Updated at 7:00 pm, February 11th 2016
I knew it wouldn't be long until I had to deal with another incident surrounding Advanced Reader's Copies (ARCs) and their misuse both in and outside of the publishing and blogging world.
This all started with a late night Instagram session on my phone, where I noticed that some of the users that I follow had posted a picture of a certain ARC that they had acquired for their collection. This user, to my knowledge, is not a professional in the publishing industry and they do not have a blog, so I was already questioning how an ARC was able to get into their hands.
But, this user is a massive, collector for a very *specific* series that dominated the publishing world and completely changed what it stood for. I'm not going to say exactly what this series is, but I hope that you can get the gist based on the little hint that I gave you. (I feel like it would point to who they are, and I don't want to reveal names yet because I hope that the situation will be resolved).
Other Instagram users had asked in the comments "Where did you get that?" "Where do I find one?" "What is an ARC?" I felt that, as a blogger familiar with ARCs, I was more than qualified to provide an answer to these questions.
If you need further proof, I attached a screenshot of the original caption of the picture and the comments that I made in response.
The account of @iturnthepages is my own account, and there were four individuals involved in the exchange.
It turns out that another collector jumped in when they saw my response, and replied to my comment, along with multiple comments from the original poster.
I thought that I was going to get a civilized response, and I was hoping that these individuals knew that what they were doing was wrong. They even tagged the picture with #advancedreaderscopies (and the publisher!). I thought that they would have been smart enough to do some kind of research.
It turns out that they did to some "research", but it was misinformation, as you can read from their responses below.
I do not think that this is an ignorance to the purpose of ARCs or what they are used for. I believe that these individuals know what Advanced Readers Copies are and know very well that purchasing these copies for a collection is illegal, regardless of what "market" it happens in. I am infuriated, I am angry, and I am hurt, as a book blogger, but also as a lover of this series. A series that has brought magic to my heart and a love for life to my bones. I am hurt, as a fellow collector, to see that other collectors are continuing to ignore a (very obvious) law for the sake of their own collections.
It also pains me because these individuals were so quick to use their words to justify their own actions. I did not even accuse them (officially) of purchasing an Advanced Readers Copy, yet they still spoke to me like I had thrown that accusation at them in writing over the internet. (I had my doubts about how they received this copy but I had hoped that they did this ethically). I know now that these individuals only responded like this to cover up their own tracks, that they know what they are doing is not only wrong but ILLEGAL, and they refuse to admit it.
An ARC is never for sale. This means in any instance, from any individual, in any year, regardless of whether the book is already released or not, and regardless of it's popularity. ARCs are a marketing tool and should be used as such, for the audience that they are intended for.
As Erin from The Book Nut put it, just because publishers don't go after every case in the secondary market doesn't mean it's not illegal. Publishers don't have the resources nor the finances to go after every single case. Even then, I'm not even sure how they would handle something like this. ARCs are NEVER for sale. NEVER.
I have not responded to these individuals yet, but I will respond when I am not as infuriated and emotional about the topic. I also reached out to several publishers to give their input on how to respond to a topic like this, and I will continue to update this post as responses come in and this continues to unfold.
If you have any advice, please feel free to let me know. I am feeling hurt by this situation, and I am also confused. I'm not sure what to do, but I need some kind souls to help me see through the darkness and into the light.
UPDATE: February 9th 2016 9:00 AM
I received a response yesterday from a publisher regarding their take on this situation. I'll enclose their tweets below. (This is one of the many reasons why I love Spencer Hill Press, they are not afraid to get involved in something like this!)
I definitely agree with their viewpoint and will be using this to try and talk to these collectors. I'm still hoping for the original publishers to see this and speak up on behalf of the author as well.
Also, the support I have received from all of you thus far is absolutely astounding. I'm compiling all of your tweets and comments into a singular document so that I can try and create a formal response addressing all of the points that I would like to meet.
I would love it if you guys would share this link (to the blog post with the situation or my tweets about it) with all of the publishers that you are aware of. I really, really want this to reach a majority of the publishers in the publishing world because that will only help to give strong evidence against these collectors (and maybe stop this "ARC Black Market", as Alex put it, from occurring in the first place!).
UPDATE #2 February 11th 7:00 PM
After some careful consideration, I decided that I wanted to ask more questions to these collectors to see where they heard this information from. After all, I still hoped that they were just misinformed about the nature of ARCs (because they are not involved in the blogging/publishing world). I decided that I would ask these collectors where they heard this information. I was hoping that I would get a link to a website or some information on who told them this so that I could also try and prevent more misinformation from being spread. Below is my comment and the response that I received.
The funny thing about this response is that the collector clearly mentions it would be illegal to sell these ARCs for a profit in a retail establishment, because that is what several secondary marketplaces are doing with ARCs anyway. Sadly, ARCs are still sold on sites like eBay, and the profits are given to the seller on eBay. There is really no difference in terms of whether or not ARCs are being sold for profit.
As you can tell, I was slightly confused by the response given. I also wanted to ask a question that, if they decided to answer it, would clearly state their opinion. I wanted to ask about physical stores, because the "secondary market" that this collector was speaking about was completely online. Again, this collector responded to my question, which you can see below.
I'm honestly not quite sure what "sold as what they are" means - because if they are "sold as what they are", that means sold as ARCs, which is still illegal.
The collector here seems to believe that selling ARCs is not illegal in secondary markets because their are no penalties for the seller. However, I am certain that penalties would be handed out if publishers were willing and financially able to track down each and every case of an ARC being sold.
In some cases,when authors see that their own ARCs are being sold on the Internet, punishments are dealt out. Listings are removed from eBay, and the author will likely remain infuriated at the seller forever. There very well may not be "jail time" associated with selling ARCs, but that doesn't mean that there are no punishments overall or that selling and buying ARCs is suddenly morally correct.
For example, using the collector's example of "jail time", there are several crimes that are illegal that a person can commit that doesn't necessarily result in jail time, but that doesn't make the crime legal.
I'm honestly not quite sure what to do at this point in time - I have not heard from many publishers to confirm that the selling/purchase of ARCs is indeed "banned" in their eyes. I don't know how to respond in a measly Instagram comment about this issue and to try and correct them, because they seem pretty set in their ways. I do have to say that I have respect for them in terms of their willingness to communicate with me in general - I didn't believe that this interaction would be civil at all.
I don't want to give up the fight on this, I think now I just have to figure out what my next step is. As always, any help from you guys is greatly appreciated. If you want to share this post, you can. Your comments help me. If you want to tag an author you know or a publisher you know on Twitter asking them to take a stance on this, that would be amazing. If we all work together, if we all care enough about this issue, it can and will be solved. We just have to do some work to get there.