One of the most effective marketing tools available to self-publishers is the ARC, or Advance Reader Copy. Sometimes referred to as an advance review copy, galleys, or reader’s edition (ARE), the ARC is nothing more than a free copy of your book that you share with potential reviewers in advance of the publication date.
In this article I want to talk about timing, how to format your book, and share my experiences using CreateSpace to produce ARCs for our publishing clients. (Update: I recently published a companion article about using IngramSpark. Click here.)
Why you need to make ARCs part of your marketing plan
Your number one goal for any new book is to get reviews, especially Amazon reviews. A related goal is to collect as many “blurbs” as possible—quotes about your book from recognized experts or notable individuals.
The best time to begin soliciting reviews is well in advance of your book’s release date. This gives your potential reviewers and blurbers time to read the book, and consider whether or not they are willing to write a review. Having these reviews ready at the time of your book’s launch saves you precious time in building momentum immediate after launch date. (Tip: never stop collecting blurbs.)
If you know a person well, they might be willing to read a PDF, or even your Word manuscript. But my experience is that nothing beats a formally designed book—preferably in print.
Quick fact: 75% of the ARC requests for my book Register Your Book were for the print edition.
Timing and timelines
If someone asked you to review their book, how much time would you like? If it’s your mom, you’d probably drop everything. But chances are that these individuals are acquaintances, someone on your mailing list, or people you’ve met on social media. They will most likely need extra time to fit your book in to their schedule
I suggest allowing 1 to 3 months for this period. It is important to manage your expectations and be respectful of their time. After all, they are volunteering to help you.
Also allow for printing time
CreateSpace is no different than other printers in that you need to account for proofing and shipping times. Here’s a brief summary of the key steps and approximate time requirements.
- Upload formatted book file. (minutes)
- Review using online proofing tool. (depends on book and errors; minutes or days)
- Assuming it is acceptable, submit for automated CreateSpace proofing. (about 1 day)
- Order proof. Shipping depends on what you are willing to spend. (assume 3 to 10 business days; actual delivery dates are presented when you place the order)
Your ARC is an investment in marketing
An advance reading copy is by definition not final and you can use this to your advantage. It is not uncommon to include marketing details on the back cover, for example.
- Publicity campaign details
- Advertising plans
- Where to get more information about the book, or other sources for review copies (such as NetGalley, GoodReads or TheReadingRoom).
You can also add marketing-related front or back matter inside the book, or put a release date on the cover.
Preparing your file before submitting to CreateSpace
You book does not have to be perfect—which reduces the burden of lengthy reviews—and you need to communicate it is not final. Make sure the cover has wording such as:
- Advance Reading Copy, or
- Uncorrected Proof, or
- Not For Sale
Inside the book you can add the same language, or take it a step further like I do. Before uploading the PDF to CreateSpace I add this phrase to the header of every page of the book:
ADVANCE READING COPY – NOT FINAL – NOT FOR SALE
The top two images in the collage below are from book covers and the lower one is the header of an ARC. Also, CreateSpace will print the word Proof on the last page of the book. (See image at top.)
How to use CreateSpace POD to produce an advance reader copy
The good news about using CreateSpace to produce your ARC is that it is fast and cheap. As I outlined above, the process takes just a few days and they have excellent support if you run into problems.
The downsides? There 3 to be aware of:
- You can print a maximum of 5 copies per order. If you want to order more, return to your book’s setup page for proofing your book and click Change in the Make Changes box at the bottom of the page. You’ll need to go through the online proofing process again before ordering more.
- You must ship all proofs to one address. Our clients will usually order the books shipped to their address, and then mail a copy to AuthorImprints for our review. It is impossible to use CreateSpace to ship books to multiple reviewers, so build this time into your schedule.
- The ISBN is printed on the back of the book. This is technically a no-no for ARCs because including the ISBN in the barcode means your book could be sold in stores. This is why it is vital that you clearly mark the cover and interior pages.
CreateSpace is excellent for creating a handful of proofs you can use as an advance reader copy. But depending on how many you need, and how quickly you need them, you may want to consider other options.
There are many printers that offer short-run digital printing, the most notable for independent publishers is IngramSpark. You can read that article here.
For more immediate needs, or advice about your publishing plans, please see this page.