Recently YA author Elizabeth Fama wrote an impassioned plea to reviewers, entitled “Kill My ARC,” to destroy Author Review Copies (known as ARCs) once they have read and reviewed them. Donate them to a library? Not on your life. Allow a friend or relative to read the book? Heaven forbid. Donate it to a school library or an impoverished school without funds to purchase books? Sorry, she won’t have it.
Part of her argument is that an ARC is not the finished book. It is an uncorrected proof sent out to reviewers prior to the book’s release. It’s sent out for review to generate buzz and (hopefully for the author) high praise.
In Fama’s case she said that she made major changes between the ARC and the book that will see release. And, the cover art on the ARC is not that on the finished product. So, the ARC is NOT her book she is saying.
And she is fervent in her demand that once reviewed an ARC should be destroyed. “I don’t want a deserving teenager—even one who is underprivileged, owns no other books, and who devotedly helped with his library’s collection development—to be given my ARC as a gift.”
And her demand is that “I want every single ARC pulped when the real book comes out” because “to me, the ARC is not my book. It’s an impostor of the real thing. Kill my ARC.”
Fama certainly doesn’t pull any punches, but her argument just doesn’t wash. Besides being a published author I am the publisher of Gauntlet Press. The ARC is 99.99% the finished product. As a reviewer why would I want to read an unfinished book? Why would I want to review a book where the author will make significant changes? Such changes could affect my review. In Fama’s case she said “my editor and I also doggedly tweaked the language to make it more lyrical.” I’m sorry, but those changes are to be made in the final proof the editor and author agree upon before ARCs are sent to reviewers, not after ARCs have been printed and shipped.
Fama also said that the cover art of her “final” version of the book is not the same as that on the ARC. Again, with the vast majority of publishers the cover art is not changed from the ARC to the final version (and in many cases the author has no say whatsoever on the cover art). And many publishers send out books without cover art for review. There’s nothing wrong with that.
There is another flaw in Fama’s argument. Since her ARC is not the finished product she wants to dictate what reviewers do with the ARCs they receive. What she fails to grasp is that many reviewers are not paid to review an ARC they receive from a publisher. A reviewer is just as much a writer as Fama. Unlike most reviewers Fama be paid, though, by her publisher, in part as a result of the efforts of unpaid reviewers. Since they are not being paid reviewers shouldn’t have to adhere to Fama’s ludicrous demands. There is nothing wrong with giving an ARC to an impoverished school or child. With budget cuts libraries (both public and school) are having increasing difficulty purchasing new titles. I’m in favor of donating books (yes, ARCs) to such deserving institutions. And, as far as giving the ARC to a friend or relative, the author might pick up a new fan who will purchase previously published books by the author. Is Fama opposed to that?
An ARC is a promotional tool of the publisher; a publisher who pays an author an advance and has a vested interest in trying to promote said author. What a reviewer does with an ARC after having written a review is none of Fama’s concern. The solution to her complaint is simple. Provide the publisher with the finished product prior to the publisher sending ARCs to reviewers.