Give a Bitch Your Opinion

We’ve talked about ARCs for sale on eBay, and the proper things to do with an ARC- used book store donation, charity donation, elderly home donation. Now I have a question, and I’m honestly asking. I’m not trying to be a smart ass. So feel free to tell me, “Oh you are so so misguided, you Smart Bitch, you.”

I have a good number of ARCs ranging in publishing date from December 2006 through April 2007, and while I am reading them and making notes for review, I can’t possibly keep them all. I’d need to build an addition on the house. For the record, books sent to me by an author specifically are not part of what I’m proposing.

My synagogue hosts an annual charity auction of donated goods to raise money for synagogue activities. The charity auction is hosted online (not at eBay but at a similar site that hosts nothing but charity auctions) and is available through April, with a big event on May 5 where the goods from the online auction are delivered, and there’s also a live auction and party to celebrate that oh-so-Jewish holiday, Cinco de Mayo. As a Spanish-speaking Jew, I’m all about this party.

My question is as follows: is it inappropriate for me to take the ARCs of books that, by the time of the auction, will already have been published, put them in a basket with a beach towel, some sunscreen, and a water bottle, and auction it off as a “Summer Beach Reading Basket?” Or would that be too close to “selling the ARC,” despite the proceeds going to a 501(c)3 not-for-profit?

I’m curious what you think – and what other altruistic ways we could redirect ARC copies for maximum benefit.


Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Invisigoth says:

    Good question.  I know the authors who posted here were upset that the individual was personally profiting from the sale of the ARC. 

    Since this is a charitable event, I would think it would be alright.  But then I’m not a published author and it’s not my work in question.

    I’m interested in following the comments in this topic.

  2. 2
    Lani says:

    The ARC thing, seriously, is such an overblown issue. I can totally see how, when someone sells an ARC on eBay for significant money, especially if it’s an ARC that the author paid to have bound herself, it can chafe. And it is technically illegal. I’ve made my arguments before about ARC sales in general and how they’re wrong but simply not worth all the knicker-twisting, but in this specific case, Sarah, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. No one’s going to come out after you and you’re giving them away to charity and it’s after the books have been released and if they were my books, you’d have my blessing a thousand times over. Hell, if they were my books, you’d have my blessing before the release. I’d rather the book get into new hands than be thrown away. But that’s just me.

    In all honesty, I think it’s a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over a relatively small issue. But good on you for asking. You’re not just a smart bitch, but a considerate one at that. Big love to you, punkin.

  3. 3
    Walt says:

    The more popular the author, the less need for the ARCs and the more collectible they are as a rare item.  If Britney Spears wrote a book and the ARC of that in front of me was once used to wedge lil’ TaterTot all snug in his car seat, I suppose I could get a hefty price on Ebay… Ink on Paper to me, but to someone else it has value for more than what’s on the page. 

    ARC sales in place of a legit copy of the book, putting it in the same category of competing against the actual book also available is pretty weak in a moral sense.  The reason here is that at some point, that ARC was a gift, and someone declared that gift had value by attempting to resell it. 

    Again, it’s a sin that the seller is involved in, but I think the bigger sin is the buyer.  For the buyer knows that the ARC is not intended to be sold.  It’s promotional, and not intended to be commercial. 

    Good Used Book Stores don’t traffic in ARCs for commercial resale—again, the exception being the occasional collectible ARC. 

    I know an author who found out third hand that one of her Harlequin series romances was used as the 2nd place prize in a very popular contest.  5,000 copies of that book were given away (no royalties on “promotional” copies, natch)  After the contest was over, the forum of a VERY popular sweepstakes website was used to trade unwanted winnings, and sure enough, that particular book was used as a commercial “coin” for a while, as people who didn’t want that Harlequin romance wanted to barter it away for items they did want (such as Coca-Cola awarded music downloads).  Not specifically the ARC argument, but financially it’s pretty close. 

    Technically, it’s promotion, and with promotion, the author isn’t making diddly.

  4. 4
    Nora Roberts says:

    When it’s for charity—AND the book’s already published, I don’t see anything wrong with it. In fact, I think it’s a very good idea. It does exactly what an ARC is meant to do—promotes the author—and doesn’t cut into sales. Added, it benefits a good cause.

    Jewish Cinco de Mayo doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

  5. 5
    Lani says:

    I’d argue against the sin for the buyer. What do buyers know from ARCs? Hell, I wouldn’t know if I wasn’t in this industry. And Used Book Stores shouldn’t use ARCs, but it’s definitely not the buyer’s fault. The seller is the one who knows what s/he’s doing is wrong. Says right on the ARC in their hot little hands – not for resale. The buyer is not at fault at all.

  6. 6
    JulieT says:

    When it comes to grey areas of copyright and income and the like, I take the approach of ‘would I be bothered by ____?’ In the case of raising money for charity with the sale of already-published books, I’d be PLEASED with the idea of using anything I’ve written to raise money for a good cause. (Granted, the money I make is from freelance articles, not novels, but still. Income is income.)

    IMHO, any author who WOULD have a problem with it needs a reality check and a smack in the head.

