Creating ARC Copies: A How-To

stack-of-books-1176150_960_720Once upon a time, Publisher’s Weekly asked for a review copy of a children’s book our small press had in the works. We were new to the business then and had no clue how to accommodate them, so we lost the opportunity for a high-profile review. Ouch! Now that I know better, I won’t make the same mistake again. Better still, I’ll share what I’ve learned so you won’t, either.

An advance review copy, also called an advance reader copy or ARC, is simply a preliminary version of a book made available to selected readers prior to the book’s sale date. It differs from the sale version in several respects:

·         Editing is not complete. You’ll make some changes to the text before your release date.

·         Illustrations may not be available.

·         The final version of the cover may not be available.

·         The ISBN may not be assigned.

Given all this incompleteness, why (you ask) would you create an ARC in the first place? Why not wait for the final version? Two reasons. First, ARCs can be sent to beta readers for valuable feedback so you can improve the work. Second, major review outlets want to publish reviews close to the release date, and they need substantial lead-time to prepare. This puts you, the self-publisher, in the lurch on two accounts.

Time and money

Reviewers want books anywhere from three to six months prior to release date. They need that time to read your book, write their review, and publish it in time for the book’s release. Plus, your book isn’t the only one they’re working on. It must wait its turn.

You probably haven’t finished your book six months before release, so to get those reviews, you’ll need to print a small number of ARCs. If you order from your local printer — once the only way to do it — that runs into money. Digital printing now makes small print runs relatively inexpensive, but the smaller the print run, the more expensive each copy becomes. Say your local printer charges you $4.00 per copy for 100 copies of your average-sized book. For ten copies, you might pay $25.00 per copy. And a single copy? That could exceed $100.00.

Luckily, you have another option. Through print-on-demand services such as Ingram Spark and KDP, ARCs now can be printed for the same price as sale copies. You can set up an ARC version and order a few copies without putting it on sale. Later, you can set up the final version and release it for sale. Indeed, you can use POD services for ARCs even if you plan to print books in bulk through your local printer.

Sometimes you can dispense with printed ARCs altogether. Many reviewers, although by no means all, accept digital ARCs. Beta readers generally prefer digital (but always check before submitting). PDF files are commonly used for this purpose. You already have a PDF proof for your print edition, so making a digital ARC is easy.

Making Your ARC

So how do you create an ARC? Easy!

First, plan ahead. You’ll want your ARC ready three to six months in advance of your sale date. You must have a completed work by then. It doesn’t have to be fully edited, but it should be as clean as possible. Remember, you’re sending it out for review. Try to have your cover  —  or at least a cover concept  —  ready to go, too.

Create copies of your cover and interior files and append “ARC” to the file names. That way you won’t confuse the ARC files with the real files later. If you’re making a digital ARC as well as a print ARC, make a separate file for that and append “Digital ARC” to the file name. Then do the following:

1. Add a disclaimer to the front cover. Mark it “Advance Review Copy for Limited Distribution” or “Uncorrected Proof for Limited Distribution.” Either is fine. Place it as a banner across the top or bottom or as a “stamp” somewhere in the middle.

2. Put a disclaimer inside, preferably on the title page. Say something like, “Uncorrected Proof for Limited Distribution. This proof is provided for review purposes only. The content may change before release. If quoting passages, please refer to the sale edition.”

3. If you have an ISBN, include it as normal on the copyright page. If not, put “Advance Review Copy” or “Uncorrected Proof” in its place.

4. Don’t put a bar code on the back cover. Instead, include a block containing the book’s metadata (page count, on-sale date if known, estimated retail price, your URL, etc.). Indicate that sale date and price are subject to change. [Note: if using a POD service like KDP, the bar code will automatically print, so make sure to black it out with a marker so it can’t be legitimately sold.]

5. For a digital ARC, add the front cover as the first page and the back cover as the last page. (Do not do this on the interior PDF for the print ARC!)

6. Does your book have illustrations? Are they ready to insert? If not, that’s okay. Include those you have and leave placeholders for those you don’t. Placeholders are blocks occupying the same space as the intended graphic and labeled, “Illustration not available.” You can do this for the cover, too, but it’s generally better to have a cover image on your ARC, even if it’s not finalized.

7. Create the PDF files as normal, making sure their file names include “ARC” or “Digital ARC” as appropriate.

And there you go. Your digital ARC is ready to send. Set up the print ARC through your POD service and order copies as needed. Now all you need are reviewers.

Note from the admin: For the convenience of the ARC readers, many authors will send files that have been converted to .mobi for those who prefer reading on a Kindle. In order to do this, don’t convert your Word doc to a PDF and upload it to KDP as you would if you were publishing a book. Then, instead of publishing it, download the converted file from Amazon and make it available to your ARC readers. This way will also help discover if there are any formatting errors in your eBook.

Author Dale E. LehmanDale E. Lehman is a software developer, writer, and amateur astronomer. He has just reissued his first three Howard County Mysteries (The Fibonacci Murders, True Death, and, Ice on the Bay) through IngramSpark. His SF/humor novel Space Operatic will be released later this year, along with some advance reviews, with any luck. Catch up with Dale on his website and his Author Central page.

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2 thoughts on “Creating ARC Copies: A How-To”

  1. A client of mine wanted to make up some softcover ARCs, and he’s publishing on KDP. They told him he had to approve the book for printing first, and then he could get the ARCs. He doesn’t want the book for sale before it’s ready. Any ideas?
    I believe someone else (Was it Rasheeda?) dealt with this recently but I can’t find the reference.
    For ebook ARCs I use Smashwords, because it’s very convenient, and you can download the whole book in any format.

    1. That’s odd, Gordon. He should be able to order print proofs and use those – I haven’t done that with KDP Print yet, so I don’t know if it’s possible or not. With Createspace, you could order up to 5 print proofs at a time, and they were great about that.

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