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Galleys in Stores? Unfinished Work For Sale


By Nichole Bernier

Last weekend while I was traveling, I stopped into a bookstore I’ve always wanted to visit. Folks I know in the area adore the store, and many an author friend has been excited to read there. I walked through room after room; I bought coffee; I admired the unique shelving and helpful salespeople. I kind of wanted to move in, or at least curl up and take a nap somewhere near Toni Morrison.

When I went to the shelf that held my debut novel, I saw something I hadn’t seen before in a bookstore. There, beside the hardcover and paperback copies of my book, was a galley copy for sale. (Galleys, also called Advance Reader Copy, or Advance Reader Edition, are uncorrected proofs which are sent out to give industry folks a preview of the work for their decision-making purposes, but can change significantly in the final product.)

At first I thought it was a mistake — it’s a large bookstore, it was possible that someone accidentally shelved a galley. But I turned it over and the store’s price tag was on the back, offering it for $8.95.

Curious, I asked a salesperson, and was referred to the manager. I identified myself as the author, and asked about the sale of a galley with a smile (the last thing you want to do as an author is leave a bookstore with a poor impression of you). I smiled so hard I think he interpreted my curiosity as admiration for the store’s resourcefulness.

“Oh sure, that’s no accident!” the manager said. “Lots of people like to collect them.”

“But….is it okay to do?” I asked. “I mean, on the cover it says, ‘UNCORRECTED PROOF, Not For Sale’. Does the publisher mind?” 

“No, it’s fine,” he said. “Once a galley is sent to a bookstore, we can do whatever we’d like with it. People buy and sell them on ebay and Amazon all the time. Some fans really get a kick out of collecting them.”

In the abstract, I can see that. When I’ve visited literary exhibits with edits of famous authors, I’ve pored over the handwritten comments in the margins, the crossouts of entire sections, even the choice of one word over another — all intriguing, that sense of the minutiae that mattered to this person whose writing you’ve admired.

But I have trouble feeling the same thing applies to today’s galleys, and to contemporary writers who aren’t having their liner notes pored over in museums. For starters, uncorrected proofs have no handwritten notes or crossouts; they pretty much read like an ordinary paperback. So there’s no way anyone can see, say, the evolution of a piece of writing. For anyone who cared to compare the galley to the hardcover line by line, there might be omissions and additions that could be detected. As I said, interesting wonky details, possibly, in the abstract.

ARCExcept my feelings about my own incomplete work are anything but abstract. I know all too well what typos are in my galley, many of which were electronic hiccups resulting in made-up words, mash-ups of two sentences and omissions of others. I know which sections continued to change and evolve until the final version. And there are two passages that exist in the final book that were not in the galley at all, both cut early in the editing process to save space. One of them contained an unconventional use of a word; the other was an entire paragraph, an important (to me) emotional conclusion of a plot point. At each subsequent editing pass I felt their loss but didn’t speak up until the eleventh hour, and my editor agreed to restore them, for which I’m endlessly grateful. Galley readers will never see those.

It might sound silly, but these are the minutiae that matter to writers, and make us cringe about having copies of an incomplete work floating around. Incremental changes in drafts might be interesting to some readers, if changes were visible on the page. But in the electronic age, with no crossouts in the margins, they’ll never see the author’s progression. Someone buying a galley will see only inferior writing.

Galleys are great for many things — mostly, for letting bookstores and reviewers get a preview when they need it for their purchasing decisions and deadlines. But it’s not the copy any author wants to make a lasting impression with. (I didn’t show it to my parents in galley form, for example.) Yet there mine was, at half the price of the paperback and a third of the hardcover. What price-conscious customer wouldn’t choose it instead?

Another point that hardly bears making is that when the customer buys the galley, the author is in no way credited for the sale: not financially and not in sales tallies. In fact, the unsold “real” copy that cools its heels on the shelf while the galley is bought could end up being returned to the publisher by the store for a refund — and count against the author’s ability to qualify for royalties.

I’d never begrudge a bookstore the $8.95 profit, because Lord knows bookstores today need all the help they can get. And I appreciate that there are some creative charitable uses for galleys.

