Is selling ARCs of a book, before pub. date, considered theft?

 Picture Taken from a recent product page, for a “Prince Lestat” ARC, being sold nearly three months prior to the slated Publication Date.
**Click the hyperlinked text, to be taken to the incriminating Ebay page, which really quite shocked me, to say the least!**

As a book blogger, it is commonplace for me to receive Advance Reader Copies, or Galleys, for books, which I might review and feature here on this book blog. These ARCs are rarely ever shared with anyone else, besides myself, and I have never thought to sell them on Ebay, because there is an unspoken truce between publishers and media outlets to not sell galleys or advance reader copies for profit, in advance of a book’s slated release/publication date. Some people might be wondering, “Why are you writing this article, exposing this kind of stuff, when the practical thing is neither to raise attention to it, or let it be known this kind of underhanded thing happens?”

Well, don’t you suppose that ignorance has allowed this industry, of selling ARCs prior to a book’s release date, on Ebay or other such sites, for profit, by definition is unethical? And when people don’t scrutinize an issue, or raise awareness of something ugly occuring right under our eyes; the inevitable result will be the enabling of such actions, on the part of these individuals. Now, selling ARCS, in of itself, can be a very fruitful, even sound practice, when the ARCs are being sold to collectors, after the book has been officially released. The element of selling ARCs that makes such sale unethical, and a form of thievery, is the act of selling them, months before the release date of the book. This is when things become thornier.

Last night, I discovered that the above Ebay seller had recently sold their Advance Reader Copy of Prince Lestat, nearly three months prior to the book’s release date. Unfortunately, this is a practice that is slowly becoming ubiquitous, and almost unavoidable, in the world of the internet, where Craig’s List and Ebay exist. Again, inherently, the practice of selling ARCS, after a book has been released officially, is not unethical. But selling them prior to a book’s release is where things disconcertingly become something that carries repercussions for reviewers and book bloggers alike; many of who are receiving them primarily to read and review for their publication. Most bloggers and reviewers are not receiving them to sale, or to receive any kind of profit. And, publishers are usually circumspect about trying to put a limit on the number of ARCs released, to curtail the number of people that are trying to procure them to sell in advance of their release date (and make a jackpot of a profit, doing so).

The element of this sale that is so egregious, to me, is the fact that Prince Lestat is a title that has been heavily embargoed, meaning there are very few ARCs of this novel being released. Unfortunately, the seller, selling the above ARC, was able to get one of these very rare, very elusive ARCs, yet was using it to make a killing of a profit, in the end.

When someone does this, it alerts to the publishing company to put more of a limitation on ARCs being handed out to the many ethically-minded reviewers and bloggers out there, who are not taking advantage of the system to make a profit. If the person above sold the Prince Lestat ARC, after October 28, 2014; there wouldn’t be any problem being posed, and really, it would have been wiser, more ethical for this seller to hold off on selling such a popular book, until it has been released.

Instead, reviewers like myself, that uphold the promise made with publishers, when receiving ARCS, must watch with chagrin, as various people on Ebay are using such copies, being published primarily for marketing  and publicity purposes, sell them, and inevitably undermine the whole buisness of advance reader copies and galleys.

In light of this very distressing discovery of Prince Lestat  ARC being sold early, I am going to be doing weekly discussion posts  on the spate of new, almost undetectable security concerns that publishers must have in the age of the internet. We will discuss how Ebook galleys may help, in preventing such theft, and how publishers are working to make the phenomenon of those who sell ARCS for profit, prior to the publication date of a book, being more of a rarity. When individuals sell ARCs early like something like Anne Rice’s much-anticipated Prince Lestat, the reputation of reviewers and bloggers alike is depreciated, because some people may suspect that we might have the same intention, as this very small minority of people. Most reviewers are very respectful, as per the ethics of having an ARC, and in no way taking selfish advantage of a privilege.


What are your thoughts on this issue? Leave your comment below!!


16 Comments Add yours

  1. I think it is unethical. It’s equivalent to releasing confidential data on an unreleased software or other product. You’re allowing both the public and any potential detractors or critics get their hands on something in advance of the public. That means that reviews – good or bad – by a very select or narrow group of people can be leaked before everyone else gets to read the book and make their own mind up. That can ruin marketing for that book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Plus, this is a book many of us, who do review books, have not been lucky enough to receive an ARC of. It is a book that has a sparse amount of ARCs, in order to maintain the secrecy of the plot. You’d think that the few people, who have the ARC for “Prince Lestat” would have respectfully treasured it and kept its secret, rather than stupidly sell it on Ebay, long before its release date, and even before more media outlets have it.


