The Tale of the ARC

One really good thing about being a reviewer is that I get lots of free books. One really bad thing about being a reviewer is that I get lots of free books. Because I don’t use an e-reader, these are hard copy books that stack up in every corner and every horizontal surface of the house. At least three times a week Fed Ex or UPS leaves a package on my doorstep and there’s a book inside.

And I’m not complaining, really.

I get finished copies of books – many books – but I also get a lot of Advanced Readers Copies (ARCS).

Some of the books I get are ones I’ve requested. Fantasy Literature has a regular list of books that are coming out throughout the year, and we often request ARCS from the publisher. Many of the books I get, though, are not ones I’ve requested. There are a few irritating things about ARCs. One is that publicists see your name on a list and are happy to send you a new book, even if it’s Book Three of a trilogy and you have never read books One or Two. Last week, I got an ARC of a book by an author whose other work I’ve liked. This book, though, is Book Five of a series I haven’t read. Given the subject matter of the series, I don’t want to read Books One through Four. And so, I won’t read Book Five. I might offer it up to another reviewer on the site, though.

ARCS are always paper bound. The words “Advanced Reading Copy” or sometimes “Uncorrected Advanced Reading Copy” show somewhere on the front and back covers, along with the words Not For Sale. There will be no barcode, although the book does have an ISBN, which is handy for people who might want to preorder the book.

There are plenty of reasons why I wouldn’t sell an ARC anyway, mainly having to do with the author, who doesn’t get a royalty on an ARC. While I would ever sell an ARC myself, I have donated some to thrift shops that are fund-raisers for non-profits. Although, given the facts about ARCS, if you plunk down more than $2 for one, you’re overpaying.

So why am I okay with donating? First of all, I do it rarely. I do believe that in general, anything that gets a book into the hands of a reader can’t be all bad. Maybe the person buying an ARC at the VNA Hospice Thrift Store discovers a new writer for them, and goes out to buy new books by the same writer. For this reason, I will sometimes give an ARC to someone when I think they will like the book.

The word “Uncorrected” on the cover is accurate. ARCS are often filled with minor line editing problems, dropped words, misspellings and punctuation errors. Sometimes I find even bigger mistakes like continuity glitches or character name changes.

I don’t comment on this in my review, because while I’m diligently reading the ARC and making notes for that review, the author is frantically working with the publisher, in the final weeks before the book is released, to catch and correct exactly those problems. For this reason, very often one of those books UPS drops on my doorstep is the finished copy of the ARC I just read, and it’s my responsibility to check any quotations I might have used, to make sure they still live in the finished copy.

I like getting an ARC because I like beating deadlines rather than pushing them, and I enjoy having time to revise. This is even more important to me if I’m scheduling an interview with the author, because I want to be well-prepared.

On the other hand, an ARC and a finished copy mean two copies of a book I might not have loved. I do recycle ARCS, but given the accumulation of them around the house right now, not fast or diligently enough.

So, it’s a love-hate relationship, definitely, and one I hope to continue.

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2 Responses to The Tale of the ARC

  1. Terry Connelly says:

    This sounds like something I would enjoy doing…except for the fact that I already have stacks of book and still keep buying more.

  2. Marion says:

    But Terry! They’re free!

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