ARCs from the newbie perspective

Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel

This must have been one of the funnest ARCs ever.

Okay, that title’s a little misleading because we also have ARC-related thoughts from other EMLA authors who’ve already gone through the full publication process. But I haven’t gotten a sniff of my book’s future ARCs yet, so with this post and Mary Lindsey’s post we have the full spectrum of ARC-related wisdom for y’all! Huzzah! Let’s hear from author/illustrator/sage/dispenser of bonhomie/Ellie McDoodle creator Ruth McNally Barshaw. Go Ruth!


When Bloomsbury sent me 75 ARCs for my first book, Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel, I knew there wouldn’t be enough to satisfy even my (huge, sprawling, Irish Catholic) family. I’d have to ration them. As is my usual solution when faced with a sticky problem, I started a list.

I considered every friend, family member and acquaintance I’d ever met, either online or in real life. From the vast list in my head, I sorted out those who are: well-connected hub people, my crit group members, teachers and staff at my kids’ schools, siblings, librarians, booksellers and teachers, book reviewers, early adapters of new technology, salesmen types, those who love information and love sharing it, my closest friends, favorite relatives, and my most ardent supporters.

My list totalled 77, even though I tried to be stingy. I reserved five ARCs for my kids and me. Then I got ruthless. I culled from the list anyone who I thought might just put the ARC on a shelf, unread, or who might be thrilled to get one but not share it with others. Each person who got an ARC got the directive to not sell it on Ebay (my editor’s concern) and to please share it with teachers, librarians and booksellers if they enjoyed it.

I’m occasionally asked to sign an ARC at a book event. It always takes me back to those early days of anticipation, when I was aching to hold the real book, proof I was an author. Funny thing: four years later I realize author anxiety and insecurity never ebb. Nor does the thrill. – Ruth McNally Barshaw


One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street by Joanne Rocklin

Doesn't this cover get about as close to perfection as a cover can get?

Don’t you just love Ruth? But wait, WAIT, THAT’S NOT ALL – we also have some ARC perspective from Joanne Rocklin, whose new novel One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street just hit the shelves to massive acclaim. Go Joanne!


My view of ARC’s is that in my experience they are as important as the finished book itself! I caution everyone to examine your galleys as carefully as possible to prevent careless errors from being printed in the ARC. It’s really your last chance to find them before your baby goes out into the world.  I used all my own copies of the hardcover of my middle grade One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street, the “free” copies owed me by my publisher, to send out to important contacts.  But I scooped up as many copies of the ARC as possible from my publisher, so I could mail them out to anyone interested in children’s literature, especially blog authors.  I gave away sets for book clubs, and participated in giveaways online.  When the birthday of the “real” book came around, as beautiful as it is, the experience was somewhat anti-climactic.

If any ARC’s are left after all of this, I use them in writing workshops with young students, to give a sense of the steps to a finished book. There was a major scientific error in my last novel, and it was printed in the ARC. Someone found it just in time (Thank you! Thank you!) I often mentioned that there was an error in that ARC to recipients with whom I had personal contact, suggesting they direct kids to be on the lookout for the the Big Mistake. Kids just love doing that! – Joanne Rocklin


So these very informative, valuable words of advice spur a few thoughts for me. In classic Mike Jung fashion, I confess to feeling a certain amount of chagrin, because authors have sent me ARCs in the past – Kate Milford, for example, or Eric Luper, or Julia Devillers on behalf of her twin sister Jennifer Roy – and while I was flattered and gratified and determined to do my part, I didn’t fully grasp how much it meant to be one of the people selected to receive one of those precious ARCs.

And now I’m going to be on the other side of the ARC equation, ticking off names like Ruth, helping kids spot the Big Mistakes like Joanne (fun!), weighing my professional priorities and my emotional proclivities. Making choices. Handling the ARC process is just another of those confounded parts of the writing game where we have to make choices, eh? Sometimes hard ones, even. You’d think the writing process itself would have driven that “making choices” concept deep into my psyche, but no, like a dingbat I say “whuh? I have to make a choice?” every time it crops up in a new context.

I will honor this process when it’s my turn! When I’m ruthlessly culling my list I’ll probably feel regret over some of the names that hit the floor, but hey, I’ll also feel thrilled over the opportunity to share an ARC with the names that remain. I hope the day when I first hold a bound copy of my book is as amazing as Mary’s was, that I have Big Mistake hunts with kid readers like Joanne does, and that the thrill remains as ever-present for me as it does for Ruth. I can’t wait.




