Monday, April 09, 2007

Where is your ARC?

I just got back from a wonderful trip to San Francisco, a city I had never been to and will hopefully return to soon. Like most tourists, we hit up Alcatraz and Fisherman's Wharf, took long hikes, drove across the Golden Gate bridge, etc. But with every new city I go to, unlike most tourists, I check out the mystery bookstore. This one was a quaint storefront connected to a house where, I assumed, the owners lived. Perusing the shelves, I happened upon a whole wall dedicated to advanced reading copies, all adorning the labels "uncorrected proofs" and "not to be sold". I asked how much the ARCs were going for and the counter person told me that they were all ten dollars. Guess they ignored the labels.

It is my understanding that authors (or their publicists) send ARCs to bookstores so the owners can read them and hopefully recommend them to customers, not to make a profit. The author receives no compensation for the sales of ARCs. My initial reaction was frustration. Authors slave away for a year writing the book, they send out ARCs to put their names out there and hopefully generate sales, but instead of reading the books, this bookseller just places them on a shelf to generate revenue for themselves. I have expressed this frustration in a previous post regarding used books; authors should be compensated for their work.

But then another thought came to mind. The point of these advanced copies is to put your name out there. You send them to critics to get reviews and to booksellers for customer recommendations. So even though you don't receive royalties for the ARCs sold, you could potentially gain readership and therefore ensure future sales. But perhaps this is being optimistic.

My girlfriend is into book collecting. Okay, she has become an addict of book collecting. She seeks out first editions, rare printings, anything she thinks "could be worth something someday". To her, the ARCs are an investment, and she seriously considered purchasing an ARC of The Blade Itself (even though she already has three first edition, first printings) because she thinks it will gain in value. When she buys a rare first edition online or from a book dealer, the author doesn't receive compensation from that sale either, so does the same go for ARCs? Because they're rare, do they cross over into the realm of collector's item?

Call me a stickler or a goody goody, but I feel like if something says "not to be sold" I don't think it should be sold. Why should someone make a profit off of my work without giving me a cut? But I'd like to put it out there for the published authors (or non-published if you have an opinion). How do you feel when you see your ARCs on Ebay or being sold at local bookstores? Does it help build readership? Is it good publicity? Or is it just someone trying to make a buck off of your hard work?

1 comment:

Adrian Magson said...

Hi, Dana. As an occasional profiler of debut authors, I receive some ARCs, but would never dream of selling them. They're not my property. Like you say, they're sent out to perform a function, not line someone's pockets. However, donning my other hat as a published crime writer, I'm in a dilemma. Quite simply, the more copies out there the better. If they can't be seen, they can't be read. And if a reader locks into my series through purchasing an ARC, I'm hardly going to know - or argue. The biggest danger, however, from a trade in ARCs, is that publishers might become selective about where they send them, which doesn't do any of us much good.
Frankly, I'm more concerned by the appearance a few months ago of one of my (signed) copies on eBay. What if it was put there by my parents?