Sorry, That Bookstore’s Not for Me; They’re Selling ARCs

So, there’s good news and bad news from a town nearish me.

The good news is–and I found this out via one of those 50 whatevers in 50 states lists on the internet–that there’s a new bookstore.

The bad news is… I couldn’t go in. I can’t go in. I won’t go in. I certainly can’t actually… spend money there.

They’re selling ARCs.

For those of you who don’t know–and maybe that’s a pretty small crowd around here–an Advance Review Copy is a copy of a book sent out before publication to reviewers and booksellers to get the buzz going. You’re likely to see them as prizes on the internet, where they get thousands of people to sign up for a drawing for three books. That kind of thing.

The whole point is to get it into the hands of people who make recommendations, and into the public consciousness.

The Author does not get paid for that copy of the book.

And I happen to believe that the author–you know, the human who’s maybe going to make the next book–should get paid. The more I like the book, the more I think the author should get paid, which is why you’ll occasionally find me bouncing up and down on your chest asking whether you bought my favorite book, yet.

So, when I got to the bookstore (note the lowercase, there.) I found a sign out front that said “We DON’T think Authors should Get Paid.”

“We DON’T pay our Authors.”

The exact wording was “Buy one BOOK, get an ARC for FREE.” One of those easel boards you find on sidewalks.

BOGO? Sounds more like a sleazy discount sale than a giveaway. And what do you wanna bet those ARCs are in “new” condition, meaning that the very people who are supposed to be reading them–Booksellers--aren’t. It sure as hell isn’t giving the ARCs to charity. Now, that’s tippy-toeing pretty close to the line. Or, you know… pole vaulting over it, if the goal is to PAY YOUR AUTHORS.

Now, apart from the fact that people like me are going to keep walking, when they see a sign like that, there are a few other people who will be pissed off.

You know.

The Authors, for one. If you’re a Bookstore, you’ll want to be on good terms with the Authors so they’ll come and do signings and events. Probably not going to manage that with a big sign that says “We Don’t Pay You.”

The Publishers… Because they don’t get paid for ARC’s either. And there aren’t all that many of them. Ever wonder what happens to a bookstore when the Publishers stop sending it books to sell? It becomes an Empty Shelf-Space Store. Yup. That can happen. And risking it for a BOGO sale?

Bookstores aren’t selling discount sports equipment. They aren’t an in-and-out proposition, the way getting your tires rotated or your oil change is. They’re a community, and tendrils of an intellectual culture that need to be nurtured.

The people who shop in Bookstores–your customers–work to build that community, and that culture. They invest in their Bookstores in time and money, and in a devotion that not many businesses ever see.

And they expect you to invest in that culture, and that community, too.

Selling ARCs is leeching off that culture. Taking without giving.

You’re saying “Here… I stole this from your friend. Now give me your loyalty.”

9 thoughts on “Sorry, That Bookstore’s Not for Me; They’re Selling ARCs

  1. Juneta says:

    Something like that should sueable. I know it probably is not since ARC’s are given away, but that is just outright stealing and promoting stealing.

    We might as well say bookstore owners don’t deserve to get paid. It is the same thing. They should give their books away for free.

    It is kind of a morally bankrupt principle and theme.

    Just WOW;

  2. Wow, it’s bad enough to do t hat kind of thing, but to advertise that you’re doing it. I don’t think the person running this store studied business.

    • Karen says:

      I’m positive she didn’t. The newspaper article about the place lists a couple workshops as her primary qualification for running a bookstore. I’m cringing at the thought.

  3. I’m always amazed that people who would never steal so much as a handkerchief, expect to get music and literature for nothing. Our creative product is our living as surely as a chair or a dress is for the one who makes it.

  4. dSavannah says:

    I’d like to present another side of this issue, if I may.

    First, a local, *independent* bookstore in my area engages in this practice, and yes, advertises it. I have to believe that the publishers – and authors, for that matter – are well aware of it, because the bookstore has hosted such luminary authors as Neil Gaiman and John Scalzi (off the top of my head), along with many other best-sellers. For, you know, book signings and readings and the like. Where the author sells books and merchandise and meets their fans and generates good will for themselves and their work.

    And trust me, this is one of the most nurturing bookstores around.

