A cordial invitation

Hello droogs,
So this is a weird one to write, because it seems to be a sensitive issue for some folks, and lately, the map of the blogger/reader/author world is pocked with spaces marked “HERE BE DRAGONS”. I don’t really like telling people what not to do, and this post is kinda That. But I feel like something needs to be said, so excuse me while I pull on my ranty-panties and gird my loins and into the breach, like so much loin-girded ranty-panties-clad beef, leap.
If you were to head over to eBay and type in the word “Illuminae”, you’ll find a bunch of Advanced Reader Copies for sale over there. This is probably true of almost every ARC that was up for grabs at BEA/Bookcon recently. It will be true again after ALA. It’s sad to say, but there is a certain breed of person who heads to these book fairs, takes the ARCs that publishers are giving away for free, and despite the fact that they’re clearly marked on their oh so shiny covers as NOT FOR SALE, then go off and sell them. Some people call these folks “entrepreneurs”. Some folks call them “thieves”. What you call them depends what side of the fence you’re sitting on. I do hereby cordially invite you to my side of the fence.
We have cake.
Nommy nommy ragecake.
Now Pretty Please with Sugar and Possibly a Scantily-clad Person of the Gender You Prefer on top understand – the idea that there’s a market for ARCs fills most authors with a big old terminal case of the warm fuzzies. We LOVE the thought that our new series is in demand. We LOVE that you guys are so excited about cracking the spine (nooooo, not the spinnnnnne) of our latest book that if you’re forced to wait until the release date you will simply OMGEXPLOOODE. I grew up in the second most isolated capital city in the world – good bands never came there, nothing interesting ever went on there, so I understand the frustration of never having the opportunity to go to these big book fairs or lay hands on an ARC through legitimate means. Authors really, truly, deeply appreciate it when people are excited about our books and talk about them on social media and feel that if they can’t read them right now, they will simply fucking dieeeeeeeee. Love. Love. Lurrrrve.
Supporting these ARC sellers and buying an Advanced Reader Copy of ILLUMINAE (or indeed, any other book) is a kinda dodgy thing to do. And when I say “kinda” I mean “scientifically proven”, and when I say “kinda dodgy”, I actually mean “more than a little shitty”.
5 simple reasons, because hey, who doesn’t like lists.
1. It shafts my publishers. Because my publishers spent money to make these ARCs. Indeed, my publishers spent an extraordinary amount of money producing what might very well be the most awesomest ARCs in the history of ARCage. And they do this to get pre-publication buzz about the book happening, by ensuring these ARCs get into the hands of booksellers, bloggers, reps, media people, librarians and other awesome folks. And while you could say “Hey Jay, I’m a blogger, if I buy an ARC and blog about how awesomesauce it is, isn’t that good for your publishers?” I could reply “Yes, absolutely. But the truth is, not every ARC that gets snaffled by these ARC sellers makes it into the hands of a blogger, and if they weren’t being snaffled by people who only intend to sell them, they COULD have gone to a blogger/rep/librarian who went home disappointed because all the copies at the bookfair were yoinked by ARC sellers before they got there”.
Hey that rhymes.
There’s also the principle of the thing. Like, NOT FOR SALE is printed right there on the cover, people. Presumably folks who buy ARCs can read, given they have, you know, words and stuff in them. It’s as if my publisher puts up a sign that says KEEP OFF THE GRASS, and not only do folks ignore it, they set up a lemonade stand on said grass and charge passers by 5 bits a gulp.
