Convening the Smart Bitch Court of Justice

Smart Bitchery member and fab author PC Cast wrote me the following rant, and I’d be a bad, bad bitch indeed if I didn’t pass it on verbatim to the rest of the world:

[S]everal of us (authors) are really getting pissed off at the horrid proliferation of the internet selling of our ARCs.  It’s come to a boil lately (and you can check out my last 2 postings on my blog to get the dirt) because we’ve (MJ Davidson, Susan Grant, Gena Showalter, moi) discovered copies of our Mysteria ARC for sale on fucking ebay.  Well this REALLY pisses us off because the goddamn copies are “like new no spine broken at all” which fucking means the fucking reviewers didn’t even bother to read the damn thing before they scurried out like cockroaches to sell their copy and make a damn buck.  (One copy went for $30 something the other went for $20 something.)  And we were only given limited ARCs for Mysteria, which we sent out at our own fucking expense to reviewers.  So I feel fucked twice up the ass with no lube. 

Okay, so here’s the point that we’re trying to get out there to readers: WHEN YOU BUY AN ARC YOU’RE RIPPING THE AUTHOR THE FUCK OFF.  Not only do we not get any damn money from it, but no review, no numbers increase, and the publisher has an expensive ARC printed that doesn’t do us shit for good.  Not to mention that legitimate, ethical reviewers and booksellers get fucked up the ass too when we (authors and publishers) run short on ARCs because unbeknownst to us we’re sending our limited supply to asstards!

Naturally I confronted the asshair sellers on ebay and got bullshit responses.  I’ve reported their listings to ebay, too, as unethical.  I mean PLEASE.  It says clearly across the cover ADVANCED REVIEW COPY NOT FOR SALE.  But ebay would sell its mom’s soul if it could turn a profit.  Luna is actually trying to track some of these sellers to stop up the reviewer/bookseller leaks.

Anyway.  It makes me mad.  So fans who lurve us pay big money to rip us off?  Okay, I can’t do math word problems, but this just doesn’t seem right.

Categorized:

News, Random Musings

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Jane says:

    I am sure that this puts me on the shit list of many authors, but I don’t think the law expressly precludes the sale of promotional items, regardless of how marked.  Just because the book says it’s not for resale means diddly.  You could stamp that on any book until the cows come home and it would never be enforceable.

    I think that publishers and authors need to have signed agreements with the reviewers whereby they consent to not selling promotional material without prior approval or written consent from the copyright holder, who is the publishder and not the author.  The author has sold its distribution rights to the publisher and the publisher owns the copyright to the ARC itself. 

    Certainly no first sale has occurred, but the question of resale (v. a republication) of a promotional item hasn’t often been found to be a violation. It might be ethically wrong but I don’t know that it is legally wrong.

  2. 2
    Jane says:

    One more thing – authors can sell arcs and have done so frequently on ebay. So if you want the money from ARC buyers, why not put the ARC up there.  I’ve seen LKH’s books sell for thousands.

  3. 3
    Kel says:

    I have never bought or sold an ARC. 

    But I hafta say- there can’t be THAT many of them out there that it would effect the authors’ numbers?  C’mon that’s why they’re going for so much money!

    Get over yourselves.

  4. 4
    bam says:

    Huh. I bought an ARC of an LKH book once at a USB for 3 bucks. I didn’t feel bad about ripping her off.

    ‘Cause she’s been ripping me off with her bullshit books for years! And yet I can’t stop reading her.

    But I’ve never bought or sold an ARC on Ebay, for the record.

  5. 5
    gigi says:

    I think these authors have every right to be upset.  Ebay seems to make a habit of allowing unethical vendor practices.

    Look at how ebay’s treated JK Rowling, who has lawyers and money aplenty to pursue her goals—among other things, she wants to protect fans from getting ripped off by all those vendors claiming to be selling real JK Rowling signed books/merchandise, when in fact they’re forgeries.  Ebay’s response has been basically to laugh in her face.

