you say last year, are you talking about literally last calendar year?  If so then it is possible because our overall review rates have been climbing steadily month by month, and we didn't start making the 80% claim until a few months ago when we were regularly hitting that number.  Prior to that we were advertising a lower overall average.  Still, it is an average and sometimes books are lower than that, and sometimes higher.. but if you are interested in having me look into it a bit deeper, feel free to shoot me a PM with your book name and I'll take a peek at what went on with that one in particular and see if I can shed any light or if it was just one of those things where we somehow sent it to a load of readers that just couldn't get to reviewing for a variety of reasons. 

If you ran it in 2016 then I can say things have definitely improved.  For example our Average for December 2016 was only 79% of reviews left, and I can see a few in the 60s.  But for May 2017 it was actually 89%.  So depending on how long ago you ran your books, that could definitely be the case.

I do appreciate your kind words about the service though, and definitely your recommendations.  And I am very serious about looking into your particular book details if you care to share, but if not no problem.  Either way, shoot me a PM if you're interested in giving us another try.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Ebook Itch on July 08, 2017, 02:27:14 PM
Another "competitor" here to say Hidden Gems is the real deal. We don't really offer ARC services anymore because Hidden Gems is doing such a great job. 

They were even able to deliver reviews on a book in a small sci-fi subgenre - LitRPG.

Good stuff. Recommended.



Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: ParkerAvrile on July 08, 2017, 02:45:20 PM
To those asking about LGBT reviews-- I have used Hidden Gems service when I was starting my new gay romance series earlier this year, and their reviewers were absolutely amazing. Would definitely use again and would recommend to anybody writing LGBT romance.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Huldra on July 08, 2017, 05:58:52 PM
Hi Huldra - When you say last year, are you talking about literally last calendar year?  If so then it is possible because our overall review rates have been climbing steadily month by month, and we didn't start making the 80% claim until a few months ago when we were regularly hitting that number.  Prior to that we were advertising a lower overall average.  Still, it is an average and sometimes books are lower than that, and sometimes higher.. but if you are interested in having me look into it a bit deeper, feel free to shoot me a PM with your book name and I'll take a peek at what went on with that one in particular and see if I can shed any light or if it was just one of those things where we somehow sent it to a load of readers that just couldn't get to reviewing for a variety of reasons. 

If you ran it in 2016 then I can say things have definitely improved.  For example our Average for December 2016 was only 79% of reviews left, and I can see a few in the 60s.  But for May 2017 it was actually 89%.  So depending on how long ago you ran your books, that could definitely be the case.

I do appreciate your kind words about the service though, and definitely your recommendations.  And I am very serious about looking into your particular book details if you care to share, but if not no problem.  Either way, shoot me a PM if you're interested in giving us another try.
Literally last calendar year, and the 60% fell within the range you gave back then, though in the lower end. No need to look into it, we even had a bit of an email conversation back then as part of your after-release round up.
I'm super pleased to hear you've gotten such a positive increase overall since then, that makes me much less hesitant with future books.

Unrelated btw - do you/can you ask reviewers to post on other vendors for wide books, as well as Amazon?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on July 08, 2017, 06:26:20 PM
Unrelated btw - do you/can you ask reviewers to post on other vendors for wide books, as well as Amazon?

I never have, but I have had the request once before.  Most authors are very Amazon centric so that's what we've always asked of our readers.  I'm not opposed to putting the request out there when we ask for reviews, but I haven't a clue how many would do it.  It would require them to have accounts on the other vendors, which I don't know how many of them have, and then to take the time to write the reviews on those vendors - and that may also then lower the number you get on Amazon, as some readers may not want to post on more than one... so it would be tough to judge the success of it after. 

I'm not opposed to it, but it would be very experimental. 

I think if I start to hear the request more and more, though, I may look to figure out how best to go about it.  Maybe build in a way for reviewers to indicate which stores they can leave reviews so that I can choose from them specifically if we get the request for reviews on other stores?  That's one though, anyway, but I think we'd need to build our subs list out a bit more before we'd do that.  And we did just launch a brand new backend system for sending books and logging reviews about a week or two ago, so I need to let that settle a bit first before we go and add any big changes.  But it is something I would think about formalizing, if the demand for it grows.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Travelian on July 08, 2017, 06:54:13 PM
I'm interested in using your service for a launch months down the road. Are your reviewers fine with receiving a Book Funnel link? Or do they need a printed book?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on July 09, 2017, 06:41:05 AM
I'm interested in using your service for a launch months down the road. Are your reviewers fine with receiving a Book Funnel link? Or do they need a printed book?

We don't do printed, but we also don't use Bookfunnel.  We host the book files directly and send the links only to those selected to read/review them, and then remove them once the ARC is completed.  So prior to your date, you would just need to send us MOBI and PDF files, EPUB as well, if possible.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: kninemark2 on July 09, 2017, 07:00:11 AM
So do these reviews all go as unverified?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on July 09, 2017, 07:09:45 AM
So do these reviews all go as unverified?
They'd have to, but I can't think of any ethical way to get around that. One of the review services I used in the past allowed Amazon gifting as an option for giving reviewers their free copy, but those don't show as verified purchase, either.

I haven't used Hidden Gems yet, but I'll try it for my next release. I figure ARCs I could generate myself wouldn't be verified, either.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Gwen Hayes on July 09, 2017, 08:17:57 AM
I used this service to help launch a new secret pen name last month and was very pleased with the quality and enthusiasm of the reviews. I have and would rec to my author friends. A lot of the reviewers signed up for my newsletter, too. I can only speak to the romance/new adult genre, but it was worth it. I chose max and got about 250 reviews. It really helped jump start the new pen.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Gabriella West on July 09, 2017, 12:32:09 PM
After reading all these great reports, I'm planning to use it as well. Gotta get the book done first!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: kninemark2 on July 09, 2017, 04:16:55 PM
They'd have to, but I can't think of any ethical way to get around that. One of the review services I used in the past allowed Amazon gifting as an option for giving reviewers their free copy, but those don't show as verified purchase, either.

I agree with what you are saying but i am just putting myself in reader mode and wondering if i would trust a book with say 150 unverified reviews.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: NeilMosspark on July 09, 2017, 05:33:30 PM
Signed up. Lets see where this goes.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on July 09, 2017, 06:42:33 PM
I agree with what you are saying but i am just putting myself in reader mode and wondering if i would trust a book with say 150 unverified reviews.

Yep, unless a reader goes and buys the book themselves before leaving the review (which I have seen a couple people say that they did in their comments to the authors), they will show up as unverified.  But that is true of any ARC program and even the ARC copies that authors send out to their own lists.  There's no way around it. 

However, here's my 2 cents FWIW.  First, even reviews from borrowers (through KU) show up as unverified, so personally I don't put a lot of stock in that label.  I mean, you pay for a KU membership and you borrow all the books you want to read... the author still gets paid for the pages you read, just like a sale, so why shouldn't THOSE reviews be verified?  But more importantly, when I put myself in the mind of most readers (myself included long before I started this service), when I look at a book (or any product) and consider the reviews I just really look at the overall count and score.  So like, 120 reviews with an average for 4.3.  Or 56 with an average of 2.9.  Those are the important numbers to me.. oh, that many people read the book and liked/didn't like it?  More often than not, that's enough for me to make my decision (to the extent that reviews were helping make it, at least).  It is on only the rare occasions where I bother to scroll down and actually read the reviews.  I mean, I did it sometimes, but not most of the time, and I imagine that's similar for many buyers.  And it's only when you do THAT, that the verified/unverified numbers come into play.

Anyway, take that as you will. That's my view on it, but others may agree or disagree - or maybe even consider me biased. Truth is, I AM biased, but that honestly is MY experience.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Tstarnes on July 18, 2017, 10:33:37 AM
I recently used this service.  I will say that it seems their number of 70% of the estimate they give for the number of reviews looks right.  They delivered exactly what they said they would.

I will through out one caveat.  In my test at least, a high % of those reviews were a single sentence or just a couple of short sentences, followed by "I received an advance reader copy for an honest review" or something like that.  In some cases the "i received a copy" line is longer than the actual text of the review. (although I will say in their favor the one sentences do show the person actually read all or most of the book, so there's that)

If this is your sole outlet for reviews, I would caution what that would look like if that is all you have.

(Again, this was a single test.  I might try them again for a book in a different genre when my sci-fi book comes out and see if that gives different returns.  It could just be something with Thriller/Suspense readers)
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bards and Sages (Julie) on July 18, 2017, 12:32:00 PM
There is a difference between paying for reviews and paying someone to administer your review program. Paying a reviewer for a review is unethical and not only a violation of Amazon's TOS, but potentially a violation of FTC rules regarding endorsements. Paying someone to identify potential reviewers for you and send out the review copies for you is an administrative function, no different than if I had a clerk in my building hand mailing books to reviewers.

That said, my primary gripe here is the same gripe I have with most review services. It isn't really a review service so much as a "pay us to give your book for free to thousands of mostly unqualified people who aren't actually recognized reviewers but will probably leave a one line review on Amazon."

With a service like NetGalley, I know who the reviewers are. I can visit their blogs or websites, read their other reviews. I can make sure I am sending books to people who actually fit my target demographic. (Disclaimer, I also happen to be a NetGalley reviewer and went through the approval process). With the vast majority of these services, the only real qualifier is "I want free books and double pinky swear to leave reviews."  It is nice that this service says that it culls inactive reviewers, but at the end of the day the only real "benefit" to these services is a volume of low-content reviews specifically on Amazon. And considering the enormous pushback consumers are starting to have when they see hundreds of unverified one-line reviews on books, I don't know how much of a benefit this is.

Part of the problem for me is that I guess I am "old school" and I differentiate between "customer reviews" and "editorial reviews." I don't see most ARC programs are reaching reviewers but instead just giving away thousands of free books in the hopes for Amazon customer reviews, which really only mean anything on Amazon. And I honestly feel this fixation with QUANTITY of Amazon reviews is the root of the majority of scam issues on Amazon now. (No, I didn't call THIS service a scam. I am talking about the relentless need for quantity of reviews in the minds of too many authors).

I just personally wish there was a service out there like a NetGalley for indie authors, where I knew that I was reaching actual reviewers with online presences and their own followers who provided real editorial reviews that serve a purpose outside the Amazon ecosystem.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Tstarnes on July 18, 2017, 12:44:30 PM
I will say this service isn't, or at least doesn't seem like 'Pay to give your book to thousands'.  Before I sent them a copy, they told me 20 people had agreed to read the book after they reached out with the cover, blurb, etc.

Of those 20, 13 so far have left reviews.  So I'm not sure this is a 'thousands of free copies'.  Also, not all of them were 1 line, with the bulk being a couple of short sentences (maybe 50 to 100 words if you include the disclaimer text).  I will say they were shorter than I expected.

It would be nice if I they had web pretenses and were putting out reviews on blogs, but the reviews are, for the most part, not that type of review.  even the longer ones are much shorter and less detailed that the full review you'd see on most book blogs.

If you already have some good reviews, this is a good way to fill out with more reviews however.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Gwen Hayes on July 18, 2017, 12:52:19 PM
I suspect it depends on the genre you write in also. The reviews I got for my other pen name were very enthusiastic and much more than one line. They def. talked about what made them like the book. My book was contemporary new adult romance. And I got well over 200 and most of them posted the first few days of my launch. The bonus was that a lot of the reviewers signed up for my mailing list as well, and followed me on social media.

But I have noticed that the new adult genre reader is very vocal and excited. Most books in that genre have happy reviewers. It was very much worth it for me, as a new pen name, to get in front of all the new eyes.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Silly Writer on July 18, 2017, 01:09:15 PM
Very interesting... I must live under a rock because I've never even heard of a review service.

That said, when I published my first novel back in 2013, I used a blog tour for the cost of $150 bucks and got a half-dozen (maybe a few more?) really long, thought-out reviews. Most were very positive, some not so positive.

Also, those reviews were cross-posted to GoodReads at the prompting of the Blog organizer.

The pro's of blog tours over this (please correct me if I'm wrong), is that the bloggers are followed by readers. So if they review your book they also post it up on their blog for the readers to see the book and their review, which could result in sales (and for me, it did!).

The cons of a blog tour versus this service seem to be less reviews for the money, and that few weeks where they're reading your book you're sweating like bullets, cuz when they post a bad review, it's a doozie  :'( and they usually have HUGE followings on GoodReads.



Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Tstarnes on July 18, 2017, 01:15:10 PM
The cons of a blog tour versus this service seem to be less reviews for the money, and that few weeks where they're reading your book you're sweating like bullets, cuz when they post a bad review, it's a doozie  :'( and they usually have HUGE followings on GoodReads.

Also review blogs have gotten less and less readership as more of them spring up. I've done one blog tour and was not wow'd by the response I got.  I ended up with a small handful of reviews but little else (including little change in sales).  For the money they charge, it just isn't worth it.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: N. D. Iverson on July 18, 2017, 01:24:31 PM
I've just used this company for the first time. They said 35 people signed up to receive my new UF book.

The book was just released today (finally!) and so far I've gotten 6 ARC reviews directly from their service. Almost all good, except for the one just posted. It's for a completely different book! The reviewer must have so many ARC reviews going that she posted it to the wrong book :( I've reported it to Amazon, but I have a feeling they won't be removing it...
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Tstarnes on July 18, 2017, 01:49:27 PM
A person can remove their own review.  Couldn't you contact Hidden Gems, and have them reach out to the person and fix it?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: N. D. Iverson on July 18, 2017, 02:01:38 PM
A person can remove their own review.  Couldn't you contact Hidden Gems, and have them reach out to the person and fix it?

I just contacted them now, but that's a lot of reviewers to sift through to find one person.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Tstarnes on July 18, 2017, 02:11:27 PM
They have the reviewers log the reviews with them so they know how many submitted, so I bet they'll be able to track it down.  And my experience with them so far was a fairly quick and responsive customer service.  I guarantee you'll have better luck going through them than Amazon, who rarely ever get back to anyone for anything.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: N. D. Iverson on July 18, 2017, 02:22:43 PM
They have the reviewers log the reviews with them so they know how many submitted, so I bet they'll be able to track it down.  And my experience with them so far was a fairly quick and responsive customer service.  I guarantee you'll have better luck going through them than Amazon, who rarely ever get back to anyone for anything.

