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You know what’s awesome about being in a community of writers, whether it’s as an author or someone who works in publishing? Getting to read really fantastic books before they even come out. How cool is that, amirite? SO COOL.

How does this happen? Publishers produce book-alikes called ARCs (Advanced Readers’ Copies) to be used for publicity purposes. Back in the day, these were pretty much used just for sending to every magazine, newspaper, and radio show that might be willing to review your book, and to libraries and bookstores that may want to buy it. (And they’re still used for this, by the way – this is why I always advocate thanking your Publicity Assistant in your acknowledgments.) They look just like the book will, except the copy on the cover often contains a marketing/publicity plan, plus a few other little differences. (The use of Bound Galleys, which were basically ARCs but bound in a plain, stiff, colored paper with the book info rather than in a cover, has kinda gone by the wayside, as far as I can tell, but obviously I don’t work in trade publishing right now, so I could be wrong about that. Anyone?)

But now, with the prevalence of book blogs, not to mention the ability to leave reviews on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads, there are about a bajillion more places that publishers – and you – can send ARCs in order to get reviewed and thereby get the word and hopefully some good press out there.

But it’s a scary thing, having your book out there before it’s totally done. Things may change, quotes may be modified, typos may yet be found. It’s a close approximation to the final product, but it’s by no means the actual final product. On top of that, there’s the concern that you’ll land in the hands of someone who doesn’t understand the concept of DO NOT SPOIL THE PLOT, or someone who would’ve bought your book but now won’t, because he or she’s effectively got a free copy. So while it seems like, “Sure, get my name out there! Spread it around!” is a no-brainer, there’s actually a lot to think about in terms of how to manage that particular aspect of your own publicity.

Having come into a couple of ARCs recently, thanks to a couple of generous friends, I couldn’t help but wonder (LOOK AT ME I’M CARRIE BRADSHAW) whether passing them along to others after reading and reviewing would be a gesture they’d appreciate or frown upon. So I did what anyone would do when faced with a question of this magnitude, and turned to Twitter.

Voila: some author responses!

AC and KDAK and SL(eARCs, by the way, are exactly what they sound like – electronic advanced readers copies. These are what you’d obtain if you requested from NetGalley.)

JMTo which I had to ask the obvious question “AND TO FELLOW ONEFOURS, RIGHT?!”, since I am dying to read SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY, whose cover’s being revealed today, and also since passing ARCs around within debut groups is fairly standard practice. Fortunately, she added:

JM2Thank God.

JS

So, the general consensus is definitely on the side of sharing, but:

  1. Share responsibly. Think about who will actually help the author, and not just who might want to read it.

and

2.  Buy the book if you liked it, even if you got the ARC for free.

And remember (thank you, J.C. and Liz!) that selling ARCs is strictly verboten. 

What do you think? If you’re an author, do you want your ARCs shared around? As a reader, do you seek out ARCs, and do you write reviews if/when you get them?

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