MaxBarry.com
that guy, who wrote that thing

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 24
Nov
2005

Story ARCs

Company A few months before a book is published, Advanced Reader Copies, otherwise known as ARCs, start floating around. These are slightly shabby-looking versions of the final book, mailed out to people in the media so they can get a review into print by the time the book goes on sale.

ARCs have “NOT FOR SALE” printed on them, but of course there is a bustling mini-market, fed by critics who don’t particularly want to hang on to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of books. So the ARCs find there way onto ebay* or into second-hand bookstores. If you’re dying to get your hands on a particular novel, these ARCs can look very tempting. But should you buy one, or hold out? Let Uncle Max be your guide.

Neither the author nor the publisher sees any money from sales of ARCs. This may not bother you, and I sure don’t consider it a hanging crime—if publishers didn’t think ARCs were a net generator of sales, they wouldn’t produce them, right?—but you should be aware of it. I know a few readers who shelled out big bucks for ARCs thinking some of that money was going to end up with me. In fact, it doesn’t even count as a sale. Your cash goes only to the retailer and the critic who originally bounced it along.

(I have to admit, there is something annoying about the idea that a critic might get a free copy of my book, write a crap review of it, and then—because they don’t like it, you see—sell it on ebay to someone who otherwise would have bought a real copy. That’s like gouging my eyes and then kicking me in the nuts.)

The other issue with ARCs is that they’re advanced—that is, they’re printed before the final round of edits. In the case of Company, you get 99.5% of the story, but you also get a sprinkling of typos and clumsy sentences I only fixed at the last minute. I made around 50 minor changes in final edits, and while you’d struggle to spot most of them, I made those changes for a reason. A few are reasonably significant; I also inserted a new joke that, while perhaps not a world-beater, amuses me.

Then there’s looks: the ARC has low-grade artwork that I did on my word processor, while the real thing features slick stuff from Doubleday’s art department. The ARC is also missing that jacket copy I sweated over, and is a somewhat fragile paperback, having not been designed for long-term use.

This shouldn’t prevent you from buying an ARC, if that’s what you want. They make good collectors’ items, since, relatively speaking, there are so few of them. (Even I don’t have a Syrup ARC any more.) But if you’re after the story, I think you should wait for the real thing. Don’t pay ten or twenty or (dear God) thirty bucks for an ARC. For that kind of money, you shouldn’t settle for a draft.

* (Some sellers on ebay don’t make it clear that they’re selling ARCs. There are two right now that make no mention of this at all. But they are, because the real things haven’t been printed yet.)

Fri 18
Nov
2005

More International Jens

Jennifer Government Horrific Swedish cover for Jennifer GovernmentMy local delivery guy is very impressed with my parcels. When he comes to deliver a box, he says, “It’s from New York,” his eyes filled with awe, as if New York is a magical, mythical place, floating above the rest of the world on the back of a giant turtle and inhabited by knights and princesses, none of whom send packages. And this guy is an international courier. He must be exhausted when he gets home at nights, after reading all those thrilling exotic addresses.

But my latest box was exciting, because it had some foreign editions of Jennifer Government fresh off the presses from Spain and Brazil. The Spanish one was especially cool, because I didn’t know it was being published there. But, unless this is some kind of elaborate hoax, I guess it is.

Foreign editions usually come as a surprise to me, because the chain of people required to pass along the news is longer than two, which I’ve worked out tends to be the practical limit. For example, I discovered that there’s a truly amazing Swedish edition courtesy of site member Kalle, who posted the details in the comments here. Kalle was even better than my publisher would have been, supplying a translation of the blurb:

Jennifer Staten is a hard and breathtakingly funny thriller. The government agent Jennifer is struggling against baby-sitter problems in the same time as she has too save the world from aggressive marketing methods like torture, mass murder and strategic nukes… A satire from the wonderful world of the big companies, not too unlike from our own…

The 32-year old bestseller author Max Barry is probably the worst that has happened to the big companies since Michael Moore.

He is definitely the best that has happened too SF-satire since George Orwell.

They say “definitely,” so you know it’s true. Unlike the references to torture and strategic nukes, which I’m pretty sure aren’t in any book I ever wrote. That’s a pretty interesting way to entice readers: advertise parts of it that don’t exist. I don’t know if that’s a sound way to build repeat readers. I’m also curious about their apparent targeting of people who are smart enough to know George Orwell, but gullible enough to believe I’m the best writer in 50 years. And as for that cover… well, at least that would seem to guarantee that very few people will be getting to the end of Jennifer Staten only to wonder, “Hey, where were the tactical nukes?”

I also found out about a forthcoming Chinese version from the translator, a guy called Wayne Fan. I (eventually) wrote back to thank him for letting me know, and then, because I couldn’t resist, said:

I’ve always wanted my books to be translated by a Fan. (Boom boom.)

Wayne wrote back:

Thought you are too busy to return my Fan mails.

Nice. Should be a good edition, then.

Thu 10
Nov
2005

US Tour 2006

Company Doubleday has nailed down my Company US book tour, so if you’re interested in listening to me orally mangle my novel and write amusing things on your copy, you’re in luck! Providing, of course, you live in one of a very small number of cities:

[ Tour Details Here ]

If you can’t make it, here’s the one-line summary: I’m taller and more Australian than you expect.

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