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?