But someone’s going to pick up that proof instead of a finished copy and think that’s the best I can do. Misspellings, mash-ups of make-believe words. And an emotional plot development doesn’t get its denouement. The uncorrected proof as unwitting proof that there are just too many books breezily published today.

— What do you think, readers? Should galleys be available for sale?



Currently there are "46 comments" on this Article:

  1. I wouldn’t buy it because I would rather have the paperback – the text will be corrected and finalised and it will fit on my shelves (hence not the hardback).

    I think it’s okay for it to be on sale though. A second hand book shop is more of a collectors market. I always understood ‘not for resale’ meant by the publisher although I could be wrong. I have some galley proofs that might be worth money and I would sell them if they were.

    I’m curious though. Did you consider buying it yourself?

  2. Keith Dawson says:

    I have a solution. Sell the galleys to those who insist on collecting them, but price them at twice the hardcover.

  3. joe thompson says:


  4. MJ says:

    I just posted your article on Facebook with my comments – well done Nichole – my fury here knows no bounds. Nothing about this is right.

    I think the most amazing comment in the whole article is the justification – that Amazon sells them so the indie can too.

    I have nothing against Amazon at all – but indie booksellers do – they can’t shut up about it – so for them to use Amazon to justify selling a galley – is insincere and worse.

    Since when does someone else doing something make the practice whole?

    • Stephanie says:

      I have resold books on Amazon, and if I remember correctly, they do not allow ARCs to be resold. Maybe they have changed tack since I set up my account some years ago. That having been said, I think on eBay there is no such regulation, or if there is, it’s not enforced.

  5. Amanda says:

    I would never buy or sell a galley but I used to get them often to review online and if I didn’t want to keep it, I traded it online or donated. I never knew about the sales so that is good to know for future purchases.

  6. Lynn Snyder says:

    I’d be outraged too. When I worked at an indie bookstore,it was really clear that ARCs were a privilege, not a cash cow to be exploited for sale. We shared them with those who could give good feedback and devoured them ourselves. And, stores often get LOTS of them. So, since they likely cannot be processed through the usual point of sale systems, these sales are likely off the books- so it’s not just the authors who are getting ripped off. But most of all…..tacky. Really.

  7. I had a similar experience, finding a galley for my not-yet-published novel listed by an on-line dealer.

    The finished book’s main difference is better paper and print quality, plus some minor edits and chapter break changes to save some pages. So I’m more annoyed that a seller would ignore the not for resale injunction.

    Worst, the condition noted “unread.”

    If you’ve ever signed at a trade show, you can almost predict which folks are likely to resell the galley. Sometimes I’ve even been told, “we auction the books for charity.”

    Good for you for talking to the bookseller. Though I share your feelings in the matter, I let it drop—price of doing business.

    • Hal Davis says:

      I have mixed feelings.

      I don’t wish to begrudge an author the satisfaction of knowing that the final edited version is in the hands of a reader, and that the sale might bring some income to the author.

      But I’m grateful when I’ve come across ARCs of books I’d have otherwise missed. That’s how I read “Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815,” by Gordon S. Wood.

      I should note that I work at a newspaper, and periodically the books editor puts out review copies and ARCs for staff perusal. Some are sold, with the proceeds going to charity.

  8. macfsh says:

    I think you should definitely be upset. Did you contact your publisher and complain? I’m surprised it is cheaper. I understand what you say that it is uncorrected, etc. I have received a few galleys over the years and I love and collect them. If I was in a book store I would pay more for the uncorrected proof. I would buy it but I honestly don’t think it should be sold as it says right on the cover.

  9. Lisa Peet says:

    No. And the inability of people to understand why an artist would be bothered by an incomplete/unfinished work being sent out into the world for any other reason than for reviewers, who understand what they’re looking at, drives me batshit crazy. But people are always going to want what they want, and the author’s wishes, once the book is out in the world, become negligible.

  10. Kathy Crowley Kathy Crowley says:

    No. They should not be sold. As M.J. says, wrong in just about every way. Excellent post.

