What’s The Difference Between Beta And ARC?

Between recently sending out the Skull Daddy ARCs and releasing Episode 7 of Writing and Robots, I’ve had a few people ask me what the difference is between beta copies and ARCs (advance reader copies). Both are useful tools for authors to utilize, but for very different reasons. These versions of a manuscript exist at different stages of publishing and ask for different kinds of engagement from the readers. Let’s get into it!

“A beta reader is someone who reads a book manuscript with an eye towards providing feedback for the author. Though beta readers are not editors or professional critics, they can play an important role in helping the author improve the work by pointing out errors, plot holes, inconsistencies, or unclear passages.” ReedsyBlog

When I reach this stage in my writing, it is after I have done many, many, many rounds of self edits. I may have even shown a draft to an alpha reader or critique partner (aka Trevor). But this is before I embark on the final developmental and copy edits.

At this stage, I’ve done all I can with the story and I need a fresh pair of eyes (or 10, or 20) on my work. Sometimes, I will provide my beta readers with a list of questions or ask for thoughts on specific aspects of the story. Other times, I just send them the draft and ask “what do you think?”. I almost always send this as a PDF file as it is nowhere near ready for publication. I’ll give the readers a timeline and ask to receive their feedback by that date. Once I receive everyone’s thoughts/notes, I use all of that to edit anything in the story that did not work for my readers.

Once that draft is done, I will proceed with the next editing stages. I’ll keep working on the book until it’s done and ready to be published. Then, it’s time for the ARCs!

“An advance reader copy is an early copy of the book that’s released to a select audience before its official publication. This helps generate word-of-mouth marketing before the book is put on the shelves. They are sometimes called advance review copies, or ARCs. Occasionally, small changes may be made between the ARCs and the final published book.” Scribophile

Personally, I use my ARCs to generate interest and get reviews. This is the final version of the book, and I am not looking for additional feedback. I will not be making any changes at this stage. This is not a rough copy, but a free book being released to a select group of people before the official publication date. It’s already uploaded to Draft2Digital and is available for pre-orders.

I give ARCs to friends, as well as ARC readers who have volunteered to leave a review and/or spread the word. I also gift ARCs to my beta readers as a thank you for helping me in that earlier stage of editing. I send these as eBook files as they are ready to be read and enjoyed on your eReader. If I have sent you an ARC, reviews are not mandatory but they are appreciated!

Fun fact: in a recent Book Purge donation, I ended up with 2 ARCs in the donation pile! They are both very different, but they are both great examples of what an ARC is.

So if you’ve ever received early copies of a book from me (either beta, ARC, or both) and wondered what the difference is, I hope this clears things up! As always, never be afraid to ask questions. I am emersed in the self-publishing world, so all of this is common knowledge for me, but I understand that not every reader knows every little detail about every single stage of publishing. I like talking about these sorts of things on my blog, so if ever there is an aspect of publishing you have questions about let me know! Maybe I’ll write about it in a future post.

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