ARCs and the Author

Recently, a blogger friend of mine had a terrible author experience. She had decided to purchase one of his backlist titles, which she really wanted to read and which she’d bought because it was a small-press beautifully made book. Because she liked the design of this backlist book better than his contemporary novels, some of which she also owns, and because as a former student of his she wanted that particular book signed since he had taught her much, that’s what she took along to his IFOA event.

Now, after hearing the author read at said event, she went to get her book signed. To her surprise and embarrassment, the author loudly refused to sign it. He demanded where she’d got it, and when she’d admitted it was at a second-hand shop, he interrupted her, saying he simply couldn’t sign it. My friend was mortified. She began to ask why he couldn’t, thinking perhaps he’d flagged her copy as stolen or somehow illegitimate, but he spoke over her, emphatically insisting he would not sign her copy and that she could buy a book, pointing to the area where his books were on display, and he’d sign that for her.

Not wanting to further the scene, my friend went to return her copy to her shopping bag. At that point, the author noticed and said, “Wait, you bought this book?” My friend nodded, and the author grabbed the book from her, signed it with a flourish, and apologized, saying, “I’m sorry. I thought you got this book for free. Some publishers give out copies to people, and I thought this was one of them.” With that, he dismissed my friend with a huge “this conversation is over” smile. How did she feel about his signature after that? Whereas earlier she’d wanted to engage and say that she’d been in his class and admired him, after his behaviour, she’d felt like simply saying, “Fuck you.” Needless to say, she did not hang around.

What are you guys thinking right now? I’m feeling rather pissed off.

First off, this Canadian author can’t even recognize (or take the time to verify) a finished edition of his own book, published by a reputable Torontonian small press, which I have to say produces very lovely books that are quite distinctive. (I’m not even sure they do ARCs.) Second, the author caused a scene, embarrassing my friend rather than quietly telling her the reason he would not sign her book, which could have cleared up the issue when she answered that it was not after all an ARC. Third, and here, to me, is the most important, the author refused to sign her copy because he thought it was an ARC, because he assumed she hadn’t paid for his book. This betrays not only more ignorance but also, at least, arrogance. A fan reader (attending a paid IFOA author’s event, no less) is a valuable reader, no matter how she got the book (even if she had stolen it, which is not preferable, of course, and I would never condone that, but even that’s a form of flattery and can lead to recommendations). And my friend wasn’t just an appreciative reader, she was a former student, a book reviewer, and a bookseller. Aside from that, authors ought to be grateful for audiences.

Like many book lovers, I have no qualms whatsoever paying full-price for a new book, even a hardcover. I understand why book prices are high; I know what work goes into a book, all the people involved, who must be paid. It’s more my minimum wage pay that’s prohibitive, not me. Yet, if I want a book badly enough, I’ll buy it, and that’s from the shop, not online. Many of us here are books-before-groceries people. There isn’t one book blogger I know who relies on and reads solely ARCs—but our reviews are mostly of ARCs because we feel an obligation to review those before any we’ve bought on our own. And we buy more books than we receive free ones—often, ARCs prompt us to buy later books by those same authors.

So as a book lover, just like my friend, we’ve paid for far more than our “share” of books. I admit right now that I’ve spent a few hundred more than the price of a ticket to Yorkshire and back on books this year. And as a bookseller, just like my friend…well, between the two of us, we’ve handsold far more books than we can count because of ARCs. We could buy one book at an event to give an author what he deems his fair share, or we could sell many of that same book, often before it’s published, because we were sent an ARC.

