How Self-Publishers Get The Most from Pre-publication Printings

by | Mar 4, 2010

ARClabelYesterday I wrote about using 48HrBooks for advance print runs. Some clients prefer printing their advance copies at other vendors, like But the article also brought up some questions about why self-publishers need these advance print runs at all:

  1. What are they good for?
  2. Once the book is ready, shouldn’t I just go to press and quickly get my book up on Amazon, and other retailers?
  3. How early should I do these advance copies?
  4. Do they have to be perfect, proofread and corrected?

You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers

Before I get to these questions, I think it’s important to understand the three different kinds of pre-publication books, and how they differ:

  • Proof copies—These are internal copies, not distributed to anyone outside the team producing the book. They are used strictly for proofing some element or elements of the book.

    For instance, the publisher might want to see how the cover looks at a particular size, like on a 6″ x 9″ book. How will the book bulk out, using the appropriate paper? This is also a great test to see what your typographic design will look like in the final product, or how the illustrations you’re preparing will print.

    Whatever the proofing need, there’s no substitute for an actual printed book as a test of your product.

  • Advance Review copies—If you are planning to solicit prepublication reviews, from the major prepublication reviewers, you will need proper Advance Review Copies (ARCs). You can see my article on Preparing Your ARCs for an example of how these are set up. The covers are usually modified to show marketing information, the bar code is not used on these books, and only 5 to 10 copies are needed.

    All copies are sent with accompanying press materials to a few media outlets that need books far–up to four months–before your official publication date.

  • Advance Reader copies—There are a wide variety of uses for Advance Reader Copies. Some authors use them to ask for input, comments or corrections from experts in their field. Publishers use them to get other authors to “blurb” the book, and contribute a quote or testimonial that can be used in the book’s promotion.

    Reader copies are also used to gauge response to a potentially controversial book, or to test the writing style and overall approach the author has used in writing the book. Academic books are often circulated to other researchers in the field for peer review purposes.

Economy Comes Into It Too

If I were to take a 200-page manuscript on letter-size paper down to my local Kinko’s, it would cost me $.08 per page, or $16.00 per copy. Even at 48HrBooks, a printed and bound book of 200 pages at 5.5″ x 8.5″ would cost about $9.00. If you need 50 copies, you’re looking at the difference between $800 for copies and $450 for printed books.

This points up another fact about pre-publication print runs. Advance copies are usually created when the book is in the page proofs step in the production process. In this stage the design is mostly set, and the entire text has been “poured” into the design template, but all the finishing touches have not been applied.

Now About Those Questions

We’ve already answered question #1, since we now know what these copies are good for.

As to question #2—should you go directly to sale—the answer is no if you want prepublication reviews, or if you hope to get blurbs or comments from other readers before finalizing your manuscript. This type of input can really help both the quality of your book, its completeness, and the anticipation in your community for the eventual publication of the book as well.

The answer to question #3—how early to get these copies—is best answered by looking at how they will be used. As I noted, prepublication reviewers need to have the book in hand four months prior to publication. Peer review copies can be circulated six months or more before publication to make certain there’s enough time to deal with any substantial changes or suggestions that come from reviewers.

And for question #4—do they have to be perfect—the answer is no. These copies do not have to be fully finished or proofread. Traditionally these copies carried a statement something like this:

Advance Review Copy / Uncorrected Page Proofs / Please check final published copies before quoting from this book.

Originally we called these Bound Galleys, because they were simply proofs of the long galleys of type right after it had been set. No page makeup, running heads, page numbers or illustrations were included, and no proofreading had been done. So the tradition with these advance copies is pretty clear and consistent.

You might think of even more ways to use advance copies of your book, and I’d love to hear about them.

Takeaway: Copies of your book printed in advance of publication from files that may not be proofread and complete are traditionally used for both editorial and promotional tasks. They are a handy and economical way to privately circulate a book before publication.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Susan Wittig Albert

    I used ARCs for a couple of giveaways on Goodreads, thereby earning some nice Goodreads reviews and a substantial number of “adds” and “to-reads.” Since my latest book, A WILDER ROSE, is controversial, I sent ARCs to bloggers familiar with the subject, resulting in several good Q&As and reviews.

  2. Linda Nagata

    Thanks for this information. This, along with the posts on 48hour books and Preparing Your Arcs, provide exactly what I need to know at this stage. I want to do some Advance Reader copies. I’d been thinking I could print them at CreateSpace or something similar, but discovered the book would have to carry a copyright date corresponding to the print date for the ARC–which definitely wouldn’t work. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction!

    • Joel Friedlander

      Linda, glad it helped. It looks like I ought to collect the posts you mentioned into one downloadable file since it might be of help to others navigating this same situation. Thanks for reading.

  3. Joel

    Hey, Joel, thanks for your comment. And thanks for pointing people to an easy way to “cook” PDFs out of MS Word, that’s really handy. And I would have to agree on your evaluation of Word as a typesetting tool, something I’ve wrtiten about before. I’d vote for the “pay a pro” option. You’ll end up with a better looking book, done properly, and you won’t have to go through the $500 for InDesign and the rather steep learning curve to master it, just to do one book.

  4. Joel Haas

    You don’t need a Mac with Preview to convert a MS Word .doc to a PDF. There’s a little “convert to PDF” button in your toolbar in MS Word. Same’s true for the free and just as good Open Office (and its Mac version, Neo Office)
    Simple button click on version of .doc files to PDF can produce (in fact, in a long, complex manuscript with any tables or illustrations) is guaranteed to produce some results looking odd an unprofessional on some pages.
    Better to bite the bullet and buy and learn Adobe InDesign for layout or pay a pro to lay it out.



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