Advance Review Copies: Why They’re Used and How to Create Them

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

by Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) The Hot Sheet
One of the key elements of a professional marketing and publicity campaign is the advance review copy (ARC)—also known as a galley—usually produced and distributed three to six months before the final book goes on sale.

ARCs get used for many purposes, but mainly:

  • To gather professional, industry reviews, from sources such as Publishers Weekly
  • To solicit endorsements that will be printed in or on the book
  • To share with influencers who need to see the book before deciding on potential coverage
  • To send to important connections who might be in a position to write an influential, early review or offer some other form of help

Some authors rely primarily on digital advance review copies, usually in PDF form—similar to the file that is ultimately sent to the printer or uploaded to a service like IngramSpark.

Publishers commonly distribute digital ARCs using NetGalley, since it’s well known and often used by people inside the industry—but it’s not necessary to use a formal service to effectively distribute ARCs. It’s fairly straightforward to use file-sharing services like Dropbox or Google Drive if you’re sending the ARC selectively and to trusted sources.

You can also create print ARCs through a print-on-demand provider like IngramSpark or a short-run printer, but you should be careful to only send them to people you feel confident would seriously consider them and represent strong prospects for the book’s marketing and publicity.

Here’s how to ensure that your ARC, print or digital, is hitting all the right points.

On the front and/or back cover: Add the words: “Advance Uncorrected Proof / Not for Sale.”

On the back cover: This is the most important part, because it shouldn’t be a standard back cover. While you want a brief description of the book (100-150 words) and a brief author bio, at least half of the back cover should have information on the book’s marketing and promotion plan, including:

  • Marketing campaign: In a bulleted list, detail how the book will be marketed and promoted, both to the industry and to readers.
  • Publication information: List all the details related to publication, including formats and price points, trim size, page count, ISBN numbers, and category.
  • Publicity contact: Whoever is the primary contact for media should be listed, along with their phone number and email.
  • Ordering information: Make it clear where and how the book will be available for sale, and especially if direct orders are possible.
  • Website: Don’t forget to include the publisher or author website.

On the cover or interior: Clarify, once again, that because the book is an uncorrected proof, reviewers should check all quotations against the final release.

You might wonder: If you’re using primarily a digital ARC, how do you include a “back cover” exactly? You could still include a page with the same information, but simply put it upfront, right after the cover, or you can include it as part of a covering letter or email.

Remember: An ARC is primarily a marketing tool. Always label it as an ARC, and be sure to include prominent marketing and promotional copy that helps persuade recipients that the book is professional and well-situated to succeed.


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Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She’s the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential publishing industry newsletter for authors, and the former publisher of Writer’s Digest. A frequent speaker at writing conferences, she has delivered keynotes on the future of authorship at the San Francisco Writers Conference, The Muse & The Marketplace, and HippoCamp, among others. She has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (2017).