Pub Rants

Save Money! Save Trees! No ARCs!

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STATUS: Next Monday is a holiday in publishing! Hooray, another quiet day in the office to get caught up.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOT N COLD by Katy Perry

This is the latest rally cry in publishing. One of my authors just found out today that her publisher is not going to be doing ARCs for her book. But it’s not just for her title but for all the mass market titles at this house.

Gone. They’ve decided that it’s too costly to continue with the current economic conditions.

For those of you who don’t know, ARC stands for Advanced Reading Copy. This is the main tool in terms of getting reviews and influential blog posts about the upcoming release. Savvy authors can use those ARCs in a variety of ways such as making them available for special promos or having them handy at events or conferences where booksellers attend. And this is just the tip of the ice berg of uses for the ARC.

At the agency, we often use ARCs to shop film or foreign rights (although mainly we prefer a clean, electronic copy—costs of international shipping and all that.

But back to my Author. Her publisher isn’t even offering an electronic ARC. Just a bound manuscript but only on request. Yeah, I said the same thing. This author is feeling really supported….

Now I do understand that the printing of ARCs is expensive and often these copies end up on sale at eBay for pennies (with neither the publisher nor the author seeing any of those royalties) but egad.

As I mentioned above, the publisher did say that they were willing to send out bound manuscripts instead but talk about unwieldy. That’s basically asking a person to lug around 300+ regular sized pages. Any reviewer will be delighted to haul that around on the subway or to the soccer game or wherever they might be trying to squeeze in reading. Not.

I highlight this because now it’s becoming even more important to find alternate ways to connect to your audience before publication.

I have more thoughts on this but it’s getting late so I’m out.


46 Responses

  1. Joni Rodgers said:

    Bound ms = crazy pill

    I’m hoping eARCs will be the wave of the future. Cost is tiny compared to bound galleys, which leaves promo money free for advertising. Plus, I want to cry when I see my ARCs of eBay — or worse yet, when people present them to me for signing at a speaking gig. It’s not just that I and publisher are screwed out of the money — that thing is riddled with errors! (Hence the all caps UNCORRECTED on the front.) I slave to make the book as perfect as I can. I hate to have a reader look at this half-baked loaf of bread and judge me by that.

    I’m thrilled to see ARCs go the way of the button hook.

  2. E. A. Brass said:

    I would be very disappointed to be without a paper ARC, but to not even have an electronic one? And then to have the only option provided be one for which potential reviewers have to jump through hoops they don’t even know are out there just for more inconvenience? Poor author!

    Would they ever send out shelf-ready editions as promotional copies when the book releases? It’s not nearly as helpful, being “after the fact,” but I’ve seen it a couple times, and free is free. It would be something, at least …

  3. Joseph L. Selby said:

    Not only would carrying around 300+ full-sized pages be unwieldy, but to me at least, that would feel like I’m reading a draft rather than the final book. I’d find errors and make suggestions and feel completely helpless that none of it would be fixed before the book was published.

    If they’re anything like the last publisher I worked for, they’re deathly afraid of piracy, which is why they don’t send out a PDF and don’t have the infrastructure to host a secure Flashpaper version. Since they can’t offer a kindle/nook version to specific people for no cost, that option is a lost opportunity.

    And it is a lost opportunity. If there was a way to distribute an ARC through B&N that I could read on a nook before the release date, I would eat that up. Hell, I’d prefer it.

    What’s frustrating to me is that for those companies that are part of larger umbrella corporations (like Penguin/Pearson), they’re educational counterparts have the infrastructure necessary to distribute secure electronic copies but because the companies are insulated from one another, they don’t know it/don’t have access to it. That’s too bad. It would be an easy solution and save them a bunch of money.

  4. Susan at Stony River said:

    When I saw your post title, I thought they’d only moved on to PDF versions, which would make some sense in terms of postage and Kindles.

    Doing away with them altogether does seem penny-wise and pound-foolish. Is there any new, more cost-effective or innovative marketing strategy that will replace the ARCs, did they say?

  5. Anonymous said:

    At our blog, one reviewer prefers electronic, two of us take either, and two prefer Print ARCs. From experience, I can tell you it’s exciting to receive an eARC because I get it instantly, but it’s also easier to forget because it’s not sitting out in plain sight.

    At least half the time, I receive regular books out of the authors’ own stash.

    I can also tell you ARCs are essential to get speedy reviews. If it’s not sent to me, it may take a while for me to get it and only then AFTER it hits the stores, which isn’t great for out of the box sales.

    Plus, books sent to me by authors get priority in the TBR stack.

    If I’m ever published, I’m going to do whatever I need to have a good stash of my books to send to reviewers. I’ll even buy them off the shelf at Wal-Mart! I don’t want to be one of those authors I’ve contacted, all excited about their books, only to hear, ‘Uh, I don’t have anything to send you.’ Not good for business at all. You want to get an ARC into the hands of an eager review ASAP.

