What Is an Advanced Reader Copy?
An ARC is an acronym that stands for advanced reader's copy, sometimes called an advanced reading copy, a reviewer's copy, a pre-press copy, galleys or advanced reviewer's copy. It's a copy of a book given to certain people who are permitted to read it before its actual publication date.
An ARC is the pre-published, almost-complete version of a new book that is circulated to "advanced readers." The identities of these readers may vary, but typically they are book reviewers and media reviewers. They can read the book before its publication date so their reviews can coincide with the book's debut.
Advanced Readers Copies and the Freelance Writer
In the freelance writing field, this term is most commonly used by those who review books for magazines and newspapers. The ARC is generally a paperback edition that isn't complete. It might lack a final proofread or its final cover design, although all the content is typically in place. It's not a tease, designed to leave the reader wondering what happens next.
How You Get an ARC
So how do you, as a writer, get an ARC? Generally, they're sent to reviewers based on their relationships with certain publications or with the publisher themselves. If a magazine often publishes reviews of a certain publisher's books, that publisher will happily keep providing the ARCs to that particular magazine. If you have constantly and consistently written valuable, fair reviews, as a freelance blogger or writer or journalist, your chances of being in a good relationship with a publisher who provides ARCs are good.
Also, sometimes ARCs may be supplied by an editor at the publication directly to a freelance writer. If an editor asks that you do a review of a book, it's likely that they will supply the ARC. And nothing says that you can't approach the publisher yourself and ask for an ARC in exchange for a review. Your success may hinge on having a commitment from a magazine or newspaper to publish your review, but then again, maybe not.
Because these are pre-production copies, producing them typically doesn't cost the publisher a great deal, so they're often willing to give up a copy even for a chance of a good review. The more times the book is mentioned before, simultaneously and after publication, the better, so publishers are usually more than willing to hand out these copies. If you have a history of giving scathing reviews, however, this may not apply.
As mentioned, ARCs are not the end version of the book although they're close. You may find typos or different final sequences. It's always good to check with the book publicist if you're considering quoting parts of the book in your review.
Also, ARCs often come with marketing material. Since your goal as a freelance writer is a fair review of the book based on your reading, don't put too much store into or dwell too long on the marketing material that comes with the ARC. It's the publicist's job to crow about that book. It's your job to give it a fair go.