My friend prefers ARCs to finished copies. She loves books, but what she also really loves is the experience of getting to read a book before it’s been released. She can drum up customer anticipation this way, but it also gives her an insider feel, a VIP sense, which invariably affects her reading experience. For this reason, she not only gets her reviews out in a timely manner but also prefers to get these ARCs signed. To that, I say: Your ARCs are special to you! Take them, and do not feel guilted into buying another copy! That is not how book buying is supposed to go. I prefer to get my ARCs signed because my experience was with that particular book, not some new, unopened copy I purchased right before the event to appease an author’s ego. There are other reasons I’d buy—have bought—the finished book even if I had the ARC. But my pages in an ARC are dogeared, or the ARC is bursting with Post-Its, and usually it’s decorated with marginalia as well, in preparation for my review. Because reading isn’t for me just flipping pages but also spending time with the copy itself, which goes with me everywhere, the ARC means something to me. As does the experience of attending an author’s event and getting that book personally signed rather than buying an already signed copy.

So. My friend and I are book bloggers/reviewers, book lovers who blab to anyone about how much we love a book, and booksellers. WE SELL BOOKS, no matter what occupation. We sell many books often precisely because the publishers have sent us copies of these books to read. We aren’t handing over pirated copies for a signature, after all. To get this straight: The publishers, generally speaking without whom the author would have no book, send us ARCs (aka gifts!)—there is no other way I know to get an ARC; sometimes readers will pass them on, but since they’re uncorrected proofs and still technically the property of the publisher, I’m very strict about this and have given copies only to a blogger I know will review them—often (not solely) in exchange for an honest review and the ability to handsell the books in our shops. In other words, the whole business is legit. And that ARC still means money for the author. There is no excuse, then, for being rude, never mind ignoring the fact that this person is a fan who has taken time to attend the reading, even paid to be there. You risk losing readers; without them, there is no point to your being published.

Authors should know that the one and only reason a publisher gives out an ARC is for review or for us to be able to sell it better. There’s something in it for both publisher and author. There is no valid reason I can think of why an author should refuse to sign an ARC or be offended. And if they are, they can take that issue up with the publisher, to ask that no ARCs of their books be created. It will save the publisher money, the author offence, and the reader humiliation. In my opinion, it’s a tad unreasonable to expect us to go out and buy copies of the books for which we already have ARCs, although we sometimes do. But that’s one of the perks of receiving ARCs, which publishers recognize: we get free books. And we are very grateful for them, but there is no other reward except personal gratification when we recommend and sell copies out of enthusiasm. Without readers and booksellers, where would an author be?

It shocks me that there are authors who do not realize the importance of being courteous to all those they encounter. They are a business, their appearance and attitude their first impression, and it pays to behave well. There is zero room for arrogance; no one likes a diva. Gratitude toward readers is appropriate and deserved. Humility or being down-to-earth is admired. I will say right now that most authors I’ve met, and there have been many, have been nothing but appreciative, easy-going, and approachable, and that not one author whose event I’ve attended and/or sold books for has refused to sign an ARC for me. It’s gracious to sign them, as well as finished copies, and I am thankful they understand why I have that ARC. A few have even been excited to see an ARC and thus recognize an especially enthusiastic fan and either a reviewer or bookseller.

As a bookseller, though, I’ve heard more than enough from other booksellers, even publicists, about negative author encounters, and what that results in: people telling everyone else and people refusing to buy or sell the author’s books. I recently acquired two books by this same author who mortified and frightened my friend, books I’ve been quite excited to read, in fact, and now his experience with my friend will taint my reading of them. I’ll read them for what they are, and if I review them, I’ll give them a fair review, but I will always remember that this author was an asshole. He made my friend embarrassed, scared to bring her beloved ARCs to other authors, and mortified to think that she’s perhaps been offending authors all along, when in fact she’s a frequent, conscientious reviewer, skilled and knowledgable bookseller, and avid attender of events. In truth, it should be she, the fan asking for a signature, the enthused reader who will tell others about the book, who should be offended! This author, needless to say, will never be invited to do a reading where I work. And if I told others who this person was, it’s possible they wouldn’t invite him either, no matter what he writes, no matter his status as a contributor to CanLit.