    The blogging book reviewers I know do it for fun. They have very busy Real Lives.

    Is it okay for an author to send an unofficial, prepublished copy of the manuscript?

  6. Terry Odell said:

    Oh, bother. My first books were for e-publishers, so there were no ARCs. When the book came out in print later, that was it. I can’t tell you how excited I was to get my first bound ARCs from my print publisher. And since they target libraries, the reviews are critical.

  7. Kathleen MacIver said:

    Oh my gosh! I can totally understand the no-print-ARC… but why not a digital one? How expensive are those to produce? Really?

    I’m wondering, Kristin, if this is now something that an author might want to have in the contract…that the publisher will provide at least a digital ARC. What do you think?

  8. Stuart said:

    Question about electronic ARCs: If a publisher refuses to release ARCs, can the author create their own eBook version of their manuscript and distribute it to reviewers?

    I’d pay for my own a Pagemaker license (or whatever program) and create an eBook fo reviewers. Small investment, if you ask me.

    I assume this is something that would need to be included in the contract.

  9. Anonymous said:

    Dear Ms. Nelson,

    After reading, researching, and studying the publishing industry for years now… and then reading this blog post, one has to wonder.

    If a non-published author has their “stuff” together, a well-reviewed story by some insiders, and some outsiders, and is technically and quite business-proficient… why bother with the publishing industry?

    It sounds to me with the advent of the IPad, Kindle, and other POD advancements, should one bother with the publishing industry as a whole?


  10. attackfish said:

    Wait a minute, not even any electronic ARCs? That can’t be good for business. The sad thing is it’s going to blow back on your poor author.

  11. Dara said:

    The “no electronic copies” really makes no sense. I mean I understand wanting to conserve trees and all, but using eBook copy of it wouldn’t harm anything. I mean, do they want her to succeed or not? It’s like they don’t want to make money.

    I sure hope this doesn’t become a trend. If so, I wonder if something can be added in the contract like others have stated.

  12. AstonWest said:

    Put me on the “why no electronic” train as well…

    I figure it’s only going to get worse, though, until publishers figure out ways to reduce costs through altering their primary business model. Instead, it looks like they’re cutting off ways to promote (and thus bring in income).

    Sad, really.

  13. The Novelist said:

    I think that at least an electronic ARC should always be offered.

    Call me old fashioned, but I love the feel and smell of a real book in my hands. If I ever manage to get published I would do the same as one of the Anonymous posters and run to Walmart and purchase copies to hand out.

  14. Michele Hauf said:

    My publisher is doing eARCs at I think this is very cool. Makes the advance book available to a wider range of reviewers (because any reviewer can just go to the site and request the book). As an author, I appreciate this because then I don’t have to send my author copies out as ARCs (and we rarely get them in advance any more, so sending them out after publication defeats the purpose).

    There are still some reviewers who will only read hard copies, which I completely understand. But the eOption if great to have!

  15. Christine said:

    I’m not even going to GUESS who the publisher is–I don’t want to know. Ignorance will have to remain bliss as I struggle to take my current WIP to the next level.

    Given all the issues and problems facing the industry, as an unpublished author, I’m focusing on what I can control: writing, learning, submitting, entering contests.

    If the publishing Gods smile on my writing and offer me a contract in e or print, then I will work on the next level of my career: promotion.

    I can only focus on one thing at a time.

  16. Carolina said:

    Actually, you can make nice ms using Adobe. I have been researching publishing (both traditional and self), and really–I’m leaning toward self. This is awesome in a way–because it reinforces my advertising plan of using electronic copy for reviews.

  17. Joseph said:

    Now that I think about it, if ARCs are distributed to specific people, a company could just watermark the PDF with “ARC copy for X” on the file and send it out. Any piracy would instantly identify the culprit and the house could crush him like a worm. The features necessary to do this and prevent it from being changed are all available in Acrobat.

  18. behlerblog said:

    Kristin, in stringing together points A and B, am I correct in assuming that her publisher won’t be sending her book out the trade magazines for review? They require physical ARCs. Wow, I’m hideously weency, and I get printed ARCs.

  19. Liesl said:

    You know, I have to say, with blogs and FB and Twitter, and all the creative ways we can market these days, I don’t think this is such a tragedy. Sure, you want people to read the book fully before publication to give reviews and “buzz,” but I have to question their ability to heavily promote sales. I’m no expert, but does the benefit outweigh the cost?

    As for the e-ARC, everyone seems to think that makes no sense, but maybe it’s not so much a question of money as as fear of copyright violation. It’s so easy to put an e-book online. It happened to Stephenie Meyer.

    So while it stinks to have a marketing tool snatched from the belt, there are other tools. You can easily spread the premise and first chapter, do a blog tour, etc. No ARC is not the end of the world and I think the book can still survive, even do well.

