“Join the Robot Army! See the Angry Robot World!”
This blast from the past opens up AR’s promotion page for their Robot Army (RA) program, a system that gives genre bloggers a chance to obtain advanced reader copies of upcoming AR titles. An establishment from the very first days of Angry Robot, the RA might very well be responsible for the company’s success in the marketplace.
The RA reaches out to bloggers and website-owners who write book reviews of genre novels “on a regular basis.” The frequency of reviews is very important to AR; while this system is rather liberal in its handing out of advanced copies, AR doesn’t welcome casual involvement.
“Personal blogs with very occasional book reviews, retailer website reviews and passing mentions on social media sites aren’t really what we’re looking for,” states the RA main page.
Other than this main requirement, the steps for membership are quite easy. After one successfully signs up for the RA mailing list, they will receive notices via email when new eARCs (electronic Advanced Reader Copies) are available to request via the Angry Robot NetGalley account. NetGalley is a very popular system that allows “influential” reviewers, bloggers, and other media members to request eARCs of titles from most major publishers.
Essentially, the RA acts as a middleman between the reviewer and NetGalley with the intention of making it easier for reviewers to obtain Angry Robot eARCs.
While AR hasn’t compiled an official, public list of all RA-supported blogs, one simply has to Google search “Angry Robot Army” to gain an idea of how widespread this program has become. The RA has recruited blogs of all types, most of whom give positive reviews to AR’s books and are more than willing to mention their involvement with the RA.
While the benefits of having an enthusiastic group of bloggers on your side are completely obvious, what does a polished street team like the RA give Angry Robot that masses of ratings on a website like Goodreads do not?
The answer is in the requirements for RA membership; they want enthusiasm in the reviews. As they write on the RA promo page, “Angry Robot wants the very best – the most dedicated, the most fanatical…” Their mission statement indicates that AR publishes specifically for readers who won’t simply shelve away their books once they’re done reading.
“The sheer joy, though, of being able to jump onto a table (only sometimes metaphorically) and tell the world about how bloody great a chosen writer or novel is, is what drives Angry Robot,” states AR’s mission statement.
The Robot Army is that metaphorical table. It allows readers to introduce a passion into their reviews that gets diluted through many of the short-form social media platforms. Simply put, the RA is Angry Robot’s mission statement in action.
“It’s all about the customer, the reader,” said AR Managing Director Marc Cascoigne in an interview with Publishing Perspectives. “Genres are founded on enthusiasts, dedicated superfans, and if you can make books for those readers you have a strength that will outlast any fads or fashions.”
Indeed, catering to those types of readers appears to have paid off for AR. AR launched their initial website months ahead of their first books’ release in July 2009. Even before they had books to sell, AR had launched their RA program (which initially didn’t include NetGalley). Because AR’s initial success was founded not only on critical acclaim, but strong word-of-mouth (as I detailed in my initial post), the RA probably helped to bring Angry Robot into the spotlight. While such a nebulous concept as “word-of-mouth” is hard to quantify, I can confidently conclude that AR’s strong reputation has been built on the praise of enthusiastic fans such as those who fight for the Robot Army.
Next time, I will discuss AR’s efforts within broader social media (particularly Facebook and Twitter).