    I can’t fool myself that my decision *not* to buy anything at all from ebay will make any difference.  But at least I’m keeping their paws out of my wallet :roll:

  6. 6
    Cynthia says:

    As an author, I’ll weigh in and say that I think it sucks royal ass when reviewers go and sell off ARCs—especially ones that don’t even appear to have been opened.

    I know lots of folks think authors make tons of money but most of the time, writing novels is more like an expensive hobby than any kind of living. It often takes years of very hard work and many books out before an author will start to make enough money to get out of what the goverment considers the poverty bracket.

    It’s very typical to have earned maybe $300-7000 during a year on a book that took the author 6 months to write—then add in the money we spend out of our own pockets to promo the damn thing. Typically, advertizing on the internet sites and magazine ads costs around $100-200, sending out ARCs and books to contest winners around $100, and god forbid if we try to attend a conference or two. Going to Romantic Times alone will run an author about $1500 and that’s if she’s sharing a room.

    On top of all that, we still need to pay for our gas, electricity, and other bills, too. And our kids need to eat, too.

    Why do we continue to write if it takes forever (if even then) to make e decent living at being an author? It’s because we LOVE to write and for some of us, it’s almost a NEED to write.

    Yet, still, why should we stand aside and let others unfairly profit from our work?

    —Cynthia Williams

  7. 7
    Laura V says:

    I think there are two key points here (a) if the reviewer actually wrote a review and (b) if they’re selling the ARC prior to publication of the book/while it will affect the book’s sales figures.

    If reviewers take ARCs, don’t review them and then make a profit by selling them prior to publication, I can see why authors would be annoyed. I don’t think reviewers are legally obliged to review any ARC sent to them, but if they say they’ll write a review, they should write a review.

    If someone sells on an ARC long after the book has been published, I don’t think there’s a problem at all, because it’s being sold more as an artefact/curiosity item than as a book, or at least, it’s not any worse than a reader buying any other second-hand copy. If an ARC is sold prior to the book’s publication, the seller is taking advantage of the scarcity of the item and breaking the implicit agreement that ARCs are not for resale/should not affect sales of the published edition of the book, and that does seem unfair to the author, even if it isn’t illegal.

  8. 8
    emdee says:

    Selling an ARC is wrong.  It still amazes me that people pull crap like this.  If the positions were reserved and they were getting ripped off they’d be pissed too.  A convenient form of ethics..

  9. 9
    DianaW says:

    “So fans who lurve us pay big money to rip us off?”

    Well, actually, the fans aren’t. The only thing that really disturbs me about this rant is how it is turned into a diatribe against fans and readers. Reviewers selling them? Sure, that’s bad, unethical, and go after them. Cut off that source, plug those leaks.

    But to accuse the readers of ripping off an author for buying an ARC? Uh, no. The reviewer ripped off your shipping costs. The reader didn’t. And my math skills aren’t all that bad, but my familiarity with fan behaviour is even better.

    That ARC was never a part of your numbers.
    You were never going to get royalties from the ARC.
    You were going to get a review from that ARC.

    That reader (fan) is still going to give you some pretty damn good word-of-mouth publicity. That’s what fans who spend ridiculous amounts of money for ARCs do…that’s what fans who even look for a certain author’s ARC on ebay do.

    And if a reader spends $30 to get an ARC of a book, then you can bet your ass they’re going to buy the real thing when it comes out. A lot of people downloaded pirated versions of LOTR or SW:III before it came out, but you know they were still dressed up as freaking elves and Jedis, standing in line at midnight before opening day to see the movie.

    Are you pissed off at the sellers or the buyers? Give the fans a fucking break—they’re the ones who are going to buy the next book, and the next one…and you know they’re going to buy the current one, too. Real fans like pretty covers.

