Greg Wilson Author

First impressions?

This is a bit of an unusual post in that I don't have an end for it yet. I'm leaving that up to you.

Let me explain. My book is beginning to appear in a number of places for pre-order (details of which I'll have on this site fairly soon, by the way), and so I've gotten a number of Google Alerts letting me know that The Third Sign is showing up on a number of websites. A couple of nights ago I got an alert that it had appeared on eBay. This is a trifle odd, since of course eBay isn't in the pre-order business, and when I went over to check it out I saw why. As you'll see if you head over to the link, an advance review copy of my book is being auctioned off along with one of Raymond Feist's new books.

Now while I'm honored to be included with Mr. Feist, I was much less amused to see a book which isn't even out yet being sold for a fraction of the cost--none of the amount of which would, of course, ever end up either with me or my publisher. Given that the ARC explicitly says NOT FOR SALE on it, and is sent free of charge to book reviewers (clearly mine wasn't reviewed by this particular source, since the ARCs only went out a week ago), I was even more irritated. Used books are one thing--selling ARCs and undercutting the market is, it seems to me, another. So I sent the seller the following message, fully expecting not to get a reply, since this kind of behavior is pretty common:

Hi--I'm the author of THE THIRD SIGN. Can I ask how you got this, since it's not even out yet? And since the ARC is explicitly listed as NOT FOR SALE, and is expensive for myself and my publisher to send, I would appreciate it if you could pull it from this auction. I'd prefer people buy the book itself when it becomes available.

Thanks for your prompt attention to this matter.
Gregory A. Wilson

Here's where it gets complicated. The next day I got this response, which the seller has granted me permission to reprint here:

Hi Dr. Wilson---

Thanks for contacting me. I'm not sure I'll be able to fit everything I want to say in one message, but I'll try.

1) I get my proofs from several sources, all of which are legit. I got the proof of THE THIRD SIGN from a reviewer who no longer needed it.
2) I am *not* breaking any laws in selling ARCs. If I was, I wouldn't do it. If I were selling proofs retail, that would break the law, but what I'm doing is selling used books.
3) I used to work in book publishing and believe it or not, I started selling proofs *because* publishers asked me to do so. They felt it was a great way to promote authors. I still think they're right, which is why I paired your book---a first novel---with a book by a well-known writer who's liable to attract a lot of attention. It's also why I listed your Website.
4) Since one of my aims is to get people interested in buying and reading your book, I respectfully request that you let me keep the book up for sale. After the auction concludes, if you wish, I'll be happy to do any of these three things: (a) ask the winning bidder to let me give you the proof instead of sending it to them; (b) donate the money from the auction to a charity of your choice; or (c) pay you the royalties you would have received from one sale of the book.

I hope one of these options is amenable to you. I mean you no disrespect and I wish you lots of success and prosperity with your book (and future books), as well as with your music and your teaching.

---B. J. N.

Hmm. Now I don't entirely agree with the sentiments behind this post--for one, I wonder how anxious B.J.N. would have been to send me royalties or some similar thing if I hadn't gotten in touch with him / her first, and two, whether it's officially legal or not (and the jury is still very much out on that, if you'll pardon the metaphor), the big blaring NOT FOR SALE on the book's front cover ought to be clear enough about the publisher's and author's intent, I think. But I appreciated the forthrightness of the seller, and he/she makes some interesting points.

So I decided to get this all out in the open and let you decide. First of all, do you think B.J.N. should be selling ARCs (forget about the legal question--I'm more interested in the ethics here), and should I allow him/her to sell mine? Is he/she raising awareness of my book or undercutting sales, which go a long way toward determining how many other books of mine will be published in future? And second, if I do allow it, which option of the three he/she offers should I choose? I'll take opinions either publicly via comments or via E-mail (you can use the contact options on my site or Red Room's), and will let the majority rule--at the least we'll have a chance to raise awareness of the issue.

What say you?



