The Difference Between ARCs and Finished Copies 101

Vengeance Road Pass Pages

These are my pass pages for Vengeance Road. This is the first time my book has been typeset (read: not been a .doc file), which is very exciting. Pretty fonts! Chapter headings! Crop marks!

Advance reader copies (ARCs) are printed from pass pages. While the ARCs are produced and distributed to early reviewers, the pass pages are reviewed one last time (sometimes more) by the author and the editorial/copyediting team at the publishing house. Then finished copies are printed. This is why ARCs often say “uncorrected proof” on the cover. Because ARC-printing and pass-page-editing happen simultaneously and changes WILL be made between ARC and finished copy. Often, many changes will be made.

All those sticky-noted pages are changes I am making to Vengeance Road.

  • 15% of the sticky notes are typos that I found at this stage
  • 25% are new typos that didn’t exist previously, but were created when edits I made during the copyediting stage were mis-transcribed *
  • 50% are small stylistic edits that I’m making for the first time — dropping a dialog tag, word choice changes, etc
  • 10% are substantial edits — tweaks for historical accuracy, adding a few sentences to address a potential plot hole, etc


All these edits will only exist in the finished copy. Yes, many of them are small and minor, but it’s the polishing that makes a story truly shine and this is why so many authors cringe when they see someone reading an ARC months after the finished copy of a book becomes available. (Also, while it is not the case with Vengeance Road, sometimes there are major changes made between ARC and finished copy.)

So while ARCs certainly have their time and place, the cleanest, BEST version of any author’s story is, naturally, the finished copy.

This has been a lesson in ARC printing and publishing timelines. 🙂

* This is why I prefer digital CEs to hardcopy/paper CEs, but errors like this are always bound to happen, regardless of format, and this is exactly why the pass page stage exists.

4 Responses
  1. Lori T

    I’ve always wondered something about pass pages: do YOU print them out or are they printed and sent to you by your publisher? And, are the edits you’re having to do done by hand or electronically? I’ve never seen any author discuss this as thoroughly as you have here and I was always curious how this is done. If they’re printed and sent to you and you mark up the pages (I imagine the same way a teacher does on students’ works with the usual red ink pens), do you use different colored ink pens to make things very visible and what if you don’t have great handwriting and what you’ve written is misunderstood? (I know lots of people with terrible handwriting and doing edits on pass pages, for them, would best be done electronically.)

    Thanks for the insight, as always, Erin! And I LOVE the way the title page is going to look (librarian here, so total title page nerd! LOL!)

    1. Hi Lori! The pages are typeset by the publisher, and then printed out and mailed to the author to proof. In my experience, they have ALWAYS been done this way (supplied to me physically), and I believe this is the way the majority of publishers handle pass pages.

      Yes, my edits for pass pages are done by hand, exactly like a teacher marking up a paper. I have a colored pen (red usually, but sometimes blue or purple), and I use standard copyediting marks to note my changes. I always make a copy of the ms before sending it back to my publisher. If they can’t read one of my edits, my editor emails me the query. I then check my copy and clarify any confusion.

      I agree that some people have bad handwriting and this can get complicated. There’s also the issue that even with good handwriting, an author’s edit can be mis-transcribed when entered on the publisher’s end. This is why many publishers do the copyediting phase digitally (VR + Taken were on paper, Frozen and Forged were digital). But my pass pages have ALWAYS been hard copies. I think this is a purposeful decision on the publisher’s end — It’s one of the only times proofers look at the book on paper instead of on screen, and sometimes errors/typos are easier to catch when you look at the ms in a new format.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Lori T

        Thanks for the insight, Erin! That was really helpful and informative. As someone who *really hopes* to be published someday, that was an aspect of publishing that I had no knowledge of, would feel really silly asking an editor or agent what I’m supposed to do, and this definitely helps.

        Good luck on VR! I’m SOOOOOO excited for it and you! 😀

  2. Sallie Mazzur

    Congrats on the next step for Vengeance Road! Looking forward to it’s release, and possibly attending the release day signing! 🙂

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