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.
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.
- 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.
- I launch the project by making a presentation and then delivering the books to the class.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- After that I hand them out a rating system based on NECBA’s old Chittenden Rating Scale.
- 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.
- The last thing to do for the launch is book talk the ARCs I am leaving.
- I let the teacher know that I will need a photo of the class with their ARCs along with the reviews.
- When the reviews and the photo come in I create the online version of the Review Project. You can see an example here.
- 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.
- 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.