Advance reading copies (ARCs), or bound galleys, are pre-publication copies of a book. Usually they’re produced between three and six months before the real book will be released. They’re intermediary between manuscript and finished book, and much closer to the latter than the former. Often the ARCs are printed digitally and the publication copies are printed offset.
A note on the terms: Galley, bound galley, advance reading copy, and ARC are used pretty interchangeably, although galley is a holdover from before contemporary page layout and production. Galleys were long sheets of type not yet composed into pages; they were used for proofreading and sometimes final editing. Some people say that ARCs have color covers and bound galleys don’t, or that ARCs are printed with color interiors (when appropriate) and bound galleys are in black-and-white, but not many people I know make those distinctions. You’ll sometimes see the phrasing "advanced reading copy," which makes me cringe because it doesn’t make sense, or "advance reader’s copy," which is okay because it does.
Some of the trade (book industry) review media require bound galleys instead of finished books (or, more often, in addition to copies of the finished book)—these include Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, ForeWord, ALA Booklist, and Kirkus Reviews.
Because we publish books on knitting and spinning, we also send bound galleys to some wholesalers who will decide whether or not to carry the book; these groups sell to libraries and to some craft markets. Some craft wholesalers who carry all of our books without previewing them find bound galleys useful in generating pre-publication orders.
Time permitting, we send a handful to knowledgeable and generous knitters who help us figure out how to make the book even better before it goes to press "for real." We do the same type of prepublication review for other knitters’ books, also time permitting.
In addition, we participate in a program of the American Booksellers Association that introduces our titles to independent booksellers in ARC form.
While most of the knitting-related magazines, both print and online, prefer to receive finished books, the editors of these periodicals sometimes ask for ARCs, so we have a few extras on hand.
Last but not at all least, seeing the book in this preliminary format ordinarily gives me an opportunity to tweak the design before I send the final files to press.
This past spring, I had to make some choices that required me to delay the production of the bound galleys for Ethnic Knitting Discovery. The galleys arrived two days ago, about three months after I would normally have had them. The book itself has already gone to press (and there’s a whole similar mailing process when the real books arrive, which this time will be almost on top of the galley mailing).
Nonetheless, they’re a cheerful sight. We got two boxes, and most of one box was packed up and ready to ship out within twenty-four hours of their arrival. The other box is reserved for the American Booksellers Association program, which will start on September 4 and result in a flurry of mailing over the following week.
Yes, I see things in these galleys I would have adjusted in the layout if I’d gotten them earlier, but nothing I can’t live with. (I did make a lot of adjustments, including some final re-editing of technical material, between when I ordered the galleys and when I sent the final files to press.) The interior’s printed in black-and-white, and it’s possible that the things I would have modified won’t bother me when I see the two-color printing of the finished book. The real book will be on thicker paper that is more opaque. Galleys, intended for very temporary use, are printed on inexpensive paper subject to "show-through." The spine is thinner than it will be in the finished book. The cover hasn’t been given its final polish, and the back cover isn’t the real one at all: it’s a carefully constructed jigsaw puzzle of publication data that is needed by the normal recipients of pre-publication copies.
And there are a couple of quirky things about the way these printed: the transparency behind twelve of the images vanished, so they’re on big white boxes and three individual letters didn’t print on the back cover. We’re working with the printer to figure out why, and we’re really glad these are advance copies and not final! They’re fine for ARCs.
But they are books, after all the behind-the-scenes work! You can pick them up, flip through the pages, see that all the work adds up to something. And the real thing is never very far behind, even when the galleys are printed on their normal schedule.
I may have a few extra ARCs. If anyone who is reading this blog wants to be put on a waiting list in case of a surplus, visit the Nomad Press website and drop me a note with your mailing address. I should know what the situation is and be able to release any extras around September 10. The list will be first-come, first-served until there’s one left—for me, because I really like bound galleys of our books. It’s like finally having an idea come into clear, if not final, focus. Even though they’re called "the most expensive copies of a book you’ll ever print," they’re maybe the most fun. September 19 update: All gone! I even had to order extras for the bookstore inquiries and got a few extras for blog readers while I was at it. The second batch was all packaged up and ready to ship within six hours of its arrival.
Also, Donna Druchunas, the author of Ethnic Knitting Discovery, is putting together a blog tour to coincide with the book’s release. The initial schedule is full, but if a few more people are interested she might add another week. Let me know if you are interested in being included.
Donna’s blog tour for her Arctic Lace is the reason I have a blog. I started one so I could participate.