Welcome to the ARC

No, we’re not getting on a giant boat with a lot of animals — that’s an ark. ARC stands for Advance Reading Copy.

Or Advance Review Copy.

Or Advanced Reader’s Copy.

Or you might see ARE for Advance Reader’s Edition. The point is that a book that is labeled as such is an early copy that hasn’t yet hit the shelves. How early? Usually months ahead of its release date. So what’s up with these books and where do you find them?

ARCs are typically sent out by publishers and authors to numerous locations or individuals. Bookstores, various book bloggers/reviewers (including Speculative Chic!), periodicals that do book reviews, and even other authors can receive ARCs. They can be hardcovers or paperbacks, though paperback is usually the format of choice. These copies may not represent the final product as they are often listed as an “uncorrected proof.” They are essentially an early version of the book before all final details and decisions are made. A cover can change to something completely different. In some cases they may not have any cover art at all. I had one instance in which the cover wasn’t even attached to the book, but arrived with it all the same. Interior art, if there is any, may change or may not be present at the time of the ARC’s release, in which case you’ll see blank pages with something such as “image to be placed in final copy.” Editing can happen between the time of the ARC’s printing and the final product, so if you see a typo or a strange passage, that could all be different later on. That’s why you’ll often see a request on the ARC that reviewers not quote from the book, or if they do, to check it against the actual released copy.

The exterior of an ARC typically carries a lot of information. Aside from being labeled as such — which can be done on the front cover, spine, back, or a combination of locations — many ARCs also inform the reader/review of the following:

Release date
Future price
Planned book size
Editor/publicity contact information
Marketing/promotional campaigns

An ARC is like an interesting little look into the publishing world. It gives you a glimpse at what the publisher plans to do in order to help get the book into the eyes of the public, how they plan to market it in relation to other current and popular books, and more. A lot of ARCs also come with letters from the editor of the book, which describe how much they loved it, perhaps a quick summary, and how they hope you’ll love it too. They might encourage you to share your thoughts with them by providing you with an email they can be reached at.

Sometimes publishers can get a little fancy with their ARCs. I’m not entirely sure why, aside from it giving the book a very clear, “Look at me! Look at me!” image. I’ve seen a children’s book wrapped up in brown package paper with a key necklace tied around it. Random House sent over three of their upcoming teen books (which included Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart) in a metallic case. Some will come with what is clearly promotional material, such as bookmarks or even a t-shirt.

The ultimate goal of an ARC is to get people talking about the book early. It’s like a jump start on word of mouth marketing. People might read about the book on someone’s blog and make a mental note to pick it up once it’s out. In the case of booksellers, the publishers hope that the book will become a recommendation to customers. If a bookseller read the book, liked it, and has a customer looking for something in that vein, if the book is out, it can then be recommended, which translates into a sale for the publisher.

And you know what? It works. I’ve recommended Lisa Lutz’s The Passenger to folks looking for items similar to The Girl on the Train. When we received Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies as an ARC, I started reading it out of curiosity. Now I love it and have recommended it more times than I can remember (P.S. there’s a second book out now!). I put it up on our Staff Recommends display whenever we have enough copies in the store. And I’m just one bookseller out of thousands.

So how does one get ARCs? You pretty much don’t, unless you fall into one of the categories listed above. Publishers and authors don’t hand out ARCs just to any average Jane or Joe, and even the copies we get in our store are random. We receive everything from fiction to children’s to fantasy to a ton of non-fiction. Publishers that have a specific title they’d like looked at will seek out relevant reviewers. So if a publisher were to ask us ladies here at Speculative Chic, they would offer us something such as fantasy, science fiction, horror, or other speculative-related books.

One last thing — ARCs are not for resale. This is clearly stated on the book itself, usually right next to where it says the book is an ARC. There isn’t even an actual barcode to scan on them. So if you receive an ARC, once you’re done the best thing you can do is just pass it on to someone else. That book can never be sold since it’s not a finished copy, the author isn’t getting money for it, and oh yeah, you’re not supposed to anyway. Likewise, if you ever see an ARC in a (used or new) bookstore, bring it to a bookseller’s attention. It may have been put out by mistake since ARCs can arrive randomly and unannounced.

ARCs are a fun way for reviewers and booksellers to stay ahead of the game and make great recommendations to people looking for their next read. As for the rest of you, sorry, but you’ll just have to wait until the book is out!

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