  10. 10
    Maili says:

    I don’t think it’s about money. Well, it does, in a way. As far as I can see:

    a) certain authors’ anxiety that if an ARC was sold on a such thing as Ebay, there might a chance that an early word gets passed around that this book is utterly shite, which might affect future sales;

    b) some authors might feel anxious that some readers are paying a lot for something that wasn’t bought in the first place;

    c) it’s, in a way, about ‘trust’ between publisher/author and bookseller/reviewer, so by selling an ARC way before it’s due to be released would piss authors/publishers off;

    and d) some authors are a bit irrational with this sort of thing because how is it different from them giving ARCs away and someone selling those ARCs? Money, of course.

    But while the seller gets the money, the book STILL has a chance of generating word of mouth, thanks to its buyer. How is it different from giving an ARC to a “fan” or whomever, not knowing that the “fan” will definitely spread the Word?

    How about when a bookseller or reviewer gives away their ARC to their friend? This still won’t give authors their money, reviews, and any numerical increase.

    What’s my point? I think authors should look at a different angle of this, e.g. a lot of, for instance, ebay buyers would notice the frenetic bidding for an ARC and they would be curious enough to investigate by getting their own copies. So to have someone selling an ARC is a small investment in return for the exposure – of one author’s name and book title on the ARC – to a bigger audience.

    FWIW, anyway.

  11. 11
    Lani says:

    ::: stepping quietly up to the mic :::

    Yes, it’s wrong. And whether it’s enforceable or not, it’s still illegal. If a copyright holder stamps “Not for resale” on anything, then it’s Not. For. Fucking. Resale. I think the lack of consent for resale is fairly crystal on that one.

    That said…

    ::: deep breath, because I know I’m about to get my ass handed to me :::

    … pick your battles. You’ll never win this one. What’s the average ARC run? Between 300-500, right? At least, that’s what I’m told it’s been for my books, so I’ll go with that. Of those, maybe 10 make it onto eBay. Am I going to get my blood pressure up over 10 assholes selling my books on eBay? Hell, no. I’ve got assholes cutting me off in traffic, assholes gouging me on gas prices, and assholes calling my phone number because it used to belong to someone who apparently has never paid a fucking bill, and no matter how many times I tell them the bitch doesn’t have this number anymore, they STILL keep calling.

    Sorry. What were we talking about?

    Oh, yes, it’s wrong. But no publisher is going to spend money to go after 10 assholes, and no author has the money to go after 10 assholes. And between all the ARCs being sold out there, it’s probably the same 10 assholes. So is it worth getting upset about? No. I mean, it’s the righteous thing to do, but it’s not the pragmatic thing to do. All the authors getting pissed off, you’re totally right. Not to be all, “Hey, let me bend over for you,” but it’s a fight that’s going nowhere and karma kicks ass for you when you’re not looking anyway. Those 10 assholes will get theirs eventually, I’m sure.

    So I just think maybe getting upset about it isn’t the healthiest option for the author, especially because we’re all broke and can’t afford the medical.

    And, um, that’s pretty much it.

  12. 12
    Lani says:

    Um… whoops. Can someone delete my double post? Please? ;) Love you forever…

  13. 13
    Lauren Dane says:

    It’s not about money for me (cause I’m not a huge author and we don’t make that much anyway)

    For me, it’s about a violation of trust. Because I don’t send you an ARC so you can profit. I don’t send reviewers an ARC so they can send it elsewhere before it’s published either.

    There’s a relationshhip between author/publisher and reviewer and I don’t think the application of ethics is too much to ask, nor is it something you should have to sign an agreement over.

    If something has – ADVANCED REVIEW COPY NOT FOR SALE written on the cover – is it a mystery that you’re not supposed to sell it? It’s not even something you have to impute – it’s spelled out in detail. And really, I don’t think it has to be “against the law” for a person to realize something is unethical and crappy.

    I don’t disrespect my readers, I love my readers and I’m not addressing readers in general or even the majority of reviewers who seem to be able to comport themselves with honestly and ethics.

  14. 14
    Candy says:

    Double-post deleted, Lani.

    Also, I’m with you: selling ARCs on eBay is a douchebag sort of a thing to do, but it’s probably healthier to let this go. Until the system changes, there’s not a whole lot you can do about this.

