Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Interview Extras! Brian Farrey

As I mentioned earlier, I interviewed several people for my two-part ARC series at ForeWord's ShelfSpace Blog. I could not use all the wonderful things from the interviews.

Today, I share the full interview with Brian Farrey, a Flux Acquisitions Editor. Brian provides a great history of ARCs and galleys.

Liz B: What, exactly is an "ARC"?

Brian Farrey: ARC stands for Advanced Reader (Reading) Copy. It's primarily a marketing/publicity tool aimed at generating advance interest and excitement for a forthcoming title. They are typically uncorrected (meaning there will be typos and other errors) and are primarily meant to give a feel for the final book, although sometimes there are significant changes between the ARC and the final copy (which is why reviewers are urged to check any quoted material against the final copy).

In a broader sense, it may be helpful to discuss the "history and hierarchies" of ARCs. A warning: this is more or less how things were explained to me when I got into publishing so you may hear variations of this from other people. Essentially, there are three different types of marketing/publicity tools that involve sending advance copies of a forthcoming manuscript out.

They are:

BLAD: stands for Book Layout And Design. Depending on the publisher, the quality/look of these will vary. For the most part, they are VERY basic. Sometimes, they are just printed manuscripts, occasionally bound (most likely spiral bound) that give a rough idea for how a book feels. There might be a bit of basic formatting so it looks more like a book (margins, page size, etc.) but at this early stage, there is no cover or much of anything. A BLAD might be made by a big publisher who has what they feel is a really hot title (maybe it's high concept and would make a great movie/TV show/etc.). They'll throw together a BLAD to send to producers/agents/what have you who might be interested in acquiring special rights for production purposes. To that end, BLADs (when used) tend to go out VERY EARLY in the process. A BLAD might not even be the complete book.

Last summer at BEA, Jonathan Stroud was signing a thin BLAD that contained a few chapters from his recent HEROES OF THE VALLEY. In this instance, a BLAD was used to generate excitement for an established author's upcoming title, several months before it would be available in true galley form. (I never saw a galley for HEROES so I don't know what treatment it got). BLADs are almost never used with reviewers in mind.

Galley: Technically speaking, a galley is more advanced than a BLAD but not as great as an ARC. (Although, to be perfectly honest, most people I know use the terms galley and ARC interchangeably. If you get down to the nitty gritty, there is a difference. But most people who say either "galley" or "ARC" mean the same thing.)

A galley is more like a book. It's bound in roughly the same size as the final product, it may or may not have cover art (a few years ago, when the latest Fudge book came out, I got a book with a white cover with the title of the book and "Judy Blume" printed on the front and nothing else), and will usually be sent to a select group.

In the old days, galleys were a lot less fancy and very generic looking. Given advances in technology, galleys these days can be a little fancier. If the publisher's on their game, they most likely have some semblance of the cover art on the front. Sometimes, if they don't have cover art, a publisher might do something funky with the binding to generate interest. (Did you see the galley for THE AMULET OF SAMARKAND a few years ago? It was done up to look like a magician's newspaper, with all the stories on the front and back cover relating to the content of the book. I thought it was really clever and a fun way to make people interested in the book. I kept my copy and I trot it out every now and then when I want to encourage one of our
committees to think outside the box when it comes to pre-pub buzz.)

A galley will go out earlier than an ARC (anywhere from 6-12 months before the book's release); again, these are for hot, hot, hot books where the publisher wants to generate buzz. They're meant to get people talking about the book itself, not necessarily to generate reviews (although that does happen too).

Flux doesn't do galleys in this sense. As a smaller publisher, we can only afford to produce one type of advance book (the ARC). With all the recent cutbacks in publishing, I think we'll see a lot more ARCs than galleys in the future. (Actually, I think a lot more will be done digitally, via PDF, for those willing to accept a digital copy.) Sales people might use galleys for their clients but most buyers will want to see the cover too. Sometimes, galleys won't be the complete book either (most often, this is done to maintain some element of surprise, like the advance copies of 39 CLUES, but I'd call those ARCs more than galleys).

