POD-ing the ARCs

They’re called ARCs, or Advanced Review Copies, but there was a time when they were just called review copies. Now—OMG!—there is an acronym for everything. So ARCs they be.

We send them out. Most publishers still do, as far as I know. I haven’t found too many reviewers who want a PDF file of a book instead of a physical copy, no matter how many kindles and nooks and computer screens there are out there. For the most part, they want to see the book. So we dutifully print a few advance copies with a small box on the cover that announces the publication date as well as suggesting that these copies are NOT FOR SALE. Which doesn’t stop them from being sold, of course.

Anyway, we send them out to all the good folks who generally support us, including Booklist and Midwest Book Review, who review for libraries. Haven’t had much luck with Publishers Weekly, the major book industry magazine. They generally don’t review reprints—our stock in trade—no matter how long they’ve been out of print. Or so I’m told. I used to subscribe, and I saw reviews of reprints all over the place back in the 1980s and 90s. Must be a new policy, I figure. PW also doesn’t review POD books—sorry, print on demand—and we always print our ARCS via a POD printer. Maybe that hurts us, I don’t know. There are so many little picky-ass rules to get noticed in this business, it can drive you crazy.

Some reviewers want to see the book 3-4 months ahead of publication. Tricky business for a small press publisher. Took me several years to get ahead of myself enough so that I could have those books ready three months ahead of the pub date. PW sure wants to see the books at least three months ahead of publication, you can bet. In 16 years, I’ve gotten three reviews from them so far. But that was before I started sending out ARCs via POD. I’ve gotten nothing from PW lately.

There’s a reason I use a POD printer for these short-run ARCs.

Try to find a regular publisher who will print under 100 copies for a reasonable price. I haven’t found one. If you want affordable ARCS, POD is a great way to go. The books always cost the same no matter whether you print 1 or 500. Naturally, if you have the storage space, you want to use a regular printer for the main printing of the book, the final edition. Besides providing a definitive first edition of the book, a regular printer gives you a per unit discount for every increase in your print run. POD is perfect for small presses that don’t need a lot of copies printed at a time. We sell enough copies of our new titles that’s it’s just a much better deal using a regular printer for our first editions.

But I have a feeling that the big boys like PW see those POD ARCs and figure that the final edition will be a POD book as well. Otherwise, why ignore our new authors like Rick Ollerman and Darren R. Leo? Two great authors who couldn’t get noticed by PW, Entertainment Weekly or even Kirkus Reviews. And these reviews do matter. A nice review in PW sells hundreds more copies for us. And it’s hard to go to a new author and offer to publish their second book when it looks like you didn’t push very hard on their first book.

I could suggest that perhaps we should just stick to our policy of publishing nothing but reprints, but I do get offered some great new books from time to time. They’re hard to resist. We recently signed a contract for a third Charlie Stella book, called Tommy Red. It’s coming out next year. I’m very excited about this one. Will we get a review in PW? Well, it won’t be from lack of trying. Short of flying to NYC and handing over a copy in person, I will certainly be doing all I can to make sure the reviewers get an ARC of this one. We’ll keep knocking on those doors via the post office and email. Still, review copies are still the best way I’ve found of getting your books noticed. All the social media in the world (Twitter, Chitter, Blither and/or Blather) can’t replace a physical copy in someone’s hand—that potential great new book crying out to be read.

—GS @ SH

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