    Maili and DianaW have points, too: people who’d shell out bucks for an ARC are probably going to get the real thing once it comes out as long as it’s any good, and even then there are a lot of completists out there who’d get copies of EVERYTHING just so the collection will be complete, whether or not it sucks monkey ass. Casual readers probably aren’t the ones shelling out lots of cash for ARCs on eBay.

    I’m not disputing that it’s quite clearly illegal, and ethically it’s well in the grey zone as well, but I’d say that in the case of the fan who’s paying way too much money for an advance copy, it’s venial sin, know what I mean? (On the other hand, the assholes selling the ARCs in the first place deserve to be beaten soundly about the head and shoulders with ARCs of The Corrections.)

    I’ve bought ARCs before, but only long after the publication date, as a collector’s item sort of a thing. I bought an ARC of The Dream Hunter back in 1998, for example, and this was in addition to my legal-beagle copy of the same book. And personally, I’d never, ever sell an ARC, either before or publication date. I’m a bitch, but I’d like to think I’m not a douchebag.

    …and assholes calling my phone number because it used to belong to someone who apparently has never paid a fucking bill, and no matter how many times I tell them the bitch doesn’t have this number anymore, they STILL keep calling.

    You, too? That guy gets around. I swear, I get calls for this person a whole hell of a lot more often than actual calls for me.

    …which is probably a sad, sad reflection of my social life. *weeps*

  15. 15
    Cynthia says:

    I just want to jump back in real quick to say that I have no issue with fans buying ARCs.

    I love fans and I think every author I’ve ever met or conversed with does, too. I don’t give a shit how someone got my book and I appreciate every person who took the time to read my book.

    HOWEVER, I do have issues with the seller who is selling off an ARC or PDF copies of an author’s work. PDFs especially can be a rip off because it takes no effort to sell an electronic copy. You could sell hundreds. With that said, a line has to be drawn between what is and isn’t okay to sell and ARCs fall on the unethical side.

    —Cynthia Williams

    but I do have issues with folks who don’t even crack open the ARC

  16. 16
    Carla says:

    As a [now semi-retired] professional reviewer for many years, I have to agree with the author – if it’s an ARC marked NOT FOR SALE, it shouldn’t be sold. I’m one of the evil ones who has reported seeing ARC’s for sale on Amazon.com both to Amazon, and the author.

    I still have autographed ARC’s from eight years ago, when I got my start – I wouldn’t sell ‘em for love OR money – much to my husband’s dismay. “We could insulate the whole house with all the *cuss word* books you have.”

    I’m not a moralist, a prude, or even a perfect person on my best day, but I adore authors and appreciate what it takes to COMPLETE a whole book, never mind CONTRACT one!

    I did steal a pack of gum once, (I consider selling ARC’s the same as stealing. Just my opinion.), but my mother caught me and made me bring it back into the store. Directly to the manager. Embarrassed? Oh, yeah. Piffle.

  17. 17
    Tonda says:

    I guess I just can’t get myself that worked up about this . . .

    As a new author, I can’t image anyone would WANT my ARC, and if I make it to the rank of Best Seller, whose ARCs are collectable, then I’m HAPPY someone out there wants my ARC. If it makes them feel close to me, or like they’re MY BIGGEST FAN, fan-fucking-tastic. I’ll give up sixty-cents for the glow that brings the fan who buys the ARC.

    In fact, I’d probably use it as fodder for my website: Odd sightings and news. Check this out, someone is auctioning off an ARC of my upcoming book on ebay and the bids are up $35.56. Wow. For a book all of you can buy for just $6.99 next month! How fun to know that I have fans who just can’t wait.

    But that’s me.

  18. 18
    Lani says:

    Another quick point on the fans thing… they probably have no idea it’s even wrong. Those ARCs are put up, they’re on eBay, no one’s saying anything, it must be okay, right? I mean, they have no idea about the politics of publishing. They just know they want a good yarn, and they want yours. NOW. So god bless ‘em. I don’t think the fans carry any bad karma in this, whatsoever. And if they love the book and give it good word-of-mouth – which, if they’re shelling out $35 cold for it, they probably will – then there’s bonus there for us, too.