  11. Joni Rodgers says:

    This is a longtime pet peeve of mine. After slaving to make this work as perfect as possible, I have to live with the specter of that flawed version floating around. I’ve been asked many times at signings, speaking gigs and book club meets to sign galleys, and never – NEVER – was it a “collector’s item.” It was always a reader who had no understanding of what a galley proof is – and when I took a moment to educate them, they felt they’d been ripped off.

    Publishers should not send uncorrected proofs. It’s an outdated practice for several reasons, including the fact that bookstores can’t be trusted to destroy them. Clearly, the store manager can see that it says NOT FOR SALE. So the argument that it’s actually KINDA FOR SALE is bullcrap.

    I absolutely do begrudge the bookstore this $8.95. They have stolen the proceeds for a legit paperback sale from the publisher, stolen the royalty from the author, and robbed the reader of the reading experience they think they’re paying for.

    Urg. HULK SMASH! :(

  12. Joni Rodgers says:

    Also – excellent article. Thank you for doing it. (I should have led with that but your post was so well done, the Hulk emerged while I was reading it.)

    Now returning to peace and grooviness.

  13. Caitie F says:

    That is absolutely ridiculous that they sell them and that the manager actually said, “Once a galley is sent to a bookstore, we can do whatever we’d like with it.” I would report the store to the publisher and hope that store would no longer get galleys.

    I think using galleys as a giveaway to get people to come to a store/blog is fine, the publishers use them a as promotional tool and I don’t think anyone would have a problem with others using them as a promotional tool, but selling them is completely unethical for an individual. For a store to do it actually makes me angry. I agree with Joni Rogers and begrudge the bookstore for the $8.95,

  14. Nichole, Great post! And I am amazed at your ability to be so level headed and fair in the midst of something truly wrong.
    Vanishing ink, anyone?

  15. cbfarley says:

    By itself, and as collector curiosity I think person to person transfer may be ok since the people involved understand the context of a galley. Commercially selling one though seems odd, but if it was bundled with a finished print would that be ok? I know as a consumer of the written word I would love to have something like that for certain books I own. Having never produced any books though, I lack perspective from that viewpoint.

  16. Andrew Cornell says:

    I am not a writer, but I am a friend to a few authors. As a reader I have a hard time getting upset at bookstores selling galleys. I can’t imagine there are enough out there to have an economic impact on a writer’s income. Also, I don’t see how it distracts from the finished work since most people know that they are “uncorrected proofs” and not the final version. I agree with Lisa Peet that once a book is out in the world the author’s wishes becomes negligible. The intersection between art and commerce is always difficult and raises the question of how much continuing ownership does an artist retain after placing her work for sale either in a bookstore or art gallery.

    • Kathy Crowley Kathy Crowley says:

      Andrew —
      I agree with you that the economic impact on authors is tiny, but I disagree about the “ownership” issue. Nichole (and other authors in this situation) agreed to put a particular version of her novel out into the marketplace (i.e. the “finished” version). She didn’t agree to sell drafts or other unfinished versions of her novel out there. I don’t think this is a legitimate sale in any way.

    • Anon says:

      I work for large publisher and there absolutely CAN be enough galleys printed that it could impact a book’s sales. Some publishers print upwards of a few hundred (or more!) copies (not to mention digital ARCs). For some authors selling only 2k-5k books total, this can make a huge difference. However, that being said, if the galley attracts a reader that normally wouldn’t pick up the book and then that same reader goes on to evangelize the book…there is value in that as well…

      A tricky situation, but the bottom line: NOBODY should sell a galley. It is illegal.

  17. Wow. I’m actually shocked. I’ve never seen a galley in a bookstore before but what shocks me more is how nonchalant the store manager was about it. Being a collectible is one thing–and should be on a separate shelf at a higher price–but to sell it right along side the normal hardback/paperback copy is so wrong. I’m glad you said something. If I was a published author, I would feel betrayed and taken advantage of. Of all people, booksellers should know how important each and every book sold matters to that author, especially because a future with their publisher depends on it. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

  18. Sarah Pinneo says:

    Great topic, thank you! I have never found a galley on a bookstore shelf, but it would make me feel just as crazy.

