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.
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.”