Friday, February 07, 2014

Writing: The ARC

When a writer talks about an ark, chances are they're not referring to the vessel built by Noah. (And, what do you think of the recent discovery that suggests the ark was round?) The writer who mentions an ark is talking about an Advance Reader's Copy.

ARCs may take one of several forms. Some are simply printed pages, bound by a spiral coil like something that you'd get from Kinko's. Others, like the one shown, are printed copies that look very much like the finished book, except that: 1) they are clearly marked as unedited copies, 2) they may or may not contain marketing and publicity information, and 3) whether stated or implied, it's assumed that they are not to be passed on or distributed in any way. They are sent for one reason--to allow selected people to review them.

I've just finished reading an ARC of a cozy mystery written by Ellen Kennedy. It will release in September under the title, Murder In The Past Tense. I found it charming, and had no problem providing an endorsement for it.

The ARCs are sent not only to endorsers but to reviewers such as Library Journal and Romantic Times Book Reviews. These reviewers get tons of books and can't possibly review them all, so authors feel it's a special honor when their book is reviewed, much less when it receives a good review. I've been fortunate enough to receive such reviews, but I have to confess I bite my fingernails with each new book, hoping to see a review and yet dreading the content.

Selected bloggers and individual reviews also receive ARCs, and the competition is sometimes fierce to get on a publisher's list. Sometimes the author can ask the publisher to add a name or two, but at other times all the ARCs are already designated for distribution.

Have you received an ARC? What did you do after you finished it? Give it to a friend? Sell it on eBay or Craig's List? Do you know what you're supposed to do with it?

Do you have questions about ARCs or any other aspect of the writing and publishing process? Ask away, and I'll either answer them or find someone who knows the answer. Thanks for dropping by.

14 comments:

Lori Weller said...

I have recieved quite a few ARC's to review and I still have them and treasure them as I do regular editions. Some of them are even signed which make them even more precious to me!

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Lori. I know I speak on behalf of the authors involved when I say your attitude and your actions mean a lot. I appreciate your comment.

Vera Godley said...

I have received ARCs in both the bound stage such as you pictured and also in the semi-bound format where it looks like a copier produced, 8x11 size, document where the pages of the book are centered on the page with "cut" marks in place. I have shared the bound books with the school's library with note that they may contain errors or typos at that stage. The copier format I gave to the high school English teacher so she could share production steps in publication with her students.

What do I do with my ARCs and other books I review? I share them with the Alamance Christian School library. Yes, even when they are autographed by the author - though that tugs at my heart because some of the notes they have written to me in the book. One of the reasons I review books is to help populate the shelves of our little school and to provide good reading for our students.

Richard Mabry said...

Vera, thanks for your comment. There's no doubt that both ARCs and final copies of books that you receive pay dividends for the publishers and authors through your reviews. That's the whole idea behind the process.
As for whether it's either legal or moral to share an ARC, which is clearly marked as an unedited proof, that continues to be a subject for debate, such as this:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2011/sep/21/proofs-advance-reading-copy-trade

Nancee said...

I have received numerous ARCs, most often from a publicist. Most times an author will send me a final copy of his/her book, but occasionally I receive an ARC from an individual author. I usually keep them, although I have shared them on occasion. I've recently learned that we are not supposed to pass them on. I'm interested in reading the link that you provided. Thank you for sharing a very interesting blog post!

Richard Mabry said...

Nancee, As I understand it, ARCs are sent either in view of a possible endorsement or for purposes of garnering a review. In the former case, most publishers or authors send a copy of the final form of the book in appreciation, but not in the latter case. Of course, that varies with publishers and situations.
I keep the ARCs I'm sent that I'd like to have in my library, and I let my wife Kay read the ones she wishes to. It hurts to toss one in the recycle bin rather than passing it on, but as you've seen, that's what we're supposed to do.
Thanks for your comment.

Deborah Raney said...

Good post, Richard. I sure wouldn't want my ARCs circulated, or placed in a library. Reviewers and endorsers know to expect errors in an ARC and that there will be changes in the final product. But library patrons and the average reader will not know that, and may judge the author's work based on the mistakes and inconsistencies an ARC often contains. I trust those who receive my ARCs to know that they should not be passed on, even though, I too, find it VERY hard to put something that looks so much like a book in the recycle bin!

Richard Mabry said...

Deb, I agree. Well-meaning gestures may end up placing a book with typos and errors (corrected in the final copy) in the hands of a potential reader who could be turned off from the book or author as a result. But, like you, it's tough to toss an ARC, especially when you've really liked the book.
Thanks for your comment, and for emphasizing the message about ARCs.

Leslie Basil Payne said...

Thank you for this informative post, Richard. After a year "away", I started reading the ACFW loop a few days ago. I so appreciate all the opportunities to learn, you have a new follower.

Richard Mabry said...

Leslie, So glad to have you back reading the ACFW Loop, and glad you decided to read this post. I devote Fridays to the writing life, and Tuesdays to "life in general." Hope you'll stop by again and feel free to comment.

Anonymous said...

This is a great topic, Richard. I've reviewed for some wonderful authors, but I've never received an ARC in unpublished form. All have been final copy, often signed by the authors. I've been blessed to receive from authors whom I admire, so I always keep them, actually collect their works in some cases. I'm still in a quandary about reviewing the latest book in a series I received from a now renowned author. I've read all of his books and loved them, but this one bothered me. Since I haven't reviewed this one, I probably won't receive the last in his series. Bonnie Engstrom

Richard Mabry said...

Bonnie, thanks for your comment. It sounds like you were given "influencer" copies of the finished novel. When we receive those, as opposed to unedited Advance Reader Copies (which are clearly marked), we can pass them on in any way we wish or keep them for ourselves.
And although I can't speak for every author, personally I want an honest review of my work, even in cases where the person received the book without charge. Unless the remarks are malicious or an ad hominem criticism, every author should (note I said should, not does) pay attention to criticism. That's how we grow.
I appreciate your stopping by.

Patricia Bradley said...

Glad to see I'm not the only one biting my nails when a book comes out. Great post!

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Patricia. Congratulations on your next book, Shadows of the Past. And stop biting your nails--it'll be fine.