Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Reviewer Sells Review Copies on Her Site

There is usually a great hue and cry raised about review copy sales. One reviewer is taking an in-your-face point of view and sells them direct from her site. I’ve got some highly prized ARCs sitting in my curio cabinet. How much does anyone want to give me for Creation in Death?

MJ Rose blogged about it and got only 1 comment. It must be a dead issue. No, I am not selling the ARCs. I throw them away! Shocking, isn’t it.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. jmc
    May 29, 2007 @ 16:15:41

    I’d give you my firstborn child for an advance copy of Creation in Death.

    Except, wait, I don’t have any kids, let alone a firstborn. Never mind ;)

  2. Jane
    May 29, 2007 @ 16:22:09

    As a parent of a very incalcitrant three year old, that offer isn’t terribly appealing.

  3. Angie
    May 29, 2007 @ 16:33:11

    I’ll take your three old until she turns 18 for the ARC. Surely Brianna would enjoy her as a playmate. *sob* I didn’t need to know you had that. Do you know how many copies of Naked in Death I’ve bought and given away out of sheer fangirl love. *sigh* I’ll still respect you in the morning, but it’s a near miss.

    As for selling the ARCs? I think it’s pretty appalling. Not only do I not sell mine, but I buy a copy of every book I’m given an ARC of. I understand reviewers get quite a few more than I do, but I still think it shows a distinct lack of respect for the author and publisher. But sometimes I get the feeling it’s not about the author and the publisher, the industry isn’t about them, so who cares, right?

  4. Karen Scott
    May 29, 2007 @ 16:52:08

    Jane, I have no babies, to give you, but how about one kidney, and a lung?

  5. Robin
    May 29, 2007 @ 16:53:42

    Is she selling them after the street date? If so, what’s the difference between selling them online and taking them all down to The Strand and selling to them? Except no hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. In your face? I guess with ARC sales just admitting to it is in your face, since so much of it seems to happen in secret shame (like the woods in which Pearl Prynne-Dimmsdale is conceived?).

  6. Emily
    May 29, 2007 @ 17:03:11

    Profiting financially from review copies is absolutely inappropriate IMHO, in all settings and at all times. I keep those I want to and angst over the fate of the rest which I general give away to people who might take an interest in the authors work. I also give some to a local shelter, charity book sale or Goodwill.

  7. Anne
    May 29, 2007 @ 18:16:50

    I’ll be your servant for a year for Creation In Death. God, I can’t wait! Selling ARCs is just WRONG

  8. BevL(QB)
    May 29, 2007 @ 19:03:12

    I agree that selling ARCs for profit just smells sour. I do, however, support the selling of ARCs for the benefit of NPOs. I’ve seen authors doing this either directly or as part of a basket for another author’s charity.

    If there isn’t one already, wouldn’t it be great to have an organization that accepts donated ARCs that it then auctions off for various charities?

  9. Emily
    May 29, 2007 @ 20:11:53

    That is a *great* idea.

  10. Shiloh Walker
    May 30, 2007 @ 20:02:16

    This is one of the reasons I don’t like messing with ARCs much. I have serious issues with somebody who didn’t do any work on my book profitting from it. It’s not the same as reselling a book they purchased, which I have no issue with. They get them for free-to review-and every ARC I’ve seen does say not for resale-whoever receives them ought to respect that.

    Granted, my ARCs going to sell for a firstborn or a kidney, but it’s just the general principle. Some of those sell for mega bucks and a reviewer doesn’t pay for them, has nothing personal invested in them other than the review. She/He has no right to profit off of them. My two cents on it, but I don’t have time this week to join in on any frays over it.

    BTW, congrats on the RA site, Ja(y)nes and all other involved…. looks wunnerful!

  11. Robin
    May 31, 2007 @ 01:32:14

    I have serious issues with somebody who didn't do any work on my book profitting from it. It's not the same as reselling a book they purchased, which I have no issue with.

    So does this mean that a reader who was gifted a book for Christmas or her birthday (not an ARC, but a final on sale book), shouldn’t sell that copy, either? What about if said reader wins the book from a blog site or publisher or author’s site/blog? After all, no general reader who re-sells a book has any labor investment in writing or publishing that book.

