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As I have mentioned before, an author should begin marketing their book long before it comes off the press. And, one of the most effective ways of doing this is to create Advance Review Copies (ARCs) of their book. You may have heard of ARCs referred to as advance reader copies, reader editions (ARE), or galley copies. Regardless of the term, ARCs are simply an uncorrected, pre-publication version of your book.

Once created, they can then be distributed to book reviewers, bloggers, media outlets, and members of the press to garner feedback, endorsements, publicity, and reviews. All of this facilitates building momentum and creating a buzz around the upcoming release. It also helps to establish your author platform and gives you insight into how well the book will be received by readers.

In this post, I will cover the timeline for creating and sending out your ARCs as well as how to create the ARC itself. You’ll learn what to include on the inside and the cover, and I’ll share some tips and sample images along the way. Next week I will be sharing an actual case study on ARC printing to help you with budgeting and understanding what to expect from various printing services. So, stay tuned!

Update: Read our Case Study: Printing Advance Review Copies (ARCs) of Your Book.

Timeline for Creating and Sending Out ARCs

There are a number of factors to consider before sending out an ARC. The general rule is that ARCs should go out 3 months or so ahead of the publication date. This means your book should be almost complete 3 months ahead of when it goes to press. Therefore, plan ahead!

The reason it needs to be sent out this early is because reviewers are busy and need ample time to fit your book into their schedule. Some services (or individuals) may not require this long. Others may need longer. Investigate this ahead of time so you’ll have a good idea of when your ARC needs to be sent and to whom.

Another factor to consider is the time it takes to prepare an ARC. If you’re doing this yourself and are familiar with the process of book formatting, it may not take that long. However, if you’re subcontracting this service, you should allow time for the service to create your ARC.

Time for Printing and Shipping

While digital ARCs have all but taken over printed copies, you should still plan on having a few available. Some folks just prefer a hard copy over digital, myself included, and printing the ARCs takes time. If using a print-on-demand service such as Createspace, you can upload your files in a few minutes, but their internal review may take 24 hours or more. Additionally, I highly recommend ordering a proof copy of the ARC before you order 30 copies for distribution. This will save you time and aggravation, but you should allow 1 to 2 weeks for printing and shipping your proof.

Update: As of 8/28/2018, CreateSpace is being merged into KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing. Therefore, it will no longer be an option for printing ARCs, or any books for that matter.

Assuming you are happy with the proof of the ARC, you’ll need another 1-2 weeks for ordering and shipping the final ARC copies. If the proof has errors or needs a few tweaks, you’re now looking at another week or more to correct the issues and get a new proof copy in hand.

Also, factor in time to mail the ARCs to potential reviewers once you receive them from the printing company. I highly recommend using priority mail for doing this. Yes, it costs more than media mail, but you have the peace of mind knowing your book got to the reviewer in a few days, not a month or more (which may be too late for some reviewers!). Also, since it is tracked you’ll know exactly where it is and when it’s been delivered.

As you can see, time can easily slip away during the ARC creation process. Be aware of this and plan accordingly!

How to Create Your ARC

As I eluded to above, there are 2 forms of the ARC that you will need: A digital copy and a print copy. In the fast-paced world in which we live, many reviewers will prefer a digital copy of your ARC over a print version. This saves you money by not having to print (or mail) unwanted copies but doesn’t absolutely free you from creating a print version. I will mainly cover the creation of the digital version below. Just know the print version isn’t much different depending on where you plan to publish it. More on that later.

Preparing Your Digital ARC

Keep in mind that the digital version should look almost identical to the printed copy but be in a file format that is easily utilized by your recipient. Perhaps the easiest and most accessible format is PDF (Portable Document Format). You may also consider creating ePub and/or Mobi editions.

The first step in creating your ARC, regardless of format, is to edit and proof your manuscript. Understand that an ARC is not what you generally think of as a “proof” copy. It needs to be an almost complete version of your book that can be easily read. Grammar errors, typos, and poor formatting should all be addressed as they will not be overlooked by reviewers which can hurt your reputation.

Once your manuscript has been polished for content, it should be formatted much like the final book will be. Softpress uses the same trim size, margins, etc. for the digital file as for the print file. This saves time and gives the same page count in both version. Include headers, footers, table of contents, copyright page, index (if needed), etc. When done, it should appear to be a completed book in almost all forms. I say almost because there are several things you need to do to the interior before the ARC is complete.