    It brings up an interesting point, though… since I started reviewing books last year, the galleys are starting to pile up. I would never in a million years sell them. (That’s violating the trust of the publisher and the author.) But aside from forwarding a few of them on to my mother… what is a girl supposed to do with them? It feels mean to put them into the recycle bin. *shudder*

  19. Robin Black says:

    Another thought: one of the really nice things about the book biz is that the interests of authors and booksellers are 100% aligned. We all want the same result. We are truly pulling together – these days in a pretty tough environment.

    On just a symbolic level, this is a break in that alignment. And that’s partly why this is an emotional matter for authors. We like feeling that we’re all working to the same end, and with entirely mutual benefit. But if the store profits off of work of ours that we actively do not want sold – that’s a change that matters in ways that aren’t just about amounts of money lost or gained. It’s not a huge thing, it isn’t a reason to declare war or see booksellers as anything but our allies – but it’s definitely a shift that stings.

  20. Serena says:

    two questions: how would you feel if the bookstore gave them away free? or about libraries that sell their own used books and ARCs to fund programs for kids and adults?

    I also wonder if the bookstores could hold the ARCs for those said collectors and offer it for a few dollars extra when someone — they know to be said collector — buys the hardcover or paperback of an author’s book?

  21. In answer to Serena’s question: I’d rather donate copies of my book to the library to help them raise money (and I have, many times) than have a copy of my error-ridden, not-as-well-put-together ARC out there. I’ve donated books to libraries (for fundraisers) every time they ask. Nor do I consider an ARC the same as a ‘used book’–as used books were once purchased copies of the book-as-it-was-intended to be distributed.

    I have seen ARCs given away for free by bookstores and that also disturbs me. It’s like having pictures online with your bra strap showing and messy hair.

    • Robin Black says:

      I’m curious Randy. Do you see a difference pre-publication and post? I have been pondering this this morning – as I sit here with a box of ARCs by my side. Before publication, I don’t think I’d mind a bookstore handing an ARC to a reader who might create buzz. And I just donated one to an auction myself – though admittedly it’s an auction in which I know the bidders to be savvy readers and authors who know that Galleys are always flawed and not accurate versions of the book. But still, as authors we try to get Arcs into a variety of hands before the book comes out.

      And of course publishers send out ARCs to advanced readers, some of whom are just that: readers and not booksellers or reviewers.

      But to me, for reasons I can’t quite articulate, all that pre-publication disseminating of the ARC feels different to me from having the thing sold once the real book exists.

      Just curious, as I puzzle this through, what you (and others) think.

  22. Frazer says:

    Very interesting article. As the co-owner of an indie bookstore, no, we do not sell the galleys, and never would (though from time to time we will give one to an elite customer, a very rare occurrence), but, as a sales rep, I see this happening in some of the stores I visit. Our store takes the “not for resale” seriously; for us it’s a taboo on a level with breaking a laydown date.

  23. Chris says:

    A correction to the bookseller’s remark: I sell used books on Amazon, and they will not let you list ARCs (I’ve tried; they deny the listing with a strongly worded message about blocking your seller account if you try it again). Maybe other sellers have managed to sneak them by Amazon’s filters, but if you’re obfuscating the fact that it’s an ARC, potential buyers won’t know that either. So that argument doesn’t hold up.

  24. Forcher says:

    I think it’s tacky for a bookstore that sells new books to sell ARCs in the store. Gather them up and donate them to a library book sale, or give them away to regular customers. If they’re really valuable hang onto them or sell them privately. They shouldn’t be competing with the bound books that the publisher receives payment for and the author gets royalties from.

    I have nothing against used bookstores and collectors dealing in galleys, but that’s not what new bookstores are for.

    Of course there’s a grey area if the stores receive complimentary copies of the actual finished book. I suppose you could regard those copies as, in effect, an extra discount given by the publisher in return for placing an order, and therefore part of the publisher’s cost of doing business. In any case, no one will know the difference.

