Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Interview Extras! Andrew Karre

As I mentioned earlier, I interviewed several people for my two-part ARC series at ForeWord's ShelfSpace Blog. EDITED TO ADD: These two posts are now on my blog, here and here (link to be added 12/28/09).

So, I am sharing the full, uncut, unedited interviews here as an "Extra." Not only are ARCs made available to librarians; they are also being provided to many bloggers. Blog readers aren't always familiar with what is -- or isn't -- being reviewed. So, more information is always good!

Today, read the full interview with Andrew Karre, Editorial Director for Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group.

Andrew Karre: Thanks for letting me chime in. I hadn't heard of [the] practice [of adding ARCs to a library collection] ,and I'm a little shocked. It's not an exaggeration to say that shelving ARCs is an existential threat to the whole practice of distributing ARCs widely.

Liz B: What is an ARC?

Andrew Karre: An ARC ("advance reading copy," also called a "galley" or a "bound galley") is a promotional piece and a sales tool. It's a book bound using a similar process to regular trade paperbacks, often with cheaper paper and cover stock. The text can be at various stages of editorial development, but ideally it's a close-to-final manuscript that's only lacking proofreading. It often has a final cover. Instead of reader-focused backcover and flap copy, it probably has details of release date and promotional plans as well as copy more akin to catalog copy, where the audience is librarians and buyers, rather than readers (for example, I don't throw a fit when ARC copy gives away too much detail, but I do on the actual book).

All ARCs have some variation on a banner that says "Not for Sale: Advance Uncorrected Proof."

Liz B: Why do publishers create ARCs? Who is the audience?

Andrew Karre: ARCs serve several purposes for several audiences. Least known, in my experience, is that book designers like to use them to fine tune their designs. Farther down the line, these are the books that often go to pre-pub trade review venues like Kirkus, PW, SLJ, etc. Awards committees get ARCs. Authors and publishers send them out for blurbs. Sales people like to have them to show and perhaps leave with bookstore buyers. Foreign and subsidiary rights sales people use ARCs. And, of course, we give them away at tradeshows to librarians, buyers, other book industry types (from a cynical POV, BEA is basically a giant redistribution of ARCs among publishing professionals). In YA, publishers also participate in YALSA's excellent galley program, which puts ARCs into the hands of teens.

The purpose for any of these audiences is to create buzz and eventually sales. Ideally, every ARC will earn its keep by creating a book sale or two (a librarian reads an ARC, digs it, talks about it to her teen reading group, buys copies of the real book for her collection, etc.) Let me repeat: ARCs must create sales of actual books.

Liz B: How many ARCs do publishers create for each book?

Andrew Karre: Publishers print between a dozen and thousands, depending on their plans and expectations for the book. It varies hugely.

Liz B: How much do they cost compared to the final book?

Andrew Karre: It depends on the sizes of the print runs for each. The basic thing to know is that, the larger the print run, the cheaper any single book in that run will be to produce. It could easily cost a lot more per book if the run of ARCs is very short (in which case they might be done POD, where you pay for speed and the ability to do short runs). If the ARC order is large, they might be printed like regular books, in which case the per book cost would be lower than POD per book (but there would be setup costs, etc.). In any case, the ARC is probably going to cost more and maybe several times more.

Liz B: What kind of changes happen between ARC and final books?

Andrew Karre: Ideally, very few changes are made--mostly proofreading and adding details like bios, art, design tweaks, dedications, etc. In practice, a lot can change. I've seen covers change, major plot points change, and even titles. Making these kinds of changes compromises an ARCs ability to represent the book, so it's almost always undesirable to make big changes. Book publishing can be a bit like that famous I Love Lucy episode in the candy factory( The conveyor belt generally does not stop for anything.

If I can add done thing, I'd like to say that there is almost nothing a librarian can do that's more damaging than shelving an ARC. Like I said, an ARC is expected to make a sale. If you shelve an ARC, then that ARC has the opposite effect. I think the relationship that's developing between publishers and libraries in YA trade publishing is very exciting, but misusing ARCs will kill it. I know budgets are tight, but shelving ARCs is stealing.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


Michelle Zink said...

Andrew has SUCH great taste in books. I can't tell you how often I've LOVED a book and turned to the publisher only to find that it's Flux.

My favorite so far this year is This is What I Want to Tell you by Heather Duffy Stone... SO good!

Anonymous said...

NOW I know what that means!