You are 100% right. Hidden Gems has already replied and will send off an email to the reviewer asking them to remove their review and put it on the correct book. Great customer service!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on July 19, 2017, 02:34:17 PM
You are 100% right. Hidden Gems has already replied and will send off an email to the reviewer asking them to remove their review and put it on the correct book. Great customer service!

Did they end up fixing the review?  If not I'll reach out to them again.  They never responded to me but they may have gone back and removed or fixed it.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: N. D. Iverson on July 19, 2017, 03:27:01 PM
Did they end up fixing the review?  If not I'll reach out to them again.  They never responded to me but they may have gone back and removed or fixed it.

They did, thank you.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Laura Rae Amos on July 19, 2017, 03:54:05 PM
Is this only for pre-published books? I am interested in finding reviewers for my most recent novel, but it's been published for a few months now.

Also, for your women's literature genre, would that be closer to literary fiction or chick lit?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on July 19, 2017, 08:58:59 PM
Is this only for pre-published books? I am interested in finding reviewers for my most recent novel, but it's been published for a few months now.

Also, for your women's literature genre, would that be closer to literary fiction or chick lit?

We do prepublished or already published, completely up to you.  Some authors just like to get more reviews for a book that is already published.  It's very common.

As to the genre - we can always send it to more than one list if it fits in more than one. People that are interested will sign up.  So it could go to both - just mention that in your order or shoot us an email after ordering or something and we'll make it happen.

Thanks!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on August 02, 2017, 08:00:03 AM
I've been very satisfied with my Hidden Gems run on an already published book. The most important things about review services are honesty and productivity. HG scores well on both.

HG reviewers seem to be reacting honestly and definitely produce a range of rankings rather than an artificial looking five-star clump. Some of them are very brief, but others take the time to explain their reasoning. They have about the same variety I've seen in  organic reviews for high-selling books.

HG reviewers also do produce reviews. Every single potential reviewer who asked for a copy hasn't left a review so far, but that's never going to be the case with an honest operation. I started with 22 reviews and now, with reviews still trickling in, I have 45. Considering that HG is still building its reviewer list in fantasy, that isn't bad! It's also possible that more will come in over time.

I've tried other review services. There are some other honest ones, but in recent times (after the $50 purchase before reviewing requirement), others haven't been producing very well. I suspect a lot of the people in their review pools were people who interacted with Amazon primarily by posting reviews on books for which they'd received free copies. (These days, it doesn't take that much to hit $50 in total purchases.) Obviously, HG has managed to pull in reviewers who are also regular Amazon customers.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: DougLawless on August 02, 2017, 08:39:09 AM
It is inspiring to me that competitors of this company stepped in to offer words of encouragement. That is the kind of "rising tide lifts all boats" philosophy that pops up every now and then and reminds me that not all people are terrible monsters.

I'm just getting my feet wet in self-publishing and have not considered spending money on these kinds of services. I'm getting a little impatient with the organic approach however, so I expect I'll give these folks a try soon.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on August 02, 2017, 10:08:10 AM
It is inspiring to me that competitors of this company stepped in to offer words of encouragement. That is the kind of "rising tide lifts all boats" philosophy that pops up every now and then and reminds me that not all people are terrible monsters.

I'm just getting my feet wet in self-publishing and have not considered spending money on these kinds of services. I'm getting a little impatient with the organic approach however, so I expect I'll give these folks a try soon.
Reviews are kind of a chicken-egg problem. In my limited experience, organic reviews accumulate fast when a book is selling well. If a book is selling slowly, as most of them do, reviews tend to accumulate much more slowly. My first book had ten reviews after its first year. My most recent novel had 22 after three months--because it was selling much more quickly.  The problem is that readers are more likely to take a serious look if the book has some reviews. That's not necessarily true of new books, but if a book has been sitting there for two years and has none, that does send a message.

That said, on a limited budget, the first priority is book quality: editing, cover design, that kind of thing. Second is advertising, of which review accumulation is only one component. If you have the money to encourage reviews through an ethical middleman, it's definitely worthwhile, but with a very limited budget, it's not the first place to start.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: DougLawless on August 02, 2017, 11:22:32 AM
Excellent advice, I've no doubt. Thanks Bill!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: skylarker1 on August 02, 2017, 02:26:43 PM
I sent my latest young YA fantasy book to Hidden Gems. It's not one of the popular categories, so they only found 10 reviewers for me, but nine out of ten have already posted reviews! A better proportion than I'd dared anticipate.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Brian Tormanen on August 02, 2017, 10:05:01 PM
Anyone do zompoc with HG? Get many reviews?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on August 03, 2017, 11:34:31 AM
Anyone do zompoc with HG? Get many reviews?

Hi Brian - So I can answer that, since I've seen all the books that have come through.  We've actually never had a Zombie Apocalypse book offered before. 

I would say, though, that the way our service works the number of reviews you get back should still fall within the same general percentages that we usually get - on average, which is around 80%.  So even if we only sent it out to 10, that would hopefully get you back at least 8 reviews.  The question is - how many could we find for it??

That I can't answer. But on the positive side, there's really not much risk for you.  Even if you book the minimum of 50 readers - if only 10 sign up, that's all you pay for. So really, it's just figuring out which book genre to offer the book to.  My guess would be something like Science Fiction?  Or maybe Thriller?  Both?  I mean, as long as your description of the book is obvious what it's about, even if the genre list we send it to isn't exactly perfect, only people that are interested in it will sign up - so it shouldn't matter that much.

Anyway - let me know if you have any other questions.  Happy to help, and always interested to try out a new type of book on our readers!

HG
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Brian Tormanen on August 03, 2017, 12:27:35 PM
Hi Brian - So I can answer that, since I've seen all the books that have come through.  We've actually never had a Zombie Apocalypse book offered before. 

I would say, though, that the way our service works the number of reviews you get back should still fall within the same general percentages that we usually get - on average, which is around 80%.  So even if we only sent it out to 10, that would hopefully get you back at least 8 reviews.  The question is - how many could we find for it??

That I can't answer. But on the positive side, there's really not much risk for you.  Even if you book the minimum of 50 readers - if only 10 sign up, that's all you pay for. So really, it's just figuring out which book genre to offer the book to.  My guess would be something like Science Fiction?  Or maybe Thriller?  Both?  I mean, as long as your description of the book is obvious what it's about, even if the genre list we send it to isn't exactly perfect, only people that are interested in it will sign up - so it shouldn't matter that much.

Anyway - let me know if you have any other questions.  Happy to help, and always interested to try out a new type of book on our readers!

HG


Thank you. Good to know and will keep you in mind.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kay7979 on August 09, 2017, 05:02:31 AM
Could someone describe the mechanics of how this works? I understand Hidden Gems hosts the file on their site and then distributes the book to potential reviewers. In what format does one submit the book? PDF? MOBI? etc. Do they convert it to other formats according to what the reviewers need?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on August 09, 2017, 08:18:45 AM
Could someone describe the mechanics of how this works? I understand Hidden Gems hosts the file on their site and then distributes the book to potential reviewers. In what format does one submit the book? PDF? MOBI? etc. Do they convert it to other formats according to what the reviewers need?
You upload a PDF and a mobi. They also ask for an epub if you have it. They don't do conversions, which kind of makes sense, because checking that the file converted correctly creates a whole extra process.

For the PDF, I just used the one I used for my paperback. For the mobi, I used the file I downloaded during the preview process on KDP. For the epub, I created one via Vellum. Scrivener also does flawless epub conversions. If you have neither, there seem to be online mobi to epub conversion services for free, but I'd check the output before uploading to Hidden Gems. You can open epubs in the free Adobe Digital Editions.

Apparently, mobi and PDF are there most popular requests, but not having an epub might eliminate a few potential readers.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kay7979 on August 09, 2017, 03:10:19 PM
You upload a PDF and a mobi. They also ask for an epub if you have it. They don't do conversions, which kind of makes sense, because checking that the file converted correctly creates a whole extra process.

For the PDF, I just used the one I used for my paperback. For the mobi, I used the file I downloaded during the preview process on KDP. For the epub, I created one via Vellum. Scrivener also does flawless epub conversions. If you have neither, there seem to be online mobi to epub conversion services for free, but I'd check the output before uploading to Hidden Gems. You can open epubs in the free Adobe Digital Editions.

Apparently, mobi and PDF are there most popular requests, but not having an epub might eliminate a few potential readers.

Thanks so much. That's exactly what I needed to know. I'm considering doing this but I'm not sure which book. Book 2 only has a dozen reviews and book 1 has 35.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on August 11, 2017, 02:08:42 PM
Thanks so much. That's exactly what I needed to know. I'm considering doing this but I'm not sure which book. Book 2 only has a dozen reviews and book 1 has 35.

Hi Kay - if you only want to ARC one of the two, and they're standalone (despite being a series), then I would probably go with book 2 for a variety of reasons.  PM me if you'd like to discuss more, I'd be happy to give you some more indepth reasoning or answer any other questions you have.  Thanks!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Crime fighters on August 11, 2017, 02:29:45 PM
In January or February, I'm planning on launching the first three books of a series on the same day. It's a series of standalone novels in the same small town with overlapping characters. If I wanted to use Hidden Gems for all three books, would it be better to schedule them as close to possible? Perhaps the same day if possible, or schedule them with a little bit of a break in between? I'd imagine the first two will appeal to a broader audience and the third, being M/M would appeal to a slightly different audience with overlap.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on August 11, 2017, 08:41:41 PM
In January or February, I'm planning on launching the first three books of a series on the same day. It's a series of standalone novels in the same small town with overlapping characters. If I wanted to use Hidden Gems for all three books, would it be better to schedule them as close to possible? Perhaps the same day if possible, or schedule them with a little bit of a break in between? I'd imagine the first two will appeal to a broader audience and the third, being M/M would appeal to a slightly different audience with overlap.

I take it you aren't releasing them as a bundle, right?  If you were, that would be easiest - just 1 ARC for the whole bundle.  If not, then it's hard to say as I haven't done something like that before - I can see pros and cons with doing them close and spreading them out.  First of all, all on the same day won't work as we generally only schedule 1 book per genre per day.  On rare occasions we may run 2 if there is enough disparity between them (like one is MM and one is contemporary, for example), but I try not to do that very often and even less now that we are running so many genres (because it means we're already doing more than 1 book a day and a lot of people are in multiple genres, so I don't want to split the audiences too much so that we have enough readers for everyone's book).

So if you were to do them all on successive days, for example, I can see that being ideal because you want all your reviews as close to publication date as possible, but the problem with that is that not everyone reads that fast, so will some people just not sign up for all 3 because they don't think they can read the whole set that quickly and all at once?   Ideally, I would say you wait at least 4 or 5 days in between, but then that means by book 3 your reviews won't come in until almost a couple weeks after publication (if people wait until the due date).

And if people miss the first book, will they want to read the 2nd or 3rd?  Depends on if they're stand alone or not.  If not, what I sometimes suggest is that people include the earlier books in the same file with the later ones, for people coming into the ARC midway through the series.  So the ARC for book 2 would include book 1, and the ARC for book 3 would include books 1 and 2.  Just for people to catch up.  Less important if they're standalone, though.

Anyway, if you want to PM or email me and discuss further, I'd be happy to.  Thanks!

Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on August 12, 2017, 10:08:43 AM
Thanks so much. That's exactly what I needed to know. I'm considering doing this but I'm not sure which book. Book 2 only has a dozen reviews and book 1 has 35.
If it were me, I would do both. I'd do book 1 first, even though it has more reviews, and then do book 2. I say this because I've done something similar with other services. Books in an even remotely sequential series benefit from having reviewers who've read the first book as reviewers of the second. Running both books through the service increases the possibility of book 2 reviews from people who've read book 1. (That also reduces the chance of those "I didn't understand what was going on," kind of book 2 reviews.) Readers who liked book 1 are particularly likely to request book 2 when it comes up.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: JsFan on August 12, 2017, 11:02:01 AM
They'd have to, but I can't think of any ethical way to get around that. One of the review services I used in the past allowed Amazon gifting as an option for giving reviewers their free copy, but those don't show as verified purchase, either.

Is it unethical to make a book free and then direct interested reviewers to its Amazon page? I don't like having to click two or more times to read unverified reviews.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kay7979 on August 23, 2017, 02:33:54 PM
If it were me, I would do both. I'd do book 1 first, even though it has more reviews, and then do book 2. I say this because I've done something similar with other services. Books in an even remotely sequential series benefit from having reviewers who've read the first book as reviewers of the second. Running both books through the service increases the possibility of book 2 reviews from people who've read book 1. (That also reduces the chance of those "I didn't understand what was going on," kind of book 2 reviews.) Readers who liked book 1 are particularly likely to request book 2 when it comes up.

Very good advice, Bill, and that's what I did. I started with book 1 and may submit 2 later, and eventually 3 this fall.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kay7979 on August 23, 2017, 02:45:56 PM
I took the plunge. It's now day seven since submitting my book, and reviews are pouring in. I have a number of good things to say about this service. The owner is extremely helpful and responsive. The service is totally on the level. You will get reviews that run the gamut from 2 star- this book didn't hold my interest, to 5 star, this book is fabulous and so original! Some reviews are super short, others are more comprehensive, but out of the pile you're sure to get some useful feedback. One of the best things is that Hidden Gems is FAST. If you have an upcoming book launch, and you need a few reviews so you don't launch to crickets, this is the way to go. I have a handful of my own ARC folks, and I give them a month to review. Even so, some struggle to finish.

As far as I am concerned, this is money well spent. If you're on the fence, give it a try. I doubt you'll regret it.   
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on August 24, 2017, 06:15:50 AM
As far as I am concerned, this is money well spent. If you're on the fence, give it a try. I doubt you'll regret it.   