I’m hugely disappointed. In my opinion, this wasn’t about having a bad day. This was about indiscretion and arrogance.

I want to know what you think. Again, I’m not contesting that authors deserve money for their books, that sales are important. I work in the industry: I know what it’s about and the economic state of it. So am I flying off the handle here? While he has to right to do what he wants, do you think the author was right to refuse my friend a signing because (he thought) she hadn’t bought a copy of his book? As a reviewer or bookseller, do you feel comfortable handing over an ARC to be signed? If so, why? If not, why not? As an author, are you offended when reviewers or booksellers ask you to sign an ARC? If so, do you have another reason other than the reader has not paid for a finished copy of your book? If you represent a publisher, what say you on this issue of ARCs you send out and author signings?

40 thoughts on “ARCs and the Author

  1. I can’t understand the author’s reaction. It’s appalling. If a reader handed me an ARC to sign, I’d probably assume he/she was a blogger/reviewer — and I’d sign it with extra gratitude.

    1. I completely agree! Luckily both my friend and I have had that experience too, where the author was more excited to see an ARC. For me, it was Peter Behrens. For her it was Veronica Roth. Those authors had also read our reviews, which I think helped.

  2. I’ve had encounters like this… This author is clueless, and misguided. Thankfully, also a blip on the radar. Speaking as an author, I love seeing ARCs in the signing lines, especially the ones that are obviously read and loved (as opposed to the pristine ones that you just know are headed for Ebay down the road). I hope this doesn’t dissuade your friend from bringing ARCs to future signings.

    1. Thank you! I know she’ll read your comment (she’s watching this post…er, and I assure you, she’s not me!), and she’ll feel much encouraged by your words. I’m so glad you feel the way you do, as an author, about ARCs. I’m relieved, too, because I also take them to signings. I love them precisely because they’re ARCs and I feel freer to “interact” with them as I read.

      1. I’ve had people – other booksellers, other reviewers, friends – look horrified at what I do to ARCs sometimes. Your comments about marginalia, dog-earing, bulging with Post-Its — oh, so very much. But it’s part of interacting with the text, of reading… And in 98% of cases, 99% maybe, if the ARC looks like that, there’s a pristine hardcover on the shelf with it…

        1. Yes, that’s true for me, too, that buying of another copy, as I said of both my friend and I. Sometimes the finished books are just too beautiful to resist. My friend will sometimes buy the new and get that signed too but then later give it away but keep the ARC. The thing with the ARC is that it’s special as opposed to the one that is mass produced and well…looks like everyone else’s.

  3. Ridiculous.

    How the reader came into possession of the book to be signed is none of the author’s business.

    If the author/publisher only wants to sign their most recent book, the book that they’re touring, then they need to say so ahead of time, like during the introduction to the event, and with obvious signage at the book table and where the line starts.

    To create such a fuss with a person who has waited in line for this opportunity is brutally bad manners.

    Really, let’s just say it, the author in question is a total douche.

    Don’t insult your fans, don’t assume anything about where the books come from that you’re signing, just sign the books, make small talk, give people what they came for; a nice fun possibly enlightening chance to meet an author that they admire.

    In this case that’s the author’s job. If he has questions about the nature of some of the books that he’s signing they can wait until later in the hospitality suite where he can discuss these issues with other writers rather than make a scene with a fan.

    1. That’s a good point: that is it indeed none of the author’s business how the reader got the book. Also that he should announce if he has any affectations, preferences, or rules.

      I agree wholeheartedly with your pronouncement and your advice, and I’m still shocked that anyone would see fit to behave otherwise, without recognizing consequences. Unfortunately, this isn’t his sole douchy act, either. Also unfortunately, he may assume that regardless of how he acts, people will still clamour for his books. The shame, I think now, is that he’s likely right.

  4. Steph – interesting post. First, I love the “high road” approach to choosing NOT to mention the author’s name. It’s enough that they know who they are and you do, too.