  20. Heather said:

    I can’t tell you the number of books I’m excited about that are coming out this year by debut authors (and a few by established authors), and it’s all because someone I know or a blog I follow got their hands on an ARC and talked it up. If you can’t drum up excitement for a great book with reviews, how else can you do it? The author themselves can only say so many times, “This book is really great!” before people start to tune out. It’s so key to establish pre-release excitement. I’m with everyone else; I don’t understand why at least eARCs couldn’t be an option.

  21. Evangeline Holland said:

    If piracy is the main concern, why not equip e-ARCs with a time frame, the way the ebooks I borrow through my library’s OverDrive program are set up? I have the option of borrowing the book for 1 wk, 2 wks, or 3wks, after which the file expires on my Sony Reader.

  22. Jille said:

    Perhaps they are not offering E-copies of ARCs b/c publishers don’t want them to pop up on the internet in advance of actual pub date? This may be a valid concern as e-books become increasingly popular/potential for pirating, etc.

  23. jessjordan said:

    A world without ARCs? Eeek! Wouldn’t a better solution be to attempt to make ARCs more cost efficient? Say, for example, not putting shiny, glossy covers on them? That could be a start …

  24. Katiebabs a.k.a KB said:

    Bantam has announced no ARCs will be sent out any longer for mass market paperbacks. So unless you ask for an eARC from the publisher or author, those little known authors will get hurt out of all of this because the publisher will not longer blindly send ARCs to reviewers.

  25. Anonymous said:

    If the author really wants ARCs they can make them themselves. I had to have ARCs. I needed the advance reviews and I wanted to send them to book club presidents, so I used a short run printer, paid to have it typeset and printed 100. Cost was about $600 for my first book, because it was 94,000 words. My second novel is 69,000 and it will cost $460. (Both include typesetting).

    Worth every penny in my opinion. This really isn’t a lot of money, why can’t the publishers just do it.

  26. Rebecca said:

    Wait a second, the publishing industry endorses a returns system where half of the books produced are pulped after having their covers ripped off… but a few ARCs are too expensive???

    This boggles my mind.

  27. Anonymous said:

    Er, it is Advance Reading Copy, as it comes in advance, not because it is only for advanced readers.

  28. Cranky Old Cat Lady said:

    So does this mean the publishers deem the amount of sales the “talk” drummed up by ARCs can convert to is less than the cost of printing and distributing the ARCs? O.o Really? Do they have hard numbers backing that up because I’m not convinced…

  29. Marsupialus said:

    Maybe next the publisher won’t actually publish the book, just wait for people to contact them and then send bound gallies for a fee.

    I sense this is yet another move on short-sighted publishers to dump ever more of the promotional burden onto the author. If I were the author, I might invest in creating my own ARCs. Very easy to do with a digitial short-run printer and really not that expensive.

  30. Rebecca Herman said:

    I do love to read and review ARCs which I get from the publishers or at BEA… but honestly if they can’t afford to print them and can only do ebook ARCs, I just won’t be reviewing anymore advance copies and will buy anything (which will probably make them more money, LOL). I just can’t read ebooks, in any format – hate the things soooooo much, no offense to those who love them. I do wish economic conditions were better so that they didn’t have to make choices like this.

  31. Sarah Tormey said:

    I realize I am jumping in very late to this discussion (have been revising and rewriting like a fiend lately), but thought it worth mentioning that when I sold mass market books (and as a Target/Levy rep for RH I sold a lot of them) I never once send an ARC to my buyers. They wanted sales figures and projections not ARCs. I would print the cover, but would never bring something for them to read. As an author or a sales rep, I think my response to that news would be: great, how that you have cut the arc cost, will you be allocating more money to coop? The publisher might laugh, but I think it is far more important to fight for coop dollars than ARCs. Just my thoughts:)

  32. Katherine Tyrrell said:

    I review books – and publishers who behave like this won’t be getting a lot of reviews from me

    Mind you a number of them seem to have very real difficulty even posting print ARCs to the right address.

    I won’t review an electronic ARC as it tells you absolutely nothing about the quality of binding/reproductions which is important to the type of books I review.

    I’d suggest that any publishing company behaving as the one cited in your post is not long for this world.

  33. TPPPUB said:

    I published my first book in 1995 and did my own ARCs, then did them for every book that followed.

    The suggestion for using PageMaker (now InDesign) is a good one. I use it to format my manuscripts to PDF for digital printing, so it’s no extra work to mark up a new cover PDF for a galley or ARC (in place of the book cover PDF) and upload it to my printer.

    I’ve been doing this as a service for other small publishers for several years and it seems to be the way to go.

    You can also output a PDF file with DRM restrictions or watermarks as someone suggested for e-ARCs. Great idea whose time has come!

    I’m not sure it’s worth the $300 or so for a copy of InDesign. If you do only a book or two a year, it’s worth having another publisher do the typesetting for you. It’s relatively inexpensive because you don’t need a complete interior designed. I use a “standard” looking format and tweak some things to make it unique.

    In any business, people have to be proactive.