Thanks Kay, it was a pleasure working with you and hopefully we can run your future books.  I know our reviewers would love to read them.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Mylius Fox on August 24, 2017, 06:29:43 AM
I'd just like to chime in to say this service is amazing.  8) My only regret is not having found out about it soon enough to have the reviews appear on launch day. :D I'm really looking forward to using them again with my next novel. The reviews were nearly all comprehensive, honest, and thoughtful. I think maybe only one came in which was just an obvious rewrite of my blurb, which kind of gave it a bad vibe until the other reviews came in, but I understood my genre is new to their services, and that it takes time to see which new reviewers are actually reading and reviewing on their own or not.
I was also happy to see at least one reviewer sign up for my mailing list, simply because they liked the story for its own sake and wanted more in the future. :)

So thanks, HiddenGems, you're really onto something here! :)
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on August 24, 2017, 10:46:11 AM
I'd just like to chime in to say this service is amazing.  8) My only regret is not having found out about it soon enough to have the reviews appear on launch day. :D

Well, glad you found us eventually.  Better late than never.  But really, although we've been doing ARCs for about 2 years, we only started doing non-romance ARCs recently, so word is only just starting to get out about us. 

Thank you for the kind words and we look forward to working with you on your next book - for launch day.

Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: kspen on August 24, 2017, 03:33:21 PM
I'm curious about the 50 review minimum. I'm working on my first novel and I'll confess that I'm attracted to the idea of having a few reviews available at launch if for no other reason than to show that what I've written is at least coherent enough for someone to read all the way through -- but I shudder at the thought of having 40+ unverified reviews all posted at once on a product that has no organic activity whatsoever. There are diminishing returns on each additional review, and that's doubly true for reviews such as these which are inherently low quality. My instinct is that each unverified ARC review beyond the tenth probably has little value, and quite possibly negative value. Am I wrong about this? I've only stumbled across one book that's used this service, and it's not selling hardly at all. And FakeSpot flagged all of its reviews as unreliable, meaning that it will likely be stuck with an F grade in perpetuity. I'm not sure I'd want to deal with that downside even if I could get the reviews for free.

Also, this is on your website:

Quote
Influence your Amazon rank Ė Amazonís exact algorithm for determining book rank is a closely guarded secret, but there are many that believe that the number of reviews a book has, how quickly they came in, as well as other factors, have a direct influence on rank. An increase in rank means more visibility as you get onto top lists, and more visibility leads back to more sales

Is there any basis for this claim? This is the first I've heard of any suggestion that the bestseller rank takes into account anything other than actual sales activity, and what I've quoted is written in a particularly weaselly way. I do respect the way that you guys have operated your business in general, but that line in your FAQ strikes me as dishonest (unless I'm missing something).
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on August 24, 2017, 05:10:25 PM
I'm curious about the 50 review minimum. I'm working on my first novel and I'll confess that I'm attracted to the idea of having a few reviews available at launch if for no other reason than to show that what I've written is at least coherent enough for someone to read all the way through -- but I shudder at the thought of having 40+ unverified reviews all posted at once on a product that has no organic activity whatsoever. There are diminishing returns on each additional review, and that's doubly true for reviews such as these which are inherently low quality. My instinct is that each unverified ARC review beyond the tenth probably has little value, and quite possibly negative value. Am I wrong about this? I've only stumbled across one book that's used this service, and it's not selling hardly at all. And FakeSpot flagged all of its reviews as unreliable, meaning that it will likely be stuck with an F grade in perpetuity. I'm not sure I'd want to deal with that downside even if I could get the reviews for free.
Kspen, the comments below are based on my experience with the service and may not be the same experience everyone has.

Unless you're in romance, you probably aren't going to get 50 reviews anyway; you're only charged for the number of people who actually requests the book, and the other genres generally don't yet have big enough lists.

Also, there will be a burst of reviews for sure, but they don't all appear at the same time, and some will trickle in long after. I think it would be more of a problem if they were all five-star--that would really look suspect--but they aren't. Kay and I both had the same experience, which is that they range from two-star to five-star. My average was about four-star. Yes, some of them are brief, but so are some of my verified purchase reviews. Some of them are also longer. I found the nature of the reviews closely mirrored the organic ones I'd gotten on the same book. (I used for the relaunch of a slightly revised book, not for the initial release.)

As for fakespot, it's guesstimating disguised as science. Some authors on these boards have said they leave exactly the kind of reviews that fakespot assumes are fake, I guess because of brevity. Anyway, I doubt very many readers are going to check on fakespot unless something looks really fishy.

The line you drew from the FAQ about reviews affecting ranking is somewhat suspect. It is true that no one knows the formula for sure, but the statistically minded among us who have studied the issue have generally not seen a correlation between reviews and ranking. It probably would be better if they dropped that line.

That one line aside, Hidden Gems appears ethical to me. Their ARCs are very similar, both in quality and in ranking spread, to my organic reviews for the same book.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: kspen on August 24, 2017, 08:04:10 PM
Thank you for your reply. I think my main question may have gotten lost -- what I'd really like to know is if those additional reviews actually help generate sales. Putting myself in the shoes of someone who doesn't know anything about where the ARC reviewers came from, I think I'd be pretty skeptical of those reviews... unless they are negative. So to some extent, it almost seems like a no-win situation for the author. But I'd like to keep an open mind, since people don't always behave the way I expect.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Becca Mills on August 24, 2017, 08:24:42 PM
Thank you for your reply. I think my main question may have gotten lost -- what I'd really like to know is if those additional reviews actually help generate sales. Putting myself in the shoes of someone who doesn't know anything about where the ARC reviewers came from, I think I'd be pretty skeptical of those reviews... unless they are negative. So to some extent, it almost seems like a no-win situation for the author. But I'd like to keep an open mind, since people don't always behave the way I expect.

I don't think anyone knows for sure whether/how reviews help sales. Whenever we debate that point, people take a variety of positions. The one certainty is that a number of promotional sites won't accept books that don't have a minimum number of reviews, so getting reviews right after release can allow a book to be promoted more vigorously before it hits those no-longer-new cliffs.

Your earlier point about reviews not factoring into rank is correct (unless things have changed recently). I wouldn't go so far as to slap "weaselly" and "dishonest" on there as descriptors. There's a lot of misinformation and rumor floating around when it comes to reviews. It's easy just to be mistaken.

Welcome to KBoards, BTW. :)
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on August 24, 2017, 08:52:14 PM
Hi Kspen - thanks for your email.  I'm happy to talk about all of these points honestly here, but I know that there will be a perception that I'm biased so I understand that you may or may not take my opinions seriously.  I completely understand that. It's the internet and no one really knows anyone, however I think that most people that have dealt with me have probably (hopefully) come away with the feeling that I'm always being up front and genuine.

I'm curious about the 50 review minimum. I'm working on my first novel and I'll confess that I'm attracted to the idea of having a few reviews available at launch if for no other reason than to show that what I've written is at least coherent enough for someone to read all the way through -- but I shudder at the thought of having 40+ unverified reviews all posted at once on a product that has no organic activity whatsoever.

Mostly, that's a business decision.  There is a lot of work and cost that goes into running an ARC program like this, and each book requires a certain amount of time and resources.  For me to do all of that work for only 10 reviews just wouldn't be worth it, quite honestly.  I mean, unless I raised prices or reduced my level of service, but those are both things that I would rather not do.  So I do understand that that minimum may put some people off and I accept that as a necessary tradeoff.  I also have a lot of reviewers subscribed to my service (about 7000 across all genres) and although only a small subset of that sign up for each book (based on interest, time, genre segmentation, etc), even 50 often leaves many readers disappointed in not getting the book. 

There are diminishing returns on each additional review, and that's doubly true for reviews such as these which are inherently low quality. My instinct is that each unverified ARC review beyond the tenth probably has little value, and quite possibly negative value. Am I wrong about this?

I guess this is the biggest point that I disagree with here, but it's also the one where both of us would really be talking more about opinion than fact.  I don't agree that our reviews are of low quality, and many other authors that have used our service have posted similarly in this thread and elsewhere.  Obviously some reviews will be of higher quality than others - I don't dispute that.  Some reviewers are more verbose and enthusiastic about their reviews in general, sometimes about the particular book. You're going to find a wide range and mix.  But in my opinion our reviews are very similar in quality, on average, to any other reviews I've seen on other books not ARCed by us. 

In terms of your instinct on the negative value of multiple unverified reviews, I disagree with that as well and quite honestly, that's the first time I've heard that assessment.  I'm not saying it's right or wrong, I don't have an answer but MY instinct is the opposite.  It's always been my opinion that with books (because of their mass consumption by individuals and relatively low cost in comparison to other things), readers in general don't pay a lot of attention to whether reviews are verified or unverified.  I think the thing that MOST readers pay attention to are the stars directly beneath the title of the book.  They look at the total number and the average.  Of course there are exceptions, there will always be people that want to dig deeper, but as I said, I think the majority of readers really don't.  They might scroll down to read a few of the top rated reviews, but my guess is very few of them go any further than that.  But again - just my opinion.  I think that if people see a large number of reviews, they likely see that as social proof that the book is worth reading. Assuming that the overall average of those reviews isn't a really low number, at least.

Judging by the number of authors that choose to send their book to more than 50 reviewers (most of them), I think that most authors agree with me on that point.  At least the ones looking for help getting those reviews - so that could just be selection bias.

I've only stumbled across one book that's used this service, and it's not selling hardly at all. And FakeSpot flagged all of its reviews as unreliable, meaning that it will likely be stuck with an F grade in perpetuity. I'm not sure I'd want to deal with that downside even if I could get the reviews for free.

There are plenty of factors involved in whether a book sells or not and simply having reviews isn't going to make or break any book.  We've done ARCs for over 500 books at this point.  Some have hit top 20 in the store, some have had a rank in the hundreds of thousands. And I take no credit for either of those. Reviews are just one part of an overall marketing strategy that every author determines for themselves.  Do I think that they help?  Yes, I do. But mostly in a comparison sense.  If there are 2 books of equal interest to someone and one has 100 very positive reviews and another has no reviews or just a handful, I think more readers would, at the very least, click first on the one with many reviews to see what all the buzz is about. And getting them to look deeper at your book is the first step to making a sale. So everything you can do to get them there is worth it, in my opinion.

As for Fakespot - I don't know much about them or what they do or how they judge. If they're biased towards verified reviews, as I would suspect is likely, then yes - I expect that any ARC reviewed book would end up with a low score - including those sent out by authors to their own lists.  Does that make the reviews fake?  Not in my opinion.  If Fakespot identifies legit reviews as fake simply because they're unverified, then I think that's pretty questionable.  But again, I don't know if they're doing that. All I know is that our reviews are all by real readers, so if Fakespot calls those reviews fake then it would make me question the legitimacy of their algorithms.

Also, this is on your website:
Is there any basis for this claim? This is the first I've heard of any suggestion that the bestseller rank takes into account anything other than actual sales activity, and what I've quoted is written in a particularly weaselly way. I do respect the way that you guys have operated your business in general, but that line in your FAQ strikes me as dishonest (unless I'm missing something).

That FAQ was written over a year ago, so I don't know specifically where I heard that at the time, although I have definitely heard it from authors now and again in different forums I frequent as something that some suspect to be the case.  I just did a quick google search, actually, and found a number of articles that discuss the idea that reviews may affect ranking however they now say that the theory is that "verified" reviews affect ranking.  So it could be that the prevailing wisdom (such that it is, given that it's really just a guess either way) has changed since I first wrote that.  Perhaps those changes came after Amazon's latest crackdown on unverified reviews on most products.  But given that, I agree, I should probably alter that line so thank you for bringing it to my attention.  Sometimes things slip away from me.

I do still think that there can be an indirect cause and affect towards rank, though, based on the idea of social proof of having many reviews leading to a more likely click on your book over someone else's. I have read some theories that this CTR alone can increase your rank but again, I don't know how much basis in fact there is to that. But if those clicks lead to more sales, then that would definitely increase your rank.  Still, that's a much more round-about way to increase your rank than what I have in my FAQ now so I do agree it should (will) be changed.  Probably tomorrow, as it's getting late.

Anyway, hopefully you don't mind the lengthy response here and maybe I've covered some of your questions/concerns - I'm not sure.  Definitely our service isn't for everyone, but I think most authors just figure out an overall marketing strategy that makes sense to them and for some, having a lot of honest reviews is the way to go. For others it isn't.  I don't think either way is more right or wrong because I think every book is different, and there is no one right path to success.

We just happen to service those that believe that having reviews on their book is a helpful strategy. But I do appreciate the comments as I'm always open to improving both our service, and our messaging.  Thanks.

HG
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Book Cat on August 25, 2017, 03:21:55 AM
Hi

I'm not sure if I just missed it, but what are your prices for this service? I saw the USD $20 deposit requirement, but not the cost of the service. I see through reading the comments in this thread that you par per review left (I understand you're not paying people for the review just for them to read it and hopefully leave a review), is that correct? If so, how much is it per review?

Thanks.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on August 25, 2017, 06:16:23 AM
I'm not sure if I just missed it, but what are your prices for this service? I saw the USD $20 deposit requirement, but not the cost of the service. I see through reading the comments in this thread that you par per review left (I understand you're not paying people for the review just for them to read it and hopefully leave a review), is that correct? If so, how much is it per review?

It's in our FAQ, but you pay per reviewer that we send the book to, not per review as we cannot guarantee a specific number of reviews since they're honest and voluntary.  All we can do is maintain a list of reviewers that are avid readers of each genre and typically leave reviews, and as such our average number of reviews left is over 80% per book.  So if we send your book to 100 reviewers, on average you'll get back about 80 reviews.  Some get less, some get more.  I don't think I've seen anyone get less than 50%, and it's rare to get even near that number, and some books get 100%, but the average is over the 80% mark.  Generally most of those reviews will be in within about 2 weeks of sending your book out, with most of them coming in around the one week mark when reviews are "due".  But some readers are slower readers or things come up, etc.  If your book is live when we send it out we include the links, so faster readers often get their reviews in well before the one week mark.  We charge $2 per reviewer but cap the price once you order 150 or more reviewers.  However, as Bill stated above, for many genres we don't have as many reviewers so we can't always deliver the number ordered - in which case we only charge for the number that do sign up, even if it's less than our 50 minimum. 