    And, heck, Nora says it’s okay. LOL

  7. 7
    fiveandfour says:

    I think the elements of it being after the book has been published (with no change to the work between the ARC and the published book) and a not-for-profit gesture make this an ok idea. 

    I’m not sure what I’d think if one or either of those elements were different.  Though I’ve been the consumer in a similar situation and was probably A Very Bad Girl that time.  What I mean is, a band had some tapes stolen of a work in progress.  The final product went on to be one of their very best CDs.  Later on, those mid-progress versions of the songs became available on the internet and I’ll admit to having a listen.  My argument to myself was that it didn’t take any profit away from the band and a long time had passed between the CD’s release and the internet free-for-all, so by then it was an interesting study in the creative process.  In that case I think the band could argue about diminished image or something, but with an ARC I don’t think there is any change to the work between the ARC and the final published book so that issue doesn’t apply.

    I guess my point is that, from the side of the consumer, if you really, really want something like this that you don’t necessarily have any right to have, you’re probably going to talk yourself into doing something that gives your conscience a wiggle.  I don’t know if this makes the person who profits financially or the person who profits by getting what they want but don’t necessarily deserve the better/worse in these situations.

    But that’s all tangential to this particular scenario…I think I’m just trying to clear my conscience ;-).

  8. 8
    dl says:

    Not an author, but leaning towards too much panties in a twist.  Everyone in business to provide a service participates in promotions/advertising…in some way, shape, or form.  It’s in the annual budget AND tax deductable. Our small family business has a small yellow pages ad in three local phone books, the cost is probably comparable to ARC distribution.  And that doesn’t include internet advertising, or other advertising in which we choose to participate.

    So, if ARC’s were t-shirts would authors be so pissy?  (Although I hear Barry Bonds whines if promotion stuff he donates is resold at a profit.) Do authors have a preferred method of approved disposal of used ARC’s, and is it printed on the cover like the Not For Resale comment?  Wouldn’t this whole issue would be better resolved with their publisher, and don’t they address ARC’s in their contract?  I’m just askin’ here.

    Sounds like a worthwhile cause Sarah, I really want to party at Jewish Cinco de Mayo!

  9. 9
    Robin says:

    And it is technically illegal.

    FWIW, I asked me Intellectual Property professor about this whole situation (it may or may not matter to anyone that he’s a prominent scholar/practicing lawyer teaching at a top tier law school), and he was honestly baffled by the hubbub over this situation.  His understanding is that a) the first sale doctrine protects sales of ARCs even on eBay by those who receive them, b) that as long as they are given as promotional gifts and not given with limited use provisions they are not governed by contract, and c) he asked, very seriously, why authors care about this issue.

    Now I understand why authors care, but the more I learn about copyright law, the more I understand why from the perspective of an IP lawyer the question is earnest.

  10. 10
    Wendy says:

    My feeling is that until publishers see this as an “issue” the sale of ARCs will continue unabated.  If the publishers feel they aren’t losing money on the deal, they aren’t going to bother.  They got bigger fish to fry.

    Personally I do one of the following with ARCs:

    1) Throw them away – but usually I have to find the book totally horrible and unreadable to do this.  In recent memory I’ve thrown away 2 ARCs…..

    2) Give them away to other readers.  This is what I do with the bulk of them.

    3) Leave them in the break room at work.  Working for a very large library system, we get ARCs all the time.  After my department is done with them (collection development) we put them in the break room for the other staff to read.  After a few months, what is left gets tossed in the trash.

    I think giving them away for a charitable cause is a good idea.  Honestly, I think most readers (those that don’t review, aren’t in publishing etc.) get kind of a kick out of seeing ARCs.  I know I do, and I’ve been reading ARCs for close to 8 years now.  The charm just hasn’t worn off yet ;)

  11. 11

    I’m ok with it as an author as long as the book has already been published and is for sale, and because the proceeds are going to charity.

    Your Jewish calendar must be broken, Sarah.  On mine the holiday shown on the night of May 5 is Lag B’Omer.  Hmmm…build the traditional bonfires, shoot bows and arrows and drink tequila?  I think you might be on to something here.[g]

  12. 12
    HS Kinn says:

    Personally, if it were my ARC, I would be happy to see it used for charitable purposes.

  13. 13
    Ann Aguirre says:

    I’d be okay with it for charity.

  14. 14
    Stephanie says:

    I’d have no problem if it were my book, given the circumstances outlined by Sarah.
    Besides, Natalie, my protagonist, is Jewish, and I feel she would strongly approve of anything supporting Jewish Cinco de Mayo. Oy! Fiesta!

  15. 15
    BevQB says:

    I absolutely see nothing wrong with it.

    Authors auction off pre-release ARCs on ebay for charities all the time and get outrageously big bucks for them.

    If the books have already been released and you personally are not profitting, what could possibly be wrong with it- both morally and legally?

  16. 16


    I see nothing wrong with giving the books away for charity.  I’d planned to give my store’s cache of ARCs to the local cancer ward when we were closing, but in the end it just didn’t happen.