    Second, as a fan, I have dozens of ARCs signed by the author – and I’ve never had an author balk at signing an ARC for me. I’ve even been bold enough to get an author or two to sign copies of their remainders that I’ve bought – for which they assuredly got not a single penny in royalties.

    At the end of the day, one hopes that the author understands that the fan who reads and loves their book is likely to encourage OTHERs to read their book, which means more sales – so WHO CARES if the book was paid for or not.

    Third, as a writer who toils in the realm of obscurity (yes, I’m referring to the old chestnut about a writer’s worst fear isn’t piracy but rather obscurity), I can’t imagine being so brazen as to spend even a split second insulting someone who is taking the time to desire my signature.

    As already mentioned, the fact that this author behaved this way has likely affected your taste for their work, but more than that your taste for hand-selling and sharing love about their work. And no, I’m not saying authors have to be nice people in order to be talented and their work enjoyed, but there’s another old adage about honey and vinegar – I know which type of author I’d rather be, and which type of author I’d rather spend my time being a fan of and spreading the good work about)

    1. Mark,

      Well, yeah, this wasn’t meant to bash any particular author but mainly to use him as an example. I didn’t want to name him because I’m not out to ruin his reputation (he’s doing a fine job of that himself). After all, she never even presented an ARC; he only assumed she had. But she and I and many others, like you, do take ARCs to be signed.

      You’ve said it right, too: it’s more about not feeling inclined now to tell anyone how much I enjoyed his book, if I do indeed enjoy it. The book is the book, and it’s going to be well-written, I know and won’t deny. But yes, I admit I’m not going to be as enthusiastic about sharing my love of it. That makes things difficult, because at the end of the day, it’s not simply about helping an author out, it’s also about helping a reader find a great reading experience. Really, I’m not just put out by his arrogance toward readers and fans but resentful of the fact that he’s spoiled my potential experience in recommending his work.

  5. This is an interesting post. And good occasion for me once again to give credit to Ann Marie McDonald for being nice about me making her sign a book (The Way the Crow Flies) that had a gigantic stamp on its inside cover that said, “This book has been damaged and is therefore being purchased at a signficant discount”. You’re right that sometimes a book origins are not reflective of its importance– I’d moved that “damaged” copy across an ocean to be with me.

    1. That made me smile. :) I just think, if I was an author, a person coming to my event and waiting in line to meet me would be enough. Even if they had NO book, let alone one damaged one being purchased at a significant discount. Books are very personal.

  6. I would love to know who this outrageous author was! And I don’t think it important or noble or virtuous to keep quiet about who he is. He is after all an adult acting in a public role, hence assumed to be responsible for his own actions – what you do in public is a public matter and can be publicly scrutinized and condemned. If he had been behaving badly at a private function, that might be a different matter.

    (Oh, and I agree with everyone who’s commented so far – his behaviour was contemptuous.)

    1. I agree with you, I do. But I didn’t want the post to get all Jerry Springer on me, and I did feel I was taking the high road. Also, several people dm’d me on Twitter. They guessed who it was, or weren’t surprised.

      1. Could you email it to me? What is dm’d by the way? I can’t keep up with all the new verbs around, it seems… :)

  7. “It shocks me that there are authors who do not realize the importance of being courteous to all those they encounter.”

    The author’s actions don’t piss me off. We all have days where we’re not as nice as we’re expected to be. In the literati lime light or not, authors can act how they see fit regardless of another’s expectations. Really, life would be boring if people catered to societal politeness all the time. We wouldn’t be entertained by this topic had this author hadn’t acted on impulse, drunk on ignorance.

    And I’m not shocked by this. I’m certainly not supporting the behaviour, but be it an author, doctor, bookseller etc. you’re not always going to be courteous to all you encounter. And I don’t expect that authors I go to for a signing. I’d appreciate the moodiness. I’d rather have the author acting as they are, not the way they think I expect them to be.

