Sunday, February 19, 2012

ARCs: An Explanation for Those Not "In The Know"

Every time I mention ARCs, someone reminds me that not everyone lives in this tiny publishing world in which such acronyms are familiar to us. So, for those of you who do not know what an ARC is, I will tell you!

The What

ARC stands for "advance reader copy." It is an uncorrected proof of the text, usually made just after copyediting or line editing but before pass pages. What that means is that the ARC is not the finished version of the book-- it may have punctuation or grammar errors, or whole sentences might be left out, or rarely, certain sections might even be different. For example, somehow a paragraph got lost in the Divergent ARCs, just from feeding the manuscript into a PDF. It happens.

Speaking as an author, I would prefer that readers read the final version of the book for that reason. Details may be small things, but they affect the impression a text makes on you, and I like people to get the best impression possible before they make their assessments.

The Why

Publishers make and send out ARCs to do a few things:

1. Get the book in the hands of reviewers and book bloggers for publicity purposes (to "build buzz," or to make sure readers know about a book before it's on the shelves).
2. Help booksellers figure out if they want to stock the book/how much of it they want to stock.
3. Help teachers and librarians figure out if they want to teach the book/order it/tell their students about it early.
4. Torture you, the reader. (Okay, that's not true, but when I'm excited for a book that's how it feels!)

The Other Stuff

-ARCs are produced at cost to the publisher, which means that they are not sold for profit. When they are sold by those who receive them, whether on the Internet or in real life, that money does not go to the publisher or to the author, it goes straight to the person who got the ARC for free. That's why it's unethical to sell or buy ARCs. It happens, but it sort of sucks.

-However, when people give ARCs away on blogs or websites or whatever, that's a little more like passing a book along to a friend, and I like that. Spreading the word is good! Go ahead and pass the ARCs!

-Because of what an ARC is for (publicity, mostly), publishers don't usually send ARCs out to casual readers. Compared to the actual first printing of a book, not many ARCs are made, and they have to be used strategically.

-That said, how many ARCs are made available depends on the book and the publisher's marketing plan for that book.

-Sometimes ARCs have different covers than the final version of a book. This often happens because a publisher just isn't done designing a book's cover when the time for ARCs comes, or because they use one cover and then decide against it later. This can be pretty cool to see, if you're into book covers, which I am.

-ARCs are super nifty for authors because they get to see and hold their book months before it appears on shelves.

I think that's about it! There you have it: ARCs.


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