On Zoe’s Tale ARCs on eBay

Got an e-mail today from someone who saw that Zoe’s Tale ARCs are up on eBay, some of them signed (which means they came from my BEA signing last week), and was temped to buy one but wanted to know how I felt about it.

How I feel about it: Eh. If you just can’t wait to read the book, sure, go ahead, buy an ARC off eBay. No, I don’t make any money off them, and no, they’re not actually meant to be sold on eBay or anywhere else (says so right there on the cover). But whatever. This is not one of those things I think is worth getting foamy about.

If you do nab an ARC off eBay (or elsewhere), do me two favors. First, remember there are copyediting errors in the ARC (it’s taken from the first layout pass), so be forgiving. Second, if you do like the book, when it actually comes out, buy a real copy, either for yourself or for a friend you think would like the book. Athena’s college fund thanks you in advance.

My only other advice is not to pay a stupid amount for an ARCand especially don’t for signed ones. The release date is only a couple of months away, and as far as the signed copies go, honestly, if you’re the sort of person who would pay a silly amount of money for a signed ARC on eBay, you’re also the sort of person who might go to a convention I’m attending. So why not save some money now and just get me to sign a book at the convention? I go to conventions to sign books, you know. Alternately, wait for the signed limited edition, the high quality of which will justify the extra money you spend for it. Basically, don’t spend more than you have to, you know?

That’s my position on that stuff.

16 thoughts on “On Zoe’s Tale ARCs on eBay

  1. I can’t wait for your book to come out, I’ve already preordered it on Amazon and mentally created a space for it on my bookshelf…right between I am America(and so can you) and The Androids Dream.

  2. I hate hate hate people who do that. With a fiery burning passion hate. People who do that are just greedy creeps.
    Hell, I have one of those ARC’s. (As you know.) So does my Dad. I’m currently his favorite child. Won’t last.
    But I absolutely know that neither one of us would stick it on e-bay. And I, for one, will still be buying a copy of the hardcover. Because, go figure, I like the cleaned up versions just as much as I love the version that’s autographed to me with the editing bits they haven’t caught yet.

  3. For all of their policies and monitoring how is the sale even allowed – it is clearly not a salable item under the distribution agreement with the publisher.

  4. Well, ARCs show it fairly often, usually after the book in question is on the shelf. Some authors put theirs up as fund raising thing (Steven Brust).

    I wouldn’t worry about it. Its such a small thing.

  5. Doesn’t look too bad. Right now the top bid is $8.26 plus shipping and handling. Or $29.95 for the copy with “buy it now” as an option. (Sorry!!! I can’t help myself!!!)

    Personally, I’m gonna wait until August. I’m gonna need some good reading material during the two-week lull between my summer job and college!!!

  6. ‘…to perfect the “This ARC will self-destruct when you reach the end.”’

    Actually, at least in terms of DVDs, this sort of improvement has been done several times. All of which have failed miserably in the marketplace. At least Scalzi, and possibly whatever marketing team he is currently working with, seem to have some awareness of a bit of recent history.

    ‘For all of their policies and monitoring how is the sale even allowed – it is clearly not a salable item under the distribution agreement with the publisher.’

    Careful on that – restrictions on objects which are in your possession and which were legally acquired remain a dream which any number of companies are hoping to see re-instated. The United States is already there, to a major extent, in terms of software – Microsoft is legally entitled to sell a copy of their software on CD/DVD as part of a distribution agreement with a hardware manufacturer, which you are not legally entitled to resell. Of course, not all countries follow this logic – in Germany, a judge ruled, if you buy the software, you can resell it. It is in your legal right, since you have possession of the object, and it was legally acquired.

  7. re not_scottbot

    I agree with you about reselling commercially available products but we are not talking about those when it comes to an ARC. Advanced Review Copies are distributed free of charge for the purpose of publicity and review and are labeled as such.

  8. At Strand Books in NYC, there’s a room filled with galleys and arcs. $1.49 each.

    The truth of the matter is that most of these pre-publication copies are worthless, the exceptions are unusual: J. K. Rowling comes to mind. Check http://www.abebooks.com for some prices that are more than a recently used car.

    Anyway, most of the folks I know who do acquire them are crazed collectors, who will also purchase the 1st edition when published.

    When someone sends me a book – either galley or finished – it’s mine to pretty much do as I wish. Read, resell, use for target practice, etc.

    Galleys on eBay = tempest … teapot.