    A reviewer, on the other hand, is expending his or her own labor in reviewing an author’s book, and publishers and authors hope that labor will yield higher sales for the author. So in that sense, wouldn’t the reviewer’s “right” (and it seems to me that this issue distills down to a moral level — a perceived moral obligation to the author — for some) to re-sell be even greater than just a plain old reader? At least the reviewer is a direct participant in the marketing cycle and is engaged in activity that increases a book’s visibility to prospective readers.

  12. Shiloh Walker
    May 31, 2007 @ 06:20:41

    So does this mean that a reader who was gifted a book for Christmas or her birthday (not an ARC, but a final on sale book), shouldn't sell that copy, either?

    Robin, it doesn’t mean that at all. I think I was pretty clear~my issues are with reviewers who sell ARCs. And it doesn’t matter to me if the reviewer if a direct participant in the marketing cycle. They are aware they shouldn’t sell the ARC. Doing otherwise is plain and simply wrong.

    I get early reads from friends all the time and I talk about them quite often. I’ve gotten ARCs of all of Ward;s BDB books early and since I talk about them, does that mean I’m increasing the visibility of them? I know I’ve turned a couple of people onto them. So that means I’m adding the visibility as well. But that does mean I have the right to turn around and make money off of her hard work? No. It doesn’t mean that at all.

    People shouldn’t expect to make a profit off the hard work of others. It’s that simple. Is that a naive view of things? No. I don’t think it is. Idealistic perhaps, but it’s not naive.

  13. Emily
    May 31, 2007 @ 08:41:30

    The implicit contract is that you want the book to review it. Profiting financially from the book itself muddies the the water because it is equivalent to charging authors for reviews. A reviewer should avoid even the appearance of that.

    If there was an author/publisher-endorsed charity for ARCs and review copies I would be more than happy to post off my post-reviewed books.

  14. Jane
    May 31, 2007 @ 08:48:26

    Having been the recipient of arcs now for going on 8 months, I can safely say that many books are sent with the “HOPE” of being reviewed but probably with no expectation of being review. When I first started receiving arcs, I felt like I did have to read and review everyone and then the situation became impossible. A good friend of mine who has received arcs for years (10 or more) said that publishers send those out in hopes that one book or two will catch your attention.

    Some reviewers will provide only positive reviews, meaning if they don’t like a book then they won’t review it. So I don’t think that there is any implied contract (which is legally enforceable).

    I certainly feel no obligation to the publisher to review a book. What I do feel is that I want to continue receiving ARCs and don’t want to ruin those relationships that I have developed for the sake of a few dollars, but that is a personal decision not based on any obligatory feeling toward the author or the publisher.

    On a side note, the daughter was way cute these past couple of days so I think I’ll be keeping her. But I may take Anne up on slave duties. I haven’t cleaned my house for a while.

  15. Emily
    May 31, 2007 @ 11:17:45

    Not a *legal* contract, no–I mean more like they send th book hoping you will review it, not as a gift you can resell. The ones I don’t review I would be even less likely to sell, that would be a real something for nothing ;)

  16. Robin
    May 31, 2007 @ 11:42:15

    People shouldn't expect to make a profit off the hard work of others.

    IMO this is both the core and the error in arguments against ARC sales. Core because it reflects the idea that someone who sells an ARC is taking something away from the author and in error because the legal right at issue here is that of distribution (which is part of copyright, but not the “copying” part), which most often is properly held by the publisher, not the author (and I guess I should make it clear now that I don’t sell either books or ARCs, so this is not a self-defense).

    If you strip all the emotional entanglements away from this issue, what do you have left? There is a very, very strong argument that ARC sales are protected legally under both the First Sale doctrine and the “gift” aspect of ARC distribution. There is also the sale of used books, which, it seems to me, would fall exactly into this category of profiting off the work of another if that is the real issue here. In neither case is an author making royalties off a book, and in some cases, used books sell for WAY over their cover price (which is even more interesting when expensive first edition compete with cheaper re-issues). So is it really only that “not for sale” tag that marks the difference here for authors? Or is it the anti free-riding impulse, which is a strong social presumption that one shouldn’t be able to take a free ride on anyone else’s name? In fact, the presumption is so strong that it often leads trademark holders to claim infringement where others are legally and legitimately using a mark (e.g. for advertising or parody purposes).