We started with Romance so that's our biggest pool, but we're growing all of them now.  Unless the book is very fringe, even our smallest genres usually get at least 10-20 people signing up, and lately we've been getting closer to 30-50 in a few of them.  Fantasy can sometimes find 100 sign ups, depending on the book, Erotica more than that, etc.  We did our first Children's book last week and had I think about 50 sign up for that (marketed to our reviewers more for parents to read to/with their kids).

Each book we send out to a genre includes the cover and info about the book, so all sign ups are voluntary based on interest level and time by the reviewer for that book.  That's why even though we may have 1000 people in a specific genre, we might only be able to send out to about 20 if that's all that signed up for it.  That helps keep our percentages high, as well as gives you a better chance at finding readers pre-disposed to liking your specific book - not a guarantee of course - but at least you don't have someone in scifi that hates reading about spaceships getting your newest space opera, or whatever.

Anyway, hope that helps but let me know if you have any other questions.
HG
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on August 25, 2017, 08:59:30 AM
Thank you for your reply. I think my main question may have gotten lost -- what I'd really like to know is if those additional reviews actually help generate sales. Putting myself in the shoes of someone who doesn't know anything about where the ARC reviewers came from, I think I'd be pretty skeptical of those reviews... unless they are negative. So to some extent, it almost seems like a no-win situation for the author. But I'd like to keep an open mind, since people don't always behave the way I expect.
Sorry about not responding to your main question. You could have a point, though I think sometimes we as authors are more sensitive to some issues than the average reader is.

Most of my friends are readers. A lot of them don't even know what self-publishing is. (I don't talk about my own writing with friends unless they ask.) Most of them glance at reviews, but hardly anyone I know seriously analyzes them. People who buy a book with high reviews that turns out to be terrible may become more skeptical, but I think most buyers pay enough attention to product description and Look Inside that they'll spot some red flags despite the reviews.

As I said in my previous post, aside from the disclosure statement, the ARC reviews look pretty much like my organic reviews on the same book, so I don't see an automatically skeptical reaction as being that likely.

As Becca says, no one really knows how much impact reviews actually have. I did read on some forum post a few months back that purchases are three times as likely to click buy on a book with fifty reviews than on one with no reviews, but I'm not sure what the source of that information is. Personally, I don't expect a brand-new book to have a lot a reviews, but if one does that certainly isn't a turnoff for me. It's only when the product description and Look Inside create a different impression that I worry.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kay7979 on August 25, 2017, 09:39:52 AM
I just want to point out that those of us in Kindle Unlimited get unverified reviews. I get a lot of KU reads in addition to actual sales, so I will always have a large number of unverified reviews.

I've just submitted my second book to Hidden Gems, so you can consider that a vote of confidence. Some reviews from this service have been rather brief and not polished. The most recent sounds as if the reviewer is not a native English speaker. But readers who leave reviews, whether organically or through this service, should not be expected to be eloquent writers themselves. Professional book bloggers will obviously write better reviews. The wide range of writing styles and commentary from Hidden Gems reviewers should lay to rest any idea that these reviews aren't "real readers."

 
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: kspen on August 25, 2017, 11:11:46 AM
Thanks again for the responses. I guess the issue for me is that I've come across books where most of the reviews were obviously left by family/friends, and I've come across books with lots of ARC reviews where the reviewers were obviously recruited from the author's fan base. So I always scrutinize the reviews if I see anything out of the ordinary, and I pass on any book where something seems off. And to clear up one point -- when I refer to low quality reviews, I mean it specifically in that sense that they're out of the ordinary and give a reason to be skeptical. I've rarely seen ARC reviews really criticizing a book, so I take them with an extra grain of salt.

But I'm glad to see that I could be in the minority here.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: JDMatheny on October 14, 2017, 11:54:13 AM
I just want to point out that those of us in Kindle Unlimited get unverified reviews. I get a lot of KU reads in addition to actual sales, so I will always have a large number of unverified reviews.

I've just submitted my second book to Hidden Gems, so you can consider that a vote of confidence. Some reviews from this service have been rather brief and not polished. The most recent sounds as if the reviewer is not a native English speaker. But readers who leave reviews, whether organically or through this service, should not be expected to be eloquent writers themselves. Professional book bloggers will obviously write better reviews. The wide range of writing styles and commentary from Hidden Gems reviewers should lay to rest any idea that these reviews aren't "real readers."

I'm on my fifth day of launch for my debut novel.  It's been slow, with about six sales a day on average.  I'm considering using Hidden Gems to spur on sales, as I'm concerned many people might pass it over seeing that it has zero reviews.  Being that my book is enrolled in Kindle Select, I'm worried that it might violate Amazon's policy of not distributing digital copies.  I've read some opinions that distribution is considering offering the book to the public and ARC's are okay, but I'm trying to be sure.  Can anybody answer that for me?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: crow.bar.beer on October 14, 2017, 01:13:10 PM
Go for it.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on October 14, 2017, 01:57:41 PM
I'm on my fifth day of launch for my debut novel.  It's been slow, with about six sales a day on average.  I'm considering using Hidden Gems to spur on sales, as I'm concerned many people might pass it over seeing that it has zero reviews.  Being that my book is enrolled in Kindle Select, I'm worried that it might violate Amazon's policy of not distributing digital copies.  I've read some opinions that distribution is considering offering the book to the public and ARC's are okay, but I'm trying to be sure.  Can anybody answer that for me?
Amazon customer reps have said that offering a limited number of review copies to people is not a violation of the Select TOS. It would be better if the TOS itself stated that, but I've never heard of anyone having a problem with it. You would have a problem with a public link anyone could download from. Having Hidden Gems manage the distribution privately is really no different from your emailing the book to prospective reviewers, and people do that all the time with their own ARC teams.

By the way, six sales a day isn't bad for a debut. You might want to consider scheduling some promos if you haven't already. Some promoters will take debut novels without reviews. Promotion has a bigger impact during the first thirty days than the same amount will later.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: JDMatheny on October 14, 2017, 02:21:19 PM
Amazon customer reps have said that offering a limited number of review copies to people is not a violation of the Select TOS. It would be better if the TOS itself stated that, but I've never heard of anyone having a problem with it. You would have a problem with a public link anyone could download from. Having Hidden Gems manage the distribution privately is really no different from your emailing the book to prospective reviewers, and people do that all the time with their own ARC teams.

By the way, six sales a day isn't bad for a debut. You might want to consider scheduling some promos if you haven't already. Some promoters will take debut novels without reviews. Promotion has a bigger impact during the first thirty days than the same amount will later.

Thanks Bill, very helpful, I appreciate it!  As for promos, I have scheduled out a fair amount of cheaper promos over the first couple weeks.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: KeithWardFiction on October 14, 2017, 02:56:21 PM
I've used Hidden Gems for the first two books in my fantasy series, and will be using them for the third book soon. I've been very happy -- there aren't a ton of reviewers in that genre yet, but it's building. I also found the reviews to be very solid, and at least 75% of those who asked for the book to review ended up reviewing it.

I highly recommend the service (and have no relationship with the company other than being a happy customer).
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: SBlake on October 14, 2017, 08:02:22 PM
I've used Hidden Gems for all three of the books in my new series. I paid for 50 readers in each case. With book 1 I got 48 reviewers with a 4.1 average. Book 2 I got 50 readers and 50 reviews with a 4.4 average. Book 3 is still taking in reviews and probably will continue to do so for at least the next week; it's at 4.2 so far with 9 reviewers. None of these averages are as high as I would like, but this is my first time out of the gate with this genre and pen name. I understand it's going to take time for me to learn the ropes and write (better) to market.

I love this service and intend to use them for all of my new releases going forward. Like most, I can't wait for the organic, verified reviews to start coming in, but this service helps to lend some credibility to a new book/pen name, IMO.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: C. Rysalis on October 15, 2017, 04:33:00 AM
May I ask how far in advance of the publication date the ARC copies must be provided? Thanks!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Book Cat on October 15, 2017, 04:45:53 AM
I've used Hidden Gems for the first two books in my fantasy series, and will be using them for the third book soon. I've been very happy -- there aren't a ton of reviewers in that genre yet, but it's building. I also found the reviews to be very solid, and at least 75% of those who asked for the book to review ended up reviewing it.

I highly recommend the service (and have no relationship with the company other than being a happy customer).

My book is fantasy and I am planning on using them. I am a little worried though, as mine is epic fantasy. The book is 139k words long and I worry it will turn the ARC reviewers off. An author friend of mine had a good experience with them too for his launch. I just hope they will be ok with my long book...
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: JDMatheny on October 15, 2017, 08:54:01 AM
May I ask how far in advance of the publication date the ARC copies must be provided? Thanks!

If you click on the Book Now of their website there's a calendar that shows a start date of when they send the book out to reviewers.  After a week they send out a reminder email that reviews are needed (not required).  So it's a fast turnaround.  I signed up yesterday in the thriller category and my start date was the 20th.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kay7979 on October 15, 2017, 09:06:06 AM
My book is fantasy and I am planning on using them. I am a little worried though, as mine is epic fantasy. The book is 139k words long and I worry it will turn the ARC reviewers off. An author friend of mine had a good experience with them too for his launch. I just hope they will be ok with my long book...

My first book is around 105K, my second about 90K. After having good results with book one, I decided to try the second book. I sent both books together so readers who didn't want to jump into book two without the backstory necessary to fully understand it had the option to read both, and some did. That means they were reading close to 200K in one shot. It might take a little longer to get some of the reviews back, but I don't think a long book will pose a problem.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: KeithWardFiction on October 16, 2017, 06:51:50 AM
Quote
The book is 139k words long and I worry it will turn the ARC reviewers off.

My next is about 145k; I'm not worried that the length will be an issue. I do think the reviews will (obviously) take longer to come in, but that's fine.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Day Leitao on October 16, 2017, 08:14:51 AM
I just wanted to add that I used this service for my first novel.

It's a difficult genre, cause it's younger YA, almost upper MG. I got 15 reviewers from Hidden Gems.

Out of that, I think some 9 to 11 people reviewed it. I liked the reviews very much. They were detailed and insightful.

I don't know if people will shy away from long books, but my guess is no.

These are readers looking for fun, looking for enjoyment in reading, and if they like epic fantasy they'll like long books.

Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on October 16, 2017, 08:22:19 AM
My book is fantasy and I am planning on using them. I am a little worried though, as mine is epic fantasy. The book is 139k words long and I worry it will turn the ARC reviewers off. An author friend of mine had a good experience with them too for his launch. I just hope they will be ok with my long book...
People who like to read won't be turned off by a longer book. It's hard for me to visualize people who don't like to read signing up to be an ARC reader, since the only compensation is free books. :)
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on October 16, 2017, 08:38:22 AM
I've used Hidden Gems for all three of the books in my new series. I paid for 50 readers in each case. With book 1 I got 48 reviewers with a 4.1 average. Book 2 I got 50 readers and 50 reviews with a 4.4 average. Book 3 is still taking in reviews and probably will continue to do so for at least the next week; it's at 4.2 so far with 9 reviewers. None of these averages are as high as I would like, but this is my first time out of the gate with this genre and pen name. I understand it's going to take time for me to learn the ropes and write (better) to market.

I love this service and intend to use them for all of my new releases going forward. Like most, I can't wait for the organic, verified reviews to start coming in, but this service helps to lend some credibility to a new book/pen name, IMO.
Those are actually good averages.

Though reviews can sometimes be useful to authors by pointing out areas of improvement, it's important to keep in mind that book reviewing is inherently a subjective process. It's also important to note that the ARC reviewers may or may not be representative of the general public.

A few things I've noticed with both my organic reviews and those from Hidden Gems:

First, the standards for assigning stars are not uniform among reviewers. I have four-reviews that sound a lot like five-star reviews to me. (One just said "awesome.") On the other hand, I occasionally get five-star reviews that sound a lot like four-stars. The exact star rating may not be as telling as what the reviewer actually says.

Second, reviewers can differ radically about what they like and don't like. I've frequently gotten opposite criticisms on the same book (too much action vs. not enough action). I've also had situations in which the very thing one reviewer damned, another praised. Unless I get a chunk of reviews with the same criticism, I don't worry too much.

Third, not every reviewer is someone who necessarily reads primarily in your genre. With Hidden Gems, I'm sure the reviewers indicate what genres they're willing to read, but that doesn't mean they have equal experience in all of them. That goes double for organic reviews. It isn't always possible to tell, but if the reviewer has reviewed a lot of books, you can tell from the profile. For instance, if someone reviews mostly epic fantasy and just has one review for an urban fantasy, I wouldn't worry as much if the reviewer didn't like the urban fantasy. That sounds more like trying a new subgenre and not liking it than just not liking that particular book. (I mention this because it affects how you weigh reviews if you want to write to market.) One of my organic reviews is a one-star on a book everyone else five-starred so far. When I glanced at the profile, the reviewer mostly reviews things like plumbing fixtures, hardly ever reviews books, and seems never to have reviewed the genre before. I'm not giving that review as much weight as I would one from someone who reads extensively in the genre.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kat M on October 16, 2017, 08:59:38 AM
Denise, does that mean the reviews only cost you $30? Or do they still charge $100?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Ahmad_Ardalan on October 16, 2017, 09:31:31 AM
I have just booked Max Reviews with them for my Literary Fiction, Drama (Vague I know). It has a touch of romance, and war inside.

It is for "Baghdad: The Final Gathering" that came out exactly a year ago. It has currently 7 reviews on Amazon.com, with an average of 4.5/5. One review in CA, and another in The UK store, and 13 reviews on Goodreads.

 Let us see how many I will get.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kat M on October 16, 2017, 09:54:14 AM
Good luck, Ahmad! I'm in a similar boat with a YA book (7 Amazon reviews with a 4.5 avg) I released last February and am considering booking with them too.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: amdonehere on October 16, 2017, 11:18:42 AM
Thanks again for the responses. I guess the issue for me is that I've come across books where most of the reviews were obviously left by family/friends, and I've come across books with lots of ARC reviews where the reviewers were obviously recruited from the author's fan base. So I always scrutinize the reviews if I see anything out of the ordinary, and I pass on any book where something seems off. And to clear up one point -- when I refer to low quality reviews, I mean it specifically in that sense that they're out of the ordinary and give a reason to be skeptical. I've rarely seen ARC reviews really criticizing a book, so I take them with an extra grain of salt.