ARC: Advanced Reader (Reading) Copy. ARCs tend to be fancier than galleys. They're closer to being "the real" book. There's cover art (it might even be fancy with spot gloss or other bells and whistles to make it stand-out; the most fancy ARCs I've ever seen were the ARCs for the first 39 CLUES book, which had the same sliding window and trading cards that the final books had). Depending on the publisher's schedule, they might be edited (emphasis on MIGHT; most smart reviewers know that the advance materials they get are uncorrected and they don't waste their time hunting down typos.)

An ARC is meant to capture the experience of the book as closely as possible. It will be formatted almost exactly like the final book, might have interior artwork, and will sometimes even have back cover copy (BCC). Here is where you'll see a variance between publishers. Some imprints don't use BCC until the final book, but most will have it on at least the ARC (not always so with the BLAD or galley). These are the ones more likely to be used to solicit reviews. To that end, they are sent to long lead publications anywhere from 4-6 months prior to the book's

All of these are typically printed on low quality paper and materials (they're not meant to last; they're meant to be read once and tossed). Most will typically have some sort of marketing info (intended print run, ISBN, marketing plan occasionally, etc.) included.

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

Brian Farrey: I answered this a little in my previous response but here's some more.

Advance materials (be it BLADs, galleys, or ARCs) are printed to 1) generate buzz within a community (might be book lovers, could be librarians, might be chain buyers), 2) promote interest, 3) solicit pre-publication reviews used to influence buyers. To that end, accompanying materials are often targeted at journalists and buyers, playing up the most favorable aspects of the book that will interest readers or promote sales.

At Flux, we'll sometimes craft different BCC for an ARC than that which will appear on the final book. Because our ARCs are targeting journalists, we try to speak their language and give them a "hook" that will make them want to write about the book. The BCC for a final book will be aimed more at consumers and readers.

Liz B: How many ARCs does a publisher print for each book?

Brian Farrey: This, obviously, varies. As a smaller publisher, we print a very small number of ARCs because of their high cost (compared to a final book; more on that later). We typically do around 30 copies per title. Some bigger houses will do hundreds (or even thousands) of copies of a book (however, there are also some titles for which they won't print ANY ARCs; Flux, at least, does ARCs for every title we publish). To that end, our publicity team works to craft a very targeted list of media contacts who will receive ARCs.

Liz B: Compared to the final hardcover (or paperback), how much does an ARC cost?

Brian Farrey: The main reason that ARCs are so much more expensive to produce is that they're done in much smaller volumes than the final book. At Flux, for instance, we might print 30 ARCs of a book but 5,000 of an initial print run. Those 30 galleys, because they're so few, will cost us around $5-7 per copy. Because of volume discounts, the final print run might be between $1-2 a book.

Liz B: What types of changes do you usually see between an ARC and the final version of the book?

Brian Farrey: In theory, there aren't many substantial changes between ARC and final copy. Most changes are to correct typos, clarify text (eliminate confusing or inconsistent plot points/character traits). It's rare when an author radically changes something that significantly alters a text's point or meaning between the two versions. (At least, in my experience, it's been rare. I did have one author who, between the time she turned in the first and second drafts, changed the sex of a major character and COMPLETELY altered everything that happened in the book after that. But that all happened before it went to ARC. It would have been verrrry
interesting to see the online discussions if people compared an ARC where the female protagonist was crushing on a boy to the final version where the boy was changed to a girl. In some ways, I'm sorry that got changed before the ARCs went out....)

Liz B: If there is anything else you'd like to say that isn't covered by these questions, please let me know!

Brian Farrey: To go back to your question about the audience for ARCs... This will, again, depend on the publisher. Someone who recognizes that their book has great library potential might embark on a strong library campaign. They might have the galleys tailored specifically to this market. Most publishers recognize the value of pre-pub buzz and they also recognize that most of it comes from librarians (and, to a smaller extent, booksellers). BUT, for smaller publishers on a budget, their primary audience will always be journalists of printed materials. It's not meant to slight bloggers or people who write for other alternative venues, but, in the end, it's about who has the most reach and can get the message to the most people.

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

1 comment:

Richard said...

This was informative, but then everything I've seen from Brian Farrey is clear-sighted, sensible, and intelligent. The questions were also intelligent and helpful.