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Business: Advance Reading Copy or ARC

Written by Vicki Hinze

On December 28, 2010

Vicki Hinze © 2004-2011

An ARC is typically called an Advance Review Copy or an Advance Reading Copy. It is simply a copy of your manuscript that you (or your publisher) make available to others, such as reviewers and key booksellers, before the publisher copies of your novel is available for use.

Unless you are a well-established author, if ARCs are done on your novel, you’ll likely be the one doing them. That means you need to assess the value versus the expense of preparing the copies and getting them into the hands of the desired persons. Only you can determine your purpose in sending out ARCs. You might wish simply to give the book a push in the market. Get a new pseudonym known. Make booksellers aware that you’re writing a different type book from those you’ve previously written. Whatever your purpose, structure your mailing of ARCs to that target. This isn’t an inexpensive endeavor, (though there are some cost-cutting tips below), so that makes targeting your recipients vital for maximum promotional benefit for your money.

One excellent reason for doing an ARC is to get an advance quote (or several) from reviewers or respected authors of similar novels so that you can incorporate their professional review, or an excerpt from it, into all promotional material. The best promotion a novel can get is if it creates a Abuzz” in the market. A buzz is simply people talking about it favorably. Nothing will lift sales, or cut them, like word of mouth remarks.

As well as using an entire ARC, you might wish to mass-produce portions. A teaser chapter or two, which you can mail out to booksellers, hand out at conferences, at workshops where you speak, to friends and family and those in your normal distribution network.

An example: For Beyond the Misty Shore, my first Seascape novel, I made an ARC from the manuscript copy on my computer. (Instructions on layout in a moment.) First, I had several copies made to send to reviewers, and a very well respected author, Anne Stuart, for advance quotes. The copies I asked to be returned (and included SASE to cover the cost of the same) I then sent to key booksellers I know. These copies carry a phrase that reads: FOR REVIEW PURPOSES ONLY. ANY OTHER USE IS A VIOLATION OF COPYRIGHT LAW. I didn’t put it in all caps, nor did I increase font size. Simply placed in it small type on the front cover. This discourages “renting” or “lending” the copy, though I won’t attest that it negates the possibility.

Using one of the ARC copies as “camera ready” artwork, I made an excerpt of the first several chapters. These I had mass produced and forwarded to those in my distribution network. A worthy note is that if you’re getting more than 200 copies, it is less expensive to print than to photocopy. And if you’re printing, a set of plates is good for about 2500 copies; any more, and the printer has to make a second set of plates which drives the price on the total job up. I include them in “gift” bags with other promotional material that I hand-distribute to local booksellers, to libraries, to organizational chapter groups.

Later, I used the same ARC opening pages as a teaser on a brochure targeted at distributors, on a flyer targeted at reviewers. Both of the latter also carried the advance quotes, as well. I do a personal newsletter, and included an ARC excerpt in it.

In teaching, workshops, lectures, I’ll often explain the topic being discussed and use segments of the ARC as handout samples. Two possible ways to do this: one, highlight the point on any given page. Two, copy the page, or pages, for the number of people present.

An entire ARC is pretty expensive to send to non-key individuals. Formatted (as explained later), with copying costs and mailing, you’re looking at roughly $5.00 each as costs. (Based on a 100,000-word manuscript and mailing first class.) Considering what an author earns per novel, you can see the wisdom of sending ARCs to key booksellers/librarians versus to individuals.

For wider distribution, excerpts from the ARC are a viable and affordable way to promote your novel. How much of the novel you include is up to you, so you control costs. One bit of advice is to end on a strong hook.

If you are working on a computer, pull up a copy of your first chapter. (Or whatever segment of the novel you use as files.) Simply delete the existing format and then reformat as disclosed below. Be sure to check for scene breaks. Also, you might want to replace tabs with three spaces.

o Paper. Use regular bond 20# paper, 8-1/2 x 11. (Lighter weight paper is okay, unless you’re printing on both sides. If so, stick with 20# or you’ll get bleed-through.)
o Page layout. Use “Landscape” (versus “Portrait”) so top/bottom are the 11″ side of the page.
o Columns. Format text into two (2) columns.
o Font. Use 12-point Times New Roman font, or any footed font. (Easier to read than non-footed fonts.)
o Spacing. Single space, full-justification.
o Margins: Left, Right, and Bottom margins use .50 or ½ inch. Top margin use .25 (to allow for header) or ¼ inch. (You can use smaller margins if you like. These present an eye-appealing page that isn’t dense.)
o Header: Bold, Center, and Italicize on odd pages, the novel’s title, on even pages, author’s name.

You get what looks like two pages of a book, side by side.

If your printer has the capability, you can “Double-Sided” print (use both front and back of paper) and print “As a booklet.” If you incorporate these features, when you’re done, you’ll have a book. If your printer does not double-sided print or print as a booklet, leave the sheets flat. This is standard and normal on ARC copies.

Whether copying or having printed, print your “MASTER ARC COPY” on white glossy stock. You can get this via various paper sources such as Viking, Paper Direct, etc., but the least expensive might be from your local printer. The value of the glossy stock is that it is heavier and you get a sharp, crisp copy, without bleed-through—superior for reproduction. I print these single-sided as a booklet (using Word Perfect 6.1 for Windows or WP6.0 for Dos. Then, I rubber cement the appropriate page fronts to page backs (for printing excerpts). Using this paper gives the printer “camera-ready” work—meaning the printer must do nothing other than print. The set-up and layout is already done. This gives you a professional-looking product and saves you an enormous amount of money; money you can otherwise commit, and you don’t have to make a second trip to the printer to “proof” pages before the actual printing can be done.

The uses for ARCs are as varied as authors’ creativity. But two of the most beneficial (and cost-effective) uses to the author are in obtaining advance quotes that will help generate interest, and the ARCs potential to ignite a buzz in the marketplace.

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