  2. Reblogged this on Sumiko Saulson and commented:
    I think it’s unethical. When you receive an ARC you should treat it with the same respect as you would confidential client information.


  3. Taletha Wagoner says:

    If i had the money i would buy every single copy that are being sold and ship them to my friend Anne because this is theft, when anyone sends you a pre released book it does not give you permission to copy and resale and only the true Rice fans know its wrong and would never buy it from someone stealing Anne’s proceeds for her work and it really pissed me off when people were doing the samething with the wolf gift and with the book plates that Anne sent to her fans for free, i never would give up my book plates or any preleased book to anyone or try to make a profit off of anyone’s hard work and whom dedicates half thier heart and soul to thier fans like Anne does, so how can you call yourself a fan when you are exploiting the writer you call yourself a fan of? This is truly sicking and iam going on craigslist and will be filing complaints if i see lestat being sold 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had the same gut reaction Taletha, meaning I felt like I wanted to search more extensively on Google to see if others, like this individual in question, were selling such a treasured item so early. It’s worse, in many ways than “The Wolf Gift,” as this is a highly sought after book, by the legion of Lestat fans. And to have a reviewer or whatever, who was very, very lucky to receive this ARC, sell this item for a large amount of money, before the release date of the book and before many other media outlets have even received their copies, is a deep betrayal of whatever trust this seller has forged with Anne Rice and her publisher. Their feedback score has a telltale history of other books, which were ARCs, being sold long before the release date of the book. It is a trend,for this seller, that has been going, uninterrupted, for months and possibly years (I’m going with years..). So sad, and please do make sure to inform either Anne or her publisher, anytime you see a copy being sold early, for profit, on either Ebay or Craigslist.


  4. mish-mash says:

    This is a mixed reaction by law once the book is in your hands it’s yours to do with as you please…the right of first sale…remember most proofs come in the mail unsolicited.
    I attended BEA and books that were embargoed were up on Ebay in a flash, as some booksellers and librarians use that money to pay for their trip…
    Since I’ve know about this for years and now in day of the E-Reader there are less and less proofs…what difference does it really make.
    However some publishers make a fuss others just shrug it off…


    1. I think the element of what makes this sale so wrong, in many ways, is that it is a book that has been heavily embargoed. Meaning, there are very few, if any, advance reader copies of this book (I don’t even know, if they’re putting this one up on Netgalley, for example).

      By law (and right of sale), you are right that this is hard/not even theoretically possible for any court to make this type of offence become prosecuted. The only thing that can be done is that publishers can make sure to blacklist anyone that is selling these books.

      It creates distrust of book bloggers and reviewers, when people are putting these types of ARCs (before the pub. date) up for sale.


      1. mish-mash says:

        It’s kinda funny I watched the woman who sold 2 copies of The Book Of Life, embargoed …..kissing butt at the Penguin booth….I told them that it was her and they just didn’t care …in fact I saw them give her another Arc…So at that point it they don’t care why should I get upset…
        But this is not a new issue for me I love to read and would fight the crowds at The Strand and Housing Works Bookstore just to get some of the authors I love… long as these outlets sell proofs you will see them on Ebay.


      2. Wow.. to me, that doesn’t seem very thoughtful, for the publishing representatives, to do such a thing with a book. Unfortunately, such a scenario kinda proves that the reason the selling of proofs, even rare ones, prior to publication, happens so much is just that type of nonchalance, from some, about the issue. Again, I think that thing that offends me the most about the “Prince Lestat,” one is the fact, as a reviewer that does tons of coverage for Anne Rice’s books, it seems weird for the person, who got such an ARC to just sell it for profit. When you’d think that the people getting these very limited # of ARCs might be someone that is planning to do a lot of coverage for the book.


  5. mish-mash says:

    It is what it is, and since Arc’s are going the way of the Dodo…let them enjoy what time they have left…with NetGalley and some of the others most arc’s will be digital in the near future.


  6. True, I think there’s more security and less costs involved with E-book arcs, and that’s something I’ll be discussing in another post. Thanks for your input on the post, btw!!


    1. mish-mash says:

      One more thing I was told it cost about $6 to print an Arc…so it’s def cost effective for them to go digital…


  7. lucindawst says:

    Like a previous poster, I think selling ARCs is quite unethical. I’ve dealt with ARCs for almost 15 years as a bookseller and now a reviewer and I have never sold an ARC, I have every single physical copy that was sent to me. I always think it is an honor and a treat to get an ARC, I am not going to abuse that perk. I actually think if you attempt to sell an ARC as an employee of the book industry, you risk termination. I just do not understand why anyone would do that, betray the trust and kind of ruin the whole thing for other people…


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