    Remember the last reading and signing we were at together? Due to a pervious encounter with the author you thought the author had a cold, hard personality. But more exposure showed a different side. And even when I carried out my job at the reading, I was met with that hard wall until it started to break down through the comfort of communication.

    So, we can toss labels and insults at this author for refusing to give a signature, but in the grand scheme of things, the author has every right to refuse a signature. And this is only one brush stroke (for me anyway) on their canvas. More strokes may paint a different picture.

    I also tend to think, in this particular situation, it doesn’t really matter who your friend is. What’s concerning is the human to human interaction. The wounded expectation. And how this taints your enthusiasm to encourage readers to buy the book.

    “The book is the book, and it’s going to be well-written, I know and won’t deny. But yes, I admit I’m not going to be as enthusiastic about sharing my love of it.”

    See, this what I find muddied. You know it’s going to be well-written, and if it is – I’m being over the top here – the best book of the decade, you’d be less enthusiastic about it all because your friend had an unfavourable experience?

    Books stand on their own. Author mannerisms are what they are. In fact, they’re probably more tame and more politically correct than they were in 50s, 60s and 70s.
    So the author jumped the gun in thinking the book wasn’t purchased and only agreed to sign it when the author realized it wasn’t a freebee. That’s the author’s issue. And since there wasn’t dialogue to explain what led the author to such conclusions, the author’s actions haven’t tainted me with anger. Instead, I remain curious.

    1. Even if you’re playing devil’s advocate here, I disagree. This was inexcusable, period. I have bad days, and there are countless times customers make me want to be rude or even tell them to fuck off. Never once, in my 23 years of customer service, have I given in to rudeness or indiscretion. That doesn’t mean I’m being false or untrue to myself; it means I have the wherewithal and restraint to behave appropriately. I value my position as a person with something to offer—and these customers are not admiring fans.

      Not only authors but anyone who has anything to sell ought to be courteous to everyone, just as everyone should, not only those with fans or something to sell. There is simply no excuse. Not everyone will be courteous, that is certain, and yet there is, to me, no justification (not sickness or day from hell) for belittling or humiliating or mortifying or embarrassing anyone. I don’t give a shit what kind of day you’re having; there’s acceptable behaviour and not. I acknowledged the author had a right to refuse to sign, but I maintain that he was not right to do so. The woman had paid to see the author, and had paid for the book, and if she hadn’t paid for it, it’s neither here nor there. She asked, and had as much right to get it as he had to refuse it. When I compare the two, she was right to get it.

      The author you made an example of was demanding but never blatantly rude, and whether or not she softened later, it still does not excuse any diva behaviour. I also don’t think this softening you speak of lessens her otherwise typical demeanor.

      This has nothing to do with being entertained, this post, by the way. I’m writing because I felt my friend was treated with unjust rudeness, and because I’m hoping that authors will realize that treating admirers with respect is paramount when in public. It was not simply the author’s issue; he made it my friend’s, such that she felt not only doubtful as to whether or not she should ever ask another author to sign an ARC but also worried that she’d offended all those whom she’d previously asked. And you’re right: whether or not she was my friend or some stranger, it doesn’t matter. What does is that the experience was not positive. This does indeed affect, as you must see in the lives of other prominent persons, their reputation and people’s thoughts on their product. This is partly why word spreads as it does. I’m certainly not eager to promote this author’s cause as much as I would any other good book. There are plenty to choose from. I would much rather support the authors who care about and appreciate their readers. He wants sales, he can take care of that himself. Apparently, he thinks he doesn’t need others’ help.

      So yes, while the book is still likely well written, my experience of it will be tainted, just as when I have a great experience with the author, I enjoy their book all the more.

      Nothing stands alone from its creator.

      1. I also want to add that no author stands alone, either. His or her actions also affect the publisher, publicist, agent, and so on. Any of them could tell you so.