    Again, not saying it’s not wrong, just saying it might not be worth the aggravation to worry about it.

  19. 19
    Beth says:

    Eh – it’s a dick move. But it seems like the number of ARCs that are sold when they “shouldn’t” be is a rather miniscule hit to take, financially, and makes up for itself many times over in word-of-mouth sales. I’m sorta with Kel on this one: get over yourselves.

    But then – it’s also a dick move, and I’m totally here with a you-go-girl attitude and a potty-mouth vocab in hand for any ranting that is solely based on The Principle Of The Thing (as opposed to the piffling finances of the thing). Backstabbing bastiches.

  20. 20
    Susan says:

    This rant from these authors have really turned me off from buying their book (and I have purchased ALL of PC Cast’s previous releases).  Frankly, they should be excited that someone is willing to pay some big $$$ for their arc.  What is the purpose of the ARC? To generate a positive review for the upcoming book thus word of mouth and hopefully that will translate to sales at the bookstore.  If the problem is that no review is forthcoming, well maybe the review wasn’t positive.  I know plenty of sites that will only post GLOWING reviews of books (that upon reading was mediocre at best!).

  21. 21
    Susan says:

    Also about the cracking open the book—how do you know it wasn’t read?  My books look brand new after I finish reading them.  I don’t crack the spine or wrinkle the pages but that is the way I treat my books!

    As for the arcs—we get plenty donated to our library booksales thus they go for 50 cents per book.

  22. 22
    Keishon says:

    I’m more put off with the rant rather than the issue of selling the ARC’s.

  23. 23
    bam says:

    I agree with Keishon. It was the rant that kind of annoyed me.

    If my favorite author had written a book that hadn’t been released yet and its ARC was available somewhere for some cash, I’d totally jump on it. Not that I ever have any cash.

    I should think that it’s the ultimate compliment to the author that some geek like me would pay top dollar for their stuff.

    So fans who lurve us pay big money to rip us off?

    That’s not cool, dude. It makes it sound like it’s we the readers are the ones at fault that some unethical doofus are selling ARCs on Ebay.

    I’m just sayin’.

  24. 24
    Sara Donati says:

    First: the copyright on my published work? Mine. Not the publisher’s. See the little copyright symbol, it’s got the author’s name next to it.

    Second: ARCs are UNCORRECT proofs. Sent out early and unfinished in the hope of reviews coming in just when the book is published. Reviewers (real ones) understand this. Readers usually don’t.

    Third: What really pisses me off about this is that the reviewer has no accountability. They can read the ARC or not, write a review or not, publish it anonymously and do a hatchet job if they so please—and to top it all off, they sell the damn thing BEFORE it’s published. This really is adding insult to injury.

    Fourth: You can do something about it (today I found six ARCs of my new novel, the one that’s coming out next month, on ebay, and I sent them six complaints asking for the ARCs to be pulled until after the pub date).

    Fifth: No matter what you do, in the end you can’t win.

  25. 25
    JoAnn says:

    Hi All,

    I am newbie here as I often lurk, and don’t respond. I love coming over and having a good laugh which you ladies give me weekly.

    I wanted to say that I think the worst thing about what is happening is that the “good” reviewers are getting a bad rap. Not all of us actually run out and sell them with or without reading them. (Plus I know several who if you put a crease in the spine you are committing book abuse.) I love mine and collect them all faithfully. I think it is an honor to get an actual ARC.

    Also as a review website owner I can say that if I ever found out about one of our reviewers selling ARC’s anywhere there would be action taken. I do hope they can track them down somehow at least for some retribution.

