The Anatomy of an ARC Review Project

Kenny Brechner - January 14, 2016

ARCs are objects that have a very particular Prime Function, namely to create interest in, and generate sales for, their on-sale trade versions. As both a frontlist buyer and a bookstore owner I consider ARCs invaluable and I take their prime function with actual gravity.


Archibald the DDG store Walrus is seen here examining the Little Snowplow. (Okay, I admit the photo is staged. We didn’t have a photo of Archibald reading the actual F&G and took this photo today using a trade edition.

For example when I receive an ARC instead of a regular trade edition from a used book dealer when ordering an out-of-print book for a customer, my outrage is unfeigned.
There are many ways to maximize the prime function of ARCs. There are little things, like letting the store plush animals review F&Gs pertaining to their particular interests, as you can see to the right. The main route I have taken, however, is through literacy outreach in the classroom. I have done ARC review projects in local classrooms for more than 15 years, and I thought I would share my particular mode of operating them.
I like them to be an annual event. Even though the students change each year, teachers’ classrooms have a kind of institutional memory which I find helps create buzz and cuts down on the learning curve.

  1. I write to the teacher ahead of time to get not only the number of students, but a breakdown of reading levels and interests. I always bring one more than the class number so every student has a choice. I also remind the teacher to have a laptop and projector set up.
  2. I launch the project by making a presentation and then delivering the books to the class.
  3. First, I talk about acronyms and then have them guess what ARC stands for. Then I ask them why they think ARCs exist and who makes them. We go over the publishing process.
  4. Next, I ask the kids what ingredients go into the making of a good book and a bad book, and list their answers on the board.
  5. Now it is time to talk about how the answers on the board are the ingredients for a good review, which all support a positive, negative, or mixed opinion of a book. I mention, too, that multiple reviews of the same book are great.
  6. After that I hand them out a rating system based on NECBA’s old Chittenden Rating Scale.
  7. Now we turn to the web, I show them examples of past projects, and samples of reviews. I let them know that their work will be online, and shared with the publishers.
  8. The last thing to do for the launch is book talk the ARCs I am leaving.
  9. I let the teacher know that I will need a photo of the class with their ARCs along with the reviews.

    Mrs. Davis’ Class from Cascade Brook School in Farmington.

  10. When the reviews and the photo come in I create the online version of the Review Project. You can see an example here.
  11. Once the example is up, I share the link with all the reps who provided me with the ARCs. I also share the link with a few authors whose books have received particularly interesting or darling reviews.
  12. Now it is time to close out the project with a second visit to the class. I show the kids the reviews online and chat with each reviewer as we go. I also share any feedback I received from reps and authors. Finally, I ask the kids what they have been reading lately. Then I open things up for them to ask me anything book-related they can think of.

These ARC review projects have been a big success here because they strongly realize not only the prime function of the ARCs but that of DDG as well.

9 thoughts on “The Anatomy of an ARC Review Project

  1. Summer Laurie

    Kenny, a thousand times, THANK YOU. This program is just brilliant and I fully intend to steal it step by step. What a great way to start 2016.

  2. Donna Gephart

    This program sounds so well thought out and productive. You are opening such a wide world to these students. Wish every school across the country had a Kenny ARC Review Project!

  3. Donna Spurlock

    We were just this morning discussing ARCs and what happens to them when they go out in the world. This program is so fantastic, Kenny! I’m so glad they are reaching their full potential with great booksellers like you.


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