I haven’t done one of these for a while, so in case you’re wondering why I’m explaining writerly things, it’s because I’m doing an ongoing blog series about what goes into a book for the writer.
Today I’ll try my best to explain ARCs.
ARC stands for two different things, depending on who you are: Advanced Reviewer’s Copy or Advanced Reader’s Copy. The difference will depend on who you are and for what purpose you received the book.
Advanced Reader’s Copy
As the name states, it’s advanced, so these are copies of books that are available to a select few before the book is available to the public. Sometimes at reader’s conferences (or even writer’s conferences) publishers, or authors, will give away advanced reader copies–and a lot of time the cover will indicate that it is not eligible for resale and that it’s the uncorrected version.
Why do authors/publishers send these out?
At places like conferences, it’s just as a special treat. Tons of books are available for free at these conferences for the purposes of getting a book in the hand of a potential reader who might not have bought, or even found, it otherwise.
Sometimes copies are sent to bookstores in hopes they’ll be read and a staff member will like the book and give it special placement. This is far more common with smaller bookstores where the owner actually works in there, but I do know sometimes a few early copies are sent to individual chain stores.
Another use for a reader’s copy is direct from the author to his or her readers in a giveaway.
How to get an Advanced Reader’s Copy?
Enter giveaways where they’re being offered or attend a reader’s event.
Advanced Reviewer’s Copy
Advanced reviewer’s copy are a little different. While a reader copy is given/sent with no real expectation, but perhaps the hope of special placement or an overwhelming buzz when an early reader tells all their friends they must purchase this book the day it comes out, a copy given to a reviewer is different. A review is expected, and depending on how you got it, it might be mandatory. I don’t particularly like to discuss reviews, but what they really are is a further explanation of what’s in the book that the description doesn’t tell–this will often include what the reviewer did and didn’t like. I haven’t been writing, critiquing, and being critiqued that long in the scheme of things, but I do know that every person who reads something will walk away with an entirely different perception of the book. I can ask 10 people candid questions about a book and all 10 are going to like and dislike different things. Some are going to “get” certain things (subtle unspoken messages, someone’s real motives, etc) and others are going to skim right over them. That’s the way it goes, we’re all different. What I like you might not and vice versa. If we all liked the same things, it would be a very boring life.
Anyway, a reviewer who receives an ARC is expected to read and give a review of it. It doesn’t have to be glowing, nor does it have to tear the book apart. Just their opinion.
Why do authors do this?
First, let me tell you, not all of them do. I, for one, don’t do it very much. I find that my books are as one reader recently termed it: unique. I’ll be the first to tell you, it’s a gamble for me when I send books out into the ether in hopes of reviews. My story lines and characters aren’t what you find in the typical book of this genre. (If you’ve ever wondered why my books don’t appear on very many blogs or review sites or why I don’t have dozens of quotes from a ton of places praising my books, it’s because I personally do not solicit reviews. I’d rather let bloggers find me and if they like my book, great, if not, I pretend I never saw it!) So before I further explain anything, if you are an aspiring writer, do not get overwhelmed or think, “I have to what???” I can’t do that!” Not all of us do this, but some do and have very good results.
Authors or publishers send these out to get exposure. Even bad reviews are exposure. I’ve been BLASTED to the moon and back (no pun intended) and you know what, while it stung my pride, it was done on a blog that had more than 4,000 followers. Not all 4,000 are going to agree with this one assessment. In the end, it was exposure, the kind of exposure that not only had a book cover on the page, but also had several paragraphs about the book.
Not every place that a book is sent to will get reviewed/featured so often times authors and publishers have to cast their net very wide and send it to multiple sites and people in hopes of getting it featured. Review bloggers have massive lists of books they’re supposed to read and review, and the more popular the site, the more they have.
Other than exposure there are a few other reasons such as to help build credibility. For new authors or those with small presses, it helps (at least in our minds, maybe not to you readers, feel free to let me know) to say that a big place like RT Booklovers magazine gave high praise or that this blogger or that thought the book was good. While there will always be those who do not like our books, it helps build credibility in the author when a well respected entity does and it helps us to use quotes.
How to get an Advanced Reviewer’s Copy?
There are many ways. If you already have a strong review history, you can join Net Galley which gives free copies of books with the expectation that you’re going to review them. If you don’t have a history, I’d suggest building one before requesting review copies from anyone. In fact, I think Net Galley requires you have a history already started. Authors and publishers give these out with the hope that it will help them so very few are going to give away free copies of unreleased books to just anybody. They want to know that you really mean to review the book and that it will be an actual review and not: This is a good book, or: This book was awful.
You can also start a review blog and start posting every day or every few days with books you’ve already read, reviewing them and as your blog following grows, you’ll begin to get requests.
Sometimes authors will openly announce they have ARCs and you can contact them directly asking for an early copy in exchange for a review (and yes, it’s understood, or it should be, that you might not like the book).
I think that covers it, if you have something to add or a question, feel free to comment!