But I'm glad to see that I could be in the minority here.

Hidden Gems is legit and IMO currently the only review service that delivers for what the authors pay for in terms of getting actual reviews. Often times authors give out review copies only to have reviewers flake out on them.

Secondly, as an author I'm just so tired of hearing people doubt ARC reviewers. Skeptical about F&F I can understand. But ARC reviewers? We had this whole discussion already on another thread not too long ago. When I have ARC readers, I swear I sit on pins and needles before the reviews come in because I haven't the slightest clue if they'd like my book or not. The idea that ARC reviewers (not incentivized) will automatically give good reviews makes no logical sense whatsoever.

As far as reviews by the authors' fans -- why are those reviews invalid? The fact that an author has fans by itself is indicative that the author's books are quality enough to give him or her a fan base. Fans don't blindly give out good reviews unless they like the book. If the author's next book doesn't deliver, they aren't going to leave a good review for us just because. They're not our disciples. We're not some good looking celebrity like Harry Styles with a lot of starry-eyed fangirls who are in love with us and would say good things about us and our books no matter what as long as we stay single and good looking.

I really can't understand it. There's no logic in discounting the opinion of a fan of a book or author, and somehow the opinion of a reader who doesn't like the book is worth more.

What is really going on is that the human mind is designed to look for the negative because the process of exclusion is how we can make choices in this world of too much information. It's the way our brains are wired. The process of elimination helps to narrow down the choices. That's fine. But it does not logically follow that good reviews by fans are invalid.

Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Day Leitao on October 16, 2017, 11:45:24 AM
Denise, does that mean the reviews only cost you $30? Or do they still charge $100?

Only 30$. Very good!

Edit: I want to add that I have a Fakespot score of 90%, or A.

And the low price for less reviewers means that authors in less popular genres can still use the service without risk.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kat M on October 16, 2017, 12:04:24 PM
Yes, very good! Sounds well worth it.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: crow.bar.beer on October 16, 2017, 12:05:17 PM
Denise, does that mean the reviews only cost you $30? Or do they still charge $100?

It's a function of how many reviewers claim your book. It cost her $30 because she had 15 claims, the $100 is if you get 50.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kat M on October 16, 2017, 12:17:43 PM
Yes, I understand. I just wasn't sure if they were still operating in that same way - that the minimum you can book is 50 reviewers ($100) but they won't charge you for that minimum if there aren't 50. Glad to know this is still the case.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: kspen on October 16, 2017, 12:48:50 PM
Secondly, as an author I'm just so tired of hearing people doubt ARC reviewers. Skeptical about F&F I can understand. But ARC reviewers? We had this whole discussion already on another thread not too long ago. When I have ARC readers, I swear I sit on pins and needles before the reviews come in because I haven't the slightest clue if they'd like my book or not. The idea that ARC reviewers (not incentivized) will automatically give good reviews makes no logical sense whatsoever.

It doesn't matter what the truth is. What matters is the perception of the average reader. They don't know where the ARC reviewers came from or if they followed any ethical standards. When I come across them, the only thing I can be sure of is that the author was involved in some way and had some reason to expect the reviews to help sell the book. I don't know if that reason is because they have confidence in their product or if it's because they have confidence in their ability to get their product into the hands of reviewers who are predisposed to give a good review. For example, I saw a reviewer on Amazon whose username and info announced that she would review books in exchange for a free copy, and 99% of the reviews she posted were raving five-star reviews proclaiming the books to all be the greatest thing since sliced bread. I've seen authors talk about browsing through reviewers' profiles on Amazon and then emailing just the ones who they think would like their book. With all that sort of nonsense going on, I'm not going to give credence to reviews that could have been manipulated in any way.

Quote
As far as reviews by the authors' fans -- why are those reviews invalid? The fact that an author has fans by itself is indicative that the author's books are quality enough to give him or her a fan base.

It's a form of selection bias. You'll often see that the first book of a series has a much lower average rating than all of the other books in the series. It doesn't mean that the author got better in book two. It just means that book one already filtered out all of the readers who dislike the author's writing. Those reviews may help to compare an author's books against each other, but I've not found them helpful for comparing one author to another.

ETA: And my point about reviews by the author's fans was specifically in reference to ARC reviews, which goes back to what I said in the first paragraph of this post: If the author is involved in picking out the reviewers, then that's a manipulation of the review process. I don't care about endorsements from people who were hand-picked by the author to write a review.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kay7979 on October 16, 2017, 01:21:44 PM
Hidden Gems is legit and IMO currently the only review service that delivers for what the authors pay for in terms of getting actual reviews. Often times authors give out review copies only to have reviewers flake out on them.

Secondly, as an author I'm just so tired of hearing people doubt ARC reviewers. Skeptical about F&F I can understand. But ARC reviewers? We had this whole discussion already on another thread not too long ago. When I have ARC readers, I swear I sit on pins and needles before the reviews come in because I haven't the slightest clue if they'd like my book or not. The idea that ARC reviewers (not incentivized) will automatically give good reviews makes no logical sense whatsoever.

As far as reviews by the authors' fans -- why are those reviews invalid? The fact that an author has fans by itself is indicative that the author's books are quality enough to give him or her a fan base. Fans don't blindly give out good reviews unless they like the book. If the author's next book doesn't deliver, they aren't going to leave a good review for us just because. They're not our disciples. We're not some good looking celebrity like Harry Styles with a lot of starry-eyed fangirls who are in love with us and would say good things about us and our books no matter what as long as we stay single and good looking.

I really can't understand it. There's no logic in discounting the opinion of a fan of a book or author, and somehow the opinion of a reader who doesn't like the book is worth more.

What is really going on is that the human mind is designed to look for the negative because the process of exclusion is how we can make choices in this world of too much information. It's the way our brains are wired. The process of elimination helps to narrow down the choices. That's fine. But it does not logically follow that good reviews by fans are invalid.

Well said. I totally agree with all of this.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kay7979 on October 16, 2017, 01:38:03 PM
I've seen authors talk about browsing through reviewers' profiles on Amazon and then emailing just the ones who they think would like their book. With all that sort of nonsense going on, I'm not going to give credence to reviews that could have been manipulated in any way.


I don't think that's nonsense. I don't use that method, but if I did, naturally I would approach people who like my genre in general and books similar to mine in particular. I write fantasy, so I wouldn't ask a romance or thriller reader to review my book. Nor would I ask a fantasy reader that likes Game of Thrones type violent plots about warring political factions to read my non-violent portal story that features gnomes. Readers who love G-rated fantasy books about gnomes won't automatically love my book. It has to be well written and engaging. But my chances are better than if I used Game of Thrones fans.

Naturally, most readers buy the kinds of books they enjoy. ARC reviewers are no different--they sign up to read books that appeal to them. There's nothing manipulative about that. It's just logical. 
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: amdonehere on October 16, 2017, 02:07:38 PM
It doesn't matter what the truth is. What matters is the perception of the average reader. They don't know where the ARC reviewers came from or if they followed any ethical standards. When I come across them, the only thing I can be sure of is that the author was involved in some way and had some reason to expect the reviews to help sell the book. I don't know if that reason is because they have confidence in their product or if it's because they have confidence in their ability to get their product into the hands of reviewers who are predisposed to give a good review. For example, I saw a reviewer on Amazon whose username and info announced that she would review books in exchange for a free copy, and 99% of the reviews she posted were raving five-star reviews proclaiming the books to all be the greatest thing since sliced bread. I've seen authors talk about browsing through reviewers' profiles on Amazon and then emailing just the ones who they think would like their book. With all that sort of nonsense going on, I'm not going to give credence to reviews that could have been manipulated in any way.

In my experience most average readers don't care. They want to see some feedback from people who had read the book. If some readers get all doubtful about it, then oh well. Their loss. I'm just tired of the accusations that authors who use review services are doing something shady. It's not true when the review service is at arms length and there's no special incentive.

The reason we use review services has nothing to do with lack of confidence. As I said I have no freakin clue how the readers from the review services will rate my book. For I l know, they would come back with 1 or 2 star ratings and trash my book for being awful. My confidence has nothing to do with it whether the reviews come from them or organic browsers.

I don't know how reviewers from a 3rd party review services are "predisposed" to giving good reviews. What incentives do they have other than a free copy? A free copy isn't worth a whole lot comparing to the time they have to spend to read and also to write a review. Readers today can go to Instafreebie and get free books gallore to their heart's desire, without the obligation to read and write a review. I don't know what manipulation is involved with a process like Hidden Gems. It's the same process as how traditionally published books have always been given away at launch for many many years before there's such a thing as indie-pub. The nonsense you described don't apply to Hidden Gems or the authors who use HG services.

I can't speak for others but I use them because some promo sites require them before we buy promos. So in that respect, yes the reviews do help us sell books because without them I can't place ads with promoters I want to place ads with. I use them because they're arms' length services so I don't have to go around "handpicking" (as you put it) reviewers myself.

And yes, while some readers such as youself doubt ARC reviews, my experience is more average readers don't care. What they want is some other readers input, or they just want to see that the book has a number of reviews already, to help them decide to buy or not, so in that sense, having more reviews do help us sell. But again, I don't see any manipulation going on. I don't see the author offering a book available for review to unknown readers as manipulation. It's been done in the industry as part of book launches. If I could, I'd love to hand a copy to the NYT the way Harper Collins would send their published books, but unfortunately NYT is not interested in taking a copy by an indie author. But now why is the NYT reviewer's opinion not doubted? He/she got a free copy.


Quote
It's a form of selection bias. You'll often see that the first book of a series has a much lower average rating than all of the other books in the series. It doesn't mean that the author got better in book two. It just means that book one already filtered out all of the readers who dislike the author's writing. Those reviews may help to compare an author's books against each other, but I've not found them helpful for comparing one author to another.

ETA: And my point about reviews by the author's fans was specifically in reference to ARC reviews, which goes back to what I said in the first paragraph of this post: If the author is involved in picking out the reviewers, then that's a manipulation of the review process. I don't care about endorsements from people who were hand-picked by the author to write a review.

So if the fans really like the author's work and want to support the author they like, that means their opinions and reviews are invalid. That makes no sense to me.



Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Ahmad_Ardalan on October 16, 2017, 02:29:08 PM
Good luck, Ahmad! I'm in a similar boat with a YA book (7 Amazon reviews with a 4.5 avg) I released last February and am considering booking with them too.
Thanks Kat. Wish you the same!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kat M on October 17, 2017, 05:54:33 AM
Thanks, Ahmad! I made my booking last night and am excited to see how it goes.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Guy Riessen on October 23, 2017, 09:13:04 AM
Naturally, most readers buy the kinds of books they enjoy. ARC reviewers are no different--they sign up to read books that appeal to them. There's nothing manipulative about that. It's just logical.

Exactly!

All you have to do is take a look at ANY popular writer--you'll find that even though it's the actual author's FANS reading the book, if it doesn't deliver the experience they expect from their beloved author, they get low scores--sometimes even lower than what they might give to an unknown author who they are willing to cut some slack for.

Just as an example, I pulled a non-verified review from a traditional author I like, this is from the first author I tried looking at...it's not like I searched long and hard for this example.
"This story seemed almost as if it was an idea for a book that was yet to be developed. It never became exciting and the characters were not interesting. Not one of my favorites."
That's from a reader who's a fan of the author. This is not uncommon--your fans can often be your harshest audience, because they have high expectation for enjoying your work. They are not brainwashed, or even invested in any way in your success.

I rank the validity of reviews as follows:
1. Fans--most reliable. These are people who are presumable similar readers to me. If they love an author, there's a good chance I will. There's always a chance this group can be polluted by friends and family...but those reviews are usually fairly easy to spot because they tend to be written with non-specific fluff superlatives.

2. ARC readers--Fairly reliable. At least these readers tend to be overall fans of the genre. If an ARC reader enjoys a Thriller, and a book I'm interested in is a Thriller, then their opinion is going to be fairly valid.

3. Random Verified Purchaser--By FAR the least reliable. I have no idea what made any particular reader pick up a book to review it, so how can I effectively understand if their idea of a good book is even remotely similar to my own? I can't. You can see this evidence of this problem for yourself by looking at reviews for short stories. Inevitably you'll find a reviewer who's response (Even though the book is titled Johnny Thriller, A Short Story Thriller) is "The book was too short, 1-star." And that's a case where they ARE admitting bias--most reviews DON'T admit biases such as "I normally hate thrillers, but a friend gave this to me for Christmas and hounded me to read it. It was terrible. 2-stars"

I've seen authors talk about browsing through reviewers' profiles on Amazon and then emailing just the ones who they think would like their book. With all that sort of nonsense going on, I'm not going to give credence to reviews that could have been manipulated in any way.

It's a form of selection bias.

What? So if you like romance novels you'd trust someone who usually reads horror and happens to stumble across a romance novel that they read and hate? Really? Not me. I'd much rather listen to someone who also likes romance novels, who "Self-Selects" themselves into a romance reader's group. I don't really understand why anyone would put more credence in a blind pool.



All that said, I like the response Hidden Gems seems to be getting here :) How big is your current pool for horror readers?

Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: kspen on October 23, 2017, 11:04:07 AM
I rank the validity of reviews as follows:
1. Fans--most reliable. These are people who are presumable similar readers to me. If they love an author, there's a good chance I will. There's always a chance this group can be polluted by friends and family...but those reviews are usually fairly easy to spot because they tend to be written with non-specific fluff superlatives.

2. ARC readers--Fairly reliable. At least these readers tend to be overall fans of the genre. If an ARC reader enjoys a Thriller, and a book I'm interested in is a Thriller, then their opinion is going to be fairly valid.

3. Random Verified Purchaser--By FAR the least reliable. I have no idea what made any particular reader pick up a book to review it, so how can I effectively understand if their idea of a good book is even remotely similar to my own? I can't. You can see this evidence of this problem for yourself by looking at reviews for short stories. Inevitably you'll find a reviewer who's response (Even though the book is titled Johnny Thriller, A Short Story Thriller) is "The book was too short, 1-star." And that's a case where they ARE admitting bias--most reviews DON'T admit biases such as "I normally hate thrillers, but a friend gave this to me for Christmas and hounded me to read it. It was terrible. 2-stars"

Let me clarify:

If I'm already a fan of an author, then reviews from the author's fans will probably match my reading experience. However, if I'm already a fan of the author, then I don't need to use the reviews to decide to buy more of their books! I'd be doing that anyway. The only way the reviews could change my decision would be to stop me from buying a book.

