Advance Review Copies: Why They’re Used and How to Create Them

arcs, advance review copies, books, ebooks, authors, netgalleyOne of the key elements of a professional marketing and publicity campaign is the advance review copy (ARC)—also known as a galley—usually produced and distributed three to six months before the final book goes on sale.

ARCs get used for many purposes, but mainly:

• To gather professional, industry reviews, from sources such as Publishers Weekly
• To solicit endorsements that will be printed in or on the book
• To share with influencers who need to see the book before deciding on potential coverage
• To send to important connections who might be in a position to write an influential, early review or offer some other form of help

Some authors rely primarily on digital advance review copies, usually in PDF form—similar to the file that is ultimately sent to the printer or uploaded to a service like IngramSpark.

Publishers commonly distribute digital ARCs using NetGalley, since it’s well known and often used by people inside the industry—but it’s not necessary to use a formal service to effectively distribute ARCs. It’s fairly straightforward to use file-sharing services like Dropbox or Google Drive if you’re sending the ARC selectively and to trusted sources.

You can also create print ARCs through a print-on-demand provider like IngramSpark or a short-run printer, but you should be careful to only send them to people you feel confident would seriously consider them and represent strong prospects for the book’s marketing and publicity.

Here’s how to ensure that your ARC, print or digital, is hitting all the right points.
On the front and/or back cover: Add the words: “Advance Uncorrected Proof / Not for Sale.”

On the back cover: This is the most important part, because it shouldn’t be a standard back cover. While you want a brief description of the book (100-150 words) and a brief author bio, at least half of the back cover should have information on the book’s marketing and promotion plan, including:

• Marketing campaign: In a bulleted list, detail how the book will be marketed and promoted, both to the industry and to readers.
• Publication information: List all the details related to publication, including formats and price points, trim size, page count, ISBN numbers, and category.
• Publicity contact: Whoever is the primary contact for media should be listed, along with their phone number and email.
• Ordering information: Make it clear where and how the book will be available for sale, and especially if direct orders are possible.
• Website: Don’t forget to include the publisher or author website.

On the cover or interior: Clarify, once again, that because the book is an uncorrected proof, reviewers should check all quotations against the final release.

You might wonder: If you’re using primarily a digital ARC, how do you include a “back cover” exactly? You could still include a page with the same information, but simply put it upfront, right after the cover, or you can include it as part of a covering letter or email.

Remember: an ARC is primarily a marketing tool. Always label it as an ARC, and be sure to include prominent marketing and promotional copy that helps persuade recipients that the book is professional and well-situated to succeed.

This article first appeared on IngramSpark’s blog.

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Jane Friedman

About Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman is the former publisher of Writer’s Digest and has more than fifteen years of experience in the book, magazine, and digital publishing industries. She specializes in educating authors about the transformation of the media landscape to help them make the best long-term decisions for their careers. Since 2001, she has spoken at hundreds of writing conferences around the world and has been a presenter at BookExpo America, Frankfurt Book Fair, and SXSW. She teaches digital media and publishing at the University of Virginia and runs an award-winning blog for writers at

4 thoughts on “Advance Review Copies: Why They’re Used and How to Create Them

  1. Susan Ruszala

    Jane, thanks for including us in this article.

    Keep in mind that one of the key benefits for influencers using NetGalley is the ability to see all of their galleys in one place, instead of having to remember various locations and procedures. With so many books competing for attention, eliminating any point of friction is important.

    We also provide publishers and authors with many best practices and examples for digital galley distribution and pre-publication marketing.

    Plus, you can’t beat the enthusiasm, engagement and sheer breadth of our community!

    Susan Ruszala
    President, NetGalley

  2. Dave Bricker

    Jane, thanks for another good article.

    Some more advice: When it comes to physical copies, avoid sending them out to people who haven’t explicitly agreed to review your book. A friend of mine got suckered by a vanity press that offered a deal on “sending your book to 100 qualified reviewers.” The vanity press got the printing gig, 100 “used, like new” books appeared on eBay and Amazon in advance of the official release date, and the author received zero reviews.

    A review demands hours of reading time plus time to write a worthwhile critique. That’s a lot of professional time to trade a book for. Find subject matter experts in your area or reviewers who blog about your genre who can derive benefit from reviewing your material, or consider paying for a review from Kirkus, et al. If you think that’s a conflict of interest, consider the advertising dollars that flow from major publishers to review publications. A free review is a rare thing, even in the trade publishing world, but if your book is well-crafted, a careful reading and an intelligent discussion of your book is worth paying for.



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