  8. Killer post, Steph! Dying to know the name, naturally (hint: DM me). Asshole is right. I don’t care if a reader borrowed the book from the library or paid full price in an indie shop for the hardcover, this business is all about connecting. Through fiction, through social media and in person. Genuine connections are what pay off in weird ways down the road, so yeah, being nice is a good business plan. And guess what – it’s coincidentally the way to feel better about yourself as a human. Poor guy, this writer, trapping himself in snobbery that will only drag him down in the end. Both in business and in life.

    1. That’s just it: this person was not simply having a bad day; apparently he has treated others badly as well and has otherwise badly behaved. As Marie said, this man is an adult; since we are no longer children, we cannot explain this away with a laugh that boys will be boys or whatever. We are supposed to be accountable for our behaviour and not act out on every whim. This was rather petulant of him, refusing to sign because he thought she hadn’t paid. Ugh.

      At the same time, the reason I didn’t name him (rather like juvenile criminals not being named, though that’s an extreme example) is that I’m not out to ruin him: his career includes that of his publicist, his publisher, his agent, and so on. Anything he does affects them. Should his books not sell, his agent suffers, as do everyone else around him who’ve helped make him who he is.

      That’s another reason I’m angry about this whole thing. It’s a blatant disregard for others, period. And I’m really glad you commented; it’s good to get yet another author’s perspective.

      1. My only defense of the author is that this business does cultivate insecurity. (Either that or writers start out as more neurotic creatures.) People manage insecurity in so many different ways – some of us become people-pleasers, others try to overcome it and get stronger, and still others hide behind an over-confident shell – acting brave because they’re feeling weak. Sounds like this guy has chosen the latter.

  9. I read your post and the comments that followed. I am not surprised at how people will justify, simplify, or excuse socially unacceptable behaviour. Being rude, brash, egotistical and insensitive seem to be en vogue, for some, these days. Thankfully, the majority of people do NOT behave like this.

    The author could have handled this situation differently. It is unfortunate that he/she did not. I can imagine how your friend must have felt. She should not feel embarrassed because of this author’s behaviour. The author made a fool of him/herself in front of a group of people. Personally, I do not admire people who lack self control. I appreciate that you did not mention the name of the author.


    1. You hit the nail on the head, Valerie: self-control. Thank you. I’m sure not only my friend was embarrassed but also his publicist, if she heard. And I agree with you that it seems somewhat cool to people for others to have some sort of affectation or eccentricity that results in rudeness. I don’t admire it either, nor do I think it acceptable just because a person is in any way a “celebrity.” It’s not cute, it’s not interesting. It’s what it is: boorish.

  10. I got to meet RJ Anderson at Polaris Convention a few years ago, and when I handed her my hardcover ARC she was so excited and recognised it straight away as a “special” (ARC) copy – I not only thought she was lovely as a person and a writer, but she instantly made me glow by making me feel special! It was a treat :)

    THIS author’s reaction doesn’t even make sense to me. Review copies are part of the business, but he’s pissed off because he figures he won’t see any money for it? I know authors don’t get much per book sold, but you’re absolutely right that ARCs create book buzz and more readers. Anyone with an ARC in their hands is going to be someone who can drum up readership – publishers don’t send them to non-reviewers/book sellers. God, does he hate libraries too?!

    1. Shannon,

      That last question made me laugh! I don’t know!

      But yes, not only does it make you feel special to be treated well by an author but you also tend to treasure their book more because you had a great experience with them. My friend, although I shouldn’t assume, probably doesn’t feel all that excited about the book she bought now. I have to admit, I was really keen to read the two I got recently, and now I’m in no hurry. It’s just the way I feel.

  11. Oh I thought of something else – I got to attend Book Expo in 2006 and there were two Canadian authors, Lynsay Sands and Guy Gavriel Kay, there, signing books – and all the books were free! Sands was lovely, and because of that signed free book I got into a genre (romance) that I’d never really read before, and became a big fan of her work. I’d always wanted to read a Kay book, and I read my free, signed copy of Tigana later on and still consider it one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read – I don’t hesitate to recommend either author.