If I'm not already familiar with the author, then reviews from the author's fans don't help me. Authors can vary a lot in style within a genre, and most authors are relatively consistent from one book to the next, so just reading reviews along the lines of "I love every book by this author" tells me nothing. Each author has a weakness, and the weaknesses are usually going to be pointed out by people who read one book from the author and disliked it and didn't read anything else by the author. The author's fans are the ones who don't mind the author's weaknesses, so they aren't going to point them out in their reviews. And remember, an author's fans are a tiny minority of total readers. Each day Bookbub sends another set of books into the hands of tens of thousands of readers, and maybe 1% of them become fans of the author. So if I see a new release with twenty glowing reviews from people on the author's mailing list, what does it really tell me? For all I know, 99% of people think the author sucks. The way to find out is to look not at those reviews, but the reviews on their most popular books which will have a lot of reviews from non-fans.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: kspen on October 23, 2017, 11:10:07 AM
What? So if you like romance novels you'd trust someone who usually reads horror and happens to stumble across a romance novel that they read and hate? Really? Not me. I'd much rather listen to someone who also likes romance novels, who "Self-Selects" themselves into a romance reader's group. I don't really understand why anyone would put more credence in a blind pool.

No. I'm talking about someone going through reviewers in their genre, and then hand-picking reviewers from within that subset who are likely to give five stars.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: C. Rysalis on October 23, 2017, 01:17:01 PM
My next is about 145k; I'm not worried that the length will be an issue. I do think the reviews will (obviously) take longer to come in, but that's fine.

The first in my series is technically 260K......  :P

I say 'technically' because I chickened out and split it into two books. But readers complain that book 1 doesn't contain enough story (book 2 does...) so now I have to put them back together as a duology, and make that one the entry point for the series. The joy of 3 POVs that are initially separate, like in Game of Thrones... long books.

I wonder if Hidden Gems would accept a 260K book?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kat M on October 23, 2017, 01:35:52 PM
Providing ARCs through a service like this seems to be the opposite of hand-picking reviewers. We have no idea who will read the books, just that the reviewer themselves felt interested enough to request it.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: kspen on October 23, 2017, 07:23:16 PM
Providing ARCs through a service like this seems to be the opposite of hand-picking reviewers. We have no idea who will read the books, just that the reviewer themselves felt interested enough to request it.

As I said before, when I'm reading reviews that just say "I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review," I don't know how the author found those people. If they elaborate, then I can take that into account. But most of them don't.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Herefortheride on October 24, 2017, 01:12:10 AM
Hidden Gems is legit and IMO currently the only review service that delivers for what the authors pay for in terms of getting actual reviews. Often times authors give out review copies only to have reviewers flake out on them.

Secondly, as an author I'm just so tired of hearing people doubt ARC reviewers. Skeptical about F&F I can understand. But ARC reviewers? We had this whole discussion already on another thread not too long ago. When I have ARC readers, I swear I sit on pins and needles before the reviews come in because I haven't the slightest clue if they'd like my book or not. The idea that ARC reviewers (not incentivized) will automatically give good reviews makes no logical sense whatsoever.


Many of us explained to you in the very thread you bring up why ARC readers aren't all that valid to us readers. As was explained, an "ARC team" would not be built up of people who give low ratings for books.

Sure, you might have some new ARC readers give you a one or two star that hates the book but those reviewers wouldn't last long on the ARC team. ARC teams by their very definition search out people that LIKE your books. Very few newsletter subscribers would agree to this task if they didn't like the books, still less would be invited back if they were giving damning reviews.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: amdonehere on October 24, 2017, 05:59:53 AM
Many of us explained to you in the very thread you bring up why ARC readers aren't all that valid to us readers. As was explained, an "ARC team" would not be built up of people who give low ratings for books.

Sure, you might have some new ARC readers give you a one or two star that hates the book but those reviewers wouldn't last long on the ARC team. ARC teams by their very definition search out people that LIKE your books. Very few newsletter subscribers would agree to this task if they didn't like the books, still less would be invited back if they were giving damning reviews.

You realize you are posting on the Hidden Gems marketing thread, right? Hidden Gems is a third party company offering review services, not an ARC reviewers team builder. There is no ARC team involved in what they do, so I don't know why ARC team is relevant here. I also think this discusion should perhaps be mied elsewhere as it probably isn't fair for HG to keep getting their marketing thread derailed when other service providers' threads don't.

But even as to the ARC team issue, I still disagree. I've explained already why on the other thread. You all think lots of authors are out there pulling shenanigans like we're the pied piper with tons of readers dying to post reviews for us and we get to even handpick only the good ones. I'm saying those days are over. Most authors, except those who had built such a very large loyal fan base during the indie gold rush, can't build ARC teams. Readers aren't interested. They fun and hype is over. More and more you see new authors begging for honest reviews. Many ARC reviewers come from netgalley, where reviewers tend to be harsher. I'm not seeing the kind of easy good reviews infesting the market the way you describe. Especially not from authors who debuted in my year and onward.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on October 24, 2017, 07:05:24 AM
All that said, I like the response Hidden Gems seems to be getting here :) How big is your current pool for horror readers?

Hi Guy - I know you sent me an email about this and I responded to that, but I figured I'd give a quick answer here as well for anyone else that may be interested.

All of our genres are a work in progress and we continue to gather new reviewers daily, but some are stronger than others.  The more books we get in a particular genre, the more reviewers we can attract to it - so in some ways it's a chicken and egg issue, but all genres that we cover have SOME readers.

Horror in general usually gets from 10-30 sign ups, so it's one of our lower ones right now but we have only had a handful of straight horror books come through.  When there is genre crossover then we can send to a couple genres (say, Thriller and Horror) and often that leads to higher sign ups - as long as you're clear in your description/blurb/sub categories, then you should still get only people interested in your particular content signing up.

But as with all genres and books, regardless of how many readers you ask for, if we can't get that many sign ups you still only pay for the number that we do get.  So in that sense, you won't be penalized for our growth problems. It's something we're actively working on though, for all genres.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on October 24, 2017, 07:09:42 AM
The first in my series is technically 260K......  :P

I say 'technically' because I chickened out and split it into two books. But readers complain that book 1 doesn't contain enough story (book 2 does...) so now I have to put them back together as a duology, and make that one the entry point for the series. The joy of 3 POVs that are initially separate, like in Game of Thrones... long books.

I wonder if Hidden Gems would accept a 260K book?

Absolutely.  I think that as long as you're clear in your blurb/description about the length, then you'll be fine.  We typically give a week before we start reminding reviewers to leave reviews, but in some cases we can give longer - so maybe that would be something we would discuss.  Maybe giving readers 10 days or something.

Thing is, what we find is that the majority of our reviewers are really big readers - the reason many of them sign up for our service is that they read a TON of books and if they had to buy them all, they'd go broke. So this helps give them fresh content and all they have to do is provide their opinion in return.  Some readers speed through a regular sized novel in a day or two, so even if we gave them extra time I imagine a bunch would still get their reviews in earlier, but then there are other readers that take longer.  Either way, I'm sure you'd have a lot of interest and I don't think the size would put many people off.  But I would still recommend being up front about it, just in case it is a factor for some.  If so, they'll just skip signing up and wait for the next one.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Guy Riessen on October 25, 2017, 10:27:26 AM
Hi Guy - I know you sent me an email about this and I responded to that, but I figured I'd give a quick answer here as well for anyone else that may be interested.

All of our genres are a work in progress and we continue to gather new reviewers daily, but some are stronger than others.  The more books we get in a particular genre, the more reviewers we can attract to it - so in some ways it's a chicken and egg issue, but all genres that we cover have SOME readers.

Horror in general usually gets from 10-30 sign ups, so it's one of our lower ones right now but we have only had a handful of straight horror books come through.  When there is genre crossover then we can send to a couple genres (say, Thriller and Horror) and often that leads to higher sign ups - as long as you're clear in your description/blurb/sub categories, then you should still get only people interested in your particular content signing up.

But as with all genres and books, regardless of how many readers you ask for, if we can't get that many sign ups you still only pay for the number that we do get.  So in that sense, you won't be penalized for our growth problems. It's something we're actively working on though, for all genres.

Thanks for the email reply, and I'm glad you posted here as well. I think your service sounds great, and the review-ratio is quite solid. For my novella Retribution, my mailing list had 23 people who stated they were interested in reading the ARC, of that 8 left reviews...if you have a response rate of 50% or more that would be cool, even with a 20 person sign-up.

Now, the cynic in me raises its ugly head--is there a way to verify the number of sign-ups you receive? I mean, is there any way to be sure that you don't tell me I had 30 sign-ups when in reality I only had 10?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Mylius Fox on October 25, 2017, 11:56:54 AM
I mean, is there any way to be sure that you don't tell me I had 30 sign-ups when in reality I only had 10?

If they did that, it would make their services look worse, because then it would appear as though a much smaller percentage of readers who'd opted for your book also left a review. ;)
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Guy Riessen on October 25, 2017, 12:34:48 PM
If they did that, it would make their services look worse, because then it would appear as though a much smaller percentage of readers who'd opted for your book also left a review. ;)

Good point!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on October 26, 2017, 07:00:56 AM
So yeah, what Mylius Fox said is essentially it. 

If anything, what I tend to do with a lot of our growing genres is try to send out to MORE than I charge for in cases where I can't make the number requested... so for example, I give 2 days for sign ups and typically I find that most people who are going to sign up do so in the first 24 hours or so.  So if someone asks for 50 reviewers for their SF book and the first 24 hours go by and I only have 15 sign ups, I'll typically just bill for 15 and then if any others sign up during that 2nd day, I'll just throw them in for free.  If any do sign up it's usually only a few, but I'd much rather under promise and over deliver than the reverse.

I think of it as a form of self-flagellation.  I'm punishing myself for not growing my list of readers for these genres faster.   :D
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: xbriannova on October 27, 2017, 10:06:36 PM
I would like to throw in my two-cents for Hidden Gems.

I think they're the real deal. I engaged a previous ARC service, and it resulted in something like ZERO to ONE review for, oh I don't know, $30 - $50. I'm not going to name names. That's despite me following their steps. I think it's bad form to make your customer do half the work anyway.

Hidden Gems did well for me. I get ten reviews at about $30 total, and they're not the kind of scammy reviews but real, true ARC reviews, honest to the core. Hell, I wish I'd get 100% 5-stars. Any kind of author would secretly want that. But the reviewers of Hidden Gems gave me exactly what I'm worth. Some thought my book is a 4-star deal, others 3-stars. Only a few thought I'm 5-star material. They've opened my eyes, confirmed what were previously suspicions and at the same time saw the good in my book where readers getting free books from me were content to see it for what it's worst at, or what my book isn't trying to achieve. Anyway, because of their honesty, I'll be sure to up my game when it comes to writing short stories, or stories in general, long or short.

I have decided to make it my SOP to submit all my books to Hidden Gems for review from now on, and I'd suggest that you guys do it too.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: C L Salaski on November 16, 2017, 08:28:38 PM
Thanks, Ahmad! I made my booking last night and am excited to see how it goes.

Kat, how did you do with Hidden Gems?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: IntoTheAbyss on November 17, 2017, 12:05:38 AM
Great service. Most reviewers were in depth and talked about what they liked and didn't like. Quite a bit of reviews, but in a more crowded genre than most. Already scheduled next book for January and then will use again for future books.

Only minor issue is a few reviewers spoiled whole parts of the book, but going get that from organic reviews too. Is what it is.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kat M on November 17, 2017, 03:58:36 AM
CL, my booking was for the 14th so reviews will be due soon. 25 people signed up to read my YA.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: C L Salaski on November 17, 2017, 10:26:04 AM
CL, my booking was for the 14th so reviews will be due soon. 25 people signed up to read my YA.

Thanks for letting me know, Kat.

I hope you get lots of great reviews!

Cindy
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kat M on November 17, 2017, 10:29:12 AM
Thanks, CL! I'll let you know how it went once it's all wrapped up :)
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: C L Salaski on November 17, 2017, 10:30:16 AM
Great service. Most reviewers were in depth and talked about what they liked and didn't like. Quite a bit of reviews, but in a more crowded genre than most. Already scheduled next book for January and then will use again for future books.

Only minor issue is a few reviewers spoiled whole parts of the book, but going get that from organic reviews too. Is what it is.

I'm glad to hear this, Michael. Except for the part about reviews that contain spoilers. That's so sad. But, like you said, it is what it is.

As you can imagine, I'm eager to see how my Hidden Gems experience goes. So far I'm happy with their email responses. They seem like very good people to work with.

Cindy
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Gabriella West on November 17, 2017, 10:38:47 AM
My experience with them has been great. The first few reviews came in quickly and were a blast to get. They were the super-enthusiastic 5-star ones! I will say that the stragglers have been more lukewarm, but I've learned something from every review. And most readers seemed to really "get" the book. So I stumbled on my target audience, which was a tremendous ego boost :) I ended up with about 30 reviews. Totally worth the money.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kat M on November 24, 2017, 05:28:08 AM
Just wanted to report back on my experience with Hidden Gems. Ten days out and of the 25 people who signed up to review my YA so far 17 have posted reviews on Amazon.com and 1 on Amazon.ca. The reviews range from a 2 star DNF (which I appreciate in a weird way because it's obvious these reviews are authentic and not sponsored raves) to five stars. Hidden Gems were easy to work with and delivered exactly what they promised. I've enjoyed watching the reviews come in and based on my experience would definitely use them again and recommend them to other people.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Herefortheride on November 24, 2017, 05:30:25 AM
I would like to throw in my two-cents for Hidden Gems.

I think they're the real deal. I engaged a previous ARC service, and it resulted in something like ZERO to ONE review for, oh I don't know, $30 - $50. I'm not going to name names. That's despite me following their steps. I think it's bad form to make your customer do half the work anyway.

