How to Create an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) for Reviewers

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

ARCs, or Advance Reader Copies, are remarkable assets to authors because they get the books straight into the hands of book reviewers, peer reviewers, bloggers, and other people who may offer input, praise, or publicity for your book. ARCs are different from proofs because they aren’t just for the author’s perusal; they are sent to reviewers prior to the public release of the book, generally about three months in advance. ARCs also give you the chance to see what reviewers think about your material, allowing changes or edits before it’s released.

Why bother with ARCs?

Obtaining book reviews in advance of publication will help establish your platform among readers, as well as add to word-of-mouth promotion of your book. Many authors cringe at the idea of self-promotion, but in reality, ARCs are an effective way of getting your book to influencers. With the advent of digital proofs, ARCs are easier than ever to create and distribute. You can order a book to be printed and sent directly to reviewers as they confirm they want them, bypassing the risk of wasting money on extraneous copies, plus you don’t need to factor in additional mailing costs.

Make sure your ARC includes:

  • A disclaimer on the cover stating its identity as an Advance Reader Copy.
  • A sentence or two explaining it’s an uncorrected proof whose price and publication dates are subject to change.
  • An informative list of the necessary facts about the book, including its ISBN, number of pages, price, and release date.

Printing Your ARC

Back in the day, ARCs were expensive to print, sent months prior to publication, and were wrapped in plain covers stamped “Not for Resale.” Currently, many indie publishers will send the review copy with the designed cover, and use print-on-demand to keep the cost of creating ARCs inexpensive.

Using print-on-demand services does not mean your book will come out looking cheap. While this may have been true several years ago, these days it's hard to tell the difference between print-on-demand and traditional offset printing. Even big-time publishing companies are turning to print-on-demand methods, taking advantage of its risk-free nature and cost effectiveness.

Digital proofs are the smartest option to consider when creating an ARC. They save you printing costs as well as shipping costs, and take a fraction of a second to send instead of weeks. Digital proofs have all but taken over paper ARCs, and they aren’t hard to create. Ask your reviewers if they prefer print or PDF, or even a proof formatted for the Kindle or EPUB reader.

If you’ve chosen the traditional, paper ARC route, it’s a good idea to mail them using priority shipping for cost as well as trimming delivery times. Some authors use media mail, because it's so inexpensive. But you don’t want to mail out your Advance Reader Copy only to have the reviewer receive it two months later (especially around the busy holiday season). Your release date has already been set, and you’ll want to stick to the predetermined timeframe. That means sending your ARCs out with enough time for the reviewer to read your material, offer feedback, place the review on the back of the book, and for you to make changes before the public release date.

Pay attention to the quality of your ARC

Be absolutely certain your source file looks clean, neat, and professional. Your styles and formatting should be consistent and error-free. Even though this isn’t the final copy of your book, it should look like it. Many reviewers have large piles of ARCs to rifle through, and you don’t want yours to end up on the bottom because of unappealing formatting errors. Be sure your font is large enough to enable easy reading but not so large as to be unattractive to the eye (standards fall between 11 and 13 point fonts). Also, double- and triple-checking your ARC for typos and style issues can mean the difference between it being seen or falling to the wayside.


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Carla King

Carla King is an adventure travel author and technology journalist who has been self-publishing since 1994. She is the founder of Misadventures Media, a small press specializing in adventure travel books, and Author Friendly, a service that provides affordable publication planning, coaching, formatting, editing, design, and social media setup for independent authors. Her Self-Publishing Boot Camp educational series of books and workshops have helped authors make good publishing decisions since 2010. Find out more at AuthorFriendly.com.