Monday, October 31, 2011

ARCs: Why you get them & what to do with them

What is an ARC?

ARCs (short for Advanced Reading Copies) are early copies of an author's book printed for promotional purposes only. ARCs are paperback, even if the real version of the book will be hardback. They may or may not include the final cover art. They are NOT the final version. Oftentimes, ARCs have irregular spacing, missing words, sometimes missing paragraphs. All of those last polishing-up details are taken care of before the final book is printed and shipped.

Why do publishers print ARCs?

An ARC is a like the pre-screening of a book. ARCs are sent to book reviewers, book bloggers, and others who are in a position to influence sales within the industry. The publishers select who will receive ARCs based on that book's marketing plan.

How to use ARCs:

If you receive an ARC, you read! Enjoy! Ignore that weird missing paragraph thing on p. 229. And then you go on your blog, your review site, Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else you know other book lovers like to hang, and you tell them what you think of this book. Your job is to create advance buzz by starting a chain of word-of-mouth recommendations. If you love a book, shout that to the rooftops! If you don't love a book, be honest about that too. No one benefits from reviews that don't give a true picture of what you loved and didn't love about a book.

What to do with an ARC when you've finished reading:

Here's the heart of this post, and the reason why I interrupted my carefully crafted blog schedule of mayhem and nonsense to write this. You can keep your ARC. I know many bloggers who love to have bookshelves full of ARCs. You can throw it away. I know that hurts the heart of every book lover here, but honestly? That's the point of an ARC. It ISN'T the final book. If you love the book, buy the final version and keep that. You can do an ARC giveaway on your blog in conjunction with the review you posted.

You can use it as a coaster.

You can send it to your sister in another attempt to get her to start reading the literary banquet that is YA.

You can tear out the pages, start a mini-bonfire, and make s'mores.

But you CANNOT sell the ARC.

I can't stress that enough. The ARC says right on the front that it is a review copy and not for sale. I understand some newer bloggers not really paying attention to that, but what I saw today just made me stabbity. Today, on Ebay, I saw a book store owner selling an ARC. A book store owner knows better. There's simply no excuse.

Why is it so important that an ARC doesn't get sold? Three reasons.

1. This isn't the final copy. There are a few mistakes that need to be corrected before the final version prints. As an author (and a perfectionist), I don't want anything less than my best out there for readers to buy.

2. The author doesn't make a dime from this sale.

3. The author doesn't get credit for the sale. This is perhaps the most disturbing to me. A book store owner essentially selling an ARC "under the table" robs both the author and the publisher of that sale as the person who purchased this book would in all likelihood have purchased a final copy instead. (Especially if you look at how much the book sold for.) Authors need credit for every sale. We need to earn out our contracts with our publishers and prove to them that we're a good business decision. If we can't, we don't get another contract. If you love a book, and you support the idea that authors should get paid for their work, and you want authors to be able to continue to put new stories on the shelves, then you understand that selling an ARC is unethical and just downright wrong.

I don't know what this book seller was thinking. (Other than the profit she just made on a book she never purchased.) Most (if not all) of the book bloggers I know on Twitter would NEVER pull a stunt like this. I don't really think I can extend her the "well maybe she just didn't know" card because a book seller understands how authors get paid, and what happens when an author doesn't get credit for a sale.

But because of this incident, I decided two things. One, I would write a post to make sure everyone who reads my blog understands how the system works. I don't honestly think any of the reviewers and bloggers who frequent my site would ever knowingly hurt an author. And two, I decided to carefully check the list of those requesting ARCs of my book to make sure the woman who did this doesn't receive one.


  1. This is just one of many examples of why you are awesome.

  2. Perfect. I'm passing this along and linking to it on YABC!

  3. Very good points about ARCs. I'd never even heard of ARCs until a few years ago. I do cherish mine. I feel so extra special having it! And no, I'd never sell it. Never evah.

  4. Good reminder. This will probably be helpful for newbie bloggers who may not know!

  5. I think I know which bookseller you're talking about. And she blows. But this post is made of win.

  6. I was stunned to find an ARC on sale at the Strand a couple of years ago. I notified the author and she notified her publisher, who decided it wasn't worth making a big deal over because it would still get the book out there and hopefully generate some buzz. But I'm sure they would have preferred the profit didn't go to someone who didn't deserve it, essentially stealing money. Also, the book was mistakenly credited to Suzanne Collins on the Strand's website...

  7. Eugene- For some reason, The Strand is allowed to sell ARCs. I mean, they aren't hiding it at all- there's a whole ARC section. The publishers should already know about it since a)the Strand is a big store and b) they're in the same city (well, the bigger pubs are at least). The ARCs they sell are also cheap, like $2. Whereas somewhere like eBay, if you have a high profile ARC, you could get like $50 for it.

    But it does bother me a lot when an ARC goes up on eBay, especially if it's right after an industry conference (or, heck, even DURING one!). I mean, serious bloggers miss out on an ARC because some jerk grabbed a bunch to sell. It blows my mind.

    Anyway, great post, C.J.! I hope a lot of people see this!