2. It shafts other bloggers. Because by buying from these ARC sellers, you perpetuate the existence of an ARC black market. If everyone simply refused to pay these ARC sellers money, the practice of selling ARCs would fizzle. But, because the market exists, people exist to serve it, taking those ARCs away from genuine bloggers, librarians and fans who otherwise would have got their grabbymitts on them. Furthermore, when publishers and authors see how the ARC system is consistently abused, they become reluctant to print ARCs in future. Suddenly, you see the rise of ARS (Advanced Reading Samples) instead of complete books. You see very limited ARC runs being produced because hey “people are only going to sell them on eBay”, which means ARCs are even harder for legitimate bloggers to get. You see publishers who simply refuse to print advanced copies at all. Worst of all, you see an increase in the ever-growing antagonism between content creators and consumers, because sitting back and watching someone pay exorbitant amounts for something that was supposed to be given away for free makes me and a lot of other author folks want to repeatedly stab someone in the eyes with blunted pencils.
3. It shafts bookstores. Because there is already a place where you can buy a copy of my new book if you can’t get your hands on an ARC, and that place is called a bookstore. Yes, you might have to wait a couple of extra months, but in doing so, you support a bookstore by making them money, which call me kooky, call me crazy, is a kinda awesome thing to be doing. Bookstores do wonderful things like employ people (who then go on to, you know, feed their families and stuff), and foster communities and recommend great titles to you based on your past purchases and give you a place to go and be and belong. And they are hurting. They’re hurting from eBook sales. They’re hurting from book piracy. They’re hurting from a shitty economy. And yes, they’re hurting from ARC sellers.
“But Jay, it’s only a couple of bucks, I only bought one ARC what’s the difference?” you say. And I reply “A couple of bucks adds up, because it’s not just you who is supporting the ARC black market. Talk to a small business owner about the difference even a couple of bucks can make on a bad day. And at the end of the story, who would you rather support – the person who employs other people (who then go on to, you know, feed their families and stuff) and fosters communities and recommends great titles to you based on your past purchases and gives you a place to go and be and belong, or the fucking shitjizzles who are hocking books they have no right to sell in the first place?”
4. You shaft yourself. Because almighty cthulhu, I love you people, but an incomplete, unpolished and error-laden copy of ILLUMINAE isn’t worth paying 70 American dollars for. Repeat: I love you people. But damn.
5. You shaft me. Because my publishers paid me (and Amie) money to acquire ILLUMINAE. They expect to make money when it gets published. And for every copy that gets paid for through channels where my publishers don’t see a cent, they make less money. And that means they’re less inclined to pay me (and Amie) money for our next series. And “Hey, boo fucking hoo Mr big time author, dry your eyes on all those fat checks you cash” you might say. To which I say “This gig is my livelihood. I pay my mortgage with this money. I feed my family. I keep my heat and lights on. And you’re already paying money supporting these ARC thieves anyway, so why is it a huge ask that you support the person(s) who actually, you know, wrote it, and the publishers who took a chance on it, instead of the arsepony who stole it and then sold it on fucking eBay?”
ARC sellers are doing the wrong thing. It says so right there on the cover of the ARC. Supporting them, you’re giving them your permission, your encouragement, and your hard-earned money.
They deserve NONE of these things.
Okay, ranty-panties off. Thank you to all the bloggers and librarians saying lovely things about ILLUMINAE so far. We’re very humbled and pleased you’re enjoying it. We love you guys. ๐Ÿ™‚
Big scary hugs.