    It’s a combination of things, but even if Kay looked like he’d rather be elsewhere (I could be projecting), he was nice and courteous and friendly to everyone, as was Sands, and I’ve never forgotten the experience. It’s true that if they’d been rude etc., I wouldn’t have been so interested in reading their work. I’m a sensitive person and I tend to internalise things no matter how hard I try not to.

    Haven’t there been debates in the past over whether authors should have to be nice to fans? Because some feel their art is above and beyond such things like making money and pleasing people? A vague memory stirs…

    1. Shannon – one thing about Guy that people aren’t aware of (and I’m not sure that I should be mentioning it) is that he’s VERY hard of hearing. I’ve hosted him and watched people react to what seems to be an aloofness on his part, when in fact, he can’t really hear them, especially in a crowded room or convention hall.

    2. I’m glad you’re sharing your positive experiences, Shannon! I too have had good ones, with Alison Pick and Peter Behrens in particular re ARCs.

      As for previous debates, I don’t know! I’ve never looked it up.

  12. Wow Steph, that is absolutely absurd. I really can’t believe an author acted like that, and especially to someone with an ARC. My assumption is that having an ARC and wanting it signed automatically makes you a huge fan / reader / and either reviewer or bookseller and thus someone who will handsell like crazy. And thus the LAST person you should be rude to as an author!

    So interesting to read the different opinions in the comments. Personally I’d be mortified and offended and never read anything by the author ever again if one did that to me.

    1. Amy,

      She didn’t actually have an ARC; he assumed she did. But this is also a woman who treasures her ARCs more than the finished copies and prefers to get them signed, even if she buys a finished copy of the same, so she was upset not only by the way he spoke to her but also because she worried that she’d offended others in asking them to sign her ARCs and that she wouldn’t be able to take them to signings again.

      1. Yes sorry I did see that she bought this. But in general even if he thought it was an ARC I’d think he should be honored to be asked to sign it. As most people here seem to think! I don’t think most authors would be offended at all to sign one!

        1. Most authors aren’t! If they have been, they’ve never said anything to me, or acted pissy about it. Most authors would realize it would be unappreciative to do so.

  13. Yes, of course I was playing devil’s advocate, but if there’s anything I believe about what I wrote it is that a book does stand on its own. Just like a painting. I see no reason for pairing the two together. It’s like a child. You’ve given birth to it. It has characteristics of its creators. But it is its own entity.

    As for socially acceptable behaviour, I’m all for manners. But I’m also in support of acting how you feel in the moment you feel it – within reason. So, regardless if this author has this record of rudeness, I chalk it up to character. It’s negative, obviously, but character nonetheless, and that I can appreciate.

    What I’m wondering is, has your friend considered writing the author a letter? Writing a letter to the Toronto Star about it? Or offering to write an essay on author etiquette for the National Post? That would take the converstation to the next level.

  14. I’m curious to know if you and/or your friend are planning to contact the other people whose careers you’ve noted intersect with his, to let them know about the experience, and the way in which it has affected your ability to represent his work as booksellers? I’ve attended some readings/events/signings which were disappointing in some ways, but I’ve never had something like this happen.

    I’m sorry for your friend, for it’s always disappointing to find that someone you’ve admired “on the page” is not necessarily someone you admire “beyond the page”.

    Like your friend, I’m quite sentimental about the copy of the book that I first read, if it’s one that I especially love. So I can imagine wanting an ARC signed if that’s how I “met” the book. But I do make a point of purchasing a copy of the book at the venue of the signing; I do have a personal rule about that. I’m not sure how that came about…perhaps I’ve blocked some experiences like your friend’s!

