Book Review 102: Galleys vs. ARCs

Launching a book with strong word of mouth sales right from day one takes a lot of groundwork done months (and years) in advance. Most people realize they need to post excerpts and teasers on their author website, in email newsletters, and on social media, assuming that reviews will trickle in from readers after publication. If you wait until after your book has been published to post a listing on Goodreads or similar sites in order to acquire reviews, you have waited too long.

Many consumers use reviews to make purchasing decisions.  This means authors need to develop a plan to obtain those reviews about a year prior to publication. When sending materials out for review send exactly what the reviewer requests. Some reviewers will accept galleys others require an advance reader copy (ARC). So what is an ARC and how is it different from a galley?

The term ‘galley’ comes from the name of the metal tray that held the type during the days of hand-assisted mechanical printing. After a manuscript was typeset, publishers used to print one or two copies of a bound galley for purpose of proofreading, hence the term “galley proof.” Galleys usually lack a finished cover, using a placeholder cover with only the title and author’s name printed in simple text instead. With a galley, all the revision to the manuscript is essentially complete; all that is left is to finish formatting, layout, and insert graphics.

Today, publishers use PDFs for proofreading, making print galleys less common than they once were. However, many trade reviewers still accept them.

ARCs have largely replaced galleys as pre-publication review copies. These advance reader copies are printed specifically to send to reviewers.  They are more complete than a galley and look very similar to the final book. ARCs often include publicity and ordering information and the cover is stamped with ‘NOT FOR RESALE’ or ‘UNCORRECTED PROOF.’ Most ARCs come with the warning that those typos and other issues may still be present.

Large traditional publishing houses often print thousands of ARCs, which are sent to trade reviewers, bloggers, booksellers and librarians. This is done to coordinate reviews to coincide with the book’s debut. ARCs are also used in giveaways and contests targeted at ordinary readers in order to generate buzz.

Many self-published authors and small publishing houses eschew the idea of producing advance reader copies. There is the cost of printing and some print-on-demand providers charge a fee for each updated or changed file. However, ARCs are the fastest and best way to acquire reviews. Once those reviews come in, you can quickly add a page of advance praise within the book itself or add a line of a particularly favorable review to the back cover, which will ultimately help generate sales. And that is the whole purpose of sending out ARCs in the first place.

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