To ARC or not to ARC

Wings of Fear, Border Watch, Helene Young

Border Watch and its ARC

In the world of publishing an Advance Review Copy or ARC is the first time a novel is put out for public consumption. Sometimes it has the completed cover design, but most times is has a different jacket as a way of differentiating between it and the finished book.

But what about the words? How close are they to the final print? In some cases not very close at all…

Traditional book sellers know that an ARC is a rough diamond (I’m an optimist!) and that the gist of the story is what’s important, along with the sense of the characters, the voice of the author. They know the finished book is going to be a whole lot more everything – more polished, more professional, more tightly written and grammatically spot-on.

I recently read an ARC review that jolted me out of the story several times with major inconsistencies. It was the same day I was following a vitriolic spray on the net from an author who’d received a luke-warm review from a blogger. The argument was partly over whether the blogger had read the latest version or not. The original it seems had some errors…

It got me wondering about the rise and rise of blog reviews and the general understanding of an ARC. If you’re a reviewer who’s used to reading published books and an ARC turns up in your in-box or letter-box do you read it with the same expectations? Or do you read it understanding that the work may not have even been through the hands of an editor yet and so will be like on over-grown rose garden in need of a good prune?

I’d love to know the answer because I suspect that with the rising importance of on-line communities and blog reviews our books need to be in the best possible shape before we send them anywhere. That way the ARC is much closer to the finished book and the heated debate I witnessed the other day would not be happening.


2 thoughts on “To ARC or not to ARC

  1. Zosia, thanks for your reply. The last couple of ARCs I’ve read did contain quite a few errors and I had a hard time seeing past them. I guess that’s why I’m not a reviewer!

    I talked to Bronwyn Parry about this today and we both recognise that ARCs need to go out fairly early in the piece for orders to start rolling in. For me it’s a timely reminder that anything I submit to my publisher must be in the best possible shape.

    I think we’re all struggling to keep up with the explosion of on-line reviewing. I know I have several reviewers, like you, who I follow, because they review across a diverse spectrum and because they are entertaining.

    Certainly some of the on-line dramas aren’t helpful!

  2. I hate seeing errors in books, but never point them out if I’m reviewing an ARC. The ebook ARCs usually come with a warning that they’re going to have errors in them that won’t be there in the final product.

    Most ARCs I review are given out only a couple of months before the book is released, so I assume that apart from some editing issues the book is pretty much the same thing as the finished product.

    What I’m likely to criticise in a book is something like idiotic characters. This isn’t going to change too much in the few months between receiving an ARC and the release of the book. I’d hope publishers aren’t handing out review copies that are that vastly different to what they’re going to sell because, after all, they want those reviews to SELL the books, not to stop people buying them!

    I do think the new online reviewing culture is getting a bit out of hand. There aren’t very clear boundaries and both authors and reviewers are starting to step on toes. I’ve been staying away from a lot of the huge dramas recently because it feels like a return to my teenage years!

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