    But the thing about free-riding is this: we all do it at various times. How do you think a publisher markets all those light Regencies or the first hundred vampire Romances after whatever book made the trend popular? Authors 2 – X behind the first author to start a trend are free-riding off Author 1’s work, too, but that’s not seen as a bad thing (except maybe to Author 1, who might feel her work is being used to sell the books of others). Think back to the discussion about Juno/paranormal romance here some months ago: that discussion was all about free-riding and the question of whether a publisher should/could capitalize off of Romance reader expectations regarding the category “paranormal romance.”

    Look, I totally understand why authors object to ARC sales and why they feel a proprietary interest over their writing and their books, regardless of whether they have a legal right per se in certain things. But I think we should just call this for what IMO it is: a case of good old fashioned moral outrage. This discussion quickly becomes steeped in moral language, from issues of “right” and “wrong,” to accusations that ARC sellers “don’t care” about authors, to suggestions that it’s okay to give an ARC to an NPO (because, I suppose, it’s the profit that bugs people, not the distribution of the ARC beyond the reviewer/reader). If you strip it down, though, how is an ARC seller profiting off an author’s work? No matter what, the author will make no money off of that ARC, except indirectly through a review, and even, perhaps, through the sale of the ARC itself, especially if the book is purchased by a collector who is obsessed enough to buy a ridiculously expensive ARC — IMO that’s the reader who’s also more likely to buy the book itself, in hardback, at full price, several times over. How is selling an ARC any different than selling a used book, PURELY from the perspective of profit?

    IMO this most often boils down to a sense of moral right and wrong — and even more to the idea that readers have a moral obligation to authors. But the thing about morality is that it’s not always a universal meter. Hell, I think it’s morally wrong that women who kill their batterer outside a moment that doesn’t qualify as self-defense (fear of imminent deadly harm) end up serving life in prison. But others disagree. OTOH, I can’t find it in me to condemn those who receive stacks of unsolicited ARCs and then haul them down to their local bookstore to sell. But others disagree.

  17. Jane
    May 31, 2007 @ 11:55:06

    I’ve also thought that by giving the books away, i.e., to goodwill or the library, someone is making a profit “off the author” without doing “anything in return.” I read somewhere that each book has about 9 different owners meaning that 8 people didn’t pay a royalty for the book. Copyright was not developed to protect artists. The purpose of the copyright laws are to advance the arts, to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” (Article I, section 8, clause 8, US Constitution). It does so by granting limited protection to the authors. I doubt that the original construct was to protect authors from the sale of a promotional item as that seems to contravene the idea behind the constitutional grant of power.

    I think part of the moral outrage is that sometimes these arcs could be sent to someone else who may give a review or a “good” review. But you have to take that issue up with the publicists who send out the books (I sometimes wonder why I get random non fiction how to books?).

    It’s completely unreasonable to think that a reviewer is going to keep all these books, particularly the ones that she does not want so if you really feel “good” about your arc disposal, throw them away. That way they are not ever going to be used without advancing the authors goals.

  18. Robin
    May 31, 2007 @ 12:06:37

    I doubt that the original construct was to protect authors from the sale of a promotional item as that seems to contravene the idea behind the constitutional grant of power.

    More and more, in fact, there is a sense of overprotection of IP rights in this country. Copyright, which got a big boost of protection thanks to Disney, is supposed to balance the incentive to create with the public right of use. And copyright also can inhibit other artists from producing work, as well, when its protections are too broad. There is no small number of IP scholars who believe that copyright law has already exceeded its protection of that balance.

    That way they are not ever going to be used without advancing the authors goals.

    This is the part that I’m most uncomfortable with in these discussions — the idea that the reader should be responsible for the author in any way. I want my relationship — whatever that may be — to exist with the book, not the author, per se. And IMO this distinction is especially important for those regularly reviewing books. People talk about all sorts of things that disrupt the integrity of a review, and IMO a sense that a reviewer owes an author any kind of personal obligation or debt (or the publisher, for that matter) should be at the top of that list.

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