What are ARCs? (A “What’s in a Novel?” post)

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! 

13 thoughts on “What are ARCs? (A “What’s in a Novel?” post)”

  1. Rose,
    NetGalley used ebooks. I have been with them for over a year now and even if you request a book you may not get it. It all depends on the publisher. I had to start my blog as you need something like that when you register. They usually are readable if you have a Kindle…which I don’t, so I have to read them on adobe digital or if they are PDF (Barbour Books) I can read them on my NOOK>

    1. Thank you! I wasn’t sure how to nicely word that you had to have proof to show before signing up for net galley other than to say that you needed to have a history of reviews first. I don’t think it has to be a blog though, because I see a lot of people on GR say they got an ARC from NG but don’t have a blog, just a very extensive review history.

      Either way, taking books for committing to give an honest review is serious. I’ve heard I don’t know how many authors grumble that someone eagerly accepted copies of one or more of their book and read them (because they emailed to tell them they’d read them) but never reviewed.

  2. This was very interesting. While I don’t mind giving my opinion on books I do not consider myself a great reviewer of books. If I really like a book enough to give it a 5 star review, in my opinion, I will but I don’t like to go into detail on my reviews. Some of those professional reviews give too much of the book away, at least for me. So I guess I will never be receiving advanced copies of books for reviewing purposes.

    1. Believe me, some who do think they’re great reviewers and the gold standard of how wonderful or awful a book is, aren’t. Believe me. A review is just an opinion and unless it’s just two or three vague words that could fit for every book ever written or just total author bashing, I don’t think you could possibly be that bad. Those who write paragraph after paragraph after paragraph stand the risk of having their review skimmed or disregarded.

      Personally, I’m still on board with the samples vs. reviews!

  3. I keep thinking I should review more books, since I read so much but unless the book is really amazing or absolutly terrable I just don’t feel motivated to review it. I don’t think I write good reviews, although i have been pleasently surprised that one of my reviews on Amazon has stayed in the most helpful spot since I wrote it over a year ago, but that is the exception not the rule for me. I have a hard time not just summerizing the book, which I then always worry will give to much away. I do think it would help me keep track of what books I have read and what I thought of them more then just trying to rememeber. I’ve already read over 245 books this year and I can tell you most of them I could not really tell you what they were about. Although the other thing I have a hard time with is I don’t want to be forced to read through a book that I really don’t like (Rose before you go there, the one book of yours I wasn’t raving about doesn’t even begin to fall in to that catagory) This last month or so I have really hit a snag with reading as everything I have read lately with a couple of exceptions has been meh at best, or a Did not finish at worst. Some of the DNF I’m not sure I could have forced myself ot finish just to write a review. So for me I would rather just pick an author that I know I enjoy (even if they do write the occasional single hits as opposed to a home run 😉 ) knowing I enjoy their voice enough to finish even if the story line is not my favorite as opposed to just forcing myself just to finsih the book for the review. That and I honestly would have a hard time giving bad reviews to a book I got for free out for the public to see.

    Ok that was quite a rambling comment from me. Oh well.

    1. It’s been a year and yours is still the most helpful review on a book! Yay, that’s exciting.

      Summarizing the book is fine. It’s what a lot of people do, they just add what they do and don’t like along the way. Nothing wrong with that.

      There was a book of MINE you weren’t raving about? I’m sure I have no idea what you mean. I thought everyone all across the land loved ALL of my books! Okay, I do know which one you’re talking about, and have no worries, you’re not the only one who didn’t love that one. But then there were some who didn’t like your favorite book, but loved that one. That’s the great thing about books–they’re all different and we all love or hate them based on what we like.

      1. I know it is exciting for me. I do check periodically to see if I still hold that spot and I do. I thought for sure, Julie or someone elses review would pass mine as I think some are better written but after a year it has not happened so I just enjoy the top spot.

        Thats the great thing about books is that there are so many different stories and voices out there that everyone is bound to find books they absolutly love even if someone else doesn’t quite feel the same way. Although you know 7 out of 8 is not a bad record especially since I know you were worried how I would feel about one given my original, uninfomred, sleep depreived, opinion of the hero LOL.