  26. 26
    Jane says:

    1.  The distribution right of the ARC is the publishers.  You authors sell that to the publishers in exchange for advances and royalties.  The publisher has the right to determine the method of distribution. Maybe the contract says differently but that’s my understanding.  Authors own the copyright of the work but have given up the right of publication and distribution for the ones published.  You can’t print up books of your own and sell them.  Authors can’t even use characters from one series in another series for a different publisher because they don’t own the rights to those characters.

    2.  Who cares if they are uncorrected proofs?  Are you telling us readers that there are huge, significant changes between the ARC and the final version so that if a reader doesn’t like the ARC she will like the final version?

    3.  The reviewer owes the author nothing.  NOTHING.  Is the author paying for the review?  Is the reviewer somehow indebted to the author?  How does the reviewer owe anything to the author?  WHy the sense of outraged entitlement?

    4.  How is the sale of ARCs truly hurting an author?  Can some author point out where the sales declined because someone bought an ARC off ebay? 

    5.  Readers do not owe authors anything either.  We do not have to read the books.  We do not have to buy the books.  We can choose to engage in swaps, buy from UBS, or lend them from the library.  We are not responsible for feeding anyone’s children, sending them to college or in anyway supporting an author unless we so desire.  Jaysus, as Kel, said, get over yourselves.  Worry more about your plot and characterization rather than some reviewer not reading your book and making $50 bucks off of it. 

    I give away free stuff in my job that allows others to make a buck at my benefit.  I figure its the price of doing business and that those people might just be happy enough to come back to me.  Maybe that’s something authors should think about.

  27. 27
    Sara Donati says:

    Jane, you said:

    “Authors can’t even use characters from one series in another series for a different publisher because they don’t own the rights to those characters.”

    Not true. My characters are mine, and I can take them anywhere. Where did you get this idea?

    Beyond that, I don’t think you and I have much to talk about. If you want me to get over myself, you might consider doing the same.

  28. 28
    SB Sarah says:

    1. I think part of the major suck factor, from a reviewer’s perspective, is that someone got a free copy for review and possibly turned around to profit from it, without reading and/or reviewing it. Man, that’s insulting. I know each and every person who send me an ARC is expecting me to read and review the book because I said I would. And I do. Sell it? That’s dishonest at the least and asshattish at the most.

    2. Given how competitive the market for publishing contracts is, that it’s partly based on sales figures and past history, and how much a first month or first week’s sale can affect future numbers, to see ARCs out before the book is published can potentially throw a wrench in the possible post-pub-date purchase stats.

    3. I don’t know how I’d feel if I were an author, but, given that it’s eBay and they have a miserable track record for pulling down listings and users that are fraudulent and unethical, I don’t know if there’s anything that can be done about the practice anyway.

  29. 29
    Jane says:

    to see ARCs out before the book is published can potentially throw a wrench in the possible post-pub-date purchase stats.

    How, though?  Wouldn’t the bad review (assuming that the reviewer sells it because he or she has no interest in reading it) be worse for post pub date ##s?  Or is the “any publicity is better than no publicity” the argument here? Because I truly don’t see the negative impact to an author in terms of book sales, but if someone can make a convincing argument, I could be swayed.  For the record, I have never received any review copies and if I did, I wouldn’t sell them. But I am not going to harangue a reader for buying them.

  30. 30
    Shaunee says:

    “The reviewer owes the author nothing.  NOTHING.  Is the author paying for the review?  Is the reviewer somehow indebted to the author?  How does the reviewer owe anything to the author?  WHy the sense of outraged entitlement?”

    From a business standpoint (I’m a marketer in the biz for 10 years) the reviewer made a good faith arrangement with the publisher, i.e. the author.  At the very least, a review should have been submitted.  A REVIEW.  ANY REVIEW.  SOMETHING THAT RESEMBLED THE IMPLIED PROMISE MADE BY THE REVIEWER.

    The auctioning of the ARC is quite outside the purview of any implication of the initial deal.

    If she planed never to review the ARC or to sell it on Ebay then she should called herself a thief or a seller, but NOT a reviewer.

    And that’s all I have to say about that.

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