MaxBarry.com
nice idea, shame about the execution

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.)

Comments

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Peter N.Bernath (#1041)

Location: Stockholm - Sweden
Quote: "Errr... Is that a tree growing out of your head? - Fallout 2"
Posted: 5048 days ago

Trust me Max, I will not by an ARC (unless it's really cheap, and it ends up here in Sweden. Heck, if one ends up here, I'll buy it anyway...). ;)

Wohoo! I got first! ;)

Machine Man subscriber Jarrad (#837)

Location: Hobart
Posted: 5048 days ago

I reckon this sort of thing must happen to all creative people.

There is a massive trade of "promo" music sold on ebay and 2nd hand stores.

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 5048 days ago

I think ARCs are great if it's an author you really love. Just as some people collect translations of a book they can't read just to have a 'complete' collection, I can see for a particular type of fan, paying whatever it takes.

Also, as far as redistribution of ARCs, don't overlook that many critics will get an ARC from Doubleday and not even write a review. A major daily newspaper might get 40 to 100 a month from each of the 'major' houses (Doubleday being one of them) plus at least 100 or so from smaller 'indie' presses hoping to hit the score of a good, quotable review.

But I've never seen a daily aside from the New York Times that runs more than ten to twenty reviews a month. I have a friend who works as a photo editor at a paper where the critics put ARCs they're not even considering reading (much less reviewing) int he break room for people to take if they want them. She sent me a big box of such, and of the dozen or so, there was one that was really worth the paper it was printed on.

But that ARC was a collection by Percival Everett and it got me seeking out other stuff by him. So whether they get sold on eBay or given to friends and coworkers, you still have a potential 'sneeze' factor of someone reading it and telling their friends it's a 'must read' or seeking out books off your backlist. MacAdam Cage even did a 'street team' thing with their ARC of Will Christopher Baer's first book, because they were getting ready to release the third book in the trilogy it kicked off (and reprints of the second book). What better way to get people 'hooked.' Unless they're using POD techonology to create the ARCs, it's not economical to print a run even as small as 500, and it's not that expensive to bind them (being poorly bound paperbacks, as you point out).

FergHova (#834)

Location: Woodstown, NJ
Quote: ""I once shat on a VHS copy of Down periscope to prove a point.""
Posted: 5048 days ago

I buy them to get reviews up on my website, hopefully prior to the release of the book. For instance, I have Company floating around a couple of the staffers at my website now. We've had a review of Company up for some time with at least two more reviews of the book on the way. After that, rest assured, I do buy a copy of the official release as well, just to get that final polished version, support the writers that I enjoy, and just because I'm a collector of all things media.

See you in NYC...

chris barton (#809)

Location: Arkansas
Quote: "I sell Books and put out Fires"
Posted: 5048 days ago

I personally love ARC and I have access to some because I work in a bookstore part time, and Yes I was able to did get a copy of Company, But I do like to support authors that I follow, so I usually buy the release version. Having said that Company was wonderful, I can't wait to Sell it, I've all ready started talking it up :-).

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 5048 days ago

Thanksgiving in America!

SOMEONE SENT ME AN ARC FOR...FREE...IS THAT A CRIME?

I recieved a copy from someone who is on this website...for FREE. They just asked if anyone wanted a free copy of company. It was an offer that I couldn't refuse. The person did not ask for any money(not even for shipping). Is that wrong? I still plan on buying the book when it arrives in stores in January.

By the way...Company is by far Max Barry's greatest novel.
It's corporate satire at its best.

-Adam

Colette (#324)

Location: Houston, Texas, USA
Quote: ""The good Earth — we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy" -- Kurt Vonnegut"
Posted: 5048 days ago

I've always wanted an ARC, but I've always backed out at the last minute when buying one. I guess I've always imagined some starving Aussie somewhere, asking me why I never gave him any money.

I'm jealous of all those critics, getting a Max Barry book early. It must be like Christmas in... November.

elements_of_the_soul (#1281)

Location: Brisbane, Australia
Quote: ""I hate quotes." "I hate people who write quotes.""
Posted: 5048 days ago

Where do you GET ARCs??? I want one!!! (but of course I'd buy the real thing but it'd be cool to have the last 'rough' draft and then get the final, real thing ... like a total package. What am I talking about? When you find out tell me cos I think I need more coffee).

