All About ARCs

Whether you’re a causal reader or an constant one, getting an advanced copy of a book makes you feel special. And it should make you feel special, because receiving an ARC means you were one of the few people deemed influential enough to receive one.

Ok, that’s kind of an exaggeration, but they are awesome so let’s find out why.

Firstly, what exactly is an ARC?

ARC means advance review copy. Sometimes they are referred to as advanced reader copies.

Who has access to these special, early versions of books?

TV personalities, journalist, booksellers, attendees at book expos, reporters at traditional radio and newspapers are all sent ARCs. Additionally, nouveau reviewers and fan readers that post reviews on platforms such as blogs, YouTube, instagram, weheartit, GoodReads, twitter, facebook, and similar internet based social platforms receive ARCs. Also the friends, family, coworkers, and advisers of the writer sometimes receive ARCs. Finally, booksellers and bookstores may receive ARCs to aid in their book knowledge and to help promote the books.

How can you get a copy of an ARC?

Agents, writers, and publishers may contact you directly if you blog about a subject the book they are publishing is about like fashion, toys, food, religion, or just about books in general (book bloggers, booktubers, litwitters, bookstagrammers, etc). If you contact a writer (please don’t do this if you don’t know them unless you are an influential blogger/youtuber) sometimes they will happily mail a copy directly to you or send you an ebook or a galley/netgalley copy (I’ll go over galleys in a future post). If you’re a book seller, you get them off the truck at the store, in the mail from corporate, or directly from publishers. Booksellers can ask management to borrow or keep ARCs that interest them.

When do ARCs become available?

The advanced copy printing dates depend on the popularity and timeliness of the subject and/or author. If it is nonfiction or fiction relating to current events, sometimes they skip the multiple edits, reader copies, and galleys and the ARCs will be released ASAP. An example of this is Sean Spicer’s book The Briefing. He is rumored to have charged people to get copies of his ARCs and offered so-called free tickets to book tour events in exchange. Then there was Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury which was so highly anticipated and controversial people lined up for the ARCs. After journalists received it, they published and read-aloud the most salacious excerpts on prime-time tv news shows. Both books were published less than three months after their ARCs were released. Spicer’s book was a failure and did not sell well upon publication. Wolff’s book was Publisher Weekly’s 5th best selling title of 2018. Both ARC and marketing cases were extremely unusually but show how important and influential a well edited (even if not a final edit), quality ARC and marketing campaign can be.

That brings us to: why bother to release ARCs?

ARCs can give publishers and editors huge insights into how a book may be received by the general public. These ARCs clearly can help drive or kill sales depending on the early reviews. Plus, the marketing can be readjusted to help improve the projected sales or the printer can be called to reduce the printing order.

Over the past 5 years social media book posts have increased so much so that those reviewers are starting to take priority over typical networks. Marketing campaigns surrounding ARCs and book publishing in general, are changing. Getting an ARC photo onto Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf or Reese Whiterspoon’s Hello Sunshine social media can drastically influence the sales margins of a book. Therefore, digital based reviewers are often sent ARCs first but this also means more ARCs are being printed and sent out than before.

The high volume of ARCs being printed can hurt a book, like Spicer’s The Briefing, or it can take a genre novel like The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory from sitting on a bookstore’s romance shelf for years to flying off shelves. But, this means collecting ARCs may be a thing of the past. There was a time Ian McEwan ARC was more valuable than a signed first edition. Notes and highlighting from a famous reviewer only increased the value. Sales of these rare copies once ranged from $5-150 per copy. Now that more are made, the 1980’s collecting boom may start to decline.

ARCs are made to be read and enjoyed but not to be sold, despite the collecting market that is out there. When people finish reading them, sometimes ARCs are raffled off or given away for free. Other’s collect them because they are rare but if you go to a signing be mindful that most writers will not sign ARCs. Sometimes people will craft with them, carving and paper folding the pages. What you choose to do with them is up to you, but if you are caught selling them you will probably not receive them again because it hurts relationships with publishers.

Check back next week for more bookstore insights.

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