  25. Many people have brought up the peripheral issue of bookstores giving ARCs away for free to friends, valued customers, others in the industry. I’ve enjoyed that relationship with bookstores myself.

    However, I had a situation last year, days before my novel came out, where a bookstore gave a galley to a customer who was excited to read it because we came from the same hometown.

    That reader went on to read and loan the uncorrected proof to many people, who then posted on facebook that they were reading the book, and loaned it to others….It became a veritable Where’s Waldo of people from my hometown taking photos of themselves on vacations reading my free, mistake-riddled ARC.

    It seems to me the important thing here is treating the privilege as just that, a privilege, and not abusing the gift of an early read.

  26. Once a galley has been sent out it pretty much becomes the property of who received it. Use it to line you birdcage, give it to a friend. Whatever. Most of the people I know who collect galleys also eventually buy the finished book. Collectors are great people to sell lots of books to.

    That said, for a bookstore that sells new books, it is tacky.

    I’ve noticed galleys from a number of publishers no longer say “Not For Resale” or the like.

    As for selling galleys on Amazon … why yes, it’s easy to do! There’s a drop down menu for “Uncorrected Proof” when listing a book as a collectible.

    But ultimately … what’s the fuss? The print run of a galley is usually a few hundred, if that many, and hopefully way less than the finished book. The sale of some galleys shouldn’t impact the income of the author – and if it does either your publisher printed waaaay too many or your sales were grim?

    In the long run, most galleys are of little value. Don’t go into the basement of The Strand in NYC. Last time I was there they had shelves & shelves of galleys. Priced at $1.49 if I recall correctly. There are exceptions:

  27. I presently own an independent book store. Selling the ARC’s is simply not allowed. I am pretty sure that any book store knows this. It’s actually tacky and should be reported to the ABA. We get a lot of ARC’s from them as well as directly from the publisher. I doubt they would send more to this store if they were reported.

  28. other Amanda says:

    It’s not okay. None of the people who created the ARC are being compensated when the ARC is sold. And as other people have said, it’s just tacky. Would you turn around and sell a gift your friend had bought you? Yuck.

    Publishers typically don’t enforce the “do not resell” because it would be a lot of effort for not much gain. At worst you’d achieve nothing except to create bad will among your readers and partners. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to do whatever you want. ARCs are not the final version, and they’re a gift and a privilege. Show some respect.

  29. apmech says:

    This is wrong on so many levels. As the author points out…NOT FOR RESALE. And, not to put too fine a point on it…no royalties. You can bet that bookstore didn’t offer any, and probably wanted the author to sign it. I have the same reaction to Amazon selling used books. Here they are the elephant in the room,, making money off the fruits of the artist’s work, but reselling books, for which the writer gets nothing. The concept of intellectual property is lost to these philistines.

  30. B. D. Prince says:

    So… did you buy it?

  31. Kristopher says:

    As a book blogger, I get more than enough ARCs for review purposes. It is a necessity given the amount of reviews I post and the need to have those posting be in a timely manner. But I have never seen an ARC for sale in a bookstore. That just violates all kinds of “rules,” all of which are typically outlined in the front of the book (in addition to the NOT FOR SALE message on the cover).

    I agree that giving away galleys is more common. For myself, I don’t typically do it. But that said, if I were to do it, it certainly wouldn’t be until the official book has been out for a while. My goal with the blog is to spread the love of reading, yes, but in order to continue to do that, I need to make sure that authors and bookstores are able to stay in business as well. If people want a free book, they can borrow it from the library.

    Some blogs do give away galley copies in giveaways, but they are always (or should be) approved by the publisher (who hopefully has told the author). I don’t do these types of giveaways because I find that it just brings people to the blog in order to enter the contest and they don’t stick around for the content. Will I ever do giveaways like that? Hard to say. For now, I turn down those offers, but there may come a time when I will make some exceptions.

