Identifying Advance Reader Copies (ARCs): A Guide for Readers and Used Booksellers

August 25, 2017     erinthebooknut     Discussion, Feature, Opinion Piece, Rant, Tips an Tricks

Alright, we’ve got to talk about a thing here. Every time I walk into a used bookstore or a Goodwill I see tons of ARCs for sale. A few places don’t care and earn a permanent side eye from me. Others have told me that they were unaware of what arcs were and had no idea how to recognize one when put beside a regular paperback. Thus, this post was born.

What is an ARC?


So before we get into how to identify an ARC copy, let’s define it. ARC stands for Advance Reader Copy, sometimes also called ARE, or Advance Reader’s Edition or Galley. All of these terms basically mean the same thing, these are copies printed specially by the publisher for promotional use.

These copes are sent to booksellers, librarians, media members, critics and reviewers, and sometimes teachers. They are really for anyone with marketing power or the ability to influence buyers or buy for their own institutions. As such, ARCs are printed early enough in the publishing cycle that they are not final edited editions of the text. Covers are subject to change, text may still have grammatical errors and sometimes may change entirely, and the books are not as well made as a hardcover or finished paperback would be.

Because of all of these factors ARCs are not meant for sale. The publisher and author do not get any money for the release of these editions of the book and resale hurts sales as that copy has never been purchased. This is the primary reason not to sell ARCs, but if you need another remember that these copies have not been fully copyedited.

Identifying ARCs

ARCs are different from finished copies of books in several ways. Many of these are printed clearly on the cover while others are harder to spot. Either way, in most cases some identifying sign that a book is an ARC will be printed somewhere on the outside of the book.

The most reliable method of determining if a book is an ARC is by looking at the spine. Most ARCs will have some indication of the date when it was published. A few examples of this can be found in photos below.

Many young adult and children’s titles with have a colored band around the top or bottom of the spine with a Month/Year indicator, usually in red or black but sometimes in a color that matches the cover art.

Others, particularly in adult fiction, these dates will be found at the base of the spine without any band or other marking surrounding them.


Another great clue that a book may be an ARC is a simple or blank spine as shown in the picture above. Blank spines, especially those that have a tape-like binding indicate another kind of advance copy called a manuscript or sometimes bound manuscript. There are also unbound manuscripts, which as the name suggests are unbound copies. All of these fall under the ARC banner and are not intended for sale. If you see a book with a very simple black or white or sometime blue spine with no  stylized title you might want to look for that publishing date to see if you might have an ARC.

ARCs also have marks on their covers showing their status as a unsaleable copy. It often appears as a square, or sometimes a circle, with ADVANCED READER COPY or EDITION printed in it. It may also have the publishing date or says NOT FOR SALE in bold.









Also on the cover you may find a string of text either on the top or bottom of the book. These will usually say something to the effect of ADVANCED READER EDITION–NOT FOR SALE. Every publisher has a different way of identification but they do usually uses more than one of these techniques.

On the back of the book you’ll usually find a bit of text near the bottom detailing some of the important information for reviewers. Among these you’ll find the pub date, price, isbn, page count, etc. What you will not find is a barcode. Lack of a barcode is a great indication that you have an unsaleable copy in your hands.

What do I do with my ARCs?

So now you’re probably asking “What can I do with these ARCs I’ve found at my store?” Since you can’t sell them, what should you do? There are plenty of options.

a) Donate them. Give them to a local library, school, or put them in a Little Free Library near you.

b) Give them away! Run a giveaway at your store to generate buzz for your business. Set up a FREE table outside your store and put out the ARCs to draw customers inside to see what else you have.

c) Find local reviewers or teenagers you can share them with. Maybe they can review them on your site or social media page. Again, this helps generate buzz for your business.

ARCs don’t have to be a revenue suck, you can use them to your advantage even if you can’t sell them.

It’s pretty easy to spot these copies and keep them out of your inventory if you know how, and I recommend that you do. Not only because it shows respect for the author and publisher, but because they are a lower quality product and your local bloggers will take notice.

What are your thoughts about ARCs? We’d love to hear from you!

From my shelf to yours,




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