What are ARCs, and do self-published authors need them?

What are ARCs, and do self-published authors need them?

Advanced Reader Copies, or ARCs, are early copies of a title that are sent out for promotional purposes. Publishers typically print ARCs 4-6 months in advance, allowing ample time for publicity outreach to build buzz around the book before the upcoming publication date. But do self-published authors need ARCs?

First, let’s talk about what readers expect from ARCs. Because these are advanced (aka “not final) copies, it’s expected for there to be errors and quirks within. On the cover / interior of the ARC, you’ll often see the words “ADVANCED READER COPY” or “UNCORRECTED PROOF” as a disclaimer. However, that’s not a free pass to just print the manuscript in whatever form it’s currently in. This will be the first experience readers have with your book, so you want to still spend time on edits and typesetting the interior. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it needs to be presentable and attractive to readers.

Traditionally published ARCs tend to include some metadata information (such as publication date, ISBN, price), additional author information (such as a bio and previous publications), and publicity material if it’s available (a bulleted list of publicity efforts or comparable titles). For the self published author, not all of this is needed, but it’s good to include the relevant information if you can. This information can be included on the back cover accompanied by a tagline or partial description.

ARCs can be digital or physical. Some readers won’t accept digital, while others primarily read on an ereader, so if you only offer one ARC format you may be limiting your outreach. We recommend offering both digital and physical ARCs.
It may seem like a lot of effort to go through for an “unfinished” product. However, anARC is a great publicity asset you can use to build buzz for your upcoming book. It allows you to start getting reviews as early as possible before publication, while allowing s more time to polish the final version of the book. Having an official ARC looks and feels really traditional, which may seem nominal, but how your book looks to early readers matters.

Building buzz is vital, especially for self or indie publishing authors, and ARCs can be a great way to eyes on your book leading up to your publication date.

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