We used to call them galleys, short for galley proofs, because at one time the first proof of a book was made from galleys of type. (See Galleys.) But that time is gone and we have at long last allowed our nomenclature to catch up. (For the US/UK-have-2-languages-aficionado, in America this word is pronounced to rhyme with nature preceded by No men, while in Britain one says “nomèn-clatùre”: the second half of the word almost disappears in a click of the tongue at the back of the throat followed by a puffy -ch. It sounds sort of analogous to entablature.) However you say it though, we don’t by and large say galley now, we say ARC.
ARC means Advanced Reader(s*) Copy — not Advanced Review Copy as Digital World Daily and Jane Freidman seem not to know. Just like galley proofs ARCs are used for a variety of purposes, among them of course soliciting reviews. ARCs are used within the office for purposes as basic as cover design, but mainly they are distributed by sales and marketing departments to book buyers and (optimistically) opinion makers. Sales reps cannot haul ARCs for all books into an appointment with a book buyer, but they’ll certainly bring in a big book, and request the mailing of an ARC in other cases. A lot more ARCs are used for this sort of purpose than go out for review. Indeed there are some review media which will not touch a book if it isn’t a final printed copy.
In the olden days galley proofs were run off from the type at the typesetters. These proofs would be primarily for internal proofreading, but increasingly this function moved downstream to the publisher and the author. For marketing uses they’d be assembled into something like a book, usually oversize when made from true galley proofs, and be perfect bound with a plain cover, possibly on a colored paper, but most often just a reproduction of the title page. But as we abandoned letterpress, these marketing proofs began to be printed by short-run offset, often using paper plates, at specialist houses. Many of these specialist printers still exist, and have of course found digital printing to be a god-send. Digital printing has offered the opportunity to print a cover for the ARCs which closely matches the final cover, without perhaps some of the cover embellishments, and many of them look just like those Airport editions — good enough to buy.
The digital revolution has brought with it another development which is the by-passing of print altogether with the distribution of a digital proof. This method hasn’t caught on quite as fast as one might have assumed. Is there a feeling that if they fob you off with a digital proof they somehow think you’re not worth the expense of an ARC?
* There’s an asterisk question here. Before or after the -s? Not sure I know which to go for.