When we send galleys out, or when we’re at shows with galleys, we occasionally get questions from the people we’re giving them to: is this a galley?
First: galleys, or AREs, advanced readers editions, or ARCs, advanced readers copies, are terms for bound promotional copies of upcoming books. Galleys are produced ahead of publication and distributed to booksellers, media, and in other ways so that they get in the hands of people who will raise awareness and excitement for the upcoming titles.
A galley and an advance copy are not the same. A galley is a specially-produced, not-for-sale, promotional-only book. An advance copy is a copy of the final finished book that’s shared at any point before the publication date.
So how can you tell the difference?
In the days of the past, galleys used to have very, very simple cover design and would only get produced in extremely limited quantities. Basically, you’d look at one and say, ‘this is not a final book.’ They’d look something like this one.
(Just to be confusing: this copy of What Makes This Book So Great is not from the past; it’s just a super-advanced galley from the present produced before the cover design was finalized.)
However, in the present day, publishers have moved towards producing galleys with the final cover art, because it gives them more appeal as a promotional piece.
In turn, that makes it difficult to tell at a quick glance: are you seeing a paperback edition of a book or a galley copy?
Usefully, publishers design the covers of their galleys to inform you about whether or not they’re galleys. If you look closely at pretty much any galley you pick up, you’ll see that it says something like ‘ADVANCE BOOK — NOT FOR SALE’ (as below).
Sometimes, publishers will be discreet about their galley line because they don’t want to interrupt the wonderfulness of their cover design. So there’s not one standard place on book covers where you can find this information. That can be frustrating!
But there will be something on the cover somewhere — it could be a bar or a circle or a burst or look like a design element — that will tell you that the galley isn’t a finished book.
Also: 99.9% of the time, galleys are going to be paperback. So that’s an easy way to tell about this; if you see something that resembles a paperback edition of a not-yet-published book that’s going to be hardcover, probably it’s a galley.
So the next question is, why should you care? A book’s a book’s a book, right?
It’s good to know whether a book is a galley or a finished book for a number of reasons. Sometimes a galley will have special content (like The Iron Trial below, which has an author letter instead of a book cover). It’s good to know to watch out for that!
Sometimes the galley will be lacking in content — like Starry Night below, which has white type against a plain blue background instead of an actual cover. Galleys can also be lacking in introductions, indexes, tables of contents, acknowledgements, quotes, dedications, colophons, epigraphs, and have incomplete copyright information.
95% of the time, that doesn’t change your reading experience. But sometimes it does — if you read a book that starts out with the dedication, ‘to my dog Arrow, now deceased, whose adventures saving children from fires this story is based on,’ would that change your opinion about the book?
As well as the galley being possibly missing parts, it could have other problems. The note below is standard text you could find a version of in any galley; it says that the book has probably only had one pass of copy-editing or proofreading and there may be spelling or content errors that are still being sorted out.
Most of the time that’s fine! If you read the misspelled sentence, ‘The man went for a longe walk,’ you can still tell what’s happening despite that “accidental” added E. But sometimes you get less innocuous misspellings where the meaning of whole sentence can change. Better hope that wasn’t the sentence in which the plot got resolved!
You can also see that the back covers of galleys are typically wildly different from what you’d find in an actual book. They’ll have material on them like marketing plans, or publicist contact information!
After reading this helpful guide about how to tell a galley from an advance book, we hope you’ll have an easier time with this sort of thing in the future!