Riiiiiiiiight. Anyway - Max, what do the fans in your HOME COUNTRY do???? As in us Aussies! Do we wait for the books to leak over from the US of A (like everything else does) or does Company actually get released here too at the same day??? Or do we have to wait for geebuns on eBay to sell them? Why does all the Aussie talent go to America?

Ok - I think I really need coffee. Over and out -

Priscilla

PS: How's the baby going? Getting any sleep at ALL?

Tim Ashwood (#595)

Location: Sydney
Posted: 5048 days ago

So what's better? Seeing a finished, completed, absolutely final manuscript, or counting the number of pages of the penultimate manuscript that remain free of the dreaded red correction pen?

Neil (#943)

Location: Manchester, UK
Quote: ""Democracy is the worst system, apart from all the others." - Churchill"
Posted: 5047 days ago

Here's a quote from an e-mail I got from a company that sells eBooks:

Special
Advance Reader Copy
available NOW online
$15. NO WAITING!
You can do better ($6.00) by waiting, but if you are a true [...] fan we want to take advantage of you.

Picto (#64)

Location: United Kingdom
Quote: "Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light? - Maurice Freehill"
Posted: 5047 days ago

"We want to take advantage of you."

Fascinating - that's just the way life is.
I've never even seen an ARC of any book let alone.. Maybe the UK just doesn't do that. Besides, I'd prefer the real book anyway. It's overall general worth (value & meaning) is more genuine that way. When does Company come out in the UK officially? I'm sure you've said before but I'm tired and I really don't remember..

Yubi Shines (#1664)

Location: Canada
Quote: "HOPE RIDES ALONE!"
Posted: 5047 days ago

oooOooO. So that's how critics do it. I always wondered how they got to review books before they came out. I figured it was either magic, or all bollocks that they made up. And NOW I KNOW.

I'd like to own an ARC, mostly for collecting purposes. Too bad I probably wouldn't get my claws on one. Ah well.

Machine Man subscriber Julie Totsch (#1341)

Location: Racine, WI
Quote: ""The world is full of willing people, some willing to work, the rest willing to let them." - Robert Frost"
Posted: 5046 days ago

So, does this mean I should keep my ARC copy of "Sweetie Baby Cookie Honey"? Because it'll be worth big bucks someday? BTW, didn't buy it. A friend gave it to me.
Should I get a copy of your new book as an ARC, but not read it, hold it only for the extreme resale value AND buy the copy that puts the big bucks in your hands?

Machine Man subscriber Jarrad (#837)

Location: Hobart
Posted: 5044 days ago

Maybe Max Should set up a guilt free ARC related PayPal account for those that wish to donate to the fund of Barry

metalbiteme (#1495)

Location: WALES UK
Quote: "Welcome to nowhere fast. Nothing here ever lasts."
Posted: 5041 days ago

I seen a ARC of Company on ebay.co.uk.

It seems like you guys don't care though. ARC's are crap. Thats what Max was trying to say in quite a few words. Whats the point? If you like the author enough, wait. Don't give your money to the Critics and give it to Max so he will write more books.

Machine Man subscriber M.I.Minter (#347)

Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
Quote: "When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading."
Posted: 5033 days ago

how bout instead of a guilt free pay pal account he just allow us to pre order the damn book!

I want to say it's a waste of technology....but I love it too much. But leverage it man.....LEVERAGE IT (shakes fist).


Max's TO DO list:
Give fans a way to preorder the book on my SITE.
Sell short stories to magazines.
Allow fans to purchase book related products on my site.
Allow my fans to send Max themed holiday E Cards from site.
Wash Mr. Minter's Car for making me so much money.
Pick up computer room.
Help around the house.
Exercise more.
Write next book faster.
Keep being so damn witty.

Ian

Adam Messinger (#1124)

Location: Kansas, USA
Quote: "www.adammessinger.com"
Posted: 4994 days ago

Just out of curiosity, do authors and publishers make any money off of non-ARC used book sales? I always assumed the answer was no, but then again they've already made money by selling it once.

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