Friday, June 22, 2012

Selling ARCs--Why is it wrong?

Wow, LOTS of support this week. This is great, guys. Really. It's nice to see.

However, as is the case with all things, there's always another opinion and I want to address one that had been brought before me in the comments.

Jack Getze made this point:

You fail to explain how the sale of these ARCs in any way harms the author. You never expected revenue from them, else why give them away? And even a line on EBay, not to mention this and other posts, generates free publicity about your upcoming novel. Plus, if it's as good as it sounds, people might buy it, read it, and tell their reading friends about it. Word of mouth. I think you're over-reacting to something that's been going on a long, long time. 

This is a legitimate point that needs to be addressed. I'm glad I have the chance to do so now.

First, I want to state that Elemental ARCs (as far as I know) are not now, and never have been, sold on Ebay. This passion I feel isn't on my own behalf. However, any author who this is happening to is completely justified in his/her anger.

So let's address this comment line by line.

You fail to explain how the sale of these ARCs in any way harms the author.

Good point and I'm REALLY going to attempt to say this without a hint of snark. Unfortunately, It's going to sound snarky, but I really don't mean it that way.

It harms the author the same way any theft harms the owner and/or creator of a product. I guess I didn't think I needed to make that explanation in the original post because I felt it was an implied fact that theft hurts. And it is theft. And the person selling the copy knows this because it usually says "NOT FOR SALE" in big capital letters just like that on the front cover. Let alone, the other numerous places it also says not for sale on the inside.

You never expected revenue from them, else why give them away?

No, publishers and authors do not expect revenue from ARCs in the strictest sense of the word. But they're not giving them to people out of the kindness of their hearts, either. Revenue in the form of reviews and word of mouth IS expected. If the seller is only acquiring an ARC to sell it, then they're attempting to cheat the publisher and author the moment they make the request.

And even a line on EBay, not to mention this and other posts, generates free publicity about your upcoming novel.

Okay, yes. Selling an ARC on ebay gets the word out about an author's book. However, that's NOT how the publisher wants it done. Otherwise, they wouldn't make the point of printing copies that say "NOT FOR SALE" all over them. Here's the problem: an ARC is given to get the word out. This is done through reviews, giveaways, etc. Selling the copy gets the word out in the lowest form possible. People hear about it, yes, but the seller is also stealing a potential customer from the author. And the seller got the book for free. If they really wanted a legitimate business selling books (which a lot of these ebay stores claim to do--i.e. they call themselves book lovers and book sellers just like any other brick and mortar book store might), they'd place orders through the publisher's distributor like other legitimate book sellers and make a profit that way. But they're not. They're tricking the publisher and author into giving them a free book so they can make a maximum profit.

And here's what's worse. The books I found through my searches were books acquired at BEA, and many of them were signed.

BEA is not open to the public. You may purchase a ticket if you are part of the publishing industry, a book blogger, a librarian, a teacher (or other professional in education), a book seller, or press.

These people selling on ebay claimed to be book sellers to get to BEA and take free books to sell at their "business." And many of them were signed. Do you get the implications of that, readers? These people stood before the authors--talked to them, probably--with the intent of taking that book, not even reading it (because the books are listed as brand new and unread on ebay), and selling it.

Plus, if it's as good as it sounds, people might buy it, read it, and tell their reading friends about it.

This is true, but it's also true if the book is reviewed, talked about on book blogs, facebook, etc.--in other words, in the way it's SUPPOSED to be spread around. And here's the thing: news of the book will reach MORE people if it's done the way the publisher has asked you to do it. A person reviews a book and news spreads on twitter, facebook, goodreads, shelfari, blogger, and every other social media outlet. A person sells a book on ebay and the news stays on ebay and perhaps the people who placed a bid.

Word of mouth.

Yep, word of mouth. Just about the worst possible way to get word out about an author's book. Limited exposure while stealing a potential customer.

I think you're over-reacting to something that's been going on a long, long time. 

Okay, this is where I'm going to get a little passionate again. I hate hearing this excuse. Just because something has been happening for a "long, long time" doesn't mean it's any less wrong. In fact, I'd say it's the opposite. If you let something immoral like this become a trend in our society, it's only going to get worse and open the door for other means of stealing work and/or products from owners and creators. Stealing is stealing. It's been going on for thousands of years--ever since the first guy looked over and saw his neighbor had something he wanted--and yet we still understand it's wrong, damaging to a society. Just because the means is now through the internet, doesn't mean it's any less despicable.

Any more thoughts on this, dear readers?

