Monday, June 25, 2007


First off - wow! Lots of comments! Keep them coming and I'll choose a winner on Friday!

On to the blog post...

A while back a bunch of people were talking about ARCs - Advanced Reader Copies - and I thought I would finally weigh in with my opinion. These are the books that are sent out to reviewers, friends, bookstores, etc., before the book is officially published in order to generate buzz. Generally they're paperback, all the ones I have are trade size, and they look like what the final product will look like (except in some cases when they change the cover design after printing the ARCs). These are promotional materials, printed up before the book is really finished so often times they might have small errors, typos, etc. A lot of them have stats on the back for how the publisher plans on promoting the book. These ARCs are not intended to be sold, to even hit the open market and some are even stamped to that effect in big letters on the cover.
Lots of these ARCs end up on the internet for sale anyway - you'll find tons on eBay.

There are lots of good reasons for people to be upset about this. First, it's an unfinished product - the ARC form is not the final form - what writer wants their drafts floating around on the open market? Second (and perhaps this should have been first) they're not supposed to be sold. Third, these are often sold for less than cover price and before the "real" book comes out, so people buy these instead of the "real" book thus causing the author to lose a sale (that sale will never be counted towards the authors numbers, nor with he or she get paid for it). Fourth, some people are concerned with false-advertising - that the purchaser won't know they're getting and ARC rather than the "real" thing. Fifth, in some instances the ARC purchaser can spoil a well-kept secret (I think I remember reading something about the main characters in JD Robb's In Death books having a baby and people were bidding outrageously on the ARCs to find out the sex and name or something).

However, I do think there can be some positives to ARC sales. For some readers, an ARC can be like a collector's item. If that reader is truly a fan, they'll likely buy the "real" book in addition to the ARC. Furthermore, if they're that big of a fan, they're the type to talk your book up to their friends -- they become little publicizing machines in your favor. To that end, I think I'll always hesitate condemning anyone who buys an ARC - you don't want to tic off a big fan like that! Even if they don't buy your book but only get the ARC, they're still likely to push your book on others who will buy the book -- some who might not have otherwise.

I guess for me it all comes down to the intent of the ARC buyer. If they respect the author, I think I'm OK with it. And to me respect means that they're not going to spoil the plot for others, they're not going to intentionally deprive the author of a sale (either by purchasing the book themselves or getting their friends to do so), and they recognize that they're buying an ARC, not the book. I'm not OK with people buying ARCs only because they're cheaper and faster with no regard to what they're doing to the author. So I guess it's pretty easy to see where I fall in the debate (though I'm always willing to change my opinion if convinced I'm wrong).

And yes, I've bought ARCs. In fact, I started thinking about this topic again because I just got an ARC in the mail. This is a book I didn't even know existed until I read about it on another author's blog about how he'd picked up a copy of BEA. As soon as I read what the book was about I NEEDED IT (it actually is very relevant to my WIP, but also just way too cool). It comes out in two weeks, but I couldn't wait. So I waited for it to pop up on eBay and paid cover price or more for it (more, actually, with shipping). I've already pre-ordered the "real" book -- I'm not about to let this author lose a sale because of my impatience.* And you better believe I'll be hocking this book to all my friends.

The only thing that gums me up a bit is the fact that someone is profiting from this sale. That someone got this ARC through BEA or is a reviewer or works in a bookstore and they just made some easy cash because of me. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Patricia Wood turned the ARC of her debut Lottery into a collector's item. She publicizes when ARCs go up on eBay and tells the buyer to send it to her and she'll autograph it. These ARCs have sold for WAY over cover price because of that. But again, only a BIG fan will buy above cover price - and those are readers you want.

So what are y'all's thoughts on ARCs? Ever bought them? Do you think I'm right? Wrong? A little of both?


* I always buy the "real" book even when I buy an ARC. And really, I've only bought a few ARCs.

1 comment:

Erica Ridley said...

Wow, that Patricia Wood trick is brilliant! Should I ever be so lucky as to have my books sell for big money on eBay, I would totally be all over that autographing idea. Brilliant!

Another great post, Carrie! =)