ARC’s Who’s Profitting From the Sale of Them?

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ARC’s Who’s Profitting From the Sale of Them?
By Inez Daylong

 At any given time there is in excess of 900 ARC’s (Advanced Readers Copies) of books for sale on Ebay. Why is this a problem? First and foremost, ARC’s are unfinished, uncorrected works that are sent to reviewers for the sole purpose of critiquing an upcoming book. The publishers send them out sometimes months in advance. The feedback from the reviewers may be used for promotion, publicity and to obtain the quotes found in the finished book. ARCs are expensive to make, and, most importantly, they are not for sale—at least legally.

Who is selling them and why? The answer to the second part of this question is simple: it’s profitable to sell ARCs because some readers simply don’t want to wait until the release date of a book, and they are willing to pay not to have to wait.

The ‘who’ part of the question is not as simple. Many of the web sites of major book sellers allow the second hand market to have free rein consigning the ARC’s for sale. There are even a number of book sellers that advertise a specialty in ARC sales.

Since profiteering on these books is unethical and irresponsible, why are the aforementioned web sites allowing them to be sold? They even allow that in the description that “Not For Sale” on the cover is a desired feature. Part of the solution is to deal with these outlets. How that is accomplished may be in the hands of the publishing companies.

When reviewers receive a copy of a book and review it, ideally, they hold onto it until well after the book is released and then donate it to a nursing home, senior center, and other charitable organizations that would have clientele who would enjoy it. Unfortunately, that is not always what happens—on either end. Reviewers sometimes sell them; the recipient of the honest reviewers’ generosity may place them for sale.

Publishers, because of the losses they have endured, have initiated a crackdown, starting with the with the reviewer sources. As a result, many of these magazines and sites have made a policy of dismissing a reviewer if they find that they are selling the ARC’s. While this is an appropriate response, it is but a tip of the iceburg.

Is the answer to the problem in who is selling them, or in who is allowing them to be sold?

At the time of this writing, ebay lists 909 ARC’s for sale with prices that range into the hundreds of dollars. It is not going to be an easy task to get the sellers to take a loss on that sort of profit. It is true that not all sales reach that level of profit, but when one considers that the ARC cost the seller nothing, it is all clear profit.

What might be the solution? There are many and there are few. Authors sometimes inadvertently contribute to the problem by offering signed ARC’s as contest prizes to readers. While this is a great gift to some readers, to some it is a chance to profit with a signed copy, which is, of course, more desirable. Copies that are Flat Signed (signed directly on the page, rather than a bookplate) are even more valuable.

There is a seller on ebay on the verge of making the 10,000 mark in feedback sales. If ebay refused to sell ARC’s based on the ethical considerations, this seller and many more would not have as strong an outlet to sell them. This also goes for the book sellers who allow the consignment of them. Ebay refuses to sell many other things based upon these same ethical considerations. Why would it be difficult to add ARC’s to the list? They clearly state “Not For Sale.”

Harper/Collins tried numbering their ARC’s to be able to track who might be selling them. This attempt backfired; instead of discouraging the resale, the numbered copies were more desirable to collectors. All of the major publishers as well as the smaller ones have this issue, and all of them will state the same thing to you: It is unacceptable to sell the ARC’s that are sent for review.

The repercussions of these sales to the reviewers and authors are huge. Publishers are now printing less of the ARC’s in an effort to keep the sales of down. The result is that many reviewers do not receive them to review and this causes less publicity for the author to get his/her book sold. People tend not to buy a published book in a bookstore if they already have the ARC. This is, in essence, theft from the authors and publishers.

In addition with the reviewers posting fewer reviews, the economics of their business also takes a pretty hard hit. The basic cost of putting this magazine that you are reading out on an issue basis is in the thousands of dollars. We pay for that largely by advertising dollars; subscriptions really only cover the cost of getting the magazine to the reader. If a publishing company or an author does not receive the full benefits of our services, in our case, reviews and circulation, they are unlikely to advertise with us. The result is that magazines such as this one and websites similar to what we do suffer, and in turn, the reader suffers, sometimes the same reader who is buying the ARC.

Nothing that can be done to make these ARC’s less appealing to collectors. The only clear path is to make it less appealing to sellers and to the venues that make it possible for them to profit from these sales.