Real Talk: ARC of the Coveted9:00:00 AM
(get it? Like "Ark of the Covenant"? Yeah, I'll tone it down with the puns...)
As many book bloggers know, the past couple of months have hosted the Mecca of book events; Book Expo America (more widely known as the acronym BEA) and BookCon, among a handful of other smaller events such as BNBuzz. At events such as these, it is my understanding that bloggers, librarians, and average readers alike have the opportunity to walk the exhibit hall floor and go booth to booth acquiring Advanced Readers Copies (ARCs) of many a highly anticipated release. Correct? If not, please feel free to let me know in the comments below.
But as such, many a debate has been sparked over the validity and worthiness of these galley drops that occur and whether they are really going into the hands of eager readers, or just the ones who have something to personally gain from it. As is the case every year at events that give highly coveted (and sometimes rare) ARCs out with little or no guarantee that these readers will be going to good homes. It's all based on a system of honor and honesty. And if you were on the bookish side of Twitter in recent weeks, you certainly may have seen the wildfire of tweets and debates that included screenshots of an eBay user selling ARCs they had received from BEA for anything from $15 to $150, or the bloggers who got upwards of six or seven copies of the same book just to host giveaways.
Let's break things down: an advanced readers copy is a marketing tool. Publishers spend a lot of money to have them produced -- they're made in smaller batches than the mass produced finished copies, and as such are often more expensive to manufacture. The publishers then send these copies to bloggers, booktubers, other authors, and prominent people in the book community -- for FREE, with the publishers paying everything from production to shipping -- in order to gain traction and attention for the book. The more buzz about it leading up to the publication date, the better sales will be. As such, it's often a milestone for a blogger to be approved for their first ARC. It's one thing to get them at events (I got my first promo ARC at YALLFest, Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, barely a month into my newly established blog. Penguin Teen sponsored the red carpet preview event and as such put together goodie bags for attendees.) but it's something else entirely to be recognized by a publisher, deeming your blog worthy of receiving an ARC to review. It wasn't until a good 6 or so months of blogging that I was approved for my first eARC, Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor (eARCs are often much easier to get approved for and acquire as they are nowhere near as expensive to create as physical ones) and about 8 or 9 months total of blogging before I was approved for my first physical ARC, Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco. My point here is that even though I received around five ARCs at YALLFest a month into blogging, they were distributed on a basis of marketing and promotion. When you take an arc and try to sell it, not only is that illegal, but you are personally monetizing somebody else’s work for your own gain. And that’s just not fair.
Thankfully, ARC selling is something that only happens infrequently and is a market that more and more bloggers are learning not to partake in. It still doesn’t excuse the fact that an author slaved for months, maybe even years, over their keyboard and notebook to bring their story to life. As a writer myself, I know how every piece of writing I put out into the world holds a little piece of myself within it. It’s comparable to baring your soul to the world and trusting with open arms that it will be received fairly and with respect. It’s the countless pitch letters written to publishers until finally, finally one saw the spark of promise within that author’s work and decided to put it to print. It’s the team of editors that read over the story and sent it back to the author to revise. It’s the team of agents and publicists attaching their name to this work and promoting it to the world. It’s the beta readers who have been with the author since day one, offering advice and edits for the price of little or nothing and offering their time. It’s not just the author you hurt when you sell an ARC, it’s all the people who ever believed in this story and wanted it to succeed. When an ARC is sold, that devalues the piece and makes it so that one less person will buy a finished copy. And I know there’s a difference between buying (or trading, as I myself will often do) ARCs of books that are already published for collector’s purposes and buying an ARC just because you want the book sooner. Hopefully you all know that difference, too.
In the end, this all comes down to integrity. If you find yourself waiting in line to grab a copy of a highly anticipated release, please do it justice by upholding the integrity of the trust the publisher has placed in you. Read the copy and review it, good or bad or otherwise. I know we don’t always have the time to read and review every single ARC we get our hands on, but the effort means more than you would think. Respect the team of people behind this book; it’s somebody else’s dream your holding in your hands. You’ve become part of that process of bringing that dream to life, so respect that. Most of all, if you come into a position where you have multiple copies, maybe consider sharing it with a friend as part of an ARC tour or hosting a small giveaway; don’t just grab another copy because you can and because you want to host a giveaway in order to gain more followers.
All I’m saying is try and remember these points when you can and keep doing what you do for the right reasons. That way, our little bookish community can keep on doing what we love to do, and keep sharing what we love with others.