Jesse writes...
March 12, 2009 p.m.31 9:28 PM
Yeah, this sounds kind of bogus to me too. I've certainly seen advance copies for sale in book stores before (e.g. the basement of the Strand), but presumably those titles are all on the market already. If this person were really at all interested in creating buzz for your novel, s/he might have included some kind of praise (perhaps even from the reviewer who provided the copy) or at least a description. But all we get on the eBay listing are selling points on the condition of the book itself (read: stuff that helps the seller, not the author).

Point 3) struck me as an especially low blow: the emphasis on this being your first novel makes the message sound like a back-door demand for your gratitude rather than an apology.

In the seller's defense, however, it would have been quite easy for him/her to have simply ignored your request and hidden behind the anonymity of the Internet (as per your earlier post).

There may be some genuine sentiment behind this, but I think I would ask for the auction to be called off. If I were you I would go with either option a) or b). c) sounds like another trick. The book is on sale for $12.50 plus s&h. I don't know how royalties work, but presumably your royalty for a single retail copy is less than $12.50. This person would still pocket money from the deal (though I don't know how much overhead is involved in the potentially black market purchase or ARC's). Ask for the copy back, or ask that the money go to charity, which I would never discourage.

On a personal note, I am very much looking forward to reading your novel! I will be buying a copy from a LEGITIMATE source. I'm a former student of yours from several years back (Fantasy in Fiction), and Kerri Fortune (she sat next to me in class) clued me in on its forthcoming publication. That class was one of my favorites at St. John's. It was wonderful to see science fiction and fantasy get its academic due!

On a further and unrelated note, have you seen the Watchmen movie? I would love to hear your thoughts on it. I also just finished the Bone comics. Don't know if you ever read those, but they would have been fun to cover in FiF.
Greg writes...
March 13, 2009 p.m.31 1:58 PM
Hi Jesse, and welcome to the site! I remember you well, and of course I'm still in touch with Kerri. I agree that there are some problems in the seller's perspective here--mostly the fixation on legality instead of ethics, which is really the more important issue. But I also agree that the seller's honesty was surprising and welcome, so I have to throw that in the mix too. I've gotten back channel suggestions as well, so either way I'll make a decision soon. I very much appreciate everyone ordering the book from legitimate sources, though, which I'll have linked here in short order. :)

As for the Watchmen movie--haven't seen it yet but plan to, though I wasn't as much a fan of the comic as I was of V for Vendetta, say. Haven't read the Bone comics...who is the writer?

Thanks again for stopping by, and please stick around!
Jesse writes...
March 13, 2009 p.m.31 5:09 PM
Jeff Smith both wrote and drew Bone. He finished it in 2004, and the last collection of it just became available in color (I love the color editions, I couldn't imagine reading it in B&W but that is how it was originally published). It is often described as Bugs Bunny meets LOTR, but it swings more toward the serious as the series draws to a conclusion.
Jesse writes...
March 17, 2009 p.m.31 10:27 PM
In other news, wily ol' Harlan Ellison is suing for profits connected to "The City on the Edge of Forever.",25224/
Greg writes...
March 17, 2009 p.m.31 11:53 PM
Heh...and for those who don't know, Jesse's comment is particularly ironic since that's exactly the episode we watched in that fantasy fiction class. I'm not at all surprised that Ellison is doing this--as the title to the article says, "In other news, sun rises."
Naseem Rakha writes...
March 28, 2009 a.m.31 10:04 AM
I have experienced this problem as well, and I think the idea that selling ARCS somehow creates BUZZ is BS. And if it does, it is not worth it.

My publisher and I have worked hard to keep my book out of the hands of people who may review the book too early or give too much of it away. Promotion is a well timed event, attention is payed to all details. Having ARCS running around is not part of the plan.

That is why it galley clearly says "NOT FOR SALE."

I have not written the EBAY seller Instead I am wating to hear from my agent and editor. Personally, I think someone should sue.


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