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.