      2. Well, I’m just glad you ended up like him in the end, meaning his own book. He’s a total sweetheart. Always was! (Sorry, I just had to add that in there.)

  4. Hi Rose –

    The only time I had the pleasure of reading an ARC was when a friend of mine, who was the Manager of the local Waldenbooks, called me frantic because two of her employees were sick and she needed someone to help out “temporarily”. I ended up “helping her out” for 6 months! My last week the store received an ARC for her to read and she passed it on to me when she was done. Both of us loved it and ended up recommending it to many of our cusstomers.

    I love reading and I even received a book from Goodreads but it wasn’t what I was expecting. I must admit I never posted a review because I hated the book . It was depressing and I felt that maybe it was just me and I was missing the point of the story. In fairness I just couldn’t bring myself to post something negative. Unfortunately that means I never received another book from Goodreads!

    My first job, when I was 15, was at our local newspaper as a proof reader in the Classified Ad department. I loved the hustle and bustle of the paper. I’m sure things have changed in the past 50 years but at the time it was a totally different atmosphere than anything I had ever experienced.

    PS: Note that after “How to get an Advanced Reader’s Copy?” you wrote
    “Enter giveaways where they’re being offered or attend a reder’s event”

    Note to author: Please note that should be corrected to “reader’s event”..

    1. I won a book on goodreads that taught me to read very carefully what a book is about. I misunderstood and it had so many issues that I didn’t enjoy. I did read and review it because that was what they ask you to do if you win one. Like I said, it taught me a lesson in paying attention to what they are about.

    2. Jeanne,

      Corrected! Thanks. I have a Macbook Pro and every so often I have to update my software and one of the new additions this time was an auto correct that corrects EVERYTHING and often before I’m done writing the word or have a chance to realize I’d written it wrong. Needless to say, I make far more mistakes/typos now while on the Internet than ever before.

      Now for both you and Judy.

      I’m not overly familiar with GR as I only started using the site about a month or two after my first book came out and don’t do much over there. In fact, I’d never even heard of it before then if that tells you anything. That being said, I didn’t realize you’d no longer be allowed to win books if you didn’t do a review. I didn’t realize that was a catch, I just thought it was understood and good manners.

      Not leaving bad reviews… I don’t have much to say on that. Before I was an author, I never left a bad one based solely on the fact that if a book was bad enough to warrant a bad review, I didn’t finish it and I couldn’t give an accurate review of something I didn’t finish. Not to say this doesn’t happen with other readers/reviewers, because I see it all the time. But I just didn’t think I could give a very good review if I didn’t finish it. So if I was able to finish, it got a three because truly, it couldn’t have been that awful or I wouldn’t have finished it.

      Back to just Jeanne, there are other ways to get books than from Goodreads. I don’t know how many other blogs you follow, but sometimes authors will announce this on their own blogs or on a large review blog there’ll be announcements that offer a complimentary book in exchange for an honest review. I listed all four of my Groom book on one of these places about six months ago and had about six people contact me from it. I scared one away right up front when I told her that the heroes in my books didn’t follow the norms of the genre, meaning they were beta heroes and usually had some sort of imperfection. Honestly, I know my books are different so I gave them all this warning right from the start because I didn’t want someone to dread reading the books and feel they had to read/finish them because they were expected to do a review. Three of the others who seemed undaunted reviewed all four at GR and/or on their blog. The others…well…that’s why it’s called a crapshoot, I guess. One reality we authors face is sometimes people accept books and either don’t like them and don’t review them or do like them but don’t bother to review them. Often times we don’t really know which. One wrote and said she liked it and would get around to the review one day, but that day still hasn’t come. LOL The other, I have absolutely no idea. This is probably the reason GR has that rule so that at least authors know the book was read (even if not enjoyed) and not just returned (and yes, this happens, I’ve had it happen to me once) or that someone isn’t just trying to take advantage of the system to get free books without holding up their end of the deal.

      So basically what I’m saying is, just because it didn’t work out at GR, doesn’t mean your chances are gone. There are plenty of other places. And I’m sure you know this already, but if it’s possible, reading samples or previous reviews or even just excerpts or extended descriptions on the author’s website is probably a good way to not end up with a book you won’t like when you enter those types of things.

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