Monday, July 9, 2012

Let's Talk About ARCs

The blogosphere is all atwitter about ARCs (advance reader copies) lately. Who should get them, what they're for, how far in advanced should they be reviewed, where are they used most effectively and why is everyone in such a tizzy?

I'm not going to talk about any of those questions though.

What's on my mind at the moment is the quality of a reading experience. As most of us know, ARCs are uncorrected copies, created usually after the first round of copyedits (but sometimes even before). There are errors which may be mistakes made by the author (and not caught), mistakes made by the copyeditor (and not "stet"ed), or mistakes by the person responsible for keying in all the changes (my copyedits were done on paper).

The author also has the chance to make changes after copyedits. In some cases, the author may make pretty big changes, like reworking the whole ending. But even if the changes are more subtle - a transition smoothed here or a phrase added there - it's no question that the finished copy is going to be better.

I've read posts by other authors about this subject (which I cannot find at the moment - you try googling ARC + an author's name and see what you find = not posts about their thoughts on ARCs), but I never really GOT it until I read through my own first pass pages for LEVEL 2 (same draft as my ARC). It's not bad by any means, but there are words missing, typos, and even a place where two sentences mysteriously disappeared.

Now I read a lot of ARCs. In fact, of the 47 books I've read so far this year, 42 of those were ARCs. Out of the 42, I bought 10 when they came out (and plan to buy more) but I won't likely be rereading them again in their entirety anytime soon. Did I cheat myself out of the best reading experience I could have had of those books?  Might I have enjoyed them even more had I read every word as it was intended to be?

Probably. But the other side of the coin was that by reading these books early, I got to be a part of building buzz, of starting the conversation - something which is valuable for both authors and bloggers. And of course I got the thrill of reading a coveted book before (most of) the rest of the world.

Is it a fair trade-off? What do you think?

Oh, and if you're an author, how different is your ARC from your finished copy?

ETA: Author Elizabeth Fama wants you to kill her ARC.

Author Diana Peterfreund warns that the ending of FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS is different in the ARC.

(Point me to other links if you have them!)

26 comments:

Christina said...

I think it's a fair trade-off. There are only a few books I've heard of that have had significant changes made to them (I know For Darkness Shows the Stars had a fairly major change, which made me glad I hadn't procured an ARC), but most don't. In one case, I had both the finished and ARC copy of a book and they were precisely the same length, and the changes were probably just a word here or there.

ARCs vary in quality, and there are some that definitely are a pain to read, but the bulk of them aren't so poorly edited as to be confusing or to mess with the story.

In a finished book, I would definitely mention it if I found grammatical errors, missing words, etc (and remembered at the time of review), but in an ARC I let that stuff slide for the most part. *shrug*

My main reason for coveting ARCs right now is that my review pile is such that if I don't have a review copy of a book, I'm probably not going to get to it any time soon...

Lenore Appelhans said...

I've traditionally had that same problem Christina - my review copies get priority and I rarely feel I have the time to squeeze in a book I actually bought. And I haven't read a library book in years ...

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

I've heard from a number of authors about significant changes to books between ARC and the finished copy. It is for this reason that I prefer a finished copy or an egalley close to the publication date that is as final as possible. That said, given the fact that I usually read books prior to publication date, this has been a bit of a challenge.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I'd prefer that too, Jenn. There's also just something about the feel of a hardcover in your hands vs an ARC. It's psychological ;)

Christina said...

Oh, I also forgot to mention that I love that you were able to talk about ARCs without getting sucked into the drama cyclone!

Actually, that's the other reason I like ARCs: I much prefer trade paperbacks to hardbacks. :-p

I may be a weirdo.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Hey, everyone has their preferences, Christina!

Mary De Bastos said...

If it is a book I absolutely loved I will buy the finished hard copy. I just can't help myself. Even if I don't plan on re-reading it any time soon.

I've read several ARCs lately that have some major grammar issues. But, I just over look them because I know they aren't quite finished.

Sometimes I think it would be nice to go back to the days of no ARCs. Just reading and reviewing what ever I fancy. No expectations. No books staring at me on the shelf. Where I read only books I thought were special enough to spend some money on. There are trade off's for sure.

Meagan Spooner said...

As far as I know, my ARC is more or less the same as my finished copy. I think there may be a few punctuation fixes here and there that got mixed up during the revisions process, but definitely no substantive changes. (I think, anyway.)

Interesting post! I've never given too much thought to the unfinished nature of ARCs. I think for me, they're SO close to the finished version (as compared to early drafts of the work) that I don't even notice. :P

Amy said...

I've received an ARC before and then heard the author say they made a major change (like CHANGING THE ENDING) and then I don't want to read it! So it doesn't get read. I don't mind a few errors, I mean, tbh, I find them in finished copies occasionally, too, but I definitely want to read a book in the way it will be remembered and discussed in the future. And I guess if changes are made you're always going to have that in your mind.

Interesting to think about!

picky said...

Most ARCs I receive have few errors, and the ones I find are ones I forgive because I edit. I know it takes time to get a manuscript as close to perfect as possible.

As for major changes, aagh! It scares me, honestly, because unless I buy finished copy (which I do for ones I enjoy) I won't know.

Even the ones where formatting isn't completely finished are ok with me. I'm much more forgiving on all of that than I am on a finished copy. Though, of course, I would like to see the ARC be as error free as possible

But I love building enthusiasm. I do it off and on blog. If I really loved a book (even with limited budget), I'll buy extra copies and pass to friends and family. :)

Mary @ BookSwarm said...

