ARC Sightings

Well, ARCs are being sent out, people have started tweeting that they have them, which feels strange, I have to say.

It is an odd time for me, this stage, with every book. Probably so for any author. (Though I should qualify that, as the range of responses probably goes from catatonic terror to blithe indifference.) I am curious, edgy, have time and energy for a bit. Anyone need their roof reshingled? (Old joke about a handsome, inebriated guy who comes up to a woman in a bar and murmurs, ‘I will do anything for you that you can imagine, or think to ask. Anything. As long as you can say it in three words.’ She gazes deeply into his eyes and whispers, ‘Paint. My. House.’)

Thing is, every reader of a novel, up to a certain point, is someone personally connected with the writer or with his or her ‘partners’ (agents, publishers, marketing people). It can be fine-tuned, revised. Then there is a point where … it is in the wild, as I said in the header. No more amendments, revisions, no more working on the cover or jacket copy…

There’s another very old meme about¬†revised famous last words. So for Admiral Farragut the revision goes, ‘Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! … No! Wait!’ Authors can be like that. Paul Valery said, ‘A poem is never finished, only abandoned.’

But a novel being sent out, as River of Stars is now, isn’t so much abandoned as released to the world. Different feeling.

There is a two-tier process at work with the ARCs. Review newspapers, magazines, online journals get them now, because many of them need a long lead time to assign a book for review (or for an author interview or profile). They observe the convention of holding reviews back until publication date (so that people can read a review and go buy the book).

Bloggers tend more often to be solo operators, need less time (generally, there are exceptions) to get to a book, and so that batch will go out in February. And the dynamic for these things online is very different. I’ve had, easily, some of the most thoughtful, engaged, informed reviews of my work from online sources. For one thing, there’s more room, usually. That matters. 400-500 words let you say what ia book is about (sometimes with spoilers!) and whether you like it. Not much more. Give a smart person room to explore a book and … you might get something ¬†worth reading.

6 thoughts on “ARC Sightings

  1. I’ve often thought that one of the strangest sensations for an author would be that it takes (in this case) years to write a book, and a day after the ARCs have been released, someone will have consumed it in its entirety. Though digestion takes a good deal longer.

  2. Simon, every artist of every kind deals with variants of this. The painting commented on after ten seconds. The song, concerto, opera with the snap judgment. The book evaluated instantly, as you say (and books do take longer, usually, they force at least SOME time). This is just … part of the dance. One hopes that people take a breath, a pause before deciding what their ‘feelings’ are. Give the work, whatever form it takes, room.

  3. Love the thought from Simon Fraser.

    That is a topic I have often mused on when reading a creator’s reaction to their work.

    I have a question from a slightly different angle, as it relates to an artist’s state of mind while working on that “one & done” creation.

    Does what has come before in reaction to something you have created – fan reaction, critical reaction, sales, etc. – have any effect while you work on something new?
    Is there any point in the creative process where the above has applied, in your experience and to your knowledge?

    Sorry. That was 2 questions. Lost in my own mind.


  4. George, there is a great story told by Ken Follett about a conversation with his friend, the author Hanif Kureishi. Follett, obsessing about reader-expectations, asked his friend, ‘How much do you think about your readers while you are in the middle of a work?’ And the reply came, ‘I NEVER think about that.’ And Follett said, ‘That’s why you are a great writer and I am a wealthy one.’

    If there’s a continuum here (and of course there is) and you put those two at opposite ends (or near them) I’m closer to the middle, but on the Kureishi side of it. Readers are a vague ‘awareness’ as I do a book, but I’m too willful to let it be more than vague. From the time I balked at formal requests for a ‘fourth volume of the trilogy’ with FIONAVAR and set out to do something entirely different (both for me and, to a degree, the genre) with TIGANA, I have been stubborn (or foolish) in that way.

    Having said that, in reply to your second query, in the revision process I think of forthcoming readers in the sense of wanting to make sure something is coherent, that it seems to ‘work’. But that can also be explained as fidelity to the work, too. The work needs to be coherent to succeed, in itself.

  5. Mr. Kay – Considering the topic of conversation in these replies, I’d like to link you to a discussion happening on the fantasy subreddit. Authors there (including Michael Sullivan, Moses Siregar, and Brandon Sanderson) are talking about the business decisions that go into writing fantasy novels, particularly preparing works for an audience and the decision to self-publish or work with traditional publishers.

    I thought you’d enjoy browsing the comments. And, of course, we’d all enjoy seeing you around the subreddit again. Your AMA was fantastic!


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