I’ve been thinking a lot about Advanced Reading Copies of books (or ARCs). I didn’t even know they existed until I started blogging six months ago. ARCs are primarily a marketing tool to get buzz going about a book before it’s published. I’m in no way an expert on this subject. According to Goodreads I’ve read a grand total of 7 ARCs (2 from the DAC ARC Tours, 2 from NetGalley, 2 won from a giveaway, and 1 was traded with a blogger).
What I want to talk about is the disadvantages that ARCs have. ARCs can have this Holy Grail image and I was surprised when I started reading them at how many things I didn’t like about them. Yet, no one seems to talk about it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t read ARCs, and I will definitely keep reading them, but I did want to have an honest discussion about them. And if you don’t have ARCs flying at your door, like me, you can keep in mind the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Pros of ARCs
- Exclusivity: If there’s one thing we learned from The Social Network it’s that having something be exclusive and hard to get makes it more valuable. Getting a book before a lot of other people makes you feel exclusive and special and it’s a wonderful feeling. I felt totally jazzed when I got Crossed a full 2 months before it came out. Getting exclusive stuff is plain FUN :)
- Read it before anyone else: There’s nothing worse than waiting for that next book in your favorite series. What could be better than not having to wait as long and getting an ARC?
- Free: It’s illegal to sell ARCs so they will ALWAYS be free whether you trade them with a fellow blogger, win it in a giveaway or get it directly from the publisher.
Cons of ARCs
- Hard to get: To get an ARC directly from the publisher is hard to do. I have never gotten an ARC this way. To get them from the publisher, you have to have a relationship with them and you have to get the attention of someone in the publishing house in a professional way. I’ve mailed out about 6 ARC requests to publishers, none of which have been answered. It can be done, but you have to work pretty hard for it.
- Unedited: Most ARCs have on them some version of “This is an advance reading copy made from uncorrected proofs. Reviewers are requested to check all quotations against the final bound book.” The perfectionist in me doesn’t like that there are mistakes in them. Also, publishers can sometimes change the plot itself in the final version. (!) I don’t like to re-read books very much, but every time I read an ARC I always wonder how different it is from the final book and if I should re-read the final version of it to find out.
- Pressure: You can feel pressure to read and review an ARC before it’s released. The pressure I personally feel mostly comes from myself and the fact that if I read the ARC after the release date of the book, what was the point of the ARC? Also, the idea of reciprocity is deeply ingrained in our culture (just ask Sheldon). It’s harder than you think to get a free book and then NOT read it before the release date. Not to mention that you now have the attention of the publisher and you can feel important eyes reading your reviews now.
- Job: If you have too many ARCs waiting to be read on your shelf that all need to be read before a certain date, it can make blogging feel like a job. I see lots of excellent bloggers get burned out and I wonder if it’s because blogging has turned into a job for them.
- Freedom: If you have too many ARCs it can take away your freedom to pick what you read. I love to choose what I read and it’s often on a whim or whatever I feel like at the moment. I received 3 ARCs all at once this month and at one point, I just wanted to read something else but I couldn’t since the ARCs were from a tour and I only had a limited amount of time to read them. Don’t get me wrong – you are never required to read any ARCs you receive. But the exclusivity I was talking about goes out the window if you don’t read them in time and it can feel like pressure if you’re not careful.
- What do you do with them?: After the final version of an ARC is published, what do you do with them? Do you keep them forever? You can’t give ARCs to libraries (I’m not sure if you can give them to charities), and I think they are kind of pointless once the final version is out. Of course, this isn’t true all the time. My Everneath ARC is now one of my most prized books because I worked really hard to get it and now it’s even signed and personalized to me. But I have so many ARCs that I won in giveaways that were published a year ago. I would much rather read the final version since I can, but what to do with the ARCs???
- Competition: It can feel like a game or contest to get them because publishers only print a very limited amount of them since they cost so much to make.
- Jealousy: You can easily be jealous of bloggers that get books you really, really want.
- Followers: ARCs tend to go to the big bloggers and not necessarily fans of the books. Again, ARCs are for marketing so it totally makes sense that they would send them to bloggers with a lot of traffic. But I can’t help but feel sad sometimes when I see an ARC I’ve been dying to read in an IMM post with 10 other books that they got that week. What if they don’t have time to read it but you would have???
- Expensive: I’ve talked about this a little bit, but ARCs are expensive for publishers to make because (a) they are giving them out for free and (b) because it costs the same amount to print a book whether your print 500 or 5 million. The more you print, the less it costs per book. This begs the question, “Are ARCs really the best way to market their books?” Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I wish I could get final versions of books to review. I’m willing to wait until it’s really published. Would this save the publisher money and get rid of a lot of the cons of ARCs? I’m not sure. What do you think?