    1. His agent does know, but I’ve been reluctant to speak with anyone else, only because I don’t want to blow this out of proportion. I think this post garnered some attention and with any luck, it’s had some impact, at least just to get the message across that attending a book signing is about appreciating the author and the least he could do is appreciate the reader/bookseller/book reviewer/book industry person back.

      I totally understand your policy of buying a copy. My friend is the same, she’ll buy a copy of the book too, sometimes, though she usually ends up giving it away; it’s the ARC she loves best. I will also buy a copy of the finished book, but not always. I admit that one of the perks of receiving ARCs is that it saves me, a huge spender on books, some money. I don’t think I should necessarily feel guilty about that, considering the exchange for the ARC, which is still in support of the author, and still results, I hope, in sales!

  15. A couple years ago, I had someone come to me at a conference with a brand new, never-read ARC of my book (that had released on shelves many months before). She asked me to sign it, but not personalize it so it could be given away on a blog. No, she hadn’t read it herself, but it was her ARC. I didn’t say anything ungracious, but I’ll be honest: it pissed me off. Why?

    Because it was pristine. She never read it, she never intended to read it, and now planned to give it away to increase traffic for her blog– after finished copies were already available on the shelves and had been available for many months. That means a piece of expensive promotional material never got to do its job. A librarian never saw it. No one saw it. And now, only well after the release, was she giving it away.

    My publisher gave away a lot of ARCs before release and dead silence greeted them from most quarters. Librarians who were interested didn’t get it in most cases, while many bloggers posted about snatching it, and then never read it because it wasn’t a paranormal romance like the books they preferred to review.

    Sure, momentum began after the book came out, but I know my publicity budget suffered greatly due to a lot of people who took the ARCs with no interest in actually reading them or giving them to people who’d read them. The utter indifference from people who’d been happy to take the book for free told my publisher utter indifference would greet the book once it was on shelves, so my publicity budget and print run were scaled down accordingly.

    I am fine with pirates. They probably helped my book by increasing its profile, and word of mouth ended up repairing much of the damage to sales, but I never recovered the momentum that could have come from, say, debuting that book with a print run that gave me a shot at being a bestseller. Pirates are not necessarily negatives– but ARC hogs are. I’m sorry, but I resent them, so I get why the author was on the defensive.

    That said, the author was still an asshole to you, and owed you much more of an apology.

    1. Oh, I totally understand your frustration!! This is a completely different situation: I too don’t like ARC hogs or people who are just greedy for free books. I’ve written a post about this, too. It’s shameful, and even worse that many took books who had no intention of reading them!!

      This situation didn’t happen to me personally. I’ve never had a negative experience, thankfully. In this case, this blogger is one who reviews about every single book she’s sent, and she often buys the new copy once its published. However, she also thinks of ARCs as special editions, uncorrected proofs, “rare” copies that are a privilege to receive ahead of publication. That’s why she was upset. Not only had she reviewed the book already before she’d gone to the event, but she was a huge fan of the author and had bought his other books.

      Still, I hear you absolutely, and I’m sincerely sorry you had such a negative experience. One thing, though: I do think this is also partly the fault of the publicist or the publicity protocol. “My” publishers send only ARCs or books to me they know suit my blog as well as my reading tastes. If anyone offers me anything I won’t read, I decline. Two or three publishers send without knowing who I am, having read my blog, or getting to know my tastes. These ARCs I don’t even give away. If the publicist doesn’t bother to get to know the blogger, it’s a waste of ARCs and money. I also don’t love events held to give out copies at random. I understand the thinking behind it, but if there are indeed people who just attend these events for the free books to give away on their blogs, there’s another flaw in the publicity planning. If they want to hold events to give away books, invitations to particular bloggers always works.

      Here’s a link to the post I wrote earlier on this. It’s talking about a different issue but deals also with what we’re talking about.

      Again, I’m so sorry you’ve had such a negative experience with ARCs. I hope for your next book, things go differently and most importantly, more positively!

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