It occurred to me earlier tonight that I never posted the final update on the saga of ARCs and eBay, so I thought I should tie up that loose end here. As you might recall (or will see if you follow the original link 🙂 ), an ARC of my novel The Third Sign showed up on eBay a few weeks ago–strange, since the book isn’t due out until June 17th and eBay doesn’t do pre-orders. A bit of quick research revealed that the seller had acquired an ARC from a reviewer (who clearly didn’t read the book, since he/she couldn’t have had it for more than a few days before turning it over), and thought that the eBay sale was actually a help to the author, getting exposure for the book, building buzz, and so on. I was, and still am, skeptical about these motives–I had to contact the seller, after all–but I did appreciate the response, and decided to put the three options given me (get the ARC back from the winning bidder, donate the money to charity, or get the royalties I would have received from one sale of the book) to all of you. Between backchannel and online comments, the final decision was to go with the donation to charity (Amnesty International, by the way, which I thought seemed most appropriate), and the winning bid of $25 went on its merry way.
I’m still not sure what to make of the whole business, to be honest. On the one hand I’m not wild about the idea of ARCs being sold before the book is even released, particularly given the huge “NOT FOR SALE” message on the front cover. An advance review copy is for just that: reviews, not sales. (The seller was really hung up on the legal issue, which was neither totally resolved nor really the point. The ethical issue is the problem.) Neither I nor my publisher get anything from an ARC sale. On the other hand, it might indeed create exposure for the book…and I’m not sure I feel like playing some high stakes game of whack-a-seller on eBay. This kind of thing (apparently) happens a lot, and I’ve got writing to do. The answer might be to use electronic editions, or reduce the number of ARCs sent, or implement some kind of reviewer registration system…or it might be to do nothing at all and hope for the honesty of most to outweigh the dishonesty of a few. Either way, I’m told it’s another rite of passage for an author…so consider it passed, I guess. Next up: the gauntlet of reviews…*shudder*