Demystifying publishing jargon: “galleys”

If anyone had mentioned galleys to me a year ago, I would have thought of ancient ships powered by oarsmen, Ben-Hur style. But one year is a long time. Now I know better.

In the publishing world, galleys, or uncorrected proofs, or advance reading copies, or ARCs, are created by the publisher months before the final printing and release of the book. They are sent to reviewers, booksellers, bloggers and other people crucial to the critical and commercial success of the book. A few stray typos may remain in galleys, and they are bound like paperbacks, though the cover is similar to that of the final book. Some may become collector’s items. They are after all “pre-first” editions.

Here is the full cover of the galleys of Mistress of the Revolution. They were printed in September 2007 though the release date is March 13, 2008. Please note the writing on the red band in front. It may not be legible because I had to shrink the image, but take my word for it. It says: ADVANCED UNCORRECTED PROOF-NOT FOR SALE. Sure enough, within weeks, galleys of my novel were circulating on various online sites. This happens to all galleys.

Some publishers, bookstores and authors are unhappy over this practice, quite understandably, because they think of the missed sales of the real book. Some, on the contrary, consider it free publicity…

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