22 Responses to โ€œA cordial invitationโ€

  1. Josh dV says:

    Thanks again for the insight into the world you authors live in. I am quite obviously out of loop as I did not know this was a thing. I had not even seen that there were ARCs for Illuminae.
    After having won an ARC for Kinslayer and feeling oh so special I would probably kill for any of your future ARCs (Illuminae, NeverNight)….but you know something small like a spider.

  2. BarakiEl says:

    Wow, I really hate when people make money off other people’s work! I didn’t know what ARCs were before I read your blogs on them. Thanks for making us aware of this issue. I’ll definitely make sure that when I do spend money on Illuminae it will go to you and the publishers, and not some thief. Can’t you notify eBay of the illegal activity going on?

    • You can notify the Bay, but by the time they action anything, the auction is usually finished. So it’s a bit of a wash. Ebay customer support is set up so they don’t have to actually do much of anything ๐Ÿ˜›

  3. Josh dV says:

    Reblogged this on itsnotintothinking and commented:
    More behind the scenes insights from one of my favorite authors.

  4. Sellings ARCs on eBay is something that pisses me off to no END!! I went to BEA, I grabbed and ARC of Illuminae, I’ve read it and I’ve LOVED IT TO THE NEXT GALAXY AND BACK, and you know what? I have the book preordered!! What am I gonna do with my ARC copy, pass it along to another blogger who also has it preordered and it’s dying to read it early and she lives in Italy and doesn’t have access to physical ARCs.
    Selling ARCs is crappy and greedy and it takes away people’s jobs!! I do hope karma hits them hard on their greedy awful arses!!

  5. Lisa Garner says:

    Wow. I didn’t know ARC sellers were a thing either. Personally, I wouldn’t ever buy them anyway, for the same reason I’ve never tried to get an ARC at all. I like my pretty, shiny finished copy to go on my shelf with all the other pretty, shiny copies.
    Sorry that people are taking advantage of you and other authors like that. Is there no way to prosecute, or slap them with a cease & desist order? They are selling your intellectual property without your permission for profit. That’s theft, yeah?

    • Yeah it’s theft, but it’s petty so there’s no real avenue for prosecution. Authorities have better things to do that bust someone for stealing a couple of bucks.
      If change is gonna happen, it needs to come from the book buying community. Simple economics. If we stop supporting these ARC sellers, they’ll simply dry up and blow away.

  6. I’m looking forward to reading my ARC of Illuminae and adding it to my library. I ended up getting one late at BEA and was thrilled. Beautiful book.

  7. michelletw says:

    I love ARCs and even if they don’t have the final cover I love that they are limited and special.
    I think if I was to pay for one I would want to pay for the final book because an ARC you bought off ebay isn’t the same as one you were special enough to earn on your own.
    And I agree, acquiring ARCs simply to sell them and profit is the pits.

  8. Totally agree with everything you said!!! It makes me sick that these people are giving bloggers a bad name!!!! I just received my copy of Illuminae and I felt completely honored to be chosen to review your amazing book!!!! Authors deserve respect!!!!

  9. Just shared this with my Bookcon App Friends! We were discussing this when someone right after BEA ended and bookcon was going on up put a ton of ARC’s on eBay.
    I treat ARC as a gift not a way to make a profit.

  10. Reblogged this on Elizabeth M. Henry and commented:
    If you have ever thought about selling or buying an ARC online you should read this

  11. This is one of the best post I’ve seen about this topic, thanks for making it! And I really can’t wait for Illuminae to come out!

  12. melissa says:

    Isn’t it illegal to sell arcs? and can’t w . Complain to eBay so they can pull the persons product out. This sucks and I will not support them I’ll wait for the release and wait for the possible chance to meet these great authors

    • Yeah it’s illegal, but the scale of it make it not worth prosecuting, and eBay customer service is the pits. Basically if change is going to happen, it needs to come from the book buying public simply not supporting these sellers anymore.

  13. sionedkla says:

    I have never understood the selling of ARCs, you know that whole NOT FOR SALE written boldly on the cover should be a clue, but you will always have that group of people who don’t give a flying rat’s ass as long as they get theirs (whatever that may be). Another area close to this one is the selling of signed copies of books that are given to bloggers. Now, the way I understand, these types of books are given to bloggers to help promote an author’s work OR as a gift to the blogger (these are the ones that are usually personalized with specific names). Perhaps I am wrong in assuming (yes I run the risk of making an ass of myself) that these are not meant to be sold either. I’ll stop my mini rant there.
    In the end, everyone gets screwed really–and not in the fun way. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • lol, indeed. The NOT FOR SALE sign printed ont he cover should be a giveaway, but like you say, sadly some people just don’t care. The only way we’ll stamp it out is by not supporting these ARC sellers in the first place.

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