Monday, December 05, 2005

The ARC 'problem'

An ARC, in case you're wondering, is an Advance Reading Copy. When publishers are about to issue a book which they intend to make into a really big seller, they often put out a special pre-publication version, in paperback. This is usually labelled as an ARC and carries a Not For Sale tag on it somewhere. It's distributed to booksellers, newspaper reviewers, and even the occasional blogger.

And now, guess what. British publishers are getting really pissed off because some wicked people are actually selling these things on ebay, or dropping them into their corner shop which sells secondhand paperbacks. And It's Not Good Enough. Honest and decent chaps would not do such a thing. The on-sellers are robbing hard-working publishers of a proper sale. And all like that. Galleycat has the full story.

Well, yawn, the publishers seem to me to be missing the point. As usual. The whole point of issuing ARCs is to get the book known. I've very rarely had any myself, but I'm reading one at the moment. And when I've finished it, what then? Is it best for the book to sit on my shelf for five years, after which I dump it? As it happens, I couldn't be bothered to sell it, either on ebay or to my local shop. But I might very well give it to the local charity shop or the church jumble sale. And isn't that better? One more person might get to hear about the author, might talk about it, might buy a proper copy for a friend, and so forth.

Talk about fuzzy thinking.


Anonymous said...

Just to mention that Laurie R. King was also blogging about ARCs from the author's point of view, but reaches a different conclusion.

Brenda Coulter said...

I have blogged again and again that authors (and publishers) who are so terrified of missing a bit of money here and there might do well to consider the advantages of increasing readership rather than scrabbling for pennies. Why does everyone seem to take such a short view of this?

I love seeing my book on eBay because that means people are learning my name. And I didn't mind when I found used copies available at the very week my first book was released, either.

Go ahead and share it! Pass it around! Talk about it! Surely all of that buzzing will boost the sales of my next book--and then the cycle will begin again.

Virtually none of my romance-writing sisters agree with this position. So maybe I'm just nuts....

Katharine Weber said...

I don't agree. When ARCs of my next novel start showing up for sale within days of their going out to reviewers, it means that certain reviewers are not reading my novel at all, but are just cashing in on the free stuff that comes their way. This is a pointless waste. ARCs actually cost the publisher more money per copy than finished books do, and they exist for a very specific purpose. Publishers need to consider numbering the ARCs they send out as a way of keeping track of miscreants who sell them instantly with no intention of considering for review.

There is indeed value in building readership, though I think we quickly reach the point of no return with this logic, but do consider also that ARCs are uncorrected. This is not how I want my readers to read my novels.