How is it that some authors launch their books with endorsements printed on the cover and a ton of reviews? More than likely, these authors ordered Advance Reader Copies, or ARCs. So, what is an Advance Reader Copy?
The ARC, also called an Advance Review Copy, is a version of the book that can be used for promotional purposes several months before publication. Marked as Advance Reader Copies, ARCs are distributed free to readers who are willing to help you promote your book by providing endorsements and reviews. The ARC can also be checked by the author and a proofreader for errors before releasing the final book.
Why Send Out an ARC?
As they say, “Let me count the ways!”
The idea of an ARC is to build excitement about your book before its release. An ARC is a way for you to launch your book with a prepped audience and reviews in place.
You can release your book and then wait hopefully for the reviews to roll in. Or, you can take the proverbial bull by the horns and send out Advance Reader Copies to people who can help you promote your book by writing reviews, blogging about your book, providing endorsements, and helping you build your author platform on social media.
Brainstorm a list of people to whom you should send ARCs. Include influencers in your genre or industry whose reviews might encourage people to buy your book.
Another idea is to run a giveaway contest on social media. Post about your book and offer to send ARCs to those who share your post during a certain time period. When you send the ARC, remember to include a personal note asking them to write a review on social media and/or on your Facebook page.
While the book cannot yet be sold, ARCs can be given to local indie bookstores to help build excitement. Ask to get on their book signing schedule!
Finally, the ARC can be used to improve your final book. If reviews reveal a major issue with your content or design, you have an opportunity to revise the book before publication. While changes to your book at this stage can be expensive and will delay your release date, it’s better to expose these issues now rather than after publication.
What an ARC Looks Like
Usually, the ARC looks just like the final book.
The cover can be the final version of the cover, with the addition of the words “Advance Reader Copy” or “Advance Review Copy” clearly printed across it. On the back cover, you can include the regular back cover text, including your book description and overview. You can also clearly mark where endorsements are meant to be inserted.
IngramSpark has a program to personalize books. If you are publishing your book through IngramSpark, you can include as a front page in your ARC a personal note thanking people for reading your book and telling them about the importance of their reviews and endorsements to your marketing plan. This page should also include the:
- email address to which reviews can be sent
- website URL (address)
- intended audience
- number of pages
- categories under which your book will be listed on Amazon
- scheduled publication date, so that blogs can be written in advance and scheduled to coordinate with your launch.
Also, your note should include a reminder to readers that the ARC is an uncorrected proof and may be revised before final publication. You can also add a personal note with a specific “ask”: do you want the reader to provide a review, write a blog, post it on Instagram (include some suggested hashtags!), include it in their book group’s future reading list, schedule a reading in their bookstore, or…?
You want to encourage readers to finish the book and send a positive review. To that end, your ARC must be readable. Although it may be months until you release the book, use the professionally typeset version for your ARC. You want to show that you’ve got it together and are confident and excited about the potential of your book. A sloppy book or one sent without the supplementary information listed above does not demonstrate a level of professionalism, sincerity and seriousness that reviewers will respect.
The standard for an ARC is a print book (paperback). Thanks to print-on-demand, these can be produced relatively inexpensively from either IngramSpark or Amazon KDP for the price of printing and shipping. You can ship all the ARCs to your address and then ship each individually with a personal note. Alternatively, they can be shipped directly from the printer to each recipient.
Digital ARCs are becoming popular. They can reach the intended recipient more quickly than a print version and distribution is free. Simply produce a PDF of your book—with the cover included—and email away! Your book designer can help you produce the PDF. The printer marks (crop marks, etc.) should not be included. Each page, in addition to the cover, should be stamped “Advance Reader Copy.” As with the print version, it must be professionally typeset and as close to the final version as possible. Include the same information noted in the previous section and include a personal note in the email.
How to Produce an ARC
For the self-published author, ARCS are easy to produce through the print-on-demand companies Amazon KDP and IngramSpark. Your finished book files will need to be uploaded to each platform. Be sure to check their file specifications beforehand.
You will be asked whether or not the book should become approved for distribution. As you just want to print an ARC, avoid making them available on the marketplace just yet. On Amazon KDP, leave your book in “Draft” status. On IngramSpark, your drafts will be listed under “Titles Pending Your Approval.”
On Amazon KDP, ARCs are called “proof copies.” Click here for instructions on Amazon KDP for ordering proof copies. Note that you can order five copies at a time.
On IngramSpark, you will need to approve the eproof first before printing a hard copy proof. After approving the eproof, you can keep it out of distribution until a date that you specify, which still allows you to order hard copies. Click here for more information on printing a hard proof at IngramSpark.
Note that at 1106 Design, an important part of finalizing your book is to order a printed proof from each platform. We can help guide you through that process.
Somehow, releasing your finished book into the marketplace to nameless and faceless readers might seem easier than sending out a prerelease ARC to actual people with whom you’re in communication. Books are personal; by sending ARCs, you are opening yourself up for criticism early in the process, yet more likely you will receive praise. We encourage you to take this step and to work some time into your plan to send out an ARC and gather reviews, get some press, create a buzz on social media, schedule some book signings and build some excitement (and perhaps save yourself some embarrassment and money by catching any last-minute errors). Future you will thank you.