Friday, May 08, 2009

Interview Extras! Sheila Ruth

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.

So, I am sharing the full, uncut, unedited interviews here as an "Extra." Also, with BEA and ALA coming up, and ARCs being talked about, I thought it wouldn't hurt to share some more about ARCs and publishing. The Shelf Space articles, along with these full interviews, contains helpful information about ARCs, their cost, and how many are made. Why, you may wonder, do you see more reviews of certain ARCs? Because those publishers created more ARCs.

Sheila Ruth is a Publisher with Imaginator Press; it's most recent book is Ratha's Courage by Clare Bell.

Sheila Ruth: Thank you so much for doing these. I'll answer as best I can, with the understanding that my answers primarily relate to independent publishers. I really don't know what the big publishers do, although I can make some pretty good guesses based on what I do know.

Liz B: What, exactly is an "ARC"? Why do publishers print ARCs? Who is the audience?

Sheila Ruth: ARC stands for Advance Reading Copy (Not Advanced Reading Copy, as some people mistakenly use). Basically, it's a prepublication copy of the book, or one sent out in advance of publication. Originally, ARCs were called bound galleys, and had plain white covers. The trend to put full color covers on galleys has really only been in the last few years, and is a result of improvements in technology reducing the cost and improving the quality of digitally printed color. They are generally created after the book has been typeset, but before the final proof, which is why there can be errors. Generally, the book has been well edited before the galley stage, but a final proof finds errors that were missed, and errors that were introduced in the typesetting stage.

The original reason for ARCs is that there are a handful of very influential journals - Booklist, PW, Library Journal/School Library Journal, Kirkus, Foreword Magazine, etc that will only review a book if they receive it 3 or 4 months before publication date. Originally, galleys/ARCs were used primarily for these prepublication reviewers and for other influential reviewers, like some of the major newspapers. In recent years, however, many publishers are printing larger numbers of ARCs and using them to generate wider prepublication buzz, distributing them widely at conferences and sending them out to bloggers in large numbers.

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

Sheila Ruth: It really varies widely. In some cases, only a small number of ARCs are produced to send to the major journals and influences. In other cases, particularly for the "big push" books from the major publishers, hundreds can be produced. I'd guess that most small independent publishers run between 10 and 50 ARCs.

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

Sheila Ruth: ARCs are generally printed digitally, using the same technology as that for print on demand books. The unit cost for books printed in this way can be 2 or 3 times as much as for offset printed books. So, for offset printed books, ARCs are 2-3 times more expensive than the final book. For books which the final books will be published using print on demand technology, the cost is about the same.

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

Sheila Ruth: Usually, the changes are minor, such as corrected typos and typesetting errors. But even such minor errors reflect badly on a book, because they make the book look unprofessional. That's why ARCs are clearly labelled as uncorrected, so that typos might be more easily forgiven. I have heard of rare occasions where major changes were made between the ARC and the final edition; I believe that I heard of one book where the ending was changed. But such major changes are rare once the book gets to this late stage. Usually one would expect that any major changes would be made in editing, long before the book gets to typesetting. I think it's more likely that major changes would be made to a book that's being rushed to press for one reason or another, because of the compression of the usual publishing cycle.

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

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