  9. bensdad00 –
    I have worked at a university book store, which sold both new and used textbooks. One of the unspoken rules of used textbooks was that the free copy professors often receive (yes, it is a sort of kickback system) should always be considered used, even when brand new, otherwise the publisher’s rep would get very, very annoyed. Some of the dumber reps were also very annoyed when a professor sold a book often stamped ‘Not for sale,’ but they knew that by the point we were selling it, it was too late, regardless of the fact they we were the one that bought it. If they were unaware of the legal framework, we would inform them of that not exactly minor point of law. Also known, in various guises, under the rubric of restraint of trade, as compared to the doctrine of first sale – which didn’t affect us as a bookstore.

    The smarter reps didn’t care – if a professor ordered 300 copies of a textbook because the professor could then turn around and make a quick 10-20 dollars (very early 80s), it wasn’t all that important – after all, the book only cost a couple of dollars to print and ship, but the order was worth $6000 to the publisher.

    There are a lot of such informal rules to what some occasionally consider a sort of back scratching, log rolling, one hand soaping the other form of low level favor dealing, politely denied by all involved in the process. (You don’t need a marketing team involved to know how that sort of thing plays out.) Maybe Scalzi would be happy to show how many review copies he gets, with ‘Review Copy’ and ‘Not for resale’ plastered over the book in as many ways as the publisher can come up with to discourage the reviewer from taking advantage of a minor revenue stream.

    In which the only legal threat to stop overt abuse is to stop sending review copies. Which, for example, when your name is Ebert on a mailing list getting review DVDs, is laughable.

    Not that certain industries aren’t working on overturning laws which ensure that what is legally acquired and in your possession is really yours, to do with as you absolutely please.

  10. In my mind, the question isn’t the issue of whether ARCs or other preview copies of work (CDs, DVDs, etc) are legally salable, but simply a matter of professional courtesy. The publishers/studios/etc ask us not to sell this stuff, and I think, fine, fair enough. The real implication is not to sell it before pub date; after pub date it becomes just another used copy (and an imperfect one at that).

    I nominally dislike people selling ARCs of my stuff because they’re imperfect copies, and because, yeah, prior to release date I think it’s a flaunting a code of courtesy. Frankly, if a bookseller is going to do anything with an ARC before pub date other than read it, I’d prefer they give it to a special customer or someone they think will appreciate the work, rather than sell it.

    Why I don’t get bent out of shape about it is a) small booksellers aren’t exactly rolling in dough and if selling my ARC help them eke by another month that’s all right by me, and b) at the end of the day I don’t really think it’s going to have a negative impact on my sales. I’d prefer they not sell the ARCs, but there’s lots of things I’d prefer happen in the world that won’t, and it’s not worth wasting brain cycles on most of any of them.

  11. As a bookseller, I thought I’d chime in here and say that, yes, I have occasionally given ARCs to customers (who are always chuffed as all hell to get them) and occasionally sold them to a neighboring used book store, but only months after the relevant release dates when our backroom shelf is overwhelmed with dross.

    Anything really interesting gets snapped up and read by the employees.

  12. I worked at a bookstore where ARCs were prizes for doing things well and bonuses at Christmas. (Promo CDs were limited to five a week— you can imagine the backlog they had. I got quite a lot of classical CDs that way.) They also were gifts to teachers on the educators’ weekend.

    I have quite a few, naturally. I only got rid of a couple that were just plain bad— but the wonderful thing is that most of the really good ones were history books, things I would never have otherwise found, let alone recommended. And I’ve been recommending them ever since, so I think the publishers got their money out of me.

    (On the subject of signed copies— why on earth do people get them signed just to sell? I don’t understand that.)

  13. Hey John,

    Don’t sell yourself short. People are paying big bucks for cornflakes in the shape of ET. If I had managed to get to a con and nab a signed ARC it would be something I’d pass down to my boy, if later in life, he chooses to read the same sort of stuff that I do. Who knows what can happen – after you are around a while and they teach college courses on your style – maybe he could turn around and sell it to put his kid through college. You never know . . .

  14. I actually am one of those crazed collectors and own signed firsts of all of Mr. Scalzi’s books, which I have bought from book dealers–local and online. Rationally, there’s no reason to prefer the first printing of a book over any other printing, but collectors regard them as the rare first instance of the work’s appearance in print. (Bound manuscripts are a whole other thing.) ARCs are somewhat controversial beasts among us book hunters. In a sense, the bound galleys or advance review copies are, after all, the rarest first print appearances of all. (I’m sure if there were such a thing as an ARC of, say, Huckleberry Finn, it would be worth a LOT of money.) In some instances ARCs do become valuable collector’s items–the Rowling example being a case in point. It’s all about supply and demand. For the most part, though, we are content to regard the first printing as the first real appearance of the work and apply all our collecting frenzy to that. In any event, an author could do worse than to have his stuff snapped up by crazed collectors.

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