The Worth of a Man (8/6/2010)

Posted in News

As I write this, there are two ARCs of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice available up on eBay. One of them is signed, the other is unsigned. The difference in price is considerable. My thoughts on this are conflicted. Along the lines of:

Wow. That’s a lot of money for a book.

So my signature is worth that much? Coo.

To someone else.

Which bit of NOT FOR RESALE isn’t clear?

The book isn’t out for NEARLY THREE MONTHS yet.


I’ve signed exactly two ARCs of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice. Signed them at Forbidden Planet. I’m really quite sure I haven’t signed any others, and, well, the fact that it’s got a date on it kind of dots the i’s and crosses the t’s quite nicely. So, Britobooks, now I know who you are. The question is, do I mind?

On one level yes, simply because ARCs state that they are NOT FOR RESALE and so selling them on e-bay is riding roughshod over the wishes of the publisher, who presumably supplied said ARC free and gratis and entirely at their own expense. And my publisher is my friend and if you upset my publicist, you upset me in a big sticking together all-on-the-same-team group-hugging kind of way.

But should I care? Exactly how does an author, lose out? So what if it’s on sale on eBay? Seriously, is there anyone so desperate to read The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice that they’re prepared to pay five times the recommended retail price just to get it three months early? No. So it’s going to go to a collector who’s only interested in it because it’s an expensive and a rarity. In fact, signing the ARC is a marginal win for me, isn’t it, since it pushes the price up and ensures that the book isn’t bought by a casual reader who might otherwise have bought a copy from a shop. Since that ARC would otherwise presumably have languished in a box and might now be read, leading to the (unlikely, perhaps, but still extant) possibility of enthusiasm, further book purchases, reviews, etc., strictly I think I should be pleased it’s on e-bay instead of in a box.

Well I’m not. Publication day is three months away, the ARC is in ‘fine unread condition’ (one therefore assumes no review will be forthcoming[2]). Britobooks, you have cost me nothing, but  your don’t-give-a-shit attitude is rude and makes my publicist sad. I wave my private parts at you, fart in your general direction and speak your name to my friends in Her Majesties Revenue and Customs. However…

Let’s suppose, for a moment, that Britobooks, whoever he/she is, had in fact read the ARC and had reviewed it (and is simply waiting, as asked, for a few days before publication before releasing their review into the wild) and had waited until after publication day[3]. The ARC has served its purpose and a surfeit of ARCs, after all, is a problem… So if it’s sold on e-bay, who exactly loses? If an ARC is read, reviewed and then sold after the first edition is in the shops, frankly why should either author or publisher care? [1]

(Progress report: Working on the last rewrite of OOTS. Can’t decide if it’s a disordered mess or the best thing I’ve ever written. Possibly both. Aiming to submit to my publisher around about the day of the Gemmells).

[1] My personal preference would be for spent ARCS to find their way to charity shops and be read several times more rather than languish on the shelves of a collector, but hey, you take the trouble to write a review, I’m not going to complain.

[2] Also, from a quick stock check of other signed proofs in their store, I can also reveal that I’m worth about a quarter of an Abercrombie. I find I can live with that.

[3] Late edit: It’s been pointed out to me that early release of ARCs into the wild like this then leads to the possibility of pre-release torrenting of the book, and that surely does hurt both author and publisher.