Tag Archives: Publishing Costs

The Economics of the Advance Reading Copy

Posted by March 2nd, 2011

The lowdown on galleys and ARCs!

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 Most new books will have a galley (or Advanced Reader Copy) created. Not all books are treated equally, however. The number of galleys will depend upon the distribution of said galleys, how much the publisher is willing to pony up for said galleys, and – ultimately – how much the publisher initially ponied up for your book.

For example, lets say that the sales department wants 450 galleys to mail to independent booksellers, and another 650 to go to a Barnes & Noble Managers meeting. The publicity department would like 250 to send to reviewers, bloggers and long-lead media. The marketing department would like 300 to send to a special book club mailing. The author wants 50 to send to friends for quotes and blurbs and just in general to show off and say “Lookee here, I iz a published author!” An SF/F or romance convention may request 100 to use as door prizes, giveaways or auction items. The agent is going to ask for 20 copies as well. And then a copy of the galley goes to every bleeding person associated with the book, from the publisher to the production manager, which comes to another 50 galleys or so. (By the way, these last 50 copies are the ones that most often end up on the giveaway cart or in the garbage. Sad but true.)

So, right there, you’ve already got 1420 galleys needed, and that’s not even a large galley run. (A large galley run is when you have the great good fortune to have your book picked for distribution at Book Expo; a galley run could then run into as many as 6,000 copies.)

Now let’s do the math:

A galley costs roughly $6.75 to $8.00 to create, depending upon page count. For the sake of this post, lets split the difference and say that this galley costs $7.25 to produce. So, 1420 x $7.25 = $10,295 just for galleys. This number is run by the marketing director or associate publisher; he or she balks and cuts are made. Why does the author need so many? You copies are cut in half. Why do the indies need so many? Send to the top 150 stores, not the top 450. Why does publicity need so many? Cut to 125, send only to long lead periodicals and then use finished books for a later mailing to reviewers and bloggers. (FYI, a finished book costs about one-third the price of a galley, so using finished books is a hell of a lot cheaper than using galleys to promote.) Why does the agent need ANY? Cut to zero. Agent throws temper tantrum, raise back to 10 copies.

You see where I’m going with this. It always comes down to the bottom line.

Keep in mind also that more and more traditional publishers are now turning to electronic galley distribution services like NetGalley, which significantly cuts down on the actual number of physical galleys a publisher needs to produce.

When does a book not get a galley?

—> When the manuscript comes in too late (this happens quite frequently and is invariably the author’s fault – authors, pay attention to editorial deadlines!)
—> When the book is a mass market original: not all publishers produce galleys for MM originals. As a writer, however, you are welcome to request one; sometimes the publisher will oblige you.
—> When a book is a trade paper or mass market reprint.

What do you do if your publisher hasn’t produced a galley for your mass market original?

—> Ask your publicist (nicely!) to – at the very least – send bound manuscripts to the trades and genre-specific reviews (Publishers WeeklyLibrary Journal,Kirkus Reviews, Romantic Times, Locus, etc.). They’ll usually review from bound manuscripts as long as the pertinent publication information is included (title, author, publisher, ISBN, pub date, price, contact info of publicist, page count, format, and one paragraph summary).

My publisher will only give me fifteen copies of my galley and I need more for my friends and family!

—> Dude? NO. You really don’t. Galleys serve a very specific purpose in promoting your book and they are extremely expensive to produce, so for that reason alone, authors and agents are limited to only what is absolutely necessary. If for some reason you feel you’ll need more than a couple dozen galleys, you’ll need to let your editor know well in advance of your publication date and then you should be prepared to pay out-of-pocket for the extra print run.

I think that about covers it. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section and I’ll be happy to try to address them!

[Photo by Svilen Milev; licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported]

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