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.