    Plenty of ARC copies are given away at conventions such as BEA as well, so they are out there and they are going to be read by people. In most cases, my experience has been that they final versions don’t differ from the ARC too substantially, but I know that it could happen. That is why there is a message to remind reviewers to check the final copy (if possible) before posting a review. Things do change. But, in the end, no one should be making a profit on these copies.

  32. “As the author points out…NOT FOR RESALE. And, not to put too fine a point on it…no royalties. You can bet that bookstore didn’t offer any, and probably wanted the author to sign it. I have the same reaction to Amazon selling used books.”

    How about used bookstores?

  33. I have been a bookseller for almost 10 years. I am both thrilled and honored to be provided with a galley (advance reader’s copy) for my perusal. The publishers provide this perk to us so that we can get excited about a book before it’s release. I thank them and the author for allowing this to happen. That said, I have never offered for sale in our store, or online, any ARC that was provided to me as a courtesy. I would consider this to be dishonorable.

    I worked in radio broadcasting many years ago and the same thing occurred with music, which were referred to as “cut-outs”. The point established by the author here, “the author is in no way credited for the sale”, is a relevant one. For the same reason, I don’t download bootleg music or movies. We cheapen the creative effort when we condone these actions.

    After saying all that, in a few occasions, I have given away ARCs. One was to entice a book club member, who was one of our best customers, to get excited about a book that I was excited about and to recommend it for her book club to read. Another occasion was for donation to a women’s writing group my friend was facilitating in Cook County Jail.

    When I receive galleys at book events and they are signed I keep them for my personal collection. Hopefully, my children will consider the legacy value of these personally signed books to commemorate our bookseller journey.

  34. Katherine C. James says:

    Fascinating post.

    I adore bookstores, and want them to survive, but I think it is 100% wrong of a bookstore to sell an ARC. As an author, I would find this extremely painful. One changed word can make a difference to the sense, meaning, beauty of a sentence.

    I’ve been fascinated to see the proliferation of ARCs since I worked in a Palo Alto bookstore in the 1980s at the same time I had my first job as a writer for a start up company. Recently I’ve felt wistfully envious of bookstore and library folks who get early copies. Once, a bookstore employee gave me an ARC of Colm Toibin’s just published Brooklyn (2009) because the book was out of stock. I kept the ARC, but never read it, and just waited for the book to come in so I could buy it. After reading your post, I realize I wouldn’t really enjoy reading an ARC as much as the final book.

    In Silicon Valley I wrote, edited, produced, and published books as a individual writer, editor, manager, and then director. I would not have wanted an early draft of any of these, written by me or someone who worked for me, out in the world, which is why they were printed only with inexpensive bindings on paper with the word DRAFT splayed across each sheet. We guarded these zealously in-house, and carefully controlled each copy released to external readers.

    If it had been a personal fiction or non-fiction book of my own, i would want tight controls on who saw it. The idea of a draft passed from person-to-person does make me shudder. Maybe ARC rules need to change. I’m not certain how to balance an ARC’s role in the early marketing of a book against the exposure of the incomplete book to the public.

  35. jenna says:

    Fascinating topic. I feel like ARCs are given in trust for the reader to enjoy, appreciate and ideally, promote to other readers. They’re a tease of what’s to come. Yes, share them with other readers, but to blatantly disregard the “Not for Resale” label breaks the cycle of trust. And that an actual bookstore is doing it, makes it seem even dirtier.

  36. Jo Anne Burgh says:

    I’m no expert on the publishing industry or publishing law, but something about the sale of ARCs–with no credit to the author–seems wrong both morally and legally. Presumably, the ARC is distributed for a specific purpose, and that purpose is NOT to grant the recipient a windfall (no matter how small), especially when the much-cheaper ARC is sitting on the shelf next to the published volume and thus enticing the budget-conscious reader to say, “Oh, look! A deal!”

  37. Bookstores are struggling, I understand that, but they know it’s illegal to sell galleys. It’s stamped right on the front cover of the book – Not For Sale – that doesn’t leave room for interpretation.

