One of the most confusing concepts in publishing is that of the Advance Reader Copy, or ARC. I call it confusing because there appears to be no universal agreement on what those initials actually mean. While some sources refer to an ARC as an Advance Reader Copy, others call it an Advance Reading Copy. Still others reference the term Advance Review Copy when discussing ARCs.
Although the specifics of what ARC stands for remain unclear—and maybe we authors should agree to remove the middle word and just call them Advance Copies—the purpose of ARCs has never been in question. They are meant for reviewers, beta readers, and/or launch teams to read and review in advance of publication.
Just as there’s no universal agreement on whether to call an ARC a Reader, Reading, or Review copy, there aren’t many hard and fast rules of how to prepare one. Suffice to say, it’s best to deliver the most professional presentation possible, and to offer different formats for different readers.
The question of formatting is tricky in itself: while some reviewers require files be emailed in PDF or MOBI, members of one’s launch team may only be able to read a Kindle-ready EPUB file. I’d recommend having at least two, if not three, formats available to send.
Judging A Book By Its Cover
As for the cover design, it’s perfectly understandable that authors will sometimes want to send out ARCs so far in advance that there’s no cover illustration yet. My question today is, “Should that be the exception or the rule?”
In assessing my own work and my approach to this, I have to say that ARCs should definitely include a cover if at all possible. I compare it to getting a demo tape or album from a band with no cover. Imagine how generic that would seem to the recipient. In much the same way, an ARC that looks and feels like a final version of a book—including a beautiful cover design—might engage the reader immediately in ways that a coverless ARC simply can’t.
Of course, in traditional publishing, the author or publishing company may have to send out ARCs far in advance of having a cover design. But for those of us who are indie authors, part of controlling our own destinies can be sending ARCs that look exactly like the final product. And what’s wrong with that?