By David Wogahn

One of the most effective marketing tools available to any author or self-publisher is the Advance Reader Copy (ARC) or galley. An ARC is nothing more than a free copy of your book that you share with readers in advance of the publication date. It is produced during the publishing process, and the purpose is to solicit blurbs, reviews, and media mentions that can be used to help market the book once it is released.

Why you need to make ARCs part of your marketing plan

Your #1 goal for any new book is to get reviews–especially Amazon reviews. A related goal is to collect as many “blurbs” as possible—quotes about your book from recognized experts or notable individuals.

The best time to begin soliciting reviews is well in advance of your book’s release date. This gives your potential reviewers and “blurbers” time to read the book and consider whether they are willing to write a review. Having these reviews ready at the time of your book’s launch saves you precious time in building momentum immediate after launch date. (Tip: never stop collecting blurbs!)

If you know a person well, they might be willing to read a PDF or even your Word manuscript. But my experience is that nothing beats a formally designed book—preferably in print.

Your ARC is an investment in marketing

An advance reading copy is by definition not final—it may be missing the index or foreword, for example—and you can use this to your advantage. It is not uncommon to include marketing details on the back cover, for example:

  • Publicity campaign details
  • Advertising plans
  • Where to get more information about the book or other sources for review copies (such as NetGalleyGoodReads, or Bookstr, to name three)
  • You can also add marketing-related front or back matter inside the book or put a release date on the cover.

Timing and timelines

If someone asked you to review their book, how much time would you like? If it’s your mom, you’d probably drop everything. But chances are that these individuals are acquaintances, someone on your mailing list, or people you’ve met on social media. They will most likely need extra time to fit the reading of your book into their schedule.

I suggest allowing 1 to 3 months for this period. It is important to manage your expectations and be respectful of their time. After all, they are volunteering to help you.

Also allow for printing time

If you are managing the book production process you are most likely using Amazon CreateSpace or IngramSpark. They are no different than other printers, in that you need to account for proofing and shipping times.

For CreateSpace, the time between submission of files and receipt of proofs can be as little as 7 business days.

Figure 10-12 days to get proofs printed by IngramSpark. Keep in mind that, in both cases, you will pay for expedited services, and files do have to pass validation tests before they are cleared for printing.

Producing ARCs using CreateSpace

CreateSpace is simple to use and inexpensive, and they have responsive customer support. However, you can print only five books at a time, each is marked PROOF, and a barcode with an ISBN will print on the back. This latter point makes it easy for some reviewers to resell your proof. Click here to learn more about producing ARCs using CreateSpace.

Producing ARCs using IngramSpark

IngramSpark does not limit the number of books you can print, and you can print a serial number barcode on the back instead of the ISBN/barcode. But IngramSpark is a little more challenging to use for some people, they take longer to review files, and there is a setup fee.  Learn more about producing ARCs using IngramSpark.

There is a reason publishers produce ARCs

The last thing any author wants to do after laboring over their book for months (or years) is wait for it to go on sale. But when you compare publishing timelines of traditionally published books to self-published books, you’ll see there is a substantial number of weeks or months in the traditional publisher’s calendar dedicated to promotion—using ARCs.

So take a page from the professionals and make an investment in the advance reader copy process. And, because you are reading this here on San Francisco Book Review, consider using that time to have your book reviewed prior to launch. It’s an investment worth making.


DAVID WOGAHN is president of AuthorImprints, a professional self-publishing services company. Wogahn has helped more than 100 authors and businesses establish their own publishing imprints, resulting in the successful publication of 250 books…and counting. He is the author of Register Your Book: The Essential Guide to ISBNs, Barcodes, Copyright and LCCNs, LinkedIn’s course Distributing and Marketing eBooks, and is a speaker for the Independent Book Publisher Association’s (IBPA) Publishing University.

Learn more at AuthorImprints or contact Wogahn at or by phone at (877) 735-5269.