Be Sure to Include the Following Inside:

  • Include a disclaimer in an obvious place in the front of the book that states the book is an uncorrected advance copy. Softpress always puts this on the very first page. Here’s an image of a disclaimer we recently added to a client’s book:

Disclaimer for Interior of ARC

And yes, while the disclaimer text does say “proof” this is an almost final version of the book. Regardless of the text you use, it should make it obvious the book is an uncorrected proof that is subject to change.

  • On the copyright page, omit the ISBN and add another disclaimer. The disclaimer here will be similar to the one from above. We usually use something like “UNCORRECTED ADVANCE PROOF – NOT FOR RESALE” and then include an availability date under that, such as “Available April 20XX.” Note, if you are sure of the ISBN, you can include it here, but you definitely don’t want the ARC version to be the first version/edition recorded under that ISBN number.
  • Some ARCs I have seen go so far as to add disclaimer text to almost every header (or footer) within the book, but I believe this to be overkill.

Include the Following on the Cover:

  • As with the interior, you need to add an obvious disclaimer to the front cover. Softpress usually places a wide red or black band across the top of the front cover that includes text that reads “Uncorrected Proof for Limited Distribution.” Here are a few examples:
The Fourth Stall ARC

(Source: Harper Collins)

ARC Copy of Catching Fire


Perennial Seller ARC front Cover

  • On the back cover, where the barcode usually goes, include the on-sale date (if known – can be month and year rather than a specific date), the anticipated cost, and the ISBN that will be assigned to the final copy. You may also include other metadata such as the page count, trim size, recommended age range of the reader, and/or contact information for publicity.
The Fourth Stall Back Cover ARC

(Source: Harper Collins)

Catching Fire Back Cover ARC


Perennial Seller ARC Back Cover

Caution: Some publishing platforms require an ISBN and barcode on the back cover of your book in order for them to print it. For instance, CreateSpace does, while LuLu does not. This may affect your decision on where to have your ARCs printed. Much more on this in the case study I will post next week!

Note: It can also be advantageous to include your author website, or one that is specific to the book on the back cover of the ARC. Especially if you have content related to the book, it’s release date, a free chapter, or anything else that will help build momentum in advance of the release.

Finishing Up Your Digital ARC

Once your interior and cover are polished, it’s time to create your digital ARC. Regardless of what word processing software you are using, there should be an easy way to print or export your ARC manuscript to PDF format. It needs to be a high-quality file when complete, but also compressed so the file isn’t too large. I also recommend adding the ARC front and back covers (in their respective places) to the PDF file so the reviewer has the entire book in front of them. Softpress uses Adobe Acrobat to do this, but there are other third-party software options you can find online.

Creating Your Print ARC

As I said above, the print version of your ARC isn’t much different than the digital version. It won’t include the front or back cover, but the interior should be nearly identical. The file format is probably where the biggest difference will come in. Depending on which service you use to print your ARCs, you will need to satisfy their interior formatting requirements as well as provide an interior file format compatible with their system. The cover will also need to be formatted to their specifications.

Having done this for a number of years now, I know that, for one example, CreateSpace and IngramSpark have different requirements for their cover submissions. Slightly different, but still different. Therefore, this is something you need to investigate prior to creating your cover (or having it created). Just understand you may very well need several versions of the cover in various file formats and sizes. Have this discussion with your cover designer (if subcontracting this) and budget accordingly.

Update: As of 8/28/2018, CreateSpace is being merged into KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing. Therefore, it will no longer be an option for printing ARCs, or any books for that matter.

Now it’s just a matter of uploading the cover and interior files to whatever platform you choose for printing them.

Final Thoughts

Understand that your ARC is an investment in your marketing efforts. It’s not the final version of your book, so even with the printing and shipping considerations outlined above, you’ll have time to complete your final copy. You will also have feedback from the ARCs to tweak your manuscript and gain endorsements and reviews ahead of your book launch. Don’t forget to check out our Case Study: Printing Advance Review Copies (ARCs) of Your Book.

Finally, if you need assistance formatting your manuscript into book form, creating various file formats, or cover creation assistance, Softpress performs these services at very reasonable costs. Just Contact Us for more information.



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