  38. Erin D says:

    As an independent bookseller, I’m sorry to tell all your writers and authors that there is nothing illegal about bookstores selling your ARCs. The phrase on the front that says “not for sale” indicates only that the publisher is not and cannot sell the book for full retail price. Bookstores of course don’t just take ARCs that are sent to the them by the publishers and put them into their inventory. Put we don’t say no when someone comes in and sell us a copy used.

  39. Michael Wehmeyer says:

    I’d like to weigh in with the opinion of a book collector (modern firsts, hypermodern firsts). I’m interested in collecting all versions of a book… from manuscript to published version. My collection includes manuscript versions of important books, galley proofs, uncorrected proofs, advance reading copies, first edition and first trade editions, limited and signed limited editions, advance excerpts, and so on. In a great many cases, I’ve purchased another copy or a Kindle version to actually read the book. I spend a lot of money on books from both the new book and used book markets. I support indie bookstores as much as I can. I try to treat authors fairly when getting books signed, often buying another copy of a book I already own. I am a college professor and I have a number of textbooks that, once they hit the used book market around textbooks, seriously reduces my earnings, so I understand some of those issues.

    I can’t speak to the book Ms. Bernier is referring to, but a great many of the ARCs I see today in used bookstores and via ebay or online are, essentially, marketing vehicles and do not contain a gross number of errors. They are, in essence, the same book that will be issued as the first edition or first trade edition sent out to get word of mouth. I’m not a bookseller, so I won’t claim to have any real expertise in this, but if you’re being sent ARCs by the boxload (and the newspaper reviewers claim they get up to 300 a week), what do you do with them? I don’t really ever recall seeing ARCs for sale at a bookstore that dealt only with new books, and in the scheme of things, I don’t see all that many in used bookstores (relatively speaking).

    I can understand and appreciate not wanting to have an early version of one’s book on the market if it contains a high number of errors, pre-publication changes, etc. and was being sold as a reading version, but surely that is such a small number of circumstances that it’s not really worth spending much time or energy on. I think if I sold new books, I would not sell ARCs that were sent to me unless it was as a collector item, somehow, and priced to make the final version more affordable. For used bookstores, all’s fair, seems to me… it’s the nature of the business. From what I can tell, most used bookstores acquire their ARCs from newspaper book reviewers and, perhaps, bookstores that receive advances. I agree that the “not for resale” refers to the publisher only (I’ve seen a discussion on that before amongst booksellers). Not sure what else someone who receives those should do with them… destory them? Certainly, for some high marks in literature for the year, ARCs and uncorrected proofs contain interesting (at the least) and (sometime) important information about the development of the book. I spend quite a bit of time at the Ransom Center at UT Austin looking at the David Foster Wallace archives, and am glad that material exists.

  40. Diane Prokop says:

    Good job getting to the heart of the matter, Michael. I find the minor differences between the ARC and the final copy fascinating. Any grammar or spelling mistakes do not effect my opinion of a book at all. And, as you said, most of the ARCs I receive as a reviewer have had their spit and polish applied. Occasionally, after I get a manuscript from a publisher, there will be major changes applied later to the ARC or after the ARC. I’m thinking of The Son. Meyer told me after the ARCs were sent out he rewrote the last 100 pages. I ended up reading both the early version and the final and loved both of them. The bottom line is there’s nothing to be done unless you include a self-destruct chip in every ARC. Probably best for authors to accept this state of affairs and move on.

    • Michael Wehmeyer says:

      Diane, I thought The Son was great… my favorite book of the year so far (though James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird is close behind), and now I need to go read the ending in the ARC!

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Nichole Bernier

Nichole Bernier
Nichole Bernier is author of the novel The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D (Crown/Random House, June 2012), which was a finalist for the 2012 New England Independent Booksellers Association fiction award. A Contributing Editor for Conde Nast Traveler for 14 years, Nichole was previously on staff as an editor, columnist, and television spokesperson. She received her master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she received the school's annual award for long-form literary journalism, and has written for publications including Psychology Today, Elle, Boston Magazine, Salon, The Millions, and Post Road Literary Magazine. Nichole lives outside of Boston with her husband and five children, and can be found online at and on Twitter @nicholebernier. Read Full