Also, I'll be working on an addition to my sidebar today. I'll be including lists of ARCs that have been found on ebay and other sites where these things are sold with information on how to help the author out.


  1. What a great post. I didn't realize that Elemental ARCs were being sold anywhere. That really sucks. You hit the nail on the head perfectly.

  2. It also should be mentioned that secondhand booksellers should be more proactive in not purchasing these arcs from people. I actually saw an ARC in a second hand bookstore, which I will not name, and took it up to one of the employees and asked them why they bought/sold it. I also emailed the company and received a reply with what I considered a very non-answer. It is their responsibility as well, to protect the integrity of what they are buying/selling.

  3. Thanks for not calling me names, which is what my big mouth usually gets me. And I think I understand how you feel. If you take something marked NOT FOR SALE and then sell it, you're acting immorally. It's not something I would do, you're right. But logically, I question if it's possible to "steal" something that's being given away. Whatever. Good luck with your writing!

  4. Okay, third try here. Short, short version. It is stealing, because the author and the publisher don't see revenue from it. Ever. Buying a legit copy second hand sucks because the publisher and author don't see revenue from a new copy, but at least they received it from the initial sale.

  5. I think you made a good point, Jack. Being technical-technical, I'm not sure it is stealing in the traditional sense--since the main component of that is physically walking into your neighbor's yard and jacking his enviable flamingo mailbox. What happens after that (keeping it for private use, or selling at a garage sale) is another ballpark, in my opinion, not under the umbrella term of "stealing."

    I'm sure there's a fancy word for doing selling an item you *received*, not took, for free and I should probably know it (keyword probably...), but to me this particular case with ARCs is more than anything a violation of good faith. These ARCs were given, not taken, but given with a specific intention--not to be sold. Like a specific designation on a monetary donation, by accepting the ARC the person agreed to the "contractual" obligation not to sell the item. None of this is formalized, I don't think--it is an unspoken agreement based on the good faith of the two parties.

    I'll stop now. :-) Great post, Em. This is something all authors need to be aware of and talk about.

  6. I can't add much more than what I've already said, but at the risk of sound like an egotistical moron, I'll quote what I said on Shannon's blog:

    "The thing that really chaps my hide (yes even more than being envious of people who can afford to go to NYC for BEA) is that with ARCs, it's NOT ABOUT free stuff. I mean sure, that's cool, and my kids get especially excited when they get a "free book" before it's released, but you've got to understand what the purpose of an ARC is.

    Advanced REVIEW Copy.

    I used to own a small record label. We spent a lot of money producing what are called promos (we made hip-hop, so it was mostly vinyl). And yes, we gave them away for free, but there was an understanding. If you liked it, you played it at the club, or on the radio at your college station or whatever.

    The point is that those of us who love books, or love music or whatever, don't have time to sift through all the media that it released each year, so we rely on each other, people we trust, who we know have good taste, to tall us what they liked.

    So the point of ARCs is to be instruments through which to spread the word about great books. It's not an exclusive club. It's not a way to make money (and seriously, can you really get enough profit on Ebay to cover your airfare and hotel for BEA?). It's a way to support the industry, and make sure that good books end up in the hands of people who will enjoy reading them, especially people who might not have otherwise heard of the book if you hadn't reviewed it."

    Personally, I believe ARCs would better serve their intended purpose in the hands of people who will intentionally put the word out, rather than buyers on Ebay who may or may not.

  7. can i just say an amen to you and mr. matt? :)

  8. So agree with what you and Matt said. As a blogger who loves to promote books for authors like Shannon and who would love an ARC of her book, it's so sad to see someone not entitled to one get it and not use it for its intended use--to help promote the book and the author. Thanks for making us all aware of this.

  9. As someone who works in marketing, I can verify that the concept of "any press is good press" only works in the movies. To generate positive buzz about something, you need the excitement of known, established voices within a community...not just the presence/existence of the item. It is all about the implied trust in the honest review of a blogger or reviewer.

    Thank you for clarifying this point for those previously unaware of it!

  10. Great post, Emily! I get so upset seeing ARCs for sale.

  11. "Any more thoughts on this, dear readers?"

    In the story "Les Miserables", Jean Valjean stole a loaf of bread, not because he was starving himself, but to feed the young son of his sister.

    I hope your writing goes well.

  12. Excellent explanation and classily done. I know that I would be really upset if this was done to my book. For one thing, it also opens up the space for someone to leak the story before it's even published.

  13. hit the nail on the head. Both you and Matt


Yay! Comments! Oh, how I do love them! :D