What Is an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC)?

Definition & Examples of an Advanced Reader Copy

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An advanced reader copy (ARC) is a pre-published, almost-complete version of a new book that is circulated to people who read it before print, such as professional reviewers and book bloggers. These advanced copies allow them to read the book before its publication date so their reviews can coincide with the book's debut.

Sometimes, freelancers are asked to read an ARC and write book reviews, or they might want to become a book reviewer and need to find out how to get started.

What Is an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC)? 

In the freelance writing field, this term is most commonly used by those who review books for magazines, newspapers, or websites. Also known as a galley, the ARC is generally a paperback edition that isn't complete, lacking a final proofread or final cover design. However, most of the finished content is in place.

  • Alternate name: galley
  • Acronym: ARC

How Do Advanced Reader Copies (ARC) Work?

Because these are pre-production copies, producing them typically doesn't cost the publisher as much as final versions, so they're often willing to send out copies for the chance of a good review. The theory for publishers is that the more times the book is mentioned before and during publication, the better that sales are likely to be when the book goes to shelves.

Sometimes, ARCs come with marketing material. While your goal should be to review the book based on your reading and give it a fair assessment, you're generally not obligated to use the material since it's not a reviewer's job to market a book. However, using the materials in your review might help you continue to receive advanced reader copies.

There are a few platforms that can help you become an ARC reviewer. Goodreads Reviewer's Group, NetGalley, and Edelweiss are few examples.

Generally, ARCs are sent to reviewers based on the relationships they have established with certain publications or the publisher themselves. If a magazine often publishes reviews of a certain publisher's books, that publisher will usually keep providing the advanced copies to that particular magazine. If you have consistently written valuable, fair reviews as a freelance blogger, writer, or journalist, you might be selected to receive and review an ARC.

To get started as a book reviewer, it helps to have a history of reviews that a publisher can look at. A blog with a number of followers is one way many reviewers start out—this gives a publisher proof of reviews, fair assessments, and an idea of your reach.

If you have worked for a publisher before, you might already have a foot in the door. The relationship between the reviewer and the publisher (or editor) can be a key to becoming an ARC reviewer. Sites such as Upwork often have book review work requests—while these may not pay a whole lot, they are a way to get started.

Many small publishers looking for reviews—applying as a reviewer for these smaller agencies can also provide the stepping stones to more opportunities.

Limitations of Advanced Reader Copies

ARCs are not the end version of the book, although they're close. You may find typos or different final sequences. Also, keep in mind that authors and publishers need books to be reviewed, so you might end up receiving books that are of no interest to you at all, and have to force yourself to complete them so that you can publish your review. It is possible that you might not ever receive a book that you are truly interested in.

You may not be able to read and review copies at your leisure—many ARCs come with deadlines so that the reviews can be published before the book is released. This can make finishing the book and review stressful, especially when it is not an enjoyable read.

Lastly, you may need to write a review that is not positive. This can be hard for more empathic reviewers—you'll need to be able to word a review in a manner that is constructive for the writer, but provide honest feedback as well.

Key Takeaways

  • An Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) is a book that is not ready for release, sent out to certain readers for a published review.
  • ARCs don't cost the reader anything except time spent reading and reviewing.
  • There is no promise that the ARC will be interesting, or that a publisher will send you a book you would love to read.