The publishing industry is rife with terminology. For new authors, it can be tough to keep it all straight. One term you may have heard is advance reading copy, or ARC. And to keep things interesting, there are many variations of the term, such as advance review copy, advanced reading copy, advanced reader's copy, reader's edition, or pre-press copy.
Understanding what an advance reading copy is and why it's important can help you be successful as an author. So, let's first define the term (and we'll look at how it's a little different from a galley), and then we'll consider how it is used by authors and publishers to improve and promote a book.
An advance reading copy is a free, promotional copy of a book that’s in the process of being published, but has yet to be released. It may be printed and bound or in electronic format. The ARC usually includes cover artwork, although it might not be the final version. A disclaimer is printed on the cover that identifies the book as an ARC. This notifies readers that the book isn't in its final version yet, so it could differ from the published version. The disclaimer also lets readers know that the ARC is not for resale (although some people do illegally sell ARCs).
Galley is another term used in publishing that you might have heard. Advance reader copies are similar to galleys; however, they differ in a few ways. The galley usually lacks the cover and fancy text formatting. It typically contains more typos and errors because it hasn't been proofread yet. While both ARCs and galleys are unfinished versions of a book, a galley is used for proofreading within a publishing department or by the author, instead of intended for promotional review. That doesn't mean that a galley isn't sometimes used as an ARC, but these days, it's more common that a purpose-made ARC is produced.
Advance reading copies are used by self-published authors and publishers in a number of ways:
One of the best ways to receive word-of-mouth promotion and establish credibility for your book is to get people to read your book and post a review online or in a publication. By sending key influential reviewers ARCs, you can ensure that reviews of your book will be published in time for your book's release. In order to allow enough time, make sure to research the publications that you are targeting—they may have specific guidelines. The lead time to distribute ARCs traditionally is three to six months, but with the advent of electronic ARCs and online media, the lead time can be much shorter—as little as six weeks for some reviewers.
ARCs are used to entice bookstore and library representatives to stock a book on their shelves. Traditional publishing houses commonly distribute hundreds of ARCs for this purpose. Self-published authors can also follow this practice to try to get stocked in a store.
Everyone loves free stuff, especially when no one else can buy it yet. That's exactly the kind of excitement that you build when you give away ARCs to readers in anticipation of your book's release. Publishers and self-published authors can use social media to launch giveaway contests to promote a book. Websites such as Goodreads makes it easy to run a giveaway. By giving away your ARCs to potential readers and fans, you can generate reviews, word-of-mouth marketing, and strengthen your connection with your audience.
Although the main purpose of ARCs is book promotion, another benefit is receiving feedback from readers before a book is released. This allows time for changes and improvements if reviews and feedback identify a major flaw in a story. By making critical changes identified by trustworthy sources, you can release the best version of your book that will be well accepted and loved by readers.
Now that you know what an advance reading copy is and how it's used, you too can benefit from this powerful book marketing tool. Self-published and traditionally published authors alike can utilize ARCs to garner book reviews and build excitement for your book's release.
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