Hidden Gems did well for me. I get ten reviews at about $30 total, and they're not the kind of scammy reviews but real, true ARC reviews, honest to the core. Hell, I wish I'd get 100% 5-stars. Any kind of author would secretly want that. But the reviewers of Hidden Gems gave me exactly what I'm worth. Some thought my book is a 4-star deal, others 3-stars. Only a few thought I'm 5-star material. They've opened my eyes, confirmed what were previously suspicions and at the same time saw the good in my book where readers getting free books from me were content to see it for what it's worst at, or what my book isn't trying to achieve. Anyway, because of their honesty, I'll be sure to up my game when it comes to writing short stories, or stories in general, long or short.

I have decided to make it my SOP to submit all my books to Hidden Gems for review from now on, and I'd suggest that you guys do it too.

I may have had the same experience as you. I used a service that advertised on the Kboards and then I had to do a bunch of work contacting the potential reviewers and I have zero reviews to show for my 30+ dollars and several hours of work   :'(
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: saklopfenstein on November 24, 2017, 07:07:16 AM
It says a 50 reader minimum on your Website, at $2 per reader. What exactly does the 50 minimum mean? A lot of people in this thread are mentioning paying about $30. So does that mean they had 15 sign up to receive the book?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kat M on November 24, 2017, 07:16:17 AM
The minimum you can sign up for is 50 but they'll only actually charge you $2 per each person who signs up to review your book. So I signed up for 50 but only got 25 sign-ups and was charged a total of $50.

Quote
A lot of people in this thread are mentioning paying about $30. So does that mean they had 15 sign up to receive the book?

Exactly.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: saklopfenstein on November 24, 2017, 07:25:13 AM
The minimum you can sign up for is 50 but they'll only actually charge you $2 per each person who signs up to review your book. So I signed up for 50 but only got 25 sign-ups and was charged a total of $50.

Exactly.
Awesome. Thanks for the clarification!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on November 24, 2017, 07:33:20 AM
It says a 50 reader minimum on your Website, at $2 per reader. What exactly does the 50 minimum mean? A lot of people in this thread are mentioning paying about $30. So does that mean they had 15 sign up to receive the book?
Yes. You only pay for the signups you actually receive. Keep in mind that HG started out as an ARC service for romance books, so the number of romance reviewers is large. The numbers in the other genres vary. Also, the reaction to individual books varies.

For my urban fantasy, I got about 35 signups and ended up with approximately 30 reviews from HG reviewers. (Some reviews are difficult to identify.)

I imagine the 50 minimum is in place because the service doesn't bombard the reviewers with too many requests at a time. That means there are a limited number of slots. HG wants to avoid a deluge of orders from budget-conscious indies wanting five. That could mean a lot more reviewers than can be accommodated request a book. HG needs to keep the reviewers happy enough to keep being willing to work with HG. Conceivably in a genre with a small and/or a book that's tough sell, someone might only get five, but most people will get more.

I could be wrong, but HG will correct me if I'm misinterpreting the rationale for the 50 minimum.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: C L Salaski on November 24, 2017, 07:43:31 AM
Just wanted to report back on my experience with Hidden Gems. Ten days out and of the 25 people who signed up to review my YA so far 17 have posted reviews on Amazon.com and 1 on Amazon.ca. The reviews range from a 2 star DNF (which I appreciate in a weird way because it's obvious these reviews are authentic and not sponsored raves) to five stars. Hidden Gems were easy to work with and delivered exactly what they promised. I've enjoyed watching the reviews come in and based on my experience would definitely use them again and recommend them to other people.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Kat. 17 reviews out of 25 readers is great news!

Cindy
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: saklopfenstein on November 24, 2017, 09:21:57 AM
Yes. You only pay for the signups you actually receive. Keep in mind that HG started out as an ARC service for romance books, so the number of romance reviewers is large. The numbers in the other genres vary. Also, the reaction to individual books varies.

For my urban fantasy, I got about 35 signups and ended up with approximately 30 reviews from HG reviewers. (Some reviews are difficult to identify.)

I imagine the 50 minimum is in place because the service doesn't bombard the reviewers with too many requests at a time. That means there are a limited number of slots. HG wants to avoid a deluge of orders from budget-conscious indies wanting five. That could mean a lot more reviewers than can be accommodated request a book. HG needs to keep the reviewers happy enough to keep being willing to work with HG. Conceivably in a genre with a small and/or a book that's tough sell, someone might only get five, but most people will get more.

I could be wrong, but HG will correct me if I'm misinterpreting the rationale for the 50 minimum.

Thanks Bill, that makes sense about avoiding a deluge of small orders. I write epic fantasy, which I imagine should have a decent pool of readers from such a site.

For those who have used this service, what was your timeline for send out ARCs in relation to your launch? I was thinking maybe a month prior?

Also, did you send eBook ARCs?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: LilyBLily on November 24, 2017, 10:19:48 AM
The soonest I could book was nearly three months out. Depends on your genre no doubt.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Kat M on November 24, 2017, 03:40:49 PM
Thanks, Cindy! I thought that was really good too - 18 out of 25 including Amazon.ca so far and who knows, maybe one or two more might still straggle in  :)
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on November 27, 2017, 07:32:50 AM
Yes. You only pay for the signups you actually receive. Keep in mind that HG started out as an ARC service for romance books, so the number of romance reviewers is large. The numbers in the other genres vary. Also, the reaction to individual books varies.

For my urban fantasy, I got about 35 signups and ended up with approximately 30 reviews from HG reviewers. (Some reviews are difficult to identify.)

I imagine the 50 minimum is in place because the service doesn't bombard the reviewers with too many requests at a time. That means there are a limited number of slots. HG wants to avoid a deluge of orders from budget-conscious indies wanting five. That could mean a lot more reviewers than can be accommodated request a book. HG needs to keep the reviewers happy enough to keep being willing to work with HG. Conceivably in a genre with a small and/or a book that's tough sell, someone might only get five, but most people will get more.

I could be wrong, but HG will correct me if I'm misinterpreting the rationale for the 50 minimum.

That's exactly right, Bill.  Man, the way you answer questions on this thread makes me wonder if I should put you on the payroll!  :)

Just to add a bit of behind the scenes info - currently I try to limit the number of books I send out in a day to 4, and almost always only 1 per genre (with the exception of Romance which I'll explain below). 

The website takes 1 book per genre per day and then blocks the day off when I hit 4.  As you mentioned, Romance is my biggest group by far, but readers self select their genres and out of the 15 or so we have active, they can choose as many or as few as they like. 

Limiting the number to 4 helps by not spreading the readers too thinly, since most readers have chosen multiple genre preferences but only sign up for the ones they want most.  If we give them too much choice, every book just gets less people signing up.  Until I can beef up my # of reviewers (something I'm always working on and looking at ways to improve), that number will stay at 4. But in the future perhaps we'll be able to expand it.

The 50 limit is there for the reason you mentioned - for high demand books it means me turning away less reviewers - but also because, to be completely honest, running an ARC properly is a fair bit of work and it's just not worth it if everyone was ordered 10 reviewers.  Since I only charge per sign up, I often do books for that number anyway (especially in certain genres where my number of reviewers is lower), but that's more incentive for me to beef up those areas...

And since with romance we have such huge numbers, even with the 50 minimum I'm often turning many reviewers away so in some cases I will double book romances and run 2 in a day - depending on the types and the numbers people want.  It's a manual thing someone emails me asking if I have an opening and if they're flexible I'll try to put them in the schedule early - especially since romance's are booked out until March at this point. I know that's way too far in advance for a lot of people, so I do my best to accommodate.  But the 4 a day rule still applies in those cases, so 2 romances means only 2 slots left for non romance. I usually won't double book a romance if it's ordered MAX, unless it's a really fringe romance that I'm fairly sure won't get many sign ups in the first place.  Then I may schedule another one just to give some variety.

It's all a juggling act to try and satisfy both the authors and the reviewers.

Anyway - hopefully that explains things a bit more for anyone interested in the nitty gritty.

BTW - speaking of our constant need to get more reviewers - if anyone is interested in advertising our service to your own mailing list (or social media, or anywhere else tbh), please contact me as we have an affiliate program for that sort of thing, where we'll pay you per sign up that we get. Shoot me a message and I'll send you the details.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on November 27, 2017, 07:45:59 AM
For those who have used this service, what was your timeline for send out ARCs in relation to your launch? I was thinking maybe a month prior?

Also, did you send eBook ARCs?

Hi Saklopfenstein - we generally recommend a week in terms of the timeline, as that's the minimum amount of time we give readers before asking for reviews.  So if we sent a book out today, our default date to ask for reviews would be Dec 3rd.  You can do longer, but I wouldn't recommend going too much longer as readers may forget some of the details of your book since they're likely reading others as well.  Our readers are pretty voracious, so most of them get done in a week or sometimes a few days longer.

And we only deal in ebooks - so we need a PDF and MOBI version at least, EPUB is optional (but recommended). 

Thanks, and let me know if you have any other questions.

HG
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: saklopfenstein on November 27, 2017, 04:08:54 PM
Hi Saklopfenstein - we generally recommend a week in terms of the timeline, as that's the minimum amount of time we give readers before asking for reviews.  So if we sent a book out today, our default date to ask for reviews would be Dec 3rd.  You can do longer, but I wouldn't recommend going too much longer as readers may forget some of the details of your book since they're likely reading others as well.  Our readers are pretty voracious, so most of them get done in a week or sometimes a few days longer.

And we only deal in ebooks - so we need a PDF and MOBI version at least, EPUB is optional (but recommended). 

Thanks, and let me know if you have any other questions.

HG

Thanks for the clarification. That helps a lot. I am still a ways out from my launch. Hoping for late April - early May, but still finalizing the date. How far in advance do you recommend booking for reviews?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on November 27, 2017, 07:49:23 PM
Thanks for the clarification. That helps a lot. I am still a ways out from my launch. Hoping for late April - early May, but still finalizing the date. How far in advance do you recommend booking for reviews?

For romance, we're booking around March at this point.  For all other genres, only because of the 4 book a day limit, we're usually booking out a week or two in advance.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: baldricko on November 28, 2017, 08:26:21 PM
I totally recommend Hidden Gems for the purpose of finding reviewers.

The reviews are honest and clearly by different reviewers. On the whole, the they are well considered and fair, and they are posted promptly, and they continue to roll in for a while after. What more could you ask for?

Another thing I like a lot about HG is the follow up. You can receive reviewer comments and even requests emailed to you by HG for weeks after the day. I think details like this really do matter.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: wilsonharp on December 12, 2017, 08:38:10 AM
Just another testimonial for Hidden Gems. I had my Epic Fantasy 'The Alabaster Throne' go out last Tuesday. It was 20 reviewers for $40, and as of now, I already have 11 new reviews. Very happy with the quality of the reviews and will be using Hidden Gems for all of my launches from now on.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bob Stewart on December 12, 2017, 11:04:44 AM
For those of you who have used this ARC service, how have you timed it in regards to your release date?

If the book's on preorder, readers can't post reviews. So do you have your book listed at Hidden Gems just as the book is going live?

Thanks.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Joseph John on December 12, 2017, 02:45:39 PM
For those of you who have used this ARC service, how have you timed it in regards to your release date?

If the book's on preorder, readers can't post reviews. So do you have your book listed at Hidden Gems just as the book is going live?

Thanks.

Hidden Gems recommends sending your ARC out one week before release. So that's what I did. So far so good; the reviews have started rolling in.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: IntoTheAbyss on December 12, 2017, 02:50:12 PM
For those of you who have used this ARC service, how have you timed it in regards to your release date?

If the book's on preorder, readers can't post reviews. So do you have your book listed at Hidden Gems just as the book is going live?

Thanks.

Put pre-order up for ebook. Put up live paperback at the same time. Have the two linked. Then they can leave reviews on the paperback and when the e-book goes live, the reviews from the paperback will start to show for the ebook.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: C L Salaski on December 19, 2017, 04:08:58 PM
I've just had another Hidden Gems review taken down today. Anyone else seeing this problem rise up again?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Sam B on December 19, 2017, 04:30:53 PM
I've just had another Hidden Gems review taken down today. Anyone else seeing this problem rise up again?

I've lost three or so. I feel bad for those reviewers who are having all of their work removed, sometimes thousands of reviews.

I get that Amazon doesn't want fake reviews, but I've seen an amazon book review that says "I'm friends with the author!" and that hasn't been taken down... So obviously whatever they're doing, they're coming at this wrong.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: RRodriguez on December 19, 2017, 05:02:51 PM
I haven't had a chance to catch up on the whole issue of Amazon taking down so many HG reviews, but I was just curious if Hidden Gems might consider focusing more attention on Goodreads reviews that hold a good amount of weight and can't be taken down?
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: IntoTheAbyss on December 19, 2017, 05:31:30 PM
Both of mine that had been taken down both reappeared, so yeah, your reviews may reappear in time.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on December 19, 2017, 06:31:18 PM
I haven't had a chance to catch up on the whole issue of Amazon taking down so many HG reviews, but I was just curious if Hidden Gems might consider focusing more attention on Goodreads reviews that hold a good amount of weight and can't be taken down?
Amazon owns Goodreads. The fact that it hasn't gone after Goodreads reviews doesn't mean it wouldn't at some point in the future.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on December 19, 2017, 06:32:36 PM
Both of mine that had been taken down both reappeared, so yeah, your reviews may reappear in time.
Last time this happened, a number of people reported that the reviews reappear. I've had one disappear and then reappear. That's more likely a glitch than a review purge.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on December 21, 2017, 01:03:55 PM
Hi everyone - Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Just wanted to poke in with a couple of comments in regards to the disappearing reviews.  As most of you know, it has nothing to do with HG specifically and has affected reviewers from everywhere, whether they used our service, someone else's, or no service at all.  As we ARC more books than almost anyone and deal with thousands of reviewers, we're unfortunately going to have the most visibility around the issue. 