ARCs are awesome, when used properly. When they're passed out to professionals (of whatever be it bloggers, reviewers, librarians, teachers, etc.), read and buzzed about, they've done their job. I enjoy any ARCs I get because I get to be part of that buzz, promoting great books and authors.

I share the ARCs with my students to build buzz, though I'm careful to let them know these copies are not finalized at there may be errors and changes.

If I love a book so much I want to hug it and squeeze it, I'll buy a final copy, too (though, sadly, I don't always get a chance to reread it!).

alice-jane said...

I think it's a fair trade-off considering that you're getting a copy of the book way before the publication day. However in the end, it's still a draft of the book which makes reviewing tedious because people have to double check that major parts of the story in the final copy is the same as the ARC.

bermudaonion said...

I think it's a fair trade off, but I have to admit that I've never read an ARC and then gone on to read the finished copy, so I really can't be sure.

Elsie Chapman said...

Thanks for this post, Lenore! I know I have at least ONE notable change in my final version, so we'll see how it goes.

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Emy Shin said...

I have certainly bought the finished copy after reading the ARC -- but I've never re-read them in their entirety. I do think it's a fair trade-off, because I read the ARC knowing that it could be changed. However, though it hasn't happened to me, I do think it'd be a bit off if the published copy ends up drastically different, especially if the review is about the pre-changed story.

Rhiannon said...

See, like so many others I don't neccessarily have time to read the finished copy AND the ARC, but I troll authors websites. So, if there are big changes, or ones they think change the story I look for them mentioning it, and then I 100% buy the finished book.
Though it might take me ages to get to it!

And then I keep both, and my hubby reconsiders living with a crazy book maniac.

If I was independently wealthy and had a large library to house them, I would have finished copies of all my ARCs. It makes me all starry eyed even thinking about how amazing that would be!

Zibilee said...

I love getting the chance to explore new books and build the buzz around the internet when a great one comes my way. I don't much pick and peck over small inconsistencies and problems, I just relax and let the wave of the story move over me. I think that the small typos and missing sentences are not a big deal. Most of us know there will be changes to the final drafts, and are perfectly ok with that.

Laura Ashlee said...

While I think there is some novelty to reading something before most of the world, I don't get too upset when I can't read an ARC. I actually prefer reading books I've bought or checked out from the library for two reasons. First, I can read what I want to read rather than what I "have" to read. Second, I never feel comfortable quoting from ARCs because they might have slight changes. I like to quote sometimes so it bums me out when I can't.

Mindi Scott said...

My ARCs are pretty similar to the books themselves as far as what happens in the story. LIVE THROUGH THIS was less polished after copyedits than FREEFALL, so there was a great deal more tweaking with word choices. And there were A LOT of timing inconsistencies. Like, it said, "three months ago," but if readers actually count from the current month to the one referenced, they would see it should have said four months ago.

I hopeful that I caught all the mistakes in time for the final version!

Beth S. said...

Even though I keep my ARCs after the release date, I make sure my students know that they are unfinished copies and may have errors. Despite the fact that some authors (the one you cited in this post about wanting to kill her ARCs for example) may be horrified by this idea, I actually think it is an AMAZING way to show students that books don't just happen, they involve a lot of work and it is a process.

As someone who teaches kids about the writing process, having them see a working draft so to speak of a book is quite a valuable lesson, despite how much an author's ego might cringe at the thought of people still reading the ARC after the publish date.

A perfect example of students seeing this process first hand is when I brought back the ARC of Adam Rex's book COLD CEREAL from NCTE and there were a lot of blank spaces that said, "Art not final" where the illustrations were supposed to be.

After I bought a finished copy when the book was finally released, many of my students who read the ARC went to the finished copy to see the artwork. I could use this process in reverse as well: showing students a finished copy of the book and then a copy of the ARC to show them part of the publishing process and how it takes time to create a quality published piece of writing.

Sorry to the author who wants ARCs to be put to death after their publication date. I see too much value to them in my classroom to just throw them away.

Alyce said...

I've always wondered about how much difference there really is between an ARC and the finalized copy. I do check quotes with final copies before I post them in reviews, and I've yet to find any differences. I realize that they have to be there though. I'd be curious if there were any major changes (like reworking of endings) that I've missed.

Alessandra @Out of the Blue said...

I only get digital ARCs, so I don't have to worry about what to do with them once I've finished reading. They just expire.

A year ago I received an ARC of Bumped by Megan McCafferty. I was irritated by the very abrupt ending. Then a couple of months ago, before the sequel came out, I read a finished copy of the same book and I could swear they had added a chapter, so the ending felt less abrupt.

Emily said...

I don't have many ARCs under my belt, but I purchased Divergent after I heard hat she included another paragraph (and my ARC came a little beat up) and Death Watch after I saw how beautiful the hardcover (complete with much-needed map!) was so gorgeous.

If I don't think that a book is that good, I won't buy it. Just about everything that I read comes from the library, and I follow the same policy there.

Steven dos Santos said...

Great post, Lenore! I'm anxiously awaiting my arcs for THE CULLING and I must say it's quite exciting and nerve-wracking all at once! I hope I don't cringe too much when I see what errors will be out there for everyone else to see. I guess that's the price to pay for the opportunity to get the word out about your book before it actually debuts.

thatcovergirl.com said...

I agree with wanting to build buzz about a book -- I love seeing fellow bloggers and readers get excited about novels that make me want to buy them, yes. I like reading early opinions that help dictate where I want to spend my hard-earned cash and how I spend my time, y'know? But personally, I like a finished copy. I like knowing that *this* is the final copy that an author wants me to read, a pub wants me to buy, a designer wants me to hold, that finished copy, in my hot little hands. It's a nice feeling. =)