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No, I Didn't Say Noah's Ark, I Said Arc!

If I was to say the word ARC to you in publishing, what would come to mind? Would you start thinking about Noah's Ark? Possibly a story detailing his adventures while the earth is completely covered in water? Or would you start thinking about Indian Jones and his search for the Ark of the Covenant, while he tirelessly battles the Nazis? If you thought about either, you would be climbing up the wrong tree.

So what exactly is an ARC in book publishing? Well put plainly, an ARC is an acronym for a marketing tool. It stands for Advanced Reading Copy. So you may be asking yourself, "what does that mean and do I need one when publishing my book?" The short term answer to that question is probably a no if you're a self-published author. Let me explain why.

When big publishing houses get ready to release a new book, they often seek out reviews from established reviewers. The hope is to get a good blurb to use in their marketing material. Whether it be on a flyer, a website, or the book cover itself. The positive review can go a long way in helping to obtain more sales. A big publishing house will provide these copies themselves and will cover the cost to create them. Generally the book will go out with the word ARC clearly stamped across the book cover somewhere so the reviewer will know that the copy is not the final product yet. This is important because if a few errors still exist, which is very possible in the ARC stage, it won't be held against the author or publishing house, at least not yet. Then the reviewer reads the book and sends the review back to the publishing house, who in turn, uses it any way they can to help with book sales.

That sounds great for traditionally published books. But what about self-published books? Does it work the same way? Well number one, if you're a self-published author, you probably don't have the same connections that big publishing houses do. And the chances of you ever having the same access to reviewers is slim. Number two, you'll have to provide the ARCs yourself and cover the cost to create them, which can run close to $300 for twenty-four books. You'll also have to approach reviewers yourself about reading your book, which can be very time consuming. And I can tell you from experience, that not many will choose to review your book, even if they say they will. Your book just seems to get lost in the shuffle somewhere after you send it off to them.

That being said, one of two things can happen. Number one, you send your books out in hopes of getting glowing reviews, only to find out that none are ever written. You also end up losing money on both the books and the postage to send them. Number two, you can't find anyone willing to review your book for you because you're not a household name yet. In that case, you may have twenty books sitting on your shelf, collecting dust, with the word ARC written across them. Again, a waste of money, time and resources.

What's the best way of getting a review then? If your self-published, the answer is to start small. Try to secure a few reviews on websites that do reviews for indie writers, or try to get a local paper to write one for you. Consider trying to get some reviews on places like amazon.com or barnes&nobles.com.

The reality is, you do need to get your book recognized to some degree. But spending the time and effort to do it, not to mention the money, won't pay off for you unless you're extremely lucky. Even with all the money and connections that big publishing houses have, books still flop. You never know what's going to be a best seller. So don't go into debt trying to get everyone and his brother to write a book review for you. Be patient, start small, and focus on smaller outlets at first. As you establish yourself more over time, you may find more ways to get reviews outside the normal scope. It may not be on your first book, but if you keep at it and stay diligent, you should see some results after awhile.

You can take this from someone who chose to take the ARC route on book number one. Five went out, nineteen or so got recycled and most websites wanted document uploads anyway. So like all things in life, we learn as we go. Only one review came back as a result of purchasing ARCs. Four came back from sending my book to places by electronic means.

Take care!
paclark paclark 31-35 1 Response Apr 27, 2012

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Thank you for your post. Very informative! :)