    Second, the bookstore likely receives far more ARCs than their staff could possibly read in a lifetime. I’m sure the staff reads as much as they absolutely can so they are able to speak intelligently about a book and author to a customer.

    Third, an ARC does *not*, I repeat, does *not* take money away from an author or publisher. Publishers create ARCs for a very specific reason: to generate buzz and reviews for the book prior to publication, in order to generate sales once the book is launched. They know printing an ARC is part of the “cost of doing business”.

    Without pre-publication reviews, the book is far more likely to ‘fail’ in its sales goals. Authors often live and die by their reviews, good or bad. Without those reviews, they are likely to sell nothing and thus NOT get paid.

    ARCs are used for more than just the occasional giveaway you mention – they are provided to professional reviewers at publications (who also likely receive more copies than they can possibly read in a lifetime), as well as to ‘amateur’ reviewers, like myself – I am a member of the Amazon Vine program, a specially selected group chosen based on their reviews and helpful votes. ARCs are also given to book bloggers and other influencers – people who indeed make recommendations and get the book into the public consciousness (to quote you).

    The author gets paid for that copy of the ARC by having someone write a review of their book. That’s right: I’m given a free copy of a book in return for an unbiased review. A review that I might not have written otherwise, because I might not have gotten a copy of the book.

    And please note: I have personally reviewed 130 ARCs, some of which went on to become best sellers, and I often then went on to purchase more books by the author(s). Reading a book and then writing a review takes a lot of my time, and a lot of my effort, and a lot of thinking of the best way to word my review – all so that possible readers can make an informed decision on whether or not they want to purchase that book.

    Fourth, what do you think the bookstore should do with the ARCs they receive? Throw them in the dumpster? If they donate them to the library (which is an accepted practice), the library simply sells them in their ‘friends of the library’ book sale, which according to your logic, is stealing money from the author, when in fact, it is raising much-needed funds for the library, which never has enough resources. Same thing with donating an ARC to a charity.

    In addition, in my eight years of a Vine reviewer, I have not had one single publisher ask me to return an ARC. Some I’ve kept (and asked the author for their autograph), some I’ve donated to the library or a charity, some I’ve donated to Little Free Libraries…In doing so, I’m not stealing from the author – I’m giving someone else a chance to discover them, and if the reader likes them, they’ll buy more of their work.

    Fifth, giving away an ARC with the purchase of another book is a great marketing tactic for an independent bookstore. It keeps people from simply snapping up ARCs for nothing, and making the ARC free with a purchase actually creates a purchase and financially supports the bookstore and allows it to stay open. How many bookstores have closed in recent years due to lack of sales? This is one way that helps them stay open, and provides a venue – and a community – for authors to do book signings and sell their new works.

    And what happens to a bookstore when people stop buying books in person, regardless of the store’s inventory? Why, they close, of course!

    Giving away the ARC is also a great marketing tactic for the reader. I have often come across authors that were new to me through this practice – and I then turned around and wrote reviews and, when I could, purchased more of the author’s work. I’ve also often spread the word about their book(s) on social media and on my blog.

    Finally, for some people who have limited funds – like myself, who has become disabled and unable to work for the past three years – being able to purchase a used book from a bookstore at a reduced price (which the author never sees a penny of, by the way; they made their money on the original sale; do you also consider that stealing?), and then being able to also get a free book, well, it helps my mental state. As in, makes it better. Makes me happy. And again, I support the author every way I can, and purchase their book(s) when I am able.

    In my very considered opinion, a bookstore giving away an ARC with purchase is NOT selling the ARC or leeching off the author. There is a big difference. The bookstores is simply using the resources they have on hand to stay in business and support the authors. And readers. And truly create a community.

    • Karen says:

      Please do! Make yourself at home. You know I’m always happy to have your opinion.

      • dSavannah says:

        For the record, I *abso-freaking-lutely* believe writers – and editors, and cover designers, book designers, graphic designers, artists, photographers, musicians, and all other creatives – should be paid for their work. It irritates the heck out of me that people will spend umpteems on a cup of coffee or sports memorabilia, and balk at spending a comparatively paltry sum on a book. Or when they complain about spending $10/month on a streaming music service.

        So, I totally agree with your point about not stealing from authors. Totally.

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