Friday, June 7, 2013

Countdown to Book 9: Why an ARC?

Traditional publishers often create a small print run of Advance Reader Copies, or ARCs, in advance of the version it will print for commercial distribution. This edition is clearly marked as an uncorrected copy so that it won’t be confused with the final product.

The print above my name: 
"Uncorrected Advance Copy • Not for  Sale"

But it feels so much like a book—and mine have arrived! Oh, to hold this book in my hand.

ARCs are typically made available 3-6 months before publication, often on the longer side for a debut author. The Art of Falling is still seven months out, but Sourcebooks wanted to have copies ready for Book Expo America (BEA) last weekend, since it’s the largest industry trade show in North America.

For today’s self-publishers, who are able to finish a manuscript one week, format it the next, and have it for sale online soon thereafter, creating an ARC may simply seem like a way to add considerable time and expense to the book launch process. I asked Anna Klenke, Assistant Editor at Sourcebooks, how this intermediary step still plays an important role in traditional publishing.

One word explains it: buzz.

“The success of a book is often tied to buzz and momentum,” Anna said. Literary agent Donald Maass spoke a bit about momentum in his recent keynote speech at the Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh, PA, when he said that books that hit the New York Times Best Seller List are chosen not by gross sales, but by rate of sale in any given week. “ARCs distributed by a publisher allow influential people to see your book and know that it exists well before publication,” Anna said. Knowing that the first three months after release are crucial, and with the stakes so high—the publisher has already invested fully in the advance payment, editorial time, and design work—this is no time to scrimp on promotional efforts.

Events like BEA are all about creating buzz for a book. “Our marketing team will develop a giveaway strategy for each ARC to make sure that we’re gaining as much momentum as possible,” Anna said. “We’ll be targeting your ARCs at people—readers, bloggers, librarians—who we think will be specifically interested in your book.”

Sourcebooks will also send out copies to the long-lead industry reviewers, such as Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, and Kirkus. While they are not obligated to review anything a publisher sends them, Anna says that Sourcebooks generally hopes to get reviews from three out of the big four for their fiction titles. Depending on the book, they’ll also send ARCs to other media outlets, such as the New York Times Book Review, National Public Radio, and consumer magazines such as Newsweek.

While I already wrote of trying to get blurbs that might be placed on the ARC cover, at this point the search for blurbs is far from over. Because they can be so influential in getting the book onto bookstore shelves, we will seek cover quotes until the final book goes to print, which for The Art of Falling will be October 1. Since at this point the reading experience is greatly improved, thanks to the principles of book design, Anna says that most people respond better to a printed ARC than to a bound manuscript or electronic file.

Holding the ARC! Kathryn with the principal of her agency,
Donald Maass, at the Pennwriters conference

My personal copies have already acted as a ticket to ride, connecting me with speaking engagements, book clubs, readers (the woman sitting next to me at my son’s master’s graduation typed the title right into her smart phone reading list), and I’ve sent copies to key leaders among special interest populations who might have an interest in the book. I predict a few copies will find their way into Goodreads giveaways later this year, so feel free to connect with me there.

Just catching up? Here are links to the other posts in this series:
Countdown to a Book 1: Joining Hands
Countdown to a Book 2: Pitching
Countdown to a Book 3: Getting My Agent
Countdown to a Book 4: Developmental Editing
Countdown to a Book 5: All About Image
Countdown to a Book 6: From Writer to Author
Countdown to a Book 7: Five Tips for Getting Blurbs
Countdown to a Book 8: The Manuscript Becomes a Book

Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Her work is represented by Katie Shea at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Her monthly series, "Countdown to a Book," details the traditional publication of her debut novel, The Art of Falling, by Sourcebooks in January 2014. Connect with Kathryn at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.


  1. I can definitely see the benefits of ARCs, whether traditionally published or self-publishing. I'm already planning on having some printed for the bloggers and reviewers who will eventually be taking part in my blog book tour.

  2. Congrats!

    Thanks for sharing why ARCs are so valuable. I'll remember this when the time comes.

  3. Unfortunately, the only buzz that generates around my books are from the flies that seem to be attracted to it.

  4. This is an excellent post, Kathryn, especially for those of us who have chosen to publish independently. We often forget the value of the pre-pub "buzz" that whets the reading palate for the perfected product when it rolls off the press.

    We independent publishers can easily notate on the cover that the reader/reviewer/marketer has received an ARC, and we can even include the official pub date. In that way, we can build the same anticipation traditional publishers build for their authors if we do our homework and get the ARCs out to the right people.

    Thank you for sharing, Kathryn. This is hugely helpful...and something I hadn't considered before.

  5. A valuable tool to help get the word out in advance and create buzz!

  6. Very helpful information. You seem to have a plan laid out -- and it will make a huge difference in the success of your books.

  7. Thank you all for your comments and sorry so far for the *apparent* lack of mine—I'm at the Philadelphia Writers Conference, depending on my new iPhone to respond, and for some reason I couldn't post. None of my comments showed up! So much for that solution... had to borrow a laptop...

    Anyway, as Elle and Linda suggested, I do believe the ARC is a step a self-published author could emulate to her advantage. To create buzz pre-release, yes, to create that all important release momentum, but also to introduce a period of time where alert readers can tell you of any remaining problems (typos, incorrect facts, etc.).

    I've known way too many authors who rush a book out and then later pull it down to make corrections—after they've already sold it to the bulk of their most eager readership. Makes no sense to me. They won't re-read it if you offer a corrected version later, and you will have left an indelible impression that you are a sloppy publisher.

    [Imagine, here, me tapping that whole long comment into an iPhone and then having it freeze at the end so I had to dump the whole thing— urgh!]

  8. I don't think it is easy to find reviewers who are willing to review self-published books, but I hope that climate shifts as the marketplace changes. A side benefit is review copies are a marketing expense write-off (the cost of the printed book, not the sales price) if you file a Schedule C.

  9. ARCs are still a great marketing tool, and so is NetGalley, where reviewers can request a ecopy. BTW, great to see you at the PWC conf!

  10. Great article. Only thing I'd observe is that, regrettably, the life of a book endures for six weeks from publication and not three months. Books have a short life span if any buzz generated doesn't create synergy.
    Wishing you much success and buzz.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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