What the eff are ARCs?

Hello readers.

If you’ve hung around the store a lot and chatted with some of our booksellers, you may have heard them use the word “ARC” or “galley.” You may have even heard the term “F&G.” Oooo.

What do all these words, acronyms and initialisms mean??? Is it secret bookseller code? Or something more nefarious?

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No, it’s actually just pretty standard industry terminology.

Let me start by saying it takes a lot of work and a lot of people to get a book to the state you find it in when you pick it up at the bookstore. I’ll also say that every publisher will do things a little bit differently. Some will do certain steps electronically, others will do it in print, some will do both.

All that being said, as far as booksellers are concerned, ARCs, galleys and unbound manuscripts are just different names for the same things: Free books.

In addition to polishing up books and getting them all pretty for you lot, publishers want as many people to read the book in advance of publication to really get the hype going and post reviews. Booksellers are an obvious group to target since we are the ones directly putting books into peoples’ hands.

But I’ve yet to answer the actual questions of what these things are. 

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We’ll start small. F&Gs are usually kids picture books. The term stands for “folded and gathered.” Review copies of kids picture books are usually just loose sheets of paper wrapped in what amounts to a dust jacket.

When you get into ARCs and galleys, the definitions can get a bit wonky. Depending on the publisher, galleys may be printed before copy editing or proofreading. Unbound manuscripts may not have all the final edits in them. And usually any extra stuff like a map, epigraphs, or dedications aren’t included. All that stuff aside, the big difference between an ARC, a galley, and an unbound manuscript is the quality and the cost it takes to produce them.

But like I said, they are all the same to us booksellers. They are books we take home, read, and then come back to work ready to tell you about how awesome they are and that you should totally buy them…in 3 months.

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Bookselling can be hard. *sigh*

Happy reading!

Ren

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