Advance Reading Copies (ARCs), also known as Advance Reading Editions, are paperbacks that are released by the publishers prior to final edits. They’re given to various people in the book world to read and then review in hopes of creating a buzz about the book.
These advanced copies are printed in low numbers – so collectors tend to fawn over them, especially if they get an advanced reading copy of something that goes on to dominate the book world (say, a Harry Potter). Some collectors consider these the true first editions, even though they’re paperbacks. Technically speaking, they are the first printed version of the book. Although for as many who would consider these true first editions, there is an equal number who wouldn’t.
ARCs are extremely easy to overlook, since they masquerade as ordinary paperbacks. Sometimes the only difference will be a tag line or label on the cover that states, “Advance Reading Copy” or something similar.
I picked up a paperback version of Mark Haddon’s A Spot of Bother for $1 at a library booksale, thinking I’d read it then pass it on. I realized, a month later, when I actually got around to reading it that it was an ARC. The little label I mistook for some award, was actually the Advance Reading Copy announcement. It’s not really worth a lot ($28 on the high end), but it’s still kind of cool.
(Image courtesy of First Edition Points)
ARCs of the first three Harry Potter novels sell anywhere from $100-$1000 depending on their condition. And if they’re signed? forget about it.
So, how do you find ARCs?
There are several sites that give them away (lottery style). So, if you don’t mind receiving free books in return for writing a review on your blog / Web site / Social Network, then sign up for free accounts at LibraryThing or Book Movement, and start throwing your name in the hat – you just might be the recipient of a free Advanced Reading Copy.
Register with Barnes and Noble Community Book Clubs. They offer ARCs as well as free eBooks in return for reviews and discussions.
You can also check out library conferences (check out the ALA Web site for conferences near you). You don’t need to be a librarian to purchase a pass, and there’s usually a few books to be had. If there aren’t any conferences near you, ask your local librarian. Many times ARCs are sent to libraries in hopes that the person in charge of purchasing for that genre will order copies of the book once it’s published.
Some book critics, when they’re done with the book will sell it or donate it – so it never hurts to keep your eyes peeled at library book sales, thrift stores, online booksellers, and even used bookstores.
Check your favorite literary blogs, if they’re big enough (have enough followers) it’s possible that they receive ARCs. Pat over at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist gave away a Terry Brooks ARC in June and has contests and book giveaways all the time (if you like the fantasy genre you should really check out his blog).
Follow your favorite authors’ blogs – many authors will announce when their Advanced Reading Copies are available and where/how they can be acquired (ie: drawings).
If it comes right down to it, contact publishers and ASK for a copy, or check out their Web sites for “early adopter” or “first look” programs. (Harper Teen used to do this, not sure if they still do).
Lastly, it is possible (but not suggested) to find ARCs on eBay. It’s seen as a rather unethical practice to receive an ARC (at least for a book that’s not yet been published) and turn around and sell it. ARCs state on the cover “Not for resale.” BUT people do it AND you can probably find ARCs listed there at any given time.
Addendum: Sign up for the Shelf Awareness e-newsletter, or check our their Web site. They usually have publisher ads offering free ARCs.
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