    If you’re interested in sending the ARCs anywhere else, my friend’s brother-in-law’s troop just had their stay in Iraq extended another three months.  This was after they were told they would be going home in a week and most of them had sent stuff home.  They are desperate for books of any kind.  I’m putting together a box of stuff that I’ve bought or received through my blog.  If you’re interested, please let me know.

  17. 17
    --E says:

    JulieT said: In the case of raising money for charity with the sale of already-published books, I’d be PLEASED with the idea of using anything I’ve written to raise money for a good cause.

    —>In the case of certain charities, I’d be pleased, too, or at least neutral. In the case of certain other charities, I’d be pissed off, in a “geez, I hope no one thinks I support those bozos!” way. But I would accept that as the risk of being a (slightly) public person. As hard as I wish it, I can’t simultaneously control 7 billion people.

    Perhaps it’s because part of my job is to make the damn things (BGs and ARCs), but I can’t see getting in a froth about this. It’s like the Great Online Books debate: empirical evidence suggests it doesn’t cut into an author’s earnings, and may in fact help. (Google “Baen Free Library” for that story.)

    Would/could a publisher sue someone for resale of an ARC? I think they would have a hell of a time winning, even with the prominent “not for sale” tag. An ARC/BG is a gift, and a person can do whatever the hell they want with a gift, up to and including selling it; or at least that would be the argument put forth by the defense attorneys. Publishers don’t sue ARC/BG resellers because they don’t actually want a court ruling on this. If they can keep Ebay and other online book resellers cowed by non-litigious means, then they win without risk.

    Oish, didn’t mean to go off on a rant.

    Ask me sometime about coworkers I used to have who would take random hardcovers that were lying about the office (sample copies we get from the printers) and bring them to local bookstores and return them. No, I do not endorse such actions; that’s clear-cut fraud, IMO.

    wordver: “money37”  Ah, the synchronicity! It burns!

  18. 18
    JulieLeto says:

    I think your idea is a good one.  I’d rather my ARCs go to a reader who wants it and the money go to charity.  I do object to reviewers selling them, but not to donating them to a worthy cause.

  19. 19

    Sarah, I’d be delighted to know that one of my ARCs was going to such a worthy cause. Raffle away!!!!

  20. 20
    nina armstrong says:

    In the science fiction convention world, this is done all the time-it surprises me that it’s such a big deal in the romance world. I say go for it.

  21. 21
    Keziah Hill says:

    I box up any books I don’t want including the occasional ARC and take them off to a mate who has regular book sales in her front yard as a fund raiser for East Timor. I get rid of the books I don’t want and money goes to women and children in struggling Timor Leste. And part of me is gleeful that all the politically correct folk in my neck of the woods have to go through some trashy romance on their way to something more “uplifting”. I haven’t heard that the romances don’t sell.

  22. 22
    Megan Hart says:

    Since this is the first time in my career I’ve even HAD arcs to worry about…well, I’d say I think donating them to charity is a fine idea. I’d personally be okay with them raising money for charity.


  23. 23
    RandomRanter says:

    Since I myself am the proud owner of ARCs purchased from a charity auction (and the basket was donated by the author of said ARCs) – I will go with the consensus here.  I was going to suggest that you could also just give them to me, but then BC had to go have a more altruistic alternative.

  24. 24
    dl says:

    Total envy here, am I the only one not receiving ARC’s?  Eeek, how does one get on that list?

  25. 25
    December says:

    IMO, totally appropriate. Once the book is published, the ARC becomes another used copy. Donating them to charity is a wonderful thing to do.

  26. 26
    CM says:

    Totally legit.  And I second the person who bafflingly thinks that it’s illegal to sell ARCs.  Nothing in the copyright statute prevents you from selling ARCs.  And unless you made a contract when you received it, there’s no other obligation that is foisted upon you by receipt of an ARC.

  27. 27
    CM says:

    Oh, bad word order.  Should be:  “I second the person who thinks it’s baffling that ARC sales are illegal.”  Oiks.

  28. 28
    Amy E says:

    No!  It’s wrong!  It’s horrible and evil and you will go to HELLLLLLLLL if you do this…

    Okay, not really.  I agree with everyone else.  Go for it—benefiting charity is very rarely a wrong move.

  29. 29

    I’m not sure the question is right/wrong.  Why would the “winner” want an unproofed, boring-looking ARC when they could have the actual edited book, complete with nice shiny cover and copy edits?  I think if I was the winner I’d feel a bit cheated.  My two pesos.

  30. 30
    Walt says:

    correcting my earlier post, on promotional books such as the 5,000 for a contest, the author does get paid, but at the lowest possible royalty rate. 

    The only panache someone might have with an ARC is the thought that the ARC passed through the author’s hands. 

    The ARCs that mid-list authors get are often sent out to reviewers and lucky fans at the cost of the author.  She does pay a few dollars each to send out those ARCs, the same way she’ll send out her author copies as a way of promotion. 
    The difference of course is the low rent cover of the ARC which probably reminds the publisher they’re not making a dime every time that book changes hands. 

    My favorite used book store doesn’t trade in ARCs. I don’t know if that policy is one based in legal or moral reasons.

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