What seems to be happening is that Amazon is targeting individual reviewers for whatever unknown reason (likely due to a new heavy-handed algorithm) and then blowing away their entire review history - whether the reviews are for ARC books, or for products (books or not) that they have actually purchased - and then blocking them from leaving new reviews on anything.  (Which is another reason the problem seems to affect us more, and perhaps seem a big worse than it really is - for example, if a single HG reader reviews 20 different books and has all their reviews removed, that affects 20 different authors who now come out and say they, too, had reviews removed... but it's still just a single account removal affecting all those different authors).

Typically Amazon will send an email with some vague reason, although sometimes not. 

From Amazon's perspective, deleting every review is obviously much easier and cheaper than identifying individual reviews since they can do it all automatically instead of paying a rep to investigate or whatever.

Since Amazon doesn't really tell us (or anyone) how they work, some of the above is speculation of course, but it's based on evidence of what we're hearing from readers affected, knowledge of how Amazon typically deals with stuff like this, and more importantly, how they're responding to complaints about it. 

Which brings me to the GOOD NEWS about the situation.

In the VAST majority of cases (over 80%) that have been brought to our attention, reviewers that have reached out to Amazon have had ALL of their reviews restored as well as their reviewing privileges.  No questions asked.

To me, this means that Amazon knows that they're new algo is hitting innocent reviewers as well as guilty ones, and they are restoring those innocents as soon as they hear from them.

That also explains why many of you saw some reviews disappear and then eventually reappear.  That's what's happening there.  For others that have been more recently affected, hopefully most of those will return as well but feel free to reach out to me via email or PM here and let me know which book of yours was affected and I can investigate.

We don't have an easy way to identify when previously logged reviews go missing, so we rely on the author or reader to let us know.  In every case we have worked with the readers to help them get their accounts restored - mainly by just simply explaining what's going on and giving them the correct email address to contact to appeal their case.  It usually takes 2-3 days while Amazon investigates before everything is restored.

Which, by the way, is a counter argument to the belief that some people have that they are targeting ARC reviews.  If that was the case, none of our readers affected would have been restored since they all review ARC books.  Yet not a single one has been denied yet (that we know of, at least).  Anyone from Amazon that investigates them and looks at their reviews would know that they are reviewing ARC books, so if that was the issue then they would have denied their appeal.  Plus, if their algo was targeting these types of reviews, we would be much harder hit - as in, we'd have lost pretty much everyone.  Yet so far we've only identified less than 20 of our readers that have been affected (again, there may be more but those are the ones we know about) and of the 2 or 3 that haven't been restored yet, I think they either haven't sent the appeal email or are still waiting to hear back.

Anyway, hopefully that puts some minds at ease.  That's the way things have been going so far - whether they change in the future is up to Amazon, but as usual we'll keep on top of things as best we can for both our authors and our readers.

Thanks,
HG
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Mylius Fox on January 30, 2018, 04:34:11 AM
Just wanted to say that several months after my launch, I had another ARC review pop up out of the blue. :)
Hidden Gems -- the gift that keeps on giving. :D
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on January 30, 2018, 08:52:45 AM
Just wanted to say that several months after my launch, I had another ARC review pop up out of the blue. :)
Hidden Gems -- the gift that keeps on giving. :D
I've had the same thing happen. In some ways, that's better than having them all appear at once.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Catherine Lea on January 30, 2018, 11:58:48 AM
Hi HiddenGems, how many signups do you generally get for the thriller genre? Do your thriller readers respond well to military/political thrillers? I've got a new release next week and I really like how your service sounds. :)
Good to see later on that it worked for you. I've just signed up for one for my latest thriller, A Stolen Woman. So far, 30 readers have opted in, and HiddenGems has billed me $40 plus the original $20, and very kindly offered any further readers for free. I went into this knowing that the readership is mostly romance, so I'm open to the results. So far, they've been great to deal with.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: AliceS on January 30, 2018, 12:27:33 PM
Signed up for a space fantasy for mid-Feb. Can't wait to see how well this works.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Rex Jameson on January 30, 2018, 12:42:11 PM
I will definitely be talking to you guys in the near future. Thanks for providing what looks like a well-reviewed, impactful service to the community!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Adomwrites on February 02, 2018, 06:52:03 AM
The earliest ARC booking for romance is in June O_O
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: AliceS on February 18, 2018, 08:01:39 AM
My goal was to get enough reviews so I could use some of the better promo services. I had 4 going in and I'm up to 11 now. Since 10 is the minimum for many promo sites, I'm good. The reviews all sound as if the reader actually read the book, so I am very pleased.

The pool for scifi is small. Only 10 people signed up for my space opera. But as I said, that reached my goal. I'll be using them again for a mystery later in the year.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on March 17, 2018, 06:46:40 AM
Hey everyone - just want to leave a quick note to say we've moved domains and can now be found at https://www.hiddengemsbooks.com.  We've been running our ARC on non romance genres for months, so this move is long overdue.  New site is more secure (on https now) and much faster (after a few growing pains during our first week) than our old site, so come and have a look.  We also plan on adding a few more services for authors in the near future.

Also, we're doing a big subscriber push for new readers so if you're interested in spreading the word about our service to your own mailing list of readers, or on social media, or whatever, then I'm willing to pay you $1 per sign up (via use of a personalized affiliate link).  If you want to give it a try just send me a PM and I'll get you started.  In the past I've paid out thousands when I've run this, as authors have access to lots of readers so the response from their lists are usually very positive.

Growing our reader/reviewer group for all genres is the best way for us to combat the growing issue of our long waiting list that I know is frustrating for both authors and us, so we're doing everything we can to make that happen as fast as possible.

Thanks!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: AlisonSol on March 20, 2018, 10:07:19 AM
Hi, hope I'm posting this in the right place. I have a question for Hidden Gems. I have a mystery to be published this summer I'd like to put in for review. While the main genre is mystery, most of the characters are women/lesbians and there is a romance between two women. The book is set in Gulfport Florida, which is a very LGBTQ friendly community. I'm concerned that there will be reviewers who won't want to review, or will give a bad review if they are homophobic. My last two books have been enjoyed by both gay and straight audiences, but I've occasionally had reviews from people who panned them solely because they had lesbians in them.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: StellaD on March 20, 2018, 01:54:52 PM
Hi Hidden Gems,

Your service is clearly awesome. However, since the next available date for fantasy is in June, I have a question. My book will be out by June, and I'm planning to put it in Kindle Select. Would having ARCs distributed by your website put me in violation of Select's exclusivity clause? (I'm thinking yes, but wanted to ask in case I'm missing something).

Thanks!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on March 20, 2018, 02:30:30 PM
Hi, hope I'm posting this in the right place. I have a question for Hidden Gems. I have a mystery to be published this summer I'd like to put in for review. While the main genre is mystery, most of the characters are women/lesbians and there is a romance between two women. The book is set in Gulfport Florida, which is a very LGBTQ friendly community. I'm concerned that there will be reviewers who won't want to review, or will give a bad review if they are homophobic. My last two books have been enjoyed by both gay and straight audiences, but I've occasionally had reviews from people who panned them solely because they had lesbians in them.
One would hope that there aren't very many homophobes in the review pool, but with HG, as with any other ARC service, there's no way of predicting that. As far as I know, reviewers are vetted to make sure they can leave reviews on Amazon and will follow the guidelines. I doubt they're asked questions about possible biases. Essentially, that means you get what you get.

I suppose that's true of any review situation. People with biases will unfortunately express them in reviews. However, that may also happen with regular readers just as easily as with ARC reviewers.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on March 20, 2018, 02:36:31 PM
Hi Hidden Gems,

Your service is clearly awesome. However, since the next available date for fantasy is in June, I have a question. My book will be out by June, and I'm planning to put it in Kindle Select. Would having ARCs distributed by your website put me in violation of Select's exclusivity clause? (I'm thinking yes, but wanted to ask in case I'm missing something).

Thanks!
That's a head-scratcher. Some Amazon reps have told people in the past that the distribution of a few review copies was not a violation of Select rules, but that assurance isn't in writing anywhere, at least as far as I know.

It's clear Amazon would have a problem with you putting up a publicly accessible link and asking for reviews. Whether the same applies to private dissemination is anyone's guess. Some people in Select certainly mail their own ARCs to people.

The easiest way to avoid this potential problem is to sign up with HG in such a way that the copies go out before the book goes live. You can certainly give away prepub copies (which is, after all, what ARCs traditionally were). Do HG early enough, and the process will already be in motion when the book goes live and is in Select. That would be my recommendation.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: StellaD on March 20, 2018, 06:10:46 PM
Quote
The easiest way to avoid this potential problem is to sign up with HG in such a way that the copies go out before the book goes live. You can certainly give away prepub copies (which is, after all, what ARCs traditionally were). Do HG early enough, and the process will already be in motion when the book goes live

That was my original thought, too, but Select's terms specifically say the book cannot be available for free on a third party website while the contract is on. I don't know, it's just a gray enough area that it could go either way. On the other hand, the schedule is so far out, that I could do a three month stint with KS, hop out for a couple days while the arcs are distributed, then get back in. 😄
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Mylius Fox on March 21, 2018, 05:46:53 AM
That was my original thought, too, but Select's terms specifically say the book cannot be available for free on a third party website while the contract is on. I don't know, it's just a gray enough area that it could go either way. On the other hand, the schedule is so far out, that I could do a three month stint with KS, hop out for a couple days while the arcs are distributed, then get back in. 😄

HG doesn't make your book available through a website, though, and Amazon's ToS allows ARC copies to be distributed. You're all set.  8)
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Bill Hiatt on March 21, 2018, 06:10:52 AM
That was my original thought, too, but Select's terms specifically say the book cannot be available for free on a third party website while the contract is on. I don't know, it's just a gray enough area that it could go either way. On the other hand, the schedule is so far out, that I could do a three month stint with KS, hop out for a couple days while the arcs are distributed, then get back in. 😄
What I meant was that you could distribute through HG before the book goes live in the first place. It isn't in Select until it's actually published. HG distributes at a specific time. Find out when they're distributing your book, and hit publish once it's done. While I agree with Mylius's interpretation, if you're not sure, you can avoid the problem by doing as I suggest.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: StellaD on March 21, 2018, 01:17:50 PM
Quote
What I meant was that you could distribute through HG before the book goes live in the first place. It isn't in Select until it's actually published. HG distributes at a specific time.

Yes, except I'd have to delay publication until June, and I'm ready now 😄

But for now I'm trying out an alternate service and will go from there.

Thanks for sharing your advice!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on March 24, 2018, 01:43:06 PM
That was my original thought, too, but Select's terms specifically say the book cannot be available for free on a third party website while the contract is on. I don't know, it's just a gray enough area that it could go either way. On the other hand, the schedule is so far out, that I could do a three month stint with KS, hop out for a couple days while the arcs are distributed, then get back in. 😄

Hi Stella - while we certainly can't speak for Amazon in any official capacity, I can say that since we've started going this I would guess that at least half of the books that go through us are already enrolled in KU and it's never been an issue.  Some authors have specifically shown me emails they've had with KDP Select reps where they've asked about whether it's allowed and been told it's fine to send out review copies to readers while enrolled.  But you know Amazon, so just because something was allowed in the past for some doesn't mean they won't decide to do something about it in the future... my personal feeling is that they don't care.  This isn't what they're after when with their exclusivity clause.  As has been pointed out already, we don't make the book available for download on our website.  We ask for specific sign ups and then only those users are give the download links, and then after the ARC is done the files are removed so even those won't work for anyone that hasn't downloaded it by then.

It's the same as an author running the ARC service on their own lists after publishing, but again, we can't make any promises.  You have to participate at your own level of comfort.  All we can say is that isn't hasn't been an issue for anyone we've heard about in the last 3 years (knock on wood).
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: HiddenGems on March 24, 2018, 01:45:41 PM
Hi, hope I'm posting this in the right place. I have a question for Hidden Gems. I have a mystery to be published this summer I'd like to put in for review. While the main genre is mystery, most of the characters are women/lesbians and there is a romance between two women. The book is set in Gulfport Florida, which is a very LGBTQ friendly community. I'm concerned that there will be reviewers who won't want to review, or will give a bad review if they are homophobic. My last two books have been enjoyed by both gay and straight audiences, but I've occasionally had reviews from people who panned them solely because they had lesbians in them.

As all the reviewers are real and not affiliated with us in any way, I really can't speak for them officially or make any promises.  However, we provide a number of ways to mitigate the risk in that you are free to write a description or blurb that differs from what you have on Amazon - for example, you can leave a note that specifically says that the book contains LGBTQ characters and issues, and anyone not interested in that should pass.  Similarly, you can write LGBTQ or other relevant words in the sub category section when you book, which further defines the book within your genre of Mystery.  If you do those things, I think the risk of anyone taking issue would be at least as low, if not lower, than any other random person reading it and reviewing it on Amazon.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: StellaD on March 24, 2018, 10:41:25 PM
Quote
All we can say is that isn't hasn't been an issue for anyone we've heard about in the last 3 years (knock on wood).

Great to hear, thank you!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Crime fighters on May 14, 2018, 03:57:26 PM
I was poised to use your service before but had to pull out. Iím now looking into booking again in the near future, but see that you are booked almost fully until next year. Do you have a waiting list for cancellations? Iím relaunching under a new pen name and was hoping to use Hidden Gems to prop up the relaunch. I should have checked months ago but didnít think to do it because the last time I had booked, you werenít so busy.

Thanks!
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: gilesxbecker on May 15, 2018, 06:44:20 PM
I was poised to use your service before but had to pull out. Iím now looking into booking again in the near future, but see that you are booked almost fully until next year. Do you have a waiting list for cancellations? Iím relaunching under a new pen name and was hoping to use Hidden Gems to prop up the relaunch. I should have checked months ago but didnít think to do it because the last time I had booked, you werenít so busy.

Thanks!

Me too. They are booked up until September now. I guess I have to look elsewhere.
Title: Re: Hidden Gems ARC Service
Post by: Deacon Blues on June 05, 2018, 04:32:33 AM
I'm relaunching under a new pen name and was hoping to use Hidden Gems to prop up the relaunch. I should have checked months ago but didnít think to do it because the last time I had booked, you werenít so busy.
I'm in the same boat, so I'm glad I checked here first - my genre's booked up until September! I told myself I should start my marketing plan further in advance this time around, and I guess this is forcing me to do just that!  :D