ARCs! A guest post by Mary Lindsey

Today we welcome Mary Lindsey, author of the upcoming debut novel Shattered Souls to EMU’s Debuts, to talk about receiving Advance Review Copies (ARCs) and putting them to good use.  Take it away, Mary:

Being a client of EMLA with a 2011 debut, I was thrilled when asked to join the fun here, on EMU’s Debuts, with a guest post on galleys.

ARC, Galley, ARE (Advanced Reader Edition). If you are an aspiring author, you’ve seen these terms all over the internet. They are the paperback copies of the book distributed for promotion prior to its final print run.

As a debut writer, I dreamed of the day I’d get to hold my bound book for the first time. That day came, and it was amazing. During a Valentine’s dinner with my family, a box with copies of my ARCs arrived, and, after much celebration, I laid them out on my coffee table and took a picture.

Then the reality hit. I couldn’t just give these things away to my favorite people, because I wasn’t going to be getting ARC shipments every day–in fact, I may never get another one. I had to make wise choices.

What had never crossed my mind pre-sale, is how little control authors have over some aspects of the industry, like ARC distribution and how many an author receives, for example. I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to demystify the system for aspiring writers. I don’t have a book review blog and had never requested an ARC, so this has all been very educational. Sure, I’d asked my published friends about it, but every experience is different.

What I’ve learned about ARCs:

  1. ARCs are marketing tools, not freebies. Ideally, every one of them will generate multiple sales (in some cases hundreds of sales).
  2. Most authors receive very few ARCs (some authors get only one or two) as they are primarily intended for bookbuyers, reviewers, and librarians.
  3. ARCs are expensive. They often cost much more to produce than the hardcopy book itself, due to the smaller print runs, which is why publishers don’t distribute them willy-nilly.

Here’s what surprised me the most once they came in:

Loads of folks I knew and even people I didn’t know requested one. Really. I was not expecting this at all. I received hundreds of emails requesting everything from a copy for review to a free book because “my mom won’t let me buy books.”

I received several emails requesting an ARC because “7 months is too long to wait to read it.” Yeah, well, that is lovely and flattering, but I can’t wait either, darn it.

Most requests have been super polite and have included links to review blogs and stats, but it’s clear from the volume of requests for a “free book” for non-promotional purposes, that lots of folks don’t understand the purpose of the ARC.

Because “no” is one of my least favorite words, I put the contact information for the person at my publisher who is in charge of my ARC distribution for online reviews in a prominent place on my website and blogs. I also have a standard response to ARC requests that refers them to her, rather than leave the decision to me. That way, she can say no, or hopefully, yes, and take the burden off of me. I cleared this with her first, of course, and it made my life much simpler and allows me to play the good guy.

My publisher has been generous and has provided me with enough copies of my book to fuel a sizable blog tour when my release gets closer, as well as several copies for giveaway contests, but I’m still very careful about their placement. In today’s market, the buzz from those few ARCs might be the some of the most valuable publicity my book will get.

Happy writing!

Mary Lindsey’s debut novel, SHATTERED SOULS, is scheduled for release December 8, 2011 from Philomel/Penguin.

Having received a B.A. in English literature with a minor in drama from the University of Houston, she currently teaches acting to children and teens at a private studio in Houston, Texas.

Mary lives with her husband, three kids, two dogs, her daughter’s pet rats, an Australian Bearded Dragon, and dozens of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.

More about Mary and her books can be found on her website: http://www.marylindsey.com

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6 Comments

Filed under Guest Posts, Social Media, Writing

6 responses to “ARCs! A guest post by Mary Lindsey

  1. L.B. Schulman

    Thank you, Mary, for explaining the ARC process. I especially love your idea of asking your ARC person to say yes or no for you. It makes perfect sense. I wonder when I can ask my publisher about how many ARCS I’ll get. We are still in the early revision stage, and there is nothing in my contract about it….do you know? And did you get a lot more than normal initially? Just curious if there is an average amount. (That’s a pretty full coffee table!) Anyway, thanks for the informative blog and for being an Emu’s debut guest.

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  2. Cynthia Levinson

    So, that’s what ARE stands for! And, I just thought that ARC was an interim stop between design and publication. It didn’t occur to me that it has a marketing purpose. I’ll treasure all the more the few I own (thank you, Audrey!) and do my best to market gango books!

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  3. J. Anderson Coats

    I love the idea of referring ARC requests to the publisher’s publicity department – I know I don’t want to tell people “no” either.

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  4. With a cover that pretty, it must be hard to give *any* away. Congrats on what I’m sure is one of the highlights of getting published, and thanks for the good advice.

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  5. Lynda Mullaly Hunt

    Mary! Thanks so much for being a guest on Emusdebuts! Your post is so informative and a good reminder how important ARCs are. Alhtough, I’ll be tempted to give them to my “literary friends and cheerleaders,” I’ll hold off with an eye for marketing instead. Thanks for the suggestion to let your publishers do the “yes or no” for an ARC request–a great idea!

    Congratulations to you on what I’m sure is a fantastic book! I guess I’ll have to wait for a “real” copy. 😉

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  6. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    Thanks for this, Mary!

    I’d never thought about how expensive ARCs are to print–good point. Makes me glad that I didn’t give into temptation in Austin and slip your ARC into my handy-dandy EMLA bag. 😉

    ARC or no ARC, I’m so looking forward to reading your book!

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