The Difference Between ARCs and Finished Copies 101

Vengeance Road Pass Pages

These are my pass pages for Vengeance Road. This is the first time my book has been typeset (read: not been a .doc file), which is very exciting. Pretty fonts! Chapter headings! Crop marks!

Advance reader copies (ARCs) are printed from pass pages. While the ARCs are produced and distributed to early reviewers, the pass pages are reviewed one last time (sometimes more) by the author and the editorial/copyediting team at the publishing house. Then finished copies are printed. This is why ARCs often say “uncorrected proof” on the cover. Because ARC-printing and pass-page-editing happen simultaneously and changes WILL be made between ARC and finished copy. Often, many changes will be made.

All those sticky-noted pages are changes I am making to Vengeance Road.

  • 15% of the sticky notes are typos that I found at this stage
  • 25% are new typos that didn’t exist previously, but were created when edits I made during the copyediting stage were mis-transcribed *
  • 50% are small stylistic edits that I’m making for the first time — dropping a dialog tag, word choice changes, etc
  • 10% are substantial edits — tweaks for historical accuracy, adding a few sentences to address a potential plot hole, etc


All these edits will only exist in the finished copy. Yes, many of them are small and minor, but it’s the polishing that makes a story truly shine and this is why so many authors cringe when they see someone reading an ARC months after the finished copy of a book becomes available. (Also, while it is not the case with Vengeance Road, sometimes there are major changes made between ARC and finished copy.)

So while ARCs certainly have their time and place, the cleanest, BEST version of any author’s story is, naturally, the finished copy.

This has been a lesson in ARC printing and publishing timelines. :)

* This is why I prefer digital CEs to hardcopy/paper CEs, but errors like this are always bound to happen, regardless of format, and this is exactly why the pass page stage exists.

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