QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Elusive Advanced Reader Copy (ARC)

ARC, Galley, ARE (Advanced Reader Edition). If you are an aspiring author, you've seen these terms all over the internet. They are the paperback copies of the book distributed for promotion prior to its final print run.

I'm going to go against my usual approach for my QT blog posts, and make this one a bit personal since every experience is different and I can only address my own.

As a debut writer, I dreamed of the day I'd get to hold my bound book for the first time. That day came, and it was amazing.

What had never crossed my mind is how little control authors have over some aspects of the industry. I'm not complaining, I'm just trying to demystify the system for aspiring writers. I don't have a book review blog and had never requested an ARC, so this has all been very educational. Sure, I'd asked my published friends about it, but every experience is different.

Here's what I've learned:
  1. ARCs are marketing tools, not freebies. Ideally, every one of them will generate multiple sales (in some cases hundreds of sales).
  2. Most authors receive very few ARCs (some authors get only one or two) as they are primarily intended for bookbuyers, reviewers, and librarians.
  3. ARCs are expensive. They usually cost much more to produce than the hardcopy book itself, due to the smaller print runs, which is why publishers don't distribute them willy-nilly.
How to get one:
  1. Check the author's website for ARC information. Often, as in my case, the ARC contact information is on the author website and blog.
  2. Check the publisher's website for request information.
  3. Write an email requesting the ARC specifying your intended use of it. Include the link to your blog or site on which you intend to buzz or promote the book.* You don't have to be a huge reviewer to score one.
Alternate ways to get an ARC:
  1. Win one in a giveaway. Sometimes giveaways create enough buzz to make the surrender of the ARC worthwhile for the author or publisher.
  2. Get an e-galley. NetGalley is one of the sources for these. The reviewer will receive an electronic galley of the book that "disappears" on the release date.
  3. Go to a publishing industry conference. Lots of times, publishers will give away promotional materials including ARCs. ALA, BEA, and RWA are examples of conferences where ARCs can be obtained. Again, they are not just freebies; the hope is that the recipients will generate buzz about the book.*
Some dont's:
  1. Don't take it personally if you are not given an ARC. I'm sure I speak for most authors when I say that I wish I could give an ARC to every single person who has interest in it, but it just isn't a reality.
  2. Impatience is not a qualifier. "I simply cannot wait that long" is usually not enough if nothing is offered that warrants the expense on the part of the publisher.*
  3. "I can't afford to buy your book." This one, though I understand and sympathize, doesn't usually work. After release, most books will be in libraries and used book stores. Libraries are free.

*Please note: Nobody likes every book. Accepting an ARC does NOT obligate you to give it 5 stars or say it's the greatest book ever. It is given in consideration for an honest review--if review was the purpose. (I would suggest however, that you not request an ARC in a genre you do not like. If you do not like teen romance, for example, it is not a great policy to request an ARC for review knowing you will probably hate it. Remember it is a marketing tool aimed at the target audience. I've read several ARC reviews in which the reader slams the book and gives it an awful rating only to close with something along the lines of: "This is not the kind of book I usually read, but teens will probably love it.") Pick ARCs you will probably like and then be honest in your review.

Final thoughts: If authors say no to requests, it's not because they don't want you to have an ARC, it's because they are expensive and hard to come by, and in today's market, the buzz from that ARC might be the only publicity that author gets.

I came across excellent article by literary agent Holly Root on this topic. She has some strong feelings about ARCs in today's market. Please click HERE to read.


Tere Kirkland said...

What an amazing feeling it must have been to see your book bound and covered for the first time!

It's all that excitement that makes it hard to remember just how useful those little books can be. Thanks for such a thorough post, Mary, and I can't wait for fall for Shattered Souls!

Emily said...

This is a fantastic post. Authors don't owe their fans "freebies" and ARCs should be used to generate buzz. I am a huge believer in Netgalley.

Unknown said...

Thanks so much. This cleared up much of the fog that I had surrounding an ARC. This was very informative.

Nicole L Rivera said...

I had no idea about NetGalley. Usually I wait for ARCs to come in the mail. This is sooooo much better :) Thanks for the advice.

Author Joshua Hoyt said...

Good information to know. I agree with the not giving 5 stars just because you were given an arc. It is important o be objective when reviewing a book.

Stina said...

Author Elizabeth Scott has a great system going. She only gets a few ARC to hand out to bloggers, so you can sign up to receive the ARC, you then read it, write the review, and send it to the next person. Brilliant idea.

I'd heard of NetGalley, but didn't know what it was.

Great post, Mary!

Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...

I want to add -- if you are given an ARC, that absolutely does NOT oblige you to give it 5 stars or even a favorable review -- but DO take the time to give a thoughtful review to go with your rating. Tell people WHY you gave the book however-many stars you gave it. ESPECIALLY if you had issues.

Carelessness doesn't help anyone, including other people who are interested in buying the book.

jjdebenedictis said...

What's your take on Robert J. Sawyer's advice for debut writers with regard ARCs?

When he started out, he paid out-of-pocket to print off 75 ARCs, then sent them out to reviewers only. Dr. Sawyer credits this move with preventing his career from being still-born after one book.

His novel didn't sell well, but one of the ARCs wound up in the hands of Orson Scott Card, who raved about it. Dr. Sawyer's agent then sent this and other good reviews along with his next book when it went out on submission. They didn't have any trouble finding another publisher, despite his previous weak numbers.

Holly Root has really good points too, however. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

I love the way your book covers coordinate so well with the carpet! Lovely :) Congratulations, and thanks for this post. I have gotten ARCs from giveaways and for reviews, but I did not know all of this information. Very interesting.