Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Interview Extras! Sarah Prineas

As I have said before, 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.

This is my final full, uncut, unedited interviews here as an "Extra."

This time author Sarah Prineas, author of The Magic Thief and The Magic Thief: Lost shares her experience with changes in ARCs. I am very, very grateful that Sarah was willing to share this with readers.

Liz B: I think that it's a common assumption that an ARC is identical to the final book; at most, there may be some copyediting or a dedication that has to be filled in.

Sarah Prineas: It's a wrong assumption. The ARC--as a physical object--often looks very different from the final book, which is usually more aesthetically pleasing. The ARC is usually a paperback, cheaply bound, with cheaper paper, and often without even any cover art. The glue must be cheap, too, because ARC pages seem to come loose and fall out of the book easily.

On the back of the ARC is information relevant to booksellers, but not to readers--things about publicity and marketing plans, for example. Apart from that, the ARC quite often is an earlier iteration of the book, so might contain a lot of sentence level and continuity errors and infelicities of prose that will be caught in a later copy edit.

Another difference is that if a book has internal illustrations, these will often be either missing from the ARC or present only as rough sketches.

Liz B: At what point in the publication timeline for your book did the ARC get created and sent out?

Sarah Prineas: My situation with The Magic Thief: Lost was a little different than usual. I'd originally turned in the LOST manuscript much earlier and my editor and I finished our edits on the book over the summer. But then, sadly, my editor was laid off in June and I was assigned to a new editor, for whom I offered to do a new round of edits.

I turned the book in again for her in September, and the ARC went out during the third week of October. That's a pretty quick turnaround, and as it happens, my new editor and I were not finished with our edits yet. Still, the ARC had to go out then because the book itself comes out in May, and the booksellers and librarians need that much lead time to place their pre-orders for the book.

Liz B: What are some of the things that changed from the ARC of your second book (The Magic Thief: Lost) to the final version?

Sarah Prineas: My book is a middle grade fantasy, and after some thoughts and second-thoughts, my new editor realized that she was uncomfortable with the fact that some things in my book resembled things in the Harry Potter books (which I have not read!). The resemblances were common fantasy tropes, but my editor felt we couldn't take any chances (in the end, I realized that she was right about this). In addition, we both decided the last third of the book needed to be tightened and some of the plot points clarified.

An example of something we changed is the snakes. I used snakes in LOST for the sorcerer-king's magical familiars and spies, and his name, Aspeling, sounded snake-like to show that connection. I also had the protagonist, Conn, marked by a snake-bite so the bad magic could find him later. Apparently snakes play a big role in the Harry Potter books, so I changed the snakes to something else entirely, and changed the sorcerer-king's name.

Liz B: At what point did you realize that the ARC and final version would be different?

Sarah Prineas: Even before it came out. My editor and I were making further changes to the manuscript as the ARC was going to press.

Liz B: While ARCs commonly have language such as "check all quotations against final bound book," that's a bit different from saying "the final book is different." Were you able to let ARC readers know that the final version was going to be different?

Sarah Prineas: I've tried to offer caveats when I see that friends have gotten copies of the ARC--"beware, the final version of the book is very different!" Also, my editor wrote a letter that was included with the copies of the ARC that went out to reviewers and booksellers. The letter basically said that the ARC and the final book would be more different than usual.

Liz B: Often, people who get a copy of an ARC from BEA, ALA, or other conference don't like to throw out the ARC after they have finished reading it. It feels wasteful. So, many share them with colleagues or readers, being sure to let them know what an ARC is -- and isn't. Sometimes, though, we hear of people who have taken the extra step of adding the ARC to the library collection, classroom collection, or bookstores selling ARCs. What are your thoughts about that? Is the reader being cheated?

Sarah Prineas: I think it's great when teachers and librarians share ARC's with their most enthusiastic kid readers, and with each other. They're the ones who fall in love with books, and their excited comments after reading an ARC can, in turn, get others excited. That's what "buzz" is all about!

However, I do think adding the ARC to a permanent collection isn't a great idea, mainly for the reasons I point out above: the ARC just isn't as nice a book as the final version. Most ARC's are going to fall apart after just a couple of reads, and this isn't a great way to promote love of books.

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

1 comment:

Karen said...

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Sarah Prineas at Cover to Cover bookstore last year. She is delightful! Thanks for sharing the interview.