Filed under Celebrations, cover art, Guest Posts, Reviews

10 responses to “ARCs from the newbie perspective

  1. I am reeling from how many ARCs Ruth received. Either that’s not the norm or I have yet to be deemed ARC worthy by my publishers.


  2. You are most assuredly worthy, Audrey. It was not the norm. Maybe it helped that I had a plan for distribution. Maybe it’s just that it was an unusual project; Wimpy Kid didn’t exist as a book, yet, so there was no model for marketing. (Bloomsbury is above the norm in other ways, too; for instance, they give authors a LOT of leeway in deciding covers and interior stuff. Bloomsbury is stellar, in my estimation)
    Thanks for your kind words, Mike.
    Joanne, huge congratulations on your success with Orange Street. I’m very excited to read it.


  3. Cynthia Levinson

    So many people to thank for a great blog post–Ruth, Joanne, AND Mike! I had imagined that I’d tie my ARC (ARCs?) to my puffed-out chest and wear them around on me until they wore out. Now, I know I need to send them to the people at the nexus of kids lit outreach. But, first, I’ll silkscreen the cover of my ARC (ARCs?) to a t-shirt and wear it until it wears out. Hmmm, if I make LOTS of t-shirts…


  4. Tee-shirts! Wow! I can’t believe I’d never even considered that…ever.
    My experience this time was that Abrams kept sending me more ARC’s after plaintive begs and nags…


  5. And Ruth–LOVING Ellie…!


  6. I love the idea of the Big Mistake hunt–it almost makes me want to make sure and put an error in for the ARC that can be fixed later, just so I can do that activity. What a great way to make it all feel more real to the kids!

    I love, too, the warmth that comes through in Ruth’s comments. All of this week’s posts have made me so much more aware that the ARC is about marketing and self-promotion, not just the “Oh Boy, Oh Boy!” moment of holding the REAL BOOK in my hands (I admit to living a vain and shallow fantasy life). But I love that you set aside copies for yourself and your kids FIRST, Ruth! The joy and satisfaction and celebration are important too.

    And then there’s Mike’s comments. I agree, the ARCs in my house just got SO MUCH MORE valuable to me!


  7. Great discussion!

    One of the things that hasn’t been mentioned yet is conferences. If you don’t have a lot of blog contacts–or your publisher is already covering the entire Blogosphere with galleys–but you have some appearances planned, ARCs are a great thing to bring with you. First of all, they make you feel Totally Legitimate, and it’s a lot more effective to *show* somebody your upcoming book, then merely mention it to them and hope they remember it in six months! Shortly before my first novel, A CURSE DARK AS GOLD, came out, I attended the World Fantasy Convention, stack of ARCs in hand. I was lucky enough to meet superstar YA author Tamora Pierce there, and to be able to hand one off when she looked even remotely interested (and by that I mean, she was very polite to me.). That encounter resulted in a lovely endorsement or “blurb,” which has now appeared on ALL my books! A lot of mileage for one little galley. It’s also nice to have some (or get some extras from your publisher) for state or local events where your publisher doesn’t have a booth to display your work for you. I’ll be toting ARCs of my fall release, LIAR’S MOON, to Comic-Con this summer, and the Missouri Library Association annual conference in the fall.


    • Brilliant suggestions, Elizabeth. Thanks! And I must say I am looking forward to LIAR’S MOON eagerly–maybe I’ll show up at Comic-Con disguised as a famous person to snag an advance copy! 🙂


    • Definitely tell your publisher if you’re speaking at important conferences before your book comes out.
      My publisher printed a few hundred extra ARCs for the Michigan Reading Association conference which I was speaking at two months before the laydown date (official book publication date).
      We gave out ARCs at the conference and they were a big hit. Not as big a hit as Mo Willems, who sat next to me at the booksigning table. His long line of fans (with purchased books) snaked around the convention hall and out the door and down the hall and into the parking lot and over into the next town. My crowd, waiting for me to personalize ARCs: Sparse. Before I started I had to ask his assistant to find a different chair, because she was sitting behind my nameplate, in my chair. That was humbling… (So much about this business is humbling…)


  8. Yes, yes. Humble, humble. What’s the name of that pie we’re supposed to be eating? Is it really called humble pie? Anyone have a recipe? xo


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