  8. The Strand always sells ARCs, other indies I know don't. I lost respect for Strand when I saw that but no one else seems to think its a bad thing so... This is a great post. Very informative and hopefully makes everyone understand why selling ARCs is evil. Dante has a whole 14th circle of hell designed for those who do so.

  9. This is definitely a post that needed to be written. It's unfair for authors, agents and publishers when ARCs are sold (and I've seen one or two since I started book blogging). Even though it's a bit of an expense on my part, I've always believed that it's important to support my favorite books by buying ACTUAL finished copies.

    Thank you for this post!

  10. I retweeted your tweet about the ARCs thing. I think the worst of this is the money that authors won't earn because of this. As a future writer, I know I won't like someone to have a mistaken version of my book if there's a corrected one. Thanks for everything you said, you informated me very well ;)

  11. Well said! Within the past year, us Texas bloggers have donated well over 1,000 ARCs to schools and local shelters.

    Great post!


  12. Hold off on the s'mores! ;)

    The best thing you can do with your old ARCs is take them to your local library and give them to your children's/teen librarian so that she/he can use them in their programming and outreach.

    My teens LOVE ARCs, even if they've already been released. I use them as door prizes, part of "literary speed dating", and incentives. Without fail, when an ARC is given away at an event another teen will end up checking out the copy on the shelf.

    They give your librarian an air of inside knowledge that goes a long way with teens. If your librarian isn't familiar with ARCs, explain the content of this post: these aren't for the shelves, these aren't for keeps, but they are for READING, they are for readers. You can't find better ones than at your local library.

  13. Well said!!! It's really sad when you see ARCs of authors you admire on Ebay for $50 - $100 with that quantity of money you can get more than 4 finished copies and support the author. That the reason that I giveaway 80% of my ARCs with the review of the X ARC. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Great points. I love to give away my ARCS on my blog because I want to do everything I can to help promote the author who wrote it. I try not to ask for ARCs I don't have time to read.

  15. I know I can always find a good home for my ARCs...another blogger if the book is still not out yet or actual teens that I know who don't have the money to buy the hardcopy and might not ever read it otherwise. I love getting other people reading because of a "gift" that a publisher so generously gave me for review purposes that can then be passed on in a way that still cultivates that love for sharing books with others. I've gotten a family friend really hooked into YA from a few ARCS I passed along and that makes me so happy!

    And oh my BEA when a publicist told us that ARCs are meant to be thrown away..I almost died! lol But I get what they mean.

    Great post!

  16. Oh my goodness YES to everything in this post! About a year ago I found a bunch of ARCs getting sold at Half Price Books. My brother and I went up to the desk and talked to them about it and how you aren't supposed to sell ARCs and all that but the manager just brushed us off and said that the books saying "Not for sale" just meant the publisher couldn't sell them but anyone else could. I was so appalled. I never sell my ARCs. I always give them away or keep them. :)

  17. I was stunned at how much FEVER by Lauren DeStefano went for last week and we couldn't get it taken down.

    I never know what to do with my ARCs if I don't give them away. Some I get through work and just return there for my co-workers since I can't give those away elsewhere. Others that come to me from the publisher or author, I want to pass on to co-workers (bookseller) or other bloggers or a giveaway.

    But what if the book is already OUT? I don't want to give away an imperfect copy since, as you say, the person who wins would have otherwise bought a copy of the book. So I never know what to do with these ARCs and they sit and take up space!!

    I dislike when book bloggers claim to love a book and never buy it because they have it as an ARC. If you love the book, BUY IT and support the author. For example, just last week, I finished reading INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows (and her re-tweet is how I found you) and I wouldn't dream of not buying a real copy. I'm currently about to circulate the book to spread more buzz!

  18. I saw a twilight ARC on Ebay for $995. That's right-almost a thousand dollars for ONE twilight ARC.

    Tsk, tsk. Some people.

  19. Amazon marketplace continues to sell my ARC's as new used and collectable. My book was even taken put of print a year ago. Very few books were even printed in the first place. It is like I don't even own the rights to my work. Amazon Marketplace 3rd party sellers and Amazon seems to own my rights and continues to do what they want. Have sent numerous DMCA notices to all concerned. Amazon does nothing. In fact this week Amazon just listed my book for sale again as used now shipping from Amazon's warehouse. Learning the hard way copyright holders must completely understand the fine print before self distributing, especially when dealing with Amazon-Createspace. Wish I would have sold my work from my own website from the beginning and never published through Createspace also known as Amazon. The following links concerning arbitration, gray market, spidering tactics, patents and 3rd party Amazon marketplace sellers do not apply only to books and Mp3’s but to all independent artists who decide to self distribute please share:

  20. I'm curious how you feel about selling scarce ARCs to collectors, who want them for the completeness of a collection, long after the book itself has been published -- say one had an ARC of a book that won the National Book Award in 1992. How would you sell it to someone who collects first editions of that author, for instance, when it clearly wouldn't be a matter of competing with the finished copy? (I don't read my signed first edition hardcovers either -- I get more disposable copies, where wear and tear doesn't matter.)


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