Confession: I've had a bit of a love-cringe relationship with ARCs (advance reader copies) ever since my second book, PLAYING HURT, was in development.
My first book, A BLUE SO DARK, only saw significant changes to two scenes in-between the book’s acquisition and publication. That’s it. So the ARC was also very close to the final copy, with the exception of just a few phrases or typos. PLAYING HURT, though, was revised globally after acquisition (most of the changes were focused on Clint’s chapters), and even after the ARCs were printed, I continued to tweak passages—primarily, I was working on the steamier chapters, trying to find the perfect balance between staying true to the feelings of young love and remaining tasteful.
While PLAYING HURT was in development, I’d stumble across reviews every once in a while of others’ books (like a lot of readers, I also learn about new authors via the blogosphere) in which the reviewer would say something along the lines of, “Great premise. Really awkward writing style.” And the author in me would think, “But you had an ARC,” because I was truly learning just how much can actually change between ARC and final copy.
Also, at the time, I kept running into ARCs in a local used bookstore. I actually bought Laura Lippman and Mary E. Pearson ARCs, mostly to get them off the shelves. (Do local readers truly know what they're getting with an ARC? I wondered.) ARCs are more like ads, I thought. Something to encourage people to buy the final copy. It’s not something that should be read as though it is the final copy.
Ever since, I’ve always wondered how bloggers approach reviewing ARCs. I realize that a blogger’s at a bit of a disadvantage. The publisher (or author) has given out an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The blogger can’t suddenly become a mind reader and know exactly what’s changed. They have to review what’s in front of them.
Curious, I went straight to the source. And I have to say, yet again, bloggers showed what a smart bunch they are.
In a nutshell, here’s how bloggers told me they handle ARCs:
- Indicate in the review that their copy is an ARC.
- Recognize an ARC is in a “semi-raw” state (I love that phrase).
- Make allowances for typos, grammar, misspellings.
- Realize that larger changes can often take place—to scenes, etc.
- Write a review based on plot, characters, and overall writing style (rather than picking apart smaller details).
- Make sure that they post a review in a timely manner. (One blogger even stated that they purchase a final copy if they don’t get the review done before the book releases. Gold star for that one…)
- Make sure not to put out too many spoilers.
- Still stay true to themselves by giving an honest reaction to a book—its premise, its characters, its general writing style—no matter where the book originated. (ARCs from authors or publishers are reviewed every bit as honestly as books from bookstores.)
- In addition, many bloggers pointed out that they're not out to slam the books they didn't personally enjoy. Instead, their goal is to make sure the books they love get the most attention possible.
Seriously. How truly cool is that? I do believe I can now say I’ve gone from a love-cringe relationship to love-love. Thank you, bloggers…