Another installment from William Smith of Hang Fire Books
Independent Book Publishers Association (PMA) moves against Online Galley Sales.
The PMA is eliminating a membership benefit that “provides a discount in the initial fees for selling books through AbeBooks” because ABE isn’t taking steps to prevent booksellers from listing and selling promotional, pre-pub, versions of books (Proofs, ARC, ABMs, etc). A member of the PMA board admits that “booksellers may have the legal right to offer galleys” but they still feel they can resort to arm-twisting to stop the practice.
Full disclosure: I sell ARCs whenever worthwhile (which is increasingly rare).
I live in one of the publishing/writing/reviewing capitals of the world and the place is lousy with review copies. People in the NY book trade generally have small apartments (and smaller salaries) so they liquidate accumulated book swag constantly. Several bookstores (coughStrandcough) depend on this for their existence. Unless publishers can install some kind of self-destruct mechanism (beyond the crap bindings they use even in finished books) the review copy trade isn’t going anywhere.
In my experience buyers who seek out ARCs are looking for the ultimate 1st. They buy the early promo editions (even though they’re generally ugly as sin) IN ADDITION to the first printings, variants, and ever other ephemeric scrap of the authors they collect. This is not hurting the publisher’s bottom line. In fact if they kept a better eye on this trade they would find a lot of very valuable clues about what books deserve reissues, heavier advertising, sequels, etc.
There are certainly disreputable booksellers who don’t mention that the book they’re selling is an incomplete, unchecked, image/index-less ABM, but they will feel the backlash in lower feedback ratings and loss of buyer trust. In my opinion that’s penalty enough.