Traditionally—a word that means “before ebooks” in this case—Advanced Reader Copies were generally this:
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. (from What is an Advanced Reader Copy?)
But in the world of indie-published ebooks, especially genre fiction, ARCS have morphed into free books, the same books others buy, sent in expected exchange for reviews. Positive reviews.
Traditionally it was the same, except the reviewers were newspaper and magazine columnists who reviewed for a living. This is why it was safe to send out what was not the final version of the book. Sometimes, they even sent out galleys. From the same article:
As mentioned, ARCs are not the end version of the book although they’re close. You may find typos or different final sequences.
Changing the story or even the book’s ending is fairly significant. Being a writer who came from a traditional background, I’ve taken to limiting my ARCs to a few trusted readers and reviewers. I send out the most recent version of whatever I have in hope of receiving helpful feedback and interesting reviewers. They are complete books, just not completely written books.
BUT – at the end of my drafts I keep NOTES where I put plot points that need to be addressed, names of characters I might forget and sections in need of a rewrite. Before I convert to an ARC I delete the NOTES section.
ONLY I DIDN’T
I don’t even know how any of these ARCS went out that way. One person mentioned it to me, which is how I know. So. No more early ARCS. Until I have the final Amazon-generated mobi, I won’t be sending anything, anywhere.