Advance copies of Sally Rooney’s unpublished book sold for hundreds of dollars

From The Guardian:

When advance reading copies (ARCs) of Sally Rooney’s new novel Beautiful World, Where Are You were sent out in May, there was a flurry of social media posts. A lucky selection of editors, writers and influencers flaunted their copies; others bemoaned not having been granted one. Soon listings for proof copies (which are clearly marked “not for resale”) started to appear on trading sites such as eBay and Depop. One copy, listed on eBay by a seller in North Carolina, sold in June for $209.16. Even the canvas tote bag that Rooney’s publicists had been sending out with the ARC copies was fetching prices in the region of $80.

As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week, advance copies of popular and classic novels have long been collector’s items: a rare proof copy of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stonefor example, or classics by authors such as Ernest Hemingway or John Steinbeck can sell for up to £30,000, while Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroadswhich will be published in October, sold earlier this month on eBay for £124.

But this high demand for ARCs of books that are yet to be published has only emerged recently, fuelled in part by the rise of book bloggers and influencers.

“Part of the purpose of proofs is to make people get to feel like they’re in an exclusive club,” said Adam Howard, who works for Scribe Publications. “But it happened with the Sally Rooney on a scale we’ve never seen before.”

Posting under hashtags such as #Galleybrag, Instagram influencers show off the advanced copies of novels to which they were granted access. Among these, Rooney’s forthcoming Beautiful World, Where Are You is by far the most prized. Given the social currency that a selfie with an advance copy of the novel can carry, Howard is not surprised that people are prepared to pay large sums to get their hands on it.

“When a book appears on social media months before official release, other bloggers and readers go mad for it,” said Dan Bassett, a Bristol bookseller and blogger who is regularly sent galley copies of forthcoming titles. “This has led to people selling them though market places, with others asking people like myself if I would sell it to them.”

However, the sale of ARCs is a legal grey area. Advance copies are clearly marked as not for sale, and publishers remain their legal owners. This means that technically, a publishing house could recall an ARC at any time – but this is largely unheard of. And since proofs of big releases have only recently become such a hot commodity, publishers have not traditionally had to police ARC sales stringently – and have generally been willing to turn a blind eye to a small number of proofs being sold in charity shops.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

It’s not exactly a conspiracy theory, but if PG was hired to do some on-the-cheap promotion for an upcoming traditionally-published book, he might use a few social media accounts to do exactly what’s described in the OP, then have someone contact the Guardian books editor with a hot tip and some screenshots.

4 thoughts on “Advance copies of Sally Rooney’s unpublished book sold for hundreds of dollars”

  1. Sounds more like a great advertising campaign than a breach of protocol. Go ahead world, make a big kerfuffle about reselling the ARC of my upcoming novel, I could use the press and hype. 🙂

  2. I’d add a sarcastic remark about the poor impression those early readers might get of a purportedly literary novel that has continuity errors that hadn’t yet been corrected. Nobody had ensured that all references in the ARC to a specific character name had been changed to the revised character name (revised to meet a lawyer’s objection, sorry, no further details will be offered except that it wasn’t me). There’s a NBA winner out there who knew/knows exactly what I’m referring to…

    The scheme, though, reflects one of the traditional tools of long-term white-collar scams: The need to have all the physical trappings of the scam in place, so as to keep the mark from catching on. (The use of the telegraph office in The Sting is a good example. So is the preprinted catalog of musical instruments — that “Professor” Higgins has no intention of selling, let alone actually fulfilling — in The Music Man.) ARCs are part of the, well, office decor of commercial publishing; therefore…

    That the office decor can itself be sold at a profit just adds to the fun.

  3. I’ve wondered why more authors don’t use Larry Correia’s tactic.

    Sell the electronic ARC errors and all. They go for about twice what the final copy cost, but there are enough rabid fans out there to pay out his advance with the eARC and then the rest is gravy.

    Seems to me a lot of authors could do that.

    • That would be Baen Books’ strategy, rather than Larry’s. It originated when members of Baen’s BBS were clamoring for early release of…. one of David Weber’s Honor Harrington books, IIRC… perhaps 15 or 20 years ago. Jim Baen responded by asking if anybody would be prepared to BUY a copy of the ARC. The resulting clamor led to a new policy: eARCs go on sale at Baen’s web site as soon as they are ready. Typical price $15. Buying the eARC gets you just that — the eARC only.

      I’m not privy to any of the contractual details, but various authors have commented in the past that the royalty rate on eARC sales is — or at least was at one time — significantly higher than the rate on ordinary eBooks.

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